12
Mar
2016
News

Devs Play Ep. 4: “Newspaper & Merchant”

by picaresque

Ahoy!

A new video of the series “Devs play” is out! Today you’ll be introduced to the mechanics of the Newspaper and Merchant UI in the harbor.

Watch the Episode 4:

In today’s Episode 4 Mex, our game designer, will talk about the harbor’s Newspaper guy and Merchant building UI. Read and learn how to get information about new whales sightings, historical events and how to deliver goods around the world! Moreover, if you’re in need of supplies, go to the Merchant!

Enjoy the video and Godspeed!

The Picaresque Team

5
Mar
2016
DevBlog

A new way to handle your harpoons

by Mex

Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm?

Herman Melville

Ahoy there!

It’s been awhile since I wrote my last post, but there have been a few posts from Captain Eatbones about interfaces and we have inaugurated our new video series “Devs Play“, in which we started showing some gameplay from our upcoming title Nantucket. If you have missed our first three episodes, you can watch them on our Youtube channel.

In today’s post, I’m going to write about the changes we made to the combat system in the past months to improve the overall gameplay experience. During our tests and by showing the game around to people, we realized the combat system needed some rework. The main issue was related to its length, since every combat had too many empty rounds.

So, the biggest change has been completely changing the way commands were triggered. In the previous iteration, commands had to be chosen before knowing the dices rolls and, since their costs were subject to a lot of variables, really often selecting the cheapest command was the safest solution, granting an higher chance to do something during a round. Yes, it’s bad, especially considering the fact you level up your characters to get cool commands, and you want to play them.

CombatView_v3Combat Mock-up

In this new version the commands are “engraved” in the dices, so you actually roll the dices before selecting a command among the ones available in each whaleboat. Every class has a base command occupying 2 sides of their combat dice and then special sides (and commands) that are unlocked by leveling up your crew or assigning an object to a specific character. In details:

  • Hunters are good in dealing damage. According to their skills branch, the can be specialized in hunting whales or fighting men (such as pirates).
  • Sailors are specialized in evasive maneuvers, so in removing enemies action cards.
  • Craftsmen are a support class and they allow you to re-roll some dices.
  • Scientist can heal you characters and save them from death.

So, every round, the enemies play their commands (cards) face down. Then you roll your dices and pick a command per whaleboat. Pretty easy, also if the strategies involved are quite a lot.

First of all, whales have different behavior according to their type and age, so you want to “tune” your strategy according to the enemy you are facing. Then there are random condition cards appearing each round, related to the surroundings of the sea area in which the combat is taking place (icebergs, rough waters etc.). These condition cards are pretty strong and they will affect a lot your choices in each round.

Finally, with this new  system, you will be able to set your strategy well before the beginning of a combat. You can shape your dice and the ones of your crew during your travels, leveling up, or simply selecting crew members fitting your style of play. For example, you can choose to have a lot of hunters, maximizing your chance to hit every turn or decide to have a more versatile approach, picking more classes.

Remember that hunting is just a part of the dangers you can face at sea, and probably not even the deadliest.

That’s it for today. The new combat will be covered by a “Devs play” episode, so you will be able to have a more detailed grasp about it pretty soon. Keep following us for updates and see you next time!

Mex

27
Feb
2016
News

Devs Play Ep. 3: “The Shipwright”

by picaresque

Ahoy there!

The new “Devs play” video series Episode 3 is out! You’ll be introduced to the mechanics of the Shipwright UI in the harbor.

Watch the Episode 3:

In today’s Episode 3 Mex, our game designer, will guide you to the harbor’s Shipwright building UI. Learn how to buy a new ship or what upgrades are available for yours.

Enjoy the video and wait for new episodes to come!

The Picaresque Team

20
Feb
2016
DevBlog

UI Iteration #2: Shipwright

by Capt_Eatbones

Ahoy! Capt’s here!

Here I am again to continue our journey around the UI iterations we’ve been working on in the pasts months. If you haven’t read the previous articles, here you have the link:

Moreover, you surely have been following our video series “Devs play”, about us showing our game Nantucket development status. If you haven’t, well…just do it:

Now, back to where we were. Nantucket’s harbor has almost no more secrets for you…or so you believe >:] After the Tavern, we did iterate another crucial UI: the Shipwright’s. Here you have the old version, previous to the “steroids treatment”:

Shipwright_ShipsRequirements

Before the re-working, the Shipwright UI was split in two. Above you can see the main panel where the player would have repaired his/her ship or bought a new one. Again, the main idea was to represent this UI as an unfolded piece of paper where the shipwright owner would take note of all the ships available to be bought in the harbor. The little panel on the right was the player’s current ship panel.

Guess what? People trying the game was not able, most of the time, to understand which was your ship and which were the available to be bought. Too many elements were blending in confusing the player. Moreover, at the top left, the tab to switch between the Ships list and the Upgrades are almost invisible. It recalls you anything already happened with the old Tavern UI? Indeed it does!

What about the Upgrades panel then? Here it is the old version, before the “lifting”:

Shipwright_Upgrades3

In this section, more issues arose. The Ship technology upgrades are a very important aspect in Nantucket’s ship management. They let you, the captain, research and acquire technology to be able to “tune up” your current ship and the future ones. Also in this panel there are elements not clear: which are the Upgrades installed, which are to be installed, which can be upgraded and which not. I won’t dive into the functionality of this UI since it will be explained in the next video of our Devs play series.

Furthermore, being the two sections separated (Ships and Upgrades) and having the two tabs almost invisible made players almost unaware of the Upgrades view. This is a crucial UI so we couldn’t keep it as it was. A drastic change was needed. At that moment, I was sincerely a little scared of the complexity needed for this UI and of what should be necessary to change it for the better. I didn’t want to change everything, risking to cause more problems than solving them. But, you know what? There are moments where you feel it has to change, radically. So, I started working on it and came to this mock-up:

Shipwright_Proposal2

I wasn’t quite convinced about it. The basic idea of having the current ship and the selected one from the list one in front of the other was there. It just wasn’t proportioned enough: too much weight on your Ship – which is fine per Se – but if you have to choose a new ship, wouldn’t you like to have it shown full size for better comparison? Another important aspect is that the Ship technology upgrades panel is now in full sight: you don’t have to switch to another view. As I told, the main concepts were there…they simply weren’t fully developed.

So, I changed it again and come to a new proposal:

Shipwright_Panel

When I shown this two Mex and Bubb their reaction was: oh-my-god…you changed it completely! Now, that’s the kind of reaction I looked for! Simply, I wasn’t sure if it was a good one or not XD

This is the current Shipwright UI. As you can see, I switched the player’s current ship to the right placing the selected ship from the available ones on the left. Perhaps, knowing that a person usually reads from the left to the right it is not the best idea. What I tried to achieve with this decision is to maintain a certain amount of consistency throughout the game. In the Tavern UI, the Captain’s panel is placed where it would be in the navigation phase: on the left. Here the player’s ship panel is placed where it would be in the navigation phase: on the right. Visually, the ship view is the same as the one you have during navigation. We want the player to get used to these placements, so we don’t change them. Indeed, this is not always possible or is the best idea. In this case, we think it’s worth it.
Also, the available ship selected is presented and the same size as the one the player currently has. This places the other ship on the same level since it could be your next ship!
Right in the middle, between the two main panels, there are the details of both ships. I wanted here a direct comparison between information, so I decided to place them one in front of the other. The last thing I did was to re-work the Ship technology upgrades panel in order to have it visible at the same time.
Keep in mind that this structure is thought to be modular. The Shipwright, as all the Harbor buildings, can be of different levels. To each of these levels correspond a specific UI panel:

  • Level 1: only the “Your Ship” panel is visible.
  • Level 2: only the “Your Ship” and “Available Ships” panels are visible.
  • Level 3: all UI panels are visible.

As for other iterations, we asked for feedback. This new version has been generally welcome. We know there is a lot of information to process but we took the screen space needed to show them and we organized the elements in a more functional fashion. I adapted the new UI elements style to this layout so everything should be a lot clearer. Is it perfect? No. Is it a better solution? We believe so. It probably is a bigger step forward in comparison with what has been the last Tavern iteration.

If you feel that something is not right or that could be improved, please, let us know 😉 We’d really appreciate.
Well, I think I’ll leave you here for today. Remember, though: more articles are coming about our improvements in Nantucket!

Stay tuned!

12
Feb
2016
News

Devs Play: Ep. 2 “The Tavern”

by picaresque

Ay, ay Sir!

Episode 2 of the video series “Devs play” is out! Our brave ship mates will unveil the secrets of our game Nantucket.

Watch the Episode 2:

In today’s Episode 2, our lead artist, Capt_Eatbones, will introduce us to the harbor’s Tavern building interface. Have a look at how to hire, fire and manage the crew on your ship. Beware, though, of drunken sailors and troublesome people!

Enjoy the video and stay tuned for the next episodes!

The Picaresque Team

5
Feb
2016
DevBlog

UI Iteration #1: Tavern

by Capt_Eatbones

Ahoy, fellow mates!

It’s been a while since our last meeting, the articles about the interface design process of our upcoming game Nantucket. If you missed them, here you have the links:

Well, I’m here again because of what I said in those articles: iterations. Oh yes. Right after the Milan Games Week 2015 (here’s the full coverage) we analyzed the received feedback and a relevant part was related to the UI not being clear enough.
We decided to rework the UI with the goal of make it more readable. The mistake I run into is trying to have an appealing UI, well integrated with the “Paper” theme. Too much integration leads to less readability of the UI elements, being too “camouflaged”.
An example of this are the generic buttons: too many different styles so the user cannot really say when an UI element is a button or not. Following this principle, I started re-designing basic elements such as button, check boxes, etc. up to whole UI panels.

Today’s article is about the first big change: the Tavern UI, used to hire/fire crew members. If you don’t know what’s this UI is about, please, read the previous article Looking for strong hands and a drink.
I’ll start by analyzing the UI that we had, highlighting those aspects responsible of the not-so-good User Experience.

HarborView_Tavern

I thought the Tavern panel as a page of a hired crew book, where the captain takes note of the details regarding his/her crew members. At the same time we needed a list of the available crew for hire in the Tavern. The old UI you see above, presents the list of members “For Hire” and “Hired” one on top of the other. The interior layout of each list is the same: on the left, the list of members and, on the right, the details of the current selected character. Being one on top of the other was thought to let the player compare visually the details. The main issues of this layout were the following:

  • Lot of information is displayed in little space.
  • Most of the information is in text form.
  • The right tabs filters are almost invisible to the user.
  • Drag&Drop assignment not clear.
  • Prestige points used too “camouflaged”.

As I stated in previous articles, design ideas don’t come from just one person. Actually, Daniele, our programmer, was who suggested a mock-up with a possible solution for the Tavern layout:

TavernConcept

As you can see, we started with a rough concept. Nonetheless it contains all the corrections, at least functionally, we needed:

  • Separated captain panel, on the left, as in the navigation phase. This way, the captain’s panel is always placed in the same screen area, no matter what phase you’re playing.
  • Split into two different panels the lists “For Hire” and “Hired”. The layout remains the same, more or less, but they are visually separated.
  • Added two buttons for Hire/Fire in the middle between the “For Hire” and “Hired” panels.
  • Bigger filters tabs.
  • A popup to be used as help tip for the player.

Even if the main changes are present in the above mock-up, there were still aspects not solved, as the Prestige point/cost. So, after this first suggestion, I worked on a bit more defined mock-up:

TavernNew

As you can see, a step forward has been taken in this second mock-up:

  • Added into the details area the illustration of the selected character. This is something that several people told us would have been better to have in order to visualize the person and not having just a name. It should add a bit of depth.
  • Each of the two panels “For Hire” and “Hired” has its own action button, “HIRE” and “FIRE”, point toward the direction of the change of places. This way we introduced an alternative to the drag&drop assignment/fire. Regarding the drag&drop, we also introduced a changing cursors while on a dragable element of the interface. This decision has been applied everywhere in the game, not just here.
  • Added a Prestige icon for each character label representing the Prestige cost of the person. At the same time, below the “Hired” panel, I added a Prestige Used progress bar, to better visualize the concept. Indeed, the Prestige Used icon and the Prestige Cost icon are quite similar.
  • Moved the Cancel and OK buttons to the bottom right. Most of the people who tried the game where always looking in that area the buttons to close/cancel the action.
  • The filter tabs are not bigger and colorful!

After this second step, I worked on the final version, the one that we now have implemented into the game currently. Here you have it:

TavernNew3

As you can see, some more changes occurred. I moved the tabs on top of the “For Hire” panel because placing them too far on the right made them still a bit “invisible”. Moreover, I placed a darker paper sheet on top of which the two “For Hire” and “Hire” panels are laid. This way I can keep the UI a whole panel. Also, you can see the new style for the buttons: since the paper usually has a lighter color, I decided to go for a darker one for the buttons, to make them stand out more.
The last change is about the captain’s panel: the health bar is now a more “common” red bar with the health value on top. I also added a XP bar, at the bottom of the captain’s picture, with the value showing the current amount against the one needed to level up.

We showed this new version to several people and everyone, even those who saw this UI for the first time, stated that it’s quite good. It’s not perfect but, surely, a big step forward.
We are up and running! We want the best experience for the players and for this reason we chose to keep tuning whenever and wherever possible.

Well, for today I’m done. Don’t worry, though: more UI iterations are coming! So, stay tuned and follow our Devs play video series!

1
Feb
2016
News

Nantucket: Devs play series

by picaresque

Ahoy everyone!

We’re proud to introduce you to our new “Devs play” video series! We are going to publish gameplay videos to share with you the current state of our game Nantucket.

Watch the Episode 1:

In today’s Episode 1 Mex, our game designer, will introduce the series. He will start a fresh new game, unaware of what could happen, so follow him and watch what we have prepared for you!

Godspeed and stay tuned for more episodes!

The Picaresque Team

19
Dec
2015
DevBlog

Saying goodbye to an amazing 2015

by Mex

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by. 

Douglas Adams

Ahoy there!

Here it is, last post of 2015. It’s been an incredible year for us, looking at our project growing and shaping. Yes, we were hoping to release Nantucket before the end of the year, but…yeah, we are late. If you have read my past post, you know it’s for the project’s best. We just want to deliver you the best game we can.

Today I just want to thank you all for the support shown during this year. Thank you for reading these pages, for your votes on Steam Greenlight and for the feedback and passion shown during the events we took part. Keep supporting us!

Enjoy this holidays with your families and friends, or at least a good bottle of wine. Well, enjoy some wine in any case.

I guess it could be nice to give you a small present, so I’ll just show you something we are working on at the moment. This is a work in progress of our main menu, drawn by our illustrator Giorgio Palombi. I hope you guys like it.

MainMenu_WIP

This is it. See you in 2016.

Mex

5
Dec
2015
DevBlog

A brief update on Nantucket development

by Mex

How did it get so late so soon?

Dr. Seuss

Ahoy there!

I hope to find you all well. The cold outside is trying hard to push me into the Holiday Spirit but, at the moment, it’s just pushing more spirits into my stomach.

ReleasePlanChange

Since the end of the year is coming, I would like to take some time to update you about Nantucket. As you can imagine, our original plan to publish the game in Q4 2015 is not going to happen. If you have followed us on our Steam page or just looked at our website recently, we have already updated it to Q2 2016. We still don’t have a final release date, because there are quite a lot of things that can affect it and we would like to give you a date “set in the stone”.
At the end of this phase we will take some time to discuss and prepare a release road map.

What’s happening?

We are reworking some mechanics and tweak things that don’t satisfy us at the moment. After showing the game around it was quite clear to us what was working good and what was “just working” and we decided to do something about it. Apart from changes to interfaces (some of them small, others quite big), the major changes are related to the combat system. I’ve already mentioned them in a past post and I promise to give you a more detailed update about it soon(ish).
Once this part will be completed, we will focus on adding more content and fixing bugs.

So, what is this post about?

We just wanted to tell you in time that you cannot gift your friends a copy of Nantucket for Christmas (but you can send gifts to us). Apart from this, I guess we just want to tell you: “Don’t worry, we are working hard to bring you a better game”.

Keep following us for more updates and have a nice week end!

Mex

21
Nov
2015
DevBlog

195 years of immortality

by Mex

… he came down upon us with full speed, and struck the ship with his head, just forward of the fore-chains; he gave us such an appalling and tremendous jar, as nearly threw us all on our faces. The ship brought up as suddenly and violently as if she had struck a rock, and trembled for a few seconds like a leaf. We looked at each other with perfect amazement, deprived almost of the power of speech… 

Owen Chase

Ahoy there!

I hope you are all well. Here we are working hard, addressing all the feedback received at the Milan Games Week and improving interfaces and game mechanics. But today I will not speak about Nantucket or, at least, not about the game.

Today (well, yesterday…considering the time) marks the 195th anniversary of the sinking of the Nantucket whaler Essex, the event who inspired Herman Melville to write his masterpiece Moby Dick and Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea (yes, Ron Howard movie is an adaptation on this book, based on the real events).

EssexAnniversary

For those of you who don’t know the story, the whaler Essex was struck by a sperm whale and sunk in the southern Pacific Ocean and the twenty-man crew had to spend months at sea. Just eight of them survived, after having to resort to cannibalism to survive.

I know, whaling is a thorny topic, and I will never stress enough the fact that Picaresque Studio condemns modern industrial whaling, but (yes, there is a “but”) I cannot deny I’m fascinated by the XIX century sailing adventures. If I had to pick ten novels to recommend to someone, Moby Dick is the second title in my mind (the first one, A farewell to arms by Ernest Hemingway).

Chapter 82 of Moby Dick is titled “The Honor and Glory of Whaling”. It’s a wonderful piece of literature and it contains a passage that I think summarizes my feelings towards those men:

Those were the knightly days of our profession, when we only bore arms to succor the distressed, and not to fill men’s lamp-feeders. 

Herman Melville

They were brave and tough men, living in danger and chasing mighty creatures like Ancient Greek heroes, but they were doing it for such a non-heroic reasons. Nonetheless, today I just want to toast to those men, not only the Essex crew, but all the unsung protagonists of those times.

See you next week,

Mex