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September 22, 2020, 01:10:04 PM

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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsA Door to the Mists--[DEMO updated!]--traversal, exploration, puzzles and combat
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« Reply #400 on: March 15, 2020, 05:08:07 AM »

I liked the aesthetics of the game from the beginning. I have no direct comparison to the old look of those scenes, but they look really nice overall.
Just in rare cases the corners look a bit too "hard" while the overall contrast is weak for my taste, but not enough to make it look bad:

 
I think you are definitely on the right track here.
 
Your search for a publisher is super interesting. I hope you manage to find one and keep us updated about the progress. Smiley

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« Reply #401 on: March 16, 2020, 07:11:40 AM »

I liked the aesthetics of the game from the beginning. I have no direct comparison to the old look of those scenes, but they look really nice overall.

...
 
I think you are definitely on the right track here.

Thank you very much, both regarding the prior aesthetics and the current track! That's heartening to read. ^_^

I should have more updates on it with the next blog-post, which I intend to put up today! ^_^

Your search for a publisher is super interesting. I hope you manage to find one and keep us updated about the progress. Smiley

Thank you very much! ^_^ And indeed, I intend to share that journey as it (hopefully) progresses. (Save for anything that a publisher might have fall under NDA, most likely.)

Just in rare cases the corners look a bit too "hard" while the overall contrast is weak for my taste, but not enough to make it look bad:
...

The image that you posted isn't visible to me, alas. It looks like it perhaps isn't available for public viewing. :/ I'd rather like to see the case that you mention!

I gather that you have it hosted on DropBox--what I do there (it's where I generally keep images that I post to TigSource, I think) is to make a "public link" (I seem to recall that this is done via the "share" button next to a given file), and then post that, replacing the bit after the "?" with "raw=1". A bit of a nuisance, but it seems to work!
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« Reply #402 on: March 16, 2020, 07:34:44 AM »

Hehe, that's weird. I just copied your image URL. It worked fine in the preview.
It was the image in your previous post right before "Still, I also feel that it's not yet there".
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« Reply #403 on: March 16, 2020, 07:44:30 AM »

Hehe, that's weird. I just copied your image URL. It worked fine in the preview.

That's weird! Perhaps it's something strange that DropBox does--the URL looks completely different to the original when I try to click through to your post! :/

It was the image in your previous post right before "Still, I also feel that it's not yet there".

Ah, that makes sense--thank you for clarifying!

Yeah, I'm not sure of how I feel about the lighting in that scene--especially since the player starts facing away from the light,  and thus seeing primarily the low-contrast wall.

It is an indoor scene, with the only light source being the sun outside, so without fancy illumination techniques it does come out a little flat, I fear. Perhaps I should turn up the amount of shading in shadowed areas a bit--we'll see!

But thank you for pointing it out, either way! ^_^
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« Reply #404 on: March 16, 2020, 08:50:14 AM »

Blog post (16th of March, 2020)
Shiny Things and Distant Trees


Summary: In which the sunlight shader sees further work; parts of the prologue's perimeter are updated in response to the shader-work; the barrow's surrounding forest is updated to fit the new aesthetics; inventory items likewise see aesthetic reworking; the sky is touched-up; and the removal of old shader-code produces a tricky--but solved!--problem.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows further work on the game's aesthetics:



Once again, I have a few such images to show, and so I'll scatter them throughout this post!

The week just past was pretty much entirely given to aesthetic work, or things related to it:

To start with, the sunlight shaders continued to see experimentation and alteration in the week just past.

While I haven't found any sweeping changes that I felt worked for the game, I do think that the overall look has improved. Perhaps most especially, I think that I've improved the shader's handling of "shiny" objects.

You can see some of that here:


The changes to the rendering of "shininess" did have one unforeseen effect: all of a sudden, the prologue's surrounding wall and hanging vines were far too shiny! Indeed, they looked quite metallic!

So I quickly reduced their shininess, returning them to a more fitting appearance. And while I was at it, I ran a quick filter over the wall's normal-map, improving its quality a little I think.



As shown in the first screenshot above, these aesthetic changes have moved beyond just the main sunlight shader: I've done some work on the look of the surrounding forest in the barrow-level, updating both shaders and vertex-colouring to better match the new appearance of the game.

This is perhaps still a work-in-progress--in particular, I'm not quite happy with the undergrowth. That said, I do think that I like the overall look of it thus far!

Similarly, I made changes to the appearance of inventory items, which were looking somewhat poor beside the recent changes, I fear. Once again, I'm particularly happy with the reworked appearance of shiny objects:




Even the sky saw a bit of an update in the week just past! Its previous texture looked, I think, a little streaky; now I hope that it has a nicely-painterly "blobby" look to it, albeit with a few issues that I may yet try to remedy.

Now, one experiment that I tried in previous weeks involved the use of a 3D "colour-variation texture", in an attempt to make distant objects look a little more painterly. It didn't work out in the end, but the code had remained in the player-light shader through subsequent changes.

In the week just past I decided to finally remove that code.

The intensity of the the "colour-variation" texture was rather low; indeed, it was barely--if at all--visible in-game. So the code should be quick and easy to remove, with no real impact on the look of the game, right?

Right...?

As it turned out... removing the code itself was easy enough. But I found that, somehow, this left the player-light's rendering looked a little more dull than it had before. This wasn't good.

I looked over the removed code, and it really didn't seem like it should have so great an effect. I tried to replicate some of what it was doing (without the "colour-variation texture"), but it remained stubbornly dulled.

Then I thought to check the values of a certain variable that it used. (This I did by rendering said value into the green channel of the final shader-output.) And I discovered that, somehow, it was producing values outside of what I expected. This was causing the calculation that applied the "colour-variation" to behave unexpectedly--in ways not much related to the "colour-variation texture"--and impacting the final output of the shader.

With that knowledge I managed to replicate much of the effect, but without the texture or the (slightly-complex) variable. It is now a little brighter close to the viewer, but I have yet to decide whether or not that's a problem.

And along the way I made a variety of other changes that don't seem worth detailing!

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #405 on: March 16, 2020, 11:06:43 AM »

Your item assets look really nice. I bet this motivates the player to find more of those to examine them.
 
Your shaders look nice. I'm unsure how to feel about the desaturation/tinting blue of stuff in the shadows (e.g. trees and foliage in the first image). It still has a nice, unique look to it, but the foliage for example is brighter than other stuff in the shadows next to it. Again: It might still be part of the intended look. Smiley
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« Reply #406 on: March 16, 2020, 11:44:56 AM »

Your item assets look really nice. I bet this motivates the player to find more of those to examine them.
 
Your shaders look nice. ...

Thank you very much! I hope that the look of the items does indeed help to motivate players in finding more of them. ^_^

... I'm unsure how to feel about the desaturation/tinting blue of stuff in the shadows (e.g. trees and foliage in the first image). It still has a nice, unique look to it, but the foliage for example is brighter than other stuff in the shadows next to it. Again: It might still be part of the intended look. Smiley

Yeah, I've debated this a little myself.

In the player-light shaders, the blue-tinting is, I think, a bit more even. However, those shaders have the advantage that nearly anything nearby is well-lit (since the light-source there is pretty much at the player's location), and so little detail is lost in the blue.

Conversely, in the case of sunlight what's light and dark is little affected by the player's location; if the player walks over to examine something that's lying in shadow, it remains in shadow. Thus, if I were to evenly blue-tint shadowed regions, a fair bit of detail could be lost. Indeed, I encountered this issue when I discovered that the design on the ceramic shard in the barrow-level wasn't clearly visible when rendered by the (more evenly tinted) shaders that I was using.

Thus I took the decision that the sunlight shaders would preserve the some of the colour and lightness of surfaces: a black line would remain black, while a white surface would become blue.

In the case of foliage, this means that the brown leaf-litter becomes near-black, while the foliage around simply becomes bluish.

In addition, my tree-foliage is in general not shaded quite as deeply as most surfaces; I think that I just prefer the way that it looks when rendered so. However, that means that, for consistency, the undergrowth ends up similarly-coloured.

Still, I might give some thought to darkening the undergrowth a bit...

(I have just made the "distant" undergrowth a bit greener, so that there's less difference between it and the "nearby" undergrowth, or the trees. We'll see how that works out!)
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« Reply #407 on: March 16, 2020, 04:34:27 PM »

Finding the right look of anything is difficult. The only thing for me that works is to try lots of configurations, let it sink in and look at it a day or two later. The stuff that doesn't annoy me after weeks of looking at it is probably fine. Smiley
In a game like this where you visit lots of different places in different lighting situations (day / night) it is even more difficult. Maybe try different setups for different scenes, even fading from one setup to another when going from outside into a room. Many games do this more or less noticably.
My game has a complete different setup depending on the place as well.
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« Reply #408 on: March 17, 2020, 09:47:52 AM »

Finding the right look of anything is difficult. The only thing for me that works is to try lots of configurations, let it sink in and look at it a day or two later. The stuff that doesn't annoy me after weeks of looking at it is probably fine. Smiley

I think that I've found a means of improving the look of that forest, in part by making an exception for the shading of the leaf-litter. I may well include the following screenshot in my next blog-post, but in the meanwhile here it is on my Twitter timeline:

https://twitter.com/EbornIan/status/1239952051817373698

Maybe try different setups for different scenes, even fading from one setup to another when going from outside into a room.

Something like that is tempting--but I'm very wary of taking on any approach that might significantly increase the amount of content creation involved.

Indeed, I recently had an idea to give each sunlit room a piece of data that would indicate the direction for reflected sunlight--e.g. from an open door. However, I realised that this might call for giving each individual room such a piece of data, and discarded the idea.

(I might, however, be able to do something in isolated cases. For example, if I increase the lightness of sunlight shading, I could still darken select rooms a little. (I already have some support for a feature that would allow this, I believe.))
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« Reply #409 on: March 17, 2020, 10:04:41 AM »

Personally, I like the new screenshot better than the previous version. Smiley
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« Reply #410 on: March 17, 2020, 10:09:48 AM »

I'm glad, and as do I! I quite like this new look for the forest, I think. ^_^
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« Reply #411 on: March 17, 2020, 04:43:56 PM »

It's good to see continued progress and regular updates on this Smiley

I think that I've found a means of improving the look of that forest, in part by making an exception for the shading of the leaf-litter. I may well include the following screenshot in my next blog-post, but in the meanwhile here it is on my Twitter timeline:

https://twitter.com/EbornIan/status/1239952051817373698

I like how this looks, and everything does blend together way better than it did in the previous screenshot! I also think your trees in general look great - they evoke bushy, sunlit trees in a really simple but effective way.

--see for example the comparison between the grey stone of the barrow-level and the orange sandstone of the undercity:



Going back to this post from a little while ago, I don't feel that the bricks and walls read as sandstone to me, just based on screenshots I've seen throughout the devlog. I had assumed the walls were made of some kind of wooden blocks. I think perhaps it's because the stripe / strata pattern on the stones moves seamlessly from block to block, when in reality you would expect each block to have a different pattern from its neighbours. The stripes are also very thin, compared to a rock strata pattern which I would imagine to be quite large scale.
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« Reply #412 on: March 17, 2020, 05:19:35 PM »

It's good to see continued progress and regular updates on this Smiley

Thank you very much! I really appreciate that! :D

I like how this looks, and everything does blend together way better than it did in the previous screenshot! I also think your trees in general look great - they evoke bushy, sunlit trees in a really simple but effective way.

Thank you again! :D Such positive feedback really helps, and I'm glad that I'm perhaps hitting a good aesthetic there. ^_^

Going back to this post from a little while ago, I don't feel that the bricks and walls read as sandstone to me, just based on screenshots I've seen throughout the devlog. I had assumed the walls were made of some kind of wooden blocks.

Oh dear--that's disconcerting! :/

I think perhaps it's because the stripe / strata pattern on the stones moves seamlessly from block to block, when in reality you would expect each block to have a different pattern from its neighbours.

Hmm... I see what you're saying. However, it seems to me that the same would be true of wooden blocks: I would expect each to have a pattern different from its neighbours.

I can very much consider breaking up the striations--but it also seems to me that doing so might introduce repeating patterns that the eye could perhaps more easily catch.

It may also go somewhat against the principle of making the scenery look "somewhat painted": I suspect that most artists would paint the striations as a single piece, rather than detailing every individual brick (lacking the tiling in use here).

Still, I'll think about it, I intend!

The stripes are also very thin, compared to a rock strata pattern which I would imagine to be quite large scale.

I think that you might be surprised at just how narrow sandstone striations can be. See for example these images pulled from Wikipedia:





(Reference links:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Logan_Formation_Cross_Bedding_Scour.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bentheimer-Sandstein.jpg)
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« Reply #413 on: March 23, 2020, 10:40:31 AM »

Blog post (23rd of March, 2020)
Colour and Lighting and Blood


Summary: In which aesthetic changes continue, in a variety of elements; the barrow-level's surrounding forest is improved (I feel); grass is brightened and greened; the prologue-pyramid is touched-up; the player-light is dimmed a bit in the near-ground; the enemy in level four sees AI and animation work; and a post-combat blood-pool is added to level four.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows revision to the lighting in sunlit scenes:



Once again I have a fair few images to show, and so intend to scatter them throughout this post!

The week just past continued to be one of aesthetic work, but with two other things done besides:

The aesthetic work of the week just past was a fairly varied collection. Most of these changes are perhaps not worth detailing here, so let me simply list them briefly: I brightened the shadowed parts of sunlit scenes (as shown above); I applied the general sunlight changes to some of the more-specific sunlight shaders (such as the sunlight animal-sign shader); and I reworked the backdrop to the prologue level.




I also reworked some of the colouring of the forest that surrounds the barrow-level.

As I had it at the time of last week's blog-post, I believe, that surrounding forest had a few issues: The leaf-litter rather dark, and contrasted a little too harshly with the blued undergrowth. That bluing of the shadowed undergrowth in turn contrasted a bit too much with the better-lit sections. And finally, the distant ground, beyond the visible leaf-litter, had a colour-gradient that I wasn't happy with.

All of that has been reworked. And together with the general brightening of the sunlight shaders, I feel that the result is a much softer, more cohesive, and more inviting backdrop.



I don't yet know whether this is the final look--I'm a little undecided on the brightness of the leaf-litter and its shadows. But we'll see!

One of the reasons that the leaf-litter is so much brighter is that I increased the brightness--or more accurately, shifted the lighting towards brightness--of the shader that handles that leaf-litter.

This was not, however, done with the leaf-litter in mind--instead, it was done to brighten the grass with which the leaf-litter partly shares that shader.

(And concomitantly I made some changes to the way that the grass offsets it colours: the brightening had left the grass looking too yellow, and so I altered it to bring in more green again, as I recall.)



I do think that the grass looks better this way; if I decide that I want the leaf-litter to be dimmer again, then I'll want to look for a way to differentiate the two colours, I think...

The look of the prologue pyramid continued to trouble me, and in the week just past I had another shot at improving it. And I think that I have done so: I reworked the normal-maps that are applied to the pyramid exterior, producing, I think, a look that's both more appealing and more fitting.



I believe that I mentioned previously that the player-light had become brighter in the near-ground due to a change that I'd made. In the week just past I concluded that it was too bright, in particular in the under-city of Tenereth, and so reduced that near-ground lighting a bit. It helps, I think--although I'm still considering further changes there.

Moving away from aesthetics for a bit, I also did some work on the new enemy encountered in level four, the antagonistic adventurer: I polished the character's AI somewhat, touched-up some animations--and added a blood-pool that slowly appears after the character is defeated.



That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #414 on: March 23, 2020, 10:41:11 AM »

TIGSource addendum: @snugsound: Okay, you were right about the grass--it does look better this way!
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« Reply #415 on: March 23, 2020, 12:28:00 PM »

"Farewell, adventurer! Your adventure ended here."
It looks really nice. That's also a nice growing blood puddle effect. Smiley
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« Reply #416 on: March 23, 2020, 12:39:04 PM »

"Farewell, adventurer! Your adventure ended here."

From a story perspective, the tragedy of it is that if he'd just stopped to talk for five minutes he might have adventured well beyond that point...

It looks really nice. That's also a nice growing blood puddle effect. Smiley

Thank you very much! :D

And I'm quite happy with that effect, indeed. ^_^
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« Reply #417 on: March 30, 2020, 09:10:13 AM »

Blog post (30th of March, 2020)
Aesthetic Miscellany and a Game Jam


Summary: In which leaf-litter is dimmed; the changes to the player-light shader are propagated to the more-specific variants; the handling of "blob-lights" is slightly reworked; and a game-jam is entered

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows an old view, re-captured under the new shaders:



The week just past was a bit of a short one as regarded my work on A Door to the Mists: on Friday I embarked on a weekend game-jam, part of a charity drive by gamedev.world in aid of devs left stranded by the Covid-19 measures. A little more on that at the end of the post, but first, the work done on A Door to the Mists:

Once again, the main of the work done in the week just past was aesthetic in nature.

For one thing, I dimmed the leaf-litter in the barrow-level: I felt that it was a bit too bright as I had it before.



For another, I transferred the main player-light shader's aesthetic changes into the more-specific player-light shaders: now murals, animal-signs, curtains, and so on should all shade similarly.

I also did some reworking of the manner in which my player-light shaders handle "blob-lights": I had discovered that, as I had them, they produced inconsistent light-thresholding--in particular, hard-edged thresholding where it was otherwise rather softer. This should be rectified now!



And along the way I made a few other changes that don't seem worth detailing!

I mentioned at the start of this post that over the weekend I took part in a game-jam. That jam was the "GDC Relief Jam" (https://itch.io/jam/14068/), hosted by gamedev.world.

For my entry I built a small exploration game: the player takes the form of a fire(-ish)-bird and collects rainbow-lights, each representing a type of human "connection", all scattered around a little low-poly scene.

And as a bonus, I got to implement a mechanic that for some time now I've somewhat wanted to make use of: A simple 3D flight model, inspired by the dragon-flight in Drakan: Order of the Flame, complete with gliding! ^_^



The jam has left me rather tired--and so, this post aside, I intend to take today off!

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #418 on: March 30, 2020, 10:54:05 AM »

Your new lighting looks nice. Doesn't it feel cool walking through your creation after you did a change that improves the overall look? Smiley
(I only think thay maybe that painting on the wall should not be that crisp and brilliant in colors. It's a shame for the drawing, really, but when I visit an old tomb, the drawing would probably not look as if they were just made. Wink
 
And congratulations on your jam game. I made two game jams as well, but they were 1 week long and I know how much work it is. Your game looks amazing for a weekend long game jam! Smiley
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« Reply #419 on: March 30, 2020, 11:16:23 AM »

Your new lighting looks nice. Doesn't it feel cool walking through your creation after you did a change that improves the overall look? Smiley

Thank you very much indeed! :D And indeed, it really does feel good to stop every so often to look at something and think "this looks good"! ^_^

It's also nice to see the contrast between what I had and what I have now: I recently posted a short tweet-thread contrasting old screenshots with re-takes made under the new shaders:
https://twitter.com/EbornIan/status/1243276064048152577?s=20

(I only think thay maybe that painting on the wall should not be that crisp and brilliant in colors. It's a shame for the drawing, really, but when I visit an old tomb, the drawing would probably not look as if they were just made. Wink

In all fairness, I should note that there are indications that the tomb in question, while old, isn't exactly unpeopled--so perhaps a bit of maintenance is done from time to time.

(Of course, this calls into question the damage around the "pit" area, but that's just in place for gameplay reasons.)
 
And congratulations on your jam game. I made two game jams as well, but they were 1 week long and I know how much work it is. Your game looks amazing for a weekend long game jam! Smiley

Thank you again, very much indeed! :D

As I feel may not be uncommon in jams, there were a few things that I didn't get to, or that didn't get the detail that I might have liked.

But still, I'm reasonably happy with what I made! ^_^
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