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  • Postmortem: Joshua Nuernberger's Gemini Rue

    [04.14.11]
    - Joshua Nuernberger

  • 2. Combat

    Looking at the feedback for Gemini Rue after it was released, there was one element that most people had trouble with: the combat.

    From the beginning of the design, I knew I wanted to have combat, but the correct implementation was still up in the air. Previously, I had tried doing a first person shooter/adventure hybrid with my 2007 game, La Croix Pan, which kind of worked, but it didn't feel correct for Gemini Rue. Ultimately, I ended up with a kind of platform-esque mini-game which revolved around a Gears of War-style cover system.

    The main problem with this was that people usually either "got it" and said the combat was too easy, or didn't get it and kept dying and got very frustrated. This most likely could be attributed to the somewhat binary victory conditions -- you either shot before the enemy and killed him, or the enemy would shoot before you and you would revert into cover and never get a shot off. Such a dichotomous gameplay mechanic unfortunately divides players into two camps, one of which will be more frustrated than the other.

    What probably would've helped was implementing a more continuous difficulty ramp, where failure is not as simple as getting shot once and not being able to counter the enemy for the rest of the battle. However, as both an unorthodox addition to traditional point 'n click gameplay, and as a story support to Azriel's assassin abilities, the combat is still something I see as positive to the game.

    3. Not Preparing For VA Integration

    As I mentioned earlier, Gemini Rue was originally intended to be freeware. As such, I never envisioned the game having full voiceovers. However, once Wadjet Eye Games joined the project, full voice acting became a very feasible option.

    When coding the game, however, this created a slight problem. Since Gemini Rue uses multiple player characters at different situations, in order to save time on coding I almost always used the internal AGS voice command, player.Say(). This assigns the dialog line to whoever the player is at that time, rather than restricting "Player" to a specific character, such as Azriel, Sayuri, or Delta-Six. Otherwise, you would have to write a check in the code to make sure the correct character was speaking (if player == Sayuri à cSayuri.Say();) for every possible player character in that situation.  Since I mostly used the player.Say(); command, when it came time to export all the lines of dialog to record, this meant that some characters were speaking each others' lines... when it was never their line to begin with.

    Eventually, I had to go back into the code and manually rewrite individual lines in order to make sure that each player character was speaking their correct line in each instance. Tedious, yes, and it could have been prevented by leaving open the option for voice acting at the start of the project.


    4. Lack of Player Direction

    Gemini Rue does not have a fully proper "point 'n click" tutorial, and so sometimes players would miss key features at the beginning of the game. For instance, many times players did not realize that they could right click on their inventory items in order to look at them or activate them. In addition, many players, especially those who had never played adventure games before, were unfamiliar with right clicking to bring up the verb interface. Although the interface mechanics can be grasped within a short time span, it would have been better to make sure that those players who were confused had the interface properly explained to them, rather than leave it up to trial and error.

    Furthermore, Azriel's first scene was very restrictive, which also seemed to frustrate some players. The restriction was meant to focus players towards the story path, but often times instead of putting them back on track, it just caused their misaligned focus to continually hit a brick wall. For instance, the first thing that players will interact with (without fail) in the first room is the locked gate. Why? Because it's a gate... that must mean you have to go through it. And yet, you are never, ever, required to enter that gate in the entire game (to exit, well... that's another story). Moreover, almost every exit the player tries within the first three rooms is refused with a verbal response, "I shouldn't get lost," which aggravated players who just couldn't figure out what to do. More natural barriers, rather than artificially imposed ones, would've helped players stay on the correct path rather than get frustrated by disobeying the game's internal logic.

    5. Release Crunch

    Up until the very last week before release, we were still fixing bugs. Due to both time crunch and me being busy with my own school schedule, the amount of testing that should've been done was not always possible. Because of this, some bugs which I thought were fixed actually slipped through into pre-release builds leading up to launch, which then had to be fixed right before release. And that meant the possibility of introducing new bugs. However, thanks to the internal testing team's hard work, we screened the game several more times right before release and managed to make sure the game shipped without any major bugs.

    Aside from that, going up to release, there were some features that the game was missing that either simply had never been suggested, or were deemed necessary only at the last moment. One of these was an easy mode for the combat, sparked by many people's concerns in previews that the combat would be too difficult for the average adventure gamer. This mode was added just several weeks before release but thankfully was tested enough to make sure it did not contain any bugs. Another feature we missed was the ability to remap the keyboard controls, especially for those with non QWERTY keyboards. By the time we realized this feature was needed, there were only a few weeks until release which meant there wasn't enough time to fully implement and test it. (But rest assured, you should be seeing it in an upcoming patch.)

    Conclusion

    Gemini Rue started out as a simple idea in my head during my senior year in high school, stemming from a lifelong dream to create my own video games. To see where it has taken me today is much more than I ever could have asked or hoped for, and the ride along the way has been just as amazing. From everyone who supported the game, either through the IGF, testing, working on the game in any way, or just by a simple purchase, I'd like to say thank you. As for what I'll be doing after this, I still have a year of school left, but I would definitely like to create more story-driven games in the future.

    Data Box

    Developer: Joshua Nuernberger

    Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games

    Number of Developers: 1, with help on music, sound, voice acting

    Length of Development: 3 years

    Release Date: February 24, 2011

    Development Tools: Adventure Game Studio, Adobe Photoshop, Audacity

    Platforms: PC

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