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William Chyr
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« Reply #1220 on: December 11, 2018, 10:05:35 AM »

Devlog Update #357 - 12/11/2018

Latest development update video is now up!





This one ended up longer than usual, but there was a lot of ground to cover.

Tech

The save system and level loading system had been persistent problems for a long time, and getting the two to work together was especially challenging. A large part of the issue was due to the complexity of these systems. Manifold Garden has persistent save - you can carry objects between levels, save the game at any point and restore to that exact state. On top of that, we have dynamic level loading - once the game starts, there is no load screen of any kind. Instead, levels are loaded and unloaded automatically in the background.

Behind the scenes, there's a lot going on. Scenes need to be tracked and save data needs to be updated accordingly. If a particular scenario is overlooked, it's easy to end up with duplicate data, causing the game to not load or save. This was a major problem for playtesters as it prevented them from progressing very far. After spending quite a bit of time tackling this issue, we're happy to say that these issues are fixed. At least, we haven't seen observed them in the playtests for a while.

Otherwise, for tech, it’s been a lot of little bugs here and there. Object physics behaving weirdly in certain points, being able to noclip into the wall if you change gravity at just the right angle, stuff like that. We’ve been addressing these as they come up.

Audio

We were having a lot of issues with audio at one point. Sounds crackling, sounds getting delayed, sounds not playing at all.

In the end, a lot of it turned out to be the way we had things set up in FMOD. For the team, this was our first time using FMOD, and there’s a lot of nuance to the program. The number of active voices you can have, which sounds are streamed, etc. A lot of the problems didn’t come up when testing individual levels, but once you have the whole game running, and hundreds of objects loaded all emitting sound, that was when it became an issue. Fortunately, a lot of the problems have since been addressed.

We also added a custom audio occlusion system. While the basics of the system were straightforward, getting audio occlusion to work across portals proved to be much trickier.

In the video, starting a 5:55, you can check out a short preview of the audio design and an explanation of the audio occlusion system.

Art

The art style of the game is pretty finalized. Most of the remaining tasks are polish.

There are minor things like the button here needing to be updated to match the style of the cube.



We still need to play around with color correction as well. This is especially evident in the green gravity.



All in all though, the art issues are fairly minor.

Design

Design has undergone a massive and significant change in the last 6 months. It became clear with the most recent playtests that the layout of the world was too convoluted. Additionally, there was too much emphasis on large open areas. While these do provide stunning vistas, they were overused, which lead to a lot of pacing issues.

We've been focusing on streamlining the core experience, and adding more diversity in level size and design. There are now more mid-sized indoor levels in between the large outdoor spaces, which provide strong contrast and a better sense of progression through the game. Previously, we were seeing players getting to 90 minutes, and just stopping due to feeling overwhelmed or lost. Now, we’re seeing players go for 4, 5 or more hours.

Production

Between the design changes, development, and overseeing the project, I haven’t really had much time left for anything else.

We’re on track to get the game out in early 2019. I know at the beginning of this year that I said 2018 was going to be the year. We didn’t quite make it, but we did make really significant progress. There are still several things that need to be sorted before we can announce a launch date, but we’re getting there.

I’m excited to be in this final stretch. It’s been a long journey, but there’s still ways to go, but I’m so happy to have made it this far. In the coming months, we’re going to be publishing a series of articles and videos explaining all the tech of the game in detail: how our graphics pipeline works, how we’re optimizing levels, and so on.

If you want to stay up-to-date, there are a couple of options:


And don’t forget, you can wishlist the game on Steam!


« Last Edit: December 11, 2018, 10:28:43 AM by William Chyr » Logged

William Chyr
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« Reply #1221 on: December 13, 2018, 08:52:08 PM »

Devlog Update #358 - 12/13/2018

Started refining some placeholder areas in the game.

This area went from this:



to this:



Here's a timelapse video of the process:



We also added a "hint cube" to show where to place the cube to grow the tree



Got around to adding this as a few playtesters mentioned that after letting the water out the door, they had no idea how to advance, and ended up getting rather confused.


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William Chyr
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« Reply #1222 on: December 17, 2018, 10:36:21 PM »

Devlog Update #359 - 12/17/2018

Design

In terms of design, there are a lot of areas in the game that are placeholder. They're just boxes.

And while they're perfectly fine in terms of getting player from A to B, they're not very interesting, and they look terrible.

One of the design tasks I'm doing is replacing them with better thought out areas.

Graphics



We had a certain cube that showed up just fine in the editor, but in the build, it showed up as pink - which means either missing material or something wrong in the shader).

The issue turned out to be that we were changing the shader on the material at runtime. This works fine in the editor. Even if the shader has new variables, they get initialized properly.

However, in a build, new variables don't get properly initialized. The solution was to create a new material with the new shader to include with the build.

For audio, we've continued to make refinements and track down issues.

One bug I noticed was that when I walked indoor, a certain sound became louder. I wasn't sure what the exact cause was, but it didn't feel right. The issue turned out not to be the sound event's volume increasing, but the REVERB of the event increasing in volume.

As you can see, the event is part of a bus (which is basically a group of sounds), and is getting sent to the reverb twice. One directly to it, the other, through the bus.



The cause was that we were sending the signal to the reverb before the 3D location was taken into account, which meant that we were hearing the reverb of the signal in 2D. The solution was to not send the event to reverb directly, but instead through the bus.



Here's an update video:

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« Reply #1223 on: January 09, 2019, 10:30:33 AM »

Devlog Update #360 - 01/09/2019

A Very Brief History of Development



Put together a short video summarizing the last several years of development:



If you want more details on the current state of the game, and what's still left to be done, here's a roadmap for development I put together: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1o4NcmTW7WuXoMasQbxSnv72rhR-GtX9xTN1EebKuERw/edit?usp=sharing

We also have a public trello board up, if you want to follow more closely the bugs we're working on: https://trello.com/b/DqStaye6/manifold-garden-community
« Last Edit: February 11, 2019, 09:49:51 AM by William Chyr » Logged

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« Reply #1224 on: January 13, 2019, 08:32:54 PM »

Devlog Update #361 - 01/13/2019

Made a video showing before vs after comparisons of various recent changes:



« Last Edit: February 11, 2019, 09:49:42 AM by William Chyr » Logged

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« Reply #1225 on: February 11, 2019, 11:38:56 AM »

Devlog Update #362 - 02/11/2019

Development Update #16 - Graphics Fixes, New Music System, and Design Concern



The latest development update video is now up:



Visual Improvements

Last month, we updated the graphics system to address some ongoing issues with shadows. However, it was a pretty significant update and initially broke several other visual effects. It took a while to track down all the issues, but the good news is we’ve fixed them now and the current system is overall better than it was before.



Black Hole Particle Improvements

Besides shadows, another element we improved is the look of these black hole boxes. In the game, they represent a kind of corruption. However, they were breaking the world wrapping illusion:



To achieve the world wrapping effect in Manifold Garden, we place duplicate versions of the world around the main one.
The play area is defined as a box. When the player reaches one face of the box, we teleport them to the other side. It’s simple in theory, but the key is you have to make it look seamless.



The reason for the black holes popping in visually was that they did not have fog applied, so they didn't transition smoothly like everything else. We added fog, but the problem here is that material colors fade out before the edges do. While the fog applies to the material, it does not apply to the edges.

The problem with this, however, is that having the black hole boxes fade out early looks weird. They’re supposed to represent corruption. It’s supposed to be the darkest material in the world, but they don’t look that way.



Arthur, who’s been the main architect for the graphics system, ended up applying a different fade to the black hole material. Now it actually fades out even slower then the lines. It’s very subtle, but in the distance, they appear slightly darker than the edges. It’s as if they’re darker than black.



Edge Detection Improvements on PS4

Another major improvement is the edge detection effect for the PS4. I can’t go into detail, but there were some issues that resulted in the edges on the PS4 looking bad, especially compared to the PC version. If you looked closely, you could see that the edges sort of disintegrate in the distance. This by itself wasn’t so noticeable, but it created this really bad moire effect overall.





Arthur went down a rabbit hole looking into fix, and finally solved it. This is what it looks like now:





You can see the edge disintegration is all gone, and the PS4 version looks really good.

Music System

The new music system is better explained in the video, as you can hear what we're working on.

We recently redid the music system in Manifold Garden to make it more flexible and modular. The old system was very limited in functionality and the code was quite messy, which made it difficult to make changes and add new music. Customization used to take hours, whereas now it takes minutes.

The new system has each area’s behaviour separated into their own managers, which makes everything a lot more organized. All of these managers extend from a single base class called “MusicTrackerGroup”. This class is a group of music trackers. Each MusicTracker is responsible for managing a single FMOD sound event for the music, and how fade in and out that sound, how to manage FMOD parameters, and saving or loading data from the save file as needed.

We have a default behaviour for music that we can use if a level doesn’t need any customization. If a piece of music is assigned to a level and uses the default behaviour, then when the player enters the scene, it fades out the last music and starts to fade in the new one, with a bit of overlap. It works fine, but we actually try not to use this default behaviour too much. The reason is that while the game space is broken down into scenes (for management purposes), we to want the players to experience the world as being seamless. The spaces connect to each other, so it wouldn’t make sense if every time you were in another room, a different music played.

Internally, we have this idea of "music sentences", where a piece of music might begin in one scene, and then continue throughout others, creating and enforcing a sense of connection between the spaces.



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« Reply #1226 on: February 27, 2019, 12:16:09 AM »

Devlog Update #363 - 02/28/2019

Performance Improvements, Ending Redesign, and Music System

These past two months we have been busy with improving the overall performance of the game, on both PC and PS4.

For the most part, the game is running at 60FPS on both platforms. We've optimized meshes significantly (in some places reducing the size by 40%), and have smoothed out a lot of the major bumps in the game. We've also optimized the world wrapping effect by reducing the number of duplicates we create. We've always avoided rendering the LOD instances that are in the furtherest conrners, since they're never visible to the player. However, we're now doing it more efficiently, creating this sphere like structure behind the scenes:



Where we are seeing issues is in large levels with highly detailed geometry that are adjacent to other similarly sized levels. To help us, we've written several tools to track the memory usage and performance of each level in the game. We compare the values between iterations, allowing us to evaluate our effectiveness and pinpoint which areas are problematic. It's a slow and often tedious process, but we're making steady progress.






Ending Redesign

In December, the game became playable from start to finish. It was a pretty major milestone for us to hit. However, while the player was able to get from the beginning to the end, there were several areas that were still quite rough, especially from a design standpoint. The first draft of the ending didn't feel very focused. I've been redesigning the ending, using the lessons I learned from making it the first time and feedback from testers.



Music System

If you're interested in how the music system in Manifold Garden works, I did a deep dive video recently:



It's much longer than the typical development update videos, but I go into great depth explaining the architecture, showcasing the debug tools that we made, and how it’s all implemented in the game.  
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