Friday, November 18, 2011

My Little Investigations - Engine Demo - Confrontations

Bada bing, bada boom, there's a video in the room!

...Or so Zecora might say, if she were here, and in a spunky mood.

Here you go:

This is the last engine demo video, so just having this up marks quite a milestone!  We'll have more information later regarding the next step for My Little Investigations, but for now, enjoy!


    AN UPDATE ANOTHER ONE YES LOOKS AWESOME! i just have to wait for it to buffer...

  2. This feature is much appreciated it's well thought out and it's done well.I just can't wait to catch the bad guy cornered playing the stressed look on their face...oh well anyways this looks really nice i can't wait to play this game!The music i noticed the ghost trick soundtracks are you using that until you get an original soundtrack or do you plan on using them no matter what?

  3. Hey, feel free to call me Eric.
    Okay, i liked that feature, but it sounded like it´s gonna be abit easy though if you can just start over and try it again and again, if you have any plans for multiple difficulty levels, one idea could be that the suspects "health" increases if you get it wrong, at least the first time or something, in fact if you just increase it the one time, you could have that even without multiple difficulty levels, just a little symbolic something something really.
    The only other thing, is the visuals, as a perfectionist i couldnt help but notice that the first frame of scootaloo (her idle stance, if you will)had abit of paint outside the lines so to speak, looked like her nose was escaping, no biggie of course, but it´s easy enough to fix right? And i know it´s only a demo presentation and all, and in no way the finished product (if you can say that about something free) but just wanted to help out by pointing that out. So yeah, looking good and i sooooo want to get my hands on a playable demo. Btw you said you did´nt wanna give away the story? But in previous videos i thought you said this case you showcased was´nt going to be in the final thing?
    Much love, keep up the good work!

  4. This looks great. That scene with Pinkie Pie was one of my favorite scenes from that episode. That would make a fun case but we already know who did it.

  5. I found it hard to pay attention to this... Scootaloo's just so cute!

    However, I do have one question: will there be any confrontations that will result in a game over?

  6. What happens if you present evidence out of order?

    Sometimes while playing Ace Attorney games, I would mentally jump ahead, and figure out something that I thought was obvious, but the game would not let me present until I figured out what the game wanted me to present first, which was made more difficult because I had already figured out where it was going, and couldn't see the intervening steps.

  7. Hey Gabu,

    is there a way to reach you via Email? If you don't want to write it in here, please drop me a not at :)

  8. @Arki

    Glad you liked it! :) As far as the music goes, I am indeed hoping to get an original soundtrack for the game.


    Thanks for the feedback! To respond to your comments:

    Difficulty - you're right that just being able to restart the confrontation makes things easier, but realistically, there aren't many alternatives. The only way to punish the player more would be to force them to do the whole case or section of the case over again, and that would just get tedious and boring and would not be fun at all. So I think in this case easy is preferable to the alternative.

    Difficulty levels - Unfortunately difficulty levels is something that really wouldn't work in a game like this. The opponent's health is intimately tied to the amount of evidence you need to present to make him or her crack and spill the beans, so in order to increase the opponent's health you'd need to increase the number of things that can be presented, which would require the fundamentals of the crime itself to be changed, and at that point you're basically making a whole new case. So it's just not feasible.

    Visuals - The visuals are just screencaps from the show at the moment (minus the field sprites, which come from Desktop Ponies). All of that will change in the final product. Thanks for your good eye, but what you're critiquing are just visual placeholders. :)

    Story - Originally the story was just written as I went, but the first case is basically entirely planned out at the moment, so what you see in this video is more or less how it will go.


    Yeah, and plus, I think that case with Pinkie Pie would be awwwfully short... but it made a fun confrontation to mock up!


    If by game over you mean something that will kick you back to the title screen, then no.

    @Anonymous 1:57 PM



    Well, this is heavily situation-dependant so I can't really give a general answer, but I will say that I know exactly what you're talking about, and in a situation like that I may drop the hint when the player presents evidence too soon that they're on the right track but need to do something else first. This is definitely something we'll need to look at during playtesting.


    It's on the right sidebar, but I imagine it's easy to miss. :) You can reach me about the game at

  9. I dunno what you have planned, but I think being able to see the opponent's health could detract from atmosphere in certain situations. Hopefully major villains at least will display "?" or something for their health, or fake you out with a "second wind" or something.

    In Ace Attorney Investigations and courtroom scenes in the other games, the opponent's health in confrontations was reflected by their mood and animations and would break down as you struck at them, but might be restored if the prosecution bailed them out. That kind of approach seems more immersive to me than knowing exactly how close you are at a given point.

  10. Hey, this game looks awesome! I was a bit surprised to hear Ghost Trick music actually, some of these songs might fit in quite well!

    One thing about the health bar, though. Won't adding the health bar of the NPC take away some of the suspense? In the Ace Attorney game, you often did not know how far away from winning you were. Sometimes you would think that you were close while in reality, you weren't. And sometimes you were closer than you would had thought. I'm a bit worried that adding health bars will hurt that effect a bit.

    And now I just noticed that Lupus Albus said pretty much the same thing I did. Oh well. If you do decide to keep opponent's health "bars", it would be nice if we at least could add an option to replace the numbers with question marks. Looking forward to this game, by the way! :)

  11. So glad you got confrontations worked out. I feel they are a pretty crucial part to this style of game.

    As for seeing the numbers on the health bar, I see them much like psyche-locks, which I liked. They sometimes gave you a sense of difficulty (seeing 5 locks), accomplishment ("Yes! Unlocked one more!"), and surprise (unlocking more than one or "second winds").

    Also, you've done such a fantastic job keeping the ponies' personalities intact that you can't help but hear their voices when you read it. Couple that with the expressions and "animations" of the scene and the characters really start to come to life.

    All you gotta do is tell me where to send my money. :D

  12. Sounds like a fun game! Can you make a Mac release of this game?

  13. Not much to say this time. It looks awesome :V So excited.

    Do you plan on releasing a demo/alpha upon the completion of Case 1? Or are you going to hold out until the final release?

  14. Sweet! I'm eager to see more as you progress. Thanks for the effort you are so clearly putting into this! D'awwww on the coda with Pinkie...

  15. @Lupus Albus
    @Knowledge is Magic

    I have certainly considered the question of whether displaying the opponents' health could be a spoiler, so, don't worry, your concern is definitely one I share. I decided to put it in since it's easier to take it out than to add it later. I thought it might add an extra level of tension and interest to confrontations, but if it turns out to be a net detriment, then we certainly can remove it.

    @x r i s

    Thanks! I'm glad to hear that I captured the ponies' personalities well; one of my major goals with this game is to recreate the feeling of the show, so obviously that's a rather important part. :)


    Weeeell, unfortunately I can't really promise anything there. I don't own a Mac and this is coded in XNA, which I'm told doesn't play nicely with Macs. :(


    The design of the game allows it to be modular, such that every case is its own file separate from the executable. So Case 1 will be released unto itself along with the executable, and then the case files for future cases will be released as they're ready.


    Thanks! :)

    Glad you liked the Pinkie scene; I had a lot of fun with that. It kinda got a little lengthier than I had planned, though; my initial idea for it was just going to be a quick gag scene. :P

  16. Hey, Eric here again.
    I agree with what Lupus Albus and Knowledge is Magic said, it would take away some of the suspense when you know beforehand how close you are at cracking the suspect.

    And Gabu, you said that "The opponent's health is intimately tied to the amount of evidence you need to present to make him or her crack and spill the beans." I dunno if that is neccesarily a problem with what i suggested, if their health increases by one, that would just mean you need one more piece of evidence right? Obviously to keep it simple, you can´t fail a hundred times and need a hundred pieces of evidence as a result, but if you fail once, and the opponent gets 1 extra health, and that´s it? Even if you fail the following 99times, the opponent will still only have 1 extra health. Just adding 1 extra piece of evidence does´nt sound like such a hassle, to me at least. Realisticly speaking, if you fail at something you usually need to work a little harder next time. This is´nt such a big deal i guess, i just don´t want the game to be too mainstreamed and easy yknow. And please don´t feel like im nagging or anything, i just wanna be a part of the process, however small, even if it´s just to bounce some ideas around.
    Tell me if im starting to become annoying, ok? :)

  17. i am really looking forward for this, i just love this kind of games (as i love games such as LA noire and ace attorney) so this kind of games + My little pony = one of the best thing ever made

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Just found out about this today, and I'm very impressed with what I've seen! I have nothing helpful to say at the moment, but I wanted to drop in and voice my support. Best of luck in the development process!

  20. (I removed my previous comment because I noticed that some stuff, that I wrote was incompleat or not clear enought. The contence is the same thougth.
    So here is the corrected version)

    It seems to me, the things most have "problems" with are, for one thing: the health bar; and for the other: the fact that, if your health goes to zero, you can just start again.

    Here's a thought for the problem with restarting the confrontation after zero health:
    Imagine it in reality: "Twilight (the player) confronts Scootaloo, but it turns out she can't prove it all or she proves it wrong. Now Twilight would have to take some time to figure out the truth. But I doubt that Scootaloo will stay pot during this time. I think: she'd go hiding from Twilight somewhere else. And even if Twilight figures out the truth she'd have to go looking for her again."
    One way you could, as you say, “punish” the player, is to add a small, additional, stand-alone effort for him to solve the case. Like for example find the suspect again. This can be done very easily.
    I use my example from before: „When Twilight has figured out something new, Scootaloo could be gone (black screen for a second). Now Twilight runs into Fluttershy a moment later and can ask her, if she'd seen Scootaloo. And Fluttershy has, by coincident, seen her galloping to the park." Or "Outside Scootaloo's hideout Twilight could find tire marks that lead to Scootaloo's new hideout."
    By simply adding 3 or 4 of these different hideouts, Scootaloo could randomly switch between then whenever the player’s “health” reaches zero. Therefore adding a "punishment"-effort for the player, which is not that hard but slightly annoying (and I guess not that difficult to program. I wouldn’t know thought. I’m not a programmer, sorry.).
    This would only be one example. It doesn’t have to be a change of locations. You could also add other such stuff, which are easy to solve, indirectly independent of the storyline and randomizeable.
    An additional idea to this:
    By the way: I noticed that Applebloom was there with Twilight in the video. So do partners also play key roles in confrontations (Like for example: you can only make certain evidence, reduce the suspect’s “health” with the help of the partner?)?
    Anyway, to my additional idea (Actually I got it as I wondered the question above.): You could make a partner ability that is connected to this. For example: to keep an eye on the suspect so that it can’t ran away that easily and therefore minimize the chance that a "punishment" (I'm just going to cal them that way. It's easier) happens if you health reaches zero.

    About the suspect's health bar:
    Pinky gave me the idea.
    You could make different evidence, “weight” differently (be a differently important). In other words; deal different amounts of "damage". (In the video with Pinky Pie; the last evidence reduced her health by 2, instead of 1.) This way the player can't exactly tell how many pieces of evidence he'll need to crack the suspect. The evidence can weigh between 1 and 3 or more.
    Naturally you must not add the weight of an evidence to the description of the evidence!
    Just not to confuse anyone. This different importance (dealing of “damage”) should only apply to the suspect. The player’s health is still reduced by 1 if he gets something wrong (no matter the weight of the evidence).

    Aside of this all:
    It's great to hear that the game engine has been finished.
    This is an important step closer to the finishing of the game.
    Just like xris, I like the way you managed to integrate the character of the different ponies in the game.
    What am I saying? I love it!
    It is as if they really are the characters of the "My little pony" show! They are great.
    And in my opinion: you can stay with the graphics you already have. They are great.

    I hope my ideas helped you out.
    Keep it up!

  21. Looks very good, one question though:

    In the demo's I see characters very often "switch" during conversations like you can't show more then 2 characters at the same time. One of the improvements of Ace Attorney investigations over the phoenix wright is that during conversations more then 2 characters are visible at the same time. Is that going to be in the final version as well or can Spike give a witty comment without "switching out" Twighlight first?

  22. Looking good! Quick question:

    Are you going to have all original art in the release version? Those placeholder character pics look good enough to me that they could be in the final version too. Of course there are characters that don't have some specific expressions in the show, but for those you could commission original art.

  23. Because we all know who did it in the end, and there are aspects to this potential case that not a soul but you knows how to find, you could easily use the Pinkie Pie scene as a sort of tutorial to the game. The fact that everyone who watches the show knows who did it already would actually help with this, as they know which leads they would need to follow.

    The perfect tutorial, yes?

  24. @Eric

    To be honest, the idea still sounds a little... well, tacked on - no offense. All of the evidence presented and all of the lines of dialog stem directly from the events of the case. You get a character down to 0 by basically proving your point. To just arbitrarily add another point of health to the opponent would basically imply that you now need to establish a new fact before making your point that you wouldn't have had to establish otherwise, which doesn't make much sense. Either you've made your point or you haven't.

    I still feel as though starting the confrontation over from the beginning is sufficient punishment for having messed it up.

    And as far as the opponent's health being a spoiler, as I said, that will be something we'll be keeping in mind when it comes to playtesting.


    Thanks for your support! :)


    Thanks! :) Believe me, your kind words are more helpful than you know.


    Well, here's what I'm thinking as far as starting over the confrontations. It's not supposed to be as though you lose the confrontation and then you just try again, as though that failed confrontation happened in the past. Effectively, losing a confrontation basically gets you a "game over", since at that point the person you're talking to is going to clam up and not listen to anything. It's much like how in video games, if you die, then you restart at a checkpoint and it's as though the events leading to your death never happened. Similarly, when you lose a confrontation, the game reverts back to before you started it, and acts as though it never happened.

    Your suggestion for an alternative for when you lose the confrontation is interesting, but I don't think it would work either from a practical or from a conceptual standpoint. From a practical standpoint, it'd be hard to see how this would work in the abstract - for someone like Scootaloo it might, but what about when you're confronting the Big Bad; if you lose, what would happen then. Chances are, you realistically would have one chance and one chance only here; the villain isn't going to just walk away and let you confront him or her again.

    From a conceptual standpoint, I don't think that this passes the test for good game design. This idea doesn't add anything to gameplay other than arbitrarily forcing the player to go through some motions completely unrelated to the plot just to try again. This strikes me as kind of like how in Grand Theft Auto IV, you had to drive all the way across town just to retry a mission, which virtually everyone agreed was pointless and added nothing of value to the player's experience.

    I'll grant that it's unrealistic to just allow the player to have a second chance right away. On the other hand, however, it's equally unrealistic to have the player just come back from death in FPSes and platformer games and have another go at it. Realism isn't something that should be pursued in itself; it should only come into play when it improves the player's experience while playing the game.

    As far as partners go, yes, partners will indeed play a key role in confrontations, such that you need to use them in certain confrontations to succeed.

    And yes, we definitely do plan to play around with the opponents' health such that it can be reduced by more than one with a single action, or that it can be refilled if the opponent finds a line of attack that appears to exonerate him or her from the crime - the health meter definitely won't just be a strict count of the number of things that you need to present before you win.

  25. @Anonymous 1:05 PM

    That's definitely something I've considered, but there's the problem that ponies are wider than humans, so it's a bit more difficult to see how they'd logically stack without getting too busy. I'll definitely see about doing that, though; you're right that it'd be good if we didn't have to keep switching ponies out like that.


    Yes, we do hope to have original art in the final release version.


    Hmm, that's... actually a pretty interesting idea that I hadn't thought of. I'll have to think about that. Thanks for the idea!

  26. /Eric

    Allright, i see your point. I did´nt know about your plans about one argument reducing more than one and counter-arguments restoring health, obviously just adding as much as 1 extra point to that would make it a statistical nightmare. And your right it sounded tacked on, i think i left one part out there, but nevermind. No hard feelings.

  27. @GabuEx

    Okies, I suppose we then just have to hope you'll get great artists. :)

    Also, about the "game over" at confrontations. Are you going to show some sort of game over screen before it restarts? Or Twi saying something about how she screwed up? (Which would be fun if it was unique to each case. I know I would lose on purpose just to see them all).

    I know you aren't probably going to use voices from the show but still I think this would be great for the game over part. :D

    Oh, and I definitely agree, that Pinkie scene would be the perfect tutorial!

  28. @GabuEx

    "Well, here's what I'm thinking as far as starting over the confrontations. It's not supposed to be as though you lose the confrontation and then you just try again, as though that failed confrontation happened in the past. Effectively, losing a confrontation basically gets you a "game over", since at that point the person you're talking to is going to clam up and not listen to anything. It's much like how in video games, if you die, then you restart at a checkpoint and it's as though the events leading to your death never happened. Similarly, when you lose a confrontation, the game reverts back to before you started it, and acts as though it never happened."

    In that case, it would be appropriate if it shows a game over screen with a restart button when you fail the confrontation.

  29. Came across the game today, and I'm excited for its release. I am glad that you changed the font, from what you had, to what it is now. That previous font made it sound like they were yelling.

    On another note, excelent job capturing the personalities, while reading all the next, I couldn't get their voices out of my head; actually, I didn't want them out of my head. The placeholder pictures also added to the effect of their personalities. In my opinion those shouldn't be changed, but if you do want original art, you better get some good artists.

    As for, music: it works, but needs to be more "MLP:FIM"ish if you get what I'm saying. So getting an original soundtrack would make listening to it much more enjoyable as well. Music adds to the effect of gameplay, which makes it a very important part of the game, like the font (for this type of game).

    Now, as for confrontation, I think there should be two difficulty levels. 1 where it shows how close you are to proving your point, and one that just shows you a question mark, so you have no idea how close you are to proving the point. And maybe 3: 1. Shows both numbers. 2. Shows "?" on suspect. 3. Shaows "?" on both. That way you have no idea how many times you can present the wrong evidence before you have to start over.

    I also like what JiiKoo, said about making each failure on proving your point unique to each case (if possible of course). I too would fail the confrontation on purpose just to see them all.

    Thank you for taking time out of your day to make this game. Thank you for sharing with us the things you did. I can't wait to hear more about the progress of the game, and like i said ealier, I can't wait for this game to come out.


  30. *...while reading all the next* <---found in second paragraph (if you can call the first paragraph a paragraph). it should be "text," not "next."

    Oh, and forgot to mention, that i went through all your blog posts, and just combined it all into this one for simplicity.


  31. If you want MLP:FIMish music, you should contact SherclopPones on Youtube, those guys have made some really fitting original music in their friendship is witchcraft series.

  32. so it's true that you are coding it on xna? so no mac or linux support :C, btw i think it's going pretty well, how many cases will you add 4 + a extra one like AAPW?

  33. Hey, GabuEx.

    First of all, this is the BEST. POSSIBLE. THING. As a huge fan of both MLP and AA, I really couldn't be happier with what I'm seeing. You have an eye for game design rivaling the developers of the original games, and unlike 99.99% of fangames, yours doesn't appear to be riddled with obvious typos or dialogue that the characters would never say.

    I've got to ask, though. Since you've got a working engine... what happens to the engine after you've had your fun with it? Will you just keep it to yourself, or will you release the engine and/or its source code so that others can make unofficial cases and such? I can almost see cases being distributed like mods or user-created levels in other games, and I'm sure you aren't the only great writer in the MLP fandom.

    If you /do/ release the code, I *might* see about porting the engine to Java or something, so that Mac and Linux users aren't left out. The Slick library for Java is very similar to XNA, it wouldn't be a very hard port unless you're relying on something super-propreitary.

  34. @JiiKoo

    Yes. confrontations will likely have a short scene indicating that Twilight failed; it won't be as though your health gets down to 0 and then the confrontation just immediately restarts with no visual or story cues.

    @Deathsheir That's an interesting idea to make your opponent's health invisible as an option, but I don't really think it would be a good idea to do the same for the *player*. Hiding the player's health, I think, would just create an annoyance where players will have no idea whether or not they have the leeway to guess, and I imagine that players will quickly figure out what the player's health is by counting how long it takes to lose the first time.

    Basically, my view on this is that giving players the ability to choose between viable options is good, but giving players the ability to basically annoy themselves or shoot themselves in the foot is not.

    @Anonymous 9:34 AM

    We'll be having a full recruitment call in the near future.


    Yes, it's coded in XNA. As to the number of cases, the game is designed to be modular (cases are separate files that can be added one at a time), so there's no real limit on the number of cases there can be. At present, we have four cases planned, but that's not to say that that'd be all the cases there will be.

    @Anonymous 9:09 AM

    Well, I wouldn't actually need to release the game's source in order to enable people to make unofficial cases. From Day 1 I've been designing things such that cases are modular - each case is defined in a platform-agnostic language that is then compiled into a platform-specific file format that the executable can then read and work with. The case editor I have right now is rather rudimentary, and currently is little more than a text editor with a compiler, but I plan to refine it and improve it over the course of development of the first few cases. Once it's sufficiently polished, then I figure there's no reason not to release it into the wild, which is something I've planned to do all along.

    That covers unofficial cases, but as you alluded to that still won't let Mac and Linux users play the game. What would be necessary for that would be to basically create a re-implementation of the executable and the case editor for those platforms (or in a platform-independent environment like Java) such that the case definitions can be compiled into a file readable by that executable. I would certainly have no objections against releasing the game's source code in order to facilitate that if someone wanted to undertake that task. I don't have a Mac or a machine running Linux to test with, myself, so that'd be something that would probably be best done by someone who does.

  35. @GabuEx

    Are you saying that the case files are being "compiled" as in archived into one file, or compiled in the literal sense, as arbitrary machine code that's executed by the game engine?

    If the former, cases should be platform-independent, provided that any bored programmers (such as myself) ever do port the engine to other platforms. This would be ideal and I do hope that's roughly what you meant.

    If the latter, you may be making a big mistake... other than the fact that platform-specific bytecode means that cases will never work on another platform without being ported and recompiled themselves, what's stopping me from writing a virus or some spyware in the form of a case file? Even if your compiler is performing some obfuscation or the game engine is sandboxing the code somehow, you're just asking for some jerk to find a loophole and scare players away from /all/ user-created cases.

  36. @Anonymous 6:49

    I meant compiled into one file, not compiled into machine code. The latter would kind of make the case engine a little pointless. :P Sorry for the confusion; that word is a little overloaded.