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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsCrest - Indirect God Game
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Author Topic: Crest - Indirect God Game  (Read 69062 times)
Greipur
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« Reply #60 on: May 21, 2015, 01:12:33 AM »

Thank you, JobLeonard. And it's nice to see you again. Wink

I don't know any better way to do this but just in a sort of stream of conscious way continue with our recent development. If anyone wants details about our new commandment system or some of the stuff we've already implemented, feel free to ask. Oh, and I'm focusing on game design and art since that's what I'm confident talking about. But, if you've any programming questions please ask them, I'll ask the lead programmer and convey them.

Right now we're balancing the game, so it makes for a more engrossing experience. And we're implementing saves. Oskar is currently working on putting in animals in the game, and he's starting with the antelope. What we're trying to achieve is making a living world that will shake up the gameplay for the player, so they can't write the same commandments over and over.



The crazy neck look is due to its rough implementation, the idle animation (turning head) is an additive animation, and for some reason looped on all the other animations, we've turned it off now. Smiley


« Last Edit: May 21, 2015, 01:22:02 AM by Greipur » Logged

JobLeonard
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« Reply #61 on: May 21, 2015, 03:14:20 AM »

Ah, so no eldritch horror corrupting the antelope then?

I am kind of curious about the changes to the command system. Especially the move to icons - which appear much more open to interpretation. I'm pretty sure you'll need to do quite a bit of playtesting with people who don't (yet) know what they mean to make sure they communicate intent correctly.
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Greipur
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« Reply #62 on: May 21, 2015, 03:51:48 AM »

I am kind of curious about the changes to the command system. Especially the move to icons - which appear much more open to interpretation. I'm pretty sure you'll need to do quite a bit of playtesting with people who don't (yet) know what they mean to make sure they communicate intent correctly.

Then I will try to satisfy your curiosity!

Do you remember this image? Look at the "Happy Metals".








That's the metal symbol that has gained the association happy. We realised that it sounds ridiculous in some combinations. Here's a reminder of how our system work by Oskar's old post last year. So icons, or pictographic symbols are more easy to combine with others. And yes, that can create more confusion. We're trying to iterate on the tutorial, and refine the symbols themselves.

I think the biggest problem is that some people think that text is the most important feedback, since well, we've been taught that images are vain and shallow and text contain real knowledge. So the tricky part is to communicate to the player that a symbol is three things: mechanics (which in this case becomes its context), image and text (tooltips). And you can only understand a symbol when you take those three things into account.







The symbols we have the most problems with is the actions to the right. The uppermost pair for example is "perform" and "not perform" which is everything from making babies to eating your neighbour (we've implemented cannibalism). We're thinking that we might have to branch out that action pair, but we'll see.
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JobLeonard
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« Reply #63 on: May 21, 2015, 06:20:08 AM »

I should have been more clear: I'm digging the move away from text. It feels more fitting with the setting. But it's a tough challenge for sure! Plus, the openness can be a quality in itself.

Have you seen this, btw? Kinda related:

http://www.ted.com/talks/ajit_narayanan_a_word_game_to_communicate_in_any_language
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Greipur
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« Reply #64 on: May 21, 2015, 06:52:10 AM »

Very interesting! I haven't seen it before, but it seems like we're approaching it from a similar standpoint. When I did the interface and art for our last game Among Ripples I was reading some Peircian Visual Semiotics. And Peirce in his time more or less argued that a symbol is composed of many things, and that it's not really tied to any one visual system. Basically you have a shell that you fill with meaning. And that's how I've been working with Crest as well.

And to tie back to Narayanan's research I do think that our game is very easy to localise, since most of the symbols are pretty universal. We're planning on making a german version soon, since our sound designer, Roland is a native speaker. And management games is all the rage there. But we've also been thinking about other countries.


----


Anyway, today's work. Making procedural games heavy on simulation naturally creates a bottleneck for us artists so Christoffer and I have a lot of other things to occupy ourselves with, besides from graphics. The programmers have implemented balancing tools for us non-programmers to use, so we crunch numbers to make the game more stable. Right now Christoffer is balancing the amount of water and drainage in the world.

Crazy stuff like this happened today, a constant cycle of drainage and water being refilled. This is not working as intended.  Wink

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JobLeonard
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« Reply #65 on: May 21, 2015, 07:14:26 AM »

Agh, semiotics. I'm more than a little bit sceptical of the often fundamental assumption that starting with signs and creating relations and hierarchies creates meaning. It's the number one issue I have with the otherwise amazing "Rules of Play", for example. But let's not get into that.

Ever read work by Lakoff & Johnson on conceptual metaphor? "Metaphors we live by" and "Philosophy in the flesh"? I'm pretty sure you'll like it out of personal interest, and you'll probably find some inspiration from it as well.
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Greipur
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« Reply #66 on: May 22, 2015, 12:44:13 AM »

But let's not get into that.

I guess not.  Tongue

Thanks for the reading tips.

----


I'm mostly spending my days with community management and contacting press lately. Although BeefJack is helping out with promoting Crest I've been focused on contacting Let's Players. I've been inspired by Jack Dalrymple's lecture about indie game marketing, and it basically boils down to that no let's player, blog or website is too small, be happy that anyone is covering your game! Start small and climb from there.






So with that in minde I've been researching about let's players, and the number one is to know them and their audience. So, I began with thinking about Crest; what kinds of "fun" is Crest about. I really dislike calling games "fun", I much rather prefer compelling, engrossing or similar. Since "fun" to me is a limiting term, applicable to some games, but not all. Marc LeBlanc was a staple at my university, I think it's a good corner stone to define different kinds of experiences you can have with games.







So, I analysed how Crest deep down entertains its players (Narrative and Expression) and I started looking at other games that have a similar feeling. I collected a list of stuff, from Cities: Skylines to Crusader Kings 2 to The Sims. With those game titles I simply searched for them on Youtube and saved all of the players I could find into a huge spreadshead (currently I've collected 230 channels).






The thing I noted is that per 10 people you contact you might get an answer from 2 or 3, and if you remind them a week or so later that number rises to 7 out of 10. So be patient and dedicated, most of the people I reminded thanked me and showed no animosity, which was a surprise to me. Oh, and send a steam key or build with your request from the start, people like Northernlion have touched upon that subject, if you're 40% interested you might get persuaded by a key, but not if you have to ask for one.

Currently we've about 35 let's players who've covered the game since April, 2015 (and I'm not counting the ones of the prototype), with about 20 more in the making. So, do your homework and be persistent and it will pay off.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2015, 06:35:05 AM by Greipur » Logged

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« Reply #67 on: May 24, 2015, 05:39:46 AM »

I wanted to make another detailed post about our art direction and pipeline since it's something I haven't touched upon for a long time. So I will talk about how I and Christoffer work with the help of the lion.

At first I like to explore with loose sketches. What I wanted to explore with these sketches were how I could abstract the lion mane into stark geometric shapes.







Working on a tight deadline makes it hard to do a lot of rendered concept art, which is a shame since I sometimes enjoy just to render away. I took this one halfway at least! But I always slap some colour just to get a general picture, rendering is just "selling" it to someone else than the art team.






One advantage I feel we have for being multidisciplinary is that since I took the lion from idea to finished game asset I can improvise half-way through without messing up the original idea. You see, I looked at my final concept art and thought that the lion looks like it got a kind of pet cone/Elizabethan collar, and didn't look right to me, so in the modelling stage I reduced the amount of "subdivions" for the mane. And also exaggerated some anatomy as well, making the head more important.


Since both Christoffer and I know about all the stages of character production we collaborate on the usage of models and rigs. The lion rig started as a rig for our watusi cow, Christoffer took that for his antelope (which you can see in another post), he improved it with better controls and general construction, and I used the antelope rig for the lion. If/when we make more animals we'll probably use the same rigs again.





So I looked at a lot of images of lion skeletons and modified the rig accordingly. Sort of working as a sculptor making a rig for a clay model. After getting close with the rig I started modelling, and I tweaked the rig to fit what I wanted to achieve with the model.





When I start with the modelling I prefer going in "blind" and not look at the concept art too much. I've been doing some traditional sculpting before and I guess I took that habit from there. I feel that 2d concepts help me free myself from "3d conventions" half-way through the process.





I haven't been doing a lot of organic low poly modelling before this project but I've realised that you should triangulate as much as possible by hand if you want to preivew how the skinning affects everything. I think the mane is the best example.


After modelling I usually colour, and in our game we only use vertex colours to fit our style, in the good old days of the prototype I was just using materials, but the lead programmer advised against it. Since the lighting is pretty extreme I usually throw it into the game to test how the colour palette works against everything else. I can also see how our "symbolic proportions" work with everything else.





And well, skinning. Who needs details. I think Blender does a splendid job with automatic weights, but of course go in to work on the details.





Finally animation, this is the area which I'm the most inexperienced in, but I love the feeling of making something move so I soldier on. Just as in the earlier stages I usually start with some research, in this case looking at Youtube clips and leafing through Muybridge's excellent books. I've also been living with cats for the most of my life, so I try to draw from my own everyday experiences and blend them with their bigger cousin.





When I make animations that are cycles I usually plan ahead, using pose to pose but in canned animations I usually just go straight ahead and prototype.





With the rest cycle I learned that sometimes minimalism is the best way to express something, so I'm just animating one bone really to make that breathing motion.




You'll have to excuse the sloppy looping, I was too lazy to make the GifCam footage loop perfectly (or export from Blender for that matter, hehe). Anyway, when I'm satisfied I start with adjusting the necessary parameters in Unity, and set up a functional animation tree for the programmers to use. Yep, that's about it. Feel free to ask anything you'd like. Smiley
« Last Edit: May 24, 2015, 06:08:05 AM by Greipur » Logged

JobLeonard
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« Reply #68 on: May 24, 2015, 06:18:39 AM »

Looks great! Has that lion been sprinting?
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Greipur
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« Reply #69 on: May 24, 2015, 06:34:24 AM »

Thanks! Hehe, that's normal behaviour for resting lions. I'm pretty sure it serves the same function as with dogs, to cool themselves. Though it should be noted that I've actually done 6 additive animations for the resting pose, just as Christoffer did with the antelope. So the heavy breathing is just one possible state of the rest pose.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2015, 08:18:06 AM by Greipur » Logged

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« Reply #70 on: May 25, 2015, 05:04:12 AM »

Today I bring news from the savannah! Since we update the game on Steam each week we've started with a production meeting each Monday to discuss milestones. And during this meeting we also discussed the habitats and how they interlock with the people and animals. I did a mockup of the savannah for Johannes the lead programmer to look at and incorporate.






We threw around a few ideas that it would be interesting to have more animals since Oskar's AI for the antelope and the lion can more or less be copied to new animals, we can differentiate them with game balancing instead. So we decided that we will add hyenas and ostriches as well. After discussing animal behaviour we decided that we should incorporate corpses, so some meat sources will stick around for awhile.


These are all of the current and planned animals:


Antelopes - Lives in jungle and savannah, eats grass.
Lions - Lives in savannah, eats everything except grass.
Hyenas - Lives in jungle, savannah and desert. Eats antelopes, ostriches, eggs and corpses.
Ostriches - Lives in desert, eats grass. Will also be aggressive even though we count it as a prey animal.




You might wonder why we're putting so much effort into making animals and an ecosystem into our game but as you can see above this is mainly a workload on us artists so it's no problem, we're probably a month ahead production-wise. And the more dynamic world we can create the better!
« Last Edit: May 25, 2015, 05:52:37 AM by Greipur » Logged

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« Reply #71 on: May 25, 2015, 05:54:01 AM »

I just discovered this game and I'm really excited about it! I love the way you're fully committing to indirect control of your people with the commandments, and the art style is really gorgeous. Can't wait to play it!
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Greipur
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« Reply #72 on: May 25, 2015, 06:26:41 AM »

Thanks jamesP, I appreciate it!

Yes, we've been working on the game since october, 2013 and it feels weird to have been polishing and perfecting one interaction method for so long, or different from projects I've been involved with before. There are still some problems to work out of course, for example the player can pretty much write the same five commandments ad infinitum now, since the game world doesn't shake it up much for the player. So that's why we're trying to create more complex systems in the world so an "emergent soup" will force the player to improvise their commandments.
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JobLeonard
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« Reply #73 on: May 25, 2015, 09:43:11 AM »

Those shadows, woah. I just kinda noticed how stark the lighting is in this game. Are you intentionally going for a "hot burning sun with very dry air" feel?
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Greipur
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« Reply #74 on: May 25, 2015, 11:23:41 AM »

Yeah, it's pretty extreme. We're going for an hour or two after midday. When I was watching BBC's excellent documentary series simply called "Africa" I surmised that I should go for a searing sun. Christoffer, the other artist have been in South Africa several times and what he tells me reinforces the idea that we should go for something hot.







It's almost impossible to nail the colours of an asset on the first try though. When I'm happy in Blender and throw it into Unity I'm almost always disappointed since the sun is washing away most of it, just making a really white surface. But luckily the workflow between the two programs couldn't be more streamlined so I just iterate some.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2015, 11:31:44 AM by Greipur » Logged

JobLeonard
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« Reply #75 on: May 25, 2015, 11:30:17 AM »

Oh yeah, it totally fits, and it works very well with the low poly look somehow.
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Greipur
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« Reply #76 on: May 26, 2015, 06:52:18 AM »

Yup, I think it gives the models a better outline with the sharp shadows. If you turn the shadows off the game world is much harder to read (which is true for most images of course, but especially here). For good measure here's a screenshot of the world back in january, before I could work some lighting magic on the scene. Smiley













Today Johannes have continued with working on saves, and Oskar is implementing the hunters so he can get a hunter/prey relation going (I'll show images soon). And Christoffer and I have been busy with making concept art for the remaining animals. I'm focusing on the hyena and Christoffer on the ostrich.








We've nailed the ostrich and Christoffer is now off to modify the antelope rig to an ostrich skeleton. Here's some exploration sketches for the hyena, I'll hopefully nail the design tomorrow and post a rendered image. I like to do studies of the subject matter and do some exaggerated examples from my imagination in a sort of creative mess. I try to play with the shapes, see what I can exaggerate and what it represents.










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JobLeonard
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« Reply #77 on: May 26, 2015, 10:47:32 PM »

Yuk. I always liked the graphics of this game, but now the old screenshot looks like a drab, rainy day by comparison. Funny how that works.

I have red-green colourblindness (protanomaly, to be precise). For a split-second I thought that ostrich was a red-eyed Terminator sent by Skynet. Which makes the hyena Kyle Reese, I guess.
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Greipur
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« Reply #78 on: May 27, 2015, 08:58:10 AM »

The hyena kinda looks like Kyle Reese, it's a heavy burden knowing the future is so bleak...  Wink


Speaking of hyenas, here's the more polished concept art. It's been months since I worked on concept art so it was a short nice break from churning out 3d models and animations!



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JobLeonard
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« Reply #79 on: May 27, 2015, 11:22:34 AM »

Also: Austrian, Ostrich. This makes more and more sense.
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