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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsA Door to the Mists--[DEMO updated!]--traversal, exploration, puzzles and combat
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RealScaniX
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« Reply #380 on: February 08, 2020, 02:28:15 AM »

Stacked chables do not necessarily survive save-load.  Instead the top one falls inside the bottom one (making an 8-legged chable on the ground).



To be fair: It says "Broken chair". :D
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« Reply #381 on: February 08, 2020, 02:33:35 AM »

Gameworld explained! Cursed, exiled to the under-city, the broken chables live and glitch in relative peace.  The low-humidity environment has allowed them to prosper for decades or more.  Those "children's" drawings in the undercity?  Not so.

Now: why do none of the chests open?  This is genuinely intriguing, given how genre-bending it is for a treasure-finding game.  My mouse-bug hunting has shown me they might be capable of teleportation magic, or perhaps they're just more apt to be teleported than other items.  Not sure if the two different chest sizes indicate multiple species or just sexual dimorphism.

Sidenote: finished the demo today.  Have lots of feelings & thoughts to provide as (non-technical feedback), will possibly write up soon.  Currently unwell and hiding at home.  Enjoyed this demo quite a bit Smiley
« Last Edit: February 08, 2020, 02:41:52 AM by Whales » Logged
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« Reply #382 on: February 08, 2020, 09:06:16 AM »

All right, here's a new bug-testing program!

https://www.dropbox.com/s/y93kvmtky7lplqo/Mouse-Event%20Tester-0.3_manylinux1_x86_64.tar.gz?dl=1
(Again, ~18MB.)

This one is much like the last one, but with the addition of my key-binding module. In addition, the click-event counters have been moved down a bit, so that they're visible even when the key-binding module is showing dialogue boxes.

As before, please save the console output, so that if the bug does show up we can check that output for useful data!



In broad strokes, the process that I suggest is this:
  • Click a few times, to check initial behaviour
  • Move the mouse to the button for any of "right", "up", or "down" (skipping "left", in case the "a"-key is involved)
  • Keeping the mouse steady there (to limit the events generated), click once on the button.
    • Keep an eye on the event-counters when you do this
    • If you immediately--i.e. with no other presses of anything--see a dialogue button indicating a binding conflict, then at least one bug has presumably shown up.
    • Bind as you please
  • At some point, press "space" (or whatever you may have re-bound the control to) in order to toggle frame-rate limiting, and repeat the above.

Gameworld explained! ...

Hahah, I like this! XD

Sidenote: finished the demo today.  Have lots of feelings & thoughts to provide as (non-technical feedback), will possibly write up soon.  Currently unwell and hiding at home.  Enjoyed this demo quite a bit Smiley

Ah, it makes me really happy to know that you so enjoyed it! I didn't know, on releasing the demos, whether the game would connect with people. It's thus rather heartening to know that it has done so. ^_^

I am sorry to read of your illness! I hope that you recover fully and swiftly, and that it's nothing terribly serious!

To be fair: It says "Broken chair". :D

Ouch, a direct strike to the heart! XD;

EDIT: wait no, I am supposed to finish some work this weekend.  Bad Thaumaturge.

MWAHAHAHAHA!!! Evil

EDIT2: found my way.  Felt a little odd, given all of the passive things that I had encountered previously that gained nothing from probing.

Yeah. I intend to give this more thought. I'd excise that feature, if not for the fact that it would be really really nice to have cases in which the player can discover things simply by noticing some tell or indication in the world; think, for example, of damaged walls that can be broken through. But conversely, I don't want players to feel that they have to click on absolutely everything, so I do want most interactive things to be labelled...

Tell me if any of these interest you or if you want further information.

I very much want to know about such things! I don't want the game to go out full of bugs!

Flickering is getting very obnoxious.  I'd agree it's culling related, the flicker rate depends on movement.  Even items in my hands flicker in and out of existence.  Culled items become dark shadows -- it seems that the lighting system uses a different culling method for determining which objects to project upon.

Hum. That is disturbing. The culling method should be the same for both shadow- and rendering- cameras, I believe. However, it's entirely possible that I'm not properly cleaning up my rendering cameras, or not initialising them correctly, or some such thing...

The above door (shelves + scratches room) doesn't survive save-load properly if left open: hitbox stays in open position (for both character collision and mouse ray casting) but visually the door ends up in the closed position.  I'll see if others are like this.

Bah, that's a pity! I imagine that it'll be fairly easy to fix, however.

Stacked chables do not necessarily survive save-load.  Instead the top one falls inside the bottom one (making an 8-legged chable on the ground).

Argh, I know (more or less) where that came from: the current version of the demo uses a reworked approach to carriable objects--and I'm guessing that I didn't think to test it with saving-and-loading. Something to look into, I fear!

Quick-loading ('L') whilst the death dialog is up leads to a black screen.  Loading again fixes this problem.

Ah, that's odd. Again, I doubt that it'll prove terribly problematic to fix, but it's a pity that it's there!

Found a non-colliding mesh (wall) that lets me exit the map and enter the void.  Disappointed by lack of spirits.

Ooh, ouch!

Thank you for the screenshot: I know the place, I believe, and should hopefully be able to fix that quickly!

As to the annotations on those screenshots:
  • Spoiler, yes. Tongue
  • Not a menu, as it happens; just an untextured piece of geometry, I believe. It might be part of the city above that's expected to be out of sight from the entry/exit door.
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« Reply #383 on: February 10, 2020, 09:04:37 AM »

Blog post (10th of February, 2020)
Animations in Combat


Summary: In which a combatant is worked on; a combat animation no longer runs faster the higher the frame-rate; the translation minigame is made a bit more readable (I hope); the translation minigame is given fonts where they were missing; and a variety of fixes, tweaks, etc. are made.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows the enemy mentioned in last week's blog post, now active in combat!



The work of the week just past was a mixture of enemy-work, bug-fixing, and miscellaneous tweaks:

To start with, the enemy shown above. As you may gather, work continued on this character in the week just past; in all of animation, level-logic, implementation as an enemy, and even a few model-tweaks. Now the character can be encountered in a simple prototype of their level, in which they "notice" the player and charge at them--eliciting a vain and cut-short reaction from out protagonist. On reaching the player, combat starts.



As a combatant, they're perhaps notable in that--as things are currently planned--they're the first opponent after the prologue-enemy that has all of the player's capabilities: all of the three basic attacks and defences.

But they also have their own tricks--in particular a pair of feints, intended to prompt an ineffective parry from the player and leave them open to the real attack that follows.

Speaking of combat, I fixed a bug that has been present for a little while, but that I only recently looked into properly:

You know how some video games omit the use of delta-time in certain calculations, and thus end up with elements that go faster the higher the frame-rate?

Well, it turns out that I had accidentally implemented more or less the opposite: a certain animation in the combat mechanic played faster the lower the frame-rate!

Specifically, I was including delta-time in a calculation that was used--amongst other things--to determine the speed at which said animation played. Since a lower frame-rate has a higher delta-time, lower frame-rates were resulting in higher animation speeds! ^^;

This is, I do believe, fixed now!

Continuing with the fixing of oversights:

It was pointed out to me recently that the word-roots in the translation minigame, lacking serifs, could be a little ambiguous--things like "Ul" resembling "UI".

That in itself was easy to fix--I just set all of the text to be upper-case.

However, it led to my discovering that I'd apparently omitted fonts from the word-root buttons--root and translation alike! They were presumably rendering with default system fonts. Oops. ^^;

Again, this should be fixed now!



And otherwise, I made quite a few fixes, tweaks, and changes that don't seem worth detailing here: I enabled looking around while climbing; I fixed a single door that appeared closed on reload, even when really open; I got carriables to correctly restore their positions on reload; and more besides!

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #384 on: February 17, 2020, 02:45:47 AM »

Sorry for the big delays.  I was meaning to get some better feedback together, but I think it's better to submit what I have than draw it out longer.

Game thoughts

To get a different perspective on the game: I used the age old trick of exploiting family for free labour.  I sat my niece down and got her to play whilst I wrote notes of what I observed.  It's likely that tween girls are not your demographic, but data is data.  Intermixed in this text file are some of my own thoughts and interpretations too.

https://halestrom.net/misc/otherforums/playthrough_notes.txt

Keep in mind the limited perspectives here.  Don't take everything to heart or too seriously:

Quote
She starts humming along to the background music, possibly stockholm syndrome.

We didn't get to the third level (undercity), some quick notes from what I remember from my play-through:

 - Dizzying at times, but it forces players to look for the lantern in the distance.  I like this, others I'm sure will hate it.
 - Really hard to work out which doors and windows are interactable.  Ends up being a spam-click-everything fest to find out.  Maybe the rivets are not obvious enough?
 - Like the little bits of world lore spread around, wish there were more.  
 - What's the meaning behind the gang symbols?  Feel like I could be missing something.
 - Useless dead-end rooms are a bit sad.  Some are even furnished.



Cause of horrible flickering identified

Changing FOV in the in-game settings.

I had set it to 60 to feel a bit more comfortable (I don't do well with low FOVs), this induced flickering even on new games.  Setting it back to the default of 50 fixed this problem.



Mouse tester 0.3

https://halestrom.net/misc/otherforums/test6_met0.3_both.txt

Success!  Clicking the bad mouse on the background/anywhere yielded double-counts.

Input pattern: 5 badmouse clicks, 5 goodmouse clicks, escape.

Clicking badmouse on a different window (game not focused) leads to the game receiving single-click events.  Presumably this means controller input does not require window focus, which makes sense, I've seen other games like this (and it can be useful).

Normally your tester appears to see mouse_button_status = mouse1_button | mouse2_button.  Ie pressing and holding one, then clicking the other, then releasing the first only leads to one confirmed click (at the end, upon release of mouse1).  This is not true if the second mouse is badmouse: one extra click gets registered when you click mouse2.  Again I presume this is because it's being treated as a controller input.


https://halestrom.net/misc/otherforums/test7_met0.3_yourmethod.txt

Input pattern:
 - 5 badmouse clicks
 - badmouse click on right, change it
 - badmouse click on up, change it
 - badmouse click on down, change it
 - badmouse click on framelimit, change it to space (seems to be necessary, otherwise I can't trigger it)
 - badmouse click on right, change it
 - badmouse click on up, change it
 - badmouse click on down, change it
 - escape

Just before hitting escape: mouseupevents=7, mousedownevents=14


https://halestrom.net/misc/otherforums/test8_met0.3_leftbindoddity.txt

Here's an odd one.  I start the tester, tap and release left alt, then click on the left bind button.  It immediately binds to lalt without even asking.

This can be reproduced with any keyboard key followed by clicking any of the bind options.  Only works for the first inputs into the tester, once you have clicked a button it never works again.  

Does not require badmouse, behaviour is the same with a goodmouse.


https://halestrom.net/misc/otherforums/test9_met0.3_asdf.txt

Another super-odd one.  I type in 'a' 's' 'd' 'f' then click the bind for 'up'.  A warning dialog comes up telling me that key "d" is already bound to right.  Clicking 'continue' closes the tester program immediately.

Does not require badmouse, behaviour is the same with a goodmouse.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2020, 03:03:24 AM by Whales » Logged
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« Reply #385 on: February 17, 2020, 10:27:10 AM »

Ah, that's wonderful feedback! Thank you so much for putting the game in front of a new player, and for all the feedback that you provided, both your own and that you got from that player! And thank you again for trying out the mouse-tester!

So, we've at last managed to get the bug to appear in the test-program! That's good news, at least!

And it does look like it's related to my key-mapping code, then.

I'm not sure that the issues that you had with holding down one mouse-button and then pressing the other are the same: I think that I've seen reports of something vaguely similar (holding down a laptop's function-key and then pressing another, or something like that) on the engine's forum.

If the engine is indeed seeing your keyboard as a gamepad, or otherwise handling it incorrectly, then the odd responses to key-presses might be related to that.

(I'm not sure of why you're getting crashes; that may be a bug in the key-mapping module, or some confusion caused by the engine misidentifying your keyboard, perhaps.)

Regarding the flickering, it may well be that I'm missing a step somewhere when I change the FOV--I intend to ask after this on the engine's forum. I'm glad that we found a reliable means of producing the issue!

Regarding your niece's feedback, that's very valuable to have, as are you observations on her play. I would say that tween girls are necessarily outside of my target demographic (as far as I have one), although it is of course possible that your niece, specifically, is.

As to more-detailed visual responses to things like the brass rods... I'm not sure that that's feasible for me, as a solo dev. Progress is slow as it is. :/

One can determine to some degree which things are important and which aren't by examining them--for examine, the non-interactive scraps of paper are described as being illegible. (They also have a different texture to the interactive ones, although that may be easy to miss.)

However, if one has missed the ability to examine things, or doesn't like reading...

It's a pity that the art-style wasn't well-met; that may call for thought. The intention is something like a painting, rather than a fully-realistic style (and the huge asset-creation cost that realism would likely incur). I do fear that I'm not hitting that mark, however!

Heh, I'm glad that someone at least found the hole in the ceiling without too much trouble! XD;

I'm rather tired today, so I haven't gone through everything carefully--I intend to do that at a later stage, and may have more comments then!
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« Reply #386 on: February 17, 2020, 10:36:54 AM »

Blog post (17th of February, 2020)
Unhiding the Hidden


Summary: In which level four is fleshed out; the sunlight shader sees touch-ups; the player-character's death-animation is reworked; and "hidden" objects no longer are so.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshots show work on the environment for level four:




The week just past saw work on a variety of matters:

To start with, as shown above, I've begun work on fleshing out the level in which the recently-added enemy is encountered. (Not shown above is the glimpse that can be seen through the doorway of the outside world; it's limited, but it's there.

This level is, I intend, the smallest of all: the room that you see is the entirety of it. The player enters, has a sudden combat encounter, and then moves on--albeit not with the player-character unmoved.

This makes it a good target for a "quick win", a level that I can complete relatively quickly after the long, slow progress that has been level two.

Staying with art, something not shown above is that I've made some adjustments to the main sunlight shader. Shadowed regions can look a little flat at times--indeed, I fear that this is apparent in some of the props shown in the aforementioned screenshots--so I've allowed a little bit of highlighting even in full shadow.

Furthermore, I've changed the approach to sunlight highlighting such that, the less shiny an object is, the more its colour is used in highlights. This means that duller objects are less washed-out by their highlights, while shiny ones remain bright.

These changes aren't dramatic, and thus don't make for good screenshots. Still, I think that they are improvements.

(And I experimented with other changes, too, both in the main sunlight shader and the player-light one, but wasn't happy with the results in those cases as I recall.)

Sticking with art, I also reworked the player-character's in-combat death animation: I had for some time been unhappy with the previous version, and so decided at last to replace it. I'm rather happier with this new one, I do believe!

And concomitantly, I made some minor changes to the camera-work that happens when the player dies in combat, in order to accommodate this new animation.



Turning to game design, A Door to the Mists has included a mechanic that I've been uncertain about: that of "hidden" objects--by which I mean objects that are interactive, but that don't initially show themselves as such. An example is the curtain at the end of level one.

On the one hand, I like that hiding objects in this way allows for player discovery: when all interactive objects are labelled from the start, there's less space for the player to have that lovely "aha!" moment as a result of suspecting an object as important, testing it, and find it to indeed be so.

On the other hand, it somewhat breaks the "language" of the game, and is thus counter-intuitive: why would a player think to examine a non-highlighted object when all other interactive objects are highlighted?

Now, I could solve this issue by simply having all objects be "hidden"--but that may very well leave the player feeling a pressure to attempt to examine everything, just in case it's interactive. And that... doesn't sound fun.

What I've decided then, after much deliberation--and what I implemented in the week just past--is that there will be no "hidden" objects. In some cases interaction might only become available after examination, but all interactive objects will at the least be highlighted and named.

This means the loss of that type of discovery that I mentioned earlier, but hopefully I'll manage to work (and have worked) around it to some degree, at least!

(And along with this, I've slightly reworked the behaviour of the curtain in level one.)



And finally, a number of changes were made that don't seem worth detailing here!

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #387 on: February 18, 2020, 01:45:28 AM »

Hehe, at first I thought that she is kneeling down to bind her shoelaces and the mummy is polite enough to wait.
 
Sorry! :D
 
I'm not sure if I understand that "hidden object" mechanism. Don't you show the interaction cursor and name when the player points to it? In that case I would see it as a bug as a player, I think.
In my game I can set different interaction distances per object, so I can avoid the player interacting with something that is high above him on a shelf. But I'm thinking of adding a new cursor to show that you are pointing at something interactive, but are too far away from it.

The new enemy looks nice. The armor he wears on his upper body kinda makes me think that attacks to that region will have less effect.
 
I really like your updates. They are nicely written and have interesting content. I should do more of those, too. (If I had any progress at the moment ^^)

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« Reply #388 on: February 18, 2020, 11:16:43 AM »

Hehe, at first I thought that she is kneeling down to bind her shoelaces and the mummy is polite enough to wait.
 
Sorry! :D

Hahah, I can see that--although I'll confess that when I tie my bootlaces, I don't tend to go entirely onto my hands-and-knees, nor do I usually keel over a moment later. ;P

In all seriousness, it's not a perfect animation by any means--but it's considerably better than the somewhat-awkward thing that I had in place previously. Perhaps it'll see more polish later, perhaps not!


I'm not sure if I understand that "hidden object" mechanism. Don't you show the interaction cursor and name when the player points to it? In that case I would see it as a bug as a player, I think.

And that is another argument in favour of removing it, I do feel.

As to the thought behind having had it... I don't recall my original reasons by this point, but my thinking of late has been along these lines:

When playing, it's nice to feel like one discovered something on one's own--to notice that a wall looks damaged, to think "hmm, I have a hammer in my pack--could I break through there", to try it, and to have it work!

But if all interactive objects are explicitly labelled, then that goes away. The wall is now highlighted--it's thus at the least examinable, perhaps interactive. And while there may be some discovery in realising that you can use the hammer to break through, there's less of that feeling of discovery, I fear.

Still, it does now seem that the drawbacks outweigh the benefits of having some objects be hidden.

In my game I can set different interaction distances per object, so I can avoid the player interacting with something that is high above him on a shelf. But I'm thinking of adding a new cursor to show that you are pointing at something interactive, but are too far away from it.

I actually do have a feature like that implemented, as it happens. ^_^ I don't think that I have that last part, save perhaps for a slight change in the centre-dot (if I recall correctly), admittedly.

The new enemy looks nice. The armor he wears on his upper body kinda makes me think that attacks to that region will have less effect.

Thank you very much! I'm really glad to read that. ^_^

As to that armour, it's more or less a padded gamebeson. I'm not sure of how effective it would be against a cut--although it would offer at least some protection, I imagine. It's more intended to dull impacts and scrapes: it's worn by adventurers in this area because of their work in the under-city, as protection when climbing, or against falling stones and the like, I believe.
 

I really like your updates. They are nicely written and have interesting content. I should do more of those, too. (If I had any progress at the moment ^^)

That's great to read! It really heartens me to hear from someone who enjoys reading these entries, and I'm glad that you're so enjoying them! :D

As to your own updates, sometimes a lack of progress is itself the update, I think.

~

Returning to the feedback given by Whales, I'm still tired today, but I have a few more thoughts:

Regarding the intro

Hmm... It's tempting to expand on that intro a bit--but I fear that doing so might result in it being more likely that players will just skip it. I've been trying to keep the cutscenes fairly short. I'll think on this, I intend.

Regarding the amount of text

My current feeling is that players who dislike reading are likely to not enjoy this game: examining objects can be important (sometimes mechanically so). Reworking the game to allow for no reading at all would call for massive changes, I fear.

Regarding the textures

I'm starting to think that I'm not getting close enough to hitting that "somewhat painterly" mark that I set for myself. Realism is likely infeasible--and not desirable to me, anyway. I'm currently experimenting with alternative aesthetics...

Regarding discovery of the inventory and the first puzzle

Hmm... Perhaps I can kill two birds with one stone (poor birds T-T) and have the character make a remark about not being able to reach, and wanting to check her pack for something useful? It's a tutorial, so being very hand-holdy isn't too bad, I feel.

"Tries to use sword: doesn't appear to work."

That may have been the mouse-bug rearing its head with problematic timing: the player can remove the sword by clicking on it again, if I recall correctly, and a phantom second click may have enacted that.

"I think it would be better to have the controls in the bottom-left (or similar) of the screen and let players work it out from there.  Don't modally block them with walls of text that then disappear."

I hear you on the model blocking, but I'm wary of putting controls on-screen. If they're temporary, then they're easily missed. If they're permanent, then they become an intrusive, counter-immersive reminder that this is a game, controlled by buttons, or so I fear at least.

Regarding health and stamina

Everyone has a first game, and it seems to me that if all games assume that players have prior gaming knowledge, then no game is a good first game. I'm not comfortable with assuming that my game will never be someone's first gaming experience.

That said, "health" and "stamina" are real-world things and quite familiar from bodily experience; it may well be that I can skip over those and presume that new players can figure them out.

Regarding learning the combat mechanic

Ah, that's really good to read! It's reassuring that your niece did pick it up so. ^_^

"Does some level of higher interaction or information need to be added to these items to satisfy players?"

As noted, that information exists: just examine the items in question.

Regarding the second cutscene

Yeaaah... human beings are not my strong suit as an artist. ^^;;

However, short of drastically changing the style, there's not much for me to do about that, I fear. ^^;

Your niece's interpretation of the cutscene is... close enough, I'd say. The protagonist isn't after money, she's after information. Since she can't afford to pay for that information in money, she's paying for it in service.

Regarding the translation minigame

It is, at the least, reassuring that your niece figured it out sans the instructions!

I'm not sure about dropping players in with no direction on first encountering a minigame. However, I do agree that the instructions are long. I'll think about this, I intend.

Regarding the mouse sensitivity

I still think that this is something to do with the engine interacting with your system--but it's hardly likely to do much harm to increase the maximum sensitivity.

Regarding the "toilet"

I will not dignify that with a response. Tongue

"I absolutely love the damaged books ... it's much nicer to be shown a dead end rather than told the items are a dead end via text.  Could this be a good way of addressing the problems with other useless items that look attractive (eg the brass rod in the pyramid)?

I'm quite fond of those books, too, and I'm glad that they are receive so well! ^_^

As to your suggestion... I'm honestly not sure that it's feasible for me to do that with all objects, I'm afraid. :/

"It's very dark ..."

Hmm... Could you give me an example location that I could look at, perhaps? It might help me to see what you mean.

" ... it doesn't seem like you jump very high"

Hmm... I'm hoping that this is a matter of player preferences, rather than turning out to be a common feeling. I really don't want the character to be overly superhuman. This is after all heroic fantasy, not epic fantasy, and I want it to feel so.

Regarding the pattern-arrangement puzzle

I've had others give similar feedback, indeed. I think that it may be called for that I change my method of determining whether an arrangement is close or not.

And indeed, perhaps I should leave the items in a specific order, rather than popping the current item to the top.

The hole in the ceiling

Hah, I'm glad at least someone found it without difficulty! XD;

The case of the missing mummy

The mummy should have been in the sarcophagus before the "reaver" moment; perhaps the culling issue that you noticed caused it to disappear...

Regarding tools in the mummy room

I suppose that I could move the miscellaneous tools into a group, leaving the interactive ones perhaps standing out a bit more?

Regarding lore for animal signs

You only get the lore-entry for animal signs if you examine two different signs--I'm guessing that you found at least one of the two right at the start, in addition to the ones further in.

The gaining of lore is intended to be a little obscure, its exact requirements not always entirely clear.

Regarding lockpicking

... There is a diagram, with the help-text. T-T

Regarding darkness and dirt

Hum. I'll have to think about that: dark soil naturally doesn't pick up much light, but it's possible that I haven't made it shiny enough that the lantern-light glints on it more.

"What is this room for?  There's nothing in it!"

Another argument in favour of removing the "hidden-object" mechanic!

Regarding culling issues and mouse-issues

I intend to take this new information to the engine forums! ^_^
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« Reply #389 on: February 19, 2020, 12:55:46 AM »

About the controls:
1) In one mode I have a small "?" in the lower left that expands to a display of available controls in that scene when hovered with the mouse (could also pause the game). I did that, because items from the inventory can be viewed in closeup and are fully interactive and might have their own additional controls. E.g. The pages of a book can be flipped with Q/E. If the controls stay the same for certain situations, I'd rather do point 2.
2) Some games show control hints in a screen corner in a small and unintrusive way until you have done that thing once. So "WASD to move" and when the player moves, make it disappear. And do a menu option to reset the hints state.
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« Reply #390 on: February 19, 2020, 09:20:58 AM »

I appreciate those suggestions! ^_^

1) In one mode I have a small "?" in the lower left that expands to a display of available controls in that scene when hovered with the mouse (could also pause the game).

In the minigames (such as translation), I do indeed have something like that. (Albeit that I currently show it automatically the first time that the player encounters a minigame, to provide information on how to interact with it.) At the top-left, there's a "scroll" with a question-mark on it, which, when clicked on, produces a set of instructions on how to play the minigame. (And in the case of the lockpicking, a small diagram illustrating the mechanic.)

In combat, I don't think that this would work, I'm afraid: there's no cursor available for the player to click on anything.

In exploration, the player once again doesn't have a cursor that isn't locked to the centre of the screen. (Outside of the inventory/collections/goal screen, of course.)

(And in all cases, the player has the option of going to the pause menu and browsing the tutorial-text.)

2) Some games show control hints in a screen corner in a small and unintrusive way until you have done that thing once. So "WASD to move" and when the player moves, make it disappear. And do a menu option to reset the hints state.

Hmm... That might solve the "inventory" issue. I'm not sure of how well it would work for general controls: having a long list of controls that vanish one-by-one feels like it might be distracting.

In combat, it might work, although with the player likely focussed on the enemy it might also be easily missed.

In minigames, I fear that a bit more explanation is needed for some of them than simply which buttons do what.
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« Reply #391 on: February 19, 2020, 11:15:51 AM »

Games usually have those one after the other in the turorial or first level.
Like: "WASD to move", then when you move, it vanishes. (I forgot that I actually have that in my game as well)
Then: "Space to jump" when you reach a point where you need to get over an obstacle.
Afterwards: "Alt to crouch" when you need to crawl.
... I think you get the point. ^^
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« Reply #392 on: February 19, 2020, 11:32:00 AM »

And I do have that, to some degree. (Albeit in a box that appears near the bottom, not unobtrusive text at the top-left, as you suggested.)

(Although the tutorial in "jumping" goes into a bit more depth, since it also describes how the climbing mechanic works.)

Here's a screenshot of the first tutorial popup:


It does indeed disappear when the player moves around a bit. (Specifically, when they exit a certain trigger that they start the level standing within.)

It would be tempting to reduce it by removing the mention of examination and interaction--but that would leave the player un-instructed when encountering the rock and entry-way at the top of the pyramid (which prompts the inventory tutorial), or the item located at the back of the pyramid.
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« Reply #393 on: February 19, 2020, 03:56:19 PM »

That's what I meant with "one after the other". Show climb when close to the pyramid. Show interaction when close to the stone, probably even a highlight on the stone.
 
I find tutorials difficult. I had a tutorial level that stopped all the time to tell player stuff, that I thought would be necessary for him to know. But in the end it just annoyed people.
Most of your stuff (or mine) isn't that special and most of the player will expect to move with WASD, jump with space (climb will come naturally after that) and interact with the left mouse button or E. So you can probably skip those completely or make them really subtile.
The first tutorial info that I needed in your game was probably for the first fight.
 
My "Tutorial level" in the adventure game has the "Walk with WASD" if the player did not move for more than a few seconds (I know that some games do it like that: only show the hints if the player isn't moving on his own). I'm also showing position hints attached to the items the player should interact with. And I show local texts on the items that tell him HOW to interact with them. All of that can be disabled in the options and will be gone after that level.
 
I'm always fearing that a player is not able to recognize the important stuff (and I did have some players just failing to see the obvious). On the other hand, some of that stuff might feel like an insult to "normal" players and it is easy to do too much handholding or hints. Especially if it contains hints about the actual puzzles etc.
I remember thinking "Thanks for ruining the chance for me to feel clever for solving this by telling me part of the solution." just recently. Smiley

(Sorry for wall of text)
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« Reply #394 on: February 20, 2020, 09:50:52 AM »

That's what I meant with "one after the other". Show climb when close to the pyramid. Show interaction when close to the stone, probably even a highlight on the stone.

And I am doing that: note that climbing isn't mentioned in that screenshot; a tutorial for it shows up when the player approaches the blocks of the pyramid. As noted, I could move the "interact and examine" information to the location of the stone--but that location already has a tutorial, being the one that covers the inventory.

(I'm not sure that I like prompts in the world, myself, but it's worth considering.)

I find tutorials difficult.

They really can be. :/

Most of your stuff (or mine) isn't that special and most of the player will expect to move with WASD ...

As I said previously, I'm not comfortable with assuming that all of my players will be familiar with other games. If all games do that, then no game makes for a good first game, and indeed I'm not willing to assume that my game will never be someone's first game.

... (climb will come naturally after that) ...

Hmm... I'm not sure about that at all. Climbing like this isn't all that common--especially not with the degree of freedom present here. Why would a player expect to have something happen if they down the climb button while jumping? I'd like to be clear about how climbing works in this game, I think...

The first tutorial info that I needed in your game was probably for the first fight.

On the other hand, we already had an example above of someone not knowing that the inventory was available, or how to access it.
 
My "Tutorial level" in the adventure game has the "Walk with WASD" if the player did not move for more than a few seconds (I know that some games do it like that: only show the hints if the player isn't moving on his own). I'm also showing position hints attached to the items the player should interact with. And I show local texts on the items that tell him HOW to interact with them. All of that can be disabled in the options and will be gone after that level.

While those wouldn't help much with the minigames, I fear, they might be worth considering for the general tutorials. (My dislike of prompts within the world notwithstanding.)
 
I'm always fearing that a player is not able to recognize the important stuff (and I did have some players just failing to see the obvious). On the other hand, some of that stuff might feel like an insult to "normal" players and it is easy to do too much handholding or hints. Especially if it contains hints about the actual puzzles etc.

I am very much trying to limit the hand-holding; I've mainly been adding in a few bits as specific points seem to be missed by players (such as in the case of players not thinking to try climbing the tree in the barrow-level).

Still, I do want there to be tutorials on how to interact with the game, and on what mechanics are available.

I do share that worry of yours to some degree, I think! :/

I remember thinking "Thanks for ruining the chance for me to feel clever for solving this by telling me part of the solution." just recently. Smiley

Oof, that's a pity--I'm sorry to read that you bumped into that!

(Sorry for wall of text)

Not at all! And I hope that I don't seem to be overly antagonistic to your suggestions, as I fear is the case. I do really appreciate them!
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« Reply #395 on: February 20, 2020, 11:06:00 AM »

Yeah, I think we have a bit different expectations of the way a tutorial should be done. Smiley
And the climbing really is very common. Space is jump in pretty much every game and if you can climb, you usually do that by jumping up an edge. The same that I did in your game. Even common to lots of shooters like Borderlands 3, which has an additional "pulling yourself up a ledge" (I think it's called "to mantel"?).
 
There will always be some players that do not understand something. But you really do not want to build a game that contains enough handholding to get everything through. This will definitely ruin the experience for the majority.
 
Moving around like this is so common that noone will even read through that thing. Another thing players love to do: Close popups before they have read them. I think the game would be more enjoyable if you get some hints in a less intrusive way when you seem lost or something is not the same as in all other games. Probably keep a "Press TAB to open inventory" after you have picked up the stone until you have openened the inventory once (I do that after you picked up the first item, too).
 
But in the end, you have to craft the game that you like, so... I will stop now. Smiley
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« Reply #396 on: February 21, 2020, 09:27:23 AM »

But in the end, you have to craft the game that you like, so... I will stop now. Smiley

Please don't! This is a useful discussion, I think. ^_^

Of course, if you'd prefer to drop it, then that's fair enough; I won't object.

And the climbing really is very common. Space is jump in pretty much every game and if you can climb, you usually do that by jumping up an edge.

My impression, at least, is that such things are usually a bit more limited: you can climb certain ledges, that are clearly marked, but not just any ledge.

It feels to me worth noting even to experienced gamers that the system here is pretty general, not limited to the things that the game telegraphs as being climbable.

(I think it's called "to mantel"?).

Yup; that's the term that Thief used, at the least! I don't much like it myself as it's a somewhat obscure term--coming from rock-climbing, I think--but it isn't uncommon in gaming, at least.
 
Another thing players love to do: Close popups before they have read them.

Yup; but there's little that I can do about that. If a player wants to ignore text, then they can do so.

I think the game would be more enjoyable if you get some hints in a less intrusive way when you seem lost ...

Ironically, that I would feel to be too hand-holdy. Tongue

(At least when we're talking about puzzle/traversal solutions, and outside of some hinting in the first few levels.)

Probably keep a "Press TAB to open inventory" after you have picked up the stone until you have openened the inventory once (I do that after you picked up the first item, too).

That's likely what I would do, should I decide to implement tutorials as you've suggested.

(It would mean allowing them to pile up, should the player keep ignoring them, I think.)

But you really do not want to build a game that contains enough handholding to get everything through. This will definitely ruin the experience for the majority.

I mean, it's a set of tutorials that tell the player how to interact with the game, and that exist (barring once-off popups in the minigames) in only one level, and that don't give puzzle solutions. That... doesn't seem like hand-holding, to me.

I feel like you have the impression that these popups are going to appear throughout the game, and give away puzzle solutions. ^^;
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« Reply #397 on: February 24, 2020, 10:36:06 AM »

Blog post (24th of February, 2020)
A Question of Aesthetics


Summary: In which the game's aesthetics are reworked; leather-textures are attended to; the prologue-pyramid is made shinier; and the player-light's positioning is adjusted.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshots show work-in-progress on the aesthetics of the game, specifically in the player-light shader (for now):





This aesthetic reworking was the main focus of my work in the week just past, with only a few other things done besides:

As I believe that I've mentioned previously, my aesthetic goal for A Door to the Mists has long been "somewhat painted"; I've wanted to create a look reminiscent of fantasy paintings of old.

However, I fear that I haven't been reaching that goal.

While there are elements that look nicely painterly--or so I feel--there's much that doesn't. And since it doesn't look all that stylised, I fear that it simply looks like a poor attempt at realism.

So in the week just past, spurred by a recent bit of feedback on the look of the game, I started exploring changes to the game's aesthetics.

What's shown above, then, is my current partial-candidate for a new aesthetic, at least as concerns the areas covered by the player's lantern-light. (The intention being to move on to altering the sunlit shaders once I'm happy enough with the lantern-lit shaders.)

This is a pretty big change, and I'd very much appreciate critique on the look thus far!

In the meanwhile, development continues on the aesthetic. Indeed, it's currently in a bit of an in-between state, with experimental changes half-made. The result is... a little neon-soaked:




(Don't worry--I don't intend such bright background colours in the final version!)

Other than the above, I worked a bit on leather-textures (both colour and normal-map, if I recall correctly) for use in level four; made the prologue pyramid a little shinier, and thus hopefully a little less plasticky; and made some adjustments to the vertical positioning of the player's lantern-light.

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #398 on: March 02, 2020, 09:33:05 AM »

Blog post (2nd of March, 2020)
Culling the To-Do List


Summary: In which aesthetic work continues; the game's to-do list is attended to; some tutorialisation is addressed; the jigsaw minigame gets an internal reworking; the jigsaw minigame's accessibility option is changed; and the environment, logic, and writing for level four is (hopefully) complete.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows a change in the functionality of the "jigsaw" minigame, as depicted in its editor:



The week just past was primarily a week of addressing issues:

As I've described in recent blog-posts, I believe, of late I've been doing a lot of work on the aesthetics of the game. And indeed, that did continue in the week just past.

However, I've also had a number of issues extending my to-do list, many of them points raised in feedback on the demo. And, perhaps with my desire to move forward with the game, having so extensive a list seemed to have become a stressor for me.

So, in the week just past, I determined to clear out my list somewhat. A few issues were triaged away, moved to various sub-lists that are intended either for some later point or as "nice-to-have" features. But many were attended to directly.

And indeed, I've managed to significantly reduce my to-do list, and I think that I do feel the better for it!

Most of the things done are likely not worth covering in detail: a fix (I hope) to a culling issue; touch-ups to the tunnel in the barrow-tomb; some reworking of the new enemy's death-animation; and so on.

A few, however, might be worth some detail:

First is the matter of tutorialisation.

The general question of tutorialisation is one that I still haven't answered: at least some feedback has indicated problems with my current implementation, but I don't yet see a way of improving it that I find palatable.

However, there is one element of tutorialisation that I do have at least an answer for--testing may tell whether it's a good answer, of course.

That element is the issue of tutorialising the minigames.

Thus far, the minigames have been tutorialised via a scroll at the top-left, that can be opened to find detailed information on how to interact with the minigame. However, these scrolls, being detailed, are somewhat text-heavy--perhaps even for A Door to the Mists.

In the week just past, then, the idea came to me to introduce players to the minigames through briefer, less-detailed "quick-start" instructions. The more-detailed scrolls would be retained for a deeper description, but now as optional instruction.

I initially wanted these "quick-start" instructions to not block play--but I realised that some of the minigames seemed to use too much screen-space for that to be likely feasible. So, alas, they're dialogue boxes.

Each gives very basic instruction on the minigame's goal and interaction--just a few sentences each. I'm hoping that players will be more inclined to read these than with the longer instructions, and so will gain at least some guidance on how to play.

Here are the new popups:





Sticking with minigames, the second matter is that of the jigsaw puzzle minigame, as shown in the first screenshot of this post.

I've had feedback that this puzzle is a bit over-finicky about what constitutes a correct arrangement of the pieces. And indeed, I think that I agree: it was a bit particular.

So, in the week just past I reworked its method of determining whether a piece is correctly placed.

Instead of using offset points on each piece (which I called "pins") that have to match positions with their counterparts, pieces now have "neighbour pieces", and positions relative to themselves at which they expect their neighbours' origins to be located. Furthermore, the further apart the origins of two pieces are, the more leeway the puzzle gives in their relative positioning.

I'm hopeful that this will prove a little more forgiving!

This new mechanism does, however, remove the basis that had served for the jigsaw puzzle's accessibility option. Thus I've replaced that option: instead of adding guide-points, it now simplifies things by removing piece-rotation from the minigame (and then giving all pieces in their correct orientations from the start, of course).

And finally, I finished off (I think, at least!) work on level four (aside from certain matters regarding the enemy found there). The level now has a finished sledgehammer and sleeping-bag, as well as relevant logic for the items found there, and the related writing.




That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #399 on: March 09, 2020, 12:47:07 PM »

Blog post (9th of March, 2020)
Aesthetics under Lantern and Sun


Summary: In which further changes are made to the aesthetics of the player-light shaders; work is begun on changing the aesthetics of the sunlight shaders; some minor shininess changes are made; and some publisher research is done.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows further (possibly work-in-progress) changes to the game's aesthetics:



I have several such images to show, so I'll scatter them throughout the post!

The week just past was once again almost entirely given to such aesthetic work, with only one or two other things being done:

To start with, the aesthetic changes shown above.

With my to-do list diminished, as described in last week's post, I returned in the week just past to the aesthetics of the player-light shaders. And indeed, I think that I'm onto something with this version!



It's very similar to the previous iteration that I showed, but contains a number of tweaks. One is that it handles dark surfaces much better, I feel: the interior of the prologue-pyramid and the dark soil of the barrow-level's "pit" are much more visible now.




Overall, I'm rather happy with the effect, I do believe! ^_^

With that more or less in place (for one, I have yet to apply these changes to the other player-light shaders), I've moved on to reworking the aesthetics of the sunlight shaders.

I've made some progress, I think: dark surfaces now have a lovely bluish tint that I feel works quite well.




Still, I also feel that it's not yet there: significantly more stylisation is called for, I feel.

There's also the question of stylistic consistency, or at least harmony.

The current sunlight shaders lack the hard thresholding of the player-light shaders, and overall feel quite different.

Conversely, however, a sunlit scene is quite different to a scene lit primarily by lantern-light, so some degree of difference is to be expected...

It's something that I'm still working on. I have at least one idea in mind; we'll see how that goes, and whether any other possibilities come up!

And within the player-light shaders, there's the issue that some scenes have that first lighting threshold be much softer than others--see for example the comparison between the grey stone of the barrow-level and the orange sandstone of the undercity:




In this, I'm considering just leaving it as-is. I did try blending the colouring a little more in the undercity, but the colours don't mix as nicely as I'd like. Furthermore, with that bright stone I find that I actually prefer the harder edge, while I think that I prefer the softer edging in the softer grey stone.

Of course, if you have feedback or critique on any of this, please do give it!



Concomitant with the changes to the player-light shaders, I undid two previous changes: both the pyramid interior and the soil of the barrow-"pit" are less shiny now.

And finally... I began (or rather resumed) my research into indie publishers in the week just past. This is a process that's still somewhat at it's start: I've put together a list, divided according how likely a fit a given publisher seems to be, as well as other points.

I haven't yet begun reaching out: I might only do that once the aesthetic issue is settled, at the least. I'm also considering first putting out a new version of the demo, which would likely include the aesthetic changes.

(Plus I think that I have at least one publisher that I discovered subsequently, and that I thus have yet to look into.)

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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