August #1 Post – Writing the Invisible Fist and Why We’ve Been So Quiet

So, remember when we said we wanted a demo by the end of June? You know, mechanics, programming, graphics, and a full, written character? Well, we meant July.

That’s why you haven’t heard from us in awhile.

The good news is we did finish a demo version of the game. That means we have one written, playable character.  And that’s despite the fact that we still need to implement some core mechanics.

So, without further ado, we are pleased to introduce you to Jeff Whiz! Our anxious but lovable Silicon Valley CEO trillionaire. Woo!

Introducing Jeff Whiz Invisible Fist

To bring Jeff to life, I had to write the following types of text for the game:

  • Main and Weekly Quests
  • Support Dialogue
  • Cards and Flavor Text
  • Introduction and Tutorial

Currently, the introduction and tutorial are still in development. As we write further characters, we will add to the text that appears in these sections. Also, we still have two more characters to write, and want to add more cards and flavor texts.

Writing Jeff Whiz’s Weekly Quests for Invisible Fist

 

To get things started, each character has one main plot line. Players have 8 weeks of gameplay to unlock one of four story endings for the main story.

The ending you get depends on your performance. Do well and you’ll unlock a positive ending. Fuck up and your ending is going to suck.  

The catch? The end result affects gameplay for other characters. What you do and how well you do as Jeff makes things harder or easier for Rena and Dian.

Here’s a taste of Jeff’s main storyline:

It’s time for you to launch a new Soma Corp. product. Make sure you don’t fuck it up!

That’s more or less the first thing you see during gameplay. Then, the player gets further mini quests at the beginning of each week.

I wrote three quests for each week for a grand total of 24 randomized quests. We want to give the player plenty of content to explore if they come back for more of any one character.

Each story also has three possible endings that trigger based on player performance. Eventually, the weekly quest will include tasks for the player to perform. We are still working on implementing those mechanics.

Here’s an example of a weekly quest:

Invisible Fist Mini Quest Stanford

To write Jeff’s quests, I researched what Silicon Valley Founders do all day. Then I added a healthy dose of realistic exaggeration. It is a game, and in the end we want it to be exciting!
 
But I’ve also tailored it to give players a full sense of the character’s time, place, and culture. In the end, Jeff’s stories should reflect the work and leisure culture of the Valley.
 

For example, Jeff is the richest fictional man in the world. Yet, I’ve made sure that he spends his money like a good tech billionaire and not like a general super rich person. As if I knew.

Writing Jeff Whiz’s Support Character Dialogues

 

So, I’d have to say that the dialogues were the biggest pain in the ass to write. Why?

For starters, there were a buttload of them. Jeff has two support characters. His lovely mother, Mona, and his personal AI, Soma. Multiply that by three possible types of conversations:

  • Small Talk
  • The Plan
  • The Snap Decision

Plus, we’ve built tiers into the conversations. So, whenever Jeff talks to mom or Soma, his responses will move him up or down the relationship tiers.

Say nice things to mommy, and you move up to a more positive tier. Make mommy mad, and you get demoted to a more negative tier. You can also remain neutral in your exchanges, making your movements more incremental.

That means that I’ve written enough dialogue to allow players to stay in one tier if necessary. That’s a lot of dialogue, folks!

Not only was there a buttload of text, but each dialogue sequence follows a rigid format. Let’s take another look at the types of dialogue:

The Small Talk Sequence

Small Talk interrupts gameplay, prompting the player to have a conversation. Because the player does not start the conversation, the support must speak first.

Mona: Hi Jeff, what are you doing?

 

The player is then given three possible responses. It’s here that the RPG aspect of Invisible Fist becomes visible. The player must select one answer.

Jeff:
  • Hi Mom, I’m doing fine! How are you?
  • Hi Mom, I’m working. What’s up?
  • I’m working. I don’t have time to shoot the shit with you.

The player gets a positive, neutral, and negative answer. Here, it’s obvious which answer is which. The differences are more subtle in the game. Plus, I’ve written negative answers to bait players. Some answers are funny, others express annoyance at interruptions.

Once the player chooses a response, they receive a corresponding response. We designed the entire sequence to look like an exchange of text messages.

Here’s an example of a Small Talk sequence between Soma and Jeff:

Invisible Fist Small Talk Soma Jeff

 

The Plan and the Snap Decision

The other types of dialogue sequences include the plan and the snap decision.

The format is the same for both. The support character asks the main character if they will do something. The player accepts or rejects the request, triggering a corresponding response.

Supports make plan requests in advance. Plans involve larger time investments from the player:

Mona: Jeff, are you coming home over the weekend?

Supports make snap requests now. Snaps involve smaller time investments, but force you to drop what you’re doing:

Mona: Jeff, call me right now! 

Here’s an example of a Plan sequence between Mona and Jeff:

Invisible Fist Plan Mona Jeff

 

As you can see, I’m limited by the fact that the main character never speaks first. Also, Jeff only responds once during dialogue sequences. The support character always gets the last word.

In the future, I want to create more diverse and complex dialogue formats.

Finally, the dialogue was difficult because it does the character building heavy lifting. And that’s true for Jeff and his supports.

How do you write a convincing mother? How do you write an AI character that is both assistant and girlfriend? How do you hint at who Jeff is through his interaction with these characters?

Inspiration for Mona:

  • Personal Experience
  • Real Housewives
  • Passive/Aggressive Behavior

I’ve lived abroad for many years, and when you’re not nearby, you must answer all the questions:

  • How are you?
  • Why are you so thin in that picture?
  • When are you going to get married and have children? Tick, tock motherfucker.

Plus, I decided to make Mona passive-aggressive and frustrated. For her, you aren’t successful or a real adult until you’ve made a baby. Jeff is an anxious person. Relationships are hard. Mom pushes him to do the one thing he’s never mastered.

And there’s the conflict.

Inspiration for Soma:

  • Siri and Alexa
  • Her
  • Shit Girls Say

I wanted Soma to be both the jealous girlfriend and Jeff’s personal assistant – that happens to not have a body or a human mind.

Hinting at the Real Jeff:

Each support hints at things from Jeff’s past that help the player get a fuller idea of who he is. At the same time, Jeff  is a fluid character that the player builds.

No you don’t get to accessorize him yet. But you do get to decide if he’s a dick or a sweetheart. Which will you choose?

Inspiration for Invisible Fist Cards and Flavor Texts

 

Finally, we come to the cards and their corresponding flavor texts.

First, we split cards into three types:

  • Work
  • Sleep
  • Leisure

Jeff’s work cards reflect realistic tasks that a Startup CEO might handle during a work day. Nothing too fancy. The same will hold true for other characters.

Work Card Jeff Invisible Fist

The sleep cards were harder to write. It’s difficult to come up with a million different sleep nouns. I had to get creative here – e.g., Wet Dreams.

Sleep Card Jeff Invisible Fist

As for leisure cards, the idea was to think of exciting things for Jeff to do. Here’s where a little bit of imagination helped. There were a few restrictions:

  • Number of Hours
  • Jeff’s Personality
  • Location
  • Silicon Valley Culture

What would an anxious, super rich guy in Silicon Valley do for 2 hours that’s exaggerated? Go to the beach? Too normal. Eat a live octopus? Better. Eat a cobra? Why the fuck not?

Some of the cards are more normal. For example, Jeff can play video games like a normal dude. At the same time, players will eventually spend game money to buy leisure cards. So, we do want to give players a little bang for their buck.

Leisure Card Jeff Invisible Fist

As for the corresponding flavor texts, I decided that I wanted to strike a tone based on:

  • Toxic Masculinity
  • Heavy-handed Worshiping of Capitalism
  • Money Worshiping
  • Valuing Work Instead of Rest

Our Sports Commentator delivers the flavor texts. He taunts and ridicules the player when they choose sleep or play over work. He also praises them for working and consuming.

We don’t want Invisible Fist to deliver an overt political or economic message. Our text follows logic – i.e., you smart off to your mom, she gets pissed.

At the same time, we do want to goad players. So, some flavor text contain twisted, hardcore Capitalistic truisms – e.g., Time is money!
 
In the future, I want the Commentator to also narrate in the style of professional wrestling. Think Bash in Glow.
 

There’s a lot of room for our Sports Commentator to grow.

Conclusion

 

As an RPG card game, Invisible Fist relies on its content. There is a lot of text and writing. Plus, we designed the game to be irreverent, snarky, and full of dark humor.

After months of careful research, infinite coffee, and countless cigarettes, I’ve managed to bang out Jeff Whiz for your entertainment. Please enjoy responsibly!

June Post #2 – Implementing Backgrounds and Dialogue Systems

Here at Failcore, we’re a bunch of ambitious bastards.

So, we’ve decided that we want to have all of the core mechanics, programming, and graphic design done by the end of June. Yippee ki-yay.

As for the writing and the game play, we should have one of three characters fully fleshed out by that time as well. The goal is to have Jeff Whiz fully operational – written and playable – by the end of the month.

But that’s not all, folks!

We are also working on perfecting the UI, designing a tutorial, and polishing a teaser trailer.

So, for a quick review, here’s what we want to achieve by the end of the current sprint:

  • Get systems in place for dialogue and mechanics.
  • Finish the UI (a real pain in the ass), battle animations, and graphics for Jeff.
  • Write all of the general content and all of Jeff’s content.

Speech bubbles Jeff Whiz

Implementing Dialogue Systems for the Invisible Fist

 

Let’s start with the technical stuff.

Our programmer is implementing a dialogue triggering system for main characters and supports. He’s also adding animation to the speech bubbles.

First, our programmer decided to use Google Spreadsheets as a Content Management System (CMS) for Unity. After much thought, he decided that would be the easiest way to add content to the game.

Essentially, each Google Spreadsheet will work like a single SQL database.

For The Invisible Fist, the first sheet contains Story IDs for the character in play. Besides the main story, a new story triggers every week. Within the stories, there are scenes for dialogue, triggering around 2 – 3 time s a week.

While stories trigger at random, we can still connect them to dialogue sequences if we please.

The dialogue sequences must adhere to specific conditions to trigger. We have currently assigned three conditions for dialogue sequences to trigger:

  • Relationship Points
  • Dialogue Completed
  • Quest Completed

Each dialogue sequence contains a root dialogue and various offshoots of potential dialogue. These “nodes” trigger depending on how the player decides to respond. Here you can see the dialogue file and triggers:

Invisible Fist CMS

There are three types of dialogue:

  • Small Talk
  • Plans
  • Snap Decisions

The small talk dialogue sequence offers the player response options that further trigger positive or negative results for the relationship. For example:

Jeff’s Mom: Jeff, do you love me?

Jeff: Of course I do! / (Fake an urgent phone call.)

Jeff’s Mom: I love you too! (Positive) / I wish I’d aborted you. (Negative)

Plans and snap decisions can result in nodes that drop quests. For example:

Jeff’s Mom: Have dinner with me.

Jeff: I’m starving. Rainforest Cafe? / I’ve just eaten.

Jeff’s Mom: See you there! (Quest Triggered) / You’re the reason I take Zoloft. (No Quest)

Accepting or rejecting quests can also triggers results including:

  • Blocks in Card Play (e.g., You can’t play work cards when eating out with mom.)
  • Assignment of Relationship Points (e.g., You piss mom off or make her happy.)
  • Further Dialogue Sequences (e.g., Dialogue triggered by connection instead of chance.)

Dialogue nodes for support characters

Our programmer chose the system so that triggers cascade seamlessly as you play. In the image above, you can see both the Story IDs and the cascading results.

The system also gives the Game Designer and me the flexibility and ease to write, connect, and add content as we please.

Here is what we still need to do:

  • Finish the System
  • Add the Content
  • Test the Triggers

Also known internally as the FTSATCTTT process. Oh yeah.

Other than that, we are well on our way to creating a seamless experience for our gamers.

failcore for you
For you.

Designing Backdrops for our Main Characters

 

Okay, that was kind of heavy. Let’s switch gears and talk about art.

For the last few days, our graphic has been busy creating different backgrounds that correspond with our main characters.

For example, Jeff Whiz’s original background was a helipad on the roof of a skyscraper. Now, you can also play Jeff against a red carpet and on board a yacht.

Invisible Fist Jeff background red carpet

We’ve also decided to add some special effects to the backgrounds. For example, the red carpet background will include an intense paparazzi camera effect similar to this:

What was the hardest part of making the backgrounds?

Our graphic said:

Making lots of little paparazzi.”

She also admitted that she listened to Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi while she worked on the tedious animation. Obviously.

Why did we decide to have more than one background?

We decided multiple backgrounds would add variety to the game and give more depth to the characters. You see, The Invisible Fist is heavy-handed on the storytelling.

Players don’t get to pick and personalize characters.

Oh, I want to be a neon purple Night Elf Warrior Princess named Sally with a double-edged battle axe and a Mohawk.

Sorry, NO.

You play Jeff Whiz. And Jeff is a fictional character that we’ve created for you to discover.

So, we hope that more backgrounds will add some variety to the game. You know, spice things up as they say. Proper backdrops to set the stage.

We also hope to subliminally convey some of the broader character strokes. We want to be subtle of course. So we chose yachts and a red carpets for our rich character. Not subtle?

Oh well, it looks cool. Who cares?

Invisible Fist Jeff Background Yacht

When will the backgrounds change?

We haven’t decided yet.

Our Game Designer explains:

“The backgrounds may change at random or may connect to the story. Because we are still writing the story, and many elements of the plot are randomized, there is a good chance that the backgrounds will simply change periodically throughout gameplay.”

What was the inspiration for Jeff’s backgrounds?

When I asked our graphic what her inspiration was for the new backgrounds, she said:

“Rich people shit. I just imagined myself as a rich bitch.”

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.

Conclusion

That’s about all for now, folks! Stay tuned for more adventures in the making of the Invisible Fist. Things to look forward to include:

  • Writing
  • UI Implementation
  • Tutorial

Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, follow us on Facebook, or check out our other articles. Have a nice day and don’t let the door hit you where the good lord split you.

June #1 – Animating the Invisible Fist and Adding Support Characters

It’s the beginning of June. The summer has landed! And while the rest of you enjoy the sunshine and a spritzer or two, Failcore employees are hard at work.

Failcore

Here’s what we’ve been up to:

  • For the last few weeks, our Game Designer has been working silently. But it’s time to unveil the new mechanics!
  • Meanwhile, our Graphic Designer has been busy animating our monster hand.
  • And I have been setting up our social media profiles and content pipelines. 

Failcore Employees

Animating the Invisible Fist is a Handful

 

When we debuted The Invisible Fist at A Maze, we only had a flat character to show as the game’s main opponent.

As a villain or fighting opponent, the fist did little more than attack with a punch and smack during each round regardless of the player’s choices.

We’ve decided to animate the hand more during this cycle of development. The idea is to give the fist more character depth that will tie in with its backstory and symbolic role in the game.

Invisible Fist Graphic Design

Of course, that’s easier said than done. As you can see in the image above, our Graphic Designer sometimes backhands our hand.

She says:

“Drawing hands is a bitch, especially invisible hands.”

But she’s confident that even visual players will rub their hands together over our new range of cheeky gestures and attacks.

Animations Invisible Fist

Beefing up Supporting Character Mechanics and Plot Lines

 

Speaking of supporting characters, the fist is not the only role getting a makeover.

Each of our main characters has two support characters to interact with during game play. Some supports comprise only one character, some more than one. Some are human and some aren’t.

As the game progresses, we nudge players to interact with their support characters at least two to three times a week. There are now three possible types of interaction:

  • Small Talk
  • Making Plans
  • Snap Decisions

Each interaction requires the player to choose between maintaining relationships or prioritizing daily actions. Because real life is about striking a balance between work and everything else, right?

support dialogue jeff

Small Talk – Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That!

The small talk interaction is just that:

Mom calls and asks how you’re doing. You blow her off because you need both hands and most of your toes to count the number of things you have to do.

Mom feels pushed aside. Next time she calls she says, “You’ve done so well for someone who didn’t finish college.” Since when did you become Tony Soprano? Does it matter or not?

Even the Best Laid Plans…

When you make plans with your support characters, it does affect your day-to-day. Do you have time to take Becky to the mall? Only if you skip that marketing meeting on Friday afternoon.

How is Becky going to feel if you don’t take her? She needs a new lip gloss and Heather is going to be there. She just might hate you forever if you say no.

On the other hand, getting her hopes up might be even worse. Can you keep your promises?

It’s up to you to manage your time and your relationships.

You. Me. Wine. Now. My Cat Gave Birth and You’re My Best Friend!

Finally, the third type of interactions are snap decisions. Sharon wants boxed wine RIGHT NOW. The twist? You can only meet with Sharon if you didn’t plan for anything else.

What happens if you don’t show up to toast her cat’s afterbirth? Guess you won’t be first in line next time she has Taylor Swift tickets for two.

Here’s a sneak peak at a couple of our support characters:

Support Characters Invisible Fist

In Conclusion

 

With the mechanics mapped out, our programmer will start programming and our writer will start writing. Our graphic will start graphicking? That’s not a word.

You get the picture.

The next several weeks should be smooth sailing as we pump out content. After that, it’s a matter of working out all the bugs and making things work. See you next week!

Invisible Fist Flashes the Public at A Maze Festival 2018

A Maze. The international games and playful media festival held annually in Berlin.

If you were there, your game is some of the hottest shit this side of the mainstream.

And Failcore loves nothing more than steaming piles of hot shit.

Wait, that sounded wrong.

What we mean is that we love great games and getting to meet some of the most interesting people in the gaming industry.

So, let’s take a look at how Failcore’s virgin game, The Invisible Fist, did at A Maze. Was it a steaming pile of hot shit? Or was it THE shit? Let’s find out:

Failcore A Maze Networking

Failcore Debuts Invisible Fist at A Maze

 

Failcore went to A Maze 2018 to debut our first game, The Invisible Fist. We had never before shown our prototype to the public.

Here’s how it all started.

We got an invite from Fundacja Indie Games Polska and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute to attend A Maze. The game wasn’t ready for that. We hadn’t let anyone play it yet. So of course, we said:

“Hell yes!”

We decided that we’d go ahead and release the game to the masses to see if it flew or crashed and burned. Didn’t matter that we’d just pivoted from a 3D fighting game to a 2D card game.

Let’s put it this way – we’d only worked on the game for six months at that point. So, if our game was a human child, it would be quite the premature baby.

So, as I’m sure you can guess, we were nervous AF. Will they like us or will they barf when they see what we’ve made? Anything could happen.

As Failcore’s fearless leader, Mr. Cieslar said:

“The only bit of the game that had stayed intact was the satire, critique of capitalism, and voyeuristic experience of trying on the costumes of different classes.”

Well, he was less elaborate, but it sounds better this way.

Upon arriving, we had a look at what our peers and betters were doing. And boy were there a lot of great games.

Our favorites included Homo Machina and Nowhere Prophet.  We want to give a shout out to you guys and say that we didn’t barf when we saw what you made!

We’d also like to mention the other great Polish games at A Maze including ApocalypsisMy Memory of Us, Indygo, and Darkwood. Very cool!

Feedback on The Invisible Fist Mostly Bad – Oops

 

Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Feedback. We went to A Maze to get feedback, and boy did we get it. The good news first:

  • The graphics are so tight, they may as well be hot pants on a Kardashian.
  • Some people said that the game might even be fun – one day. Fingers crossed.
  • Everyone agreed that the concept was great and we need to finish what we started. Thanks guys, no pressure.

Graphics Invisible Fist Failcore

Now, for the bad news.

Let’s put it this way, there are more bugs in our game right now than in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. That being said, it gives us a great starting point for making things work.

Here’s what we need to focus on:

    • New mechanics, card balance, and the relationships between our heroes and their support characters.
    • Making the text and the story at least as entertaining as this article.
    • The Tutorial
    • Music (Cause we had none, capiche? It will be great, we promise.)

The general consensus? If we don’t fuck it up our game will be a great success!

Inside Look: Want to know why our graphics are so good? We use an animation technique called “rotoscoping” or drawing from single frames of video to give images realistic action. Now you know.

Moving Forward – Working on the The Invisible Fist

 

Let’s start with mechanics.

Making the Mechanics Work Like Magic

Prior to our debut at A Maze, we did have mechanics for the game in place. BUT. Time constraints led to unveiling a game that we never tested outside the team.

Of course that resulted in players bitching and moaning about the game for 30 minutes. At the same time, they were playing it for 30 minutes. Lose, win.

the invisible fist game

Enter Maciek Janik, Magic the Gathering extraordinaire.

As a professional Magic the Gathering and Gwent player, Maciek’s addition to the team comes with a vast knowledge of card game mechanics.

He is currently designing kickass casual and natural mechanics. The end game? Mechanics that deliver a seamless user experience full of challenging game play for all levels of gamers.

Welcome to Failcore, Maciek!

Telling the Story of the Invisible Fist

Another major problem was the disconnect between the text and the game play. For example, no one quite understood why they were fighting an invisible fist.

For those of you who aren’t sure, it’s Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” of the free market gone bad. Frankenstein’s monster bad.

Enter Natalie Severt, our token American.

Natalie is pivoting from writing content for Warsaw startups to game writing. Finally, something interesting! Natalie will bring copy, content, and charisma together to serve up one juicy dark comedy.

Welcome to Failcore, Natalie!

Adding the Final Touches to the Invisible Fist

Finally, people needed us to tell them how to play. EPIC FAIL on our part.

Surprise, surprise, we are making something so fresh that previous experience may be not enough without a little nudge from a helpful hand.

We will be adding a tutorial and an introduction to help people better understand what they’re playing and how to do it. We are also working on implementing visual feedback so players better understand the underlying mechanics.

The silver lining? That’s what made us enter the gaming business in the first place – Tutorials.

Also, yes we know you’re not deaf.

We have yet to add sound or music to the game. We are busy looking for a producer crazy enough to take on our project.

invisible fist feedback

In Conclusion

 

We are just a ragtag band of virgin game developers. We were all pros once doing something else. But with our power combined, we are Failcore.

And at the end of the day, we didn’t do all that bad!

We want you to know that we are taking your feedback very seriously. Like a heart attack. We can now double down on things we knew were bad.

Plus, we know what’s going to make or break our game by launch time. Launch, lunch. Mmmm lunch. Lunch time. Later!