Weekly Penguin
April 30th, 2012

Your questions answered

As promised, here comes the 'Questions and Answers' blog post, an FAQ filled by questions from you and answers from me. This post turned out quite longer than I anticipated, but that's just good; Seeing that there is so much curiosity and interest towards TAGAP is always an excellent morale boost!

But wait, before we start, let's roll with the obligatory status update;

What am I working on right now?

Levels! I consider a game remains in pre-production until you start to actually assemble the levels. So, in that regard, we're now in production!

I obviously won't say what kind of level this is, but it's one of the bleakest in the game, in more ways than one. Obviously despite our pre-production efforts the progress has been slow at first, as I keep stumbling on 'oh hell, I forgot to do this kind of multi-purpose metal texture' kind of issues. After two weeks I have several rooms monster-of-a-level fully detailed, all featuring custom objects not seen anywhere else in the game. So far, so good.

Also, the moment I drew the first lines of this level, I realized TAGAP 3 needs an automap. With this level in particular, which is very much non-linear, you'll need one if you want to have even a slightest hope of discovering all the secrets. The basics are there already, including the waypoint system – which, by the way, automatically updates all in-game guide arrows when your objectives change. Obviously the guides highlight only the main route, so if you want to find those secrets you'll have to wander off the beaten path.

The map is now the main starting page of the Database, meaning it's one key/button press away at all times, just like it should be.

Questions about TAGAP 3

In the article you mentioned TAGAP 3 will be the grand finale. Does this mean there is no Penguin DT after TAGAP 3?

Absolutely not; TAGAP 3 will be the end of the current TAGAP story-arc, but it doesn't mean we would stop producing stuff. Nor does it necessarily mean the final end of TAGAP, either, but after TAGAP 3 we're planning on doing something different.

In one blog [you] mentioned T3 was not your favorite next project. Why and what was in the works?

I wouldn't say it isn't our 'favourite', it just wasn't the first choice – in a creative process they are not the same thing. Obviously we liked all the ideas we were throwing around, otherwise they wouldn't have been there as options.

The reason we didn't go with the project we had in mind was the scale of it; It was damn huge! TAGAP 3 is ambitious, but this project would've been that, times three. If you want a comparison, think TAGAP 2 as, say, Bulletstorm – short, contained and without extra fluff. In comparison, this not-yet-realized project would've been closer to Mass Effect; Entire micro-worlds condensed into a 2D action game, with ongoing strings of narrative tying everything together and player customization being integrated into gameplay. We decided it was a definite no-go, at least as long as we were a two-man team without any kind of proper funding.

I'm being very vague about this project, I know, but on the story level it was developed quite far and it became a dream project of sorts. I would love to produce it one day, if not as a game, then as set of short stories, written or illustrated. But for next couple of years it's all about TAGAP 3.

Where are you in the TAGAP 3 development timeline? Alpha? Beta?

Situation has actually changed since I answered this question by eMail. It's hard to declare straight where we're at, but definitely we are no longer in 'pre-production', but in genuine 'production'. That's still far cry even Alpha, so I guess in those terms that's Pre-Alpha. There still is loads of work on pre-production side to be done – level designs, ongoing engine rewrites, missing features and so on – but we've already started the production of actual in-game levels.

T3 looks good. But does it work on my old machine?

If it can run TAGAP 2, it can very likely run TAGAP 3. The only situation when the game starts to slow down on older rigs is when you bump the resolution up-up-up. Where TAGAP 2 rendered everything in 800×600 and up-scaled the image, TAGAP 3 renders according to resolution and is full HD. This means it works like most games these days, and like with them, dropping the resolution will likely give you a performance boost.

TAGAP 3 also uses shaders and other modern niceties, but not to an extent that would affect the performance. Again, the system I'm developing the game with has trouble running Quake 3 Arena in full detail, so I'm fairly certain whatever rig you have can run this game, especially in three-to-four years time it takes us to complete it.

Fix the damn white box already!

As I've explained several times, this is a driver issue and I have tried to create hack-tweaks a dozen times, but those never resulted in nothing but either updates bigger than the game itself, or patches that slowed things so badly that putting the tests out wasn't sane.

However, for TAGAP 3 I'm experimenting with things again and right now I've conceptualized a workaround that might work. I stress might. I don't know, I haven't had the time to test it yet. If it DOES work I will definitely implement it to both TAGAP and TAGAP 2. But again, no promises; There's a change that it either doesn't work as intended or it turns penguins into sloths. Or some combination.

I want it on iOS!

TAGAP 3 will likely never be ported to iOS, at least not as-is. Like TAGAP and TAGAP 2 before it, TAGAP 3 utilizes every single button on a gamepad and there is no way such system can be made to work on a no-buttons touchpad without significant content cuts. No-one, including us, wants to see dumped down port jobs of hardcore titles.

I'm not ruling out some form of TAGAP on iOS, though. There actually have been some talks regarding such possibility, but that's something I can't go into right now. I can say that if there ever will be a mobile TAGAP title aimed at iOS and/or Android, it would be something different, designed specifically for those systems with touchpad controls in mind.

What influences do you have [on TAGAP 3]? You've been open about them in the past.

Yes, credit should go where credit is due, that's how I think. I can't go on record of all my influences, as I seem to absorb stuff like a sponge from everything to games and movies to music. And am not talking about big gameplay features, but even the tiniest things, like how a certain HUD element behaves. It would take up a full blog post, really.

In case of TAGAP 3, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is the first one that comes to mind. I didn't get a change to play it back when it was originally released, so I was delighted to get it via Xbox Live Arcade. I was stunned how well the Zelda metastructure worked in a sidescrolling action game and how addictive it turned out to be. Granted, I had played Metroids before that, but to me it was more 'adventure' than 'action'.

So, TAGAP 3 bares a strong influence from this metastructure; More items you have, more of the world you can access and more the items you can get. It won't be 'pure-blood' Metroidvania, though – think a half-way between Super Mario Bros. 3 and Symphony of the Night. With pill-poppin' penguins with guns.

In T2 Jukebox you cited music influenced the game design. What songs have influenced TAGAP games 1,2 and 3?

Music means a lot to me and it has influenced TAGAP from the very conception. Thusly this is a topic so large that would require a whole blog post of it's own. But you know what? That's exactly what I'll do – next blog post shall be labelled 'Music that inspired TAGAP'!

I hope TAGAP 3 has abslutely[sic] no wubwub

TAGAP 3 has no wub-wub. Well, unless you count a machine gun going 'wub wub wub' under heavy slow motion. Petja is a rock/funk musician and he doesn't listen to electronic music much beyond retro videogame melodies. In fact I'm not 100% sure if he even knows what wubwub is.

Side note; I personally don't mind dubstep – in fact I find it a refreshing sub-genre – but it isn't TAGAP. There will be some tracks with heavy emphasis on electronic sound, but not one from 2010s – and that's all I'll say about that at this point.

Why don't you add a PayPal donation and/or Kickstarter for TAGAP 3?

I've been asked about the PayPal donation thing several times ever since the first TAGAP launched and Double Fine's recent awesome success on Kickstarter has raised the crowdsourcing possibilities in public eye big-time. Answer to this all is simply; Finnish tax laws. In order to do that without getting jail-time, I would have to put up a small business of some kind and those are paying with blood right now. Not only that, but the following arm-wrestling with taxation officials would likely eat half our development time. I can't see it being worth the fight unless the money comes in truckloads.

Also, I have no delusions of grandeur. Even the cool guys are into crowdsourcing now, so the level of such projects is starting get beyond us. Seriously; Which one would you back – some of the greatest prolific designers ever to work on a specific genre – or us, the two random dudes from Finland with two penguin games under their belt? I know which I'd choose.

This isn't to say we don't support Kickstarter. On the very contrary; I've always believed in the concept of 'voting with my wallet' and this takes it to the next level, supporting the artists and developers directly. All-in-all, this could be best thing ever to happen in the world of commercial financing, especially for us fans of more non-mainstream subgenres.

Non-TAGAP questions

Given Windows 8 a go?

Yes I have. Long story short; I absolutely hate the Metro interface on a desktop. That's right – hate it! I'm not the one to use so strongly negative words on a regular basis, but here it is justified. If you are an elderly person who is wondering how to get to that Face Books your grandkids are raving about, then you won't have a problem with it. But if you're trying to get things done, Metro is there just to slow you down, forcing you to do three clicks in place of one and disorienting you by switching between two completely different user interfaces. I find it quite telling that Micosoft Answers service has 50 pages of bile-infused comments on the subject of 'disabling Windows Metro'.

On a plus side, it seems faster than Windows 7, definitely faster than Vista and is pretty darn stable for something labelled as Beta. And the Windows Beta mascot fish is adorable – not nearly as adorable as Tux, mind you, but cute nonetheless. But the Metro is still there, driving over all the good points. Twice. And lays cement over the remains. And probably laughs all the way to the bank.

You did GOTYs but left DLC out – name your DLC of 2011!

That would be Duke Nukem Forever: The Doctor Who Cloned Me. No, I didn't choose it because the title combines two-out-of-three of my all time favourite things in a pun-tastic manner. No, it's because it's an honest-to-goodness greatness and a proper, legitimate expansion.

Also, if you happen to be one of the few who followed DNF's production from the beginning, when the first Gearbox-trailers landed you likely noticed that the story was NOTHING like what was originally planned. Original Duke Nukem Forever was about Doctor Proton – the original antagonist of Duke Nukem (aka Duke Nukum) – cloning Duke and exacting his revenge on mankind. Guess what? This expansion IS that story, packed in a full-length 10+ hour campaign.

What is with the Doctor Who updates?

I live for three things; Penguin DT, friends (not the TV show) and Doctor Who. I've written about this earlier – and ended up as Fan of the Month on a prolific Doctor Who fansite for it – but I genuinely think Doctor Who is the best thing that has ever happened in any entertainment medium. Seriously; Name one other franchise where literally ANYTHING goes and it can go on forever without getting stale? Simply put, it's so crazy you can't help but to love it.

As for the updates, I'm one of those who didn't get to see the show until it's rebirth in 2005 – thanks to Finnish TV powers that be, the bastards – so I just thought it would be fun to write down a bit how the journey of experiencing almost 50 years worth of awesome on DVD turned out. Simple as that.

Phew, that was quite a keyboard-full! I hope this answered the questions in your mind. If not, feel free to drop us comments via our contact form.

Until next time,

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin