Typical playing screen

Interesting Times

Manage the Nine Times newspaper. Hire reporters, gather news, plan delivery routes. Build your subscriber base and drive your nemesis, the Ixian Bugle, into the gutter where it belongs!


the most shintoist pyweek game ever
Presented by nitrofurano

Most creative take on the theme
Presented by superjoe

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Ratings (show detail)

Overall: 3.5
Fun: 3.0
Production: 3.6
Innovation: 3.9

4% respondents marked the game as not working.
Respondents: 21


File Uploader Date
Bug fix release
gcewing 2011/04/10 11:21
Typical playing screen
gcewing 2011/04/10 01:10
Final Submission
gcewing 2011/04/10 00:50
Interesting Times Release 1.0
gcewing 2011/04/09 12:35
Reporters and news items
gcewing 2011/04/08 19:22
Another couple of characters
gcewing 2011/04/07 22:28
Playing screen, early version
gcewing 2011/04/07 10:50
Delivery boy characters
gcewing 2011/04/06 05:23
Can now place roads and houses in the level editor
gcewing 2011/04/06 05:17
Frist Screneshoot! Level editor tile palette with one tile!
gcewing 2011/04/05 22:12

Diary Entries

Frist Dairy Entry

Well, I've finally settled on an idea and made a start, which is usually the hardest part.

The story: On the ninth moon of the ninth planet of a star yet to be determined, there is a small colony with two local newspapers, the venerable and respected Nine Times, and its arch-rival the Ixian Bugle, locked in a mortal battle for readership.

The gameplay: Hire reporters to gather news. Hire runners and plan delivery routes to deliver papers to customers. Gain new customers and lure them away from the opposition to increase your subscriber base. Strive to prosper while driving the opposition out of business. Change your name to Rupert Murd... er, maybe not.

1 comment

Interesting Times: First milestone

Or perhaps just a footstone. I now have the bare beginnings of a level editor. The screenshot shows the tile palette, containing one 16x16 grass tile, which is selected.


Interesting Times: Level editor is off to a good start

I've created some artwork and got the level editor basically functional. Also borrowed a character from the PlanetCute set and added some caps to make myself a couple of newspaper delivery boys.

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Interesting Times: Runners are running, and how to write an AI in less than two hours

I realised rather late in the design phase that this game is going to need an AI. I'm hoping I'll be able to get by with something rather crude, because there won't be time to make it truly intelligent!

Anyhow, my runner now wanders semi-purposefully around the town and delivers papers to all the houses he goes past. I think he will every house eventually if left to his own devices, but I'm not sure.


Interesting Times: I've broken it!

Some bits appear to have rotted overnight. I made a few innocuous changes this morning, and now suddenly all my tiles are getting set to None when I start playing a level. HTF is that happening?


Interesting Times: Customers

Customer behaviour is starting to come together. In the shot below, the coloured houses have decided to subscribe to newspapers based on what they see at the newsstand (the building in the bottom left corner). Blue houses are subscribed to the Nine Times, red to the opposition. The newspaper on the ground in front of the blue house has just been delivered by the runner.

The coloured bars under the houses represent the customer's loyalty. It increases when you deliver news and decays over time. If it drops too low, the customer may cancel his subscription or switch to the opposition.


Interesting Times: More characters

Created a couple of reporters. (They're meant to be carrying notebooks, in case it's not obvious what those red and blue things are.)

Being female, hopefully they'll be more sensible and level-headed and won't go running off to play with their Xboxes when they're meant to be taking part in my game!

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Interesting Times: Final sprint begins

Right, this is it -- I have one day left in which to turn this into a finished game.

Fortunately it looks like I'll actually get a full day, for the first time this pyweek. Been interrupted by work far too much this time. :-(

It's 7am and I've had 5 hours of sleep. Hopefully caffeine, adrenaline and a rising sense of panic will see me through.

Progress: I have random news items appearing on the map. I can direct a reporter to one of them and she will find her way there without having to go cross-country.

To do: Make the runners stop after a couple of hours instead of working all day and night. Display news items as headlines instead of numbers. Make it possible to hire extra reporters and runners. Make the computer player capable of actually playing. Make the status and control area not look like total crap. Hmmm, quite a long way to go. Time to stop journalising and get coding.

I will not read any messages before starting. Closing browser now. NOW!!!

P.S. Daily screenshot:

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Interesting Times: Reporter AI achieved

Opposition reporters are now auto-seeking news items. Done a bit of playtesting, and found racing the computer to the best items to be promisingly challenging. It's starting to look like there might actually be some fun in here!

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Interesting Times: Temporal news paradox

I was trying to figure out why the runners sometimes refused to show up for work, and I discovered that instead of delivering the current day's news, they were trying to deliver news that hadn't been published yet!

Has Guido been lending them the time machine, I wonder?

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Interesting Times - Release!

Made the first, and possibly last, release.

The basic mechanics of the game are there, and I've managed to make it look not entirely ugly, but not as nice as I'd like.

Somewhat worse is that it's missing a couple of features that are kind of necessary to make it winnable, and I'm not going to get time to tune anything. So in its present state it's probably impossible to finish.

Going to sleep now.

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Interesting Times - It got better

Well, I managed to make some considerable improvements in the last few hours.
  • It is now possible to hire more reporters an runners
  • The player's reporters are now a bit more intelligent and don't require quite so much hands-on management
  • Runners can have routes set for them
The best thing is that it's now possible to win -- I've proven it by beating my test level.

Even better, it's not easy!


Interesting Times - Bug fix release

Fixed a few last-minute bugs causing crashes. The most serious one happened if you clicked and dragged while not editing a route. With all the frantic clicking I did during playtesting, I can't believe I didn't find that one!

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Interesting Times - Thanks, Postmortem and Future Plans

Thanks for all the good ratings given to Interesting Times. It did better than I expected, given that I only had time to implement about half the ideas I had for it.

Instead of just the boring stars, I was going to have randomly-generated newspaper headlines popping up as overlays, hopefully with enough amusing combinations to keep the player entertained. I think that would have helped to raise it above the level of being just about running around collecting tokens. Instead of stars with numbers in them, you'd be going after something with meaning.

There are also a few issues with the mechanics. The reporters need to be made a bit more self-sufficient so that they don't need so much micro-management. A particular problem is that there's no coordination between them, so they tend to go after the same news items and bunch together. Eventually they're all on top of each other and travelling around together, so you have to keep manually spreading them out. Making them slightly more intelligent would fix that.

Another thing is that once one side has all the houses around a newsstand subscribed, it's very hard for the other side to fight back. You can be publishing lots of great news, but it doesn't do any good because nobody is taking any notice of it. The only thing you can do is try to starve the opposition of news and wait for them to lose subscribers, which can take a long time, and if you don't have any subscribers yourself you may not have enough cash to last that long.

Probably subscribed houses should take newsstands into account in their neighbourly influence the same as other houses, something they don't currently do. That would give you a toehold to try to win back subscribers by publishing superior news.

Another thing I've been considering is making it possible to buy newsstands, and perhaps build new ones, so that they only sell your newspaper. This would obviously have to be fairly expensive, otherwise you could win just by buying up all the newsstands. But if it's too expensive, it wouldn't be available as a way of fighting back when you're in a tight corner. Some more thought may be required on that one.

Some other ideas that didn't make it:
  • Instead of newspapers being magically transported to newsstands and runners, you have a head office and need to hire vans to distribute them from there.
  • You should have to decide how many copies to allocate to each newsstand and runner.
  • Instead of paying day-to-day, subscribers should pay for some number of copies in advance, perhaps a week.
  • You shouldn't be able to hire and fire employees on a whim. Perhaps a redundancy payment should be required whenever you fire a staff member.
  • Other ways of acquiring news, such as purchasing a subscription to a syndication service. (The downside would be that some of your news would help the opposition as well.)
  • Other sources of income, such as advertising revenue.
  • Maybe there should be some ways for your reporters to attack their counterparts, such as phoning in fake news reports?
  • Music! Every game needs music...
Anyhow, I've certainly got enough ideas to be able to make an improved Pyggy version, although I haven't decided whether to do that yet. What do you think? Would anyone be interested?

Responses to Feedback

never seemed to be able to make much of a profit

Yes, you probably won't end up rolling in dough, but that's not really the object, gaining subscribers is. Money is only useful insofar as it enables you to avoid going bankrupt. If you can keep printing papers and paying your staff, you're doing all right.

For some reason I keep wanting to work Clarke Kent and Superman into the game somehow. :)

Ha! Something to keep in mind when writing the headline generator, perhaps. :-)

My money never seemed to go up or down, and I didn't get the feeling that I was winning OR losing.

As mentioned above, if your money isn't going down then you're doing okay. As for winning/losing, if the playing field is turning blue, you're winning; if it's turning red, you're losing!

I think this game needed a few tutorial levels with dumbed-down rules so that players can get the hang of it one step at a time.

Yeah, a tutorial is another thing I didn't get time for. Not sure how to dumb things down, but the first level is probably small enough that you don't need to worry too much about hiring extra staff or setting runner routes, so those things could be left for later levels.

I couldn't find how to exit the level designer.

Hmmm, this is embarrassing. I just tried it, and found that the level editor menu is being displayed as black on black. :-( It seems that I never used the level editor after I changed the menu text colour from white to black as part of adding a background to the title screen, or I would have noticed that.

If you turn on your Clarke Kent X-ray vision you'll see that there's an "Exit Level Editor" menu option near the bottom of that black screen. Or you can press Ctrl-Q to get back to the main menu.

Very nice graphics

Thanks, but most of the credit for that is due to Danc, who designed the unbearably cute characters in the PlanetCute tile set. I admit responsibility for the cruddy-looking houses, though. :-)

Hope to see you next time :)

Thanks, I'll do my best to be there!

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