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October 18, 2017, 05:03:08 am

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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsA Door to the Mists--First-person traversal, exploration, puzzles and combat
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« Reply #40 on: January 04, 2017, 03:32:41 am »

I love to see a game like this, there's been so long since I've seen one of this genre, and it brings me good memories.
I can't comment anything since you've detailed everything about the development process. It's impressive! Congrats
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« Reply #41 on: January 04, 2017, 05:33:36 am »

That's an improvement, I think. If you wanted to go further, I think you could also flatten the bridge of the nose, and lessen the depth (I think that's the right term - push the tip back, closer to the face?). If you look at the silhouettes in the 3rd scene - everyone else has a normal little nub of a nose, and the MC looks like she has a witch's nose, very jagged and pronounced. I guess I'm just being picky - and I doubt it will stand out to many players in real time. I'm only noticing because I can watch it on replay here.
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« Reply #42 on: January 04, 2017, 05:03:11 pm »

I love to see a game like this, there's been so long since I've seen one of this genre, and it brings me good memories.
I can't comment anything since you've detailed everything about the development process. It's impressive! Congrats

Ah, that's wonderful to read! Thank you! ^_^

I'm curious, if I may: you say that it brings back good memories--what game (or games) do you have in mind?

That's an improvement, I think. If you wanted to go further, I think you could also flatten the bridge of the nose, and lessen the depth (I think that's the right term - push the tip back, closer to the face?). If you look at the silhouettes in the 3rd scene - everyone else has a normal little nub of a nose, and the MC looks like she has a witch's nose, very jagged and pronounced. I guess I'm just being picky - and I doubt it will stand out to many players in real time. I'm only noticing because I can watch it on replay here.

Hmm... I see what you're saying, I think. In this case, I think that I made her nose both too large and a little too bent. I stand by the general shape, however. I've made a few more edits--what do you think?





I'm only noticing because I can watch it on replay here.

*in a tone of mock-dismay* You- You mean most players aren't going to sit and watch my cutscenes over and over, examining each intently? T-T

Wink
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« Reply #43 on: January 05, 2017, 09:25:53 am »

I think that's a lot better. Before, the nose really drew my attention away from the scene itself. It just seemed incongruous with the rest of her face. Seems more natural now.
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« Reply #44 on: January 06, 2017, 03:57:46 pm »

Ah, excellent! That's good to read. ^_^

Thank you again for all of your critique on this--I appreciate it. ^_^
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« Reply #45 on: January 09, 2017, 03:38:33 pm »

Greetings and salutations!

For this week's screenshot, an excerpt from the next scene of the first-level cutscene--an establishing shot of the Archive at Teli:


My birthday fell during this past week, so I once again took a three-day holiday. As a result, the week was a little short. Still, a few things were done:

First, I believe that I've completed the backdrop to the next scene of the first-level cutscene. (An excerpt of which should be shown above.) The Archive at Teli is the next stop for our protagonist, hoping to find there a lead to follow towards the door that she seeks. The Archive doesn't give out its services for free, however...

Second, I made a few edits to the images of the protagonist in the preceding scenes, making her face--and especially her nose--a little smaller. The results look rather better, I feel!

They have yet to replace the old versions in the cutscene itself, but that shouldn't take long at all.

(A minor note: As the abovementioned edits were posted and discussed here, it seems superfluous to repost them. However, this is not the case for my blog on my personal site. As result, this is one case in which the two versions of the blog will differ slightly. (Beyond minor things like captions or GIF-embedding.))

That's all for this week--as I said, the week just past was a rather short one! Stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #46 on: January 16, 2017, 10:11:13 am »

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows the revised version of the first few scenes of the first-level cutscene, including the edits mentioned in last week's blog-post, as well as a few more (described below):


The week just past was a little slow. Still, a few things were done:

I believe that I mentioned last week that I had made some edits to the images of protagonist in the first-level cutscene. I made a few more changes this week just past, reducing the breadth of her head (or rather, her hair) and the width of her body (to fit the narrower hair). The latter involved repainting her arms a little--a minor nuisance, as it turned out, but nothing terrible. I also lowered her eyelids a little in the first pose, to better--I hope--fit with her mood and gaze at that point.

All of this has been integrated into the cutscene, I believe (a fairly quick and easy job); the revised version should be visible above.

The next scene, then, is a short establishing shot of the Archive at Teli, from which I believe that I previously showed an excerpt. This has now been added to the cutscene--once again, a fairly quick and easy task, as I recall.

I originally had a single line of narration over this scene, but ended up moving it to the one that follows: I feel that it works better there, being connected to both the visuals of and the narration already intended for that scene.

The majority of my working time this week was spent, I believe, on the backdrop to that following--and penultimate--scene. It's an interior shot of the Archive and--well, let's just say that painting lots and lots of books (and a fair few scrolls, and a few wooden boxes) has taken longer than I expected!

I think that I'm nearly done with the books, etc., and thus nearly ready to move on to other elements of the backdrop--ceiling, floor, walkway, chain lifts, and so on. Once that's done, I have one more element in mind to paint for the scene: a representation of an archivist.

That's all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #47 on: January 23, 2017, 10:52:09 am »

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows excerpts from the backdrop to the fifth scene of the cutscene to the first level, depicting the interior of the Archive at Teli:



This past week was taken up almost entirely by the painting of a single backdrop. Let me elaborate:

I mentioned last week, I believe, that I had begun work on the backdrop to the fifth and penultimate scene of the current cutscene. This backdrop proved more difficult, and more time-consuming, than I had anticipated. At least some of this resulted, I think, simply from the complexity of the scene. However, I fear that much of it was the result of poor planning on my part:

To start with, I think that I began with an insufficiently-detailed, and insufficiently attentive, sketch. Not having indications of where the pillars of the upper level would be, (and perhaps not giving it sufficient thought) I painted the contents of the shelves without concern for them--only to end up adjusting some of the books and miscellaneous objects when I came to paint in those verticals.

On top of this, I perhaps didn't pay enough attention to the perspective of the scene, and didn't paint in proper perspective lines. Aside from the complication of painting the verticals of the upper level without guides, I found at a later point that the two sides didn't match: one side leant in more than the other. Fixing this wasn't too difficult--I just isolated the various columns and rotated them to roughly match their fellows on the other side--but it did call for further adjustments to the books and miscellania.

Even the tables near the bottom proved trickier than expected, as I recall: it took me a few attempts to get their shape, size, and perspective to quite look right to me.

Nevertheless, the backdrop is done and added to the cutscene, I believe! Indeed, I'm fairly happy with the result--it has a few issues, but I think that it works, overall, and I like the "feel" of it. ^_^

That done, I've moved on to the other painted feature of the scene: an archivist, standing to represent the Archive's approach to the provision of its services--in short, that payment is required.

(Said payment isn't always in coin, however...)

The scene after this should--hopefully--be less troublesome: I don't intend to have a backdrop, just two relatively-simple objects behind the text. It's also the final scene, and while I do want to paint one more, very brief and simple cutscene after this, I'm excited to get back into level-building!

That's all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #48 on: January 24, 2017, 06:12:11 am »

Going back a couple posts, one thing that struck me as potentially odd was in the image of the outside of the Archives - there appear to be a row of windows along the bottom of the structure, and no other windows/features anywhere else.

I don't know anything about the proper conditions for keeping a fortress worth of ancient texts in good shape - I'm assuming they don't have modern climate control, so it could be worth a quick investigation into other pre-modern library structures? It's a nitpicky detail, really. I would probably just throw some other windows on a few higher levels, to balance it out visually.

The other thing about that shot was that it might be nice to have some other buildings, etc, around it outside. Both to help convey the sense of enormity of the Archives, as well as just to fill out the image a bit more. If you wanted to give it a more isolated feeling, and don't want buildings, maybe some trees around the sides/back? That would help fill space, and provide scale as well?

 
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« Reply #49 on: January 24, 2017, 11:11:26 am »

Going back a couple posts, one thing that struck me as potentially odd was in the image of the outside of the Archives - there appear to be a row of windows along the bottom of the structure, and no other windows/features anywhere else.

I don't know anything about the proper conditions for keeping a fortress worth of ancient texts in good shape - I'm assuming they don't have modern climate control, so it could be worth a quick investigation into other pre-modern library structures? It's a nitpicky detail, really. I would probably just throw some other windows on a few higher levels, to balance it out visually.

Hmm... You make a good point, and I honestly don't know what pre-modern libraries did. It's worth looking into, I think--thank you. ^_^

As I see the place at the moment, there are indeed no windows in the central chamber, in which the books, etc. are stored (the room that we see in the most recent excerpts). This is, I believe, for the protection of the books: it's important to keep the elements out, both sunlight and rain. The central chamber is ringed by a set of rooms, and it's onto these that those windows open.

As to a lack of climate control, they do potentially have access to magical effects (both of the sort to which I've been applying the term "magic"--spell-casting, associated with the mist-world--and of another sort).

The other thing about that shot was that it might be nice to have some other buildings, etc, around it outside. Both to help convey the sense of enormity of the Archives, as well as just to fill out the image a bit more. If you wanted to give it a more isolated feeling, and don't want buildings, maybe some trees around the sides/back? That would help fill space, and provide scale as well?

There are a few buildings just outside the Archive, to the right as we see it in that image. ^^;

(Although looking at them again, I may have made them a trifle too small--that may call for re-examination.)

The full image does have a few other features (some trees and the edge of a forest), but those are admittedly somewhat distant.
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« Reply #50 on: January 24, 2017, 06:48:24 pm »

I noticed the buildings on the right - but they looked almost out of place by themselves. I feel like I want something on both sides for some visual symmetry - but that's your call. And I wondered about the scale - I don't know how big the buildings are supposed to be, but they definitely make the archive seem vast by comparison. Which I think is pretty cool.
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« Reply #51 on: January 25, 2017, 03:30:35 am »

Hey there!

Sorry I've been so out of touch. I have been reading the devlog, but I've been so busy I've been unable to post  Cry

Either way, your updates are looking wonderful. Environments, characters, and your cutscenes/animations...keep it up, and I look forward to everything that's in store!
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« Reply #52 on: January 25, 2017, 11:57:20 am »

I've done a little bit of reading up on libraries--not a lot thus far, admittedly; I fear that research isn't my strong suit. ^^;

I haven't found much on pre-modern preservation techniques, beyond mentions of small rooms for the keeping of papers, and wooden presses in which they were stored.

From what I've seen thus far, conditions inimical to books include high humidity, significant changes in humidity, light, and insects. Additionally, books are apparently better served by cold temperatures than hot.

Intuitively, it seems to me that windows enable all of those, save perhaps cooler temperatures, letting in light, moisture, and bugs. As to changes in humidity, I imagine that windows would allow for greater and faster equalisation with the exterior environment--which seems likely to be fairly changeable. In addition, stone seems to be a source of "thermal mass"--essentially, a means of producing thermal inertia, thus buffering the interior against changes in temperature. Intuitively, I would expect the addition of windows to reduce the thermal mass; if they're open, I would expect them to also reduce its effectiveness (by allowing heat transfer via mingling air).

As a result, I suspect that a large, windowless stone building might actually be a good place to store books!

However, I may do a little more research still...

I noticed the buildings on the right - but they looked almost out of place by themselves. I feel like I want something on both sides for some visual symmetry - but that's your call.

Aah, fair enough--that makes sense.

(I do think that I'm going to leave the left side bare, for now. ^^; )

And I wondered about the scale - I don't know how big the buildings are supposed to be, but they definitely make the archive seem vast by comparison. Which I think is pretty cool.

Thank you. ^_^

Heh, it's pretty big, but perhaps not quite as big as they made it look.

You can see the revised version in the animated gif that I posted to Twitter yesterday, actually; it shows the final three scenes of this cutscene:



(For reference, the largest of the two side-buildings is supposed to be two storeys high.)

Hey there!

Sorry I've been so out of touch. I have been reading the devlog, but I've been so busy I've been unable to post  Cry

Either way, your updates are looking wonderful. Environments, characters, and your cutscenes/animations...keep it up, and I look forward to everything that's in store!

Hey! ^_^

Don't worry about it--I can understand being busy, I believe.

Thank you very much for the comments! It really helps to get such encouraging feedback! ^_^
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« Reply #53 on: January 30, 2017, 09:38:45 am »

(A quick note: I've decided to start including titles and dates in these blog posts--as is already the case on my personal website. For one thing, this should help to distinguish such posts from ordinary discussion.)

Blog post (30th of January, 2017)
Level Up!



Greetings and salutations!

For this week's screenshot, the short cutscene intended to play before the sixth level:
(Beware: very minor spoilers)



Perhaps the biggest news in this week's post is that I've completed this round of cutscenes, and have moved on to level design on the first level! To elaborate:

To start with, the final three scenes of the cutscene to the first level have been completed, I believe. Here we visit the Archive at Teli, and learn the price of knowledge: a task to be done in a recently-discovered barrow--the first level.

You can see the final result below:



I also went back and made a few minor adjustments to previous scenes: In the first tavern scene (that is, the second scene), I've slightly changed the timing of the protagonist looking up. In the scene that follows, I've added a quick pulse--simply a very fast scale -up and back -down--to (hopefully) add a little extra impact to the protagonist's hands hitting the table.

I think that I mentioned previously that I had one more cutscene in mind to make after completing the first-level cutscene, a very short, simple scene that was rather pretty in my mind. That would be the sixth-level cutscene shown as this week's screenshot, above. While not quite as pretty as it was in my mind, I'm fairly happy with the result. ^_^

The fire, by the way, uses the same shader as does the pale flame in the lamps depicted in the first-level cutscene (in the tavern scene, specifically). Doing so called for a few (minor) adjustments to the shader, in order that it serve both purposes. For example, it now takes two colours, blending between them. This allows the campfire to shade from red-orange to yellow-orange; the flames in the first-level cutscene, which have a single colour, simply pass in the same colour twice.

Overall, creating this cutscene took longer than I expected, but not egregiously so, I think. (In addition, it was fun to make, I do believe!)

With all this done, as mentioned above, I've moved on to level design; specifically, I've begun work on the first level. This is, I feel, a minor milestone--one that I'm somewhat excited to have hit!

The first question in approaching this level, I suppose, was how to begin. I had it in mind to start with what you might call the "canonical" scene, and build out additional gameplay challenges from there. But how should I go about that?

My first thought, I think, was to sketch it out. I began doing so, starting with the barrow's exterior--but I fear that found it more difficult and more draining than I had anticipated.

Then an idea came to me that in retrospect should perhaps have been obvious, given my prior experience and predilections: to write the level, essentially treating it as a short story. Not something intended to be generally released, mark you: it's quick, rough prose, establishing the place, layout, and broad actions, but having little to no attention to character or quality of writing.

This felt much more natural; while still hard work, the scene seemed to flow far more easily and swiftly in written form than drawn.

The first-level descriptive draft (as I'm calling it for the moment) isn't yet done, but I've made a decent start on it, I think. (And indeed, I've already learned a few new things about the scene, and had one or two new ideas regarding the gameplay, I believe.)

On a related note, I'm toying with the idea of adding a "notes" page to the "collection" screen (that is, alongside the inventory, collectibles, and lore)--it would allow me to give the player easy access to bits of information discovered during a level, I think.

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

(Closing note: I've updated the "progress percentage" icon on this thread, moving it up from thirty percent to forty percent, I believe. I don't know whether this is at all accurate, offhand, but it seems like a reasonable guess. There's a fair bit of work ahead, but there's a fair bit behind, too.)
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« Reply #54 on: February 06, 2017, 10:38:28 am »

Blog post (6th of February, 2017)
Expanding on the Level


Greetings and salutations!

For this week's screenshot, a few peeks at the current state of the first level. Please forgive the grey simplicity of it--the level is still very much prototypical! ^^;



This week just past was a busy one! As hinted at above, the level is, I think, slowly taking shape. Let me elaborate:

As I believe that I mentioned previously, I started with a written draft, a rough outline of the canonical events of the level. (And in doing so, I discovered things in the level that I hadn't known of before--for example, there's a small tale of murder to be found amongst the mummies in the tomb.)

The intention was--and is--to expand on this, building additional gameplay challenges for the player. And indeed, ideas towards this started to come to me even as I wrote out the draft.

With the draft done, I moved on to building a prototype, a simple version of the level that could easily be changed or extended. There's nothing fancy here, aside from one or two elements that had been previously created (perhaps most notable being the mummy enemies).

Right now I'm focussing primarily on the critical path through the level: the sequence of events involved in getting from the start to the end, excluding side-elements like collectables or optional reading. The elements of this path aren't yet final, but I think that I'm making progress.

One reason for this focus is that I want to determine roughly how long the critical path takes to play (given a player familiar with the path). I'm hoping for it to come to about fifteen minutes (or longer!)--if it's much shorter than that, I might add another layer to the tomb. A Door to the Mists is intended to be a somewhat short game, but I don't want it to be too short...


Curtains. Useful for hiding things behind... Wink

A point that might be of interest is that there is now intended to be an early, optional ending available during this level: In a particular tomb, the player finds and acquires the book for which they have been sent. Its owner, however, objects. To continue, the player fights this mummy, then leaves with the book in hand. However, the player also has the option to return the book to the shelf on which they found it, and leave unharmed--and empty-handed.

Conversely, one option has been removed: I had originally intended that the player be able to bypass one of the fights by pre-emptively killing one of the mummies in its sarcophagus (and indeed, I had this implemented).

However, I realised that this was somewhat out of character for the protagonist (especially given an objection that she can make to a similar possibility later in the level), and would also, for the sake of consistency, call for the second combat encounter to be similarly skippable. (It also turns out that using a sword to kill a mummy in a stone sarcophagus might be somewhat awkward, and dangerous.) The player can still attempt to use their sword on the mummy, but doing so now results in the character objecting instead

I recall that I had a minor fright while building the level: two features that I had thought functional--the player-light and object-carrying--weren't working as expected. In the former, shadows weren't cast properly, and objects weren't lit as expected; in the latter, I could pick up objects and put them down, but the object's model remained behind while it was being "carried". Both of these I expected to work.

And both did.

The problem, in short, was that I had initially built the level without the elements related to portal-culling, and both features were affected by it.

I went back to the level and added in those various elements--a slightly tedious job, but nothing too troublesome.

And with that, both features worked again! :D

The placement of the portals is somewhat slapdash right now, but that's okay for this early stage, I feel.

In addition to the above, a variety of bugs were discovered and fixed, and miscellaneous changes made; for the most part too numerous and too small to be worth listing in this post, I feel. As I said, a somewhat busy week! ^_^

That's all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #55 on: February 13, 2017, 08:32:32 am »

Blog post (13th of February, 2017)
Minigame Puzzles


Greetings and salutations!

For this week's screenshot, a look at a new minigame-puzzle:



Aside from a general report on the progress of the first level, today's blog post focusses on two minigames present--for now, in one case--in A Door to the Mists:

As shown above, one salient bit of progress in the week just past was the implementation of a new minigame-puzzle (and concomitantly, a simple editor for it). In short, it's a jigsaw puzzle, but with the caveat that the parts needn't be sourced from the same object, and are expected to overlap.

In the first level, it's used to discover a symbol (used as a sort of key) of which only fragments are available on any one object.

I hesitated at first to introduce this new puzzle. Would I be weighing too heavily on minigames? Was this puzzle in particular a little too hoary to be interesting?

In the end, of course, I did add it: I think that it remains interesting (if used sparingly), seems reasonably natural, and adds a new type of challenge.

The puzzle is largely complete; I have a few minor issues to deal with, I believe, and a few points that I want to give consideration to, but I feel that it's in a usable state.

Conversely, I'm reconsidering my lockpicking minigame.

In this minigame, the player is given picks, and tasked with sliding them in turn around the periphery of a keyhole, feeling for the slight catch-and-bump of the pick hitting a component of the lock. When one of those is found, the player presses the "action" button to set the pick in place, and moves on to the next. Right now the number of picks used is uniformly two--differences in difficulty are produced by differences in the subtlety of the "catch-and-bump".

I've had a basic implementation for a while, and while I have some changes in mind for it, I overall like it.

However, I find myself uncertain that this mechanic remains interesting after a few locks have been picked; and while there are only a few on the first level, I'd like to re-use the minigame in later levels. There's also a question of accessibility--while the controls of A Door to the Mists perhaps already don't lend themselves wonderfully to accessibility, I worry a little that the somewhat-fine control involved in the lockpicking minigame might go a bit too far.

I'm still thinking about this. One way or another, I do want to have a lockpicking minigame--but perhaps I should consider looking for a minigame other than the one that I'm using.

Moving on from minigames, work on the first level's critical path continued in this week just past, including additions of and changes to a number of elements. Overall, I believe that I'm near to completing it.

A major part of that progress was the creation of a traversal segment in the lower level of the tomb. It takes place in a large, natural cavity, accessed via a hole in one of the tomb-walls. Within, the player is tasked with picking their way along the periphery, climbing and jumping from one shelf to another, until they find a place at which they can re-enter the tomb and continue onwards.

My first draft of this approached it as a platforming segment: I laid down a trail of stepping-stones, some of which were placed such that a jump was called for to get from one to the next.

But my intuition, I think, suggested that this wasn't satisfying. Giving it thought, it came to me that part of the fun in the sort of traversal that I have in mind lies in searching out and finding paths, not simply in the challenge of besting them--although the latter is, I think, also a part of it.

So I redesigned with this in mind. The new layout has multiple shelves along which the player can walk; these produce a number of routes, some calling for more jumping than others. The result, I think--and hope!--is a little more interesting to navigate, and better-suited to the mechanics of the game.

Indeed, not all of those paths were intially planned: some were discovered during testing. In one case, I had placed a short wall, intending that it block a particular route, directing the player to a tricky jump below. In testing, I found that the wall actually could be scaled--and felt that this was more interesting, especially given that the wall isn't an obvious path to take. I removed the tricky jump (which was perhaps a bit fiddly, for that matter), leaving the wall as the new intended means of crossing that section.

Here's a peek at the first part of this traversal segment:


That's all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #56 on: February 14, 2017, 02:27:47 pm »

Mini-games are fine, as long as the controls and goals are clear - I absolutely abhor confusing mini-games. Lockpicking games do tend to get a bit stale to me, but it depends how heavily they will be used.

Regarding paths/traversal - I agree that giving options is a great choice, at least in the setting you were discussing. There may be times where you want to clearly mark the path - but otherwise, having multiple options should encourage exploration, and be better in general.
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« Reply #57 on: February 15, 2017, 11:28:27 am »

Mini-games are fine, as long as the controls and goals are clear - I absolutely abhor confusing mini-games. Lockpicking games do tend to get a bit stale to me, but it depends how heavily they will be used.

I do think that it would be possible to go overboard with minigames in a game of this sort--to have so many that they start to become annoying interruptions from the remaining gameplay.

(As an aside, imagine taking it to the absurd, with a knot-untying minigame to be solved in order to open one's inventory, an accuracy one for picking up objects, a maze to be solved when examining them, and so on... ;P)

As to the minigames being confusing, I hope that I manage to convey their elements clearly! ^^;

For one thing, while not shown in the gif above, each minigame has a set of instructions that's shown when the minigame is first played, and which can (in general) be re-opened freely while playing the minigame in question. (Note the question-marked scroll at the top-left of the gif above--clicking on that causes it to "unroll", displaying the instructions on a piece of paper.)

Of course, I don't know how clear those instructions are (and the instructions for the jigsaw minigame haven't been finalised); hopefully they'll convey the principles sufficiently well!

That's actually one weakness of the current lockpicking minigame, I feel: the approach to mouse-control that I have there at the moment prevents one from clicking elsewhere until the minigame is done. I do have ideas for mitigating this (such as allowing the player to simply put down the pick), but again, I'm not sure that I'm sticking with the current approach. :/

Regarding paths/traversal - I agree that giving options is a great choice, at least in the setting you were discussing. There may be times where you want to clearly mark the path - but otherwise, having multiple options should encourage exploration, and be better in general.

Agreed, I believe--especially with regards to encouraging exploration.

Indeed, I hope to have both side areas and--in some cases, in the larger levels, at least--some option in the route that one takes along the main path. (And better still if players discover paths that I didn't intend, via creative use of the mechanics. I don't know whether there's sufficient simulation present for that to be likely, but it's something that I think that I'd be glad to see.)

As to sometimes wanting the path to be clear, thinking about it, I daresay that you're right.

Indeed, I think that I already have one (minor, partial) case of this elsewhere in the level: There's a room with a hole in its ceiling, and some rubble below; the room into which that hole leads is locked tight. In this case the player can easily see the path (climb up), but not how to achieve it (the hole is too high). (Hint: There are some large, sealed chests nearby that can be picked up... Wink)
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« Reply #58 on: February 20, 2017, 10:38:32 am »

Blog post (20th of February, 2017)
Mist-erious Lines


Greetings and salutations!

To start with, this week's screenshot: the unlocking of a twice-locked door. (Some of the art and text shown is still place-holder.)


Aside from quite a few minor changes (including a fair few bug-fixes), three pieces of significant progress were made in the week just past:

Jigsaws and the Inventory

I believe that I described in last week's post the new jigsaw puzzle minigame, and showed the (work-in-progress) instance of it that appears in the first level. A major task of this week just past, then, was determining just how the player would access this puzzle.

Most of the minigames in A Door to the Mists are naturally associated with single objects within the levels: Ideograms are found painted on the walls, translations are drawn from written pages, lockpicking is done at locks, and so on.

Not so the jigsaw puzzle minigame (or this instance of it, at least): being associated with a collection of items, there is no natural single place or object associated with it.

Instead, it seems to me far more natural to access it from the inventory, by collecting together the relevant items and then using this collective "item". In keeping with the fairly simple mechanics of the inventory thus far, there's no manual item combination to be done: some items now simply group together automatically.

As to the jigsaw minigame itself, it has been modified to use 3D models instead of flat paintings. While this perhaps sacrifices a little bit in aesthetics, I hope that it will reduce duplication of effort in future jigsaw puzzles by allowing me to re-use the in-level models (or parts thereof) within the minigame.

Locked by Key and Magic

Moving on from the jigsaw puzzle, the second major piece of progress made in the week just past was in creating the double-lock that seals the door shown above. That door--and two others like it--are found in the upper level of the tomb, each requiring a physical key and a magical one.

For two of those doors, the keys can be found via exploration--and indeed, the symbol that serves as magical key to one of those doors is the same that is acquired via the jigsaw puzzle mentioned above. The third door, I'm afraid, remains closed, its keys perhaps lost.

You may recognise the mist effect used above for the magical lock: it's the same that I made for the cutscenes; I think that it works fairly well here, too.

One problem that I encountered was that, both here and in cutscenes, I found distortions occurring in tight curves. This seems to be caused by the significant difference between the lengths of the outer- and inner- edges along such curves. Simply put, the shader was being applied as though they were of the same length, with the same amount of "image" being stretched over them. This is fine while the curve is shallow, and the difference is thus relatively small. However, in tighter curves the difference is great, leaving the "image" far more bunched up on the inner- than the outer- edge.

While thinking on the problem this week, an answer came to me: Simply adjust the UV-coordinates such that they're more bunched up on the inner edge. This results in the inner edge covering less of the "image", thus reducing the bunching in the final result. It's likely not a perfect solution, but I find the result to nevertheless be a significant improvement!



The Texture of Stone

The final piece of significant progress from this week just past was in the modelling and texturing of the twice-locked door--and perhaps most saliently the approach that I took to texturing it.

Specifically, I've decided to start creating re-usable textures--and especially normal maps--rather than painting new textures for each object with only opportunistic re-use. While this may reduce the degree of uniqueness between textures, my intent is that it also reduce duplication of effort. I don't intend to front-load this process; instead, my thought is to create them as called for.

As suggested above, I've started with the stone texture used for the twice-locked door. The biggest challenge there, perhaps, was in determining how to create a normal-map that worked with the "somewhat-painted" aesthetic that I'm going for.

I've taken a few approaches to this in previous normal maps, as I recall, but none seemed to work for me here. Painting heights and then applying GIMP's normal-mapping plugin produced contour bands, and while these might work elsewhere (I have them in mind for use in normal-mapping wood), I didn't like them here. In addition, I think that I found it difficult to produce quite the shape that I was aiming for. Directly painting normals simply didn't quite work: the result looked more like sheets of mica than rises and dips in the surface.

Instead, what seems to have worked for me--after a few attempts--is the following:

First, I generated simple cloudy noise via GIMP's "Solid Noise" filter. This served as a height-map, and, run through GIMP's normal-mapping plugin, produced a base normal-map. As it stood, I felt that this was a somewhat-reasonable semi-realistic normal map for stone.

To make it a little more painterly, and to further define the shape that I was aiming for, I then went over this with the smudge tool. I smeared out flat surfaces, but left the joints between them somewhat sharp, thus producing a field of relatively flat surfaces and sharp edges. When applied as a normal map, I feel that this produces a decent "chiselled stone" effect.

Since this is intended to be re-usable, I made the normals quite deep: I feel that it's easier to make a deep normal map shallow than vice versa, thus making it easier to produce a range of depths from an initially-deep map. Specifically, to make the normal map shallower I simply add a layer filled with the colour that normal mapping interprets as pointing in the direction of the underlying surface--the "no change" colour, so to speak--and adjust its opacity as desired. The higher the opacity, the less intense the normals, and thus the shallower the map.

Miscellaneous

One relatively minor point that may be worth mentioning is that I tweaked the player-light shaders a little, primarily in how they handle "highlights" (i.e. specular light). The new version should, I think, be a little less prone to over-lighting some surfaces, show normals a little better, and produce a slightly more metallic look at high levels of "shininess". Conversely, the prologue level's interior is somewhat dark; I'm tempted to go back and lighten the stone there a little...

As to the critical path for the first level, that's not quite done yet: there's a little yet to be made, and I still haven't made a decision regarding my lockpicking minigame.

That's all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #59 on: February 27, 2017, 10:46:00 am »

Blog post (27th of February, 2017)
Physics, Bringer of Bugs


Greetings and salutations!

For this week's screenshot, a look at a new interaction: pushable objects.


The week just past was a busy one: there was work on the level, a new feature introduced, some shader-work, and quite a bit of bug-fixing.


Pushing and Falling

As shown above, a new feature has been added: pushable objects.

You may recall that I described in a previous post my first attempt at this feature, and my decision to drop it in favour of carriable objects. The latter haven't been removed, but I've given pushable objects a second attempt.

My first approach was to keep things fairly simple--no true physics, just ray-casts, a plane to move on, and some maths. This worked, but I realised that relying on ray-casts meant either having large gaps between rays, allowing small objects to slip into places that they should not reach, or using an awful lot of rays.

And it seemed a little silly, as I recall, to have a physics engine underneath so physical a feature (I'm using Panda3D's integration of the Bullet physics engine, I believe), but to then implement it in a non-physical manner.

On top of this, there was the matter of carriable objects: as I think that I mentioned previously, the ray-casting solution that I used there, while reliable, had issues with objects falling through each other by virtue of the rays accounting for only a small overlap.

So I decided to rework the underlying code, and use dynamic physics for both falling objects (including carriable ones) and pushable objects.

I've constrained the dynamics a fair bit--there's no rotation, for example. This keeps things simple and stable, but also introduces a few oddities, such as carriable objects not moving with pushable objects when placed upon them.

And it works! There were a number of challenges along the way, but I believe that I solved all or most of them. Pushable objects slide along when pushed, and falling objects drop and stack pretty much as expected.

It Just Bugs Me

That said, doing this introduced some bugs, it seems.

So very many bugs.

Indeed, dealing with these (and other bugs) was a recurring task of the week: Enemies hung in mid-air, and the bodies left after their defeat were misplaced; carriable objects appeared in the wrong places after loading a level; physics-driven objects--sometimes including the player, I think--would at times drift upwards; the player-camera was placed too high up; and more besides.

The recurring experience of encountering new bugs was a little unpleasant, as I recall--but all that I discovered have been fixed, I believe.

Levelling Out

As to the state of the first level's critical path, work continued, and I believe that I have only two or three elements to be done. (Indeed, the inclusion of pushable objects was done with one of those elements in mind.)

Indeed, I made a timed run of the level; my route was probably not perfect, but I think that it was fairly efficient. As it stood at that point, the level took me about seven minutes to complete; less time than I would have liked, I'll confess. (I had been hoping for about fifteen minutes.)

I'm a little tempted to add another layer to the tomb, but also hesitant: it's a fairly simple environment, and I don't want it to become tiresome.

Picking at It

One of the elements that remains to be done is deciding on a new lockpicking minigame. I've been thinking about this a fair bit, I feel, and while I have some seeds that may grown into a new minigame, they remain inchoate.

One problem that I'm hitting is that I don't want the minigame to be easily solvable by brute-force; that is, I don't want players to be able to easily try every combination in a given lock and pass through that way.

More thought is called for, I feel.

A Side of Games

I've been watching some Let's Plays of Resident Evil VII, and one thing that struck me was the collection of little side-games included (as DLC, I think). They each provide a short experience somewhat different from the main game--things like a room-escape puzzle, a wave-combat game, and a variant on Blackjack.

I've been toying with the idea of adding something similar to A Door to the Mists--little extra games, available from the main menu, that provide some arcade-y fare. Perhaps a mini rogue-like that leans heavily on the combat mechanic, or a simple collect-the-items-and-evade-the-monster game.

Of course, they might be superfluous here: I imagine that one reason to include them in Resident Evil is to provide something to return to after completion, thus retaining interest in the game while one waits for the next major DLC. Since I don't plan any DLC, perhaps arcade-y side-games don't make sense for my game.

(It would also add to the development time of the game, of course--even given my thought to rely heavily on assets taken from the main game.)

Miscellaneous

More was done in the week just past--but this post is already long, I feel. Let mention two more changes, in brief:
  • The curtain-shader was adjusted to allow for the presence of a "shelf", (conceptually) pushing it outwards, of adjustable height and depth; normal-mapped folds show to a greater degree below it.
  • The inventory has been adjusted to show more slots: it's now initially laid out in a four-by-two grid, rather than a single, short line.



Editing

Finally, as I recall a developer asked on Twitter after the editors created by other devs., and I responded with a some screenshots of my own level- and cutscene- editors. Since these may be of interest to any reading this journal, let me include them here, too:


From left to right, my level- and cutscene- editors, with their object-panel and music-editor excerpted below, respectively.

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