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Thursday
Jan222015

Weekly Update: Fire & Frog Temple

I'm doing any early blog post this week since we're going to PAX South tomorrow through Sunday! 

Issam started the week by finishing off some of the lighting work he's been doing. Currently the whole game has ambient lighting, so he made a system where I can add vertex color information to models to change the intensity of the ambient light. (We want the fire casting light to become a puzzle element, which only works if we can have areas that are totally dark). 

We also played around a little with the new point lights and realized they could work pretty effectively as bounce lighting:

The rest of the week he's been working on re-making fire based on my prototypes. I think by next week we'll be able to start testing it in some puzzles! One thing we're adding is that fire will burn out in a second or two if it's not on a 'fuel source' like the initial fire spawner, or maybe wood or leaves (only with color!)

I started to work a little bit on some possible directions for effects. When I was working on the tiered fountain, I modeled some water ripples - which made me realize that I needed to start thinking about how some of that stuff might actually work. :)

I did this test, which I think looks a little too much like jello... but it's a start. (This is just in Max)

Also I worked a bit on the fire model. I want to try adding some bones and seeing what I can do with skinned animation - we'll see what happens!

I spent the last couple of days starting to think about the art direction of the levels set in the frog temple. There's a color-changing frog called the White's Tree Frog which hails from Australia, so I want the temple to be shaped after aboriginal art and architecture. This is what I have so far.

Here's Miles um... inside the blinds.

Friday
Jan162015

Weekly Update: Lighting

I didn't do very much this week... -_- so here is Issam's update:

We use Visual Studio to edit our code and shaders, but it does not have any syntax highlighting for the Unity shader files (.shader, .cg, .cginc, .compute). This week I modified a product called NShader to add support for that. From the product description: "NShader is an extension to Visual Studio 2008/2010/2012 that provides syntax highlighting for various shader languages including HLSL - GLSL - CG". I made it support visual studio 2013 only (less code), added Unity shader files support and allowed to change the color options in the Visual Studio "Fonts and Color" menu.

Our version of NShader can be downloaded here: 

 

To reduce draw calls during our shadow rendering (for better performance) we use something that we call "Shadow Meshes" ... well at least I call them that :) The main concept is for every FBX that Cat exports, we find all objects inside it that are going to be static in the game and we create one big mesh that's the merging of all those meshes. The following picture illustrates that: on the left is the imported FBX of one of the game sections, it includes around 300+ static game object. On the right is the generated mesh that we can use as 1 draw call to create the shadow that are due to all those objects. This week I fixed a problem with the way we generate this mesh, it was not correct if the root of the imported FBX had a rotation.

 

  

 

For lighting, we created a system of "light colliders". The idea is that we use the physics system to figure out what objects are affected by our point lights, and only turn on the "Point Lights" option of our shaders for those objects, to do this we create automatically at import a box collider for every object that can be lit (right now this is everything). This means that now we have a lot of colliders in our game :) The image below illustrates that, the green lines are the contours of colliders:

 

 

We had to work around a bug in the Unity editor related to having that many collides. We need to disable those colliders when in the editor or doing any undo is really slow, so at import when I create all our colliders I disable them and I also create a component that re-enable all those colliders when we start the game.

 

The following three images show how our game looks like with different options:

 

1) No HDR - No shadow - No Post FX

 

 

2) No HDR - Shadow - No Post FX 

 

 

3) HDR, Shadow, Post FX

 

 

Here's Miles helping Cat unpack from vacation

 

 

Friday
Jan092015

Weekly Update: New Fountains, Puzzle Designs & Lighting

I'm still at my parents this week, so I didn't get as much work done as I would have liked... but this week I worked on a couple of small things.

I redesigned the fountains so that you can actually get into them and take the color from the water. It's really hard to get the blue from the original small ones:

So I had made this really weird looking placeholder fountain ;)

And here's the new one. :)

 

I also spent some time working on new puzzle designs, so here are some scribbles:

And here's a new one I'm building (it's pretty featureless so far):

 

Issam is working on our project again! Since I was messing with fire stuff, we realized that we hadn't added point light support to the new shaders Issam made (we can't use normal Unity lighting because of the way our material/shaders support color changing). Issam added point light support this week, and also made the code handle multiple lighting sources better.

 

Miles has been exploring the inside of Issam's lamp. ;)

Friday
Jan022015

Weekly Update: Playtest Feedback

Happy New Year!! 

I'm still on vacation at my parents' house, so I didn't get a lot done this week - but I did have a friend playtest all of the puzzles I've made so far and I thought I should type up the notes I got from watching her play. Some of them are things that we already knew about and still haven't figured out, but I got some new ideas. :)

 

Blue door. The first two doors that you open require green - but the third one you encounter is blue. I had initially placed the door to teach the idea that different color spirals means different color requirements, and I had a small "puzzle" where you opened another door to go find some blue. It felt a bit boring and weird, so we took it out and just assumed that people would figure out the color thing.

I think that people do figure it out - but when my friend was playing I realized it would be pretty simple to put a fountain in there (already on) and show that you can take the color from the water in the fountain. That way you're seeing the fountains earlier in the level (right now you don't see them until you need to turn one on - it seems to make more sense to show you what they do first).

Ivy puzzle. When the player walks out into the garden for the first time, they need to find 2 spots of orange color. The first one is at the top of a patch of ivy, and the other one is at the top of a patch of ivy that doesn't have color (so you need to add color in order to climb it.) The main issue here is that ivy without color looks very different from ivy with color - and we're not really giving you an opportunity to make the connection between the two before it's a requirement to interact with it.

Now I'm thinking I can place some extra ivy near the colored ivy - it still looks different, but I think it's more likely that players will make the connection if they can see both of them next to each other. That ivy won't help you do anything, but then when you see the third patch, you'll have some idea of what it is.

Sentinel. We've been working on issues of clarity for the sentinel for a long time, and we've gotten it to a point where most players do figure it out, but after seeing one more person spend a significant chunk of time staring at it, I've decided to just go all the way and make some 'wall art' that spells out how the sentinels work. I don't have a problem with players taking a long time to solve puzzles, but this really isn't a puzzle - it's a rule that they need to learn to solve puzzles later, so I think it's ok to spell it out.

 

Add water puzzle before big water puzzle. We used to have a water puzzle where you specifically learned about turning the water solid, but it was awkward so I took it out. When my friend was playing I realized that it had been really important to specifically point out that feature of water before the final 'big puzzle' in the tutorial section (which requires that you solidify the water). 

Still need to fix layout of big rooms. I've written about it before, but there are some overall layout issues with the big room in the tutorial section - your two main goals are the big yellow and purple doors, but the players don't usually noticed them before entering into the smaller rooms. I need to figure something out...

 

She also played through all of my new puzzles, and I'm pretty happy with how that went. We still need to figure out how we can keep players from getting stuck in some rooms though (it's possible to move the color around enough that you can no longer complete the puzzle).

 

Issam is still working on a contract, but it's over soon! Maybe I will have some updates from him next week!

Miles is practicing being a goalie.

Friday
Dec262014

Weekly Update: Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

This was a short week since I left to visit my parents, but I was able to make some changes at the beginning of the week! I started off by going back to the fire and making the fire pots work - they create fire when you give them color. and make new fire if you 'take it away' (by taking the color and moving it):

Because of this you can actually make unlimited fire (which we will probably change ;) ): 

I also spent some time making a new puzzle, which is mostly functional right now: 

I'm spending a couple of weeks with my family, so Issam & Miles are hanging out together back in Texas. :D

Friday
Dec192014

Weekly Update: Fire & New Puzzles

This week I've been continuing work on fire - now they combine when you light two of them next to each other: 

Which means you can make bigger fires:

Which means bigger unlit fires:

We went to a playtesting meetup on Tuesday night, so we got to test the 2 new puzzles, and I made a few small changes afterwards.

This is the first room (I posted some pics of it last week)

And this is the 2nd:

Look there's a drain!

One of the issues with the playtest was that I had cut out a section of the game after we made new sentinels and ivy (the old ones didn't work anymore), so I wasn't teaching the players concepts that would help with the new puzzles. I realized I could already put one of them back into the game, so I worked on that:

And then yesterday I played a little bit with putting puzzles that require pushing back into the game:

Obviously I jumped around a little bit... Today I'm going back to the fire since it's not quite finished enough to go into any puzzles yet. :)

Here's what Miles has been doing:

Friday
Dec122014

Weekly Update: New Sentinels & Carrying

After finishing my Ludum Dare game last weekend (weee!), I started off this week by tweaking the design of the sentinels based on some feedback and issues. I'm hoping that this helps a bit.  

They used to look like this: 

Now they look like this: 

The tops are flatter and the little statues are lower, which might help with some readability issues (I hope!),

After that I 'finished up' one of the puzzles I was working on last week and tested it on Issam. Happily, he was able to solve it, but not too quickly! I will start testing it on people and getting feedback:

The last couple of days I've been going back into the fire system (Issam had deleted my placeholder stuff to start working on a more final version -- but he never finished so I'm remaking it again! >:( )

This time I'm also adding placeholder carrying functionality, since I've got a bunch of puzzles that I'd like to test out. 

It took me awhile to get this working correctly....

Here's Miles exploring the hallway outside of my apartment: 

Monday
Dec082014

Ludum Dare: Constellations

I made a game this weekend for Ludum Dare (by myself!! :O)! Technically I went over by about 4 hours so I didn't submit it. :) The theme was "Entire Game on One Screen"

How to play: Use the left and right arrow keys (or A & D) to steer your little space fish. Look through the magnifying glass to see which stars are good which ones are bad. Collect good stars to build constellations!

CLICK HERE TO PLAY!!!

Friday
Dec052014

Weekly Update: Designing Puzzles

I spent most of the week designing new puzzles and the second half starting to build some (and revisiting a few that I'd started a long time ago). 

Here are some level ideas: 

And some in-progress levels.

Miles has been hanging out in this cat tent I made from a tshirt:

Friday
Nov282014

Weekly Update: Organizing Puzzles

This week I've been going through old designs and organizing them. :) I'm building a doc that breaks down what mechanics are needed for each puzzle (and if it's currently possible to build in game), and then I can assess what kinds of puzzles I currently have, and what direction I should be trying to explore in. It will also help me figure out a priority list for which new mechanics we need first when Issam finishes his contract!

Document:

I've also been going through old scribbled ideas and trying to turn them into actual puzzles.

Not the prettiest update, but work is getting done!! 

Miles has been thoroughly exploring Issam's apartment.