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Development Info Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 Dev Diary #6: Mission Scripting And Ink

Infinitron

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Tags: Paradox Interactive; The Chinese Room; Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2

https://www.paradoxinteractive.com/...e-bloodlines-2/news/mission-scripting-and-ink

This week we have Technical Director Nick Slaven joining us. He’s going to share his thoughts on the important tools we’ve developed to build all the things we need for our narratives, like cutscenes, missions and dialogue:

Quests and princesses and chat, oh my.
Here at the Chinese Room we are all about storytelling. Our games are rich in narrative and the way we tell them, and for the story to make sense, we need to give the player something to do, other than just walking.

My name is Nick and I make sure that our team are able to tell stories and give the player things to do.

As a studio working on two large projects, we have to be smart about how we use our technology. We’re building systems that are used on both Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2 and Still Wakes the Deep and fits the needs for both those teams and makes everyone’s work easier. As a narrative studio, that means tools for storytelling.

Storytelling involves more than just the spoken word. We may want to travel across the land to obtain the magical artefact that unlocks the door to the princess’ castle. I’ll stop here before I embarrass myself more with my lack of narrative ability. The point remains, in a few words I can describe something of a story and it materialises in your imagination.

Let’s back up a bit, it’s easy for us to interpret, but how do we get the game to recognise that you have got the magical artefact and how does picking it up then unlock a door to allow you to progress in your quest. How do we do that?Our answer was to develop a way of describing the story as a sequence of events that the game engine can interpret, we call this mission scripting.

Mission scripting is a high level way of representing a sequence of events that the player may need to solve in order for the story to progress. For instance, you may need to find a key to open a door. We do this by representing the state of the game story and the event that will drive the story forward. In this case, opening the door; we look for a key, and only once we’ve found the key can we open the door, and face whatever is in the room.

That’s the doing bit, but what about the talking?
Branching narrative is complex. From each decision point the story can go many ways. Rather than write our own tech for this we decided to use Ink, an open source narrative scripting language created by Inkle studios. We needed to port this from C# to C++ to get it working with Unreal, but this was way quicker than writing our own narrative scripting system from scratch.

Ink allows our narrative team to create the spoken word that accompanies the mission scripting to tell the story of the game. This is written as a narrative script, much in the same way that screenplays are written for film and tv.Arone, our principal narrative designer, had this to say about using Ink for narrative creation.

How do we then make that into animation and audio?
Our solution was to introduce the ‘dope sheet’. We stole this name from the animation industry, but essentially for each line of dialogue the authors create, we can specify an audio event, along with animations for the face and body and a bunch of other things. The dope sheet is like a spreadsheet in excel, but with bells and whistles that allow us to preview audio and animation as we set up the scenes for dialogue in the game.

When the player makes a text choice in the game, the system presents that choice to the Ink runtime, in return we get a text response which we cross reference via the dope sheet to get the animations and audio to play to show back to the player.

Combining mission scripting and Ink have given us a very flexible and powerful system in which we can tell stories. We are using these systems on all the titles we are creating.

As we’ve had so much of a step up from using ink, we thought it only right to give something back, and so we have created Inkpot, which is a lightweight blueprint friendly wrapper of our C++ port of the Ink runtime. This is now freely available from our GitHub site. You can download this tool and use it in Unreal for yourselves. If you do, let us know! We’d love to see what people create.

GitHub - The-Chinese-Room/Inkpot: Inkpot - a container for Ink

What’s Next
Coming later this month is the much awaited extended gameplay reveal video. In another two weeks we will also bring you a developer diary.​
 

Eli_Havelock

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These "dev diaries" read like The Chinese Room operates as per its namesake and there's no underlying consciousness to give a simple check of: " does this read like a bunch of AI gen bullshit that makes EULAs a less painful experience?"

These are clearly a preview of their writing talent.

"Here at the Chinese Room we are all about storytelling." = We're in for a real treat of electric purple prose?

Keep an eye on their "art department".
 
Last edited:

Gambler

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Nothing I've read in that article makes me want to play the game when it comes out. Quite the opposite.

Ink looks like a hilariously bad choice for an RPG. Dialogs in RPGs shouldn't be just trees of text.
 

Eli_Havelock

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I get that they're proud of banging ink into Unreal when its been a Unity thing for a bit, but when you get to anything relevant CRPG gamers haven't already known for about a decade (or even the VN casuals), well... the audience are either no longer awake, or like developers working on an actual sequel, dead before they get there.

This kinda thing was my first indication Torment: Ty-D-Bol of Numa Numa was not going to be anywhere close to a sequel except in word count.
 

Eli_Havelock

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Torment: Ty-D-Bol of Numa Numa

The only game which managed to have worse core systems than Pillars

Quite an achievement
Indeed, Planescape: Torment was not a VN.
Neither was Bloodlines.

Chinese Room are PR purple prosing doing what anyone who played the original and delved into that development knew, proverbially putting Python into Source. Smiling Jack was a great introduction for how well Talking Heads were used in Bloodlines, and nobody should expect any less here. But for fucks sake, we're here 20 years later making porting middleware into a big production.

Holy shit the industry shaking when they figure out Havok.
 

luj1

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Indeed, Planescape: Torment was not a VN.

Yeah. It was full of trash mobs and frequent combat, contrary to popular belief.

Like the part from Curst or Carceri, up until the end of the game, was a non-stop combat gauntlet.
 

Tyranicon

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Mission scripting is a high level way of representing a sequence of events that the player may need to solve in order for the story to progress. For instance, you may need to find a key to open a door. We do this by representing the state of the game story and the event that will drive the story forward. In this case, opening the door; we look for a key, and only once we’ve found the key can we open the door, and face whatever is in the room.

This shit has to be written by AI. Who the fuck writes like this?

That's 90 words for saying you need a key to open a door as an example of mission scripting.

WTF? Have these people played video games before? Do they know english? Fucking Japanese devs from 30 years ago have a better grasp on the english language than these guys from... the UK. What is happening here?

 

luj1

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Mission scripting is a high level way of representing a sequence of events that the player may need to solve in order for the story to progress. For instance, you may need to find a key to open a door. We do this by representing the state of the game story and the event that will drive the story forward. In this case, opening the door; we look for a key, and only once we’ve found the key can we open the door, and face whatever is in the room.

This shit has to be written by AI. Who the fuck writes like this?

That's 90 words for saying you need a key to open a door.

Amazing, isn't it?

Can't wait to see the writing in this game.
 

Eli_Havelock

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Indeed, Planescape: Torment was not a VN.

Yeah. It was full of trash mobs and frequent combat, contrary to popular belief.

Like the part from Curst or Carceri, up until the end of the game, was a non-stop combat gauntlet.
Could PS:T be balanced like Bloodlines' combat needed to be, especially towards the later Ventrue sponges? Certainly.

Question is, are Chinese Room going to take the lazy path and go towards VN? That is one of the big bullet questions the current team are trying to dodge with fake tits on a zombie worthless Celerity. Hardsuit supposedly had people who could do RPG mechanics, and about the best they could show us was Damsel in distress.

Neither do I recall base clans being sold in DLC, as the new circus can apparently only develop four.

That means NO SALE - all involved can go eat a Paradix. Yes, even the rank and file, because they signed up to hunt for a white whale to be involved.

THAT is the mystery reveal I am waiting for.
 

Eli_Havelock

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Mission scripting is a high level way of representing a sequence of events that the player may need to solve in order for the story to progress. For instance, you may need to find a key to open a door. We do this by representing the state of the game story and the event that will drive the story forward. In this case, opening the door; we look for a key, and only once we’ve found the key can we open the door, and face whatever is in the room.

This shit has to be written by AI. Who the fuck writes like this?

That's 90 words for saying you need a key to open a door as an example of mission scripting.

WTF? Have these people played video games before? Do they know english? Fucking Japanese devs from 30 years ago have a better grasp on the english language than these guys from... the UK. What is happening here?


8c1p50.jpg


You know you're in for a good time when the devs have to make the absolute genre basics into a big deal, one that only gets better as they slowly learn about everything else.

It's gonna be goddamn magical.
 
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Not sure if it's because people are just reading the OP instead of clicking and seeing the full thing, but he's talking about the graph.

Storytelling involves more than just the spoken word. We may want to travel across the land to obtain the magical artefact that unlocks the door to the princess’ castle. I’ll stop here before I embarrass myself more with my lack of narrative ability. The point remains, in a few words I can describe something of a story and it materialises in your imagination.

Let’s back up a bit, it’s easy for us to interpret, but how do we get the game to recognise that you have got the magical artefact and how does picking it up then unlock a door to allow you to progress in your quest. How do we do that? Our answer was to develop a way of describing the story as a sequence of events that the game engine can interpret, we call this mission scripting.

Mission scripting is a high level way of representing a sequence of events that the player may need to solve in order for the story to progress. For instance, you may need to find a key to open a door. We do this by representing the state of the game story and the event that will drive the story forward. In this case, opening the door; we look for a key, and only once we’ve found the key can we open the door, and face whatever is in the room.

Here's a screenshot of how this might look in our mission scripting system.

bloodlines-dev-diary-6-1

Example mission in the scripting system.

In a proper game story, there will be hundreds of states, on many story paths, here’s a small snippet of one of the missions in one of our current games.

bloodlines-2-dev-diary-6



There’s a lot happening, but having a simple way of defining the mission structure allows our design team to quickly iterate on the missions and get them as good as they can be.
 

Tyranicon

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Not sure if it's because people are just reading the OP instead of clicking and seeing the full thing, but he's talking about the graph.

That doesn't really make it better. This is gaming 101 stuff that we don't need from a dev diary.

It's like telling us that FPS games are when the player can shoot things. RPGs have triggers.

Even 90-year-old investors probably know this by now.

I'm getting huge flashbacks of that one gaming journo who couldn't get past the tutorial in Cuphead or whatever. Maybe that's their target audience.
 

Eli_Havelock

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Not sure if it's because people are just reading the OP instead of clicking and seeing the full thing, but he's talking about the graph.

Storytelling involves more than just the spoken word. We may want to travel across the land to obtain the magical artefact that unlocks the door to the princess’ castle. I’ll stop here before I embarrass myself more with my lack of narrative ability. The point remains, in a few words I can describe something of a story and it materialises in your imagination.

Let’s back up a bit, it’s easy for us to interpret, but how do we get the game to recognise that you have got the magical artefact and how does picking it up then unlock a door to allow you to progress in your quest. How do we do that? Our answer was to develop a way of describing the story as a sequence of events that the game engine can interpret, we call this mission scripting.

Mission scripting is a high level way of representing a sequence of events that the player may need to solve in order for the story to progress. For instance, you may need to find a key to open a door. We do this by representing the state of the game story and the event that will drive the story forward. In this case, opening the door; we look for a key, and only once we’ve found the key can we open the door, and face whatever is in the room.

Here's a screenshot of how this might look in our mission scripting system.

bloodlines-dev-diary-6-1

Example mission in the scripting system.

In a proper game story, there will be hundreds of states, on many story paths, here’s a small snippet of one of the missions in one of our current games.

bloodlines-2-dev-diary-6



There’s a lot happening, but having a simple way of defining the mission structure allows our design team to quickly iterate on the missions and get them as good as they can be.

Yep, a lot of Development Process Modeling 4 the Terminally Retarded and other basics on par with explaining into several paragraphs how hitscan works for Half-Life 3 dev diaries.

At this point, let's just assume EVERYONE ON THE GODDAMN PLANET</BLINK> has played Skyrim and knows how teh are pee gees Just Works.

Except, apparently, these clowns.

And that Cuphead idiot who played Mass Effect without knowing RPG basics like leveling up, Dean "Trash Hack Take A Shit With Shit Take" Takahashi.

All this PR fluff space should be reserved for describing and hyping upcoming reveal pertinent to the game, not make people wonder how badly this may have gone into shitty everything again mixed with purple prose and even worse lore breaks for narration like the Dead Space remake.

Is Bloodlines 2 going to be purple prose story interspersing DOOM level areas with keys? Because, for some reason, Chinese Room seem to have been describing just that.

If they're this stretched for content six "diaries" in, not a good sign already. After the previous fiasco with Hardsuit, CR need to give us some hope instead of absolute basics in middle of handwaving an engine change and rebuilding their engine toolset.
 

RaggleFraggle

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Not sure if it's because people are just reading the OP instead of clicking and seeing the full thing, but he's talking about the graph.

That doesn't really make it better. This is gaming 101 stuff that we don't need from a dev diary.

It's like telling us that FPS games are when the player can shoot things. RPGs have triggers.

Even 90-year-old investors probably know this by now.

I'm getting huge flashbacks of that one gaming journo who couldn't get past the tutorial in Cuphead or whatever. Maybe that's their target audience.
Yeah, it’s very strange that anyone would mention this. Are we sure CN aren’t aliens with a poor grasp of human civilization?
 

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