How to kill your friends and alienate people: The Necromancer’s Tale development update

The Necromancer’s Tale is a dark, narrative driven game which follows the descent of an (initially) upstanding minor noble in 1733 – as he/she taps into powerful forces in a quest for power and revenge. What starts out as a simple investigation into your father’s suspicious death spirals into a web of secrecy, black magic, killing the innocent, and raising them again to do your bidding.

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Since my last update, we’ve been making good progress on a number of fronts. From a narrative point of view, the text for the game’s prologue is fairly complete – in which we use an interactive-fiction/’choose your own adventure’ style process for player character customisation. The prologue covers the events from a few years before the player’s birth, through to their 19th birthday. This material is presented in an animated book, with pencil sketches scattered throughout. The player chooses from three main career paths, and makes numerous other choices which affect their physical, mental, and social stats.

We have also almost completed a first draft of two chapters of the main game itself, in which the player discovers and tries out the first spell from a mysterious book. We’re generally keeping it tight and not putting in pointless time-filler side-quests, with the aim being that players can actually expect to finish the game in a reasonable number of hours, and enjoy the art, narrative, investigation and tactical-combat joys that it has to offer (rather than getting bored and giving up while hunting for 10 wolf hides to help a local farmer).

As well as putting a lot of effort into level editing (putting a full medieval town together is quite some effort!) I’ve been busying myself with programming all of the core systems needed by an RPG.. inventory, combat, AI behaviours, save+load, crafting. Integrating the code with the structured narrative information exported by Articy was a bit of fun, which basically involved having a 4MB massively-nested JSON file land on my hard drive and figuring out what it meant. I have also put together a cutscene-editing system similar to what I did in Goblins & Grottos.

The image below shows some of the data for a cutscene in which the player meets up for beers with their childhood friend Diedrik. This system gives me low-level control of character movements and animations, as well as control of the camera and other objects in the world (e.g. here beer tankards are appearing more and more on the table as the evening progresses). These cutscenes are also synchronised with the narrative ‘flow’ coming from the Articy data – so, for example, the cutscene can pause until a certain point has been reached in the Articy narrative, and similarly the narrative can be paused until activities in the 3D game which are under control of the cutscene system have reached a required point.

Combat will be turn-based, with movement working on a hex-grid:

We also have some really good artists working part-time with us, working on character portraits, sketches for the prologue, and in-world character art and animations.

There’s more details here:
http://www.psychicsoftware.com/thenecromancer/

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