Our favourite TV shows

Our favourite TV shows

The quarantine may have been lifted in some countries, and you (yes, you) might still be stuck at home thinking what to do next. Not in that situation? Worry not, because what we have in store in this blog article, is for everyone, because… TV shows can be watched at any time, anywhere, even when you’re commuting to work while staying as far as you can from that guy with a runny nose who keeps leaning onto you.

If you’re still reading all those books we have recommended before, keep reading! Those TV shows, well, probably won’t go away anywhere (even though some TV shows do tend to disappear from some streaming services).

Continue reading “Our favourite TV shows”

What about the native animals?

What about the native animals?

The doctrine of the kingdom says: “All Animals were of the Ark, and all are now of the Kingdom”. So the big question is… what about the native animals (the new ones, found in the colony) and how does the Kingdom, well, treat them?

Before we go further with this one, make sure to read Impact of the Ark Myth on Society.

The existence of native animals at all is a surprise and (at least) a minor ideological crisis. When the Southern Continent was found, the Kingdom was explicitly expecting it to be empty.

Following the exploration of the Southern Continent, the Kingdom expected it to be empty. But, it wasn’t.

The statement previously was descriptive, it told of how the world is, and afterward, when it was shown that there are Animals who didn’t even know there was a Kingdom to be a part of, it had to be prescriptive.

Continue reading “What about the native animals?”

How we make music (Part Two – Examples and a Music Tool!)

How we make music for Trip the Ark Fantastic

How we make music (Part Two – Examples and a Music Tool!)

Hi again, this is Fenton (composer) and we will be delving into part 2 of our music blog for Trip the Ark Fantastic.

Last time we talked about how the music will be an adaptive score and take the form of an instrumental opera, following the player and reacting to their location, decisions, and situations in the game.

We will follow this up by looking more in-depth at the challenges of making a Romantic style score adaptive, as well as giving you a taste of how this will work with an early build of the music tool that we will use for the game.

Continue reading “How we make music (Part Two – Examples and a Music Tool!)”

Prisons, Gulags and Work-Camps of the Animal Kingdom

Prisons, Gulags and Work-Camps of the Animal Kingdom

As all of you avid readers of Ark Lore already know, the Animal Kingdom was not always as enlightened as it is today. During times long past it used to keep its iron-fist rule by stric enforcement of lion law and opression of all those who disobey. And what kind of opressive Kingdom would it be without at least a few high-level internment facilities?

Internment Facilities of the Kingdom

There was a total of five internment facilities (you can call them prisons, or work camps, or gulags – you get the picture) in the Kingdom. Three of these are actually still in operation as work camps even in King Lav’s day, and in the game you will get to visit a few of them.

The first to be built was the so-called Blackbark Tower, designation IF-1. It was especially brutal and hosted all the worst and most hardened criminals, as well as political opponents of the Kingdom. The height of its brutality came during the reign of King Leopold, and after the Lav Rebellion, the Blackbark Tower was destroyed and the internment facility razed to the ground.

It is decomissioned and all that remains are horror stories from those who survived its walls.

Ark Fantastic on screenshots looks really beautiful, magical, and peaceful. But it wasn't always like that. Animals could end-up in prison. Or Worse.
Blackbark Tower in Blackbark, the former capital of the Kingdom.

The second internment facility (IF-2) was built in the west of the Kingdom, in the region of Streaks, operated by the rule of the tiger family. It was in use for those royals and nobles who committed grave crimes but were of too high political status to be interned in the Blackbark Tower.

Ark Fantastic on screenshots looks really beautiful, magical, and peaceful. But it wasn't always like that. Animals could end-up in prison. Or Worse.
Temporary map made with Inkarnate – Blackbark was the former capital, now a ruin from a bygone age.

As you can imagine, it was a much easier experience, living out the sentence in the lenient prison on the coast, and it has even earned the nickname “The Summer Prison”. It is still in operation today, and is disproportionately filled with Lynx nobles, who, for some reason, love killing each other in petty feuds (this mystery will be solved by Charles, though, so don’t worry too much about those poor cats).

Tower of London Tickets | Buy Tour Tickets | VisitBritain
Imagine the Tower of London but with room service. Or just imagine Swedish prisons.

The third internment facility (IF-3) was built in Clowder on the north of the Kingdom. As the Blackbark Tower can only host so much prisoners, and the Kingdom saw a huge rise in its population, the so-called Winter Prison was built on a huge wasteland. It is also the first prison which was also a work-camp. The animals there have to cut trees and work the lumber mills from dusk till dawn.

https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/619813040224862208/635585205796601867/Map.jpg
Temporary map made with Inkarnate – Clowder is the “northern capital” of the Kingdom.

This work camp still persists even in King Lav’s time and is a point of some contention, as the working conditions have not improved there, and it’s size has not diminished. However, sending hardened criminals to the large wasteland prison is a very effective way of keeping the local city prisons from being overwhelmed.

Exploring the Russian North
Maybe we’ll just go “all-in” with the historical similarities and just have some former prisoner write a book called “The Clowder Archipelago”. Or would that be “too obvious”?

The fourth Internment facility (IF-4) was built near Valencia by King Valent when the need arose to have an internment facility in the newfound continent as well. All sorts of bandits were sent here from all over the Kingdom, as well as certain political opponents whose opinions were too dangerous to be left whispering in the Kingdom Proper. It was also a work-camp with a large quarry.

One of the Kingdom’s more “innovative” and “modern” torture machines were built in IF-4, including the infamous “feather-plucker”, any birds true nightmare.

However, Vincent, the Explorer King, disbanded the entire facility as Valencia grew in size, and freed all bandits that wished to join him in creating the “Explorer’s Guild”. Later, the large prison was incorporated in the growing city of Valencia and is now home to affordable living quarters (read: slums) for many commoners and vermin living in Valencia.

The IF-4 was disbanned in Vincent’s time and all that remains of it are museum pieces and the informal name of the Valencia neighbourhood that used to be the prison – Ieffour.

Trip the Ark Fantastic Press Kit - Gamechuck Home
Given the choice of rotting away in a stone quarry or exploring the great unknown, what would you choose?

However, having far away isolated prisons was a good idea, and Vincent did build another one – IF-5, in the Bay of Michael, on the east of the newly-found continent. The new facility was the most modern work-camp and was used to develop colored dye with the most modern chemical technology known to the Kingdom (for almost no cost, due to the prison population not being paid, of course). This was one of the reasons that Valencia and the entire colony became a strong economic power in the Kingdom, as the dye industry in the Kingdom Proper is still very traditional, taking pride in its old methods.

That’s a nice prison-camp you got there… Would be a shame if something… happened to it.

This facility will quickly become the center of the game, as an important uprising happens there, as one of its prisoners was Coriolanus, the revolutionary eagle. Once you reach it within the game, it will no longer be IF-5 and will go by the name Caw Macaw, or “The City of Freedom” in the bird tongue.

Thanks for reading about this bleak topic. If you wish to experience gulag conditions yourself, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Discord and so on!

Version control for Trip the Ark Fantastic code

I am CI and so can you

Hello, this is Piet Bronders and I’m here with some technobabble to discuss part of our technological pipeline. You might know me from such previous blog-posts as “Our FOSS pipeline – Backgrounds from draft to import” and Open source game appreciation month: Godot engine.

Both posts that were more on the development/technological side and, to no one’s surprise, they let me come out of my dank coding basement to entertain you, folks, once again.

As the main developer of ‘Trip the Ark Fantastic’, I am constantly bugged by all members of the development team for updates on the game and tasked with supplying them with the latest builds and bug fixes. Evidently, I can’t be bothered to manually export the game every time I fix a bug or add a feature, therefore it would be a blessing to have someone or something take this menial task of my hands…

Such a system is, of course, well-known (and admired) by software engineers everywhere. The acronym “CI/CD“, which stands for Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery, is a broad term for any technology that allows for automatically exporting and building your software, including games, and deploying them to a platform of your choice. However, before delving too deep ( I aim to make this blog-post at least a little bit layman-friendly) there is the concept of “version control“.

Version Control – Git

Different programmers working on the same code is a recipe for disaster. Programmers add features that other coders have already implemented in their own version of the code and merging both code-bases is a horrendous affair. But… what if there was a big outside entity that kept track of everyone’s progress and took care not to accept work of someone who is writing bad code or code that is too incompatible with the rest? This is exactly the purpose of version control!

Version control for Trip the Ark Fantastic
The current, at time of writing, GIT “master” branch for the Godot Engine

There’s more to the story than this, but I’m keeping it deliberately low-level as not to bloat this article with the technical nitty-gritty.

Evidently, most programmers use some sort of version control algorithm to keep track of the changes in their code-base, and GIT has, over time, become the de-facto industry standard. Each programmer has its own version of the source code and periodically (whenever he/she is done with a feature or bug fix) “commits” a change to the master branch. A branch is, as the same would suggest, a constantly growing sequence of coding commits on which the programmers build their empire.

At Gamechuck we use Gitlab to host our game code and GitExtensions to easily manage our software’s branches on our laptops and desktops.

CI/CD – Gitlab Runners

Now, each of these “commits” can be important and fix an essential bug or add some super-requested feature. Therefore, it is imperative that the latest version of the game is always available for download and deployed on whatever aggregate platform is wanted.

In our case, we use godot-ci, a CI/CD template that can be used to (you guessed it) automatically export Godot games!

In layman’s terms this template is run on Gitlab’s server each time when a programmer of the Ark team commits some changes to the master branch and it “emulates/fakes” a Linux computer that has Godot installed on it. It’s rather well-documented and we love it.

Here’s someone explaining it much better than I could ever dream of:

There’s an entire series on this, I highly recommend it if you are using Godot and want to start using CI/CD!

That takes care of the CI-bit, but there’s isn’t any delivery yet! In the case of “Trip the Ark Fantastic”, we haven’t released yet, so you might have to wait just a little while longer…

But for our Global Jam Game “Subsonic“, we set it up to directly deploy our game automatically to https://itch.io/ which reduces the programmer’s burden accordingly!

Well… that will be all… I hope I haven’t lost anyone halfway through my explanation and for those adventurous ones among you to attempt CI themselves, I say: The initial hurdle is more than worth it!

That’s all folks! Make sure to follow us on our TwitterFacebookDiscord, and while you’re at it sign up to our newsletter!

Dialogues, Letters, Papers – conversations in the Animal Kingdom

On the 6th of May in 1840, the (real) world’s first postage stamp was produced. Well, in the Kingdom, postage stamps are still not a thing. Letters are sealed, inked, and hand-stamped in the old fashioned way. And don’t forget it’s not the internet era yet either (D’UH!), so unless you’re royalty with your own carrier service, you need to get your letter all the way to the nearest post office to have it delivered!

The printing press, post office and the Royal Newspapers editorial staff all work in the same location!

The entire game starts with a letter. As Charles receives one from the royal messenger, he is summoned to the capital.

On today (6th of May) in 1840, the (real) world's first postage stamp was produced, while our entire game starts with a letter.
Charles: Is this an order or a request?
Messenger: The words of a Sovereign do not allow for such distinctions.

Letter sending happens quite often in the game and is one of the game mechanics we’re opting for, as most of the game will see Charles off in the colony across the sea, so his only way to retain contacts with the Crown and other important Kingdom characters will be through dialogues which are “offset” by time. What does this mean? Let’s explain.

Of course we have the usual dialogue trees you have with characters (like in other games) where you ask something, and get a reply, and then ask something else, etc, like this GIF here:

Also a very interesting read, check out that article as well if you’ve missed it!

Apart from those, we’ll also have the dialogues which you write as letters to others.

However, the letters will just have a series of questions and things you can write, and then when you finish your letter to a person in your list of contacts, you can send it and expect a reply in some time. This can sometimes lead to additional clues or just a reputation boost (if you solved a mining problem in the colony, perhaps the Burrows mine would love to hear about it as well).

This is similar to how the original Broken Sword had that envelope with all the contacts and you could choose when to call who and catch up for clues or just fun dialogue fluff:

Best phone pickup line in adventure game history: “Hi. My name is George Stobbart. You don’t know me.”

It might be a bit more difficult to pull off as every time you write a letter you have to go on with the rest of the game and the reply comes back in a week or more (not actual game time but still), until which time you might have forgotten what you were talking about (however there should be a “letter history” available, to make this easier).

A similar system of “delayed conversation” in the game is writing your own scholarly reports and publishing them to the Kingdom’s newspapers. This is similar to a dialogue tree as conclusions you make bring forth new possible branches of conclusions, et cetera, but unlike in dialogues, here there is only one person doing the talking (writing) – you:

On today (6th of May) in 1840, the (real) world's first postage stamp was produced, while our entire game starts with a letter.
A very early draft of the reporting UI

These reports will be published in the Kingdom’s newspapers and will have some “reviews” by your peers (other scholars, intellectuals, Kingdom elites, et cetera) depending on the topic at hand, which you can then reply to with other reports as well, thus having a “conversation” of sorts as well.

What do you think about these ideas? Are there games with similar mechanics? Do you think it would be cumbersome for you to use these mechanics, or would you just forget about them and never use them, or abuse them completely and send so many mails until the game has nothing more to give?

Feedback is welcome! Thanks!

And, as always, don’t forget to follow us on our TwitterFacebookDiscord, and while you’re at it sign up to our newsletter!

GameDev Industry is Suffering From Stockholm Syndrome – But Trade Unions Can Help!

GameDev Industry is Suffering From Stockholm Syndrome - But Trade Unions Can Help!

GameDev Industry is Suffering From Stockholm Syndrome – But Trade Unions Can Help!

Hi from Gamechuck. This article was written as a result of our internal discussions and includes thoughts from Lucija (who is drafting the collective agreement in our company), Alex (the managing director), and Jan (our elected union representative).

As this dev blog is set on the backdrop of Labour day (1st of May), we’re taking the topical opportunity to write about a thing that interests us personally, and that’s trade unions.

As you probably heard, this is becoming a thing in the game development industry, with large op-eds like this one popping up here and there every now and then.

GameDev Industry is Suffering From Stockholm Syndrome - A blog about a trade union in game dev industry.
Game developers need to unionize – polygon.com

Things suck

Last year we visited many industry events and were happy to see working conditions becoming more and more of a topic there as well as in media. Just last year Reboot Develop in Dubrovnik hosted a wonderful lecture “Game Creators and the Quest for Worker Rights” from Kate Edwards, the CEO of Geogrify and the former Executive Director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA).

GameDev Industry is Suffering From Stockholm Syndrome - A blog about a trade union in game dev industry.
Ex-IGDA head Kate Edwards now convinced game devs need unions – gamesindustry.biz

Even if a conference has no worker-themed talks, you never fail to hear at least a few “personal horror stories” from keynote speakers from their experiences working with the big leagues. It’s always a similar story – how the CEO or board of this or that company made a series of bad decisions that the workforce couldn’t do anything about or had no say in.

Continue reading “GameDev Industry is Suffering From Stockholm Syndrome – But Trade Unions Can Help!”

Do our animals eat each other? No. And here’s an essay.

What do animals of the Kingdom eat? In the real world, carnivores and omnivores all eat other animals. It’s a bit of a “tough sell” when writing sentient animals. Not to imply that it can’t be pulled off – it’s been done a lot in fiction, but it’s just not what we wanted.

For example, Watership Down was filled with creepy scenes such as this one:

Can you pay rent? I think not. I. Think. Not.

However, in Watership Down it’s obvious that the cat and the rabbits are antagonistic, sworn enemies. This can easily be extrapolated to whole civilisations fighting against each other in a war for dominance, similar to the cat and mouse game Root:

Continue reading “Do our animals eat each other? No. And here’s an essay.”

Even more favourite books from Ark Fantastic staff

Ark Fantastic staff recommends more books

If you’re still stuck at home, the Ark Fantastic staff brings more stuff for you to read!

We know, we know… A gargantuan amount of those unplayed games you have in your library won’t play themselves, and we won’t even mention all those movies and TV shows you might have in your watchlist.

But, come on! It’s a perfect time to read more books! Following our first part of our favourite books, we have asked the rest of our staff to give their say. And all of a sudden, you have more awesome books to read! So without further ado, read on!

Continue reading “Even more favourite books from Ark Fantastic staff”

Everything you wanted to know about Charles (but were afraid to ask)

Today we’re talking about Charles the hedgehog. As our main protagonist, we decided it’s important to flesh out his life and history as early as possible. So here it is: the portrait of a scholar!

So cute!!! But don’t cuddle him – he is a prickly scholar!

Born in 1849, he was a child of Herbert, a distinguished scholar himself and a member of the new King’s council. As he grew up, he saw Pride shift from a quiet summer palace to the capital of the entire Animal Kingdom – things were never quite as peaceful in Pride as in those early years.

He enrolled in the Royal Academy in Pride in 1862, under the tutelage of Quorni, a turtle botanist in charge of the royal arboretum.

https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/641248267979456512/680004528929636416/turtles.jpg
A turtle sketch. Is it Quorni? Doesn’t matter, all turtles look the same!

He graduated “summa cum laude” and continued his work in the royal arboretum where he wrote his first few “scholarly reports”.

His academic life from that point onward can be summed up into three distinct periods:

  1. The Quorni period
The roof of the Royal arboretum – Charles’ workplace for many years in Pride

From 1865 to 1874, Charles worked in the arboretum as an apprentice for Quorni, coauthoring many seminal works in botany, including forming the famous Quill-Quorni hypothesis.

For his outstanding work, Charles was awarded the Master Scholar’s Seal in Botany, becoming one of the rare botanists with the privilege of having their works published directly in the Royal Newspaper.

One of the royal arboretum’s roof on the inside – holding a rare tree called Ijustmadeupa Namea
  1. The Burrows period

When Quorni died in 1874, the emptied post of Head Botanist was thought to be taken over by Charles, but being such a young age, he believed he was not yet fit for such a high prestige position and it went to Gregury Cherni instead, a great botanist from a noble leopard family.

Charles himself settled in the Burrows, a quiet mining town not far away from Pride, where he set up his lab and started expanded his work to include geology (researching the Burrows cliffs), microscopy, and other things needed to build and maintain his own botanical lab.

This is Charles’ lab in the Burrows, and where you start the whole game.

Due to the unexpected use of his work on reflective surfaces (for a new series of microscopes), he was awarded the Master Scholar’s Seal in 1878. He was now privy of publishing any scholarly report, regardless of subject, straight to the Royal Newspapers, a rare accomplishment for such a young scholar, especially from someone in the commoner caste.

His seminal work was, however, came in 1883 – an encyclopedic endeavor to list all the Kingdoms fruit, vegetables and plant-life. A feat that required skill, perseverance, knowledge and no small amount of nerves to compile.

  1. The Ark period

After five years as a Master Scholar and with many botanical masterpieces written so far, he was now called back to Pride by King Lav.

After botany, geology and engineering, he is about to be pushed in yet another field – history and arkology.

This time, the research will not be done in the safety of his home, but across the far reaches of the Kingdom, and beyond.

https://www.tripthearkfantastic.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/ark-jungle-river-wallpaper.jpg

Will he live up to his reputation? Wait for the game and see. Until then – like, subscribe, follow, and join our Discord!