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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsDesolus: A Surreal First Person Puzzle Game
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Mark Mayers
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« Reply #60 on: April 11, 2015, 11:16:52 AM »

Oooooooh, my goodness.

Do you have a sample of the music? If there will be any. I would love to hear the audio side of this visual landscape.

The potential experience that you will be creating for the players is awe-inspiring. I'm curious to know how all the aspects of the game (aural/visual) will work in tandem with one another.

Here's what the title screen currently looks like in motion:



I put a higher res/fps version of the gif here.

The pianist Kyle Landry is composing the music for me.




Most of the sounds in the game (so far) are 'natural' sounds, such as wind and the sound of the ocean.
I'll probably end up keeping the theme that creates, and add some light ambient music (possibly more piano) as well.

The singularity and other gameplay sounds right now are ethereal and unnatural, which I feel compliments the environmental sounds.

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« Reply #61 on: April 13, 2015, 06:06:29 PM »

Update 28: 04/13/2015

This weekend I worked on revising the first few areas in the start of the game.

--------

Unfortunately... my power supply killed itself, and I lost all of Sunday's progress due to file corruption.

I managed to redo 80% of it in 2 hours through sheer determination, and did the other 20% today.
It was frustrating to say the least.

Then as soon as I finished it happened AGAIN. I think a cord was loose, I fixed it.
Fortunately, the second time there was no file corruption.

Here's the redone version of the starting area:




--------

A bit of introspection:

Something I've struggled with is conveying an accurate 'demo' of the game in an expo setting.
Or really, how to make the first hour of the game as interesting as it can be.

Without playing the beginning puzzles, someone won't understand the later ones.
 
This presents a problem, since the later levels are arguably more interesting.
However, there is both a cognitive/thinking and dexterity/skill gap to play these levels.

How am I supposed to demo a game with continually evolving complexity in such a short amount of time?

How do I compete in festivals (such as IndieCade) when judges only have a limited amount of time time to play the game?
Some games only get played for five minutes, and Desolus is a game that takes at least the first hour to fully appreciate.

It's still a problem I'm trying to solve.

-------

Anyway;

I'm giving a short talk about Desolus on the 28th at Playcrafting Boston.

If you're in the Boston area, go!
You get to play the game too!

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« Reply #62 on: April 13, 2015, 06:32:47 PM »

Perhaps you could simplify these puzzles, showing the players a glimpse of the gameplay on a narrower level?

Also, the music style is very interesting! Mr. Landry seems to be a very talented pianist, and I believe he'll nail the mood without a problem.
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« Reply #63 on: April 13, 2015, 08:11:45 PM »

Perhaps you could simplify these puzzles, showing the players a glimpse of the gameplay on a narrower level?

Also, the music style is very interesting! Mr. Landry seems to be a very talented pianist, and I believe he'll nail the mood without a problem.

Yea, I was thinking of doing some type of bi-directional design; where you traverse levels one direction with fewer abilities and then come back with your upgrades.

And thanks! I really like that song in particular; it conveys the mood and atmosphere of what I'm going for.
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« Reply #64 on: April 15, 2015, 05:10:44 PM »

Update 29: 04/15/2015

Yesterday and Monday I worked on slightly revamping the title screen.

What was wrong with it?
Nothing.... I just felt it needed extra polish and tweaking.

-------

Here's what it looks like now.




For comparison; here's what it looked like as of last week.




I made the ambiance too 'yellow' according to one of my friends.

I feel the new design is much better from one from the last week. Whether it's better than the original design? Arguable.

Here's a picture representing the spectrum of colors the title screen has gone through over time.



I've definitely gone into more of a fantasy/stylized approach (like with red trees and lighting) but I feel it suits the identity of the game.

As my friend said, Desolus is a 'realistic fantasy.'

--------

Tonight I'll be doing additional polish for the new demo.

I have a lot of bugs to work out, and I need to revamp one of the levels entirely (it just wasn't a great puzzle).

I'm still having issues with the particle system failing.... which is a *critical* problem.
This breaks the game, saying how 90% of the assets are particles.

I'm also trying to think of ways to incorporate 'The Eye' mechanic into the existing levels.

There's a lot of difficult work ahead.
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« Reply #65 on: April 15, 2015, 05:43:34 PM »

looks cool!
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« Reply #66 on: April 15, 2015, 05:47:19 PM »

This shit is amazing. I would love to see some detailed breakdown of the particle systems and postprocessing in scenes like that!
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« Reply #67 on: April 15, 2015, 05:49:44 PM »

This is an addendum to the last DevLog Entry.
I originally wasn't going to post this.

TIGSource even went down and I lost all of the text... but I rewrote it.

I guess this is more of a 'Dev Diary' but here we go.

I'm hesitant to apply to IndieCade this year.

Why? I don't know... the game might not be ready to show 'to the world' just yet.

Showing off at local expos are great. Having a DevLog is excellent.

That's how I get feedback, that's how the game becomes well polished.
I prefer brutal, honest, criticism that I can take constructively and make the game as good as it can be.

However, I feel expos like PAX, IndieCade, GDC, and the IGF are reserved for near complete games.

I'm not going to lie when I say Desolus is probably two years away from completion.
That's simply how long it's going to take for the game I have envisioned.

This is the first screenshot I have of Desolus.



This was day one.
It was an awful 2D game with stolen NES sprites and MS Paint graphics.
All you could was move around, there were no mechanics.

September 6th, 2011 was when I began my 'game' later to be named Desolus.

When people ask, "How long have you been working on this?"
I usually (currently) answer with, "four years or four months, depending on perspective."

---

If the game, and my skill as a developer, has shown such exponential growth; what happens if I show the game too early?
What if the game isn't ready?

Would I be a victim of the hype train if the game succeeds?
Hype can be toxic. Look at Phil Fish, FEZ originated from this very forum.
However, despite his success, he burnt out with a spectacular causticity.

However, even *thinking* your game can succeed to that degree could come with a corrosive arrogance, which I try to strongly avoid.
But if you don't believe in your game, if you don't have unwavering faith in your potential success, who will?

The alternative outcome of an indie dev is that all of your passion and fire fizzes into the vast ocean of reality.
Nobody knows about your game. The world is too big, the indie market is too saturated.

That thought comes with a certain unsettling nihilism, however, it also comes with a freedom.
If nobody knows/cares about your game.... you can do whatever you want.

However, that doesn't change that indie games can be inherently poisonous to their creators.

For example, Alexander Bruce (from what I've gathered) went through severe depression and isolation when developing Antichamber.
If you haven't seen his GDC talk it's a must watch.

There are *so many developers* that go/will go/have gone through this.
When you put so much effort into something, you will indubitably doubt its success, perhaps leading to depression.

----

The point of why I'm writing this is that game development is f**king hard.
Success is derived from hours, days, months, and years of work.

Even after all of that work, there is a strong chance you will still fail.

Even if you experience a well deserved success, life events could rob you of that happiness you deserve.

I'm not complaining.
I chose this reality.

I love my game.


I come home from work, and I escape into a reality I've created, where anything is possible.

Perhaps this is a bit too 'personal' for the Internet.
However, I needed to clear my thoughts.
I least take solace that other developers likely feel similar about their games.

If you're struggling as an indie and reading this, you're not alone.

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« Reply #68 on: April 15, 2015, 05:52:03 PM »

looks cool!

This shit is amazing. I would love to see some detailed breakdown of the particle systems and postprocessing in scenes like that!

I didn't even read these before I hit 'post' on that last one. Thank you so much Smiley
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« Reply #69 on: April 15, 2015, 06:51:52 PM »


The point of why I'm writing this is that game development is f**king hard.
Success is derived from hours, days, months, and years of work.

Even after all of that work, there is a strong chance you will still fail.

Even if you experience a well deserved success, life events could rob you of that happiness you deserve.

I'm not complaining.
I chose this reality.

I love my game.


I come home from work, and I escape into a reality I've created, where anything is possible.

Perhaps this is a bit too 'personal' for the Internet.
However, I needed to clear my thoughts.
I least take solace that other developers likely feel similar about their games.

If you're struggling as an indie and reading this, you're not alone.


Great writeup. Especially working alone can be incredibly draining (as there's always so much to do!)

My first project has been a marathon to finish (3-4 years to learn the ropes), but I still love seeing people's faces light up when they play it and it's finally approaching the Steam release.

I did some collaborative work over the summer and it was such a breath of fresh air to share the games development experience with someone else to the point that if I take on another long term project, it won't be alone again (Either with another person, a publisher or both).

The mechanics of Desolus are fascinating and the visuals are absolutely wonderful - colour pallete and visuals remind me of the Gorillaz video, "El Ma?ana".

I'm going to be in Boston this summer to visit the artist I worked with. It'd be neat to meet up for a beer whilst I'm in town.
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« Reply #70 on: April 15, 2015, 07:33:49 PM »


Great writeup. Especially working alone can be incredibly draining (as there's always so much to do!)

My first project has been a marathon to finish (3-4 years to learn the ropes), but I still love seeing people's faces light up when they play it and it's finally approaching the Steam release.

I did some collaborative work over the summer and it was such a breath of fresh air to share the games development experience with someone else to the point that if I take on another long term project, it won't be alone again (Either with another person, a publisher or both).

The mechanics of Desolus are fascinating and the visuals are absolutely wonderful - colour pallete and visuals remind me of the Gorillaz video, "El Ma?ana".

I'm going to be in Boston this summer to visit the artist I worked with. It'd be neat to meet up for a beer whilst I'm in town.

Absolutely, it's always wonderful to see people enjoy playing your game!

The first playable prototype I had was in November (right around the time I started the DevLog), which was also my first expo.

Some guy sat there for 45 minutes and played through the entire demo.
The prototype was crap; it was ridiculously difficult, full of bugs, and the mechanics then were relatively arbitrary.
But he still finished the demo.

He gave me a hug and wanted to take a picture with me, like I was some legendary wizard who conjured this dream world.
That single instance made me think, "Hey, maybe all of this is worth it."

I think I'll *have* to bring on another person at some point for polish. Not for a while though.
I would have to make a Kickstarter for money, but I am waiting until I have an absolute slam dunk until I'll even start one.
Realistically, it will be a year. Indie development really is a marathon, not a sprint.   

And yea! I would be absolutely down for grabbing a beer. Shoot me an email ([email protected]) or a tweet (@DesolusDev)!
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« Reply #71 on: April 20, 2015, 09:58:36 AM »

Update 30: 04/20/2015

Yesterday I had some major victories! It was a good day.

--------

I MANAGED TO FIX ALL MY LOADING BUGS which I am ridiculously excited about.
All of them were game-breaking! I am presenting the game on Thursday at a local expo, so I couldn't have them.

I was talking briefly with Willy Chyr (the developer of RELATIVITY) about SECTR over Twitter.

It's a modular level loading framework for Unity that you can purchase on the asset store.
Someone recommended it to me before as well when I was talking about loading issues.

He said it wouldn't work for RELATIVITY due to how SECTR works by culling certain zones with a 'room' approach. RELATIVITY has an open world, and you can constantly see most areas of the map.

I decided it would be best not to use SECTR either, due to idiosyncrasies with Desolus.
Plus I am a programmer by trade, and I already was 90% to a reliable and fast implementation of level streaming.

I rewrote the loading code and made it much more modular/organized.

In regards to the bugs that I fixed:
Before, Terrain would sometimes unload itself and disappear, and the player would fall into the ocean and die infinitely! Needless to say that was bad.

Particles would also no longer render when loading another scene.
Saying how 90% of the game assets are particles, you couldn't play the game!

I also improved the speed of loading dramatically. My initial version of the loading code was about 5 seconds per level.
Then I got it down to about 2 seconds with the second, broken version.

Now there is almost 0 loading time. It takes about .2-1 seconds on my computer, depending on the scene complexity.

Like I said, a major victory.

--------

I've also been experimenting with new sky.
I can't make up my mind whether to keep it; it changes the mood of the game dramatically.

Here is the new sky:



For reference, here is the old sky:



It gives a sense of 'cosmic wonder' but also detracts from the art style a bit?
It moves from away from a monochromatic, stylistic approach. Maybe I'm just over thinking it.

I'm thinking about purchasing TENKOKU, which is a dynamic sky system for Unity. It's not out yet on the asset store, however.

I do like the 'nebula as sky' theme in the new sky. It also makes the Desolus feel that much more alien and mysterious.

--------

I'll be playing with sky more today, now that I've fixed those bugs!


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« Reply #72 on: April 20, 2015, 10:22:41 AM »

Looks really cool and different! Keep up the great work.
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« Reply #73 on: April 23, 2015, 08:11:03 PM »

Update 31: 04/23/2015

I had a very interesting and exciting day today.

I won 'Best Art' at the Northeastern Games Annual Showcase.

The prize is relatively minor (a bag of small goodies, some free games, a Steam giftcard) but I won something, and that's awesome.
There were people there who enjoyed playing my game. It's great feeling.

I feel weird winning an art award when I come from a heavy programming background.
I've also never touched an 'art program' (ex ZBrush, 3DSMax, Maya). The game is made entirely inside Unity.

I also met one of the original founders of IndieCade, she was at the showcase.
She was interested in Desolus, and encouraged me to apply! So I'm going for it, despite my prior hesitation.

--------

Anyway, I've added a new day/night cycle to the game.
Here are a two screenshots!






--------

I'll talk about it more later, and post some more screenshots.
I'm super exhausted; operating on very little sleep.

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« Reply #74 on: April 23, 2015, 10:39:54 PM »

Those particles though!   Shocked And that title screen is hella beautiful! Totally following this
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« Reply #75 on: April 24, 2015, 12:21:02 AM »

in reference to your dev diary entry on festival showings, i think opinions on the value of such things will vary wildly depending on who you talk to, but i can at least offer some (possibly jaded) perspective from of our own experience presenting rain world in various stages all over the place for the past 3 years.

seems like festivals are both important and not. there is a certain scene involved, with certain evolving hierarchy and tastes, and if you work to become part of that scene then it can potentially offer up its infrastructure to you and be beneficial. but thats definitely not just a result of showing up with a cool game, its the networking/connections stuff that makes that happen. and that, ouroboros-like, at the very least takes doing the festival/con circuit for a bit and putting yourself out there.

but there you are also competing with a thousand other devs trying really hard to do the same thing, and it definitely devolves into all the weird personality and politics stuff. plus after all that effort handshaking, even if you DO manage to get yourself into the game scene zeitgeist, it doesnt necessarily lead you to anything special either. a successful, hard fought day at a booth, you might make 500 IRL impressions, but a well done youtube video on a well-read site could easily net you 10,000, while you are at home in your socks.

so i think its moot: if festivals play to your (and the games) strength, or you just want to do it for fun or for feedback, then by all means have at it. but there are easily as many "outside the scene" success stories as well, so dont feel pressured. even though i personally like doing them, i dont think the festival/crowd environment is at all conducive to conveying a game experience anyway. i cant say that ive ever really enjoyed playing a game at a convention.

anyway, i realize no amount of platitude text is going to make the uncertainties any less real, so if you want to grab beers and talk specifics, let me know  Toast Right
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« Reply #76 on: April 24, 2015, 08:07:20 AM »

Looks really cool and different! Keep up the great work.

Those particles though!   Shocked And that title screen is hella beautiful! Totally following this

Thanks guys Smiley

if festivals play to your (and the games) strength, or you just want to do it for fun or for feedback, then by all means have at it. but there are easily as many "outside the scene" success stories as well, so dont feel pressured. even though i personally like doing them, i dont think the festival/crowd environment is at all conducive to conveying a game experience anyway. i cant say that ive ever really enjoyed playing a game at a convention.

anyway, i realize no amount of platitude text is going to make the uncertainties any less real, so if you want to grab beers and talk specifics, let me know  Toast Right

I definitely still want to grab beers sometime soon!

I'm mainly going to festivals/expos right now to build a community around my game, and engage with the indie developer community.
Even going to expos and not presenting is great (like meeting you and Joar at PAX!)

Showing at expos is the main source of feedback/exposure I have right now, and for the most part it's free.
I also really enjoy seeing people play my game, and I'm a firm believer playtesting is critical to development.

Related story:

My first exposure to the indie scene was PAX East 2010.

My favorite part was interacting with all the indie developers and playing their games.
There's something organic, genuine, and awesome because the people who made the games are right there.
 
I guess that's why I place value in festivals, expos, and the indie scene; I've had such a positive experience with it.
However, I haven't shown enough at festivals or gained enough exposure to lose that sense of wonder and naivete, hahaha.

Funny enough, I vaguely remember meeting Phil Fish that year at PAX.
He said, "You've heard of Fez right?"

Of course, I was totally oblivious to the context/controversy of Phil and his game.
I still think that's amusing.

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« Reply #77 on: April 25, 2015, 06:13:47 PM »

Update 32: 04/25/2015

I've made all of the sky in Desolus dynamic after messing around with a new sky system.

Because of this, I revamped the world theme of my three worlds (that I've shown) so far.
However, they maintain the same 'feel' that I was trying to go for before, and perhaps even better convey it.

--------

These are screenshots of key locations at interesting times.

The beach of the moonlit canyon:
The cycle is about 40% day, 60% night; this is at about midnight.



---

The mountain world entrance at sunset:
The cycle is about 85% day, 15% night; this is around 6am, when the sun sets (day/night is inverted here).



---

The aurora of the glacier:
The cycle is about 15% day, 85% night; this is around 3am, when the aurora is most visible.



--------

I plan on building a mechanic around the day/night cycle, and have moonlit and solar bridges.

These bridges will only appear at certain unique times of day, relative to the environment.
You must explore the environment at different times to unlock all of its secrets.

You can also manipulate the sky, think about how Zelda does it in Ocarina of Time.
I have mechanic planned similar to the 'Ocarina' but in a unique way.

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« Reply #78 on: April 28, 2015, 07:49:02 PM »

Update 33: 04/28/2015

I gave a talk at Playcrafting Boston today, which was pretty interesting.

I've never done a public talk about the game before! Although I have done expos.

--------

My presentation was on mathematical art and its role in Desolus.

As I stated in my initial entry  I am a programmer, making a game based mostly on art. It kind of just happened this way, I didn't initially intend it.
It's not like 'traditional' art for games; like I said, I've never touched a 3D modeling program.

I mentioned in an earlier post that fractals are a huge inspiration to me.

Most of the visual appeal in Desolus revolves around mathematical art; representing a recursive 'function' visually.



A point I made in the presentation is, try drawing this by hand.... You really can't.

---

If you take a look at this picture, it shows the concept I'm talking about in a few different ways.



If you take a look at 'The Eye' that I mentioned in an earlier post, there is a fractal nature in the actual particles themselves.
It almost resembles a Mandelbrot set (the first picture).

It's a set of self similar scaled particles acting under a mathematical 'function' which makes it act in a unique way.

The particles in the eye are composed of three functions.
-The 'Retina' which spins at a certain velocity (.3)
-The 'Iris' which spins at a faster velocity (1)
-The 'Eye' which is a set of particles that grow over time.

Here's a gif from one of my previous DevLog entries.



That area has been revised, but you get the point of how the eye functions.

The 'tentacles' in that picture are also fractals themselves.
I have a function that generates a spline of cubes; each one growing recursively smaller.
They end up making very interesting shapes, and are a unique motif to Desolus.

---

I also heavily use the 'Golden Ratio' and vertical/horizontal symmetry, which I talked about in a previous DevLog entry.

I've always had a fascination with the 'Golden Spiral' and that self-similar patterns can be found in nature.
It's as if there's some universal rule, although I'm not here to talk about philosophy.
(Do humans find these patters and assign meaning, or do these patterns inherently exist?)



These themes definitely have found there way into the game.

As I mentioned earlier, I've been 'composing' scenes with golden ratio values without noticing it.
Now, I do it consciously, and try to make it close to mathematically perfect.

---

All of these concepts are a result of:
A- Several years of trying to find out how to make this game with my unique skill set
B- Several years of introspection surrounding that thought process
C- Retrospective of what I've done subconsciously, now giving a comprehensive 'meaning' to the game and overall theme.

From a practical perspective, there's also a huge value that I can type in a few numbers and procedurally generate an infinite permutation of art assets.

It does wonders for productivity.

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« Reply #79 on: April 29, 2015, 11:51:59 AM »





I was pleasantly surprised when #indiedev Mark Mayer started his Playcrafting Lightning Talk and it was on the use of the Golden Ratio when dynamically generating the art in his game Desolus, so I whipped out the iPhone and quickly record.







If you can forgive the bad audio and video quality, it is a fascinating presentation.
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