Ok this one is a bigger update so brace yourselves!
As you may have noticed, we missed posting our last progress update by a month. We’re sorry about that but there was a good reason behind it… we were working like crazy to get an Alpha build of the game ready! And now I am happy to announce that the game is finally in Alpha! This is a big milestone for us and we are happy with how the game is shaping up so far. Now onto the updates!
Vancouver had a beautiful summer this year with many sunny days…which we spent in our office working on things like:
We have set up all of the infrastructure to quickly and easily port Homeless to other languages besides English. In order to speed up this process, we purchased the fantastic Localization Package plugin from the Unity Asset Store. This helped us get things up and running a LOT faster than writing our own code from scratch. Just another reason why we love Unity so much! <3 The harder (and more time consuming) part of this process was setting up all of the tokens in the localization spreadsheet that enables us to replace the text on the fly. Currently, all the text is still in English, but when we want to translate it now it won’t take long at all. So… if anyone out there speaks another language and is willing to help us out with translation please contact us here and let us know! :)
One of the strategies in the game is to approach the pedestrians with different actions in hopes of earning money. Each pedestrian likes each action differently and will react accordingly. This means that panhandling will be very effective on some people, but also very ineffective (damaging) on others. Each pedestrian will react in one of five different ways depending on how you approach them. These reactions include: love, like, neutral, angry, and violent. Smart players have to remember which pedestrians to target with an action, and also which pedestrians to avoid. Luckily the actions are introduced to you one at a time so you can experiment with them without being overwhelmed. There are 32 pedestrians, 5 reactions, and 5 actions (panhandling, telling your story, sales, artist, and busking) which leads to a LOT of different results. That is why we have included the Pedestrian Wiki. This menu item tracks all of the pedestrian responses to each action as they are discovered. Can’t remember how that old guy reacts when you paint his picture? Check the wiki and find out. :)
We have added all of the characters to the game that work in the stores and services. Each location in the game has a unique character that will greet the player when they enter the shop and comment when they make a purchase. The greetings and comments are randomly pulled from a pool for each store to add a bit of variety to the game. Each character is also brought to life with basic idle and talk animations. Currently there are 18 store owners in the game but we may be adding a few more.
We spent a lot of time changing the art in all of the scenes to give each of them a more unique look and feel that is closer to what the actual locations in Vancouver look like. Previously we had used the same generic art tiles for each location as we set them up. This meant that we created a basic sidewalk tile, and then proceeded to use that exact same tile in each location. Now we have created a bunch of variations of sidewalks, streets, streetlights, and other assets so that the locations have a much richer variety of assets.
The incredible weather carried on into August… and we carried on with things like:
NEW MAP SCREEN
We have replaced all of the placeholder art in the map screen with a new background image and new icons. While it looks a lot nicer now, we also added some other improvements as well. The map reflects all of locations in the game including their status at the given time. So if you open up the map at 1:00 AM, you will see that the icons for the majority of locations are faded because those places are closed. If you open the map at 10:00 AM, you will see that most places are open and their icons are bright. Icons for locations will also start a pulsing fade one hour before they close to let you know that these places are closing soon. We also added animated task notifications that mark the location for your active task. If you’re not sure where to go for your current task, the map will let you know! Finally we added an animated arrow that let’s you know where you are currently located in the city.
CHARACTER SELECTION SCREEN
This is another cool feature I am happy to announce. You can now select a character to play through the game as! For the longest time we only had the one character to play with, but now we have TWO! We have created our first female character, Jenny, so players now have a choice at their character’s gender. This obviously required a new set of animations, but also required a new set of audio as well. This was something we have wanted to do for a long time and now we have a solid framework in place to make it work. We have also made specific clothing items for females, though most of the clothing in the game is gender neutral. There’s nothing to stop you from wearing a hot pink mini-skirt as a guy! Eventually we would love to create more characters to play as, but our focus right now is on finishing the game first. We can always add future updates with more characters later if there is a demand for them. :)
We have recorded a bunch more audio and added it to the game. In keeping with our audio design of using realistic sounds with our pixellated visuals, we have created a bunch of “Simlish” sounds for the player and the pedestrians. We wanted the audio to be clear to all players, regardless of their native language, so we kept all the “dialogue” to very short, concise responses. These consist of lots of yells, angry grunts, screams, uh-uhs, nopes, mm-mms, nuh-uhs, and other gutteral sounds from the pedestrians. The player also uses these same “made up” sounds to convey their actions in the game.
One of the things we want to get across in the game is the consequences of sleeping outdoors. As a homeless person, you are at your most vulnerable when sleeping outside because there is nothing stopping anyone from approaching you. Sleeping outside is dangerous, and as a player you will have to decide where to sleep for the night. Random events occur during the night and you are notified of what happened when you wake up. These random events are usually not nice and will affect your character the next day. Examples of negative consequences include being attacked in your sleep (lose Health), being robbed (lose Money), being sprayed by a skunk (lose Hygiene) and being constantly woken up by sirens (lose Spirit). However there are also positive results such as awakening to find a care package ( gain Hygiene), finding a couple bucks tucked in your hand (gain Money), finding someone left you food (gain Health), and having a peaceful rest (gain Spirit). These random events help mix up the game and also provide the player with insight into things that happen to real homeless people that are beyond their control. We wish we had the time to animate all of these incidences, but for now the text will have to do.
With the beautiful summer behind us, we continued on with:
This was a major milestone for us! We spent the majority of the month working towards getting an Alpha build of the game up and running. This included a lot of work tying together a bunch of the systems we had in place and ironing out some wrinkles with the gameplay. We also wanted to make sure our analytics were working and that the game was properly pulling everything it needed from our servers. We fixed a bunch of bugs (though there are still many more to fix) and polished up some rough edges (though a lot more polishing still remains) but we are happy with the progress we have made. Most of our development is done on PCs and we spent a lot of time fixing things up to run on that platform. When we went to build the game to Unity’s webplayer, we had a LOT of issues to fix so that set us back about a week. Now that those problems are fixed and the web build is working, we are happy to announce that our game is now Alpha 1.00 and we we are ready to show it off to our backers for feedback. Previously we announced that anyone who qualified as a Beta Tester on KickStarter has been upgraded to an Alpha Tester. If this applies to you, expect an email from us shortly describing how to access the game!
Things are progressing faster now and we hope to hit Beta pretty quickly. Well that’s the latest from us. Thanks for reading and stayed tuned for more updates in the near future. :)