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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsCrest - Indirect God Game
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Author Topic: Crest - Indirect God Game  (Read 57887 times)
Greipur
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« on: May 20, 2014, 12:45:31 am »





Crest is a religion simulator where you write commandments in order to influence your people.



---




This is a game centered on expression, there is no end state except losing and no explicit goals but to build a religion you find compelling. In Crest the player is like a parent, gently or forcibly fostering their children. But the children, or followers are also influencing the player to do their bidding, by purposefully misinterpreting the player's commandments. The game has been in development since 2013 and is currently on Early Access and will be released in 2017.


















Key Features
  
  • Write rules for your subjects which will have interesting consequences.
  • Many different ways to express your divinity which will be reflected in your followers.
  • Immersive feedback which will show you the progress of your people and create a rich history.
  • Procedurally generated game world which changes over time and shows wear and tear.
  • An expressive game without end-goal where you can focus on building your legacy.
  • Your people have free will, focus on leading them rather than controlling their every move.
  • Emergent world where weather, vegetation, mineral deposits, drought and animal behavior will create surprises.




Motivation Behind Crest
This games is meant to explore the evolution of religion and the relationship between god and humanity. It asks the player who shapes whom, and if a god is truly omnipotent if people have free will. We're also interested in broadening diversity in the game scene so we chose to depict a fictional culture inspired by ancient African civilisations, such as the Dogon, Ashanti and Zulu. And we've also tried to give some space to other gender expressions and sexualities. We're also trying to find new ways for players to make their own stories by procedural means.



Development Road Map
As it looks like right now we'll release Crest in the middle of 2017, we release bigger updates we call modules, below you can see the planned content.





The People Who Are Making Crest
Eat Create Sleep - Swedish indie studio, located on the island of Gotland in the middle of the Baltic Sea.



Twitter
Website
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Current Team
Creative/Art Director - Martin "Greipur" Greip
Artist/UX - Emma Fredriksson
Community/PR Manager - Patrick Seibert
Project manager/Designer - Emelie Teinler
Producer - Madeleine Petersson
Lead Programmer - Johannes Häggqvist
Programmer - Tomas Lindell
Programmer - Johannes Westberg
Programmer - Jens Berg
Audio Designer/Composer - Tuomas Nikkinen (contractor)


Former Members
Producer - Sophie Van
Lead designer, programmer - Oskar Thysell
Programmer - Leo Låby
Intern programmer - Yasha Jannoo
Intern programmer - Jonas Lundgren
Intern programmer - Jesper Leveau
Intern Graphic Artist - Josefine Persson
Audio designer/Economic advisor - Roland Koch




Tools We Use
Unity, TortoiseSVN, Visual Studio, Blender, ownCloud, Slack,
Photoshop, Illustrator, Fraps, OBS, Inkscape, Shader Forge, Trello



« Last Edit: November 29, 2017, 05:29:24 am by Greipur » Logged

Gamedragon
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« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2014, 01:04:29 am »

Looks cool! But... Before you post something like this you should probably introduce yourself in the Obligatory Introduce Yourself thread link below.

http://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=45.0
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Greipur
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« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2014, 01:05:56 am »

Looks cool! But... Before you post something like this you should probably introduce yourself in the Obligatory Introduce Yourself thread link below.

http://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=45.0

I was looking around for that, Gamedragon. But didn't see any big signs. But I guess I jumped the gun there, thanks! Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2014, 01:23:59 am »

Quote
"did god shape man or did man shape god?"

That's very transcendental  Shocked. The concept is really interesting, keep up the good work  Beer!
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Greipur
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« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2014, 02:22:37 am »

Quote
"did god shape man or did man shape god?"

That's very transcendental  Shocked. The concept is really interesting, keep up the good work  Beer!

Yeah, I guess it is.  Thank you. Smiley

I think it's worthwhile to clarify just what I mean with that sentence, I don't want to come off as a snake oil salesperson, hehe. But I also mentioned parenthood, I think most parents need to change themselves in order to be able to change their children. I'm not talking personally from experience there, except that I've been a child.

So you as the omniscient god might see that "Oh, man... In a hundred years there will be desert all over, I need to change their behaviour". And you just hamfistedly make a commandment that says "Don't wreck all the god damn forests!", and the followers might say "Don't care, we're greedy and as a matter of fact you've said pretty rude things as of late". So you might need to take different indirect route in order to arrive there. "Hmm... Can I use their greed to stop chopping down the forests?". Sounds a bit like a parent/child relationship, eh?

The most obvious thing you might be thinking would be that it's too indirect, even for a god game. And we've been worried about that as well. But our prototype and tests says otherwise. Wink
« Last Edit: May 20, 2014, 02:32:12 am by Greipur » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2014, 03:07:05 am »

i saw a man in the supermarket clutching a copy of Linux User Magazine as we engaged in the mutual act of paying others to keep us alive. how did it come to this? i wondered. how did there come to be such dimorphism. how are there cool people, and less cool people who hold the linux book in public.
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Greipur
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« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2014, 09:23:41 am »

Zen riddles aside, here's a small update of our game.

We've been working some more with implementing feedback for different workers, you can here see builders in blue and farmers in yellow. But we've also got rid of the placeholder stuff, and taken the style a bit closer to where we want it (the sea and tile textures). When we started the project I thought that it would be interesting to have a style similar to Shelter. I was also fascinated by the fact that fractals have had such a huge importance in ancient african art and architecture. Watch this TED Talk if you're interested.

So we tried Shelter's cut-up approach with little regard to seamless textures, but with fractal patterns. Didn't work out. Now I'm leaning more and more towards having most of the game without textures at all. The plan was always to let the light give colour depth to the world. A sort of cubist painterly approach is how I see it. All meshes have only vertex colouring at the moment. I'm thinking of taking it closer to Oberon's Court, but with flat shading.



Right now we've some textures for the environment as you can gather. The pixely ground is mostly there to emulate a triangulated mesh. Our lead programmer did the tile generation, but used Unity's own terrain system for the task. As far as we know we can't turn off the normal smoothing, nor make the mesh more low poly than it already is (we've lowered resolution). We're going to throw this system out the window soon though.

Anyway, the sea turned out really great. Just a triangulated mesh with a displace deform in Blender. And then a glossiness map made from another mesh. It gave the sea a lot of depth without a lot of effort! The sea isn't really animated yet, we're aiming for a roaring sea later on with proper oscillation. But I think the sea and some of the characters are perhaps the only things which won't be changed much more. At least not in style, but maybe in implementation. I think I want even more depth in the sea. But that's the inner perfectionist speaking.


Hopefully I'll upload a trailer in a day or two and you can see some more gameplay and hear the tunes from our excellent audio designer!

Oh, and we've had some people contact us about jobs. We're flattered! But the only position open at the moment is producer, and we're only interested with working with people face to face. At least all of the core team needs to be in one place here in Sweden (and be able to speak the native tongue).
« Last Edit: May 22, 2014, 11:25:26 am by Greipur » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2014, 07:30:12 am »

Here's a gameplay trailer from our prototype build of Crest.

« Last Edit: May 23, 2014, 07:35:19 am by Greipur » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2014, 05:11:06 am »

Hello

So, much have happened since last time. For one thing we've thrown away the standard Unity interface. Though, it's really just a makeshift solution for now. I did a mockup of how we wanted it to look like.



I'm personally not that fond of HUDs, I spent writing my thesis (last year) on how to circumvent them altogether! Wink I'm a strong proponent of embedding as much feedback in the game world as possible, and in the best case give different cues. That was the most important bit of information I walked away with from thesis, that people don't look at the same things. Some look at shapes, some at colour, some at motion. Everyone is different. With a one size fits all HUD it can be difficult to make it understandable to a lot of people.


So, how will we take all this into account? I've taken a lot of inspiration from Impression Games' Pharaoh from 1999. You can theoretically understand the whole game without having any output HUD on the screen at all. And most of the time the output HUD is optional. We took this approach as well. A general summation of the states for a city can be glimpsed by looking at it, if you want more information then click on it and get a HUD.




In each city there are several followers, which is an abstraction of a big group of people. We decided to present them as clans, and use general words for animals, plants etc.



The most important information is presented in top. The characteristics of the clan. Below how much food they have, and how old they are and can get. And then happiness, work output and reproduction rate. If you put your mouse over a symbol you can get a more detailed description in the tool tip window below. The people also give messages to the player in the tooltip window from time to time (look at the first "card" on the left).


And finally, the commandments in its current form. Right now you can only affect their characteristics in a blunt manner. We aim to change this in the comming months. And the interface overall will probably move more to what the mockup looks like.




Yes, that's the current version. I'm worried of information overload. Let's say that you've five cities with 8 clan cards in all of them. How many minutes would you have to spend in order to be able to know if your commandment would be effective? We're obviously in need of many iterations before the information can be presented in a bite size manner. Though, the most obvious thing to do would be to embed more information in the game world, which we will!

But if you think you've a better solution out there how we should proceed, then please share it. Smiley
« Last Edit: May 28, 2014, 08:12:50 am by Greipur » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2014, 06:45:40 am »

Cool idea, I like the whole commandments thing.
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Greipur
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« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2014, 03:07:52 am »

Cool idea, I like the whole commandments thing.

Thank you. It seems to be the general consensus for the people who've tried it as well (we showed it at a small conference the other week). Though, since it's the main input in our game it will probably face a few iterations before we're happy with it. The player can only write commandments and change the speed, it better be nuanced and easy to interact with.

Others in the team will chip in later on the development of the commandments. Stay tuned.  Wink

_______

I'd like to dedicate this post to some fringe stuff so I can get that out of the way. But also our mysterious spiral of time, the keeper of player progression. I'll start with the spiral.


Our game is as I've written before mainly focused on crafting your own story. We've been impressed by the stories that comes out of Bay 12 Games' Dwarf Fortress for example (need I even mention "Boatmurdered"?). But any good session of Civilization leaves a mark as well. And many other games heavy on emergent gameplay. I remember hearing Chris Avellone being skeptic on how much of his linear story work for games such as Fallout: New Vegas could compare to emergent stories. That the emergent incidents which happened in the game was more personal and more in-world than some of the best linear stuff he could write himself. That's what I gathered from

at least.

Anyway, emergent stories. That's where it's at. But we like just as Boatmurdered there to be a grand chronicle of the player's progression. It can serve as flavour but also as a means for the player to predict future outcomes by wathcing history. So we plan to have several features in the game which keeps the progression automatically. One of them is the time spiral which the player can find in the main temple. If the player click on the temple they will be teleported inside an endless void where there's a spiral. The spiral will keep track on the progression of the actual tile-based world (for a lack of a better word, it will mutate even more into tile-less territory soon). It will sort of function like a freak mix between DNA strings and growth rings in trees. Here's a prototype made in Blender.










So the problem with this idea that Johannes our lead programmer have feared have been an endless piling of data. At first we thought of screenshots taken at intervals. But that would probably amount to something spiraling out of control sooner or later. Imagine a save file taking up say, 300 MB! So, we're rather going for a general summation of the world at it's current stage. Use vertex colouring and the like, we think that storing some locations and hex colours won't make huge files. And the game in general have mainly vertex colouring anyway.

_______


Fringe stuff. Shell menus, aw yeah. So, I don't think shell menus is the most fascinating thing ever. They're probably added as an afterthought for most games. At least on the earlier projects I've worked on. But I got some ideas that went into the whole aesthetic of leaving your mark, of progression. Why can't we "explode" the traditional paradigm of save files and make them graphical? That together inspired by mesopotamian mythology that our world is just a bubble floating in a big sea (which I guess, is kind of how we see it now as well, except some gravitation, relativity and other sciency stuff).

The main menu would be filled with all the worlds the player had started. And since the game is a game with permadeath (there... I wrote it, we're part of the bandwagon) there's no need for the player to have 101 save files of the same world. One save file = one world. The longer you play, the bigger the bubble. With an endless scaling menu we won't have to worry with getting out of space either. And really, will the player really need more than 10 sessions saved at once? Here's two mock-up videos done in Blender.


Creating New World
Loading World


When you can't program or script, you make fake menus in Blender!  Well, hello there!



I can't imagine a better way of offering tabs for options and whatnot at the moment. But perhaps they'll transform as well. But I'm always wary of making needless innovation. If it ain't broke, don't fix it etc. But that's enough about that. Get ready for the prototype by the way, just a few weeks more!
« Last Edit: June 07, 2014, 03:59:21 am by Greipur » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2014, 03:42:07 am »

This post will be dedicated to our art direction and graphic workflow. I'll begin with art direction. I've already made a detailed post about it on our own blog so I won't repeat myself too much. If you're very interested then please visit this link. But here's a snippet from the blog:

"Crest takes inspiration from ancient African heritage in order to give the player a feeling of a mythological time from humanity’s ancient cradle. The game emulates a visual language akin to the geometrical shapes in masks that can be found in several Sub-Saharan cultures. But also the playfulness and exaggeration with proportions, colours and patterns have been taken into consideration. The people in this game look like the masks, totems and idols made by ancient African people."





The style came to be with a collaboration of all the team really. The lead designer Oskar suggested that we should take Africa since it's an underrepresented region in games. Lead programmer Johannes proposed a flat shaded style, and Christoffer the artist who've been a lot in South Africa took a lot of his influences from his trips (that's why there's a fair amount of Zulu influences in our designs). Of course Roland the audio designer have brought some interesting things to the table as well, but he can talk about that himself.





I pushed the whole geometric, cubist painterly style up a notch after experimenting with flat shading in Blender. I wanted this game to be an experimental departure from everything Among Ripples stood for. This is a game that couldn't be rendered outside of a computer. But it still pays its respect to the past, I've a fondness for painterly brush strokes. I wanted to experiment with that but make it in an artificial way. So... cubist painterly.


When it comes to the people and landscapes of this game it's a big remix of the Sub-Saharan contintent as a whole. We've done it intentionally in order to try to separate us from distinct nationalities with their own historical luggage. We don't want to repeat Blizzard Entertainment's blunder with the chinese-japanese pandaren in World of Warcraft (which they've fixed now). Below you can see concept art of the tax collector, a worker in our game which collects food from neighbouring towns.





Christoffer and I have been experimenting with our workflow and we've found a pretty good solution when working on characters. Since we both work on all parts of pre-production and production we're "cross-platform compatible". Wink When it comes to characters we both collaborate on concept art, modelling and then animation. We use one FK/IK rig which Christoffer did. We skinned our template character and then used it for all of our characters. At first we were reluctant to extrude or reduce vertices. But it proved to be simple enough, most of the skinning could be transferred to the new model. Don't know if it's Blender's excellent skinning to thank for, or if it's generally easy to do. I've never done so much experimenting in other 3D suits. Here's an image of the tax collector in suspended animation.




We've faced some problems with exporting animations into Unity with our blend files. It seems that we have to reimport the whole file if we want to make changes. So we just can't edit and save. This has been a snag in our workflow which we aim to correct. There's also some odd skinning problems in Unity from time to time, which isn't present in Blender. But anyhow, that's a bit about our style and graphic workflow. If you've questions or suggestions then please share them.

« Last Edit: June 08, 2014, 03:49:26 am by Greipur » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2014, 12:43:09 pm »

Hello

Today we assembled the team after a well earned week of semester. We’ve planned the schedule for the summer. We will release the prototype for Crest in the beginning of July. And at the end of July we will start our crowdfunding campaign, which will run for 45 days and end in the first half of September. During the crowdfunding we will also launch a greenlight page for the game.

We've also analysed the feedback we've got from Gotland Game Conference and realised that a lot of people didn't like the HUD. We don't like it either, so the feeling is mutual. We plan on making the HUD redundant in the coming weeks. Here's a small nonsensical photoshopped image of how the text printout could look like without a HUD.



It will be an interesting challenge to try and embed all the feedback. We've done so before with Among Ripples as I've stated. But this game is huge in comparison. A lot more feedback to convey. Maybe there'll be some substitute in the temple or some such. We'll see.

In other news we'll do an overhaul of the world system, how deserts and forests spread. And make the island's shape more procedural. Also work some more on the commandments which Oskar will spend most of the coming weeks on to get it in a good state for our public prototype.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2014, 12:51:15 pm by Greipur » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2014, 02:31:42 am »

I love/hate god games, and I think the innovations here might fix the parts that I don't like. Following!
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« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2014, 12:49:41 am »

I love/hate god games, and I think the innovations here might fix the parts that I don't like. Following!

I'm with you on that notion. The first pc game I owned was Bullfrog's Populous from 1989 and I think most god games fall into two categories since then: The Landscape Architect Sim and the RTS-Sim. Or a mix of both. Sure, there's a few like Reus who breaks the conventions. But most god games mostly give the player omnipotence and indirect control, but leave it at that. Fiddle about in a world, move the lemmings this way. To me and the team the concept of god/gods and religion could be much more nuanced, and we want to explore other ways a game can discuss religion. I think it's a good thing that we ourselves have a diverse faith, we're a hodgepodge of theists, atheists and agnostics. It keeps the conversation alive. Smiley

As you say yourself this might fix it, though I just want to say that calling it a god game is mostly a marketing thing. To me it's more like a historical religion simulator. Being god is not all there is to it. I think you and others understand that, but I want to overstate it since it seems a lot of us gamedevs use marketing genres as molds for our projects. Although I most confess expanding what god games can be is part of our mission, but we're as much fascinated by the ever-changing course of history and human values. Being god is partly a convenient explanation why you can watch them grow for centuries.

Thank you for the confidence! I hope you will find the prototype interesting when we release it in a few weeks.
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« Reply #15 on: June 21, 2014, 06:31:54 am »

Oii. I did a post about representation and diversity in Crest the other day. I chose to write about it now since I read about the debacle with Ubisoft and Assassin's Creed: Unity and thought it was time to show how we see it. You can read it here. In other news we've been working with the prototype, I'm spending a lot of time on embedding the feedback. I started with experimenting with the proportions though. Make things more readable. Bigger is more important as I've written before.





It's pretty interesting to experiment with subjective proportions, and I'm happy I can shange sizes in Unity! It would've been tedious with resizing everything in Blender. It's a bit like the lighting, can only do it when you see everything at once.





Johannes spend his time with making the procedural island generation more solid. Oskar is rewritting the commandment and follower system somewhat, so now every value such as fertility have several sub-components that can be disregarded and followed "at will". Fertility can both mean shorter life expectancy and higher birth rate for example, it's possible for the follower to only pick one. Roland is busy with the audio, and you can now listen to the main track for the prototype at Soundcloud.


« Last Edit: June 21, 2014, 06:46:02 am by Greipur » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: June 24, 2014, 02:11:14 am »

Procedural island shapes are now implemented thanks to Johannes. Of course, this is a makeshift solution for the public prototype build. The sea needs some more love I think, but we'll see if that will be iterated before the deadline. If you've any suggestions then feel free to share them.





We're also going along with feedback, here's another version of the printout. We're still discussing how much feedback we will embed in the actual world, but we've come to the conclusion that the world needs to show it all at least to create more immersion than a fact sheet. The actual messages from the followers might become more coherent, this is just concept art I did in Photoshop. Oskar suggested that the more important the message the bigger it is, which is a nice touch I think.


« Last Edit: June 24, 2014, 02:21:57 am by Greipur » Logged

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« Reply #17 on: June 24, 2014, 04:21:18 am »

Will the words float upwards like smoke from a chimney?
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« Reply #18 on: June 24, 2014, 04:48:17 am »

Will the words float upwards like smoke from a chimney?

You took the words out of my mouth. Wink  Yes, that's how I imagined it at least. We'll see how it will be implemented in this build though.
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« Reply #19 on: June 25, 2014, 11:18:22 am »

Gave some attention to the sea. Doesn't feel as noisy as before. Now all we need is some refraction and better animation and I'd almost be happy with it. But I think it's sufficient for our prototype so I'll probably leave it for now. Smiley


« Last Edit: June 25, 2014, 12:07:15 pm by Greipur » Logged

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