The gateway Update 6.2.0 is on the horizon, and you can dig through the patch notes HERE if you’re interested to see what’s coming down the pipe. One particular point of interest is the mention of a greeting system set to usurp the comment system? What’s that about?
Many of you may remember the very large recent update that… kinda didn’t do a whole helluvalot. I’m referring to the grandiose premise that every change your character would go through would be noticed, commented on, and remembered by NPCs in the game. NPCs took on various “moods” which, really they were “tones”, would affect the way they spoke to you and what they’d think of the changes in question. It was to be the engine that would finally give real, visible feedback to the various changes your character would go through, physically and otherwise.
It wasn’t hypothetical, either!
The fabled Comment Engine is indeed in the game, though currently the only meaningful content for it is tied to your outfit. Oh, and how many times has Saya invaded your game to inform you of an error in the system? Anyway, the skeleton has always been in place. As you play the game, right now, NPCs are noting your gender, hair length, makeup, outfit, bust size, and whatever else they can discern, and any time something changes, they’re noting the change! Granted, there have been improvements on “how” they’re committing, recalling, and comparing these memories, the functionality has been in place.
What was lacking was the actual content.
See, every subject that could be commented on had its own dialogue database, a Comment Database, and each of those databases contained hundreds if not thousands of lines of possible dialogue! Lines had to be written for every comparison (Your breasts are larger/smaller/no different than I remember!) for each of the six different moods the NPC could have, not to mention specialized dialogue for Ava and Dakota. The outfit database, the only complete database, clocks in at 714 lines!
Efforts were made to augment the team and get these things written, but ultimately the comment databases were confined to the backburner. With every update came the intention to expand them by just a little bit, but it never happened. The harsh reality is that I had kicked off a system that would just never be seen through to completion. It’s something, conceptually, that I really think the game needs, but I but off more than I could chew.
I fucked up.
Well that’s a touch dramatic!
So the comment system as originally envisioned was a little… overambitious. This is true, but so too is my belief that it or something like it has a lot to add to the game. Another truth is that a lot has changed in terms of how development is handled in general since the system was originally designed. Specifically, the “Content First” approach to design, IE, making it a point not to sacrifice content development in favor of mechanical development.
I think the new Content Blocks, the construction of a “scene repository” to reuse across various scenes, introduced in Update 6.1.3 is a good example of this. We were able to implement Preferences, Traits, and a significantly better Interactive Scene system in way that was developed in parallel with new content, rather than in lieu of it. How, then, could we best apply these methods to the floundering comment system?
Common sense, of course!
Not in terms of design, not really, but rather in terms what’s actually common and makes sense. The fact is, the comment system as originally envisioned isn’t even remotely realistic. It didn’t… Well it didn’t make any sense!
Okay, okay, this is getting a little masturbatory. Let’s get to the point!
The comment engine was designed so that NPCs could remember, compare and comment on both privately and publicly known player traits. We’ll begin with the former.
Private traits are, essentially, anything you couldn’t tell about a person just by looking at them. The size and state of their “stuff”, the underwear they may or may not be wearing, their various “skills”, etc. With the advent of Content Blocks in Update 6.1.3, this is now something that can be handled on the fly on a per-character basis. With all intimate actions now consolidated, it becomes very easy to add this sort of commentary in a way that feels natural, personal to the character, and helps drive the content forward.
Content Blocks eliminate the need for a separate engine to handle these sorts of comments.
The real meat of the comment system, public comments are your standard “Oh you changed your hair!” or “I like your new outfit” or “Weren’t you a woman yesterday?” comments. These comments are important in making the player feel like the changes being made to their character actually mattered beyond raw mechanics. That people were actually noticing. The problem is that, as mentioned earlier, this meant a LOT of dialogue writing! Moreover, it started to feel very impersonal since characters that shared the same mood would start recycling comments from each other.
The real problem, though? The real problem is actually the solution to the entire problem, and that problem is that… No one does this. Nobody behaves in the way I’m trying to create, unless they’re crazy.
Example. I work with genuinely made-up person Debbie. I see Debbie at the office every day and we’re amicable with each other, wouldn’t call us friends, though. Over the years, Debbie’s changed her style of clothing several times much to the aplomb of… no one. She’s worn different hairstyles, changed up her makeup, and I’ve never once said a thing about it. Why should I? I don’t care! I’m just not interested. Oh we’ll talk, about work, about the weather and the cost of living, about our pets, but I’ve never once commented on her hair.
At least, I didn’t, until one day she showed up with it dyed bright red and cut just past her ears. “Oh man, Debbie, I love the new hair!”
That? That’s how your typical human beings generally interact with each other.
And so, what we have now starting in Update 6.2.0 are the introductions of simple greetings.
Instead of an elaborate comment database from which to draw elaborately curated dialogue, NPCs will simply, well, greet you! The first time you deliberately interact with a character, starting with John in 6.2.0, a brief scene will trigger wherein the character you’re talking to will note anything about you of interest to them and comment on it if it makes sense. Further interactions with that character throughout the day would just be a simple exchange. How about a visual? Since we’re starting with John in 6.2.0, let’s, well, start with John!
John, whether he’s the office asshole or the mega-slut Chanel, has a pretty obvious type. Are you lady shaped? Well endowed? Dressing provocatively? You just checked all the boxes!
But you’re not those things…
Undeterred, you take a trip to the lab in seek of some topside enhancements. Tomorrow’s another day!
Things are getting better! You’ll stop at the mall on the way home and complete the set.
And there it is! But you know, John’s a real dick. And what’s more, these knockers are giving you major back pain! Let’s go back to the lab and drop a few cup sizes. I’m sure Johnny won’t mind…
Aside from a couple functions that need some tuning up on the backend, John’s greeting scene is complete in. Dialogue will change based on default John, nice-guy John, or Chanel-John, and his comments are more varied than what you see above. Go on, roll a Male character and slap a pair of DD’s on him!
Where the original comment engine was miles away, John’s greeting scene was handled in a couple hours and designed to be easily expanded as changes come to the character. It’s a really, REALLY simple change that retains all the spirit of the original engine but is being implemented in a way that’s both realistically achievable and just “feels” better in practice.
I know this update got a little long-winded, but I hope you still found it interesting. There’s a lot of exciting stuff just around the corner, and I’m excited for everyone to be playing it!
Thank you all for your continued feedback and support, and I hope you’re looking forward to the imminent release of Update 6.2.0!