In order to make sense of the sprawling game map I searched online for free flowchart apps. Eventually I found one that seems to be perfect: Diagrams.net. It saves the flowcharts in Google Drive and looks and feels like a part of the Google suite. It has all of the major features I am looking for in a flowchart app.
Spreading out the game locations, characters, items and puzzles like this helps to me to get a better overall picture of the areas I need to create for the game. Also it helps me to focus on the things that are important without me getting stuck on the details. I already have got a pretty good idea of the first 2 chapters of the game. this is plenty for me to create a functional vertical slice of the game and use it to figure out what is the most fun gameplay in a game like this.
Creating the vertical slice is my big goal for 2021! I suspect that it would include around 1 hour of gameplay, 3 large locations, around a dozen characters, 5 of them playable and 4 flashback sequences. So it is quite a bit of work for a part-time project! but I suspect that I can get it done!
As I keep filling up the flowchart, the game makes more and more sense in my head. Where there once was anxiety and aimless wandering, there is now laser focused planning. What ever knot I had in my head this tool has completely unraveled it!
The charts start to look super complex after a while, but they still make perfect sense for me. I have a bunch of node based UI experience from working with Unity state machines, Nuke, Fusion, Houdini and Unreal, so it should not come as a surprise for me that nodes did the trick!
Vertical Slice usage
I am thinking about releasing this first chapter as a playable pre-alpha gameplay demo. Why not? I could use it to poll players how they like the way the game is shaping up to be and how they like the flashback-based gameplay.