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Development Update #74

 December 5, 2022

We are around two weeks out, at most, from a Chapter 10 release. A beta should be ready for testing sometime this weekend. Finally, amiright? What a total clusterfuck this turned into. Chapter 10 kept growing in so many ways. The story was honestly fairly easy. No massive rewrites, and just shuffling stuff around and cutting near the end so this didn’t get released in February. But under the hood was due for a refresh. Let me cover the highlights of what is coming with Chapter 10 so everyone is prepared. No nasty surprises or anything, but definitely some things you need to know. This is one release you will want to read ALL of the release notes on before you launch.

Where Everything Is Made Up & The Points Don’t Matter

Shoutout to Whose Line Is It Anyway for a fantastic segue to the biggest change. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a whole new points system. At some point I’ll write a whole boring dev update devoted to this, but let’s keep it to just the highlights. Points have been a terrible thing for me. I try to balance things, and often I end up doing checks based on individual variables instead of points. That is no one’s fault but my own, and I am now making yet another effort to implement a points system that is adaptable and not punishing or way too complex. Coming up with this took me many nights over four weeks. Points are a delicate balance as I don’t want anyone grinding or focusing on points too much. However, for certain things, points are great in measuring a cumulative result. The visual novel, for me at least, is never really a game. However, having some traditional game elements to provide more unique playthrough experiences is nice.

Now, this new points system does not mean you need to start a new game. I’ve got a conversion “script” that runs when you load an old save and start either Chapter 8, 9, or 10. If your old save happens to start at a different point, you may encounter a few bugs. I’m sorry. I found no good way to automatically trigger this on loading a save, so this was the best I could do. Good news is that the conversion fixes a TON of other things also! SOOOOO many little things. Thank god.

The new points system is designed around a much smaller list of traits, public opinion from key areas, and foreign kingdoms’ opinion of you. I’ve dropped everything else, as tracking points for individual characters was not only a nightmare, but proved to be much easier (in my mind) and fairer to track based on variables that are triggered with your choices. Characters will still respond differently to you sometimes, but individual points made me angry when it would mean gating content that I really saw no need to gate.

This does mean that the walkthrough for Volume 1 is now woefully wrong when discussing points. Good news is that I am fixing that within the next few weeks. The other good news is that the points system is really affected beginning in Volume 2. I am working very hard to ensure that you, as a player, can easily understand the more consequential results of your key choices without needing to flip on over to the codex and check points. A dirty little secret of these changes is that I mostly divide up the points into ranges, and measure those. Helps to ensure that even if I get the math a little wrong you don’t get fucked over in a playthrough. And again, I feel the need to reiterate this one point: If you are playing this game for an elaborate points system that provides a complex RPG like experience, go grab Baldur’s Gate or something.

The Codex

First things first. The codex is optional. If you just want the narrative and beautiful renders, you need never visit the codex. For those wanting more information on the people, places, and kingdoms of the To Be A King game world, dive right in to the new & improved codex. Seriously. It got a massive redesign and is completely reworked. New graphics, new UI, etc. Oh, and the codex is another source now to help you make informed choices. Or feel free to throw caution to the wind. There are no deaths or respawns (of your character, at least).

This redesign was needed to allow me to add more in future releases, as well as better fit where the game is headed (foreshadowing). There are even tutorials you can view on different parts of the codex. A very special lady serves as your tutorial guide. I tried to get Cronut, but he was way too expensive.

Only thing to note is that the codex is going to be wonky when using an old save, unless that conversion script has been triggered. Something to note, in case you load an old save and it is a long way until you hit the start of Chapters 8, 9, or 10. In those specific cases, just wait to launch the codex until you start one of those chapters and you won’t see any nasty error screens.

A Fresh Coat of Paint

The entire UI has been overhauled. You won’t be confused when you load the new release. As you navigate through the various menu items, you’ll see the new stuff though. These changes were long overdue, and I have a feeling that before the end of To Be A King there will be yet another UI overhaul. For now, it is much better than it was, and that is all I can hope for.

I’ve added things like short title cards to let you know when you advance a day in the story, and there is a brand-new notification system. You’ll now see a little notification at the top of your screen when you meet a new character, get a new alliance offer, or take some lovely lady’s virginity (just to name a few things). There will be other things added to the new notification system later, but those are top secret right now.

Final thing here is that every scene in the lewd replay gallery got a title. Hope that helps you keep better track of what is what.

New Renders

As I mentioned in a previous development update, Chapter 10 is also massive in terms of new renders. With branching in full swing, I’ve got to make sure that most every player gets a ton of new things to see when they play. This isn’t all just under the hood stuff.

In fact, you’ve got some very interesting decisions to make in Chapter 10, and many more to follow in the next few chapters. You are going to be shaping your reign, and these decisions will have huge consequences on the story. Not huge as in potentially terrible. To Be A King is not that kind of game. But the branching is just insane now. I can honestly say that certain choices will lead to an entirely different game experience. I will need a lot of beer to get through this multi-year development.

Fixing a lot of issues

Ultimately the code overhaul is also fixing a lot of issues. Some I introduced through typos, forgetting certain things, or just not knowing something would happen five chapters later. Other things are designed to make life easier in maintaining this code and moving To Be A King to a final release sometime in…the heat death of the universe. I learned a ton more about Ren’py, and my enormous thanks to my beta team who spent quite a bit of extra time testing all these additional changes & fixes.

There are many other fixes and improvements with the renders for this upcoming release, but this post is way too long, as it is.

More work is yet to come, but I had to get a stopping point here so I could get this release out. As always, I’m mindful that players would rather not start over from the beginning. Hence all the hours put into the conversion script. The joys of active development with releases put out as they are finished.

Chapter 10 will soon be available here, and I am excited for you all to not only experience the new scenes, but also all the additional work that is integrated into this release. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to relax a bit before getting back at it tomorrow. Oh, and enjoy the preview render. No postwork on it yet, so it is truly a “raw” render. 100% organic too.