Progress Update July 2014
I began work on Snapshot 10 at the start of June, and initially made some good progress. Once again I've come back to the issue of crafting. Crafting in some form or another has been in Bulldog for over a year now, but it has never really gotten past the proof-of-concept stage. One of June's tasks was to address the crafting situation once and for all.
I've made some pretty good progress and answered some of the lingering questions I wasn't sure about previously. As with most of my game design, I looked at other RPG user interfaces to see what they did, and try to come up with something that is intuitive, but suits my specific needs.
One of the inspirations for Bulldog is Minecraft, so the Minecraft crafting system was high on the list of candidates to examine. While I think the shape-based crafting is a really clever idea, it doesn't suit the style of play I have planned in Bulldog. Instead, I've opted for a 5-slot shapeless system. The choice of slot count is actually a fairly tricky one. If you have too few, then crafting recipes become a bit boring. If you have too many, then crafting becomes cumbersome, since you need to have access to all the different items at once, which takes up inventory space. Five is a happy medium between the two extremes I feel, but I'll see how it goes when I get to playtesting.
"Crafting" is actually made up of 4 sub-types. Assembly, Construction, Salvage and Processing. The line between the various types is actually blurred considerably in practice, so the player need not pay attention to the individual types when playing, but from the code point of view, they represent very different things.
AssemblyThis is your typical crafting most players would be familiar with. You take a number of ingredients and create a single output. Eg, you might take a tree branch, a stone and some duct tape, and craft a stone axe with it.
ConstructionThis is similar to assembly, but it is for crafting larger items that are built directly in the world. For example, you might take a bunch of wooden logs, and a lot of stone, nails etc, and construct a small cabin. This also has the distinction that you would initially prepare the building site, as well as having the opportunity for others to contribute labour as well.
SalvageSince Bulldog is a modern, semi-realistic post apocalyptic world, the player won't be mining ore, smelting it in a home made furnace and making iron ingots. However, the ruins of civilisation are everywhere, so Salvage is going to be a VERY important skill. This is the process of taking something and breaking it down it useful raw materials. Eg, taking a wooden pallet and breaking it apart with an axe (or sledgehammer) to produce some useful wooden planks (as well as some scrap). Later down the track this will also include careful disassembly of electronics and other technology.
ProcessingFinally, we come to processing, which is basically anything that a machine, device or similar entity does to convert something into something else. For example, cooking a raw piece of meat on a campfire or stove, and producing a cooked piece of meat. These are generally passive tasks that the player can set and forget, whereas the other 3 are all active tasks, that require a direct investment of time and labour from the player.
As is usually the case with any expansions I need to make to the game engine, there was an unexpected hiccough. I planned to add a new type of slot control, which only allows references to entities in other slots. This sounds complicated, but is actually quite common in other games. Wherever you have a "HotBar" or "ActionBar" onto which you can drag items. The actual item is somewhere else, maybe the players inventory, or a spellbook etc, and the slot only stores a reference to the real entity.
A short time into attempting to implement that control I realised that half the drag and drop functionality that is specific to the existing slot control is hardcoded into my WindowManager class! This is *terrible* design. I don't know what I was thinking when I did that. It will be next to impossible to implement the new control without making things even worse. So, I had to take a step back and tidy up the existing implementation first.
The end result of this unexpected work (and a sudden loss of free time for several weeks) is that Snapshot 10 has gone way over time. As of this writing, it isn't complete, and will require some serious effort to bring it in before the end of August, which is kind of piss poor, but I soldier on...
In non-coding news, I've been doing alot of design work on random parts of the game, and coming up with some interesting ideas for the backstory of the gameworld, which I hope to share as time goes by.
Now, if you'll excuse me I have to get back to coding...