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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsTOTEM TELLER
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benjkers
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« Reply #40 on: April 12, 2016, 06:38:01 AM »

We appreciate the positive words. All extremely encouraging for us!

Oh, by the way, I actually read about your game on this Japanese gaming site first before I realized you guys had also posted to tigsource. Smiley
We did see that! Definitely gave us some warm fuzzy feelings.

I love how you share some insight on your process, really inspiring stuff. Are there any music previews we can chew on yet? I'm really curious to see how your musician approaches this.
Not yet. Fingers crossed for later this month. I'd really like to have further visual development bounce of the aural interpretation of our world. We'll definitely share it here when we have anything.

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« Reply #41 on: April 12, 2016, 07:20:43 AM »

Looks sweet!
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« Reply #42 on: April 18, 2016, 04:40:05 AM »


LOG_05: TWITTER GLITCH BOT

For this project we’re really exploring the possibilities of using visual glitches and “glitching” as an art form. This is not something new, it’s used in digital media, in digital art as glitch art and in music simply known as glitch, but we're hoping to make it our own.

So we’ve been exploring that and I happened upon a very interesting article: Years In Glitch: Procrastination As An Art Form



This article touches on a lot of aspect of glitches and glitch art and the process of creating it. But what caught my eye was the mention of Twitter bots creating glitch art. Bots that take an existing image and then modify it, and create something new out of it, purely through code. And as a programmer, this fascinated me and inspired me.

For TotemTeller we have created our own unique blend of tools to glitch the game in real time. I figured it would be brilliant to showcase those tools and let them create glitch art on Twitter.



So I grabbed a package on the asset store called Let’s Tweet in Unity and hit the ground running. In about a day I had a bot creating glitch art with our signature TotemTeller sauce. We aptly named the bot @TotemTeller.

This is how the bot works:
  • Check the @TotemTeller mentions for new tweets.
  • If found, check for any attached media.
  • If found again, download the media into Unity as a texture.
  • This texture is then mapped to a Quad that fills the screen.
  • Our custom Glitch ImageEffect has its parameters randomized.
  • The camera renders and a new texture is generated.
  • The texture is converted to a jpg and uploaded to twitter.
  • Finally a tweet is sent containing the uploaded image.



This means as a twitter user you can simply send a tweet with an image to @TotemTeller and it will send you back the result.

We’ve been blown away by the results from @TotemTeller so far. It has been really inspiring and we've had a lot of fun with it. For example by creating an "infinite loop" conversation between @TotemTeller and another bot called @Lowpolybot. Here’s how that worked out:



« Last Edit: April 18, 2016, 05:52:36 AM by Gungnir » Logged

ElkiwyDev
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« Reply #43 on: April 18, 2016, 05:06:48 AM »

Wow, the visual style of it is really stunning! Unique and with beautiful colors! Beer!
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« Reply #44 on: April 18, 2016, 05:08:30 AM »



Really cool bot... I sound like a broken record with you guys but keep up the good work. Absolutely loving this project.
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benjkers
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« Reply #45 on: May 01, 2016, 08:22:17 AM »


Hi all.

Just another mini-update this week. We're still pretty focused on realizing dialogue and interaction systems. More on that next update.

As a break from that task, this week I spent some time on the Teller's (player character) movement animations. Adding some more facing directions - directly toward and away from camera.

The existing character art was 3/4 side on, so this meant drawing up new forward/back textures (why I'd been putting it off). Provided an opportunity to apply some shelved character design revisions, too. The various facing directions also share many textures, so that saves some time.


We use Spine to animate characters and some other special actors. Thanks to a well worn workflow (from ridiculous amounts of revision on my part) it was pretty quick to get the new anims happening. Fastest method: duplicate the side-on rigs and shift bones around accordingly.


Once that's done, the animation in spine is super fast. It's a great tool - I know a few of you are also using. After some hiccups updating the spine-unity runtime (3.1). I'm still not sure how necessary these are for movement, but since we need these assets for cinematic purposes anyhow, it's worth the time.


While adding the movement stuff, I also integrated the Teller's staff and one of the anims supporting character interaction. Here in situ:




Unrelated bit follow up on the beach area. Tuned the shaders a bit on the beach waves for less regularity. Also trying a softer edge to the leading foam.


Cheers.
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« Reply #46 on: May 01, 2016, 08:36:47 AM »

I loved reading about your ocean waves + shader process--the result is fantastic so it was interesting to see the process. These animations are looking good, and I can't wait to see how dialogue will look.
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benjkers
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« Reply #47 on: June 30, 2016, 06:36:35 AM »

Hey all - been a while. We're still cranking away, as you'd know if you're following on twitter - just haven't had much space between life events to do much else (outside actual dev). Apart from more visual evolution, I've been working on a revised story outline. Been testing writing tone, but haven't quite nailed it yet. Closer though.

Hand in hand with that narrative revision has been a serious conversation about our dialogue and other UI elements. I'm pretty excited about where we're headed with that. It's linked to some secret stuff I can't discuss as yet. It did mean shelving the UI stuff we'd done so far though - it's built around the volume and prose style. Oh well. Broken eggs. Omelettes.

On the visual side, we've been working more on a more responsive world. First layer of that is just assets that react to the presence of the Teller. Next steps are directly interactive (but not mandatory) stuff, like critters. We really want the world to be a source of constant stimulation - and for it to feel like the world is sort of passively aware/communicating with the Teller.

The initial stuff resulted in some really terrific re-working of the shader code. Creating shader variations just got a lot easier. Jerry is going to do a proper dev log on that in a short while. But for now, here's some of me playing with new toys to liven up the forest flora.





 Toast Right
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Bricabrac
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« Reply #48 on: June 30, 2016, 07:18:30 AM »

Woah.

(Do you need any help with the writing?)
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« Reply #49 on: June 30, 2016, 08:31:47 AM »

O_o how have I never seen this before???
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« Reply #50 on: July 01, 2016, 04:39:17 AM »

LOG_06: Shader Mastery

Shaders have always been a bit of an undercooked feature in Unity. You have to write the code by hand, there’s no good syntax highlighting for it, it feels clumsy. And what about this: You have made a nice shader and an artist asks you “Hey, I need another tint color in that shader but I’m only going to need it for this one asset. Can you give me another shader with that tint color added? K Thanks!”.
After some muttered curses and a facepalm you have no choice but to reply “Sure.”.

You end up with another shader file, another slight variation. Perhaps that shader is now called “Character shader panning glow emissive masked normal boost extra tint” That’s just insane!

This exact situation has bothered me for years, especially since I’ve worked extensively with Unreal 3 and 4 where dealing with this is just a breeze.
In unreal there is the concept of a MaterialInstance, basically a shader with options. You want to enable the tint? Just check the checkbox and slap that color on there! Easy.


https://docs.unrealengine.com/latest/INT/Engine/Rendering/Materials/MaterialInstances/

So now your shader can just be called “Character shader” and all those other things; panning, glow, emissive, normal boost etc. are options that can be turned on or off based on the needs of the artist. Makes sense.

Of course I would not be writing this If there wasn’t a way to do this in Unity so let’s dive right in! Fortunately, almost all of the hard work had already been done by others. Mainly Unity itself and Martin Palko.

First, lets look at Unity, in Unity 5 they introduced the Standard Shader. This shader has some dropdown options to change BlendMode and UV channel. So, not many options, but options nonetheless. That means it’s at least possible to achieve something like what we want.



Time for some further investigation. All the built-in shaders can be downloaded from the Unity site to see how they function. I don’t want to go to deep into the details of it but there are two main aspects to make this work:
1. The #pragma multi_compile shader preprocessor keyword.
2. Using a CustomEditor for the shader.

Martin Palko has taken these concepts and built a system out of it that’s quite similar to that of Unreal.



Read for much more detail and code examples:
http://www.martinpalko.com/muli-compile-unity/

In essence this is the system I wanted. However I did add some features that I felt were missing. First, I added a way to show or hide togglegroups based on the state of another togglegroup.



I also integrated the concept from the Unity Standard Shader to be able to switch between different blend modes.The current blend mode can also determine if a property or togglegroup is visible or not.



I also changed #pragma multi_compile to #pragma shader_feature to avoid compiling an insane amount of variations. Highly recommend doing this.https://docs.unity3d.com/Manual/SL-MultipleProgramVariants.html

Two caveats:
1. I wanted to set the "IgnoreBatching" tag from code but this is currently broken.
2. I wanted to have a switch for using Stencil. I don't believe it's possible to have #if blocks outside the CGPROGRAM block so I don't think this can be done.

Still, it's pretty awesome and really speeds up the workflow.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

Bonus:
« Last Edit: July 01, 2016, 06:47:15 AM by Gungnir » Logged

Jalapenosbud
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« Reply #51 on: July 01, 2016, 04:54:16 AM »

You're a wizard har.. erhm Gungnir!
Just skipped through the devlog and read about the shader mastery, it looks really good! especially the waterfall and all the other shaders.

I hope one day, i can become a great wizard too.

Edit: Isn't it expensive to have the flora move like that all the time? just asking cause i dont know Tongue
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« Reply #52 on: July 01, 2016, 05:23:40 AM »

Thanks Jalapenosbud.

The movement on all the flora is done in the vertex shader. Since we only use quads (4 vertices) as meshes it's pretty cheap!
I intend to do a more in-depth devlog on how that all works exactly so stay tuned!
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« Reply #53 on: July 01, 2016, 02:05:40 PM »

Oh my lord the visuals! I love what you guys have done so far, keep it up!! Gentleman
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« Reply #54 on: July 03, 2016, 11:09:02 AM »

Fantastic visuals, especially with how it sounds like it's going to be integrated into the game story. I would love to hear a little bit more about the gameplay itself (but I guess that will come in due time).
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« Reply #55 on: July 20, 2016, 07:53:05 PM »

This looks great!  Thanks for sharing your workflow! Beer!
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benjkers
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« Reply #56 on: December 19, 2016, 11:56:42 AM »


LOG_07: ONE YEAR DOWN

As the (rather infamous) year nears a close, we're past due for a Totem Teller update. Such a neglected DevLog. Sad! Since it's been a while, this update will summarize stuff we've achieved since last the log and where we're generally at. A lot of words, as it's partly a catharsis.





Demo Cavern Lessons
We set an internal milestone for pre-alpha demo build early in 2017. I chose to situate it in our cavern area as a test of discipline - it's probably the most boring, constrictive structural stuff to work with. This area, by design, is also not as inherently open as others.



Previously, I'd only built smaller sections of more open areas. Working on the cavern helped me decide a lot about our game flow. Things like interaction density, pathfinding all demanded resolution. Per usual, I arrived at an ideal conclusion after doing it every other way first.It's a bit like exorcising demons. Get all the bad shit out before I can see the light.



even the undecorated cavern structure can be pleasantly vivid

For now, I've left the cavern a bit of a mess to focus elsewhere. Regardless, that work served to set some goals for all future level design. Some of the reference I'll be incorporating as the cavern area develops further (gets interesting):


reference for future cavern work


Core Interaction & Events
We now have almost our entire interaction + events system in place. This covers most cases for stuff that happens when things get poked in various ways (aka gameplay). Events will expand continually, but for first complete pass on these systems it's pretty comprehensive. Fun to play with too.



Implementing the Interaction & Events systems is a huge deal, as about 80% of our game mechanics begin with them. It also helped a lot with the writing tasks, as story is written differently depending on methods of delivery.



The work also encapsulates puzzle-building; though I really hate saying 'puzzles' as it's (another) very subjective term. We're not a puzzles-for-the-sake-of-gating-player game, either. We prefer they exist to support world or story design primarily.


Controls Scheme Evolution
For console platforms (and personal preference for controller), we redesigned our control scheme. This had some unexpected yet positive effects for observation and interaction generally. We support responsive switching between controller or mouse/kb.



Language of Glitch
With all the shader driven glitchy FX at our disposal, visual possibilities are pretty much infinite. Apart from stylization, glitched visuals are intended to support gameplay in specific ways: pathfinding, interaction, feedback for particular events and so on. There has to be a degree of organization in that apparent chaos. It really helped us to set some further definition/constraints based on what the glitch FX are communicating.  




Character Design
We purposely held off on finalizing any character design (Teller included) as long as possible, to nail down world art style and some key story details. We managed that, so I went back and redesigned the Teller a bit. We're pushing final character art/animation pass until later in development, so it'll still be a while before new Teller and other characters start being shown fully (some probably not at all), but it was an important step.





Writing & "Storybook" Delivery
This is where my main focus continues currently. I don't like diving to deep on writing style while I'm in the midst of it. It's even more abstract a topic than the rest of this stuff Smiley I've written an embarrassing amount over the year and thrown away almost all of it a few times over. Now, I'm starting to keep things and actually *use them in the game*. It's big! :D



When delivering major narrative (with branching choices) via Dialogue UI, we really wanted to capture the simple elegance of a picture storybook. We replaced our existing Dialogue UI with one precisely tuned to emulate that storybook form. This goal also helped me to be more succinct in my writing -- a good thing for player, visuals and our schedule. Well, except for the vast number of unique "illustration style" shot setups :D


Musical Experiments
This year, our composer & sound designer (Kian How) has been refining a thematic piece for the game. It finally reached a point where we can share a bit of it. This piece may not be featured as is, it's more a tonal nucleus. We think it captures the sense of solitary exploration amidst broken beauty quite well.  

Hand Any KeyHave a listen on Soundcloud

We'll soon have some further music in game, alongside some initial sfx. We're working on some tools to apply various types of real-time aural distortion to complement our visual glitching.





Mopey Self Criticism
  • We're moving more slowly than scheduled. Shocker! More of a symptom of settling in for the long haul than a failure. Certainly not unexpected or abnormal.
  • We tried to employ physics at some point. It was, as is typical, a real pain to control as we wanted. Our scene isn't totally 3D or 2D physics wise, so neither worked great without some silly wonky fiddling. So we dumped it, at least for key interactions.
  • DevLog neglect. Hard to figure out what makes sense to talk about as we go deeper. Not alone in this, I'm sure. We don't want to be spoiling too many content related things, as that's the meat of the game. I'm not much of one for the 'dear diary' journaling either. I like to share things that are more concrete, mostly. Though I must say when I do post a log, it often helps me reflect and focus.
  • Business Stuff. I hate it. So I really let a lot of things drop (legal, accounting prep). It's very hard to consider that stuff when you're focused on telling yourself you can finish the game at all. Also we're sort of between countries, it complicates things further. This alone might sell the idea of working with a publisher. Another decision we're putting off as long as possible Smiley






Truth is in the Telling
We've been working on the game for a year now, and we're more excited than ever to continue.
That enduring enthusiasm is the most important achievement of the year, I think.


That's it for 2016. See you next year!
Hand Metal Right


« Last Edit: December 19, 2016, 12:34:21 PM by benjkers » Logged

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« Reply #57 on: January 14, 2017, 05:18:43 PM »

This looks like the paintings I see used for puzzles at my family gatherings. Except with the "messed up" and "trippy" turned up to 11. Good show. Sad I didn't see this before.
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benjkers
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« Reply #58 on: January 15, 2017, 08:07:45 AM »

@kkairos: Painted puzzles at family gatherings? That's pretty intriguing. Glad you found us  Blink
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« Reply #59 on: January 15, 2017, 09:02:41 AM »

Christ almighty, this is beautiful!! I haven't seen something so visually stunning and unique in a long time. Really appreciate the technical explanations as well!
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