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November 25, 2017, 01:41:04 am

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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsReturn of the Obra Dinn [GDC 2016 Demo Build]
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Author Topic: Return of the Obra Dinn [GDC 2016 Demo Build]  (Read 486448 times)
Sentionaut
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« Reply #740 on: April 18, 2017, 03:13:03 am »

Wow, nice effect. I must admit I had some trouble at first understanding the last two images, but I guess it's easier to read during gameplay, and moving around.
Anyway, it makes "motions" look a lot more physical and interesting. Really cool. Smiley
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« Reply #741 on: April 18, 2017, 10:29:01 am »

That is a really neat effect--I do worry a little that it's going to obscure things a bit much, but that's something that's tricky to speak to without a more in-depth demonstration, I think.

If I understand correctly that dust particles are always single pixels, this technique should, I think, have the advantage of the cloud "naturally" thinning in the foreground, as the visual space between particles should be greater in the foreground than the background.

Hmm... If the particles are always single pixels, what do you intend to do about changes in resolution changing the apparent density of the dust cloud? Or does the game work in only a single resolution?
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Traversal, exploration, puzzles, and combat in a heroic-fantasy setting
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« Reply #742 on: April 18, 2017, 01:40:20 pm »

If I understand correctly that dust particles are always single pixels, this technique should, I think, have the advantage of the cloud "naturally" thinning in the foreground, as the visual space between particles should be greater in the foreground than the background.

That's exactly right. It mostly has the effect of obscuring things in the distance. Up close the particles effectively disappear.

Quote
Hmm... If the particles are always single pixels, what do you intend to do about changes in resolution changing the apparent density of the dust cloud? Or does the game work in only a single resolution?

Right now the game is limited to just 640x360 as a stylistic choice. A little arbitrary but everything so far has been designed against that and some things (mostly character models) don't hold up well at a higher resolution. Dust pixels are always scaled to a 640x360 screen so when I do test something like 1280x720 each dust particle is 2x2 pixels. Also doesn't look that great and another reason I'm trying my best to make it all work at 640x360.
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JobLeonard
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« Reply #743 on: April 18, 2017, 10:46:11 pm »

I could probably play an entire game in just that empty fog style Shocked
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Thaumaturge
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« Reply #744 on: April 19, 2017, 10:21:37 am »

Right now the game is limited to just 640x360 as a stylistic choice. ...

Aah, that makes sense--fair enough, then! ^_^
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« Reply #745 on: April 19, 2017, 01:06:59 pm »

Can't you expand and than contract the 2d collision pane to avoid places to get stuck in? (instead of removing the chairs legs)



All passages should be quite a bit wider than the player and stay open and thin edgees or points don't get smoothed off/away.

edit: a player in a 2d hamster ball would do the same  Cheesy
« Last Edit: April 19, 2017, 01:43:41 pm by cougarten » Logged
io3 creations
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« Reply #746 on: April 19, 2017, 01:18:35 pm »

The fog effect looks good!  The only issue that comes to mind is that due to monochrome colors, certain objects/features might be hard to see.  Kinda like a whiteout effect.
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« Reply #747 on: April 19, 2017, 04:30:58 pm »

Very amazing, graphically and technically. Thanks.  Shocked
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dukope
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« Reply #748 on: April 20, 2017, 06:32:05 am »

Can't you expand and than contract the 2d collision pane to avoid places to get stuck in? (instead of removing the chairs legs)
All passages should be quite a bit wider than the player and stay open and thin edgees or points don't get smoothed off/away.
edit: a player in a 2d hamster ball would do the same  Cheesy

I like your thinking. That end result looks great. IIRC, the original Quake actually does this exact thing in 3D so that collision testing can be done with points/lines instead of spheres/capsules. It generated something like 3 different fixed sizes (point, player, shambler) of collision data for each level. So if you wanted a solid dynamic object that collided with things, it had to be one of those sizes.

I do expand the shapes a little bit but don't contract afterwards since I want some separation between the player and the walls. The player is modeled as a circle, not a point, and currently the basic 2D circle/poly collision response is smooth enough at keeping the player out of small gaps that I haven't had to take it farther. Basically, yeah, a 2d hamster ball.
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« Reply #749 on: May 05, 2017, 12:53:41 pm »

Can't you expand and than contract the 2d collision pane to avoid places to get stuck in? (instead of removing the chairs legs)
fwiw this idea of dilation followed by erosion is called a 'closing' morphological operator, and is often useful for cleaning up image/segmentation data http://homepages.inf.ed.ac.uk/rbf/HIPR2/close.htm
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« Reply #750 on: July 24, 2017, 09:59:13 am »

*chirp chirp chirp*
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BartsBlue
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« Reply #751 on: July 31, 2017, 01:31:30 am »

I apologise in advance for asking this, but are there any chances for Return of the Obra Dinn to be published this year (Anno Domini 2017)?

 Gentleman
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« Reply #752 on: August 04, 2017, 03:23:55 pm »

Hi Lucas,

I'm Austin Wood, a freelance writer. I recently reached out to you on Twitter and TIGForums direct message, and figured I'd hit you up here as well.

Simply put, I'm looking to profile you for Eurogamer. Yours is a colorful and interesting history, and I want to poke your brain a bit, especially when it comes to Return of the Obra Dinn and Papers, Please. What's it like making these games by yourself? How do you handle success and self-marketing? What changed between Papers, Please and Obra Dinn, not just in terms of development, but also in your life? What's the state of Obra Dinn, and what are your goals for it?

I'd love to sit down and discuss both your journey as an independent developer and the development of Obra Dinn. Would you be available for an interview sometime soon? I can do phone, Discord, Skype, you name it. Whatever works for you.

You can reach me via email at [email protected] and on Twitter @austinwoodmedia. I hope to hear from you.


Best,

Austin
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dukope
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« Reply #753 on: August 11, 2017, 08:41:28 pm »

Time to dust this thing off.

@BartsBlue: Semi-answered below
@Austinwoodmedia: I'll be in touch!

The game is progressing along. I hit alpha way back on May 15th but unfortunately it was the "notice severe design problems" kind of alpha instead of the kind that lets you sleep at night. This all came to light when I watched an experienced game designer friend play through the alpha build.

The main issue is that the game not only doesn't hold your hand, it breaks both arms at the wrist and zip-ties your pinkies together. The story itself is relayed in such a limited way, and the player is given so little guidance, that it's natural to A) get totally lost and B) not care. 

None of this was a huge surprise. I could feel it coming for a long time but there's always been an excuse not to tackle it right away. Clearing alpha put the issue(s) at the top of the pile.


Problems

The Manifest



Flipping through the manifest's 5 pages.


The manifest was designed as the main mechanism for deciphering people and events on the ship. The lack of context and bare presentation of were supposed to add an interesting level of sleuthing to the game. That would've worked fine with fewer characters and a shorter story. Unfortunately 60 characters, 10 disasters, and 48 flashback scenes is just too much and the structure of the manifest only adds to the confusion. A prudent solution would be to cut the characters/story way back but I liked those more than the manifest.


Interactive Objects


Interacting with a lantern


Picking up the manifest


There are four types of interactive objects in the alpha: Doors, the Watchbox, Lanterns, and the Manifest. Doors are fine, everyone knows how those work. The watchbox is explicitly called out and gated. You can't proceed without opening it. Lanterns might be fine except that you have to look up to interact with them. The game goes out of its way to teach you that you shouldn't bother trying to interact with small things so having to hunt around for a small lantern switch is just bad business. The manifest is the only collectable on the entire ship, required for meaningful progression but not hard-gated, and easy to miss. Classic game design BS. This set of interactive items grew mainly from the need to find and pick up the manifest. In the game's logic, the manifest is in the Captain's possession and so naturally you need to board the ship and find it. My mind was totally wrapped up in that premise and it's only when I changed the player's central motivation that I could work out a fix.


Corpses Within Flashbacks


A corpse within a flashback


In order to progress beyond the flashbacks accessible from skeletons on the ship, you have to find bodies within flashbacks and "pull" them to the current time, at which point you can view their death flashbacks. This is a neat system but it's one unexplained system too many. If you played the game at PAX Aus you would've been treated to numerous popup messages with graduated hints and clues about how you're supposed to advance since this concept is not introduced well. Nobody read the hints and so most people got stuck. I personally really hate getting stuck in games so this was a tall nail.


Fixes

I'm in a pretty tight spot with what I can do to fix this stuff. The game is totally married to the concept that you only get bits of story through flashbacks at moment-of-death, and you only access these flashbacks from the corpse of the deceased. So to tell a complete story, there need to be long unbroken chains of dead bodies reaching into the past, and gated areas of the ship to start off new chains with a skeleton here or there. Coming up with a story to fit these restrictions definitely took the longest time and has had the largest resource expenditure, so it can't really be changed at this point. Restrictions are good though so I had some structure to come up with fixes:


The Book


Oh look there's a book in the watchbox *



Table of contents, visible at the start


Selecting certain elements unrolls a closeup


Revealing one page of the book after visiting a corpse's flashback. Cued with music.


The Book takes over all the duties of the manifest in addition to explicitly listing chapters and every death in the entire game, initially as blank pages. As you find corpses and visit their flashbacks, pages are filled with information to help you assign fates and understand clues. The linear layout also makes explicit the flow of time, something which is totally lost otherwise as you're finding bodies in a very scattered chronological order. The Book's design grew from the idea of naming the flashbacks with chapter headings. Once I started thinking about those I was able to see the entire meta-narrative from a different and more interesting perspective. The big question of why there's a blank book with all the deaths is explained in the book's preface, and the handling of the book ties all the way into the game's ending. This is a big change from the previous "zero context" presentation but I think it's an improvement. And once again I've built some form of (really big) document in one of my games so, situation normal.

* Spot the UK/American English typo


Fewer Interactive Objects


Door and lantern status carried over from visited flashbacks


Now that the book replaces the manifest, and it's found within the same box as the watch, there's no need to pick up any items from the ship. That solves a major "item-importance" design problem that plagued the game since the beginning. I extended this even further and now the lanterns are no longer interactive. Instead, they behave like the locked doors and are magically carried over from their state in visited flashbacks. This removes some player choice but I consider lantern status to be pointless gameplay-wise and it leaves everything looking worse if the player never bothers/figures to switch them on.


Corpse Hunting


Corpse hunting within a flashback


Instead of expecting players to implicitly understand that corpses within flashbacks are themselves special, there's now an explicit "corpse hunt" mode shoehorned in there. After visiting a flashback for the first time, as the music ends, you're put in a mode where the environment is reduced to wobbly outlines and any outstanding corpses are highlighted clearly. Walk up to a corpse, use the watch, and you're done. Some flashbacks contain multiple corpses and you need to find them all to proceed. Once all the corpses are pulled into the watch, you'll return to the current time where a ghostlike effect emanates from the watch and leads you directly to where the freshly-pulled corpses will appear, ready for their flashbacks to be visited. This whole process feels a bit uncomfortable with its modality but it so neatly draws the player along that I like it. Now it's possible to hintlessly progress through the game while piecing together its internal logic and story flow at a much more natural pace.


Etc

There were a lot of other small changes leading up to alpha and since. A couple I can remember:

Fate Validation

The central mechanic of the game is to determine the fate of everyone onboard the ship. You do this by filling out a little sentence describing how they died or disappeared. It's always been up in the air how the player would know if these fate guesses were correct. None of the previous builds deal with it at all. One option is to just wait until the end of the game and tell the player how many fates are correct. I prefer something more immediate just for player satisfaction, but there's a problem that immediate feedback can be cheated. If I tell them their guess was correct right away, it's trivial for them to just try all the combinations and boom, game skipped. The solution I ended up with is to basically make it really hard to try all the combinations. The game now tells you when any set of 3 fates are correct. After entering the third correct fate (from any fates within the entire set of 60), there's a little fanfare reveal and those pages in the book are locked from editing. Cheating one fate is easy but cheating three fates requires just enough work, intent, or both that you'd be better off solving it the right way.

SVO Fates

At some point I standardized all the fates to use a Subject-Verb-Object format. So instead of saying [Person A] [was killed by] [Person B] [with a gun], it's now [Person A] [was shot by] [Person B]. This makes matching fates easier and is friendlier to localization, where sentence structure can be shuffled. It also lets me create more naturally synonymous fates, which was trickier before. Seeing how someone dies doesn't necessarily mean you can agree on how they died. Are they being crushed by falling rigging, or crushed by a terrible beast who pulled down the rigging? The fate system allows each death to have multiple correct fates so hopefully players won't get stuck by entering something they thought was correct but wasn't flagged as so.


To-do

44 of 48 flashbacks are in the game as either complete or roughly complete. Some require a little work, some require a lot. I'm finishing up the script just now so most of the dialog/audio isn't recorded yet. I've only written 5 songs; I need 10 more. The ending is designed but not built. ~4 rooms on the ship need filling out. Assuming my fixes above actually hold, the sailing should be pretty smooth from here since it's no longer a design task but a production task within a functioning pipeline. Hopefully I can get this thing done before the end of the year but we will see.


PAX West

I'll be showing the latest build at PAX West this year in the Indie Minibooth area, Sept 1st and 2nd. Come by if you're around!
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jctwood
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« Reply #754 on: August 12, 2017, 12:12:21 am »

It is great to see an update on Obra Dinn cataloguing all the issues you have come across and your solutions to the problems you identified seem very elegant. I think the corpse hunt mode is stunning. Best of luck finishing the last few cutscenes and getting the dialogue recorded. I look forward to the next post.
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« Reply #755 on: August 12, 2017, 04:42:57 am »

Wait, maybe I've missed this in the past updates, but have you started to use different dithering algorithms for different sections? The book cover is clearly pattern dithering, the rest looks like a kind of noise diffusion.

Did you make any cool updates to the dithering approach in general?
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« Reply #756 on: August 12, 2017, 11:24:14 am »

AHHHHHHHHHHHH (in a good way)
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dukope
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« Reply #757 on: August 12, 2017, 06:05:57 pm »

It is great to see an update on Obra Dinn cataloguing all the issues you have come across and your solutions to the problems you identified seem very elegant. I think the corpse hunt mode is stunning. Best of luck finishing the last few cutscenes and getting the dialogue recorded. I look forward to the next post.

Thanks!

Wait, maybe I've missed this in the past updates, but have you started to use different dithering algorithms for different sections? The book cover is clearly pattern dithering, the rest looks like a kind of noise diffusion. Did you make any cool updates to the dithering approach in general?

In 3D, most of the screen is pattern-dithered with bluenoise. There's one shader that can switch between bayer and bluenoise+diffusion dithering based on a texture channel. It's mostly used for the characters. Bayer dithering reproduces shades best, which works well for the clothes, and diffusion reproduces high-contrast details best, which helps the faces. I'm using the same shader on the book as a stylistic thing.

In 2D, there's more flexibility for which areas of the screen are dithered or sharpened. I actually don't use it that much but, for example, the deck maps look better with pattern dither and the sketch looks better with sharpened diffusion dither.

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JobLeonard
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« Reply #758 on: August 13, 2017, 05:16:07 am »

Quote
I'm using the same shader on the book as a stylistic thing.

It works very well.

BTW, if you ever feel like going down the dithering rabbit hole again, Riemersma dithering looks pretty cool:

https://www.compuphase.com/riemer.htm
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« Reply #759 on: August 21, 2017, 03:36:20 am »

[Problems] and [fixes]

Super interesting insights, as usual. Thank you so much for sharing (once again)!

A few painful compromises in the lot, this time. I really liked a few of the past things (like the muster roll and the detailed, "deep" fate tree ("killed -- by companion -- Mr Pepper -- with a gun"), but I know that you can be trusted in that I will like the new ones even more. (Also, past released betas are never really lost, they still be mini self sufficient games on their own, with every discard mechanism they contain).

The reward mechanism is a tough nut. I can see that even the new "notified every 3rd correct fate" (smart!) can be exploited. A player who is sure about two fates can get a third one "for free" by exhaustive attempts. Exploiting this makes for ugly meta-strategies (which third fate to get for free?). I guess it is just difficult to force players to have fun and not just cheat. A trivial solution would be making the "reward" notification happen only after, say, 10 seconds of closing the roll, but this defies to purpose of immediate reward (penalizing virtuous players as well).

Maybe a way out is to only "punish" wrong consecutive attempts. Like, something bad but temporary happens to the roll (page gets stained, and when it clears up, after 10 seconds, all unconfirmed fates are cleared) whenever you have three unconfirmed fates (not all exact) sitting on the roll and you modify one of them again without letting a "cool off" time between every attempt (say 20 secs). The objective naturally is to do something which, at the same time, doesn't interfere at all with the expected behavior (sensible but occasionally wrong attempts, well timed apart), and triggers only if the player uses trial+error.


44 of 48 flashbacks are in the game as either complete or roughly complete. [...] I've only written 5 songs; I need 10 more. The ending is designed but not built. [only] ~4 rooms on the ship need filling out. [...] Hopefully I can get this thing done before [at some point not too far in the future]

That's beyond exciting!!!

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