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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsThe Woodsman - Narrative Point and Click
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cloudgods
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« Reply #60 on: October 27, 2016, 06:49:25 AM »

That's a big improvement to the camera and overall feel of movement. Before it looked like you were always moving sideways (and I guess you were?) - now it feels like there's depth to it.  Hand Thumbs Up Left Hand Thumbs Up Right

Right! I'm really excited to have a little more variation to the camera movement with the new system.

--

This past week I've been blocking a level, manually scripting a specific camera move, and extending the distance-based shader to take in a third distance input (fore, mid, background color blends) as well as fade to another color based on height. The height-based shader looks a little funky when the same one is used across different trees in the same shot because they all cut off at the same height so I might have to create more ways to vary its look (such as offsets) in the material and create different instances of it.

It's taken me a while to do the scripted camera move because I've been putting off deciding whether or not all of the scripted moves should be modular. In the end I've realized this was PRETTY USELESS to think about for so long because each manual transition is unique, and I'll be doing extra work trying to find scraps that they have in common.

First pass

So this first level involves a character descending a well to find an elder spirit. The spirit is namely made up of roots and eyes are its primary visual motif, foiling the blind character who encounters it. Here's a few gifs of it.


Manual camera transition with placeholder colors and broken lighting (from an old piece of code I forgot to take out)


The level has a visual pull in a little stream of ""water"" (wasn't super happy with this)


The camera also gradually pulls out (from the new camera point system)


Previously, the camera didn't zoom out until the character reached the eyes
I actually like this more sudden reveal so I might see if I can balance the two different camera transitions?

Second pass


Messed with some more desaturated colors
Here I used the three-distance blend (notice foreground to midground to background) as well as height-based shader (trees fading).


The descent transition
I tried to use fireflies off to the right as a more subtle visual pull than the stream from the first pass. It's subtle, but the trees with the height-based shader also look kind of cool as the camera descends.


The root system is gradually introduced and then opens up into a larger space with the eyes

Black is kind of a harsh color and overall this level is kind of hard to see so I'm going to see what I can lighten up and maybe mess with more color variations. I also want to block out more of the part leading up to the well. I think this part of the level would be the place for some more unique set pieces.

My friend Rho did a cool paint of the kind of landmarks + pieces I'm thinking of.


Rho's Twitter
Please check them out they're really good (': !!
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cloudgods
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« Reply #61 on: October 30, 2016, 11:50:37 AM »

These past few days I've been blocking out the other two levels a little more! I've also been tweaking UI stuff. I'm somewhat confused with how to place UI in Unreal through nodes... so I've been falling back on magic numbers. The good news is that it centers on the screen better! The bad news is that placing it vertically on the screen is tricky across all of the possible resolutions. I want it just above the characters but not too high on the screen.

The willow spirit

I tweaked the variables so the trees are more accurate with offering their handshakes.


87% more accurate handshakes!

The lake spirit

I blocked out a lot of this level. I'll post more pics of the layout from afar. I finally figured out how to turn on collisions for the spline meshes and kind of messed with the triplanar world space shader for weird underwater-like effect. I want to mess with it some more.




A preview of the lake spirit

I need to do a lot more blocking for all of the levels! My goal is to get it done by the end of the month.
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cloudgods
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« Reply #62 on: November 06, 2016, 08:51:56 AM »

Well Spirit Level Details

This week I started to add some details + animation to the well spirit level!


Vines growing in the well descent

The character that descends the well does so on some plants that she grows and climbs down. I wanted to vaguely demonstrate this through a vine animation with the camera transition.


Cave drips

Someone suggested putting water drips in the underground tunnel to give it space and scale.

--
Code cleanup and Removing Inventory for Design

In addition, I did a lot of code cleanup. The dialogue is now handled entirely by a dialogue manager rather than the level blueprint, making it easier and faster for me to insert dialogue into every level.

I think I might've mentioned it before but I've also removed the inventory functionality to streamline the game's design. While inventories have been pretty staple to point and click games, I've decided that an inventory didn't quite serve the design or narrative of this game. Instead, I'd like to focus on creating a compelling world, characters, and dialogue. It's been a really tough struggle to let go of traditional point and click "puzzle" mechanics even if a lot of them were simple fetch quests, because it feels like my game... isn't really a game. My perspective has shifted quite a bit since I've started the project, and after attending a talk by Chris Remo (of Campo Santo), I've started to reflect on decisions I've made to blindly adhere to a genre rather than because they were serving the game's themes.

--
Dialogue Events

I've also started to expand the dialogue's functionality. Dialogue can now call events like camera moves and animations. I'll have gifs of this when I have a more effective example than the tests so far.

--
Importing CSV Sheets as Data Tables for Dialogue

So I've been tossing around the idea of using excel sheets for dialogue instead of an unwieldy number of blueprint arrays. Array nodes are kind of a pain to edit. With 11 arrays per dialogue interaction, it's already starting to get ridicuous with 6 or 7 sets. I'd been reading documentation about importing csv sheets as data tables in unreal, but I had thought it could only be done with C++ and usually with floats or ints. AS IT TURNS OUT you can create structs for data table templates through blueprints and text is perfectly fine!


Dialogue data table

Here's what the data tables look like after imported into unreal. They can be edited after imported which is pretty useful for quick tweaks in-engine!


The original sheet

What's pretty useful about using spreadsheets is that I can leave cells blank, and they will import with a "default value" defined for each column. For these dialogue data tables, booleans will be assumed false and text will be empty. This makes it quick + easy for me fill in spreadsheets with "true" where needed. It's also a lot easier to quickly read and edit text than in 11 node arrays.


The original dialogue node array mess!!

So I went from nodes like this...


Dialogue using data tables! So clean!!

To this neat little line which reads in the data tables.

Up next

I'm continuing to block out and tweak the level design based on player feedback! In addition, I'm continuing to carefully convert all of the previous dialogue array nodes to the much easier to use spreadsheets.
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cloudgods
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« Reply #63 on: November 07, 2016, 01:43:25 PM »


Ohh what's this

Unfortunately, unreal is terrible about custom physics so I had to mess with time using world time dilation. I'm trying to find ways to make the split even slower /: It also unfortunately all but stops the particle systems I wanted to be able to spawn. Back to the drawing board?
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cloudgods
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« Reply #64 on: November 08, 2016, 06:48:10 AM »

Final level concepts


Composition thumbnails

I've been playing with the idea of the final level having the scale and lighting of a cathedral. I want to use the space to heighten the sense of the character's introspection: Whenever they're talking, it might feel like they're talking either to the emptiness, some god, or themselves.

Ending concepts


Woodsman's ending

The previous gif was an experiment for Woodsman's ending. I'd like it to be interactive, with the player clicking on particles to turn them into growing plants.


Red's ending

Red is covered in roots + vines in her ending. The player will have to cut away at the roots to free Red in her ending.
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cloudgods
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« Reply #65 on: November 09, 2016, 03:36:53 PM »

Final level blocking


Blocking tree cathedral

I've been trying to get a better sense for the composition for the cathedral-like space in the last level. I want to try to dwarf the character and inspire a sense of scale and awe.

Custom god rays

I've wanted to create god rays using a cylinder mesh and gradient opacity mask to have more control over the look of my level. It's been pretty successful so far, but I've been getting stuck on casting light ray shadows. I hoped to scroll a small line across the UV's but they don't quite "cone out" like I'd hoped when I squished the UV's: instead they have some "stepping" to them. The only way to smooth this out was to use a cone and use planar projected-UV's.


Gross failure UV's smfh

Instead I'm going to try to squish the UV's and scroll them using some... UV texture coordinate hell math.

God rays in the final level


God rays blocked in

I blocked the rays into the cathedral space. They have a subtle flicker to them so far, but I want to make this more customizable so the flickers can be offset and differ in intensity.
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« Reply #66 on: November 09, 2016, 04:23:03 PM »

Nice! It definitely feels like the character is standing in a large space, and it looks like the light ray effect will be really nice once it's all polished up.  Hand Thumbs Up Left Hand Thumbs Up Right

Drawing from memory, I wonder if you can position the camera slightly lower in this scene, sort of like it's on the floor. So it's looking up just slightly toward the character - I think that might enhance the large space/cathedral effect you're going for. Not sure how feasible that is, or even if that's a legitimate tactic.
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« Reply #67 on: November 10, 2016, 02:00:23 AM »

Amazing progress you've made  Gentleman
I really love the minimalism, gives at a very mysterious feel. Keep up the good work!
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« Reply #68 on: November 10, 2016, 04:37:06 AM »

Coming along nicely! I especially like looking at your sketches, even if they spoil the ending.

The lake spirit is cool and I feel the underwater vibe but the snake-like terrain doesn't neccesarily work with that aesthetic imo. Is it supposed to be some kind of sunken root system?
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cloudgods
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« Reply #69 on: November 11, 2016, 06:58:47 AM »

Amazing progress you've made  Gentleman
I really love the minimalism, gives at a very mysterious feel. Keep up the good work!

Thank you so much!

Coming along nicely! I especially like looking at your sketches, even if they spoil the ending.

The lake spirit is cool and I feel the underwater vibe but the snake-like terrain doesn't neccesarily work with that aesthetic imo. Is it supposed to be some kind of sunken root system?

Thank you! Haha, I don't expect anyone reading this thread to ever play the game so I'm not too worried abt posting ending stuff.

Also, interesting! I can def play with it more. By snake-like do you mean the large roots? The level takes place among a large tree's root system submerged beneath a lake. You can see some sketches in this post. It's hard to explain but the lake is kind of distorting time + memory: it's sort of remembering a place in the past so the forms are kind of wispy. Not sure if that is still fitting for the aesthetic, but it's definitely my goal to get this sort of surreal boundary across.

Nice! It definitely feels like the character is standing in a large space, and it looks like the light ray effect will be really nice once it's all polished up.  Hand Thumbs Up Left Hand Thumbs Up Right

Drawing from memory, I wonder if you can position the camera slightly lower in this scene, sort of like it's on the floor. So it's looking up just slightly toward the character - I think that might enhance the large space/cathedral effect you're going for. Not sure how feasible that is, or even if that's a legitimate tactic.

Thanks so much! I took your advice into account--the camera was already beneath the character + looking up but I've been pushing it a lot more, and the space is starting to feel a lot more vertical!


Final level update

It's getting there but definitely hasn't been pushed enough.

Casting fake shadows in godrays


The godrays can now have fake shadows!

So I finally solved the UV mystery--I should have been projecting the UV's from above instead of the side. Using a pie-looking texture I can rotate this to move this fake shadow around the beam. It's not the most pleasing effect, but it's one mystery solved.

Spirit concepts


Well spirit

This level has been a little tricky to reconcile with some of my previous concept art. I liked the composition a lot but I wanted to be able to suspend Red in the level some way, and have roots sort of moving above and below her. I think I'm going to have a root running through the level to give her a bit of height and achieve this sort of effect. I'm starting to think about how the level can move and change around the stationary character during her dialogue: I might have the camera rotate gently or move in and out.


River spirit

This level's design has been a huge mess so I've been tracing back to narrative and emotion for what I want this encounter to get across. The Woodsman's main struggle involves being isolated from their community and cutting off relationships. In choosing to bind this spirit they are kind of making a parallel reflection on their self-imposed isolation and whether it was helping them find their identity or only served to hurt and isolate. I'd like over the course of the dialogue to slowly introduce more branches and kind of communicate something that feels like this composition.
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Retroopla
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« Reply #70 on: November 11, 2016, 08:20:10 AM »

I like the atmosphere of the game! Somehow it reminds me of Zelda -Majoras Mask Intro  Who, Me?
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« Reply #71 on: November 11, 2016, 10:41:07 AM »

Nice! It's always refreshing to see new games with different aesthetics and so greatly executed.  Kiss

I would revise the FX though. The fire looks very simplistic compared to the other assets, I really think you could get a better visual FX with less but bigger sprites with some UV scrolling and with additive/double multiplicative blendings.

I loved the giant arms and the vertex color style of the characters.
Really amazing job, I definitely want to play this!
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Cranktrain
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« Reply #72 on: November 11, 2016, 10:49:18 AM »

Looking good! It's a bold aesthetic to go with. Going to enjoy seeing some of these sketches and concepts executed on.
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cloudgods
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« Reply #73 on: November 11, 2016, 02:12:46 PM »

I like the atmosphere of the game! Somehow it reminds me of Zelda -Majoras Mask Intro  Who, Me?

Thanks so much! Ahah I'm flattered by the comparison.

Nice! It's always refreshing to see new games with different aesthetics and so greatly executed.  Kiss

I would revise the FX though. The fire looks very simplistic compared to the other assets, I really think you could get a better visual FX with less but bigger sprites with some UV scrolling and with additive/double multiplicative blendings.

I loved the giant arms and the vertex color style of the characters.
Really amazing job, I definitely want to play this!

Aw thank you so much! Also interesting--I might mess with that. I'm curious by what you mean exactly by UV scrolling + the additive blendings? Like diff bw masks scrolled over each other? I've been playing a lot with shaders so I'd love to experiment.

Looking good! It's a bold aesthetic to go with. Going to enjoy seeing some of these sketches and concepts executed on.

Thank you! It's been both rewarding and tough to work in this style, and I definitely want to push it further.

--

Sketches + concepts

Two posts in one day because I've still been sketching today. I've been thinking about how the environments animating and evolving both through the character walking through and over the course of dialogue.

The Well/Root Spirit











My handwriting is terrible and I'll just let these concepts stand on their own because they'll make more sense when actually implemented.

--

The River/Willow Spirit


Original concept

I've always pictured the woodsman underneath the willow tree but it felt pretty disconnected from the river which is pretty key to the spirit.


Crossing the river

I started to mess a bit with them crossing the river and the willow reaching across at them... It'll be tricky I think, but I think this would be more successful.





My goal is to start blocking out levels.
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Juliano
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« Reply #74 on: November 11, 2016, 03:17:18 PM »

Yeah! That's exactly it. I think this multi bw masks with some sin waves added on vertex distortion will look pretty neat.I don't know how to accomplish this on Unreal though, I am a Unity developer. Also don't know how Unreal handles blending, but I think multiplicative 2x works great with fire fx.

Looking forward to see the development on this sketches!
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« Reply #75 on: November 12, 2016, 01:26:11 AM »

Wow, I love the atmosphere, it has a lot of character and depth, it looks like my kind of game! I'll be following your progress!
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« Reply #76 on: November 12, 2016, 06:08:24 PM »

Nice! It definitely feels like the character is standing in a large space, and it looks like the light ray effect will be really nice once it's all polished up.  Hand Thumbs Up Left Hand Thumbs Up Right

Drawing from memory, I wonder if you can position the camera slightly lower in this scene, sort of like it's on the floor. So it's looking up just slightly toward the character - I think that might enhance the large space/cathedral effect you're going for. Not sure how feasible that is, or even if that's a legitimate tactic.

Thanks so much! I took your advice into account--the camera was already beneath the character + looking up but I've been pushing it a lot more, and the space is starting to feel a lot more vertical!


Final level update


Yeah! That's a great change, I think. It definitely feels bigger now.
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cloudgods
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« Reply #77 on: November 14, 2016, 08:40:16 PM »

Yeah! That's exactly it. I think this multi bw masks with some sin waves added on vertex distortion will look pretty neat.I don't know how to accomplish this on Unreal though, I am a Unity developer. Also don't know how Unreal handles blending, but I think multiplicative 2x works great with fire fx.

Looking forward to see the development on this sketches!

Cool cool, I think this is something I could swing. I've been experimenting with vertex distortion quite a bit lately and I'm trying to think how I would best represent fire w/ this. I'll add it to the taskboard.

Wow, I love the atmosphere, it has a lot of character and depth, it looks like my kind of game! I'll be following your progress!

Ahh I'm glad to hear it thank you!

Yeah! That's a great change, I think. It definitely feels bigger now.

Sweet! I'll be chipping away at it more with some floaties and possible color variation.

--

The Well/Root Spirit


Blocking out the root spirit encounter

For this encounter I created a soft distance based shader that grew and shrank based on a sine wave over time. I know it looks like it's sort of emanating from mouse click--and actually I'm thinking that would be pretty cool, but the effect is meant to kind of look like breathing and would take place as a character navigates dialogue with the spirit. It ended up looking kind of ugly but I sort of wanted to have these eyes remain completely visible even in the dark and then reveal as part of the roots when they were illuminated so I might choose a different color.
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cloudgods
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« Reply #78 on: November 30, 2016, 03:35:54 PM »

Level streaming and build stuff!?

In the past two weeks I've been painfully painfully converting the project's current levels structure to support level streaming. This means that the load times between levels are a little faster and adjusting sound in one level carries over to the next and general Good Practice Stuff I probably should have been doing from the beginning. I've learned a lot and have nothing visually cool at all to show for it!! Terrible.

I've also started writing up a build + MVP schedule! Now that level streaming is Generally Sorted I want to start building weekly-ish to get something minimally functional and maybe playtested(!?). It's just been very cool, terrifying two weeks and I'm excited to crawl out of that hell and kick out visuals again.

Root spirit progress

I've also continued progress on the underground level!


Eyeballs take 1

So I've had these flat plane eyes for most of the project and the feedback has consistently been: they don't really read as eyes. I had wanted a stylistic look but I have to admit in 3D it just looks terrible.


Eyeballs take 2

I switched from the plane to a half-sphere with a flipbook animation for the eye mask + blink. It looks more unnerving and set in the space and I'm really pleased with it! I've been tweaking the frames of animation for the blink and set up a timer in the shader to blink every few seconds--something I had trouble with in my previous blink shader which used some UV sorcery and a sine wave over time (it looked bad).


Alias artifacting

Unfortunately, I've encountered some odd artifacting on the glancing edges of the meshes using the opacity mask. I've been rounding the colors to either 0 or 1 to get a crisp, aliased look, and it seems like this is the culprit. It's a little odd, though, because the artifacting isn't even originating from the edges of the mesh itself, just glancing planes. Either way it's a bit ugly but the anti-aliased edges are pretty ugly also so I'm a little stumped. If you have any ideas or suggestions, let me know!
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cloudgods
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« Reply #79 on: December 04, 2016, 05:02:51 PM »

River spirit progress

I've started to block out the river/hand spirit. I had been fiddling a lot with the scale and composition of this encounter. I've been back and forth on whether spirit or the Woodsman would be closer to the camera and how the Woodsman would approach and talk to the spirit.


Woodsman closer to the camera


Spirit closer to the camera

I think I prefer the spirit in the foreground with the slow reveal of the leaves then hands all while gently pulling out to show the full scope of the tree. I think a lot stands to be pushed still, so I might have a few alternative compositions.


Willow tree leaves

I mocked up a shader for willow tree branches + leaves with some gentle waving vertex offset. Unfortunately some of the branches look like they're floating because the planes are square so I'll have to figure out a better way to conceal those. I also created thinner hands--I'm back and forth on what to use and whether the arms look better with an elbow-like bend or just completely smoothed.


More leaves!

I also started creating + distributing leaves in the level. This level wasn't planned that well though so I want to focus on the story + interactions and building off of those.
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