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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsDesolus: A Surreal First Person Puzzle Game
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Mark Mayers
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« Reply #140 on: September 20, 2015, 07:59:35 PM »

Congratulations on gathering interest on the festival! Beer!
One unimportant note for resetting the game, what we did with Cloudfall on festivals is simply bind the reset to a single key, as we never had enough time or will to tackle on menu development (and no need either, yet).

Have you decided if you'll be making the demo more public? 

That's a good idea, but I think I've been putting off menus for so long it needs to be done! Ha.
Even to quit the game, you have to do an ALT-F4, or tab out and close it.

The main reason I haven't released any type of demo right now (even semi-public) is due to technical issues.
I haven't made any real graphics settings yet; so it's always on 'maximum' quality.

I can make settings to lower model quality, reduce reflections, reduce particle density, etc, to make it easier for other computers to run the game.

The game is relatively optimized as of right now, but tailored specifically to my computer.

After I do a few of those things... maybe Grin
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« Reply #141 on: September 28, 2015, 02:38:54 PM »

I already mentioned this in person but the game looks rad, definitely going to follow this one.
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« Reply #142 on: September 30, 2015, 11:50:36 AM »

I already mentioned this in person but the game looks rad, definitely going to follow this one.

Thanks! As I said in your DevLog, I want to try out The Forgettable Dungeon next time you're presenting.

It's amazing how many cool devs are in Boston. It's a really a good place to be for indies.

---

Also: I'll have a new entry tonight. I'm back in the content creation ~groove~


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« Reply #143 on: September 30, 2015, 06:48:43 PM »

Update 60: 09/30/2015

I've had a huge amount of people play Desolus at local meetups and festivals during the last few months.
The majority of feedback I've received is positive! Which is great.

The result of this playtesting is a reasonably well polished demo and vertical slice for the game.

Obviously I still have work to do in that section, mostly in tutorials and technical polish.
The game is still somewhat confusing to people when they first play, primarily due to lack of any explicit instruction.  

I haven't really made any *new* levels or mechanics since June.
I spent the majority of my recent time on revision and polish.  

For the time being, I've decided to move on and create more content.

---

In terms of environments, I've been working on Ash Peak, the second 'World' in Desolus.

This is a volcanic area with a near eternal sunset and a brief night.
The scenery and sky glow orange, as if the world itself is on fire.

A few picture previews of the day/night cycle here, at the world entrance.





---

Most of the gameplay in this environment revolves around a super jump ability, activated by absorbing energy from orange stars.

This ability allows the player to cross massive chasms, and leap between these stone pillars as platforms.




Here's a gif of how the jump ability works.



The player has a jump ability for a limited time.
Your black hole only lasts for 8 seconds until it explodes, after this, you will fall!

There are puzzle mechanics behind this too, as orange energy can also be shot out as a projectile with various effects.

---

It feels good to create levels again; I usually find this the most fun part of development.

I usually draw a draft on paper, and make a few rudimentary sketches first of level design/topology.
I'm good at visualizing what I want to create, so most of the paper design is to analyze how the level will play.

It usually takes me 1 hour to paper prototype a level, 2-6 hours to design/create the level in-engine.
I spend probably twice all of that to make sure it's polished! Primarily through playtesting.

How many levels in Desolus are there right now?
7... that's it. 7 'completed' puzzles.

I've probably designed/created about 100+ levels, but only 7 have made the cut so far.  
Most of this is because I've changed the mechanics a million times over.

However, I think I'm finally at the stage where I have some stability in development.

« Last Edit: June 27, 2020, 10:11:08 PM by Mark Mayers » Logged

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« Reply #144 on: October 13, 2015, 07:22:07 PM »

Update 61: 10/13/2015

Some exciting recent events!

I received an email saying I've been accepted to make a presentation at IndieCade.
As soon as I saw this, I booked plane tickets to California.

I'll be showing Desolus during 'IndieXChange' which is the developer event before the main festival.

My timeslot for showing the game is between 11:45am-1:45pm, on Thursday, October 22nd.
I'll be bringing Desolus, and the demo will be with Oculus Rift.

I have been hard at work making sure the demo is a slam dunk!

---

More Title Screen

I spent some more time on (you guessed it!) the title screen.

I feel this represents the overall polish level of the game: every change I make in quality with the rest of the game I must reflect through the title screen.

Here are a few different times in the day/night cycle:







If you have an Oculus Rift, you can turn around and look at other parts of the title screen instead of having a fixed position.

It's fully interactive in regards to you can make a 360 degree turn with your head/body, and the game will reflect this.
(I have a swivel chair at my desk and it's fun to do.)

---

Particle Color Tweaks

I made a few tweaks in regards to colors and presentation.

Mainly this involved changing some shaders around, but I also did a general overhaul of a few particle systems.

The 'blue' in the bridges and stars didn't fit very well with the rest of the environment, and were somewhat hard to notice from a gameplay perspective.
As such, I changed the blue stars (and their corresponding objects) to more of a purple to stand out more.

A gif representing the particle changes:



---

Design Improvements

From playtesting, one of the primary things I've noticed is that people have a hard time initially understanding how to play.

This is the core mechanic of Desolus, so it's pretty important for the player to understand:

The player absorbs energy from 'active' stars, and transfers this energy to 'dead' stars.
Each star has a different effect (example star I've shown creates particle bridges/barriers).

Critical concepts that must be conveyed:
'I must absorb energy by looking at an object (star) and pressing a button.'
'I must shoot energy at a similar object (dead star) to activate it.'

This is somewhat hard to establish without any explicit tutorial, and has always been a design struggle.

To help alleviate this, I have been giving more contextual clues to the player.
Recently, I made dead stars 'glow' when energy is absorbed.

A gif demonstrating 'glowing' of dead stars when energy is absorbed:



I haven't had the chance to do a blind playtest of this addition, but I'm fairly certain it will have a positive impact.

---

In the coming days I will be resolving a few remaining issues with the demo (mostly in regards to optimization).

I also plan on doing a makeover of my website, which definitely needs major revision.

I might also upload a 'teaser trailer' of sorts, containing the title screen with title music.

A lot of work, but I'm really looking forward to IndieCade!
« Last Edit: June 27, 2020, 10:11:25 PM by Mark Mayers » Logged

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« Reply #145 on: November 01, 2015, 10:25:45 PM »

Update 62: 11/02/2015

This year was my first IndieCade, and I had quite the adventure.



---

IndieCade Hardware

Desolus currently requires pretty powerful hardware to run the game, especially with Oculus Rift.

One of the problems I needed to solve was bringing a desktop good enough to run the game, and fly it to California from Boston.



I took my desktop Titan Black (from my HUGE computer) and plopped it in my Mini-ITX portable system.
Usually I bring this to conventions to show the game with, but I have a 680 GTX as the GPU.

I needed the extra horsepower to run with Oculus Rift, as I wanted to maintain 75 frames per second throughout the VR Demo.

The specs:
i7 2600k @4.5ghz
NVIDIA Titan Black
16GB @ 1600mhz RAM
256GB SSD
Silverstone Sugo SG08 Case (600w PSU)

I had some concerns about potentially blowing my 600 watt PSU with the Titan and overclocked i7.
Nvidia's official specifications say minimum PSU requirements are 600w, I was afraid I would potentially blow the power supply.

Fortunately, for the most part the system held strong.

---

Meeting With Google

For IndieXChange, IndieCade set me up for meetings with Google and Sony.
This was probably one of the most significant events of the festival for me.

It was 10am and I walked in the room that Google reserved, carrying a 32" TV and backpack stuffed with technology.

The night before IndieCade, I realized the game play video file I prepared for my presentations became corrupted.
I had to prepare a power point instead.

I looked somewhat disheveled from the lack of sleep the night before.
However I was filled with coffee, and I managed to keep myself together.

There were six people at the meeting, including Kellee Santiago, a designer and producer of Journey.
(At the risk of sounding somewhat sycophantic; I really love Journey).

The meetings are only for 20 minutes, so I wasn't able to take out everything from my bags and prepare a VR demo.
However I mentioned to the people in the Google meeting I was giving a demo two hours, in the room down the hall.

I was extremely fortunate everyone from the meeting *missed part of their lunch* to come out and try Desolus in Oculus Rift.

I'm excited for what Google has in store for the future.

---

IndieXChange 'Game Tasting'

I was allotted a two hour time slot to present at IndieXChange.
Despite all the stress, I had a fantastic time doing so.

I had setup concerns for the festival, as I originally lacked the proper connections from my video card to the TV my friend let me borrow.

Before I presented at IndieXChange, I wanted to triple check that my demo was working correctly with Oculus Rift.
I set up right outside the main event.

Erlend and Kalli who brought Myriad to the festival tested out the build for me.





Everything checked out. My DVI adapter that I frantically bought from Staples miraculously worked.

The demo proved to be a great success, and I met a ton of awesome people while showing the game.



---

Meeting with Sony

After I showed at IndieXChange, I had about a two hour break to grab lunch and socialize before my meeting with Sony.

Not wanting to make any mistakes with the presentation, I decided I *had* to set up the entire demo in the small time frame I was allotted.

I felt that the power point wouldn't have been a sufficient representation of the game.
I had an extra ten minutes for the Sony presentation, so perhaps I got lucky.

The meeting went well! I discussed a few things regarding where to go from here (I'll reserve any updates for a future date).

*Side anecdote*

I spent some time talking to Tom Happ, the developer of Axiom Verge.
Funny enough, Tom was introduced to Sony from IndieCade at IndieXChange.

We talked about what it's like to work full time on a different job, and also make a game alone.
That style of development is quite difficult; however it's important to enjoy creating your game.

---

Enjoying the Festival

Friday and Saturday I had to myself, so I was free to enjoy the festival.
Unfortunately my flight back to Boston left on Sunday. I had to return to work/the real world.

Some highlights:

Checking out the other IndieXChange games at the festival, playing Undivided with my friend Alice.



Night Games was easily one of my favorite parts of IndieCade.
It's a large outdoor section of IndieCade with various fun multiplayer games.



During night games there was a game named 'Gregor' where you attempt to save a beetle.

There was a secret method of 'winning' that I figured out (I pretty much just asked the developer).





Thumper was one of my favorite games at the festival.
The mechanics are great, the sound fantastic.



During Night Games, about 30 people watched a group of us attempt to beat the demo, which was a great experience.
Very much looking forward to this game.

---

Overall, I had a great time at the festival, and I wish I had more time there.
To anyone who hasn't gone to IndieCade, I would highly recommend going next year.

~In other news~

I just applied to MAGFest, so here's hoping I'm accepted into the festival.

In the coming weeks I'll be making some new content!
I have plenty of ideas that have been sitting in my head in regards to new mechanics and levels.

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« Reply #146 on: November 02, 2015, 06:29:24 AM »

This looks so very beautiful. Shocked
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« Reply #147 on: November 02, 2015, 06:40:10 AM »

Awesome update, I love seeing personal updates like this. Glad to here things went well at Indiecade! I was really on the fence about going since I had a pass but with Masochisia done, didn't know if it would be worth the flight without having anything in development at the moment. Looks like it was a lot of fun, maybe next year... Side note, I wouldn't have had the courage to run a Titan on a 600w PSU haha! I would be worried about blowing up other components when the PSU went but looks like it held up which is awesome. Do you have any concerns with the final game needing high minimum requirements?
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« Reply #148 on: November 02, 2015, 07:57:32 AM »

This looks so very beautiful. Shocked

Thanks!!

Awesome update, I love seeing personal updates like this. Glad to here things went well at Indiecade! I was really on the fence about going since I had a pass but with Masochisia done, didn't know if it would be worth the flight without having anything in development at the moment. Looks like it was a lot of fun, maybe next year... Side note, I wouldn't have had the courage to run a Titan on a 600w PSU haha! I would be worried about blowing up other components when the PSU went but looks like it held up which is awesome. Do you have any concerns with the final game needing high minimum requirements?

Fortunately I was able to stay with a friend in LA. I didn't have to pay for a hotel and the trip was relatively inexpensive.
Originally I was on the fence for going too, but as soon as I got the email notifying I was presenting I bought the plane tickets.

The festival would have been great even if I didn't present a game, from an entertainment standpoint.
Going as a developer, you'll meet tons of interesting people creating great content! Which is worth it alone.

Maybe I'll see you there next year!

---

In regards to putting that Titan on the 600w PSU; yea, between that and having to check in my desktop into the plane luggage, I was very concerned I might have a hardware failure.

While demoing, the system ran pretty hot. I started to have a some framerate issues towards the end because the GPU would throttle.
However, the case is incredibly small for that GPU and it was hot in that room; so I'm not surprised.

In regards to system requirements, my friend can get a stable framerate (~30-45FPS) with an AMD 6870 from 2010, and an older i5.

I haven't optimized for lower systems, but I can get 1080p 60-75FPS in Oculus Rift with a Titan, and 1080p 60FPS with a GTX 680 on 'Medium' settings.

Currently I would put the minimum for GPU as a AMD 6870 or Nvidia GTX 570, so cards made within the last 4 years.
The game isn't incredibly CPU intensive, so any decent CPU would be fine.
 
All of this being said, there is still a great deal of optimization that can be done.

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« Reply #149 on: November 02, 2015, 08:07:39 AM »

This stuff looks awesome man! I wish you the best of luck!  Gomez
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« Reply #150 on: November 02, 2015, 09:46:11 AM »

This stuff looks awesome man! I wish you the best of luck!  Gomez

Thanks! Also you have some cool stuff going on in your portfolio, keep up the good work!
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« Reply #151 on: November 09, 2015, 07:44:22 AM »

Update 63: 11/09/2015

As of this week I've been back to creating more content for Desolus, after taking a small break.

I've been working on the mountain environment, and creating a whole new set of levels.

In this devlog, I'll be giving some brief insight into how I create levels.

---
 
Paper Prototype

Sometimes I'll get ideas and visualize an area, and I'll immediately draw it so I don't forget.

Usually I don't go into much detail with the drawings.
I have a vivid visual memory/imagination, so most of the sketches represent more of a general layout of a level. 

Here's an incredibly awful design sketch that I drew in a few minutes.
There are paper creases included from the drawing sitting in my pocket. All it's missing are coffee stains.



---

In-Engine Editor

The below screenshot is taken from in-editor view.
There is no post processing in the editor view; which is where most of my art style comes from.
However, the sun/lighting and some particle effects can be seen.



---

Final Result

I've decided to add foliage to the game, besides simply grass.

Obviously those trees aren't the final assets; mostly placeholder that I whipped up quickly in SpeedTree.
I'm aiming for more alien/unnatural trees for the final product.

I might replace them with 'particle trees' as in my other levels; I haven't decided yet.



---

In regards to audio:

Kyle Landry will be composing and performing the remainder of the Desolus soundtrack.

The soundtrack will consist of Kyle's piano music, made for Desolus.
I spent about two hours talking to Kyle on Thursday, and he drafted up a few songs based on his impressions of the game.

I'm very fortunate to have him work with me on Desolus, Kyle is an extremely talented musician.

In other news:

I received an email this morning saying I made it past the first round of submissions for MAGFest, so that's exciting!
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« Reply #152 on: November 09, 2015, 04:55:59 PM »




Would appreciate some feedback:

What do you think of these trees?
Do they look out of place with the rest of the game?

Still trying to decide if I like them.

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« Reply #153 on: November 09, 2015, 04:57:25 PM »

I think they need more variety.
They fit in with the style just fine.
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« Reply #154 on: November 09, 2015, 05:07:25 PM »

I think they need more variety.
They fit in with the style just fine.

Thanks!

Yea, it's the same tree asset without any variation.
I was more talking about the art style itself so thanks for the feedback.

I'm contemplating making them into 'particle trees.'
An example is in the below picture below, which is from the other world in the game.



*Edit/Update:

Example mock-up of what the scene looks like with the transparent trees:



I think I actually like the real ones better?

Someone on Twitter said this: "Depends on the intent! Familiar sights ground us and draw our attention to what's not normal. A contrast."

The abstract trees could potentially be detrimental to what's emphasized in the game.
Most of the alien/unfamiliar objects in the scene relate directly to gameplay.
Players might miss critical elements because the trees are too emphasized.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2015, 05:51:10 PM by markefus » Logged

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« Reply #155 on: November 09, 2015, 05:56:21 PM »

I think the real trees looked nicer.
Although, the art design in this game is great, so it really is just preference.
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« Reply #156 on: November 09, 2015, 06:09:49 PM »

This looks super pretty
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« Reply #157 on: November 09, 2015, 07:22:02 PM »

I think the real trees looked nicer.
Although, the art design in this game is great, so it really is just preference.

I'm leaning towards the real trees as well, although I've heard positive opinions about both.
Still haven't quite decided, ha.

I should probably be focusing on gameplay and puzzle creation though; sometimes I get lost in small details.

This looks super pretty

Thanks!
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« Reply #158 on: November 15, 2015, 09:46:07 PM »

Update 64: 11/16/2015

For a long time I've needed to redo my website.
As such I've been working on building a new one for the past few days.

Here is the temporary URL for the website in progress.

I need to update my DNS/URL settings to set desolus.com to the new page; but will only do so once it's done.

---

The New Website Design (so far)




The Old Website Design



---

This is actually the first website I've created from scratch.

From a professional perspective, I haven't touched front end/UX development at all.
Ironic that I can make a video game by myself but have never made a proper website, heh.

Previously for my game website, I've used Weebly.

The tool is extremely easy to use, but conveys somewhat of amateur vibe and doesn't give you a great amount of control.
That being said, if you want to make a website in a very short time, that's an easy route.

I brushed up on my CSS and HTML for creating this. I haven't put in any JavaScript yet.
I plan on keeping the website as lightweight as possible; I don't really need anything fancy.

I'm moving my host over to AWS as it's essentially free and really easy to set up.
If you want a total noob tutorial on the service, I would recommend this article.

---

Important things I still need to do:

-Finish the design (obviously).
I'm missing several sections of the website, as you can see.

-Integrate presskit()
This is absolutely essential; I've been meaning to do this for a long time.

I've been mostly avoiding/putting off contacting major press for the entirety of development.
Yea, it's kind of stupid to do, but I wanted to make absolutely sure I had a solid game first before promoting it.
I've been gradually transitioning from 'amateur project' to 'professional product' throughout game development.

---

If you have feedback on the website in progress, I would definitely appreciate it!

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« Reply #159 on: November 22, 2015, 07:40:15 PM »

Update 65: 11/22/2015

It's been an interesting week.

Monday was Boston Indies, Tuesday Boston Post Mortem, Wednesday I gave a panel at Northeastern about Indie Games, and Thursday I got an HTC Vive.

Friday/Saturday I took a break, but I've been creating the game all today.

I've found it increasingly difficult to balance my time between work, my game, and life.
Progress has been slow and steady for the last month, time is one of my most valuable resources.

---

I've made some changes to the mountain environment entrance:



I've decided to go with the realistic trees vs. the abstract trees, although in other areas of the game the 'particle trees' will still remain.

---

On Thursday I got a Vive! I set it up in my apartment and tried out the various demos.



I must say that the experience is extremely interesting, it adds a whole level of immersion to video games.

My favorite demo so far was an archery demo: you control a bow in your right and and an arrow in your left.
When you draw back the drawstring, there is haptic feedback which makes it feel like an actual bow, which is incredible.
There is 1:1 motion of your body as you walk around the room, you can even crouch and the Vive will track this.

I'm just trying to imagine that in a few years we will have AAA experiences in this type of virtual reality.
Imagine playing the next Fallout or Elder Scrolls in this!

All of that being said, next weekend I plan on opening up the Vive API and trying things out with integrating it into Desolus.

I'm not promising full Vive support, but I at least want to experiment with it.

---

Haven't made a huge amount of progress with the website.
I find the work relatively draining compared to actually making the game, so it's been slow going.

That being said, I am hoping to finish within the next few days.

This week I have submissions for PAX East and MAG Fest due, so it's going to be a busy one.
Although at this point my demo is well polished enough (having been shown in a ton of previous conventions) so I have a shot.

I am feeling confident about submitting that section of the game.

---

I realized on 11/10 my DevLog turned a year old!
Thank you everyone who has been reading this.

I definitely appreciate all of the feedback and kind words in regards to the game.

I've come a long way, but also have a long way to go.

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