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Michaël Samyn
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« Reply #60 on: July 02, 2014, 11:23:53 PM »

We have added a single stretch goal to the Kickstarter, with a target twice the size of the original. Looks like we might reach it too. But it's going excruciatingly slowly! Please help if you can! (by backing or spreading the word)

The thing we want to do with the extra money, next to working with a programmer and a concept artist, is to expand the presence of the player character, Angela Burnes. As a first person game, Sunset doesn't really need a character to represent the player. So we didn't include this in our budget. But as we continue to define her more and more precisely, our desire grows to see her, to meet her, in the virtual world.

If we reach our stretch goal, we will put an animated 3D model in the game that represents Angela. We are aware, however, of how such a model can easily look very bad. First person perspective is very artificial and few games feature a convincing first person avatar. So we want to be subtle about it. We're thinking of showing the character in reflections and shadows, more than directly.

In real life, you might be aware of your body, and you might see parts of it peripherally. But you never really look at it (except, indeed, in the mirror). We want to get close to that experience in Sunset. Through stylization and suggestion rather than awkward display.
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Michaël Samyn
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« Reply #61 on: July 02, 2014, 11:31:15 PM »

An important feature in Sunset is a dramatic view on the big city below the penthouse. It's been very difficult to get this view and the layout of the city just right. And making modeling changes is tedious. To help us with its design, I'm trying to create a city generation tool in Unity.

Here's the first modest step:



The script gets x and y variables of the grid and then samples the color of the texture to decide on the height of the block.

The idea is to make a generator that can be completely defined by variables and textures, without any randomness. Because in the end we need only one city in the game. This is just a tool towards that.
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Michaël Samyn
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« Reply #62 on: July 22, 2014, 07:33:24 AM »

We have continued working on the city generator. It's not quite finished yet but the result was good enough to use in the

video we released on the last day of our Kickstarter.



In step 2, we used models of buildings instead of cubes. The type of building is defined by the color of a texture that we're just using to draw the city without resorting to randomness.




In step 3 I added lights that go on in the buildings' windows. Since our game takes place at sunset, this is an important feature so I wanted to start implementing it early on. The light is turned on in a shader that sets the emissive color of the pixels that make up the window to a certain color. The shader checks the alpha channel to know whether a pixels belongs to a window or not: if the pixel is black, it's not a window. The windows are colored in different shades of gray in the alpha channel. This is compared to a variable that gradually changes from 0 to 1 as the sun sets: the brighter the alpha, the later the window is lit.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slGVOYGJqAo

In step 4 I made the city as big as we need it to be for the game: 1600 buildings.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yM103M8gB4Y

The limited amount of building models repeated so many times made us realize that we would need a way of generating buildings. Ideally each of the 1600 buildings should be unique. Luckily for us, the design of skyscrapers in the early 1970s (when the game is set) is very simple (and gorgeous): basically endless variations of grid patterns. And we also want the game to have a stylized non-photographic look. So for step 5 I modified a shader that draws tiles to draw different grids. We're using some randomness now but will replace that with fixed values derived from textures. The window lights are a sort of noise which isn't ideal either. We might generate the texture that switches on the light, so the order in which lights come on is different in every play session.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQYeWlU1pZg


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« Reply #63 on: August 05, 2014, 07:09:36 PM »

...It was a difficult decision. Especially since I very lively remember my first task in graphic design school ...

Was the school La Cambre ? (just curious to know)

Quote
dramatic view on the big city below the penthouse

How do you picture the final look of the city? I mean: are you thinking of giving it a flatter/2D aspect, adding filters, post-treatment or maybe some dense volumetric atmosphere like steam, cloud, rain, mist (which would capture lights from the city). I'm asking because most of the time, in such case (an unreachable background) it feels like it doesn't suit/fit the foreground/scene where character is located.
Still concerning San Bavón will you design an audio "personality" screams, cars braking/honking, industrial life, music escaping from a Jazz club maybe ?

...CSS sounded like a good idea in the beginning but it's become too rigid now. We should never have left the path of automatic layouts. A table is still superior for many things..

I can't help it so > Blasphemy ! : -)

.. We are aware, however, of how such a model can easily look very bad. First person perspective is very artificial and few games feature a convincing first person avatar. So we want to be subtle about it...

So where will you stand on body awareness ?

Also can you name the games in your mind when you say :
First person perspective is very artificial and few games feature a convincing first person avatar

Cheers, Smithfield.
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Michaël Samyn
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« Reply #64 on: August 05, 2014, 11:04:03 PM »

I studied graphic design at Sint-Lucas in Ghent.

We are trying to develop a stylized look that works for both the city and the interior. Of course performance may require a bit of cheating like rendering the far away buildings as billboards. But if we can keep them simple enough perhaps full 3D will work. The city is far away but things will happen there once in a while. (explosions!)

The sound from the city will be very muffled since you're far away from it and on the top floor of a skyscraper.

It feels weird to us to see the avatar's body through a first person camera because in real life you never look at your body. You might see your hands or your feet but only peripherally. Or at least you're not looking at your hands when doing an action: you're looking at the object you're interacting with. We might abstract that out all together. So maybe you would only see your body in shadows and reflections. We'll see if that works.
The voice-over will be at least as important for the awareness of your character as the avatar's body.

I'm not a fan of first person games. I hate the feeling of walking around with a cardboard box on my head. But many people don't have a problem with that. It is for them that we are making Sunset.
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Michaël Samyn
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« Reply #65 on: August 08, 2014, 11:38:27 PM »

Since we're attending the Game Developers Conference in Cologne next week (do come and see Auriea's presentation on Tuesday!), we pushed a little harder towards a new nice playable build. It's based on the prototype we had created earlier (in Unity with PlayMaker). But obviously only shared with the people who worked on it.

It's nice to see all the work of the collaborators coming together. We've created a virtual home and I love spending time in it. Just hanging out, playing some music, sitting down, watching the view. It's funny how things that are mundane in the real world can feel so rewarding in a virtual one.

And speaking of rewarding, the task list works really well. In every session you, Angela Burnes, the housekeeper in Gabriel Ortega's apartment, get a list of two or three tasks to do. Each has a checkbox next to it and when you've done the task, the box is checked. The tasks themselves are not very special but just getting that box checked, all three even, feels intensely satisfying. Humans are weirdly wired.

I'll make some screenshots today and post them here if I don't forget in the rush towards GDC.
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Michaël Samyn
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« Reply #66 on: August 09, 2014, 06:02:08 AM »

Here's a screenshot from the game in its current state:



This is more or less an actual scene in the game because it starts with an empty apartment that Gabriel Ortega gradually moves into. So at this point in the story, he doesn't have much furniture yet.

We've experimented with light and shadows and above all reflections and transparency. The screenshot is taken through a blue-tinted glass door. We want to create a stylized look but there's so much glass and shiny objects in this modernist 1970s apartment that it's hard to not want to play with the visual effects of these features. Maybe we'll stumble on a unique blend of realism and stylization.

Pity computers still hate computing in 2014. Whenever I put in a bunch of mirrors the entire game becomes a stuttering slideshow. So there's still some work to do for programmers (is this a conspiracy?).

There's actually some more screenshots of the new build in the background of the game's website. Just reload the page to see a different one.
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« Reply #67 on: August 10, 2014, 03:17:50 AM »

It's really starting to look like a place, if that makes sense? It's looking pretty and nice to look at, but that sense of reality, of something that could exist, seems more important somehow...
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« Reply #68 on: September 09, 2014, 11:45:18 PM »

Angela Burnes has been designed by Auriea and is currently being modeled by Theresa. Laura is coming to us in Belgium next week to animate her. Last time she was here was almost 10 years ago. All of the characters in Tale of Tales games have been animated by Laura. She usually works remotely out of the USA. We're looking forward to being in the same physical space with her!

Jurie has developed a system that allows Auriea and I to edit the game in Unity. With its assumption of discrete levels, Unity is remarkably unsuited for the kind of thing we want to make. Sunset, takes place in one area that changes over time. Our levels are moments not places. So every level is basically a new state of the same environment. Jurie has created a system that allows us to create all the states of the apartment in a single Unity scene file. These states are saved in separate files to allow Auriea and I to work on the game simultaneously.

Auriea is putting together huge lists of all the objects that will appear in the apartment over time. All of these are beautiful and interesting objects. So I hope we find a way to help players enjoy them. It would be a waste to have all these things become mere background decoration. Angela Burnes herself is hinting at some of these in her "Reflections of a Housekeeper" on Steam.

I am implementing the basic tasks of the game, session by session (there's 44 sessions or "levels" in the game). It's a lot more work than expected. I can only do two or three sessions in a day. So it will take a few more weeks before we have a version of the game that can be played from start to finish. I'm looking forward to that.

We are declining almost all offers for interviews and presentations in favor of devoting most of our time to the production of Sunset. We're making a single exception for an exhibition of our games in Mexico City, at the DevHrMx festival next month. We also hope to talk about and perhaps playtest Sunset there, which feels very appropriate given the Latin American context of the game. So that gives us a clear deadline to have a build that is playable by other people.
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« Reply #69 on: September 24, 2014, 05:22:02 AM »

Backed the kickstarter, postin' for the updates!
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Michaël Samyn
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« Reply #70 on: September 24, 2014, 05:36:13 AM »

Thank you!
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« Reply #71 on: October 06, 2014, 04:19:32 AM »

We're hiring a freelance concept artist and a freelance 3D modeler.

Details here.

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Michaël Samyn
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« Reply #72 on: October 14, 2014, 06:39:13 AM »

We made a new build of the game for all collaborators to see and to do a first initial playtest in México City during the DevHrMx festival.

Sunset can now be played from beginning to end. And thanks to Theresa and Laura we have an animated protagonist!



Behind the scenes a lot of hard work was done to cram an entire game into a single Unity scene file. It's crazy but Jurie made it happen!

This build also contains the first steps towards the very evocative soundscape that Kris is creating. And most of Tina's voice acting. Or at least a first pass because the text will change.

Speaking of text, do keep an eye on our Steam announcements where we post weekly reflections on Angela's life in Gabriel's penthouse in collaboration with our anonymous writer "Señor X".
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Michaël Samyn
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« Reply #73 on: October 31, 2014, 03:58:37 AM »

Our stay in México was quite inspiring. Especially the short trip to Cuba. Angela's latest "reflection" was based on that.

During the exhibition, after our talk at the DevHrMx conference in the Centro Multimedia, we did a little playtest of the current build of Sunset. It was especially informative to see people play who are very used to conventional first person navigation. We were surprised by how important the exact implementation of these conventions was for their experience. That includes ways the tweak the controls to their own preferences. For such players, this is necessary in order to make the interface transparent and focus on the content.

We will definitely do our best to cater to these expectations. But we have also started designing an alternative interface for people who are not accustomed to WASD-mouselook controls. A simpler interface that should also prevent motion sickness. If only because then Auriea can actually play our own game. She is one of many people who are sensitive to motion sickness when playing especially first person games. And we do not want to exclude those players.

Our participation in DevHrMx was the only interruption we allowed ourselves during the production of Sunset. Now we are putting our heads down until this thing is finished.
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« Reply #74 on: December 08, 2014, 12:14:20 AM »

We've started working with a marketing company and suddenly the reality of our planned March 2015 release date is hitting us hard. We need all these things done in the game so we can make screenshots and preview builds and what have you, long before the release date. Shocked

But we're embracing the pressure. After all, it's only 3 months of crunching. It'll be fun!  Corny Laugh
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Michaël Samyn
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« Reply #75 on: December 20, 2014, 01:40:42 AM »

We have shared another build of the game in progress with all collaborators, the list of whom keeps extending. This is the largest team we've ever made a game with. Almost 20 people!

We gave a big push towards adding more stuff to the apartment and making it all look pretty, for the direct purpose of taking some pretty screenshots.

Like this one:



Ortega is moving in!
Perverting the tight lines of the seventies modernism of the apartment with his kitschy antiques and his old books.
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Michaël Samyn
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« Reply #76 on: January 07, 2015, 11:40:24 PM »

We've released a bunch of "official screenshots".



Still work in progress, though. The game has already changed since we took these!
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Michaël Samyn
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« Reply #77 on: January 07, 2015, 11:44:29 PM »

We're currently working extremely hard on a sort of vertical slice of the game that we can show around to give people a taste of Sunset. We know it's mad to try and finish the whole game by the Spring. I wish we could work another year on it. But on the other hand, I also want to see it out there. And I love the rapid progress that we're making now. It's exhilarating.
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« Reply #78 on: February 08, 2015, 11:30:41 PM »

We have finished the preview build and it will be sent out to selected members of the press soon, via our marketing partners at BeefJack (bless their souls for taking care of all this for us, it's such a load off our shoulders).

By finishing the preview, we have also finalized the design of the mechanics and the crucial systems. So what remains is filling the game with content. Since Sunset consists of 44 discrete sessions, we will continue production at a rate of one session per day, following the story. We will just do what we can for a session in a day and then move on. And in the end we'll pick up any things left to do.

But first we should try and record some gameplay footage to share…

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« Reply #79 on: February 16, 2015, 01:22:59 AM »

With the preview build out of the way, we have started the final stretch of development with a sort of experimental schedule. All the systems are in place so what is left to do is mostly to fill the game with content.

Since Sunset consists of 44 different sessions that take place on 44 separate days, we figured it logical to work on the game at the ratio of one session per day. We're scheduling work on a session each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday while leaving Friday (and the weekend) open for anything we couldn't finish, or more general things. A few sessions get two days because they're more involved.

The first week of this schedule is now behind us. For a moment it looked like we weren't going to make it, that there was way too much stuff to do to fit in such a small amount of time. But when we adjusted to the spirit of the schedule, we did make it through quite well in the end. The first three sessions of the game are playing and looking gloriously, I think.

Today, week 2 starts. But also the pre-orders (with new screenshots, video, etc). And the press embargo on preview reports is lifted. Hope we don't get distracted too much.
(feeling really happy about our decision to work with BeefJack for marketing now: they do all the heavy press-lifting for us so we can concentrate on making the game)
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