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xiotex
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« on: June 15, 2015, 04:46:03 AM »

I've been working on my latest game Caretaker since about November last year. It's been a bit of an evolutionary process. It started when somebody told me that a game needs to have a story in it and the game I was working on at the time was little more than a puzzle game. This nagged at me for ages until at last I came up with a story that I wanted to fit a game to. I had no idea what the game was going to look like or how it would play but at least at last I had a story.

It's gotten to the stage where I'm finally happy with how the game looks and plays out - or at least will play once I've completed all the mechanics.

Caretaker is a first person adventure game that takes place at the end of everything. There's only you left to execute a last ditch mission that will decide the final fate of the universe.

Playing Caretaker involves exploration, stealth, evading, solving physics puzzles, crafting and finding things all in the service of completing the mission that will decide the fate of the universe - or not, it's completely up to you as Caretaker is a non-linear gameplay experience where you the player make the choice of what to do and when.

Here's a bit of text from the script:

"Everybody is dead. That’s why you’re hearing this message. Even me, which means this is a recording and totally not interactive so there’s no point trying to ask me any questions - as being dead means there isn’t much chance of me replying. You can panic about that later, for now I need your complete concentration."

here's some screenshots:





It got a bit of attention from RPS: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2015/03/10/caretaker/

I also did a teaser video of the game a while ago which was all fine until YouTube decided to mess up the timing between audio and subtitles. I'm posting a better one tonight.



My next task in the game is to sort out the UI, currently it's just a static image. What I need it to be is a context aware thing that adapts to what they player currently has in focus. The idea is that it tells you how you can interact with what you have.

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Byron Atkinson-Jones, game designer. Working on Caretaker, vote for it on Greenlight
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« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2015, 06:13:33 AM »

There are five basic interactions with the environment the player has in Caretaker, they are:

  • Interact - this is a native interaction they player starts out with, allows the player to select objects such as data units
  • harvest - this is a learned interaction
  • Force - this is a learned interaction and requires energy which you get by harvesting
  • Move - this is a learned interaction and requires energy which you get by harvesting

There's also a crafting mechanic that makes use of resources gained by harvesting...

When the player has a part of the environment in focus a 3D reticule appears - each interaction has a different reticule type to help differentiate, a bit like this:



This isn't enough though, I'm also going to have it so that a UI bar fades in telling the player just what the interaction is.
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Byron Atkinson-Jones, game designer. Working on Caretaker, vote for it on Greenlight
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« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2015, 06:25:08 AM »

Yay, a stealth puzzler! I'd love to play this if you're looking for feedback as stealth and puzzles are what I've been thinking a lot about lately (since I'm building a stealth puzzle game myself).
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xiotex
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« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2015, 06:28:44 AM »

well, my shipping date for the PC version is the 1st of October 2015 so I hope to have a fully playable demo ready soon.
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Byron Atkinson-Jones, game designer. Working on Caretaker, vote for it on Greenlight
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« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2015, 11:26:37 AM »

I just posted a new Teaser trailer for the game, you can find it here

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« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2015, 11:56:42 AM »

Looks interesting. A demo would be awesome.
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« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2015, 11:05:16 AM »

Not strictly a coding but in an attempt to relax tonight I fired up the keyboard and played around with the central motif to the Caretaker theme music and came up with this https://soundcloud.com/xiotex/caretaker-noodling

Got a bit let down about some press coverage Microsoft promised at E3 which never happened but then I put up a pre-order widget because some people joked about it and then actually did pre-order the game! http://caretaker-game.com

So all in all a mixed couple of days.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2015, 11:11:09 AM by xiotex » Logged

Byron Atkinson-Jones, game designer. Working on Caretaker, vote for it on Greenlight
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« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2015, 12:28:24 PM »

Today was a really slow day so to get back into the flow of things I decided to update the move shader after reading Alan's shader tutorial http://www.alanzucconi.com/2015/06/17/surface-shaders-in-unity3d/



In other news the pre-orders of Caretaker outstripped the sales of my first iPhone game in under 48 hours!
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« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2015, 02:30:45 PM »

I finally managed to get back into the flow of things today after being away from the office last week teaching Unity in Wales.

I had to nail down the look and feel of the 4 basic mechanics of the game. It's not perfect but I'm happy with what I have so far.

no doubt that will change as I get to use them in a level.

It's important that the look and feel relate to the player how they can interact with the world. While the meshes will change and be different for each encounter of these types the fact that they look and react in a consistent way means that hopefully the player will never feel at a loss of what to do when they encounter them.

Now all I have to do is take these basic mechanics and actually build some levels with them to make sure they work in practice as well as theory.
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« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2015, 12:08:01 PM »

With the main mechanics in the game now I'm onto content creation. The first step was building a test level so I can see what I've coded so far in action.

My 3D modelling tool of choice is Modo and I started out by creating a basic abstract mesh.



I played around with this for a while, adding to it until I was happy.



I then ran a plugin I wrote for Caretaker which I call Polygon noise. It basically extrudes all the polygons, adds a displacement and a little bit of rotation. It also colours each polygon to add variation.





The next stage is to UV map the mesh (just a basic atlas mapping) and then test out the ambient occlusion pass. Once I'm happy with the settings I bake out ambient occlusion and diffuse coefficient to get two texture maps that my shaders in Caretaker make use of. At this stage they are fairly large textures - 4096x4096.



I then export the mesh into Unity and add it to the game.



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« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2015, 04:10:38 AM »

The latest feature to be added to Caretaker was a kind of faux volumetric smoke cloud. This was something I've wanted to add from the complete beginning.

I had looked into more traditional volumetric techniques but they were either too expensive to implement or far too complicated. At one point I actually implemented a ray-marching shader that produced a fantastic volumetric cloud but as the game would run at 10 frames a second it wasn't appropriate  Huh? So I decided to implement it using static particles and find ways to cope with the issues they come up with.

This is what the end result looks like:





Getting to those images too hours - not because it's a hard thing to do but because the Unity 5 docs are out of date and just plain wrong.

The first problem is implementing soft particles. Soft particles are great because they fade out any edges that happen to be intersecting with any other surfaces. If you don't implement them you get stuff that looks like this:



See the hard edges where the particle intersects with the other geometry? It might look fine in a static image to a degree but when you are flying through all you can see is the intersections and it really detracts from the experience so soft particles it had to be. This should have been easy.

What I didn't know was that Unity changed the way to access the camera depth texture in Unity 5 but the docs still reflected the way you used to it in Unity 4.x. So I spent a couple of hours trying to figure out why none on my geometry was appearing in the depth texture. The big problem is that I use custom shaders (written by me) for everything - so there are no standard unity supplied shaders in the game.

Whereas Unity 4.x used a shader replacement method to generate the depth texture Unity 5.x uses the shadow caster pass of the shader framework to generate it. This is a massive difference and since none of my shaders implemented a shadow caster pass they weren't turning up in the depth texture.

Thankfully, once I figured out this was the issue making my shaders hook into the shadow caster pass was simple. All it took was adding this pass into each of the shaders:

Code:

        Pass {
            Name "ShadowCaster"
            Tags { "LightMode" = "ShadowCaster" }
           
            ZWrite On ZTest LEqual

            CGPROGRAM
            #pragma target 3.0
            // TEMPORARY: GLES2.0 temporarily disabled to prevent errors spam on devices without textureCubeLodEXT
            #pragma exclude_renderers gles
           
            // -------------------------------------


            #pragma multi_compile_shadowcaster

            #pragma vertex vertShadowCaster
            #pragma fragment fragShadowCaster

            #include "UnityStandardShadow.cginc"

            ENDCG
        }

All of a sudden my geometry was writing to the camera depth texture and my soft particles were working  Smiley



The next issue was the layer popping issue you get when flying through particles. It happens because one moment you are looking through a particle and the next, as you've flown through it - you're not and everything just 'pops'.  This was easy to fix - all I had to do was let the shader for the particle know where the player position was and within 10 units distance fade it to completely transparent. This way as you approach the particle they simply fade to nothing - no more popping.

The end result is a smooth faux volumetric cloud system that behaves really smoothly in the world.

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« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2015, 04:37:05 PM »

Incredibly short devlog update, gone into crunch mode to get a demo ready for the Develop conference in 10 days time. So here's a video of work done today

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« Reply #12 on: July 04, 2015, 06:08:31 AM »

Looks awesome, but it's hard to see how the game works.
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« Reply #13 on: October 27, 2015, 09:25:31 PM »

Wow, its been an incredibly busy time since I last posted here, a lot has happened.

I finally got the script written for Caretaker and flew over to Canada to go and record it with David Hewlett - and I have to admit this was a sci-fi geeks dream come true. You can hear some of the recorded dialog edited together here http://caretaker-game.com/CaretakerVODemo.mp3

I've put together a trailer which includes coder music by myself and some of the dialog and a bit of the gameplay



And then after speaking to a bunch of publishers and not being really that impressed by what I heard I put it up on Greenlight http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=534197536

As if that wasn't enough I recently demoed Caretaker at MCM Comicon in London and it was incredible, in the end we calculated that it was played by 648 people! http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/updates/534197536/1445977863
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« Reply #14 on: October 28, 2015, 12:16:30 AM »

It's looking lovely. I hope it does very well on Greenlight, I voted for it.

Your signature says that it'll be released October 2015, I assume that date has slipped? Or perhaps it'll be done in the next few days?
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« Reply #15 on: October 28, 2015, 12:50:35 AM »

Thanks - much appreciate any votes!

Yeah, the scope of the game kind of exploded once I had the voice over work. It's one of those cases where the VO was far superior than the game it's appearing in so I had to up my game considerably.

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« Reply #16 on: October 28, 2015, 02:16:42 AM »

This looks really cool, different, and imaginative. I love that you've developed a lot of tech for this, and are thinking about things as particle clipping. Good luck on Steam!
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« Reply #17 on: October 28, 2015, 06:41:53 AM »

Great to see some updates for this. I'd love to see a post-mortem of showing it off to the public.
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« Reply #18 on: October 30, 2015, 03:22:17 PM »

I got an email from Steam today. After 15 days on Greenlight - Caretaker was Greenlit!

Thanks to everyone for voting!

vividhelix: Is there anything in particular you'd like to know about?
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