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Quadrilateral Cowboy developer diary details ghost cursors, tracelines, and player respect

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Quadrilateral Cowboy traceline

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Brendon Chung's upcoming hacking-heisting hybrid Quadrilateral Cowboy (opens in new tab) caught our notice with its baud-beeps, script wizardry, and intuitive puzzles harnessing a mobile "deck" computer for solving. In a blog entry (opens in new tab) posted today, Chung began a series of in-depth looks at the code keeping Cowboy's code behaving normally. For now, Chung kept his focus on wrangling tracelines: a direct line from the player's view to whatever they observe.

"There's something exciting about creating a system and then putting it through its paces," Chung explained. "While artistic creativity plays a large part of game development, it also tickles that pleasure center of creating a finely-tuned clockwork machine, brimming with a billion moving parts working in concert with one another. Then one day your baby is released out into the wild and you hope those billion moving parts don't violently implode on themselves."

Chung describes how a "ghost cursor" situated at the end of the traceline determines where objects get placed as the player shifts his or her view, starting from a fundamental "stupidly easy & simple implementation" (or SE&S, as Chung shortened it) to snapping multiple tracelines together to avoid ugly collision issues with the environment.

"If making your game lean is a goal, then stuff like this is definitely fat," Chung stressed. "Players have a finite amount of time and energy for you. Everything that goes into the project has to answer one question: Is it respecting the player's goodwill or squandering it?" At least I'll sound somewhat like a tech savant when I blame my inevitable puzzle failings on "those darn tracelines."

Quad Cow, as we're calling it around the office, is out this year. Here's a quick preview .

Omri Petitte is a former PC Gamer associate editor and long-time freelance writer covering news and reviews. If you spot his name, it probably means you're reading about some kind of first-person shooter. Why yes, he would like to talk to you about Battlefield. Do you have a few days?