After many weeks of debugging and optimization, it´s back to creating actual content – adding a rather unique element to the in-game dialogue system, to be precise about it.
The idea materialized while chatting with sound guru Martin Ahman about the Amigas demoscene, where Martin is deeply involved. He raved about the possibilities of streaming additional data in-game, something which very few Amiga productions ever did. In fact, I can only think of SWIV right now.
Then we continued to talk about RESHOOT PROXIMA 3 and what if the dialogue system would consist of more than just portraits of heroine and antihero plus some text pieces. How about intensifying the experience by giving heroine and antihero a voice – let them actually talk! While audio dialogue sounds trivial in the year 2020, on a computer system that has its roots in the early 1980s it is not.
Granted, the Amigas audio system is based on acoustic samples, so dialogue voices are technically easy to do. The challenge lies within the size of the speech samples. Even a minor sentence eats up 60 KB of RAM. This adds up to a substantial amount pretty fast. It was pretty clear from the start that I should not just load the samples at the start of the game, as this would occupy a lot of precious chip memory for questionable use.
I thought about implementing code which inits CD-Audio-tracks containing dialogue voices in sync to the spawning portraits, but dismissed that idea pretty quickly too – while it would probably work on CD32, I´d have to take care of an alternative solution for A4000 and my lead-platform, the A1200.
So, streaming the dialogue voice samples into memory only when they are needed and only if enough chip memory is available, seems like the best option. I never streamed anything into memory while gameplay is active, in none of my games before, but coding this still took me only about one hour - it was an amazingly smooth process. The code will need some heavy testing of course, but for now, on emulation, it runs fine. You can see and hear the result in the video. Please keep in mind that what you see there is prototype stuff. The text, the font, and the voice sample are all placeholders and will be replaced.
I´d like to ask you for some input about the narration structure. The antihero will always talk himself to enhance the drama, that´s settled. I wonder if the heroine should talk herself too, or if a narrator should tell her story. What do you guys think? Which type of voice would you love to hear?