The Future Proof Podcast 009

Podcast episode

Gregory Avery-Weir  0:21  
Hello, and welcome to the Future Proof Podcast. This is our monthly podcast where we chat about stuff we've been working on anything cool we're planning. I'm Gregory. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  0:29  
And I'm Melissa.

Gregory Avery-Weir  0:31  
And we got a lot done this month. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  0:34  
We did. We got two pretty cool things done. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  0:37  
Yeah. Big chunks of stuff. Our first thing was a named release of Exploit: Zero Day. That's our social puzzle activism game. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  0:50  
Yep. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  0:51  
Where we are currently doing chunks of work as releases just to kind of mark milestones on our way to hopefully doing an open alpha of the game soon. Where everyone's going to be able to check it out without having to get keys in order to play. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  1:12  
Right. And it was... We struggled with kind of the size of our releases. We had sort of started with kind of these big ideas of what a first alpha would look like, a second alpha, a beta, and so on. And we just, like... you know the finish line was never in sight. When we came back with things last year, we said let's, let's really chunk of this down. Let's get to a place where we can actually measure our scope and pull stuff out, things like that. So we have we've been doing named releases (smaller) we've named them after "Hackers" characters. So this one was "Cereal Killer," who is one of my favorite characters, despite some real problematic stuff that he says.

Gregory Avery-Weir  1:56  
Sure, yeah.

Melissa Avery-Weir  1:57  
Mid 90s! 

Gregory Avery-Weir  1:59  
So some stuff that we did was some user-facing kind of quality of life stuff. Making it so that if you enter your info wrong in the store, that you don't lose all of the address stuff you put in. Giving you options to subscribe to the mailing list when you sign up. Default false, of course. Letting you see the clusters someone's made on their account page. And then a whole bunch of stuff in the Job Editor that we use internally. That's just, hey, here's this feature that we left out. Here's some stuff to make sorting make more sense.

Melissa Avery-Weir  2:38  
Right. Yeah. And some, there's like, some of the things that I have gotten excited about have been little, little UI improvements. So like, our emails, having an accurate "from" name on them. Instead of having the emails come from info@ or, you know, whatever, like, weird name was on the emails. I'm just like, "Let's just put a name on it. Let's call it EZD notifications or something." And another thing I'm going to be excited about wherever it falls on our releases is to actually put a template on the emails. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  2:58  
Yeah, cuz we're currently kind of just plain text. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  3:19  
Yeah, yeah. So it's, it's strange, but that's the sort of thing I tend to get excited about.

We posted up a content notice. It's probably not a huge deal. But like, I think it's fair to mention that like, you know, we are, you know, this game isn't we don't cuss in this game, but we do talk about people dying, killing.

Gregory Avery-Weir  3:43  
Yeah.

Melissa Avery-Weir  3:44  
You know, there's murder.

Gregory Avery-Weir  4:03  
We do police--police extrajudicial killing, comes up in one of our plot lines. I think we, we do kind of ease into it. I don't know that it comes as a sudden swerve when that stuff comes up, but... Especially with some of the race stuff that we get into: that's one of the things where it's like, hey, let's, you know, give people a heads up before they... Especially before they pay money.

Melissa Avery-Weir  4:07  
Right. And I think, you know, to a certain extent, I think when you're heads down in this kind of thing, you're like, yeah, it's a cyberpunk game. And that means a lot. Like you, you know, that you're going to get anything from Detroit: Become Human to, to... anything else. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  4:26  
I mean, hopefully, you don't get--hopefully it's more punk. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  4:31  
Right. More--

Gregory Avery-Weir  4:32  
And you, you actually get like an examination of the stuff in that is being explored.

Melissa Avery-Weir  4:38  
And a critique. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  4:39  
Yeah. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  4:39  
And so, you know, I think I have been taking for granted that people understand what the genre is. And so it's nice to like, as I was writing that content notice, I was like, "Oh, yeah, that's what this means." 

Gregory Avery-Weir  4:51  
Now, we haven't gotten any complaints or anything like that. But we figure it's probably best to have it up there. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  4:56  
Yeah. So "Cereal Killer" has been released. And we are moving on to"The Plague," which I wanted to call "Mr. The Plague," but that's not his canonical name. So it's just Penn of Penn and Teller--wait. Which one's Penn?

Gregory Avery-Weir  5:14  
Penn is the one who talks.

Melissa Avery-Weir  5:15  
Yes. Penn of Penn and Teller's joke in the movie. Which... that's a cameo. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  5:22  
Yep. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  5:23  
Anyway, so the second awesome thing we did this month is to create and release "Ace Systems Go!" (With an exclamation point, of course.) 

Gregory Avery-Weir  5:35  
That took us... We started January 1?

Melissa Avery-Weir  5:39  
Yep. January 1.

Gregory Avery-Weir  5:40  
And finished at, on the 31st?

Melissa Avery-Weir  5:43  
31st. We finished code at about 10pm. And we finished posting it and blog posts and social media by 11. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  5:53  
And it was for these the Asexuality Jam for 2019, which was a month long, very informal Game Jam. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  6:01  
Yeah, some good stuff came out of it. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  6:03  
I haven't played any of the other stuff.

Melissa Avery-Weir  6:05  
Oh, there's the other space one: pretty cute.

Gregory Avery-Weir  6:08  
Awesome.

Melissa Avery-Weir  6:09  
But yeah, it was fun. It was my first time doing anything with renpy. So maybe we should summarize the game, I guess.

Gregory Avery-Weir  6:17  
Yes. So it's a visual novel. It's a, it's a game where you're clicking through text dialogue by characters with some images supporting it, like little portraits of them and some backgrounds, but the images aren't--the images are kind of for flavor. And there's no like real time gameplay. It's, it's primarily making choices from a list and getting text and it's... You're preparing for a guerrilla personitarian mission, a relief mission of some sort.

Melissa Avery-Weir  6:52  
I do feel like I must again, clarify which kind of "guerrilla"--

Gregory Avery-Weir  6:56  
Yes, guerrilla, not gorilla. You are... You take care of things which would, which international and intergalactic law would perhaps not allow you to help with. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  7:11  
Yeah, you're a smuggler, essentially. A smuggler of health supplies.

Gregory Avery-Weir  7:14  
Yes. Health supplies, food. It's, it's not currently clear in our current released version exactly what you're doing for each mission. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  7:21  
Right, right. And so as the--as the main character, you are--in the currently released version, which we're working on some updates to it to flush out some content--but you are preparing for the mission. And that is largely done by spending time with your partners. You're in a relationship anarchy family. I suppose. And how you relate to each of those people is different. And each one of them kind of offers up scenarios that satisfy whatever needs you might have. So as a, as a character, you're going to have libido--

Gregory Avery-Weir  8:06  
Comfort--

Melissa Avery-Weir  8:08  
Kink--

Gregory Avery-Weir  8:09  
And fun. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  8:10  
Yes. And so what we wanted to convey is that asexuality is not a set of behaviors, or even particularly a set of constraints, right? It's describing sexual orientation. It's describing who you are, or aren't attracted to. And so that doesn't mean you don't have libido, or you might not. But yeah, some people don't, regardless, right?

And so we take that into account by sort of randomizing the degree to which you have those needs. So one time you play, you might have a Libido of one and a Comfort of five. And the next time you play the roll of of the dice might give you a three in Libido and a two in Comfort. And so we have, we have a cast of characters that we came up with and wrote a little dossiers for and, and sort of interjected some randomness with regards to, you know, their invitations to do things. So yeah. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  9:18  
Yeah. And it was my first time writing a sex scene for public consumption. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  9:24  
Yeah. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  9:25  
Which it was interesting. I mean, yeah, I mean, it's not... nothing is, I would say, explicit. Nothing human is explicit.

Melissa Avery-Weir  9:35  
I think, I think the thing with the--

Gregory Avery-Weir  9:37  
There, yeah, there's, there's a scene with an alien, which, if you were of that alien species, you would recognize as pretty darn explicit. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  9:46  
Yes. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  9:47  
But but I mean, we are at least frank in what's going on? We fade to black before anything--with the exception of that of that alien scene. We fade to black before anything like, outre goes on. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  10:03  
Yeah.

Gregory Avery-Weir  10:07  
But I think one thing that both of us are interested in having people keep in mind about ace people is that celibacy is different from being asexual.

Melissa Avery-Weir  10:19  
Yes, yes, exactly. And so yeah, it was, it was fun. It's like the first time--certainly the first time I've ever put anything like that out into the world. Like, here's some some vaguely sexy content. And under the company name. I don't know, like, yeah, you know, it felt weird, but here we are. It's fine. I think it's pretty good.

Gregory Avery-Weir  10:44  
And I think that the, the closing kind of conceit of the family portrait that you put together--

Melissa Avery-Weir  10:55  
That was...

Gregory Avery-Weir  10:57  
You ended up having to do a lot of the hard stuff. And renpy, like renpy is--makes it really easy to do, like, here's a person talking. It makes it really hard to do complicated, like, image generation, which is what you were assigned to do. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  11:13  
Yeah. So there was a, the feature I really, really wanted... And this is in my head from watching Waypoint folks play XCOM 2... I'm guessing it's XCOM 2, must be XCOM 2 as opposed to 1.

But when you finish a mission in combat, XCOM 2, you get to, like, compose a picture of your, of your people. And it gets hilarious and funny and cute. And it's just this way of like, putting personality on what would otherwise be standard characters. And so I really, really wanted to do that. And so we took a... boy, I forget the actual name of it, but sort of the Japanese photo booth sticker... There's a, there's a word for it.

Gregory Avery-Weir  12:02  
But it's like, in a, you go in a photo booth. And then you can afterwards like pick, like smiley faces, or flowers or whatever, to put on the, on the picture. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  12:12  
Yeah. And so the work--it was pretty much entirely procedurally generated, with rare exception. And so the problem was, I have--I drew up a bunch of stickers, Greg and I did. And then we needed to place them in ways that did not look absolutely ridiculous. And as with any procgen--procedural generation-- you spend one hour laying down your initial algorithm, and then you spend 25 tweaking and refining boundaries, and, you know, all that sort of stuff. 

Gregory Avery-Weir  12:47  
And it ended up looking ridiculous and the way that we wanted it to and so I consider it a success. 

Melissa Avery-Weir  12:52  
Yeah, I think it's cute and then it you know, it saves it off to your computer and you have your family photo. So, yeah, we doing we've got probably five or six relatively small enhancements we're doing. Adding some more content, tweaking UI stuff a little bit, I think, just you know, to it's still going to be a jam game. Like this is not--we're not planning on releasing this commercially. Although, thank you person who paid for it! It's very kind of you. So y'all can look for that in the next couple of weeks, I think.

Gregory Avery-Weir  13:29  
We're not holding any sort of schedule on it. But when, when we get those things done, we'll toss it out there. 

So thanks for hanging out with us today. You can find all of our stuff at futureproofgames.com. You can hit us up on Twitter at PlayFutureProof, and on Facebook as FutureProofGames. You can ask us questions, let us know what you think about the current state of Exploit Zero Day or of Ace Systems Go! Our theme music is "Juparo" by Broke for Free, which is available under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.