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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsA Door to the Mists--[DEMO updated!]--traversal, exploration, puzzles and combat
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« Reply #420 on: April 06, 2020, 09:53:41 AM »

Blog post (6th of April, 2020)
Reworking the Tutorial


Summary: In which the tutorial is reworked; the background to combat is touched-up aesthetically; the new enemy sees work; and a bug in the effect of stamina is fixed.

Greetings and salutations!

This week, in place of a screenshot we have a short video: a look at changes made to the game's tutorial!





With the aesthetic changes pretty much done (for now, at least!), I moved on to other matters for much of the week just past. In particular, to reworking the tutorial, and to continued work on the new enemy:

The tutorial in A Door to the Mists is a feature that has been critiqued since the release of the demos. There's a fair bit of text to it, and text that's easy to simply ignore, potentially leaving the player stuck at a later point. The combat tutorial also repeatedly stops play, interrupting the flow of the combat.

Furthermore, I've never been quite happy with just how much the very first tutorial dumps on the player.

Now, some of this I currently see little alternative to.

For one, I really don't know how else to convey the combat mechanic: if I don't stop play, then the player has a limited amount of time in which to read and digest the given information before being required to use it.

On top of that, I'm not willing to assume that all players have significant experience with games such as this. What's more, some features--primarily the universal climbing and the combat mechanic--seem to me sufficiently unusual that they call for explicit teaching, even to experienced gamers.

(And indeed, these two Twitter posts (one related to the other) that I recently happened upon only reinforce my feeling that I shouldn't assume universal gaming literacy:
https://twitter.com/WilliamJEC/status/1242463166623150081
https://twitter.com/IndigenousAI/status/1242304672016236544 )

Still, in the week just past then I set out to improve the tutorial somewhat.

Some of this simply took the form of rewriting the text, and in the case of the combat health- and stamina- tutorials, of consolidating it. Hopefully the tutorials so edited should now better convey what they're intended to teach.

However, I also reworked the fundamentals of the pre-combat section of the tutorial.

The very first tutorial now teaches only the barest basics: movement, looking around, running, and opening the in-game menu.

Interaction, then, is now taught separately. And since there are multiple potential locations at which the player can first interact--the pushable stone at the back, the rock atop the pyramid, and the buttons in the first pyramid chamber--this tutorial is now available at all of them. Of course, I don't want players to be bothered by a tutorial that they've completed, so interacting in any of those places completes all of the interaction tutorials.

This also has the advantage that should the player ignore an earlier interaction tutorial, they'll at least get it again when they are required to interact in order to proceed.





You may recall that the rock atop the pyramid was an inventory item, and was used to teach about the inventory--which might clash with using it to teach about basic interaction.

To that end, said rock is no longer an inventory item: the player simply uses it, which causes it to be dropped into the darkness of the pyramid.

The inventory tutorial is then handled inside the pyramid, at the point at which the player is required to use an item to continue on.



Overall, I think that I'm happier with this arrangement! It does mean that the first pyramid chamber can end up with a pile of three tutorials one after the other--examination, interaction, and inventory--but hopefully most players will act on one of the other interaction tutorials, forestalling it appearing here.

And finally, I further added a little sound-cue to the tutorials. This helps in particular (I hope) to distinguish between tutorials that appear in quick succession, but also (I think) just makes them feel a bit more engaging.

(The sound used for this, by the way, was originally made for my "GDC Relief Jam" entry. ^_^)

Aside from the tutorial, I did some work in the combat mechanic in the week just past.

First and simplest, I've made some aesthetic changes to the background of combat: it's now a little less dark. This should hopefully make it easier to see both the player-character and the enemy--especially in the case of a particularly dark enemy that I have planned for later.

Here's a look at the new backdrop as it appears behind three different enemies, in three different environments:





And sticking with combat, I put in some work on the most recent enemy: For one, I've started to make the audio for the fight (although I'm not yet sure that I'm happy with what I've made). And for another, I made various touch-ups to the character's model and animations (in particular, incorporating mouth- and eyelid- movements as seemed appropriate).

I also uncovered and fixed a minor bug in the stamina system: it seems that damage reduction wasn't kicking in until stamina was pretty much zero, allowing combatants to deal full damage even at very low stamina-levels!

And along the way I made various other changes 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 #421 on: April 06, 2020, 01:02:19 PM »

I think the tutorial changes with the stone (interaction) and the sword (inventory) is a good solution.
 
Another approach to the fighting tutorial that a lot of games do is to enforce the first correct action. For example: The enemy attack from the right: "Move the mouse into a direction to block attacks. Move it to the right now.", then wait (pause game) until the user blocks correctly. Then do the same for attacks, magic spells and weapon switches (or whatever exists in the game ^^).
Just thought about it while watching the video. I think your approach absolutely works, I just might find it a little nicer to get it step by step instead of reading through a block containing multiple actions at once. Smiley
 
The game improved quite a bit since the last time I tested it, especially when looking at stuff like the pyramid climbing. Good work!
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« Reply #422 on: April 06, 2020, 02:31:49 PM »

I think the tutorial changes with the stone (interaction) and the sword (inventory) is a good solution.

Thank you! I'm very glad of that! ^_^

Another approach to the fighting tutorial that a lot of games do is to enforce the first correct action. For example: The enemy attack from the right: "Move the mouse into a direction to block attacks. Move it to the right now.", then wait (pause game) until the user blocks correctly. Then do the same for attacks, magic spells and weapon switches (or whatever exists in the game ^^).
Just thought about it while watching the video. I think your approach absolutely works, I just might find it a little nicer to get it step by step instead of reading through a block containing multiple actions at once. Smiley

That's actually a good idea, and one that I hadn't thought of, I believe. (Although I have actually seen such tutorials, now that I think of it.)

In all fairness, my approach isn't far off of that-- in part, I just tend to be somewhat verbose. (And the "dodge" tutorial actually does exactly that.)

Hmm... Doing as you suggest could make the tutorial longer: if I were to teach every action that way, I'd presumably be stopping things for each parry and attack, rather than consolidating them into just two lessons.

But on the other hand, if I were to teach just one parry or attack each, then players might learn the others by experimenting.

I'll think on this, I intend...
 
The game improved quite a bit since the last time I tested it, especially when looking at stuff like the pyramid climbing. Good work!

Thank you very much indeed! :D

I do want to put out at least one more demo, since so much--and most visibly, the overall aesthetic--has changed significantly since the last one.

(I'm torn on whether to include the new enemy, if I do: On the one hand, it's extra content and one more combat; on the other, it means skipping over a bit of context for the fight--likely with a quick explanation--and either not going through to the place to which the fight leads or delaying the demo until that's done...)
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« Reply #423 on: April 13, 2020, 09:00:24 AM »

Blog post (13th of April, 2020)
Repositioned Blood


Summary: In which combat sounds for the new enemy continue to see work; ambient sounds are added to level four; "blood-particles" are offset in their position; and the "hit-location" of vertical attacks is improved.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows a minor touch-up in the positioning of "blood-particles" in combat:



Between my Easter holiday starting on Friday and a lack of sleep through the week overall, the week just past was effectively a bit of a short one for me. Still, some things did get done:

Perhaps the majority of the work done in the week just past was in the implementation of various pieces of audio.

To start with, I continued work on the combat sounds for the new enemy. Some of this was the reworking of extant sounds--metallic parry-sounds are proving tricky, for one. And some of it was the addition of new sounds--in particular, I think that I have most of the character's "death" sound in place.

Outside of combat, I worked on the ambient sounds of the city in which level four takes place. Since level four is set in Tenereth as with level two, I was able to re-use various pieces of audio from level two's city-ambience, with only a few other elements added. This new ambience isn't just a copy of that other one, however: it's re-built to be rather longer, a bit more varied, and a little different in its focus.

Moving away from audio, but back to combat, in the week just past I made an adjustment to the placement of "blood-particles" in the combat mechanic.

As I had it previously, these particles were spawned relative to their parent-character's origin. For some characters, this was fine. But with the new enemy it became clear that it didn't quite work with all: Specifically, a hit from a vertical attack would in some cases result in the particles being spawned too far back, appearing behind the character.

So I've added a simple offset, allowing me to specify that for a given character these "blood-particles" are to be generated a little further forward (or back, should it be called for).

And it seems to work, I'm glad to say! ^_^

In addition, I've also made a minor change to the impact-position reported for vertical attacks; it should now, I believe, be more accurate when animations move the character away from their origin.



That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #424 on: April 19, 2020, 08:36:57 AM »

Sometimes there isn't enough time or energy to be super productive. But sticking to it is a success already. Smiley
 
Combat feedback is nice and important. Particles is an element that I need to add in a lot of places as well. Funny enough: I've just added some dust particles in a fight scene, too.
 
Audio is a complete own layer of a game. When you think a level or scene is done, the audio still needs to be done. Good to see (or hear?) that you made progress in that department. Atmospheric sounds are important. I already created a system for localized random atmospheric sounds that I can attach to locations. That part was fun, because it was coding. ^^
Good to see you are actually able to add content here. Smiley
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« Reply #425 on: April 20, 2020, 09:19:01 AM »

Sometimes there isn't enough time or energy to be super productive. But sticking to it is a success already. Smiley

Thank you; I appreciate that. ^_^

Combat feedback is nice and important. Particles is an element that I need to add in a lot of places as well. Funny enough: I've just added some dust particles in a fight scene, too.

Technically, the particles were there previously--they were just in some cases obscured as a result of appearing behind the character. ^^;

Audio is a complete own layer of a game. When you think a level or scene is done, the audio still needs to be done. Good to see (or hear?) that you made progress in that department. Atmospheric sounds are important. I already created a system for localized random atmospheric sounds that I can attach to locations. That part was fun, because it was coding. ^^
Good to see you are actually able to add content here. Smiley

Audio is honestly something that I tend to forget. (... And/or put off.) ^^;

And yet the difference that it can make is also quite amazing sometimes.

As to random atmospheric sounds, I actually have some of that in the prologue level, as I recall: when standing near the perimeter wall, the player might hear a variety of noises coming from the forest beyond...
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« Reply #426 on: April 20, 2020, 09:19:35 AM »

Blog post (20th of April, 2020)
An Art-Week


Summary: In which audio for the new enemy's combat may be done; an "axe falling" sound is added to a "death-sound"; audio for player sword-strikes is made; and art for a new cutscene is begun.

Greetings and salutations!

This week, in place of a screenshot we have a new video! Specifically, this one shows the sounds and animations of the new enemy, encountered in level four:





The week just past was, pretty much, an art-week:

To start with, work continued on audio related to combat with the new enemy. Indeed, I believe that I have said audio done now--or at least a first draft of it! ^_^

Specifically, I added audio representing the falling of an axe to the enemy's "death-sound", and finally came up with some sounds for the player's sword hitting a living enemy.

The latter proved somewhat difficult: despite my efforts, regardless of what I recorded, for some time I was not coming up with audio that sounded quite as I wanted.

In the end, however, I think that may have produced something that works. (In part by layering in some previously-made audio elements.)

With that audio done, I moved on to another task: painting the visual elements for the introductory cutscene to level four. This has gone fairly well thus far, I feel; it's not done, but decent progress has been made.

I will confess that human forms continue to prove difficult for me. I think that I've improved somewhat, but such things nevertheless still prove troublesome at times.

That said, I do find the shading to be rather fun--and indeed, again I feel like I may have improved there.

And overall, I'm fairly happy with the results thus far. ^_^

I'll leave you then with two small excerpts from the new cutscene-art:



That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #427 on: April 20, 2020, 10:25:42 AM »

I am sorry, but I only have praise this week.
Your combat sounds are really fitting. Metal on metal, metal on wood and metal on ribs: They all sound right.
I really like your drawings overall. The portrait of the woman too shy to look at the painter is great!
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« Reply #428 on: April 20, 2020, 10:31:08 AM »

Ah, thank you very much indeed! I really appreciate that! (Especially as I was a little uncertain about some of the audio.) :D

The portrait of the woman too shy to look at the painter is great!

In all fairness, she's not supposed to look shy--but then it is just an excerpt, with little context. She's intended to be climbing stairs (which should be clearer once you can see her legs), looking upwards hopefully towards a light ahead. ^^;;
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« Reply #429 on: April 20, 2020, 10:38:48 AM »

He, I was just kidding. She does not look shy.
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« Reply #430 on: April 20, 2020, 10:43:21 AM »

Ah, fair enough! That is a relief! XD;
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« Reply #431 on: April 27, 2020, 08:35:58 AM »

Blog post (27th of April, 2020)
Cutscene Construction


Summary: In which the painting of cutscene elements continues; and the cutscene itself begins to be constructed.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows a bit of progress on the cutscene for level four:



That cutscene continued to be the work of the week just past:

To start with, in the week just past I continued painting the elements for the level-four cutscene. Perhaps most salient of these elements is the adventurer shown above: Coming out of level three you bump into her--and she's not glad to see you.

There's more painting to be done, but in the week just past I set that aside for a bit, switching instead to work on implementing the cutscene itself.

So far this is going fairly well and smoothly, I'm glad to say! I do fear that one scene in particular may be a bit static and wordy, but I'm hoping that it'll work out.

Here then are a few short excerpts from the new cutscene:




That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #432 on: April 27, 2020, 09:13:10 AM »

First thought: She has a tail! :D
 
Second thought: She can teleport! Azn
 
Now to the serious stuff:
I really like the closeup of his hand on his weapon to show his hostile reaction. (He looks a bit more "3d rendered" in style than your usual images?)
As for the stairway: I'm unsure about her fading completely away between steps. Have you tried fading in her next position before the old one completely faded out? Just an idea.
Nevertheless the art looks great and the cutscene will work nicely one way or the other. Smiley
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« Reply #433 on: April 28, 2020, 08:44:03 AM »

First thought: She has a tail! :D

Hah! I can see that! XD;

Second thought: She can teleport! Azn

Don't you wish you had that power in-game? ;P

I really like the closeup of his hand on his weapon to show his hostile reaction.

Thank you! I am quite happy with that, I'll admit. ^_^

(He looks a bit more "3d rendered" in style than your usual images?)

(She, by the way; it's not very clear under that padded jerkin, but the character is female.)

At a guess, that "3D rendered" feeling might in part come from the way that she's lit: that surrounding, near-rim-shading lighting might resemble the way that 3D models are sometimes lit.

(It may also to some degree, one hopes, reflect improvement in my shading.)

As for the stairway: I'm unsure about her fading completely away between steps. Have you tried fading in her next position before the old one completely faded out? Just an idea.

I haven't tried it, but it may be worth trying indeed; thank you for the suggestion. ^_^

Nevertheless the art looks great and the cutscene will work nicely one way or the other. Smiley

Thank you very much! I'm very glad to read that! :D
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« Reply #434 on: May 04, 2020, 10:26:05 AM »

Blog post (4th of May, 2020)
Zooming-In on a City Street


Summary: In which the painting of cutscene elements continues; an extant backdrop is extended; work on constructing the level-four cutscene likewise continues; cutscenes can now have changes at a scene-level without affecting overlaid text; the cutscene editor gains the ability to toggle sound and music; and work begins on finding music for the level-four cutscene.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows an edit to a previously-shown part of the level-four cutscene:



The week just past was once again given to the painting and construction of that cutscene:

To start with, and as shown above, I extended the backdrop to the first scene of the cutscene. (And incorporated a bluing of its shadows.) It felt, I think, a little out-of-place to start the cutscene with a square aspect-ratio when previous cutscenes had been wider, especially as there was little reason to confine that scene.

I also painted the elements for the final two scenes of the cutscene--to be specific, I painted the second-to-last from scratch, and edited a backdrop from another cutscene to make the last.

These two scenes for them lead-in to level four itself: the second-to-last shows the narrow street onto which the level's building opens, with a hint of the city beyond; and the last shows the doorway of that building, as a segue into the player finding themselves standing within.

As mentioned, the backdrop (and sole element) of that last scene is an edit of a previous one: the cutscene for level two ends similarly, which allowed me to simply change the wall-surfacing to fit.

(I currently have it in mind to do something else for the level three cutscene, so that I don't have multiple cutscenes in a row ending on more or less the same shot. ^^; )

Moving on from the painting side of things, work continued on the construction of the cutscene.

This involved a few changes, but perhaps most salient was that I constructed those final two scenes.

Neither was enormously tricky--the last in particular is just a slow zoom into the backdrop. However, the second-to-last did present two minor challenges:

The first challenge was the animation of a crowd on a distant street; this I ended up handling in a script, using time and sine-functions to fade between variations of the crowd.

The second was that I wanted to zoom in (as with the final scene), but felt that doing so my usual way--i.e. zooming each individual element--might be awkward.

Now, I already had the means to zoom the scene itself as a whole--but that would have affected the overlaid text, too, which was not an effect that I wanted. So, concluding that it seemed unlikely that I would often want text to be included in such scene-level animations, in the week just past I altered my cutscene system such that text is separate from them. As a result, I now have the scene zooming in, but with the text remaining static over it, as desired. ^_^

Here's a look at the resulting scene:



Continuing with technical changes, I made a small modification to my cutscene editor: it now supports the toggling of sound and music each, where before it simply used the audio-settings applied in the main game. This new approach should make dealing with cutscene audio a little more convenient, I think!

Speaking of sound, I began looking for music for the cutscene. This is very much still a work-in-progress--but as a result, I may have settled on music for the game's very final cutscene...

And finally, I also added a little bit of extra movement to the third scene--a scene that is rather wordy and static compared to the others--in the hopes of making it feel a little more engaging.

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #435 on: May 04, 2020, 01:59:11 PM »

The moving people in the distance look very nice. Coming up with solutions like this is a fun part of gamedev, I think. Smiley
 
Finding fitting music is hard. It needs to fit the game and be of a consistent style and should not be a track that every 2nd indie game uses. ^^
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« Reply #436 on: May 04, 2020, 02:44:44 PM »

The moving people in the distance look very nice.

Thank you very much! ^_^

Coming up with solutions like this is a fun part of gamedev, I think. Smiley

That it is, I do agree. ^_^

Finding fitting music is hard. It needs to fit the game and be of a consistent style and should not be a track that every 2nd indie game uses. ^^

Indeed! For that reason I often look first at royalty-free sources other than Incompetech, with some degree of success--but Incompetech nevertheless remains one of the more reliable sources to search.

On the other hand, searching for music thus does lead to occasional instances of hearing something in an indie game (or even AA game) and thinking "wait, I've heard that before...". ^_^
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« Reply #437 on: May 05, 2020, 12:11:07 AM »

Indeed! For that reason I often look first at royalty-free sources other than Incompetech, with some degree of success--but Incompetech nevertheless remains one of the more reliable sources to search.

On the other hand, searching for music thus does lead to occasional instances of hearing something in an indie game (or even AA game) and thinking "wait, I've heard that before...". ^_^

I've used Kevin's music for my gamejam games (and older stuff) and he is amazing, but his music appears too often. When I don't have custom made music, I am using tracks from Eric Matyas at the moment. Smiley
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« Reply #438 on: May 05, 2020, 03:06:39 PM »

I like the work of Eric Matyas, but I fear that it's relatively seldom that I find what I'm looking for amongst it. :/ (Part of this may come from the fact that their representation of "magic" tends to be of the "twinkly" sort, which is not often the sort that I want.)

Still, I do actually have some of their work in A Door to the Mists! (And indeed used two of their pieces in my "GDC Relief Jam" entry, if I recall correctly.) ^_^

More often these days, however, my own first stop is Audionautix (Jason Shaw's website; https://audionautix.com/)--I quite like their work, there's a fair bit of it to search through, and they have a decent filtering system, I think. ^_^

The artist "zero-project" also has some rather good pieces--but alas, as much as I'd like to use some of them, their pieces seem to seldom fit my purposes. :/

All that said, I've used music from a variety of artists: as of today, going by my credits document, A Door to the Mists includes the following:

  • Three pieces by Kevin MacLeod
  • Two by Eric Matyas
  • Two by Jason Shaw
  • One by James Richardson
  • One by Tim Beek
  • And three ambient pieces by Erokia on Freesound.org
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« Reply #439 on: May 11, 2020, 08:23:14 AM »

Blog post (11th of May, 2020)
A New Cutscene


Summary: In which music is found for the level-four cutscene; sound-effects are added to that same cutscene; said cutscene is completed; and a new cutscene is begun.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows a very work-in-progress excerpt from a new cutscene:



The week just past was a bit of a slow one, I fear--still, some things did get done:

To start with, I continued work on the cutscene for level four.

I mentioned last week, I believe, that I had begun searching for music to use in the cutscene. That search was resumed in the week just past--and indeed, I think that I've found a piece that works. It's perhaps not perfect to my intentions, but I think that it fits well enough.

Staying with audio work, I also added sound effects to the scene; in particular footsteps following the movements of our protagonist, and ambient city-sounds on the streets.

And indeed, with that I believe that I have the level-four cutscene done!

I'm not sure that I'm entirely happy with it, in all fairness--there are perhaps some points on which it's a little rough, I fear. Still, I think that it works, and at the least it serves as a first draft.

Most of the cutscenes that I previously made I've shown via YouTube, I believe--but I don't intend to do that with this one: we've reached the point in the game's story at which it starts to feel just a little too spoilery to do so.

That said, the next cutscene is brief, doesn't provide much plot, and follows on from a level that has already been shown, and so I may well show that one when it's done.

Speaking of which, and as shown above, I've started work on that next cutscene. This one follows on from the encounter with the previously-shown new enemy, and leads in to the following level; it both brings the player to the next location and shows the aftermath of the preceding encounter.

This is still very much unfinished; between sleeping issues and the tedium and perspective of the windows involved, it's felt like it's been somewhat slow-going. Nevertheless, progress has been made!

And along the way I made a few other changes 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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