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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogs7-part (VR) sandbox CRPG that’s also a musical!
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Author Topic: 7-part (VR) sandbox CRPG that’s also a musical!  (Read 7928 times)
eobet
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« on: May 09, 2014, 04:01:34 am »

What the heck is this?


Please excuse this long-winded explanation, but it’s going to be a long game with a long, long development process...

First of all, it’s based on two obscure 8-bit games called Alternate Reality: The City (1983) and Alternate Reality: The Dungeon (1984). Though not many has heard of them, they were absolute trailblazers, with for example, smooth scrolling 3D texture mapped graphics years before Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. They also had a crazy amount of gameplay features and secrets, with people finding new stuff even 20 years after its release. I’d even argue that some features (like the shopkeeper personalities) amazingly still are more advanced than modern roleplaying games.

And then there’s the musical aspect. In the original games you could tell the alignment of the creatures you faced by their theme song and every special location you visited had not only it’s own song, but also Karaoke style highlighted lyrics:



So is this a remake?

No. Call it a spiritual sequel, if you will. Although I’ve been in contact with the original author(s) several times over the years, it’s very difficult to get in touch. This will be my version of what could have been, with a different story, different spin on things and a different name. Although I will continuously refer to the Alternate Reality games as the “originals”…

How is this going to happen?

Very. Very. Slowly.

I have one released title to my name, and that’s a very simple iPhone app (Watzon) which took me three months because I had to learn Objective-C and Xcode to do it. For this game series, I’m going to have to learn C# and Unity (and Blender). I’ll say it again: It’s going to be a slow, slow process.

What I do have is a huge, huge respect for the originals. I started the first fan website for the game series back in 1993 and wrote quite a comprehensive FAQ (remember those?) over quite a long period.

The plan is to release one of the games free (although it might not be the first one), and then have all the others as paid expansions, ultimately creating one huge, seamless world.

It will be PC/Mac/Linux first and iOS/Android second. It will also be built with VR support, because I don’t think many games can survive without it in a few years (and this will take years complete and I want it to live on for a long time...).
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eobet
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« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2014, 04:01:53 am »

Ok, so... a musical?

Yes, err... so the music and Karaoke style lyrics were the most unique feature of the original games, which I don’t think a single game has replicated after... and right now, I’m actually unsure if this project will ever have it because currently, the budget for this project is zero cash dollars, and I won’t attempt, say a Kickstarter until I’m pretty close to the goal (which as I said, is probably years away).

If there ever is money for a musician, every location will again get its own song with lyrics and every creature its own theme song based on threat level, plus I will try to incorporate musical cues for gameplay in other ways.

What are some of the other features?

  • Retro inspired design, “low-poly” style and chiptune sounds
  • Semi real-time gameplay, including combat
  • Old school focus on stats and status effects (so many status effects!)
  • Open ended sandbox, play as good, neutral or evil
  • Hardcore mode, continuously saves to ensure perma-death (optional)
  • Lots of damage types, like slashing, piercing, blunt, fire, ice, etc. etc.
  • Realistic handling of item weights, hunger, fatigue, temperature, etc. etc.
  • Creatures with memories of you and who spreads rumours about you
  • Non-violent options in encounters, like bribery or smooth talking
  • Join guilds to gain unique abilities and allies but also foes
  • Live in lavish luxury or ascetic poverty
  • No max “level”, play infinitely if you wish

Why the retro chic?

Brace yourself: You will have to read in this game. Smiley

To me, the impact of words can be as strong, if not stronger than possibly very soon to be outdated graphics. Also, as I mentioned, the budget for this is zero, so the non-textured low-poly look was the cheapest to produce. Plus, if the graphics start out “outdated”, they’re in no danger of becoming so in the future. Wink

Finally, this game is grid based and has old school 90 degrees movement, which is slightly weird because it's a fully 3D world, but I hope that I'm going to make it work.

Wait… how is this VR?

The way I plan to do VR actually both serves the story and will make the game just as fun on regular displays. Here is a quick mock-up of how I plan to do it:


That black sphere around you actually stays fixed in space. It's like a "capsule" (or cockpit) that moves around the world with you in it and the window cut in it is what you see of the world. If you turn your head, you will stare into the black walls of the sphere, but that might make room a compass and map and other things.

This might become more clear in a few months... Smiley

Did you forget the story?

The story details are secret for now, but the general setting is the same as the original games: You are kidnapped from earth and transported to an alien world, and have to figure out what is going on and how to survive on your own.

There will be no explicit quests and no quest log, but plenty of special locations you can find where events happen which pushes the story forward.

And how does the 7-parts fit into this?

I'm going to handle it a bit differently than the original (note that the names I use are currently lifted from the originals, but as with everything, these will change for the final game):

  • 1. The Dungeon - Escape from the palace prison and ultimately the dungeon itself
  • 2. The City - Survive in a chaotic city on an unknown world
  • 3. The Wilderness - Explore the strange outdoors in search for a way home
  • 4. The Arena - Test your wits against other adventurers (possible PvP)
  • 5. The Palace - Become a noble and, own property and change the city itself
  • 6. Revelations - Find out the truth about the world you are on
  • 7. Destiny - MODS! Shape the world, build your own adventure and share it


So you got everything pretty much nailed down?

Absolutely not! For example, I’d love to update the combat mechanics, and figure out something which keeps it from becoming repetitive or a chore, and I will be posting gameplay thoughts and probably tests here. Also, each monster needs several non-violent options on how to deal with them, and I’d love forum contributions on that. Plus, when mapping different areas, I’d love to both solicit different themes and special locations, items, traps, events, etc from forum members.

Oh, and I also don’t have a name.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2014, 04:16:13 am by eobet » Logged

eobet
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« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2014, 04:02:16 am »

Do you have anything to show?

Yes, and I need you to test it!

As I mentioned, I'm starting out with the underground part, because the city will be the "hub" from which you access all other parts, so for that I want some experience first so I can make it the best possible.

So here is a concept of one of the first areas in the game, the sewer system:


To make this I actually resorted in using SketchUp, which worked out fairly well. A positive thing about this going into VR is that one unit of length in both Unity and SketchUp is one meter, so I can build everything to scale. For this part of the game, I've chose a grid to be 3x3 meters.

That grid is what I want people to test, because the movement is not fixed step as with Legend of Grimrock and Might & Magic: Legacy. It's fluid going forward and back, but 90 degrees going left and right!

So please have a go and tell me what you think (yes, it's a bit dark... still figuring out the lighting... flat shading in Unity is tricky):

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Excy
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« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2014, 04:26:21 am »

Ooo interesting.

One thing about the web build that you have up, I press A or D and it'd sometimes turn twice, I know it's probably because I'm holding it down too long but it was just instinct, maybe give the button "tap" a longer delay. I explained that poorly but hopefully you know what I mean.
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eobet
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« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2014, 02:57:41 am »

Thank you for the feedback, I know exactly what you mean and I found a fix!

You can try it in an updated webpage demo here

Here's what I did this week:

  • Recreated the code that handles movement (three times, actually)
  • Rebuilt the corridors a bit... but still don't think I've nailed the style yet
  • Refined the lighting ever so slightly... Unity is giving me trouble here
  • Added a screen shake when you walk into a wall (check for secret doors)
  • Added doors (including nasty, secret one way doors)
  • Added area info check when you move around (for encounter frequency, etc)
  • Added special events and messages check when you move around (invisible as of yet)

So yes, I'm redoing a lot of things. This is a learning experience for me after all, and as I said, development will be sloooow!

Plus, half of the stuff I'm doing are things you can't see, like for example how I handle level data and player data and how those two things interact with each other. I also have to figure out how to handle and store all text.

Also, a call for help:

If anyone who is reading this knows any tricks when it comes to flat shading an Unity, I'd love to hear from you. Right now, I'm doing the very basic trick of calculating normals with a shading angle set to 0 to get my flat shading, which apparently means that I can only ever use directional lights, and that is very limiting! The darkness in the distance, for example, I now fake using black fog. I'd very much rather not jump to cel shading, so I'm looking for tips on how to use point lights while keeping the graphics flat. It would also be really nice to be able to cast colored shadows.
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James Edward Smith
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« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2014, 05:56:10 am »

Hmmm, the movement feels interesting. The forward movement being gradual and natural makes the experience feel more immersive, but then the 90 turns make me expect turn-based or RPG like action to take place rather than anything real time. It's a neat juxtaposition.

It does make me worry that I'm not always going to turn down the corridor that I expect to when I turn though, due to not being lined up just right or something. Also I sort of wonder what the gradual forward movement is going to end up meaning mechanically when I'm actually trying to interact with other things that move in the game, especially hostile things.
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eobet
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« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2014, 01:48:12 am »

Thank you for the feedback! The not being lined up for a turn problem is exaggerated by three things in the tech demo. First, that the walls are curved so it's more difficult to see when you passed a corner, second I'm still experimenting with camera positions and third, the tiles are so far "seamless" with no markings on where one begins or ends... I'm used to it now, but if it remains a problem in the future, as you see there are a lot of potential fixes to try for it.

I was hoping to have a hostile thing in the game by now so I could test the encounters, but Blender is just a pure nightmare when it comes to learning its user interface so that is going to have to wait another week. I do have two concept sketches I can show:




Yes, the good old giant rat is probably the first hostile thing you might come across, and it was pretty standard and boring in the first sketch. Making it nude and skinny in the second sketch helped to make him slightly more interesting, and also solved the problem on how to make low-poly fur. Smiley

So, the slow progress this week was:

  • Added the importing of CSV text data for all messages (continued from last week)
  • Added one-time messages, messages tied to conditionals and messages triggering scripts
  • Created a new font to display all text (still super early and ugly)

Which means the build is still completely uninteresting, unless you want to look at my horrible font attempt.
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eobet
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« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2014, 10:14:26 am »

Well, I promised that development would be slow, and it certainly has been. In fact, the project has been on a standstill while I'm trying to tailor my portfolio for various job applications (if anyone knows someone needing to fill a full time designer position, let me know)! Wink

Before the standstill, I did do the following:

  • Learned modeling in Blender, which was agonizing at first, but fun after I got the hang of it.
  • Learned rigging in Blender, which was very fun, and watching the creature move is just magical!
  • Learned animation in Blender, which was... no fun at all, actually. Sad

And that last point is a huge bummer, since I found animating to be the most time consuming, while at the same time producing the worst results. Case in point, I think I managed to do the concept art justice with my model, but the idle animation loop I managed to pull off is just sad:


This probably means that animations will be severely lacking, or even missing for a large part of the project, which doesn't really help my already plain looking graphics. On the up side, since I've learned Blender now, I can bring my previous SketchUp models into Blender and touch them up with vertex colors and such.

Although Unity 4.5 was recently released, I'm still waiting for 4.6 with the new GUI system, so the next update will probably be just as late, or just as small as this one...
« Last Edit: June 21, 2014, 10:49:22 am by eobet » Logged

eobet
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« Reply #8 on: April 03, 2017, 11:27:29 am »

Well, I promised that development would be slow, and it certainly has been.

Understatement of the year three years ago! Grin

Because of a separate VR project I recently did, I got back into this again while I had my Unity knowledge refreshed. Who knows when the next update will be, but for now, this weekend I did the following:

  • Converted all .obj models (which originated from SketchUp) into .fbx via Blender (and optimized them a bit).
  • Updated the project from Unity 4.x to Unity 5.6 which included...
  • ...recreating all prefabs.
  • ...recreating the test level.
  • ...updating scripts which no longer functioned like before.
  • ...re-checking basically everything (just in case).
  • Changed structure of all scripts concerning the 3D tiles (into something more logical and flexible).
  • Began restructuring the way light fades when transitioning between areas (tricker than it sounds).

Sadly, I've already run into two Unity bugs. The first one is that adding submeshes to models doesn't update their prefabs, and when you manually update the prefab (by dragging the updated model onto it), all scripts, colliders and values are wiped. Sad

That bug consumes a lot of time and requires you to constantly remember to re-check a prefab if you tinker with its model, but the second bug is even more severe. Any room in this game is an enclosed space, and that apparently makes Unity's built in occlusion culling go absolutely nuts. Plus, my tiles are 3 cubic Unity units large (3m2, triple checked and applied scaling via Blender), but 3 units in the culling options is gigantic. Luckily I'm not alone in this, so I'm hoping the Unity forums will provide a solution for me. The workaround is otherwise to toggle off all but the area/room you're currently in, which might be the optimal solution anyway.

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