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1398279 Posts in 67579 Topics- by 60900 Members - Latest Member: saqirmdev

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Vivid Foundry
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« Reply #20 on: November 17, 2015, 09:13:02 AM »

Quick reaction to the GIF: It's very difficult to visually parse what's going on. I can't tell what input causes the scrolling, so maybe it would make more sense with my actual hands on the controller? As it is I can't tell what the background is supposed to be showing (it's isometric?) or from where the words are appearing.

Haven't looked at the dialog mockups long enough to formulate good feedback, but great news about the first 5 scenes! How many acts are there going to be? Maybe you could make a scene list in your first post and use different colors to represent levels of progress on each one.

Thanks for the feedback! I should have gone into much more detail about the isometric scrolling, much appreciated for letting me know that it's unclear! The input is WASD (primarily W/S in this GIF), and currently only have the function of looking through an isometric world and finding text therein, reading it out of order. Later on I will experiment with more hidden text in the environment, ie behind clickable animations.

As much as I'm very fond of producer tools and color-coordinated charts, I believe that it's too soon for me to make a scene list and mark its progress. Although I have major story arcs planned, its storylines can be expanded similar to that of a comic book, and it would be misleading for me now to chart that script-writing progression. Maybe as I move forward in the project and have a first chapter demo out, that can be something that I create as a neat devlog visualization, even if I focus on the earlier arcs!
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« Reply #21 on: November 17, 2015, 09:14:24 AM »

I like the art

Thanks so much Jimym! Hope that you'll like the artwork to come as well - I'm working on some this week!
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« Reply #22 on: November 24, 2015, 07:47:19 PM »

Devlog #4: More scene assets

More scene assets have been added onto my Unity build since the last post. This is because I’m creating my first demo build for early December! I will have a table at a fan expo with my art prints as well, and it’ll be a great opportunity to gain some valuable feedback from players and members of the dev community. As I want to retain some surprises for people who want to try out the game, I’ll just report on the following below:

I’ve put in all of the dialogue and narrative in the first 5 scenes, with the proper pacing and click-based interactions. However not all of the 3D and 2D assets are done yet, as I have been working on each of the priorities for each scene. Here’s a screen shot of the second scene! There’s still some foreground UI animations that I’ll need for this scene for the protagonist’s passport. This scene also animates cinematically, as though from the protagonist’s first-person perspective.





Additionally, I want to expand on the second game design that I was experimenting with. It represents when Chloe is hacking and finding out more details of a place. The camera goes into orthographic view in this mode, and you can move around using WASD keys to read snippets of text in the environment, that might disappear or appear depending on where in the environment you are. Later on, I might have some basic point-and-click puzzles. I kind of like this different way of perceiving a 3D space that isn’t first-person, to illustrate that the “hacking” Chloe is doing unnatural, and also gives her an incomplete picture into the world.





It’s also got a somewhat abrasive aesthetic that mimics a glitch image, especially when done to whole buildings.

Finally, I’ve asked a new collaborator to come on board to create some additional character art for me! My original illustration style was softer and didn’t have as many interesting postures and expressions. So we’re exploring a more graphic look for the characters that are also more visible on smaller screens. Additionally, it makes it more manageable for me to focus on 3D assets, writing, and putting the game together. (See: “Rebecka” at left.)

« Last Edit: January 29, 2016, 11:39:46 AM by Vivid Foundry » Logged

Jasmine
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« Reply #23 on: December 02, 2015, 09:02:11 AM »

Dude, love the shifts in perspective. In the hacking video, I really like the concept. It feels like you are indeed "scrolling through a memory bank". It's so surreal looking. I freaking love it.

Also, the updated art assets look great! The artist didn't deviate really far from the original, either (as far as doing a huge overpass on her facial structure). She seems... far less cold and calculating.

Good stuff!
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« Reply #24 on: December 02, 2015, 05:58:11 PM »

Dude, love the shifts in perspective. In the hacking video, I really like the concept. It feels like you are indeed "scrolling through a memory bank". It's so surreal looking. I freaking love it.

Also, the updated art assets look great! The artist didn't deviate really far from the original, either (as far as doing a huge overpass on her facial structure). She seems... far less cold and calculating.

Good stuff!

Thanks so much! That means a lot. I've been questioning whether or not this way of "reading" is actually fun and/or engaging, and so that's really encouraging to hear! I'm looking forward to having people play around with it soon, whether or not they're familiar with the Visual Novel genre.

The artist sends his thanks as well! Before, the character looked almost vampiric, haha!
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« Reply #25 on: January 29, 2016, 11:34:39 AM »

Devlog #5: Improving after showcase

This post has been a long time in coming! My game dev and related work have been thriving. It's been quite an adventure in December and January: I had a great time showcasing the first build at the Canadian Video Game Awards with Bit Bazaar, and I continued working on some build ideas for Solace State. I took some time off during the winter holidays to relax with family and friends, managed to catch a cold, started writing some short stories, and began a new teaching job at university in intro to 3D game arts. I also started networking a bit more to see if there are any local collaborators who can help me with character art, localization and programming.

On Dec 5th and 6th, Solace State had its first outing with Bit Bazaar and the Canadian Video Game Awards Fanfest. Surprisingly, the vast majority people played through a 20-30 minute gameplay demo, which was beyond my expectations. I had set up the demo so that people can skip between scenes and levels if they wish, and practically no one took me up on that offer (unless they were manning a booth and had to run back to their responsibilities).



There were many experienced devs who shared their insight and feedback to me, and is it ever so valuable! Many people enjoyed the main game mechanic, namely the "hacking-scrolling text environment". Most people seem to enjoy that part of the gameplay more than the straight-forward visual novel mode, and have asked if that part can be longer. They also "get" it right away as long as they know which keys to press (arrows or WASD), which means that it's only been my communication about it on devlogs and social media without gameplay input that has been the real problem.

Second, the constructive critique of primarily other gamedev community members have helped me re-scope. A lot of the times, what I see as less-than-ideal in the game are also highlighted by fellow devs. It seems that I'm not far off the mark with my own self-assessment.



On Writing

As much as I've been writing in some academic or professional capacity for about 9 years, writing for a visual novel game is a different beast from all the creative writing that I've hitherto completed. I tend to write much more like a novelist than a typical comic book, where a lot of the key identifiers of the protagonist is clear on the first page. Of course, there can be twists and back-stories down the road, but nonetheless, key motivations are already set up in the first ten, fifteen minutes. Solace State doesn't quite have that. That's not necessarily game-breaking, as narrative-driven games like Gone Home and arguably Dear Esther has created a much more gradual reveal of their characters' vivid colours and internal contradictions. But I do need to balance between what I save for later, and what I reveal in the first ten minutes of the game.

On the flip side of the coin, I also have to remind myself to keep conversations and scenes to be more organic, and less utilitarian to the greater arc of the plot. Without a doubt, there should never be "filler material". But, I also strive to describe those moments and beats that reveal something intrinsic about the characters and how they feel to each other, what they mean to each other. It's these little moments where relationships can be built, and can fall apart.

What's interesting, of course, is that games are becoming more of something that doesn't get consumed in one sitting, whereas plays and films are. The middle ground to all of this is to emulate some inspirations from television drama, which takes a more episodic approach to its narrative arc. At least, this is the way that I have framed it, and it has helped me acknowledge which scenes may have too much detail, and others not enough screen time to develop the right emotional beats.

Again, it's worlds different from writing an article or novella; My usual playgrounds, where a single line can leave one breathless with its impact.



On Art

There's a few people who have pointed out the incongruity of the semi-cartoony character art with the rest of the universe, including the 3D environment and the tone of the writing. I happen to agree with them.

There are a few approaches that I would like to try out:
  • Realistic-styled graphite pencil or ink sketches in black & white , which I am capable of producing myself, but can take half a day for a single expression
  • A digital painting in lino-block style in black & white, which I or another artist can produce, and doesn't take as long as the graphite pencil sketches. This would be in a similar style to what's already produced in the mood trailer from Feb 2015
  • Collaborate with photographers and a lot of modeling talent. This requires a lot of upfront collaboration and is highly reliant on what kind of new faces and talents I can find. I've started making some inquiries into this. It may be the most expensive, but may also be the one that creates the nicest effect, giving the game a semi-mockumentary feel. It might also cost me less time (see prototype below)



People seem to love wandering through the 3D environment as a purely artistic experience though, so I'm not going to change anything there. Just going to add more content!

On Design

With some feedback, I've decided to do a prototype of hack scenes that are more primary, cutting out the traditional dialogue format and UI typical to visual novels. There should be textual puzzles that must be solved within its bounds, as well as clickable objects to reveal more narration and dialogue. This is to ensure that the requisite narrative dialogue is met. Each scene should have an intertitle explaining Chloe's goals, in her own words, so that the player knows what to expect in terms of narrative goals and broader trajectory.

In practical terms of the intertitles, the textual puzzles, and the clickable objects, it means that I should maintain a key plotline by consistently (re)defining where Chloe might find Rebecka with new sources of information. When we start off, we discover gradually who Rebecka's last contacts are.

On Programming

Key stuff on the to-do list: Upgrade from 5.2.4 to 5.3.x; Create Save and Load variables; Create a history log for dialogue; Create a variable mini-encyclopedia for all characters and places as they populate in the narrative; Improve on the pause screen.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2016, 12:36:41 PM by Vivid Foundry » Logged

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« Reply #26 on: April 15, 2016, 02:24:16 PM »

Devlog #6: New development build, showcases, talks, press

A lot of new things have happened since my last update! I have been so busy lining up new builds, collaborating with new specialists, and also organizing around travel and work-vacations.

New Build
Pushed a new build in first week of April that has a new, tighter script, with completely revamped 2D art and new camera functionality. The demo build is about 20-30 minutes long gameplay, depending on how fast you read.



Programming
I am seeking some help in programming from Andrew Traviss (Fate Tectonics). He's designed an isometric camera track system that replaces my previous one so that I can tween on a path. Hacking camera sequences are no longer on a linear path, which opens up so many new ways I can design the 3D world. [See the vine here.]

3D Art
I am the sole 3D artist in the foreseeable future because of the uniqueness of the hack isometric camera sequences and how I can structure the level build around that, and also putting in the ergodic text associated with my narrative. This build had more texture optimizations and some extensions on primarily the Airport scene (first scene in the game).



2D Art
A 2D fine artist, Ian Hsu, is very happy to provide conte illustrations for character art. This includes both gestural, full-body drawings as well as character expression portraits. It finally matched the look that I had in my mind, to create a more "mockumentary" or editorial look.
I also illustrated clickable objects in the same style and medium. They are then edited from photograph by me and put into the 3D game world as sprites and buttons.



Showcases and Talks
I was invited to talk about the influence of political theory on my game design for Solace State at two conferences: Intersections Cross-Sections Graduate Conference & Art Exhibition (henceforth ISCS, run by Ryerson and York University), and Different Games Conference in Brooklyn. The reception was very positive, and had some good playtesting feedback as well. People are excited to know more about the story and are curious about what they would find by the time they do find Rebecka, and what happened between the main characters.

At ISCS in March, I had to showcase an older build. At Different Games Conference, we were showing the improved art and camera mechanics for the first time.

I will be attending IndieCade East with my talk and a show-and-tell slot for my game.


Photograph by Kara Stone

Press
I am very lucky this spring to have received coverage from two different publications:
Femhype asked me about my process and methodologies as a game dev [see part 1 and part 2 here].
Kill Screen conversed with me about Solace State's theoretical influences, narrative, and why I designed the gameplay as I did [see here].

Both of these interviews were a lot of fun and the journalists asked some really interesting questions! They also created interviews that had completely different angles, which was really interesting.

« Last Edit: April 15, 2016, 03:02:40 PM by Vivid Foundry » Logged

Mark Mayers
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« Reply #27 on: July 16, 2016, 08:09:28 PM »

Hey Tanya! I didn't know you were on TIGSource. I saw a link to your DevLog on your website.

Solace State is looking interesting and unique, looking forward to seeing the game as it progresses!
Hopefully I'll catch you again at a future festival.
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Desolus Twitter: @DesolusDev Website: http://www.desolus.com DevLog: On TIG!
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« Reply #28 on: July 24, 2016, 03:23:17 PM »

Hey Mark,

Great to see you here, and hope to see you soon at a future festival or conference as well! Thank you for liking how the game looks thus far!Looking Looking forward to seeing more of your game Desolus as well, it's very beautiful.

I've not kept the TIGSource as up to date as I would like for Solace State, as I'm currently doing quite a bit of narrative writing, which isn't the most exciting thing to report on in a devlog, especially being right in the middle of it! Hope that I'll have more to share soon, though!
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