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January 07, 2013 - the biweekly kickstarter update created woman

Happy New Year, Larryettes!

We are now officially in "crunch mode," although, to be honest, everyone at N-Fusion and I have been in crunch mode all along. But now it's official, which means a whole new shipment of caffeinated beverages, caffeinated candies, and caffeinated bacon.

Before I go off on minutiae about game text, I'm going to answer a few questions I've seen around Kickstarter and the Replay Games fora:

  1. Yes, we're still on track for a Q1 2013 release.
  2. Yes, we're still planning on foreign language releases concurrent with the release of the English version: French, Italian, German, and Spanish (or "FIGS").
  3. Yes, we're still planning on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android versions. Linux is still a real possibility. Unity 4 makes porting it relatively easy. But it does involve whole additional testing cycles that aren't in the budget (timewise or moneywise).
  4. The Kickstarter premiums will ship about the time the game ships. We may be able to push some of the digital items (like the HD wallpaper) out sooner, but our overriding goal is to meet our ship date, and it's an all-out push with that singular goal in mind. For the physical goods, we don't want to do more than one wave of shipments, because that will multiply our shipping costs dramatically. (In other words, we don't want to, say, ship out the T-shirts separately from the Calendars, because that means hundreds of extra shipping containers and thousands of extra dollars in postage.)
  5. The front of the T-shirt hasn't changed. The back of the T-shirt is now an N-Fusion-created Larry.
  6. Al and I would both have loved adding a parser, but that would've necessitated a monumental increase in both budget and development time.

Okay, now here's where I finally get to talk about the State of the Text.

There are currently six basic actions for interacting with everything in Larry's world: Look, Talk, Use, Taste/Smell, Zipper, and a generic "Inventory Item On" function (along with specialized inventory object on messages when appropriate). As I mentioned during the Kickstarter, I hate generic messages, but I can't completely get around using them.

Let me define a couple of terms. When I say "flag," that's a bit of programming that monitors the state of something in the game that we want to track.

I'll give you an example from the game. Under some conditions, the dog will come along and pee on Larry. After being peed on, I want the first person that Larry meets to comment on the unusual aroma. So there is a flag for Larry called "peedOn." The vast majority of the time, this flag is off (peedOn==False). When the dog pees on him, the flag is changed (peedOn==True). Many of the characters have a line of dialogue to speak when they encounter Larry and peedOn==True. As soon as they deliver the line, the flag is changed again, back to False. And the cycle of life begins anew.

Flags change constantly throughout the game. Simply looking at a screen feature can change a flag; this is relevant when I want to have a series of messages for something, with that message changing each time you look at the item. First time you look at something, second time you look at something, and so on.

When I say "feature," I mean a region of the screen that has its own identity and requires its own text text "handling." For instance, look at the Come 'n' Go interior at :06 in the video we created for the Steam Greenlight effort. I identified 28 separate features (not counting Larry himself): the Hot Dog display, the floormat, the refrigerated case, the counter, the Clerk, and so on. The majority of rooms are not this busy, thankfully, or I'd be writing until 2013. Oh, wait, I am.

So I create messages for each of the six basic actions for each of those 28 features. Assuming only one message per feature (although many have two or more), that's 168 messages right there, before I even start to be able to get into all the specifics that are necessary to cover different flag settings. The specific messages for those features requiring different flag settings can easily double the total number of messages used in a room.

That's a vast amount of recording and editing, a vast amount of speech to put into a game (especially a mobile game!). And that's before factoring in the inventory-object-on-inventory-object messages and dialogues between Larry and other characters.

(Side note: I actually started with an experiment: seeing if I could create a couple of rooms where clicking every single inventory object on every single feature would have its own message. It turned out to be immensely time-consuming since there were more than 40 potential inventory items - although, of course, some objects don't apply to some locations -- and dozens of features in each room. I stopped when I got close to 800 messages for the room, and that wasn't even one of the more crowded rooms.)

With these kinds of totals, I've pretty much ended up having to use some generics. For instance, if you try to talk to most inanimate objects, you'll get a generic message (although it's always at least unique to the room). And when you click an inventory item on a feature, you'll get a generic message unless there's a good reason - comedy and/or puzzle relevance - for a more specific one.

Despite this, I think we'll still have one of the most robust Larrys ever written in terms of sheer quantity and quality of input responses.

And now, back to work I go. Lots to do. Not enough time in which to do it.

Fondly,
Josh

December 24, 2012 - jesse james meets the biweekly kickstarter update's daughter

I had planned to keep this update short; we've had four updates in December already.

But then I remembered that I promised last time to go into some detail about my text process.

But then I thought that if it were me receiving these updates, I'd say, "C'mon, Hanukkah ended last week, yesterday was Festivus, Kwanzaa's in a couple of days, tonight's Christmas Eve. Just cut to the goodies, please." So I'm throwing caution to the wind and cutting to the goodies!

Here are a half-dozen of Colin Merlo's finished backgrounds for the game, complete and in all their high-res glory. You've seen them in the Greenlight video, but not like this! (Speaking of Greenlight, for those of you who upvoted Larry and Fester, THANK YOU! If you haven't, we still need every vote we can get...instructions here).


The interior of Lefty's!


Lefty's gorgeous bathroom!


The "Secret Room"


The "Come 'n' Go"


The Alley to the right of Lefty's!


The other Alley!


Happy New Year, everyone! See you next quarter!
Josh

December 11, 2012 - "perhaps sooner than you think" kickstarter update

Good morning!

We were hoping to hold this back for a couple more days, but there was a Red Carpet interview at Spike TV's Video Game Awards last week, and now the cat's out of the bag. So we're dropping this on you shortly before our official Press Release goes out:

Our composer on LEISURE SUIT LARRY is Austin Wintory, Grammy-nominated, VGA-winning composer of the incredible soundtrack for JOURNEY. It's impossible to say who's more excited by this: Al, Paul, me, or Austin himself.

We've been working on this deal for months (I note that my very first email to Austin, introducing him to the project, was on August 8th), and we couldn't possibly be more thrilled. Any game would be outrageously lucky to work with Austin, and our li'l Kickstarter Larry GOT HIM!

Have a great day!
Josh

December 10, 2012 - the biweekly kickstarter update meets the space monster

Good morning, Larryettes.

There have been two extra Kickstarter updates since I last wrote, pertaining to the effort to get both Leisure Suit Larry and Fester Mudd approved via Steam Greenlight. If you haven't voted for them, and you're willing to do so, I'd take it as a great favor...especially with Fester Mudd, because that game's lead designer, Paavo Harkonen, is a talent waiting to be celebrated, and it's been a privilege for me to work on that game with him.

As you probably know if you read the previous update or two, we're having a contest, and five of the six prizes are pieces of original art from the game I did with Al back in '93, Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist. I want you to know that those pieces, original Freddy Pharkas talkers lovingly painted by ex-Sierra artist Ruben Huante, are near and dear to my heart. I've never made any of the Freddy artwork available before this year, I've been caring for them and showing them off for about 20 years now, and I think it's time to spread some of the joy around. (If you haven't voted yet to enter the contest, here are complete instructions.

The video that accompanied Kevin's first update dropped eight full, nearly-complete backgrounds on you:

  • Lefty's Exterior
  • Lefty's Bathroom
  • Lefty's Secret Room
  • The Come 'n' Go Interior
  • The Alley right of Lefty's (got that?)
  • Mugger alley
  • Telephone close-up
  • Lefty's Video Gaming Terminal

For those of you keeping track, that's not nearly all the backgrounds that've been finished. Others include Lefty's interior, Lefty's hallway, Lefty's upstairs, the exterior of the Come 'n' Go, the close-up of the Hooker, the Taxi, and the Video Gaming Terminal at the Wed 'n' Ready (the while-you-wait wedding chapel).

You also got a taste of Larry's animation and some of his "idle cycles," the movements he makes randomly and habitually when you're not telling him to do anything specific. We're fully cognizant of the sliding issue with Larry's walking. That's a fine-tuning task that came standard with pretty much every Sierra adventure: matching the scale of the walker to the scale of the background.

From a narration-and-dialogue standpoint, I'm still keeping up with artwork. I'm going to talk a lot more about my procedures and choices with the text next time, but since there've been so many updates in the past two weeks, I'm going to keep this one brief and give you something entirely different today: the video from N-Fusion that I've been talking about for so long. Now you'll get to see a bit more of the process, put some faces to names, and so on.

I love these people, and every day I remind myself that we're lucky to have them working with us. They go above and beyond every damn day.

More to come...perhaps sooner than you think.
Josh

December 07, 2012 - the not-so-biweekly update, part deux: things are getting steamy

Hello adventure gamers! We have two important announcements:

  1. Leisure Suit Larry and Fester Mudd are now on Steam Greenlight. Purchase on Steam is not required, as we will have many digital distribution portals. A DRM FREE version will also be available on release.
  2. By "upvoting" the games on Steam, you enter yourself into a contest to win one of six prizes! The latest Ultrabook on the Planet or one of five original pieces of artwork from Freddy Pharkas (They are the "talkers," the close-up portraits used to animate the mouths).
Ultrabook, Ultrabook Specs, Pharkas Talker 1, Pharkas Talker 2, Pharkas Talker 3, Pharkas Talker 4, Pharkas Talker 5

We need all the votes we can get to ensure these games make it onto steam! The contest will end when both games are Greenlit. Emails will be randomly picked for prizes, ONLY when both games are Greenlit. 1st name drawn gets first selection of the prizes (One prize per person). The second name gets second selection, and so on.

HERE'S HOW TO WIN:

  1. Login to your Steam account or create one here.
  2. Go to the LSL and Fester Mudd pages located at these links:
  3. Click the box YES under: Would you buy this game if it were available in Steam? If you can't click the checkmark, a favorite and your account name will be accepted.
  4. Take screen shots that show the yes box/favorite checked, and your account name by pressing PrtScr (Print Screen), alt+PrtScn for multiple monitor setups, or command+shift+3 for Mac users.[This will take a screenshot and save to the desktop] Be sure that we can see your login/account name and the checked box/favorite in the same screenshot. [Note: If you can't see your name and the check box in the same screen, press F11 to go full screen, then take the screen shot]

  5. Paste the screenshot in a program like MS paint by pressing ctrl+v or right click paste. Save the screenshots as .jpg files. [2MB max size]
  6. Go to the Replay site contest form and submit the screenshots you saved to your computer. You will see a success confirmation. You will need to submit a screenshot for each game separately.
  7. If you have any questions, ask away!!!

    Kevin Kettler
    Replay Games