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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsA Cat's Manor - Creepy Atmospheric Platform Puzzler
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leblackdragon
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« on: March 19, 2015, 12:56:37 PM »


Set in an inclosed manor, populated with an eccentrically mannered family, A Cat's Manor is an atmospheric puzzler using the 2D platform genre to represent its world. The game plays out as you the cat, who prematurely wakes up suffering from amnesia, attempt to piece together what happened the night before, and realize you need to escape this manor.





The game revolves around solving puzzles to open up new sections of the manor in hopes of finding a way out. Puzzles revolve around interacting with characters for hints or tasks, and then exploring the manor for items, mixing them, activating things, collecting, etc.



The length of the game is designed so that it would take roughly 70 minutes to complete if you know all the solutions. So it isn't too small hopefully. The strongest focus of the game is to create a highly creepy, and atmospheric adventure. Dark and moody stylistic art, Very fluid animation, creepy and rich soundscape for each room and character, large play on lighting, shadows, and colors.

The game features full voice acting. All the dialogue (and there's a lot of it) is voiced by the talents of Kai Kennedy and his wonderful wife Mary Elizabeth Kennedy. The soundtrack is movie quality by the talented Wlad Marhulets and features live instrument recordings.

The game is initially targeting Steam and PS4 platforms, then expand to mobile and portable devices PS Vita, Android, and, iOS.



Cheers!
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« Last Edit: May 23, 2016, 07:26:59 AM by leblackdragon » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2015, 03:41:07 PM »

looks creeeeeepy! nice
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leblackdragon
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« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2015, 11:46:02 AM »

Getting around to replacing the intro placeholders with real assets. Sketched them out and painted them in:


The tree house gets a much needed increase in resolution.


As well as the tree now sways in the wind:


My function that instantiates the map outline to create depth received a refinement to better handle overlaps in corners:


And finally one of the rooms with a character has received the benefit of more details and shadows:
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« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2015, 02:35:44 PM »

Work continues on replacing the intro place holders with final pieces. The intro looks a lot more menacing thankfully. I still need to make one more quick scene and the intro will be done:


The latest character to be added "The Maid", I finally got around to creating her sprites. She'll have a variety of scenes to play in. This one is waiting by the table during a dinning party. You can see how the sprite forms from conception to finished in-game sprite:


Next on the menu is reworking the animation states of the main character. I'm having a lot of trouble making the head and tail animation sync with the main body. That's the price I pay for insisting on having the head have its own palette of movement and expression. Making it independent allows for greater animation variety as I don't have to re-animate the entire body along side it:


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« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2015, 10:20:02 PM »

This has a really interesting art style and I love the overall theme of the game as well.

A 1 hour game doesn't bother me if I know that's what it was designed and sold as, though I know some will pass if it's short.
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« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2015, 03:55:58 PM »

Glad you find it interesting.

I'm guessing 1 hour play through with knowing all the solutions isn't all that bad consider a Resident Evil 1 speedrun can drop below 2 hours. I released a free demo late last year. A speedrun of it was like 10 minutes. Even though short, I watch the majority of players needed 45 minutes to complete it. So I'm hoping with this expansion, I'm looking at an average of 4 hours playtime to solve it.
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« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2015, 06:59:23 PM »

Looks intriguing.  Smiley Is the demo still somewhere, or maybe you'd prefer to not spoil the plot of the full version?

Incidentally, the first two sketches of the little girl with the rats feels very...JoJo-esque.
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« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2015, 10:38:50 AM »

Yeah it's still up, but it is really inferior to the expansion I am working on now. It's a 2 months project to learn Unity after all! Here's the link on Google Play:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.techween.shadowcat

And I fail to see how the little girl is JoJo-esque!  Undecided
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« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2015, 09:31:48 PM »

Yeah it's still up, but it is really inferior to the expansion I am working on now. It's a 2 months project to learn Unity after all! Here's the link on Google Play:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.techween.shadowcat

And I fail to see how the little girl is JoJo-esque!  Undecided

Ah, don't mind me. It's merely that JoJo tends to have a "open mouth with thick lips and non-visible teeth" style later on, so those two sketches feels a bit similar Tongue The end result is of course totally different.


Anyway, looking forward to the game! Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2015, 09:23:17 AM »

One of the locations I'm most proud of is the submerged room. I used a mix of 3D modeling and 2D hand painting to create the effect of a hand painted, yet having depth room. Added on top of it 2 animated direct lights project a water surface shimmer, and some animated waves traveling across the surface of the water. And topped it off with some nice environmental light on your character for an eerie room with dropping water droplets in echo for the soundscape:

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« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2015, 09:37:20 PM »

Getting around to develop a real logo title for the game. It started out as block shapes and flat colors. I always try yo incorporate the cat into everything. So the idea is to have the manor in the background and a cat somewhere in there. I was thinking something like those old Castlevania logos:


A few days later we progressed to this. Repositioned the cat as it was conflicting with the silhouette of the manor. The similar color of the cat and manor forced me to add a texture to the manor and darken the cat a little bit. The title font now has a better outline and shading. Overall, it's a big step up:



A problem that's been bothering me was a conflict between the item pickup system, and the NPC character dialogue interface. You see, when you carry an item into the dialogue trigger area of a NPC, and drop it there, that item is basically gone. Since whenever you tried to pickup, you'll launch into the dialogue interface. I've added not a new variable that has becoming part of the exceptions to launching a dialogue. Whenever an item is detected near your character, it will prevent a dialogue from starting, and prioritize picking up that item instead.


This prevented an unforeseen problem. I didn't know that idle objects do not fire off a trigger. Let me explain, your character is standing still over an item, the item is laying idle on the ground. Both your character and item colliders will not register because they are stationary. This drove me up the walls until I figure this out. To solve it, I made it so that whenever you press the action button, I apply a very small upwards force that isn't detectable by eye, but is enough to get the character out of it's idle state, and activate the triggers.


Lastly, I introduced the death system. It is still very, VERY early, but the ground work no is in place. The aim is to have lots of situation specific death animations. Here's a small preview:

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« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2015, 09:57:07 PM »

Oooooo!  This looks really cool and creepy!
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« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2015, 12:05:37 AM »

Spent the past two days completely overhauling the animation system of the main character. The problem I've been having for sometime was syncing the animation states of the head and tail to that of the body. They're always a frame behind the body which handles the inputs and such.

I threw out most of the code involved. Restructured the hierarchy, shifted and pooled the sprite frames from the main body to the head object, and shifted most of the logic back to the animator controller GUI. Here's a comparison shot of just how much code was thrown out!!!


The sprite sheet for the head object is growing. It's kind of liberating now cause I don't have to worry about redrawing the entire body each time. I can incorporate other body parts in sprites of various sizes and simply align them by changing the frame's pivot:


In other news, I added a little picture for the loading screen. I dunno how to make Unity animate a loading screen during... loading. I'd like for the tail to animate:


And finally I've been experimenting with blood splatters on the screen when your cat meets a gruesome ending. I want to see how I can mix splatters with drips running down the screen:
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« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2015, 12:08:44 AM »

Oooooo!  This looks really cool and creepy!
Why thank you! I aiming to make it even more creepy... and cute! Mustn't forget cute! hehehe
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« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2015, 09:47:58 PM »

Added a new hidden location in the game where one of the characters sneaks into for private playtime. I wanted it to look like a tight, unused corner of an attic that's been boarded it up. It's supposed to house a "tea party" toy set, and an assortment of dolls to bring to the party. The back of the room would feature embalmed corpses as a set piece. I used stock photos of monasteries who preserve the bodies of the dead by embalming:


I added a candle and light halo, animated them. I placed a point light to and animated it's color, range, and intensity to coincide with the animated halo scale:


The room has more depth than usual. The default room depth in the manor is 2 units. This room has a depth of 3 units. Since it's small, the added depth enhances the parallax effect when moving about:


Although the main reason for the added depth is the story event that transpires in here. You see, the first you enter it the back of the room and corpses are in total darkness. The added depth means the point light doesn't illuminate the back too much. So I still have to manipulate by code the sprite color of the BG and corpses. After a particular story tidbit is revealed, the back of the room slowly fades into view and you can see the corpses.
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« Reply #15 on: April 18, 2015, 07:13:21 PM »

Burnt myself out trying to get the cat's animation to sync up properly. It just doesn't want to work. I recently rewrote it completely but without sought after results. This put me off the mood of working on graphics. So I decided to concentrate on game design instead.

The image below is my puzzle sheet. It shows the order of the puzzles, and how it relates to the story, and how it progressively opens up the game map. They go hand in hand to keep things logical.

For each puzzle I decided to add important information that must be filled out:
  • The logic: Can the player arrive at the solution using day to day logic and reasoning?
  • The Elements Involved: What are the items, characters, and objects involved?
  • Hints: What are the visual, logical, written elements that hint at the requirement and solutions?
There's a column to estimate how much time it should take on average for a player to solve said puzzle. This goes to calculate the overall game length.

So, some big news: I have FINALLY solved my animation sync issues. After like 6 complete overhauls, weeks of wasted troubleshooting, the problem has been solved. Of course I have to rebuild everything again, but at least it is no longer an obstacle, but a foundation I can build upon and continue onwards from. As a start, I can now test dressing up my cat in attire. Here I'm trying on a gentleman's hat and a monocle glass. It's pivoted and child on the head so there's hardly any adjustments as it inherits the transform animation from its parent.


The new animation approach is to abandon sprite sheets where the entire body is animated in a single frame, to being broken down to individual body parts and animated via skeleton. Here's a comparison between the old and new:


Here you can see the big improvement in smoothness between the old and new way of animating:

There's far less pixels to shift around in a draw call freeing up resources. Plus the added flexibility of adding animation without going back to drawing more frames. This is a big time saver!

Here's another example. It was tedious work animating the pigtails the old way. As separate objects, it was simply key framing them twice and Unity3D interpolate appropriately between them for a nice swinging motion:


Here's our little darling fully animated in-game. Her skirt is animated using Y scale. Her arms X scale. On the whole, I am very pleased with the results and gives my game a major boost visually:


Next I want to start experimenting with animating individual parts by sprite frames.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2015, 10:39:55 PM by leblackdragon » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: April 22, 2015, 07:51:40 AM »

I've always felt the garden, and underground passage sections of the game were the least developed, and sparsely populated. To solve this I decided to introduce a new character. A sort of care taker and handy (old) man.


His duties will be to tend to the garden and provide maintenance to the underground passage. An old caretaker is always a good recipe for creepy. His duties also help solve another problem, adding more threats to the game. I am having problems thinking up plausible in-game threats that don't feel forced on. So the old caretaker can easily be a threat as he can treat you as a garden pest or something.

At a later stage in the game, you are require to unearth an item. This is preliminary animation for that:

He is the first character to be designed from the ground up with multi-segmented body from the start. The shovel he carries is child to his left hand. Below the waste (the bottom and legs) are just one object, for now.

Speaking of underground passage, this section of the game is probably the least developed. It's original form was a simple zigzag covering the allotted area, but serving no real function. This was the perfect time to completely overhaul it:


The design objectives were:
1- Introduce a deadly threat.
2- Make it impassable without a light lantern.
3- Introduce undergrowth.
4- Add platforming elements.

For sake of speed, I search online for silhouette images of plants, shrubs, roots, and pictures of rock formations. A quick brightness/contrast then some nifty cut and paste and an hour later we have the whole area done. Most of the roots and shrubs are separate objects on a layer nearer to the camera for the blurry effect of depth and parallax.

Now for that lantern, the only dynamic light source available to navigate the underground passage. It started out as a copy of your standard carry-able game item with the sprite pivot higher to make it look like the cat is biting on it's top.



The light components were a lot more trickier. There's actually two lights at play here. One for the background and one for the cat. This was necessary since the depth in the game is not real world measurements. You can't have a single light casting a small glow on the cat and at the same time cover a large enough area of the background.



Now another problem presented itself. You see the light isn't a child of the lantern (which btw has a fake halo around it). The point lights are held in place via script. This allows me the freedom of manipulating the Z axis for animation purposes without conflicts happening do to inheritance from the parent object.



Here is a problem I haven't been able to solve. No matter what I do, I can no get the light to cast towards the right. So long as the background material has a bump map element, the light will only shine to the left. This is even more confusing when the mobile build doesn't suffer from this, and cast the light in a uniform circle.

And lastly, I'm altering the material of some objects in the garden, and making some changes to accommodate lighting in that area. It serves absolutely no function other than looking eerily cool!
« Last Edit: April 22, 2015, 07:58:17 AM by leblackdragon » Logged

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« Reply #17 on: July 17, 2015, 03:36:41 AM »

As part of the on going expansion of world map areas a new challenge/puzzle will be added in the form of a new threat:


The area that holds a water pump and power generator will receive a size increase. Instead of just a single room, I'm planning to expand it to a multi floor/platform area that is guarded by a large spider. You can see the water pump room is located in a mostly unused portion of the map. I plan to utilize the black area, as well as push the stair well to the right further out to accommodate the expansion:


The spider is already created with two sets of animation. An idle standing state, and a walking cycle:



I used to think that 4 legs for a spider in a 2D game would be sufficient, but it looked empty and lacking. I doubled the number to 8 but then it looked really cluttered. So I settled at 7 legs, and it looks alright:


Animating the legs wasn't as difficult as I'd expected. I just animated all the legs at the same walk cycle. I then shifted the key frames of the alternating legs by half cycle period and presto! Convincing spider walk!
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« Reply #18 on: August 25, 2015, 10:16:05 PM »

I was never happy with the Dog's dialogue avatar. So finally I got around to change it to better reflect the in-game sprite:


I have an issue with how to subtly convey a message to the player, say during a tutorial. I don't like using text/speech bubbles/captions as it doesn't fit the mood of the game and it broke the immersion. So I came up with this idea of using the character's tail to subtly convey messages. To do that I had to drastically increase the animation count on the tail. So rather than spending countless hours hand drawing them, I decided to model the tail in 3D and render the frames.



This is a comparison of the tail before and after the transition to 3D:


I would now dot the landscape with invisible triggers that tell the tail to make gesture. Here's the tail performing a "no no" and a "look here" gesture:


And on the subject of 3D conversion, I decided to change all the trees and plants in one of the areas from sprites to 3D objects to allow for some morph animation. That way I can simulate how the trees and plants react to a breeze. It gives the are a lot more life and eeriness:


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« Reply #19 on: August 25, 2015, 11:55:45 PM »

looks creeeeeepy!  Waaagh!
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