Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Let's Cut Our Losses

Sometime after the last post here my computer stopped booting forever, taking with it (1) my entire novel and (2) all of Chocolate Sauce RPG. After three months or so plus numerous attempts to get the data off of the hard drive and onto a bunch of temporary computers, I got together the money for data retrieval. The answer: if I pay $3,000 and have the hard drive shipped upstate to a clean room, there's a chance of recovering maybe 30% of the data in a raw format, meaning no directory structure, no file names, no file types. Basically fuck that.

Since that time I've managed to go through an additional temporary computer (still works, the screen just doesn't work.) I've reconstructed the novel, but there doesn't seem to be any point in working on a project like Chocolate Sauce when I can't afford a computer that doesn't completely bite and that will fail in a matter of months. I did have two backups: one on a USB drive that is now lost, and one on the Fiction Circus web server which is missing the last month or so of work I did on the game, mostly on graphics, maps, and fine-tuning battle/enemy spawn code. Basically a massively incomplete mess.

It's the latter that I'm releasing for the public curiosity as of this post, here.

Be advised:

  • The battle system doesn't work at all. It looks like the only reason for this is that the enemy art directory is missing, so I guess if you edit enemies.dat (which contains the names of the image files for the enemies) you could try it out. Just change the lines that start with @ to any .pcx image file, ideally one around 40x40 px, and put that image file into a subdirectory of /gfx called /enemies.
  • None of the title screen options other than "New Game" and "Debug Game" work.
  • There's a major gameplay bug on choosing New Game: the controls won't be hooked up correctly after the opening scenes are over and the game gives you control. To see the menus/to use the map spells, go talk to the shopkeeper one house to the left of your starting location: once the shop script runs the controls get hooked up normally.
  • You can play through the game up to the point where Illcup gives you your first assignment. After that you'll almost certainly end up getting into fights in the desert and the game will crash. If you want to see the rest of the story for this installment, cruise through the text_data folder; text_church.dat and text_cutscenes.dat have I think all of the story text and dialogue in the game.
  • The map tiles aren't entirely finished for most maps and look terrible. The sprites aren't finished, most glaringly on Cass.
  • The music files are copyright Long Dao; do not use them without asking him. If the enemy graphics are somewhere in this zip file at all, they're copyright Xerxes Verdammt and shouldn't be used without asking her. (Some of them are just ripped temporary Dragon Quest art.) I don't mind if you use my images or code.

I don't know when I'm going to work on this project again--it's a hugely ambitious thing, something I was obsessed with working on for a few months, and I'm not sure when I'll be similarly obsessed again. I'd like to put at least a temporary cap on it while I worry about money, writing, and my other projects. Losing my novel and a lot of work on Chocolate Sauce was horrible, but given the choice to work on restoring one or the other, I worked on the novel, and that probably has to count for something.