getinthedamnbox: games, sounds, and other work by Matt Boyd-Surka

Bulwark in the City of Flesh

Developer Diary #002

March 8, 2018

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Hi, I’m back. Let’s check the to-do list from last time:

  1. Finish refactoring. Done.
  2. Add audio/video toggle. Done.
  3. Write dialogue. Not done.

Refactoring was a major undertaking, and it feels good to be on the other side of it. Previously, I had one character class, one camera class, and a wall of conditionals in each one. Adding new control schemes would’ve required me to pile a lot more code into those classes. Instead of doing that, I now use inheritance to give each camera and control scheme its own subclass, and I use controllers to switch between them.

That’s only one small part of my code-revision efforts. Here’s some other stuff I did:

On the graphical front, I switched from the weird lo-fi textures I had before to a toon style. The game looks more like this now:

Nighttime screenshot of the Pool District

(I’m conflicted about the lights. I love the way they look on their own, but they make dynamic shadows blocky and bad. I might switch back to a single directional light.)

OK, the biggest update: I’ve added the audio/video toggle. This allows Bulwark in the City of Flesh to be played either as an audio game or a video game. Both modes will include the same story, but the control schemes and puzzles will differ.

I want to give a shout-out to the people at for their kind discussion of our previous audio game, HEARtREAD. It’s been informative and encouraging to read the comments, and it motivated me to push through the hardest part of adding the audio/video toggle. I’m hoping that you’ll have thoughts on the Bulwark in the City of Flesh alpha build once it’s finally out.

Below is a brief demo of how the audio game plays. I’ve uploaded this as a video, but there are no in-game visuals in it. The video is just a close-up of my keyboard. I start by running along the Bulwark's main route, and then I take a branch to the left and enter a puzzle sequence. I complete the puzzle and return to the main route.

I imagine it’s fairly impossible to understand what’s going on in the game based on that. My next step is to add sounds and voiceover to clarify everything. If you’re curious about the details, here’s a thorough description of the control scheme:

I want the puzzles to feel tactical and tactile, with the physical positions of the keyboard keys filling in for the absent visuals. I had originally considered using the entire keyboard as one large block of tiles, but I don’t know if I can be sure that every player’s keyboard will have a big enough contiguous grid of keys. Using two 3-by-3 grids seems safer.

It may turn out that the puzzle design is too convoluted, in which case I’ll have to simplify it. I’m hoping that it might work if the difficulty ramps up slowly enough (i.e., start with just one turret, one person, and one exit) and if I tutorialize it properly.

To-do list:

  1. Improve audio cues.
  2. Clean up transitions between city and daydream.
  3. Record and produce more placeholder dialogue.
  4. Write dialogue.

Thanks for reading.