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Weekly Update: Ivy & Sentinels


Issam is coming back this weekend! Hooray!

This week I've been working a bit on the ivy and how I want it to look. Here's a mockup I made in Max of how I'd like it to work (unforunately the Vine drops a lot of frames):


I want the uncolored ivy to crumble when the chameleon touches it. I think we can do this by buiding the ivy in little clusters with their own trigger boxes.

Also this is what the leaves look like with normals (although they're a bit too light right now):

I've also been working on the sentinel redesign, which is pretty much done, I just need to export it with the correct hierarchy:

Miles has been trying to figure out how to get water out of this glass:



Weekly Update: Tree Root Level

Issam is still in New York working on a contract!

I started off the week looking into a different sort of level layout, to see how the camera handled it. I think it worked pretty well, so I definitely want to try to create more spaces like this that have more verticality to them:

Most of the rest of the week I was working on this new puzzle. It's pretty much working now: 

Miles may or may not have destroyed this roll of toilet paper:


Weekly Update: Level Design Problems

So this week I've mostly been working on level design ideas! Ever since we decided to try to build puzzles out as separate rooms during this phase of the project, I've been trying to figure out a good workflow for coming up with puzzles. 

I'm finding that this top-down map style of design doesn't really work that well for our project. I want this game to have a lot of exploration, but in forming levels this way, I usually end up with something really simplified and boxy, and it's hard to really visualize the space. I've found that a more effective way of making the puzzles is to start to block something out and get it into game as soon as possible - then I can walk around in it and figure out what makes the most sense. In fact, my most recent puzzle came from me realizing that I'd built the level in such a way that the player could easily get stuck.

That said, after brainstorming a bit on the Frog Temple, I started thinking about stacking structures and playing with different heights, which is something top-down design really doesn't allow for - so now I want to see what I can do to start thinking about them more dimensionally. I think the best way to design might be to just start in Max, and see what happens.

Some (probably) Chameleon Temple level brainstorming: 

Thinking about trees and how they can mix things up. Starting to get into some Frog Temple stuff at the bottom (lily pads).

Some Octopus and Arctic Fox Temple ideas.

Frog Temple ideas, thinking about stacking.

Here are the new puzzles I blocked out this week. Only the middle one is currently "complete" as a puzzle. The other 2 are in a place where I want to start playing with them.

Here's what Miles has been doing!:


Color Thief at Fantastic Arcade!

Color Thief is going to be a Bonus Game at this year's Fantastic Arcade! 

You can read the details and see the other games here!: http://fantasticfest.com/news/entry/fantastic-arcade-2014-showcase-and-frenzy


Weekly Update: Art & Puzzles

I've been skipping around working on a bunch of different things this week, so as a result I didn't really close anything out. ;) Issam is still contracting in upstate NY. 

Early in the week I did this really quick test when I was thinking about how the ivy could "open up" when given color. I tried both vertex animation and bone animation. I like that the vertex animated version can start small and grow, but I like the motion better on the one animated with bones. 

I worked on laying out the demo level a little more, and put some markers for spawn points so you can go from one room to another. 

I also started working on one of the new puzzles and found that it wasn't working as expected, so I spent a solid day trying to turn it into something. It's still not really a puzzle! >:(

Also I've been working on some art for the outdoor section:

Here's Miles looking peaceful:


Weekly Update: Refocusing & Contract Work

A couple of big things happened this week!

The first is that Issam was asked to do a contract in upstate New York, so he'll be away for 3 weeks! I'm sure progress will be a bit slower, since he'll be working long hours and won't have a lot of free time to work on our project.

The second is that we refocused and changed our short-term plan a bit. Because we needed to build the tutorial section first so that playtesters could understand what to do, we'd been assuming we would just build the game linearly. I did a pass on the second section of the temple and had started designing the third area, but we started to notice some issues with working this way. It felt too much like we had moved into a 'production phase' even though there are a ton of ideas we haven't prototyped yet, and we're still not sure how much game we'll really have once we sort through all of our ideas. Our new plan is to keep the tutorial section, and then build a bunch of separate puzzle rooms from there, not worrying as much about how they fit together. After we know what works, we can pay more attention to the structure of the temple.

So far this week I've been deciding which puzzles we already had that I wanted to keep for this new demo setup, as well as designing some new puzzles on paper. I've got about a dozen rooms that we'd like to try (although so far a lot of them are repeats from before). 

I also started chunking up the existing rooms so that they were easier to work with individually. 

And here's Miles shamelessly napping at work:


Weekly Update: Housekeeping & Fire System

This week, Issam did some housekeeping/workflow stuff for us (I'll go into more detail below) and started rebuilding the fire system so we can start digging into the fun stuff

Here's some fire with basic functionality:  

And here he started playing with how it works: 

Issam also started work on a system for the chameleon to carry objects, and made it so that the sentinels can handle closing on a block.  

I was mostly dealing with the boring housekeeping stuff this week. First, I've been ignoring missing texture errors for like, a year, so I started doing some work to get rid of those, and getting our file structure straight.

Next, because we're placing everything in Max and exporting directly into Unity, we haven't been using Unity's prefab system. This way I can see everything that I need to in Max at all times - but unfortunately means if we want to change the way something like doors or sentinels are structured of look, I have to manually replace them all in all of my Max files, which is really bad. Issam made a system where I can export a main 'prefab' and then export it from my Max file using dummies and naming conventions: 

The issue with this is that I can't see how the sentinels fit into the level itself, which makes it harder to work on the art. After some messing around with settings, we found that we can use XRef Scene in Max (XRef Object seems to have some issues), and bind the reference to the same dummy I use to export in order to place it in the scene exactly as it will appear in game:

I've replaced all of the sentinels in the first section of the level and it seems to be working as expected so far, which is good! Next I will do a pass on the doors. 

Also at the end of last week I had started looking into a way to design the sentinels a little better, (I did these sketches). On Sunday I tried to model the one that has just a gigantic eye on it and it was horrible. Fortunately, after poking around in Sri Lankan temple reference some more, I found Kelaniya Temple, which has some beautiful columns in the front.

I had already seen some examples of similar columns,

and tried to incorporate them into my design:

But after seeing the elephants on the bottoms of Kelaniya's columns in particular, I thought I'd see if I could work that sort of design into the sentinels. 

This is what I have at the moment. Mostly just starting to block it out. I plan on still having the chameleon statues heads rotate, to show that they are looking at you.

This was also cool because I started thinking about how the relief sculptures can work (it's something I've been worrying about), and I realized I can just position the chameleon model, take an animation snapshot, and then flatten him out. I think it looks pretty neat: 

Anyway, forward progress!

Here's Miles considering an alternate career as a male model: 


Weekly Update: Playtest Notes & Sentinel Brainstorm

We had a much busier week!

On Tuesday we had a new person playtest the first section of our game, and I incorporated some small level tweaks from that:

- Added tiles to this level

- Elongated this room a bit, so you can see the tops of the sentinels as soon as you come in (important to solving the puzzle)

- Replaced yellow door with a big door, so players can start learning the concept that larger things require more color to become fully saturated.

Additionally, I acted on some feedback Issam had given me for this puzzle in section 2. It's pretty busy, so it's easy to lose track of where you are - I thought sticking a tree in the middle would help ground you a little. It looks a little boring currently, but I'll make it look better.

The top part looks cool though. :) 

We spent a lot of the week working on trying to make the sentinels read better (and then unfortunately some of the changes didn't show up in game when our playtester did his runthrough). We made a small series of changes: Issam worked on the sentinel trigger box size, tweaked the head and eye tracking, and made the walls close only when you're near it. We also realized that we needed a better system for propogating changes to the sentinels since we're building everything in Max. We spent some time looking into Max referencing, and Issam is spending this next week working on making a system similar to the way prefabs work in Unity - so that I can see everything in Max, and not have to manually replace things when I made changes. Issam also made a small change to the way object color sizes are calculated.

Today I started brainstorming a bit about what the sentinels should really look like, since I still consider them placeholder, and we could probably design them a little better to communicate their function. Here's just a first page of starting to think about it. I think the main thing will be drawing the players' attention to the moving eyes. 

Miles 'played' with a dog this week. :)


Weekly Update: More Brainstorming & Sentinel Puzzle

We started out the week with more brainstorming, particularly dealing with fire and ice: 

The idea of pouring out any sort of water is probably too big of a headache to deal with, but brainstorming is brainstorming!

We're particularly interested in the idea of having little animals to interact with, especially since there won't be any other characters in the game (click here to see birds). A loong time ago we made this weird little prototype of "birds" coming to life with color, and it was kind of neat. :) I also hadn't considered the interaction of water and fire (vs. inactive fire) before and I think there are some puzzle ideas there. 

This page is obviously a little less fleshed out. :) Just thinking!!

I also did another pass on the final puzzle in the second section - splitting it into 2 separate puzzles. I had Issam play through them for the first time this afternoon, and it's still a bit off, so I'll do another pass on the design. 

When I tested the second area the other week, we realized that there are still some readibility issues with the sentinels, that made it really hard to figure out a bunch of the puzzles in this section - so Issam has been playing with the idea of having a visual "line of sight" that appears when the sentinels see you: 

Unfortunately this is a bit more heavy-handed than we thought it would be... While we were looking at it, we tried to do a quick effect to make the eyes "glow" but that's pretty awful too. :)

We have some more subtle ideas to try out - like making the head start looking at you from farther away, and lightening the color of the chameleon statue so it doesn't blend into the pillar as much. Also maybe making the actual pupil of the statue a different color (sort of like the failed eye-glow).

Miles spent the majority of the day sleeping in this bag: 


Weekly Update: Brainstorming & Prototyping

So we know we have some mechanics that work, and so far it seems like we can make them into levels that are interesting, but one of the main ideas for this game is to keep repetition to a bare minimum. We'd like to keep riffing on ideas and introduce new mechanics (that are logically connected) as often as possible. For example, the start of the first temple is mostly learning about color manipulation, doors and sentinels - the next section is all puzzles that deal directly with manipulating the sentinels, and the third part will revolve around fountain puzzles. (That's the initial plan anyway.) This of course means we need some more ideas proven out besides sentinels, fountains and fire... so we're taking some time now to brainstorm and play with other ideas. Here are the ideas from this week: 

Issam started playing with the idea of opening up vines/cloth curtains: 

He also hooked up the block pushing animations: 

I also started trying to replace a boring puzzle in the end of the 2nd part of the temple. This chaos is what currently exists in the game... ;)

Miles helped us set up our new modem: