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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsDesolus: A Surreal First Person Puzzle Game
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Mark Mayers
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« Reply #160 on: December 03, 2015, 10:18:44 PM »

Update 66: 12/03/2015

November was a very fast paced month for me.

I've applied to two major conventions last week (PAX East, MAGFest) for early next year.
All of this time spent polishing has resulted in a slice of the game I consider of good quality.

The last few months have been crucial in this game's development.
I finally have a solid core I can build on, which I am excited about.

---

==Revamped Website==

I switched over the DNS to host the new website.

There are still some aspects that are in progress.
I plan on creating a mailing list and doing general revision.

I may totally ditch this layout later for a better one, but it does the job.

For a self critique, the website is extremely basic. It's all just HTML and CSS, there isn't even any Javascript.
However it IS the first website I made completely from scratch, ex. without a framework. At least I gained some experience.

---

==New Videos!==





I captured this video of the full title screen cycle, it's raw and unedited footage.

It features Kyle Landry's melancholy solo piano piece 'Frozen.'
Kyle mentioned he would like to re-record the song, and polish a few things. Although I enjoy it as it is Smiley

The title screen will loop





I recorded this directly from the first three levels of the demo.

In the last two weeks I changed up a few sound effects, going for a more natural theme.
I also FINALLY got Kyle's music into gameplay. This is actually primarily improv/placeholder, but I like it so far.

---

==Environment Morphing==





I've been experimenting with the concept of the world evolving over time.

Something 'Metroidvania' genre games often don't explore is the evolution of the environment.
Titles are often player focused, but the environment remains static throughout the game.

It's just a concept, but I am thinking I might integrate a meta-mechanic where the world will change as the player progresses.

Maybe some natural events (flood, heatwave, snowstorm) cause certain areas to be accessible, or inaccessible.  

For the above example, I mixed the theme of the second world with an area from the first and increased the water level.

I'll develop more of this concept later!

---
« Last Edit: August 14, 2017, 09:33:14 AM by Mark Mayers » Logged

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« Reply #161 on: December 17, 2015, 08:26:10 PM »

Update 67: 12/17/2015

What I've been up to the past two weeks:

---

World Creation

Recently I've been creating a more cohesive world structure. As such, I am starting to link all of the zones so far together.

I still have a lot of work left to do, but here is the start to linking the first three worlds into the central zone.




---

Surrealism and Perfect Geometry

I've been experimenting more with asset and level creation; outside of the terrain and natural aspects.

This structure is created with a series of pyramids scaled by a Fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34).

The scenes are arranged from daytime, night time, and no sky. It's interesting for visual experimentation.







---

The Business/Personal Side of Things

I recently switched to part time at my job (32 hours). I'm also forming an LLC for my one man 'studio.'
Fortunately, with 32 hours I can still manage to pay my bills Grin

I've been in contact with a few major companies and potential publishing opportunities, as such, it's absolutely necessary to form an LLC at this point.

This is an important step for me. A bit over a year ago I would have never thought I would get this far.

I didn't fully understand what it *actually takes* to make a game.
There is SO much more other than pure development to get game out the door.

---

More updates soon!
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« Reply #162 on: January 04, 2016, 08:26:06 PM »

Update 68: 01/04/2016

It's been a while since I posted on TIGSource, I hope everyone had a great New Year!

---

Singularity Types/Energy

I've been revamping the shaders and particle effects for the 'singularity' which is the black hole you control in Desolus.

The gifs show three different types of Singularities: Light, Anti, and Super.
These each correspond to mechanics used to manipulate the state of objects in gameplay, which I will go into detail with later.

In the below post I'll go into detail regarding basics of how I do some of my procedural animation and effects with particles.

---

Light Singularity



---

Anti Singularity



---

Super Singularity



---

A brief code example of how this works.

The general idea is that the Singularity will cycle between three states to generate the effect:

-Inactive: The player isn't pressing anything; the singularity will shrink (The first few seconds of the gif).
-Active: The player is pressing the trigger button (The middle seconds of the gifs).
-Charged: When a singularity has absorbed energy, grows to maximum rate (The last few seconds of the gifs).

These states manipulate three components:

-A gravitational lens shader.
-A light effect with halo.
-A constant which actively applies a spin force to the particles.



It's fairly simple, as all I'm doing is transitioning between three constants based on the player's actions.

However, this type of philosophy drives much of the 'animation' in the game.
There are no traditional animations, it's all through effects and particles.


---
« Last Edit: June 27, 2020, 10:11:54 PM by Mark Mayers » Logged

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« Reply #163 on: January 11, 2016, 10:13:25 AM »

Update 69: 01/11/2016

~If you would like to try out Desolus~

In an effort to get more feedback and playtesting on the game, I have an alpha demo you can try.

I'm still keeping the game relatively close to home; this is a semi-closed alpha test open to people who frequent this board.

Send me an email at [email protected] or message on TIGSource!  

---

Some more experimentation with world concepts:




« Last Edit: February 27, 2016, 11:21:08 AM by markefus » Logged

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« Reply #164 on: January 28, 2016, 05:20:46 PM »

Update 70: 01/28/2016

---

Star Constellations

I've been revisiting Star Constellations as a concept, which signifies when a level is completed.
This brings the concept of 'energy direction' (the core theme of Desolus) a step further.

When all stars are active in a scene, their combined energy is redirected to an object.



The energy acts as a key/lock system with doors.
Doors will unlock when an area is completed, working as a progression system.

Doors are initially inactive, until a constellation redirects its energy at the door.

Inactive Door



Active Door




---

The Time Synchronization Problem

An interesting problem I had to solve was synchronizing the light beams with each other, to help with visual consistency.

Here is a gif of an unsynchronized constellation. Notice how the beams of light transmit at different intervals.



The problem was due to a difference in internal timing between the 'beam' objects.
Each beam shot at its own interval of two seconds: the timing depends on when it was created.
In addition, beams over time would sometimes go out of sync with each other.

My goal was to make each light beam shoot exactly every two seconds, together.

I thought of two different ways to do this:
-Create a clock class which gives a synchronized time between multiple threads
-Do some floating point math to validate if a time is correct

I ended up going the latter route, here's what I came up with.



This code returns a boolean to determine if a time is 'valid' ex. the time falls exactly on an even second within a certain threshold.

The clause seems relatively simple, but it took a bit of time to figure it out.
The code takes a look at the time of the thread and computes the closest absolute second (by taking Mathf.Floor).
I use modular division to determine if that second is an even number.

This is used in conjunction with a standard 'can shoot' method, which will return true after 2 seconds from when the beam was last shot.

The result are the beams shooting in a synchronized fashion, every exact 2 seconds:




---

In Other News

MAGFest

I was accepted into MAGFest as part of the Independent Game Showcase!

I'm presenting next month down in DC; I'll be there for five days.
This should be the largest event I've been to so far (20,000 people?)

I'll be making the trip down from Boston to DC.
I used to live in the area so I'm staying with friends.

Reddit

Earlier I posted Desolus to the Unity Reddit and received a very positive reception.

This was reassuring, as making a game alone without any external feedback can be mentally draining.

An interesting opportunity came from the post and the exposure it brought.
I'll have more details on that in the future, but it should be exciting.

« Last Edit: June 27, 2020, 10:12:03 PM by Mark Mayers » Logged

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« Reply #165 on: February 27, 2016, 01:35:43 PM »

Update 71: 02/27/2016

I haven't posted in my DevLog for a month; probably the longest break I've taken so far from posting on TIGSource.
However, during the last several weeks I've been preparing for my demo at MAGFest, down in DC.

---

MAGFest Post-Mortem



MAGFest, short for 'Music and Gaming Festival' is a massive convention hosted in National Harbor, Maryland; right outside Washington DC.
The festival spans 4 days (Thursday 2/18 through Sunday 2/21) and consists of roughly 20,000 people packed into the Gaylord Convention Center.

I was accepted as part of the MAGFest Independent Video Game Showcase or 'MIVS'.
MIVS takes over roughly a quarter of the convention floor, which is pretty crazy when you think about it.





---

Presentation Retrospective

~Technology at the Booth~

I chose to run two computers for my booth; a large desktop attached to an Oculus Rift, and a smaller desktop with a TV my friend loaned me.

The first desktop attached to the TV was simple to run and required very minimal setup.
Any time someone new came up to try the game, I programmed my demo to restart with one button.
People still needed some explanation in regards to tutorial but this setup was easy for me to manage.

The second computer with the Oculus Rift was difficult to maintain.
I had to constantly setup the Rift for different types of people.
For example, people with glasses needed special calibration so they were able to see.
There is also no 'one size fits all' setting for head sizes; I needed to frequently readjust the head straps.
I had a DevKit II for the convention. There are ergonomic features lacking for the DK II compared to the newer models.

However, many people have never tried Oculus before. As such, this was a major selling point for my booth.
Some people waited in line for **almost an hour** at my booth to try out the Rift. 



~Booth Design~

I was primarily focused with getting the demo finished from a game play perspective, but was under prepared for my actual booth.
I regret not putting more thought into presentation, but having a good demo is considerably more important to me.

My booth materials:

-A banner propped up with duct tape
-A blue table cloth borrowed from the convention
-A few basic chairs
-Bean bags loaned by the convention
-My computers

Very minimalist, just the essentials.

Although I had relatively modest booth setup, the game seemed to draw in lots of attention.







I'm estimating over ~250 people played the game across four days, and perhaps a thousand stopped by my booth (maybe more?).
I didn't keep exact count, or integrate any analytics into the demo. In the future I might do this to provide additional playtesting data.

~Travel and Costs~

I was able to present at MAGFest for a nominal amount. I think I spent less than $250 in total.

Fortunately, booth expenses were not an issue. MAGFest is free for developers part of the showcase.
I reused my banner and cards from when I presented back at the Boston Festival of Indie Games, so expenses were nominal.

I have a few friends living in DC, and I stayed with one of them.
Not having to pay for a hotel was fantastic, and I am very grateful my friend let me stay.

Travel was the main source of expense. I drove from Boston to DC and back.
In total, it was about 1000 miles worth of driving, but I didn't really have any other option to bring all my gear with me.



In the future I might fly instead as the drive was rather long.
I would bring only my small desktop, which fits into a backpack (like I did for IndieCade).

~Conclusions~

Overall, the convention was ridiculously fun but also exhausting.
It took me an entire week to recover and get back on a normal sleep schedule, but now I'm feeling productive again.

I think in the future I'll abstain from running a booth for 3 & 1/2 days by myself.
I'm normally extroverted but between the lack of sleep, drive to the convention, booth setup, and 30 hours of booth presentation, I was running low on energy by the end.
Apologies if I seemed a little grumpy to anyone by the final day Tired

A few other indies and some of my friends helped watch my booth when I needed to take breaks.
However, I really need a full time booth assistant especially if I'm running more than one computer.

Despite all of this, I generally had a good time presenting at the convention and felt it was well worth it.

---

Interesting Highlights

The 'Gone Home' Christmas Duck made an appearance at my booth.



For those who haven't played Gone Home (and if you haven't why not?) there is a Christmas Duck at the beginning of the game you can carry with you.

One of the booth organizers for MIVS had a real life Christmas Duck, which she brought around to the various indies.

--

I had a lot of fun at the MAGFest concerts.
This gave a great break from presenting all day, and I had the chance to relax and listen to music from games I enjoy.



--

When you get 20k video game fans in one place, there are lots of interesting cosplays and people to talk to.
I think this was my favorite one at the convention.



---

The developers and people part of MIVS were fantastic.
The indie booths were quite the sight to see, and the show floor was packed with people playing indie games.

I feel fortunate to have been a part of the showcase, and greatly enjoyed it.

Thanks to everyone who was a part of MAGFest this year!



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« Reply #166 on: February 29, 2016, 08:05:04 AM »

Update 72: 02/29/2016

A few screenshots of areas I've been working on that I never posted to my devlog.

Feedback welcome!



Starting level I used for the MAGFest demo.




New environment, I combined the themes from update #69.




Using a few prototype assets to build levels faster, but one of the revised themes of the first set of levels.
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« Reply #167 on: February 29, 2016, 10:24:35 AM »

Glad MAGFest was fun for you man.

Quote
In the future I might fly instead as the drive was rather long.
I would bring only my small desktop, which fits into a backpack (like I did for IndieCade)

Yeah, I learned this lesson driving from Seattle to LA for IndieCade, not doing that ever again. Also, I'm bummed I didn't see Desolus at IndieCade - though I was cooped up in a booth. I've been secretly excited for your game for a while now : )
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« Reply #168 on: February 29, 2016, 12:58:57 PM »

hey this game looks great, i think more people should comment on it  Toast Right
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Mark Mayers
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« Reply #169 on: February 29, 2016, 01:46:26 PM »

Glad MAGFest was fun for you man.

Yeah, I learned this lesson driving from Seattle to LA for IndieCade, not doing that ever again. Also, I'm bummed I didn't see Desolus at IndieCade - though I was cooped up in a booth. I've been secretly excited for your game for a while now : )

Thanks! I see you did the audio for Prune? That's a beautiful game, and the soundtrack is fantastic.

I know the feeling about exhibiting and not having the chance to see the other indie games.
Unfortunately For MAGFest I only got to take a glance at games in my vicinity.
 
Also, IndieCade was a great experience this year and I'll likely go again.
If you're at IndieCade or ever in the Boston area let me know!

hey this game looks great, i think more people should comment on it  Toast Right

Hahaha thanks James Toast Left Also thanks again for the advice and good conversation yesterday, always great talking to you.
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« Reply #170 on: February 29, 2016, 01:48:40 PM »

hey this game looks great, i think more people should comment on it  Toast Right

More people should play it, its a great experience too...
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« Reply #171 on: February 29, 2016, 04:05:59 PM »

hey this game looks great, i think more people should comment on it  Toast Right

More people should play it, its a great experience too...

I'll have to send you the new build based on my MAGFest feedback when I finish it!
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« Reply #172 on: February 29, 2016, 07:52:47 PM »

Quote
That's a beautiful game, and the soundtrack is fantastic.

Hey thanks Mark! Appreciate it man. Will definitely let you know if I'm in the area; I'm a huge Red Sox fan so there's a strong possibility of that happening  Smiley
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« Reply #173 on: March 01, 2016, 05:46:32 PM »

Quote
That's a beautiful game, and the soundtrack is fantastic.

Hey thanks Mark! Appreciate it man. Will definitely let you know if I'm in the area; I'm a huge Red Sox fan so there's a strong possibility of that happening  Smiley

Sounds great! I think we'll bump into each other at some indie convention for sure.

---

Also! Some quick updates.

-There was an article by Equity Arcade featuring the indies at MAGFest, mentioning Desolus.

-Unity contacted me to help write an article that will be featured in Made With Unity.
It's about the evolving design of Desolus, and managing development as a solo indie.

-I have a special announcement I'm excited about, but I can't say anything until the end of March! So stay tuned.
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« Reply #174 on: March 07, 2016, 09:23:45 PM »

Update 73: 03/07/2016

Excited to say Desolus is being featured by Unity as part of 'Made with Unity'



I'm not sure how long it will be up for, but I am on the front page of the Unity Website! 

---



I've been working with Unity to write an article called 'The Evolving Design of Desolus' documenting my journey as an independent developer.
The article details how Desolus came to be so far over many years of iterative design.   

The story has been in the works since I was contacted by Unity last month from a post I made showing the Desolus title screen.
It's fantastic to see the story published today!

I'm extremely thankful to have support from the 'Made with Unity' team. If you're reading this, thanks again!

---

In the coming weeks I will be preparing a new demo based on the feedback I've gained from the past months, mainly MAGFest.
Again if you're on TIGSource and want to check out the Desolus demo to give feedback, shoot me an email or message.

I've also finally made a Facebook page for the game. (Took me long enough).

Until next time!
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« Reply #175 on: March 30, 2016, 09:59:01 AM »

Update 74: 03/30/2016

I haven't posted here for quite some time.
I've been preparing for various demos in the local area of Boston and adding tons of new content to the game.

Also, Oculus also gave me an Oculus Rift CV1. I've been tweaking the virtual reality aspects of Desolus.
I'll have recent development content updates in a future post sometime soon.

However!

---

I have some pretty great news:

Today, the lineup for the PAX East Indie MEGABOOTH was announced.
 


I am excited to say that I will be part of the MINIBOOTH this year for all three days!

I've been to PAX East for 5 years, this will be my 6th.
PAX East was one of my first encounters with indie video games, so it holds a special significance to me.

I remember when the MEGABOOTH first started in 2012 with humble beginnings; it now dominates the convention as the largest booth on the show floor.

There are some fantastic games this year and I feel fortunate be be among them.

---
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« Reply #176 on: March 30, 2016, 11:46:07 AM »

Congrats, Mark! Awesome news Smiley
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« Reply #177 on: March 30, 2016, 12:50:47 PM »

I saw that in the email today! Congrats! I really want to hear what your experiences are with the Mini Booth.
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« Reply #178 on: March 30, 2016, 08:04:49 PM »

 Hand Metal Right Hand Metal Right Hand Metal Right
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Mark Mayers
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« Reply #179 on: March 31, 2016, 12:54:17 PM »

Congrats, Mark! Awesome news Smiley

Thanks Emma! Also, definitely stop by the MINIBOOTH and say hi!

I saw that in the email today! Congrats! I really want to hear what your experiences are with the Mini Booth.

Thank you! I'll be sure to do a postmortem of the event.

I still have a few weeks to prepare but I want to make sure my demo is a slam dunk.
Feedback after showing a few demos this week has been positive. At least I'm doing well so far!

Hand Metal Right Hand Metal Right Hand Metal Right

 Toast Right Toast Left Toast Right Toast Left
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