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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsTotem Teller
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benjkers
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« on: March 03, 2016, 04:19:20 am »



Hello Tigsource! Welcome to the Totem Teller DevLog. I’m Ben. I do art, world building and writing. My fellow dev is Jerry. He does code and technical art. We are co-designing the game. This DevLog will be updated weekly.


What is Totem Teller?

Totem Teller is about discovering things alone. Explore a beautifully broken world of stories.

Discovery, interaction, problem solving and dialogue will define ‘canon’ version of the story. You decide how it will be Retold.

  • Traverse an open world without cloying prompts, golden paths or other hand holding.
  • No arbitrary puzzles to slow you down. Every challenge that must be solved is in service of the story.
  • A truly branching narrative. Be challenged by choice. Every decision counts towards your Telling.
  • Inhabit nuanced characters and resolve their glitched arcs. Whose perspective will you adopt?
  • Reveal plot twists hidden in characters, objects and locations open up  new choices and interactions.

Design Tenets
Freedom to discover. Curiosity is rewarded. Choices that challenge. Beauty in decline.


Visual Style
The base art refs stylized traditional illustration/animation. Strong, simple silhouettes with some decorative patterns. We heavily process that in Unity. 'Loss of data'(compression, corruption) producing something entirely new and beautiful is a central theme we wanted reflected in the visuals.


Screen Capture













Who, when, where how?
Ben & Jerry (Grinning Pickle) are developing the game. 2017 target for Beta. PC, Mac & Linux via Steam. Consoles also, though none confirmed. Unity3d, made with equal parts passion and denial.

Talk to us on twitter
@Grinning_Pickle | @benjkers | @JerryVerhoeven

Subscribe for project updates
http://www.totemteller.com

Do we need Music?
Sorry, not at the moment. We’re working on the soundtrack with Kian How.


What are we working on now? (Dec 2016)
  • Opening, First Experience
  • Writing
  • Demo Area/s Level Design

Progress Tracker
Features & Tools80%
Level Design20%
Character & Anim10%
Writing20%
Audio5%


We welcome feedback and questions through any channel of communication. Say hi!

« Last Edit: December 19, 2016, 10:54:24 am by benjkers » Logged

Chris MacAdam
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« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2016, 07:42:49 am »

Wow this game looks beautiful! Shocked I love those visuals. I really like the idea of piecing together the story after you explore around the world and look at things.
Will the game feature combat? Or is this a more narrative / puzzle game?

I will be keeping an eye on this! Good luck!
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« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2016, 07:45:43 am »

Lovely OP layout and beautiful artstyle, commenting to follow!
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benjkers
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« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2016, 08:13:36 am »

Will the game feature combat? Or is this a more narrative / puzzle game?


Thanks Chris! Definitely the latter. You won’t directly kill or harm anything. No combat or hazards in the world, and you cannot die.

Some events certainly can be fatal to story characters, but it’s all decided through dialogue or interaction.
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benjkers
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« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2016, 08:54:25 am »


LOG_01: GRADIENT MAPPING
Degradation of information is a key theme in the game. We’re threading this into the art by emulating various forms of image compression/reduction, mainly through  a lot of custom post-processing.

One effect recently added is gradient mapping. We thought it would be interesting to use for color grading (where we already have a slew of other stuff happening) and other more glitchy output.

What is gradient mapping? If you’re an artist, you might have used this Photoshop tool:


In short,  (greyscale) values of the source image are mapped to a gradient. The darker values are replaced by color on the left side of the gradient while lighter values are replaced by colors on the right. Pretty simple.

This might work nicely in Photoshop, but we’re using Unity3d and we want to achieve this same effect in real-time. In our case we want to apply it to the whole screen as a postprocess. This means replicating the effect in a shader.

Here’s an excerpt of our shader with the relevant sections:
Code:
          //This is a variable in the shader.
            static const float3 ColorLuminanceWeights = float3(0.299, 0.587, 0.114);

            //This is a function inside the shader.
            float GetPixelLuminance(float3 color)
            {
                return dot(color, ColorLuminanceWeights);
            }

            //This is the fragment shader.
            float4 frag(v2f i) : SV_Target
            {
                //_MainTex is the rendertarget.
                float4 finalColor = tex2D(_MainTex, i.uv);

                //Get the grayscale value of the pixel.
                float pixelLuminance = GetPixelLuminance(finalColor.rgb);

                //Use the grayscale value as the x-coordinate of the UV for the gradient map texture.
                finalColor.rgb = tex2D(_GradientMapTexture, float2(pixelLuminance, 0));

                return finalColor;
            }


So, that’s actually very simple. But you may have noticed we need one thing, a gradient map texture. This texture will usually look something like this:


The gradient map texture is 256 pixels wide because there’s  8-bit per channel in the shader which means 256 values (0 - 255). This means we can map 1 value to one pixel on the gradient.

This is our scene with regular postprocessing(before):


Here’s an example of an extreme gradient map being applied(after). In this case I used the 4 color palette from the original Game Boy.




Voila!

Though we wouldn’t use this ‘Gameboy’ treatment exactly as is, there are definitely scenes where we’ll work with as little color: Maybe less Smiley We really want to explore the full range of the emergent beauty of image degradation.

There’s a lot you can do to take this even further:
  • Add a lerp to blend between the rendertarget and the gradient mapped colors.
  • Add controls for the y-coordinate of the UV (in combination with multiple gradients in one texture).
  • Add panning or Distortion to the UVs for some crazy effects.

Here’s a gif transition, applying a very incorrect Who, Me? c64-ish palette via in-game blending volume:



« Last Edit: March 12, 2016, 09:11:52 am by benjkers » Logged

jamesprimate
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« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2016, 09:03:01 am »

soooo pretty  Shocked

ive been seeing pics passed around on twitter for the past week or so, nice to see it on TIGS!
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« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2016, 09:48:30 am »

So awesome to see you guys on TIG! Absolutely love the work you guys are doing...
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« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2016, 08:57:48 pm »

Beeeeeeeautiful visuals, can't wait to hear more - especially the audio : )
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« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2016, 07:21:15 pm »

Posting to follow, good luck! Looks great so far!
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« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2016, 10:59:57 pm »

Really unique visuals! I love it! Will the story be linear or have different branches?
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« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2016, 04:11:36 am »

*FOLLOWING*

this game is so frigging beautiful I cannot believe it's actually real
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« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2016, 06:22:46 am »

Wow that's totally mind blowing! Good luck with this project!
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« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2016, 06:34:28 am »

Pretty cool visuals, love the concept. Following this baby Smiley
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« Reply #13 on: March 11, 2016, 10:22:50 am »

Thanks Chris! Definitely the latter. You won’t directly kill or harm anything. No combat or hazards in the world, and you cannot die.

Some events certainly can be fatal to story characters, but it’s all decided through dialogue or interaction.

You had me at dialogue or interaction! You've earned another follower.
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« Reply #14 on: March 11, 2016, 01:16:35 pm »

Really great and interesting aesthetic.
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benjkers
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« Reply #15 on: March 12, 2016, 09:08:46 am »

Hearty thanks for the comments and encouragement. A lot of our initial focus is in realizing the world, concurrent to my writing the branching dialogues that form the script. It's reassuring to know that it resonates aesthetically. The visuals actually have a ways to go yet, but we're pleased with the foundation.



LOG_02: VOID PATHWAY - CONCEPT & VISUAL DEV
This week we did some visual development for the Story Void. Though a simple sort of place, the role it plays is very important so we wanted to push it forward a bit.

The appearance and effects of the Void vary, but it generally represents a loss of story data. Or, at least, a loss of narrative structure for that data to hang on.

As the story(world) deteriorates, so the places, characters and things it contains begin to dissolve into the void. It isn’t attacking the story, it’s simply what remains when dissolution occurs. Yes, it’s a major shout-out to Neverending Story, among others Smiley

The Void is more than just sub-atomic story dust, though. It is where the story is initially projected by the Teller. In addition, when world geography isn’t implicit in the Telling (never specifically described), the Story Void can be manipulated to bridge those gaps and act as a channel of traversal for the Teller.



Enough preamble. Here’s a breakdown of the void viz thus far:

Laying down some simple shapes for the edge of the Void. The diamond/checker/hatch motif is sort of the fabric of the projected world so we’re using it often. Colour and noise are added for basic depth. A shader is applied to create irregular edges using a tiling mask.


As this type of void can be traversed - several animated layers are combined to lay in a rough path.


To boost colour/contrast a bit, some additive highlights are placed along the path.‘Void dust’ Particle effects are employed for a sense of depth:


We want to suggest some vague liquid aspect, so we’re testing some of that with re-skinned water assets further accentuated by  reflection and ripple fx:



Nearer to the edge of the void, we want to imply data corruption in ‘normal’ assets. A special shader is applied to a few test objects and particles to test this idea:



It’ll still change a bit a whole lot, but we’re happy with the general direction it’s headed:




Next step - animate that irregular void edge, try out some shaders that reveal path graphics based on proximity to player. There's also some specific 'anchor' points in the form of Teller technology that have to be integrated and animated.


Note: I probably won’t be sharing as much over the next month, as I’ve a new baby arriving any day now(!)

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« Reply #16 on: March 12, 2016, 09:29:03 am »

Awesome stuff. Absolutely love the nod to the Neverending Story (one of my fav stories). Congrats on the pending baby!
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benjkers
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« Reply #17 on: March 15, 2016, 12:45:15 am »

Awesome stuff. Absolutely love the nod to the Neverending Story (one of my fav stories). Congrats on the pending baby!
Thanks Jon, really have appreciated your interest in what we're doing, both here and on twitter. Baby is playing prankster - we've been in an out of hospital over the weekend. Waiting game resumes Smiley

Really unique visuals! I love it! Will the story be linear or have different branches?
Sorry - I missed this one! At the core of the game is this idea: Stories, particularly oral storytelling, produce almost infinite variations as they're retold at different times by different folks in varying context. Parts of the story may be lost in Retelling, parts added, changed... it becomes something altogether new over time. Infinitely.

In short, Totem Teller is about decision-making and creative process. That means lots of real branches derived from your dialogue choices.

We're planning a post at the end of the month-ish on the dialogue writing tools, workflow and in-game presentation. I'll try to talk a bit more about branching scope then.
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« Reply #18 on: March 15, 2016, 03:12:06 am »

Wow. The visuals are astounding. Great work.
 Smiley Hand Thumbs Up Right
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benjkers
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« Reply #19 on: March 19, 2016, 06:06:53 am »

I have a new baby boy as of this past Thursday, so just a mini update this week (plus ~2 more probably) on Totem Teller. Posting this from a dingy table in an even dingier hospital  Hand Metal Right

I did get some time to art-experiment more with the 'void' work from last log post. Have to start developing a set viz-language for these glitch types later. Some versions of the glitch shader will be on stuff that impedes traversal, some are interaction cues, others just signal cosmetic corruption.

a 'god-hybrid', with a void/glitch rend in the world behind and through it


general insanity...


alt palette for void stuff


We added some nice colour-coded bounding boxes and custom icons in to the editor for level assets. Also, divided up our working main (unity) scene into several modular 'sub-scenes' for easier collaboration and asset org. Combined with some other mods we've added level design flows much more smoothly.



While I've been taking it easy with the baby, Jerry has been working through all kinds of tech tasks. Fixes and improvements to our dialogue writing/branching tools, custom unity debug UI, dialogue system tests even more fab shaders... he's a champion level wizard Smiley More meat for future logs!
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