Surprising no one, it has been over two months since my last Carla Duty update. I have actually continued to refine the game, making necessary improvements and bug fixes to the mechanics and adding in stat tracking, save states, and necessary behind-the-scenes functionality to allow me to build the Carla Duty I envision in my head.
Within the last week, based on late-night shower revelations, I changed the core mechanic of the game to a SameGame-style matching — I believe this will allow better integration of the central themes of tedious jobs, employee/manager relations, and inequality. Previously, the game's central mechanic revolved around endless matching and combination of resource tiles (for example combining three copy tiles makes one stapled packet tile) and after hours of play testing I realized that the difficulty increases and playability of a match 3 game decreases when more tile types are present. By the time that I would get to the fourth level of combined resources there would be about 10 different tile types represented on the board, which would quickly lead to a situation where nothing could be combined. There were a few possible solutions to this, none of which were very attractive: increase the size of the board, which seemed to make an already-cluttered game even harder to understand; decrease the number of tiles seeded in new levels, which kept the game at an even difficulty but necessitated additional UX to explain what the hell was going on; or make sure that there were a ton of special "combo" tiles to clear out parts of the board, which was the easiest to implement and overall best mechanic but still had the feel of a kludge to get match 3 working for this concept. Additionally, since Carla Duty is a game about work, there are gameplay concepts about work/life balance and employer expectations that are central to the theme that were difficult to integrate into a match 3 game without adding a ton of confusing status messages, progress bars, or deleting teh concepts altogether in the name of oversimplification.
Instead the SameGame mechanic allows me to keep the matching mechanics (and thereby most of the code for the game) but provides an obvious "end" to each level or day of work. The user can match tiles and reduce the board as much as they can and then be presented with an end-of-day summary that calculates the previously difficult-to-determine work/life balance and employer expectations based on how efficiently and quickly they cleared the screen and how their performance compared to previous attempts. This also gives me a good point to acquaint the user with their boss character and provide a chance to insert story without making it seem like a last minute addition. Resource tiles can still function in much the same way they did before, with combined resources appearing in the next day's board, and allowing some of the previous level-progression mechanics to stay in the game (where the price to advance to level one is combining three stapled packets into a report, etc. etc.)
So despite the slow pace of development (is that actually surprising to anyone?) I think that Carla Duty is in a great spot, and I hope to have a new alpha to the team within a short period!