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Weekly Update: Ludum Dare & New Puzzles

Ludum Dare was last weekend! Neither Issam nor I actually finished anything, but we both started some projects we want to keep playing with.

The theme was "You are the monster," which made me think of this Miyazaki quote that was going around a while ago:

It gave me a sort of vague idea about a sea monster, and as I started modeling it I got really caught up in it and decided to just work on the model/rigging all weekend. It came out like this:

I don't have any specific plans yet, but I'd like to at least be able to control the character in 3D space and see what it feels like. I'm mostly just curious about trying to convey a mood.

Issam remembered a game idea that we had brainstormed a long time ago and thought it would be fun to prototype it. The basic idea is that you're a vampire that needs to go to the dentist, but has to get there while avoiding the sun. It was Issam's first time making art - he used MagicaVoxel (he didn't make the character though)!

He got the game to a point where the character is controllable and the game can detect when you are being hit by the sun. He also spent some time working on traffic:

As for Color Thief, this week I've been making small changes to the new temple section, and beginning to work on the other side. 

Here's the other side right now:

I spent some time yesterday designing some new puzzles for both of these areas (where previous puzzles didn't quite fit in). We had been testing out puzzles as individual rooms, which worked well to quickly see how mechanics worked, but has been giving me a lot of trouble now that I need to make them fit into an actual level. I don't think this was necessarily the right approach. Here you can see some of my process on one of the puzzles:

On Tuesday night, Issam and I gave a talk at the local Autodesk Users' Group meeting about our Max to Unity pipeline, which you can also read about here! Our Friend Steve took some video for the documentary he's making with us, and he sent us some stills:

Issam talks with his hands.

Miles has been keeping things moving along by checking in on us to make sure we're always working:


Weekly Update: Rough Intro & Puzzle Arranging

For the first half of the week I've been working on a rough intro 'cinematic' for the game. I'd been working on it before RTX, but now it's at a point where we can plug it into the engine and see what needs work. It's not really a full cinematic, just a short animation to give the game a little more context.

This is what it looks like right now - imagine that the sky is blue.

I'm thinking I'll have some birds take off in the distance to trigger the head turn, and at this point you'll gain control of the character and walk him towards the temple. When you get to a certain point, we interrupt with this cinematic (which will definitely get some more polish!!): 

I want to see it in game before I put much more work into it. 

The second half of the week was spent cramming puzzles into the space I designed for them. ;) I had been testing a lot of puzzles on their own to see how the ideas worked, but I want to build out the second half of the chameleon temple, which means changing them around so they fit the space. It was kind of an ugly process, but I'm pretty happy with it right now.

We went from this: 

To this:

Issam had a little bit of time to work on some bugs this week!

Fire emits a light that matches its color, which causes some readability issues, so Issam added some white light to fire to counter this a little:

He also fixed a bug which was preventing us from putting fire on colorless water.

Lastly, he added water effects to shallow water: 

Miles spent some time in his brainstorming bag this week.

Who else is doing Ludum Dare this weekend?!! I will (hopefully) have some games to post on Monday. ;) 


Weekly Update: RTX Recap, Part 2: Playtesting Notes

The best part of showing your game at a conference is you get a TON of awesome feedback just from watching people play the game. It's a great, large-scale playtest. Here are some of the things we noticed, and some of the things we were able to fix this week: 


Design stuff: 

Orange, tan and yellow look really similar! 


The first big door needs to be turned orange - the challenge for the players is to wander around and find orange (discovering how ivy works in the process). Unfortunately, there's also some tan and yellow nearby and a lot of players tried these colors first (which is particularly bad in the case of tan, since they have to go kind of far to get it). Because they'd never seen a door that required two colors before, they were usually confused about how the door worked, as opposed to realizing they had the wrong color. This problem was easily solved by changing the door's fixed color to purple:



People try to climb this tree to get orange (now purple).



In this section the player is supposed to experiment with the ivy and figure out how to climb it - but the banyan trees are pretty climbable, so players would often spend a good 5min trying to climb them instead. I'm ok with players climbing trees, but sometimes they'd get kind of stuck and it was just generally a distraction. I just changed the type of tree: 



You can totally break this room by walking across the invisible collision on this wall art.



You're not supposed to be able to reach the purple door until you learn the concept in the puzzle, but some players found that they could walk on the collision from the wall art. I made it look a little more broken, so now there's nothing to climb across:



People won't try to make blue ivy.



I hadn't really thought of this as a 'puzzle' so much, so I was really surprised how many players got totally stuck here. I want the player to learn that you can use any color on organic objects, and you don't have access to any color besides blue, but players would take a long time trying to figure out how to get green in here (in some cases succeeding - see below). I added these pots as a simple indicator of "hey, you're going to need this color." At first I added some blue to the plants in the pots as well, but I think players might interpret them as being different types of plants, as opposed to really learning the concept. We will see!



Outstanding issues: 


You can get stuck if you take the colors from the big yellow door inside the temple and then fall.



We'd already been planning on making this door opening into a more cinematic moment, so now we're thinking we could just make the doors stay open. 


People are getting lost if they take a long time to solve a puzzle. Maybe there's something visual we can do to show them a room is complete, or that they've been in a room before (cobwebs, mini-map??). We need to think on this one some more.


Art stuff: 


Add spirals to sentinel columns.



The sentinel columns are separate objects than the gate, but they don't have their own 'fixed color' (spiral which shows the color they need to be). I really want to drive home the idea of spirals, so I added some:



Darken the gray chameleon in the sentinel hint.



It's a little hard to see the gray chameleon on the left (which is crucial to the clue), so I darkened him a bit:



You can get green past this sentinel!



This is puzzle breaking, so I broke it up into 2 pieces.



There's no ground under these tiles in room 12



Simple fix!



You can't reach this orange without some awkward geometry clipping.




There's actually a patch of dirt to the left that you can climb on, but players don't see it (since they're facing forward), so I moved the dirt a little so you can see it as soon as you climb up:



Do another pass on what objects are separated.





All of the objects are manually separated by me, so there are inconsistencies - this playtest gave me a good list of some to fix! 


Technical stuff for Issam to fix when he's not working on his contract: 


- Climbing - if camera is not pointing straight at the chameleon, it's easy to fall off of the ivy/ladders

- When you try to jump down from a ledge near ivy, the chameleon automatically grabs the ivy. He should just fall. 

- Jumping out of water is hard/jumping is still a little hard!

- Bug where color somehow ends up on surfaces that are far away from you

- Bug where you get stuck on a blade of grass and can't move ever again...

- Bug where you can get stuck inside of the sentinel if it closes on you (or in some cases you pop up onto the top of it). 

- The broken ladder in room 12 is really hard to jump to

- Add a behind-the-scenes timer to the demo, so we get get some metrics on how long the game is taking?

Other Games that People Suggested We Check out:



Here's Miles suggesting we play some older games for more inspiration!



RTX Recap, Part 1: Cost Breakdown

We did it!! We survived RTX 2015!! It was a totally awesome, exhausting 3 day weekend of showing our game to a wonderful crowd that gave us great feedback on Color Thief!

I thought it might be helpful for other developers to see a quick cost breakdown from this event - especially since this was on the lower-end of what you might expect to pay showing your game at a convention. RTX was an inexpensive option for us because we are local and we got an 'indie price' for the booth - it was our first time paying for a booth of our own, and it was a great place to start.

Here's a quick list of the event specific costs: 

Booth price: $500. We paid for a 5x5 booth, but when we got to the event we were surprised to find out we'd actually been given a 10x10, which was pretty rad. The expo was open from 12-5 on Friday and 9-6 on Saturday & Sunday. 

Booth electricity: $86. Generally at conventions you have to pay an additional cost for electricity.

Because we're located in Austin, we didn't have to rent or buy any equipment for the event. We brought my TV and larger monitor, and our laptops to show the game. Happily, we didn't have to pay anyone to move any of our equipment for us, and we could handle this all on our own (I think this can be different depending on the convention and how much equipment you need to bring.) I also brought some folding chairs from home for us to sit on (2 chairs were provided, but since our demo is on the longer side, we let players sit while playing).

Postcards $110 (500 - 2 types). We bought our postcards from Vistaprint, and chose 2 designs and printed the back in black and white. We ran out of cards by noon on Sunday, so we definitely should have ordered more. We tried to hand them out to anyone that stopped to watch the game - it was a good way to initiate conversation with them about the game (which is hard for me because I'm shy! The postcards made it easier!)

Snacks: $20. We bought a bunch of granola bars, raisins, protein bars and peanut butter crackers to keep under the table since relying on snacks you can buy at the convention center can get crazy expensive (not to mention they mostly have candy bars and chips, which aren't the best fuel when you're on your feet for 9 hours).

Meals: $50 (lunch 2 days + Issam's expensive coffee). On day one we just ate our snacks for lunch, but we found that it was much better for our energy to buy real food at the convention. :) 

Parking: $15 x3. The event was downtown, so we still had to pay for parking, but $15 really isn't too bad, and we were able to find parking really close to the convention center. :)


Reusable stuff: 

Banners: $15 x2 (vertical banners - we only displayed one, but we couldn't choose which design to print, so we tried both), $10 x1 (horizontal banner), $45 vertical banner stand. We bought these all from Vistaprint during a sale, so we saved about 50% on the banners themselves. The quality was good - we are happy with them, and will use them the next time we show the game.

Mood Rings: $130 (800 - we still have 1/2 of them) In addition to our post cards, we thought it would be fun to hand out mood rings to everybody that tried our game. We bought them from DHGate.com.

T-shirts: 2 black, 2 gray, 1 test shirt ($3 each), spray on color (2x $6), Iron-On Transfers (already had them, maybe $15?) +1/2 day of work. At the last second (on Wednesday before the event) I realized that we should probably have some company shirts. They would have been cheaper if we'd ordered them online, but I ended up spending about a half of a day making some. I used dark-color iron-on transfers to make company logo shirts (unfortunately this meant cutting out all of the letters individually), and spray-on color to make 'color-change' shirts.


Labor of love.

Final product.

I may have gotten some green on some of Issam's things (+ the balcony....)

Unfortunately only one of these shirts survived the wash, but they'd be easy enough to make again if we wanted to. The iron-on transfers have held up pretty well (I've had bad luck with those in the past) so we should be able to reuse them. That said I'll probably order some more durable company shirts from Cafepress.

Other supplies (Bowl for rings, string, things to hang horizontal banner): $20. Hanging the horizontal banner was a challenge at first since it wanted to curl up on the sides, but I ran some string from the sides to the metal bars that formed the 'wall' behind our booth and it worked really well.

In total, this event cost us around $1100. Minus about 10min at the start of each day while attendees walked into the expo, we ALWAYS had 2 people playing the game, which was pretty awesome. The demo runs about 20min, so we're estimating that we had about 150 people play the demo. I was really surprised how many people returned to our booth more than once (a few people even played the demo more than one time!), or came back later with friends. We also had a lot of people show up and say that someone had sent them to check it out. :) 

It was a great event for us and we got a ton of great feedback. I'll be making a post later in the week about what we learned, design-wise. Thank you thank you thank you to everyone that tried our game!! 



Weekly Update: RTX

We will be showing Color Thief at RTX today through Sunday! If you're in Austin, come by and see us!


Weekly Update: Chameleon Temple Layout

This week I've been working a bit on the layout of the 2nd half of the Chameleon Temple. The current idea is to have the remaining 4 puzzles split between these 2 buildings, with the building at the end being the goal. 

Here's a view of the Max file: 

And here's the (currently boring looking) inside of one of those buildings. :) 

It's been interesting trying to fit it together with the first part of the temple.

Right now you can jump down to part one (but then you get stuck). :)

Earlier in the week, Issam and I each gave separate presentations about our jobs to some 10-16 year-olds at a local camp that teaches kids how to make games

(Yes, I had to show them the weird bird skeleton)

We also got our banners and postcards for RTX, which is coming up soon!

Here's Miles being adorable:


Weekly Update: Banners & Octopus Temple

Super quick update today since I'm leaving in 15min to help Issam move! ;)

I started working on the visuals for the Octopus Temple this week! It's been a little slow going, since I'm not really sure exactly where I'm headed with it yet:

We also ordered some banners and postcards since we're going to be showing the game at RTX (8/7-8/9). We bought Megagrab from the Unity Asset Store to get high res (7680 x 3800) screenshots. It works well. 

Banners: (We'll probably just display one - we're just not really sure what the space will be like yet)


Back of postcards:

I've been hearing some feedback that our title font needs work... so I guess I should get on that. ;)  

Issam also made the flowers grow with color in game, but he didn't check it in... I will post it next week!

Here's Miles being fierce:


Weekly Update: Plants

This week continued the trend of making more living things that can react to color! I made a couple of different types of flowers to try out, as well as a butterfly. They're not currently hooked up in game, but here are the animations:

The idea is that the butterfly can fade in after awhile when flowers are given color. Or maybe it will only happen after an area gets a certain amount of color? You won't be able to take color from th butterflies though, since they are so small. 

I also started placing some grass in the first outdoor area, which will grow when the ground has color. I want to get a little more creative with it - like having it grow up the sides of walls, etc - but it's pretty tedious and I don't want to spend time on it right now. ;)

Halfway through the week I started making the switch back into puzzle-making mode. Issam is still working on a contract, but in his limited free time he's been hooking up some things I had asked for awhile ago. Now I need to start using them!

Here's Miles trying to invent a new, low-energy typing style: 


Weekly Update: Bird Wings

So the week before last I thought I'd just make a bird for the game, no problem. Unfortunately I completely underestimated how weird bird wings are, and got caught up in trying to make a correct wing fold, which looks like this (at the 2min mark you can see the fold on a real bird): 

I tried to copy this, adding extra bones so that I had more control over the 'feathers' when the wing folded, but I just kept fighting with the skinning for like a week:

I feel like I got pretty close and maybe could have continued fiddling with it until I got it right, but Issam suggested just making a really quick version even if it was incorrect, just so we could put the bird in game and see if it was even worth it. I ended up with this version: 

Honestly, even though it folds incorrectly and the skinning still looks a little wonky when the wings are extended, it seems to work well enough for something that is basically a prop.. 


Also, just to freak you out, I've once again used a biped rig as my base rig, which leads to a really freaky looking skeleton under there:  

(Also here's a bonus hilarious example from a few months ago:)

I've also started working on some flowers... but they're not very far along yet. :) 

Issam is still working on his contract.

Miles is.. still 'studying' water


Weekly Update: Fish & Ferns

This week has been a little slow since I was working on another project on Monday & Tuesday, but from Weds on I've been working on more things that can come alive when given color: 



Other bush:

Issam made it so you can stack fire on top of pots without it falling off:

Here's Miles studying the way birds move to help me finish my bird from last week.