Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Best of All Possible Primordia

James and I are nearing the end of work on the latest -- hopefully last -- Primordia patch.  I can't say that the next version will be perfect, or "the game as it was always meant to be."  For one thing, we can't record new VO, add new sound effects, or add new graphics.  Where something was missing, we've sometimes found another part to slide into place -- a sound effect here, an animation there -- but some issues are irreparable.

But I can say that when this patch is done, the game will be appreciably better.

It's been over a year since I last played the game, maybe longer.  I went in assuming I would hate the game and find the experience horribly unpleasant, but in fact I've been pleasantly surprised.  Many small details were unexpected: conversations between Crispin and Horatio that I'd forgotten, ways in which I'd anticipated player actions (e.g., using the printout of Metropol's laws on Scraper draws a custom response).  Things that I remembered being really bad weren't so bad.

Moreover, things that *were* so bad -- for example, the Scraper vs. Clarity cutscene, which had no audio at all -- turned out to be fixable.  For example, I also discovered what I believe to be the source of one of the major criticism of the game (i.e., the Crispin is a "tonal wrecking ball").  I had always written that off as reviewers not really understanding the character and the scenario, but I found that there is a scene -- when Clarity learns the fate of Arbiter and Charity -- where Crispin's quips are totally inconsistent with his general behavior (namely, that he has been more sensitive to Clarity's dismay than Horatio was) and really do kill the scene's mood.  Fortunately, they're so off-the-wall and out-of-the-blue that neither Horatio nor Clarity reacts to them, so we were able to just cut them out without needing to change any other dialogue.  (FWIW, I also cut the infamous "99 problems" line.)

In hundreds of little ways, the game is tighter and smoother.  The hint system seems finally to really work.  Crispin almost always faces the right direction when talking.  UIs are more keyboard friendly; hotspots are a little bigger, sometimes, exits are a little clearer, the scrolling rooms scroll a little better.  A couple dozens animations that lacked accompanying sound effects have them; the effect is slight -- no one is going to say, "Wow, there's now a clanging sound when Horatio knocks on that door!" -- but some of the strange hollowness that the cutscenes had is gone.

The cumulative effect is a game where -- compared to either the release version or the first patched version -- the flaws distract much less from the strengths.  There are endless things about the game that are still screwed up, ranging from slurred dialogue, critical lines that somehow went unrecorded, scaling problems, pathfinding problems, etc.   But it's easier to look beyond them.

In a separate post, I'll be discussing a few thoughts I have on how the game could've been better, now that I've seen it from a more distant perspective.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Translating Primordia

Out of the blue, a French Primordia fan contacted me about translating the game.  I've long thought that -- notwithstanding the Russian translation -- it would be very hard as a linguistic matter (technical challenges aside) to translate the game.  In particular, I'd always imagined it would be hard to handle things like Crispin's puns or the word-puzzles in the kiosk.

Those may be hard themselves, but what we're discovering (that is, the translator and I) is that there are ample challenges in the simplest of language.  Take, for example, "power."  In English, power can mean energy (e.g., "power lines"), force (e.g., "a powerful blow" or "brain power"), or political authority (e.g., "come to power").  The script uses these multiple definitions in various ways.  For example, Horatio says to Metromind: "Power, Metromind.  It doesn't just come from generators."  Horatio using a double entendre here: he's talking about how MetroMind has conflated force/political authority with her monopoly on energy, while illustrating that his force -- which derives from another source (avoid spoilers, somewhat) -- is in fact greater.

But in French, these concepts are distinct.  Electrical power is "énergie"; force is "puissance"; political authority is "pouvoir."  The greater precision here means that we can't play with the word's multiple meanings; we have to pick one.  Now, much to my delight, the translator is as much a word-nerd as I am, and so he's come up with a clever approach: "La capacité, MetroMind. Elle ne se résume pas à une question de générateurs."  This toys with the double meaning of "capacité," which, like its English cognate, can encompass both the capacitance in a circuit and the ability to do something generally.  In this case, more than a little poetry was gained in the translation -- but we still lose the echo of "power" that begins the game: the power core.  (Indeed, in a fevered moment of poor judgment, I thought the game could be called "Pursuit of Power"!)

"Power" is not the only challenge.  "Built" and how to form the fabrinymic -built has proven tricky to.  But it's fun to work on these challenges, and the care the translator is employing gives me great confidence!

Incidentally, in a final point that makes me particularly happy, he works on the Paris Metro system.  That system was a partial inspiration for MetroMind.  When I was visiting Paris years ago, the city had just enacted automated subway cars to thwart the ever-striking subway drivers' (conductors'?) union.  That seed eventually sprouted into MetroMind.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A random piece of Primordia fan art has trickled in:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Last Hurrah on Primordia

James Spanos (the coder) and I are working up one last patch on Primordia to try to fix any lingering issues.  We think we've solved the ending / achievement related ones (Three Musketeers / We're All In This Together / robots not showing up) and we've added sound effects into the showdown in the tower where sounds were missing (vague to avoid spoilers).  Is there anything else we should be aware of?  This is probably the last time we'll tinker with it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Giving Away Random Game Keys

Over the past few years, I've assembled a modest number of Steam, GOG, and Desura keys that I'm never going to use.  Basically, when games go on sale, if they're games that I really liked, or are simply super cheap, I'll pick up copies, and then give them away to friends or, occasionally, to unsatisfied purchasers of Primordia.  Also, I've backed a number of Kickstarter projects that have by now come to fruition, but which I'll never have time to play. 
Anyway, I wanted to find a way to give copies out in a fair way to people who played Primordia or otherwise have supported Wormwood Studios.  But after much agonizing and deliberation, I couldn't find an easy way to do it: running even a basic giveaway would take time I don't have, and my various means of trying to screen out bots/duplicates seemed like a pain to everyone involved. 
So, alas, what I'm going to do is just post the keys at irregular intervals on our Twitter feed @WWSGames.  This is perhaps the most inequitable way to distribute something, since one compulsive fast typist may get them all, but it's the easiest way to do this, and at least I'll be releasing the games "to the wild" rather than keeping them penned up in a text file.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Three fun pieces of fan art:

(1) A reimagining of the ending song to Portal 2, as sung by MetroMind, composed and performed by a commenter to this very blog!  Though I may be biased given that I created MetroMind and loved the Portal 2 song, I found it quite clever.

(2) A poem about Primer, by the incomparable Esther CdL. At some point, Vic and I will put some proper graphic design together for it, but even standing on its own, it’s awesome.

Lord and Master Builder, Man all-wise,
Engineer of all on land and air,
Our five-one-eight to thee alone doth rise:
    Abort us ne’er!

Perfect machine, giver primordial
Of memory, of logic, and of spark,
Look down; see thy fragmented children fall,
    Failing, in the dark.

Behold how rust and virus do devour
Urbani’s finest fighters; how each bot
In city streets doth faint for lack of pow’r;
    Ignore us not!

Lord, Primary Master, format us anew,
That we, thy humble servitors, may live
Ever faithful to thy Code most true;
    Retry, forgive!

Esther explained to me that this is an patterned after an ancient form of Hebrew acrostic poetry.  How anyone could (1) adhere to these formal rules, (2) build in so much Primordia lore and jargon, and (3) actually make it sound poetic, I don’t know, but she managed it!

(3) A sketch of Horatio, Crispin, and the fateful power core, by Sed.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

As is no doubt apparent, we’ve been quite slow to establish a solid company web presence.  During Primordia’s launch, Wadjet Eye Games was the hub for the game -- website, Facebook, Twitter.  The team actively participated on message boards and answered emails and so forth, but we didn’t have our own headquarters.

As we’re moving toward our next big project, though, we’ve been trying to change that.  As the links to the right indicate, we have had (for some time) a Facebook page.  We recently set up this website.  (At some point, we’ll move to something snazzier than Blogger.)  And, just today, we set up a Twitter account @WWSGames.  (Someone appears to be cybersquatting on @WormwoodStudios; we are trying to get Twitter to free up the account, which is suspended, though who knows how successful we’ll be?)

Anyway, I’m not sure how much we’ll be Tweeting in the short term, but over time we hope to use it as a way to keep in touch with our fans.  So if Twitter is your thing, and you’ve bothered coming here, you may as well follow us over there as well!