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Run a supernatural newspaper agency and lead your team of horror journalists through the investigation.

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This article sums up the development of Daily Chthonicle, including the last added features for the final release.

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About a year and a half ago, I set out to create my "supernatural journalistic game" without a very definite concept in mind, but with the main premise that it will be based upon a procedural story generator, something I had been toying with for quite a long time, but never gotten down to actually developing.

The original idea was to create an actual investigation game that, in essence, plays like a multichoice adventure, however offering the player potentially endless stories and possibilities in place of the usual forescripted affair. I have already tried out that approach to some degree with The Casebook of Terry Winter, but the case generator for it was a very early prototype, and it shows it's limits quite obviously.

What eventually came to be is very different from my original premise in some ways, even though I think it keeps a large bit of its original spirit. Having six characters in the game, with many stories to investigate, as it would be expected for a newspaper of DC's category, meant that the player won't have the time nor focus to follow or investigate those stories in the detail. I had to shift the direction away from the still very prototypish generator to the gameplay itself, because it is gameplay where the magic of a game hides.

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Unable to create a kind of gameplay that would actively revolve around the stories themselves, at that point, I thus decided to focus on all other aspects that I wanted to see in my game. For me, the reporters of DC were never just that, they were also this kind of noir-ish 'superheroes' fighting against supernatural horror, and the newspaper is merely a cover up story. So instead of making an investigative game, I made a sort of virtual board game, an RPG where the player must deal with encounters somewhat typical for an RPG, but with a tiny difference: instead of fighting nameless zombies, ghosts, monsters, I wanted each opponent in the game to have a story, to be connected to the game the player is playing. Even if that story, at this point, is not far as complex or dramatic as Mr Lovecraft himself could have done, it is a start, and I think not a bad start for something that is essentially still just an automaton.

There appears to be very little research done in the field of procedural storytelling. The topic actually borders that of general purpose ai, natural language processing, passing the turing test and similar problems. It is a problem of rather vast proportions, and not likely to be entirely solved any time soon. My second prototype, one I developed for Daily Chthonicle, is better than the first one, but more importantly, it was useful for me as a learning tool. The next one will be written from the scratch, but I am many times better prepared for it this time!

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So, whatever my next game will be, it will be built on experiences and knowledge I accumulated while developing DC. It will most likely include a new, better story generator and a much better language processor, less prone to grammatical errors and quirks. If that game happens to be "Daily Chthonicle 2", it will probably be a very different game, with focus on a single main story, one that is told in more detail and allows the player both better immersion and a chance for actual investigation.

Even with that all in mind, however, I still think Daily Chthonicle stands on its own as a game. It is small and casual, not groundbreaking, but still fun to play and even offers some actual challenge on higher levels. Because with experimental games, this is exactly the hardest thing to achieve - there can be as many new ideas, technologies and concepts built into a game, it won't help the game much if it isn't fun to play. This is always the main challenge for any new and never before tested approach.

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New Features

The encounter report genereator was improved in many ways, and now also creates more detailed reports in cases of failure. All the reports are meaningful and contain hints on use of equipment, spells and artefacts.

The game now sports a proper intro, loading screens and a game over screen. The end credits remain the same, but do restart to game menu instead of leaving the game in responseless state. They are also automatically copied to the clipboard.

New content, 40 new gang types, monster types, encounter types, quests, troubles and location sites. Also, there is now more content and variety in the story generator. Some inconsistencies and many language issues were also fixed.

The potions section of the shop has been renamed to spells, and now also includes all global effects and additional global modifiers for the spells themselves. This should also make things less confusing when the spell list is empty.

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The shop now requires you to Hire an ally, clicking on them will only select them, so you can still change your mind. If the ally is unavailable for some reason, the Hire button will be grayed but you can still click it to find out more.

In the shop, spells section, the Uninitiated button now allows you to click on it and get a tip on who may or may not use the spells.

The popup menu has icons for some items, and color circles for the reporters. When an item in the menu is grayed it may still be clicked, which usually brings up some explanation on why it is inactive.

The reporters may now be viewed even when off-screen, using the popup menu. Their card now properly reflects their current state of affairs, such as Recovering when in hospital or therapy, En route when returning to office, Taking a break when outside for coffee etc.

The equipment in Upgrade Shop may now be right-clicked to bring up the description card.

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The case files & reporter stories may now be scrolled like other windows.

When an equipment is disabled due to any of the encounter’s attributes, this is now better explained in the shop. For example, "protected" attribute comes with "Protected from mundane weapons" line explaining why those items are disabled.

The artefacts & tomes are more powerful now, but also more expensive.

All locations now have their photos displayed when events pop up.

The reporters may now also be equipped while still in the office.

The scoring system is now final, with dots gained or lost under certain circumstances (that part of manual still needs to be updated). Each dot will multiply the final score by 1.1. The current number of dots is displayed in the center of the status bar, however the manner of display is still likely to change.

Editor’s Edition now has its own separate high score board, which is now in beta-test phase, and will be reset upon the game’s final release. The new scoreboard link can be foud here: Sinistersystems.com

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The reporter names and descriptions can now be modified.

All popup windows/cards now have a close icon, and while a popup window is displayed, the time stops. This will prevent sudden encounters and similar while reading something.

While the time is stopped, whether because of a popup, an encounter or any other reason, the clock on the status bar will flash. Changing the game screen, bringing up the popup menu or any other popup view will close all other popups.

Final Thanks

To all the people that helped bringing this game to life:

To my SO Mateja, my parents, relatives and closest friends for supporting me all the time.

To Rotondo, for helping me with game's design, development, testing & being here in general.

To Marko Petrusic for making the wonderful soundtrack.

To Pinkerator for helping me publish the game and coping with marketing issues.

To Martin for beautiful artwork.

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To Cheapest Gamer, BillyVG, The Fragnostic, YKYMrFalcon, Libby, Purity Sin, Bostasan, Gordinho Sagaz and many other letsplayers for making the great videos of Daily Chthonicle.

To all the internet reviewers for the very friendly reception of the game and for helping me spread the word about it.

And last but not least, to all the players helping with their feedback, suggestions and bug reports during the entire development of the game, with special thanks to all the friendly Steam Early Access players for the final pieces of this raft to keep it afloat!

Matija Kostevc aka Charon@sinistersystems



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