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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsA Door to the Mists--[DEMO updated!]--traversal, exploration, puzzles and combat
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« Reply #480 on: July 27, 2020, 09:50:28 AM »

Thank you very much for such detailed feedback! It's really appreciated! And I'm really happy that you found the game so compelling! :D

(Also, my apologies for the delay in my response; the weekend was a slightly odd one for me. ^^; )

As you say, some of the points that you made have been addressed already since the demo. (And indeed, at least some should <> in the next demo, which I hope I'll be releasing soon!) However, others have not...

To start with, a few general responses regarding the controller bindings:

I'm... not a controller person (I'm very much a keyboard-and-mouse person), and not all that familiar with the standard controller setup. It's very possible indeed that my default bindings are less than ideal, I fear. ^^;

On top of that, my controller is a very cheap thing, and it's entirely plausible that what maps to one button on my controller ends up mapping to another on other controllers. :/

I've also tried to keep all the controls available on the controller (so that players need never switch to the keyboard and mouse if the so prefer), which may have led to some awkward bindings. ^^;

- I can move the main menu with a gamepad (with the Left Stick but not with the dpad, strangely). I couldn't find any way to actually confirm my selection, though.

...

- The inventory tutorial could also tell me how to pick things up. I couldn't figure out any way to do it on the gamepad. The controls menu suggests that Right Trigger should work but it didn't seem to work. Perhaps this is the same issue that prevented me from selecting the main menu items.

Hmm... Unless the bindings have been changed, right trigger should be the button that performs the "action" command, and which thus activates menu items and picks things up. I'm not sure of why it wouldn't be working...

Would you be willing to check your gamepad bindings for me (in the options menu), please?

- Inventory controls are awkward - tried to press RB to change tab but it brought up the sword description instead.

I take it that "RB" means "right bumper", which is the right "shoulder" button? (As I said, I'm not all that familiar with controller-usage. ^^; )

If so, then indeed, I currently have that button mapped to the "look" command, with right ''trigger'' mapped to the "action" command. Hence the right bumper bringing up the description!

I take it that this is not a standard mapping, even when both examination and action are important verbs in a game?

- Sword description stayed visible after exiting inventory (Edit: I later realised that this is just how descriptions are displayed throughout the whole game, however it did feel like a bug on this occasion, because it felt like the description was part of the menu that had incorrectly remained on screen).

Hmm... I suppose that I could have such descriptions disappear when switching from a menu. Doing so does feel a little unnatural to me--but if leaving them there is likely to confuse players then it may be a worthwhile concession.

- Pressing Up on the dpad in the inventory shows "Loading" and then closes the game?

The up- and down- D-Pad buttons are mapped to quick -loading and -saving at the moment. The "closing" was likely a crash-bug--one that I think that I've fixed since the demo, but which I've made a note to check on!

- Rebooting the game, the intro screen shows "Press Left Trigger or Back to continue" - why not just the A button?

Forgive me, but which one is the "A" button? ^^;; (I think that it's one of the four on the right--but my controller doesn't have the standard labels, and in any case, I gather that these labels vary from controller to controller.)

As to why left-trigger or back, I think that this is because those buttons map (by default) to "jump" or "close menu" (space or escape on the keyboard). I originally allowed a much broader set of controls to advance such screens, but had feedback that this could produce problems in which players could accidentally advance through cutscenes due to pressing buttons just after ending a level. Thus I limited the controls that advance cutscenes and the like to "jump" and "close menu", two actions that are unlikely to occur when exiting a level.

- Climbing the pyramid was awkward - had a lot of trouble jumping to the narrow ledge, and also doing the long jump from there to the next block. In first person platforming it's always difficult to judge where things are. I ended up making the wide jump only by looking straight downwards so I could jump when I reached the end of the narrow ledge.

Hmm... Troubling. That climb is still proving tricky for new players! :/

I had hoped that, between mantling and running, such platforming would be easier than that even given the first-person perspective. More thought may be called for here...

- Analogue movement controls on gamepad would be nice.

That's something that I can potentially look into, I believe! ^_^

Also the looking around does seem to have analogue controls, but the minimum speed is very high so it's hard to turn by small amounts.

Did you try adjusting the sensitivity in the options menu? It should, I think, be possible to reduce it if the default is too high.

- I think ESC should still bring up the pause menu even if the gamepad control config is loaded; otherwise it's awkward to switch back to using keyboard controls - especially if the gamepad is unplugged, which the game doesn't seem to respond to.

Hmm... That's a good thought. It'll call for consideration if I want to implement it, however, as it runs counter to the way that I've built the control-system at the moment...

- It's a bit strange that, when gamepad controls are being used, the mouse still works for looking around, even though all other keyboard/mouse inputs seem to be disabled.

You should find that something similar is true in the menus, too: if you're using a controller and move the mouse, the mouse-cursor should appear and allow you at least some control (I forget how much offhand).

I can definitely see this feeling off, however!

- After entering the pyramid I switched to keyboard and mouse controls as I was finding the gamepad too awkward. These controls seemed to fit the game much better.

In all fairness, keyboard-and-mouse is the control scheme for which the game is designed--and given my much greater familiarity with it, likely enough also the control scheme that's best polished. ^^;

- It felt harsh to be told that crossing the blue circle would begin the fight, and then have the enemy move towards me suddenly when I was going to examine the room. It makes sense for the enemy to initiate a fight with me, in terms of the story, but I felt that the tutorial text was misleading and suggested that I'd be able to choose when to begin the fight.

I think that I've had feedback to that effect before, indeed! And that text has been changed since the demo--it's now hopefully more explicit that the enemy will "wake up" when the player leaves the central dais.

- The fight tutorial did a decent job of explaining things. I appreciated especially being told when to dodge the first special attack.

That's rather good to read! Thank you! ^_^

The tutorialisation there has been changed a little since the demo in response to other feedback, if I recall correctly--hopefully it's even better now! ^_^

- Perhaps some more effects and feedback would be nice to make it more obvious when my attacks against the animatum are successful - satisfying sounds of splintering wood, for example, would really tell me that my attacks are doing some damage.

Honestly, audio work is perhaps not my forte. I have very much tried to make sounds that are as you describe, but perhaps I've yet missed the mark.

I do think that I recall beefing up the "blood" particles (wood-chips in the case of the animatum) since the demo, so at the least there should be more visual feedback!

- I like the subtle magic effect on the inside of the brass bowl, that's a nice touch.

Thank you very much! ^_^

- When jumping from the tree to the roof of the structure, I felt that maybe a sound at the point of 'grabbing' the ledge would be nice. To provide feedback that I've successfully begun climbing onto the ledge.

I seem to recall that I tried making such a thing once, and wasn't happy with what I came up with. Perhaps I should have another go, however!

- I feel like I remember you mentioning this in the devlog previously, so it may not be possible, but being able to use the mouse wheel to scroll through menus (in this case, the inventory menu) without needing to hover the scroll bar would be nice.

Yup, I very much agree! (And indeed, it's something that's been mentioned a few times before, as I recall.) The issue is currently sitting on my "unanswered matters" issue-list, as I have yet figured out a way to implement it that doesn't involve going through most of the UI elements--including those that aren't active controls, but layout elements and so on... :/

- The hitbox for the stone plate is so big that it overlaps the keyhole - it can make it awkward to do actions on the keyhole itself, especially when standing quite close to the door.

That hit-box can be reduced, I do think!

- The translation mini game was enjoyable. Not very difficult - which is fine - rather it was nice to just spend time examining the words and seeing which parts I recognised. More satisfying than levelling up Lara's Greek language skills in Tomb Raider :D

That's excellent to read! I'm really glad to know that said minigame is being found enjoyable. ^_^

- Some visual distinction between the keys would be nice, given that they each fit different locks.

A good thought, I do think! Noted!

- I enjoyed the puzzle of putting together the symbol from the three pieces. At times I felt like I had surely got it right - but after looking more carefully I was able to figure out the correct solution. It was nice to have full control over the placement of the pieces without them snapping into the correct place in any way. I'm curious how precise the placement has to be?

I'm glad to read that you so enjoyed it! ^_^

As to the precision of placement, it theoretically shouldn't be overly precise--but I have had some feedback that it might be a bit too precise nevertheless as implemented in the demo. If I recall correctly I've reworked the means by which it detects a match in placement, and it hopefully should be at least a little less precise now!

- The paintings of people felt like they should be examinable, given that old flecks of paint seen previously were examinable. The full paintings are surely more interesting!

That's fair!

I do wonder whether the answer is to add descriptions to the paintings or to remove the descriptions of the paint-flecks. On the one hand, the latter aren't all that interesting, after all--and I'm not in a position to add descriptions to absolutely everything, I feel! On the other hand, however, the paintings might well be interesting enough to warrant descriptions...

- Genuinely scary to see the mummy standing in the darkness. Thankfully quite an easy fight but the sudden whisper of "die" was creepy o_o

Hahah, I'm kinda glad to read that! (At the least it makes for an effective moment, it seems! ^_^)

I'm not making a horror game, honest! I mean, these aren't the last undead the player will face, and there are other supernatural foes beside them, and there's lots of going into dark, desolate places...

B-but it's not a horror game! Honest! XD

I'm also glad that the fight wasn't too tough: it's all too easy, I've found, to make a game much harder than one realises.

- I was surprised that the metal rod wasn't able to push the key out of the locked door. I also went back to the silver dagger in a previous room which seemed like it would be perfect for the job, but was still unable to pick it up. At this point I felt a bit lost as I felt I'd explored everything fairly well.
- Immediately after writing the above, I found the smaller rod, which did work to dislodge the key. Perhaps when trying to use the larger metal rod on the locked door, it should describe that it's too wide to fit in the lock, rather than just 'that doesn't work'.

Honestly, I thought that I had a response to using the metal rod in that way! If I don't, then I very much intend to add one!

- I found a hole behind a curtain and crawled through into a series of tunnels. I found this area very disorienting - while the rock is very visible, the soil is extremely dark, which makes it hard to make out the shape of the rooms and tunnels.

Yup, I've had similar feedback from another too, I believe.

The aesthetics of the game have had a pretty serious overhaul since the demo--and a part of that is improving visibility in dark places. That "pit" should, I hope, be far more navigable with the new aesthetics!

- I was trying to climb some blocks - it was in the first pit that I had dropped into initially:
<insert picture>
while trying to grab this rock, I fell down died! This felt extremely harsh, not least because the most recent autosave was quite some time ago - it was saved just as I was entering the large room that contains the small metal rod. This was very demoralising; in such a puzzle- and exploration-heavy game I basically never want to lose any progress, as it's not very interesting to comb through all the rooms again to find all the objects that I can interact with. I would suggest at least making the game autosave when entering the room in which I died. Alternatively just removing the instant death here would be very welcome.

Ah, I'm sorry to read that it was so demoralising! :/

I can very much put an autosave that covers the two main entrances to the "pit" area, I believe.

For what it's worth, the game also allows manual- and quick- saves, by which you can save whenever you want.

- I investigated a little further; I found some loose soil that I presumably needed the metal rod to break open, but after dying I hadn't bothered to pick the metal rod up, so I stopped playing at this point.

Fair enough!

I hope that you enjoyed the game as far as you played!

As I said, I'm hoping to put out another demo in the not-too-distant future (although I'm not sure of when); perhaps some of the issues that you've highlighted here will be addressed in that version! ^_^

<insert picture>

Wow, the pit is much darker than I recall! ;P
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« Reply #481 on: July 27, 2020, 09:51:46 AM »

Blog post (27th of July, 2020)
An Exit Becomes a Teleporter


Summary: In which the effect of level five's blob-light is worked upon; a new lore-entry is written; a musical instrument receives label and description; additional responses are added to a puzzle; the "thoughts" system sees a minor extension; a convenience exit becomes a convenience teleportation; the manner of saving the selected resolution is altered; a crash in the prologue is fixed; a scaling bug is fixed; and the feature behind that scaling bug is reconsidered.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows further work on the single working crystal light in level five:



The week just past started off slowly but picked up somewhat, as I recall, and a decent amount was done by the end I feel:

To start with, and as shown above, I continued to work on the "blob-light" found in level five. Parts of the level's geometry now make use of the vertex-shadowing introduced in level two, in order to cut off and control the light's influence. Note the shadow on the left of the image, and the lack of effect on the upper shelves.

A few pieces of writing were done in the week just past, too:

Perhaps the largest of these pieces was the writing of a new lore entry to accompany the musical instrument found in level two. It's a fairly short entry--but longer than I'd expected!

In essence, it's a brief description and history of the instrument, from a time when Tenereth-below was not below, up to the modern day in which the player finds it.

I'm not yet sure of whether work on this entry is done; I may end up editing or rewriting further. We'll see!

Furthermore, I added a label and description for the instrument as encountered in the level.

And to level five's lower puzzle I added some new responses. These are shown when the player interacts with shelves that either never hold a relevant entry, or whose entry hasn't yet been unlocked.

Doing so called for a minor extension to the code around player-character "thoughts": There are six potential responses in the set, from which one is selected at random when the player attempts a relevant interaction. But while the localisation system already had support for selecting from a list of strings, the "thought"-system didn't. Thankfully introducing such support was fairly quick and easy, as I recall!



You may recall that in last week's blog post I mentioned an alternate, early exit that had been placed within level two. Well, inspired by some feedback on this I made some changes in the week just past:

In short, this is no longer an exit. Instead, it's an optional shortcut to the location of the exit; click on it and you end up standing before the door that leads out.

And along with this, of course, the object has a new name and description, intended to convey not only that this is a jump to the exit, but also that it's optional.



On the technical side, a few issues were fixed in the week just past:

To start with, I changed the way that the selected resolution is saved: said resolution is now stored as a width and height, rather than an index in the resolution list.

This means that the game should--barring something preventing it--restore the most recent resolution even if something causes the list of available resolutions to change. Furthermore, it means that I can reliably set an arbitrary, non-listed resolution (such as for testing purposes) and have it be restored as expected on startup.

I also discovered and fixed a crash in the prologue: Some of the code around the new interaction tutorials operated under the assumption that they were present. As a result, that code failed when the player indicated that they didn't want tutorials, and those tutorials were thus cleaned up.

And finally, I fixed an issue with the text-boxes that I use in cutscenes:

It had previously been reported to me that for some players, those text-boxes were displayed with a huge scale applied--so much so that the text was cut off by the edge of the window.

For quite some time I had thought that the problem lay in OS-applied UI-scaling, and, being unsure of how to approach such a matter, had left the issue to one side.

In the week just past, however, new information was provided regarding the problem. This information in turn led me to discover that the problem did not in fact lie with UI-scaling. Instead, it lay with a scaling factor that I was applying in an attempt to keep my text-boxes the same size in all window-sizes. Simply put, I had that scaling factor inverted, making the text-boxes (proportionally) bigger in bigger windows and smaller in smaller ones.

Fixing the issue was a fairly simple matter, I'm glad to say, and the feature now seems to be working as intended!



That said... it did occur to me too that perhaps this feature isn't ideal.

In windowed mode it makes some sense: regardless of window-size, cutscene text remains at a constant, hopefully-legible scale.

In fullscreen mode, however, it means that at different resolutions cutscene text will presumably change size instead--which is not what I want at all! :/

I have yet to decide what to do about this, but I'm strongly considering removing the feature. (Or perhaps having it only take effect in windowed mode.)

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #482 on: July 27, 2020, 10:22:46 AM »

Just a note on the controller mapping: For Spaß Taxi I ended up using an asset for this (too late in the development, so I had to change a LOT ^^), because the mappings were totally different depending on the system (mac vs. pc) or the controller (xbone or ps4). If you want to support controllers (I won't, because they would feel bad in a first person game), you should probably look at a finished solution for this as it would probably take some time to support them all on your own.
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« Reply #483 on: July 27, 2020, 10:30:14 AM »

And now to the update! Smiley
 
I love the lighting of your library screenshot. I can finally get a feeling of how those crystals look "in action".
I'm wondering where the main light is coming from, though. I expected the library to be totally dark and only lit by those crystals or the player lamp.
 
Nice work on those text boxes. I will test them in the next demo. Smiley
 
And I like it when there is some dynamic to the texts you get while examining stuff, caused by new knowledge of the character.
 
About the shortcut: I think it's a nicely working implementation. I'd probably change two things (I LOVE changing things on the stuff others did, because it basically means ZERO work for me ^^):
- the symbol: how about footsteps leading TOWARDS the door for the shortcut and an arrow pointing INTO the door for the actual exit?
- I fell that the "(optional)" is kinda... optional.  Smiley
 
Overall: Great work again! Keep it up!
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« Reply #484 on: July 27, 2020, 10:51:29 AM »

<insert picture>

Wow, the pit is much darker than I recall! ;P

Oh, haha Cheesy I even uploaded the picture but didn't actually put it in!


Gamepad / controls

Apologies, I should have been more clear in my feedback, I was using an Xbox 360 controller.

Gamepad controls are a difficult thing to get right, especially for a game that's not originally designed with them in mind. There are very well-embedded conventions about how gamepad controls should work, and straying from those conventions quickly makes a game feel very unintuitive. The game did feel much more naturally suited to the keyboard and mouse controls, and I think that's understandable. The game's audience may not be the kind of audience that picks up the gamepad by default.

However if you do wish to try and better support gamepad controls in the game, there are some steps you could take to make a more consistent experience:

  • Separate out the commands for menu-related inputs and game-related inputs. The 'action' command is bound to the right trigger by default, and this makes sense for in-game actions such as picking up a rock. It doesn't make sense for menus though. I'd expect something like a 'menu confirmation' command that would be bound to the A button by default (the bottom-most face button).
  • Allowing menu navigation using both the left stick and the dpad. This can be awkward to implement if input systems are set up to only have a single binding for each action. However it's expected for menus to be navigatable using either method.
  • Turning controls on/off at appropriate times. An example of this would be only allowing the quick save / quick load inputs during gameplay, not during menus, where to me it doesn't feel appropriate. This is especially true when the quick load is bound to the dpad, which players would expect to use for menu navigation. Trying to move the cursor and accidentally loading the quick save could be a destructive action that causes a lot of frustration.

Hmm... Unless the bindings have been changed, right trigger should be the button that performs the "action" command, and which thus activates menu items and picks things up. I'm not sure of why it wouldn't be working...

Would you be willing to check your gamepad bindings for me (in the options menu), please?

Right Trigger is indeed bound to the 'action' command. It didn't seem to work though, either for menu selection or for picking up the rock.

I wonder if this is related to an issue with the Xbox 360 / Xbox One controller itself. There's an issue with how the Right Trigger and Left Trigger on these controllers is exposed through the standard joypad interface.





For some reason both triggers are mapped to the same axis. The Left Trigger is positive, and the Right Trigger is negative. (The punchline to this joke is that pressing them both at the same time results in a value of zero!) I wonder if this is the reason for the Right Trigger not being detected by the game? That the game is looking for a positive value on that axis?

The trigger values can only be correctly detected by using the XInput API to read the controller's inputs, as far as I know. It's possible that Panda 3D already does this for you, and that there's a different issue at play here.

- Inventory controls are awkward - tried to press RB to change tab but it brought up the sword description instead.

I take it that "RB" means "right bumper", which is the right "shoulder" button? (As I said, I'm not all that familiar with controller-usage. ^^; )

If so, then indeed, I currently have that button mapped to the "look" command, with right ''trigger'' mapped to the "action" command. Hence the right bumper bringing up the description!

I take it that this is not a standard mapping, even when both examination and action are important verbs in a game?

Yes RB is the right shoulder button.

I don't know if there is a standard mapping for this, actually! At the time I wrote that feedback, I didn't even know that the game had a 'look' command. I was simply trying to navigate the menus and expected the LB / RB buttons to cycle through the tabs.

In the wider context of the whole game, it certainly makes sense to have a common button for the 'look' command that works the same throughout both menus and gameplay, and RB is a good default choice for this I think. Having a shortcut button on the gamepad to change menu tabs is convenient but not necessary.

- Sword description stayed visible after exiting inventory (Edit: I later realised that this is just how descriptions are displayed throughout the whole game, however it did feel like a bug on this occasion, because it felt like the description was part of the menu that had incorrectly remained on screen).

Hmm... I suppose that I could have such descriptions disappear when switching from a menu. Doing so does feel a little unnatural to me--but if leaving them there is likely to confuse players then it may be a worthwhile concession.

I do think it makes sense for a description of something in the inventory to disappear once the inventory has closed (or perhaps even once the inventory item is no longer highlighted?). At the time of writing the feedback originally, this was the first time I'd encountered the description pop-up in the game, so I didn't know that it normally disappears by itself after a length of time.

- Rebooting the game, the intro screen shows "Press Left Trigger or Back to continue" - why not just the A button?

Forgive me, but which one is the "A" button? ^^;; (I think that it's one of the four on the right--but my controller doesn't have the standard labels, and in any case, I gather that these labels vary from controller to controller.)

As to why left-trigger or back, I think that this is because those buttons map (by default) to "jump" or "close menu" (space or escape on the keyboard). I originally allowed a much broader set of controls to advance such screens, but had feedback that this could produce problems in which players could accidentally advance through cutscenes due to pressing buttons just after ending a level. Thus I limited the controls that advance cutscenes and the like to "jump" and "close menu", two actions that are unlikely to occur when exiting a level.

I've covered this in notes above, but yeah it's just a case of which gamepad buttons are considered the normal one for certain scenarios. On the Xbox controller the A button (bottommost face button) is typically used to advance through menus or through splash screens such as this one. Left Trigger would be a strange choice, and the Back button is even stranger given its name! Smiley

A lot of modern games seem to require the player to press a button multiple times to skip a cutscene, or display a confirmation prompt before skipping the cutscene, which could be a good alternative solution if you have problems with cutscenes being accidentally skipped.

Also the looking around does seem to have analogue controls, but the minimum speed is very high so it's hard to turn by small amounts.

Did you try adjusting the sensitivity in the options menu? It should, I think, be possible to reduce it if the default is too high.

I didn't try this, I don't think I looked into the menus properly. Perhaps because of the issues I had with navigating menus using the dpad, I didn't get as far as to look at the control sensitivity options.
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« Reply #485 on: July 27, 2020, 11:49:38 AM »

Just a note on the controller mapping: ...

Hmm... I'm not sure that Panda3D has such a 3rd-party plugin. The engine does some of the work for you, but a fair bit is left to the developer.

(At the least the bindings aren't set in stone: players can re-bind their mappings.)

~~~

I love the lighting of your library screenshot. I can finally get a feeling of how those crystals look "in action".

Ah, excellent! I'm really glad to read that! :D

I'm wondering where the main light is coming from, though. I expected the library to be totally dark and only lit by those crystals or the player lamp.

Actually... The crystal and the player-light are the only lights active in that image. However, it may be that some of the unfinished geometry present there (the mezzanine is a salient example) is resulting in odd-looking shading.
 
Nice work on those text boxes. I will test them in the next demo. Smiley

Thank you very much! Such testing would be very much appreciated, I do believe. :D
 
And I like it when there is some dynamic to the texts you get while examining stuff, caused by new knowledge of the character.

It's something that I hope that I manage to keep up, because it really can add to the experience of a game, I feel! ^_^
 
About the shortcut: I think it's a nicely working implementation.

Thank you! ^_^

- the symbol: how about footsteps leading TOWARDS the door for the shortcut and an arrow pointing INTO the door for the actual exit?

That could work--however, in this case the footsteps reference the icon used for exits (which contains footsteps). Thus I'm hoping that this icon, by indicating "move to the place of footsteps" suggests "move to the exit".

- I fell that the "(optional)" is kinda... optional.  Smiley

It very much is--but I really want it to be clear that this is an optional teleportation. Such text isn't entirely in keeping with the rest of the game--but better than players thinking that they can't walk through, I feel. ^^;
 
Overall: Great work again! Keep it up!

Thank you very much, and I do intend to! :D

~~~

Oh, haha Cheesy I even uploaded the picture but didn't actually put it in!

Ah, much better! ^_^

Yeah, I can see someone going off there--but then jumping around in places like this is a dangerous affair, and that danger is intended to be introduced at some point.

That said, it is still early in the game at that point, so being gentle and providing a nearby autosave seems like a very good idea indeed!

Apologies, I should have been more clear in my feedback, I was using an Xbox 360 controller.

Not a problem; thank you for clarifying! ^_^

Gamepad controls are a difficult thing to get right, especially for a game that's not originally designed with them in mind. There are very well-embedded conventions about how gamepad controls should work, and straying from those conventions quickly makes a game feel very unintuitive.

Ah, ouch. Fair enough, and thank you for so informing me!

The game did feel much more naturally suited to the keyboard and mouse controls, and I think that's understandable. The game's audience may not be the kind of audience that picks up the gamepad by default.

It is tempting to leave out controller support--but I also fear that, with some seeming to reach for a controller by default, not supporting controllers at all might cost me a chunk of audience who might otherwise have enjoyed the game.

However if you do wish to try and better support gamepad controls in the game, there are some steps you could take to make a more consistent experience:

...

Ah, I see; thank you.

Hmm... Some of that could be a little awkward with my current setup, I fear.

(I'll confess that some of it seems really counter-intuitive to me. Having separate "action" commands for gameplay and menus feels weird! Still, fair enough if this is how players tend to prefer things to be!)

Right Trigger is indeed bound to the 'action' command. It didn't seem to work though, either for menu selection or for picking up the rock.

I wonder if this is related to an issue with the Xbox 360 / Xbox One controller itself. There's an issue with how the Right Trigger and Left Trigger on these controllers is exposed through the standard joypad interface.

...

Aah, interesting.

I'm pretty sure that Panda3D could detect that, and I think that my control-code could handle it, but I think that a separate key-binding set would likely be called for. (Or otherwise the player binding their controller manually.)

Without having an XBox controller to hand it's hard to be confident, but I think that my default bindings are expecting different input-data there.

I don't know if there is a standard mapping for this, actually! At the time I wrote that feedback, I didn't even know that the game had a 'look' command. I was simply trying to navigate the menus and expected the LB / RB buttons to cycle through the tabs.

In the wider context of the whole game, it certainly makes sense to have a common button for the 'look' command that works the same throughout both menus and gameplay, and RB is a good default choice for this I think. Having a shortcut button on the gamepad to change menu tabs is convenient but not necessary.

Okay, fair enough! Thank you for the feedback on it. ^_^

(Funnily enough, I seem to recall that at one point I did actually have the shoulder buttons cycling through the tabs. But I have so many controls in this game, most rather more important than cycling tabs, and so that was left aside. ^^;

As the game stands right now, the player should be able to cycle between tabs via the left and right D-Pad buttons; I don't remember offhand whether this was the case in the demo.)

I do think it makes sense for a description of something in the inventory to disappear once the inventory has closed (or perhaps even once the inventory item is no longer highlighted?). At the time of writing the feedback originally, this was the first time I'd encountered the description pop-up in the game, so I didn't know that it normally disappears by itself after a length of time.

That does make sense--but conversely (at least from my perspective as the developer), those descriptions are intended to be more or less thoughts on the part of the character, and a thought I might expect to continue to completion even if it overlaps the disappearance of the thing that spawned it.

I've covered this in notes above, but yeah it's just a case of which gamepad buttons are considered the normal one for certain scenarios. On the Xbox controller the A button (bottommost face button) is typically used to advance through menus or through splash screens such as this one. Left Trigger would be a strange choice, and the Back button is even stranger given its name! Smiley

A lot of modern games seem to require the player to press a button multiple times to skip a cutscene, or display a confirmation prompt before skipping the cutscene, which could be a good alternative solution if you have problems with cutscenes being accidentally skipped.

I rather like that idea. Perhaps I'll switch back to "press any control to continue" and simply require a second press to skip! Thank you again! ^_^

I didn't try this, I don't think I looked into the menus properly. Perhaps because of the issues I had with navigating menus using the dpad, I didn't get as far as to look at the control sensitivity options.

That's fair!
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« Reply #486 on: July 28, 2020, 12:35:33 AM »

"Oh hey, I haven't subbed to the A Door To The Mists devlog yet"

[sees last two pages of text]

"Is this a bad time?" Who, Me?
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« Reply #487 on: July 28, 2020, 01:17:00 AM »

Haha! XD

That... is quite a daunting conversation, isn't it?

Don't worry: most of the longer posts that aren't blog entries are related to feedback on the demo. (That is, Ishi gave me demo-feedback, and there's been discussion about various points in that feedback--perhaps most especially the tricky business of controller support.)

While thoughts on those points are very much welcome, and may give you some idea of what I might work on in the future, I think that you can get pretty much up-to-date on the state of the game by reading only the recent blog entries!

[edit] Or, if you just want a quick summary, simply ask! ^_^
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« Reply #488 on: July 28, 2020, 02:43:34 AM »

you should improve the HUD. Try to use a modern design
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« Reply #489 on: July 28, 2020, 06:42:22 AM »

you should improve the HUD. Try to use a modern design

Well, what do you have in mind? What elements of the HUD do you find problematic?
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« Reply #490 on: August 03, 2020, 01:59:53 AM »

Blog post (3rd of August, 2020)
Press Any Key, Twice


Summary: In which various minor tweaks are made to levels one and five; the examination of paint-flecks is removed; the examination of murals is added; a sound for an activating crystal is added; ledge-grabbing sounds are reworked; cutscenes are skippable by pressing near-any key twice; and some minor bug-fixes and changes are made.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows a mural in level one being now examinable:



The week just past was primarily one of level-tweaking, audio-work, and one perhaps-notable change to the skipping of cutscenes:

To start with, I made a few fairly-small changes to level one (that is, the first level after the prologue), in response to feedback given regarding the demo.

Most of this was fairly minor: a response for using a particular item on a particular object; adjustments to the collision-boxes of the stone-panels and keyholes in the upper tombs; distinguishing the two wooden keys; and adding a new autosave point at the entrances to the "pit" area.

I also removed the ability to examine the flecks of paint that are visible in two places--these arguably aren't all that interesting. Conversely and perhaps more interestingly, however, I added the ability to examine the murals found in the lower tombs--as shown in the screenshot above.

These murals are separated into two sets: those showing the general run of figures, and those showing one particular, prominent figure. The response to any mural within a given set is the same, but changes should the player examine more than one (barring some duplicates): Check just one mural in a set, and the base response is given; check another, elsewhere, and a new response is prompted.

On the audio side, I added a sound for the activation of the crystal light in level five. Some parts of the audio-work for this did prove tricky for me--in particular the production of a sort of metallic "crunching" sound, as of two pieces of ice ground together. Still, I think that I have something that works!

Sticking with audio, one piece of feedback that I had on the demo was the suggestion of adding sounds for the character catching onto a ledge. I thought that this seemed like a good idea, and seemed to recall that I'd previously attempted it, but had been dissatisfied with the results.

I was surprised, then, to go to my project and discover that such sounds were already present and being played!

I concluded, I think, that the sounds that I had were thus not sufficiently noticeable. And further, I wasn't all that enthused with them.

So I reworked them--both completely replacing the sounds themselves and making some tweaks to the code that controls them.

You should hear in the video below, then, the results:
(If you don't hear anything as of the first block climbed, perhaps turn up the volume--but then beware of the volume of the end-of-video music!)





On the technical side, I made a change to the manner of skipping cutscenes.

It had been pointed out to me that, while the space-bar and escape-key were perfectly fine keyboard-buttons for skipping, their corresponding gamepad-buttons were a little unexpected.

Furthermore, it was suggested to me that the potential issue of accidentally skipping due to a belated press of an in-game control could perhaps be dealt with by requiring a second press to confirm the skip.

And so, in the week just past I implemented cutscene-skipping by the pressing of (nearly) any button, but twice.

In short, if during a cutscene the player presses a button, a timer is begun. If they press the same button again within that timer, the cutscene is skipped; if they press another button, the timer is reset with that new button as the potential "skip" button; and if they do nothing, the timer runs out and the state of the system is reset.

This comes with a simple prompt that pops up on the first press of a given button, and that fades away if the timer is allowed to run past a certain threshold.

You should see a brief demonstration of the system below (cropped for focus): In this, I believe, I press the space-bar, wait for the timer to run out, and then press the left mouse-button twice. That second press of the mouse-button then skips the cutscene, thus producing the loading screen.



And finally, I also implemented a few minor changes and (I hope!) bug-fixes that don't seem worth detailing here, including the attending-to of some crashes related to quick-loading at certain points.

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #491 on: August 04, 2020, 03:44:19 PM »

Thanks for paying so much attention to my feedback, these changes all look (and sound) great! I like with the ledge-grabbing sounds that the initial 'grab' sound seems to be louder in cases where the jump distance was longer. The system for receiving different descriptions while inspecting multiple murals also sounds like it rewards exploration nicely. Smiley
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« Reply #492 on: August 05, 2020, 01:35:19 AM »

That's a really nice update. Adding more descriptions brings the environment to live, I think. And having audio feedback to movement actions is nice and important. I think it's important for feeling part of the world, otherwise you'd feel like a soul gliding through the world. Smiley
 
As for the skip button: Sometimes I think that it might be easier to stick to standards. It's totally nice to have a skip key, although I hate those "skip the story" people (unless it's borderlands, where you had to watch the same videos over and over again until recently ^^).
I bet your approach will work fine, but it feels overly complicated. I'd add a small info text that appears when the player presses any key during a cutscene in a screen corner with a fixed skip key, like "Hold X to skip". Then you'd hold X and the text would fill/recolor from left to right until the video is eventually skipped. I think this is the most common approach and how I'd do this. Bus as always: This is just something that came up while reading your update and I'm sure your method will work fine as well. Smiley
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« Reply #493 on: August 06, 2020, 07:21:50 AM »

Thanks for paying so much attention to my feedback, ...

It's my pleasure, and thank you very much for all of your feedback! ^_^

... these changes all look (and sound) great!

Thank you very much! ^_^

I like with the ledge-grabbing sounds that the initial 'grab' sound seems to be louder in cases where the jump distance was longer.

Excellent, and thank you--I'm glad that it is effective! ^_^

(Technically, the sounds should be louder--and faster--when the "grab" happens during a moment of high vertical velocity--as in a fall. But that likely will correlate somewhat with further jumps, I imagine!)

The system for receiving different descriptions while inspecting multiple murals also sounds like it rewards exploration nicely. Smiley

I hope so! ^_^

(I do worry a little that it'll leave the longer levels feeling more dull by comparison, as it's less feasible for me to pack them as densely. But ah well, we'll see.)

~~~

That's a really nice update.

Thank you very much! ^_^

Adding more descriptions brings the environment to live, I think.

I hope so indeed! ^_^

And having audio feedback to movement actions is nice and important. I think it's important for feeling part of the world, otherwise you'd feel like a soul gliding through the world. Smiley

Thank you!

And indeed, I agree: it really can be amazing just what a difference audio makes; how it can add to a sense of place and presence and tangibility.

I'll confess that I have in the past had a tendency to forget about audio. Perhaps I'm better now than I once was--I hope so, at least.


As for the skip button: Sometimes I think that it might be easier to stick to standards. It's totally nice to have a skip key, although I hate those "skip the story" people (unless it's borderlands, where you had to watch the same videos over and over again until recently ^^).
I bet your approach will work fine, but it feels overly complicated. I'd add a small info text that appears when the player presses any key during a cutscene in a screen corner with a fixed skip key, like "Hold X to skip". Then you'd hold X and the text would fill/recolor from left to right until the video is eventually skipped. I think this is the most common approach and how I'd do this. Bus as always: This is just something that came up while reading your update and I'm sure your method will work fine as well. Smiley

Heh, hopefully this approach will indeed prove acceptable! ^^;

It is more complicated than simply requiring that some specific key be pressed, indeed. But then I think that I like allowing players to skip with pretty much any key: For one thing, it's convenient; and for another, it requires less pre-existing knowledge of video game conventions. And for those who are familiar with said conventions, they should find that the expected key still works--they just have to press it twice.

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« Reply #494 on: August 10, 2020, 03:48:00 AM »

Blog post (10th of August, 2020)
A Perplexing Puzzle


Summary: In which crystal-light appearances are worked on; a railing is made; "cutscene mode" is more-explicitly conveyed; level five's upper puzzle is implemented; audio is made for a part of that puzzle; and demo-specific screens are worked on.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows changes to the shading of the crystal lights in level five:



The week just past was a little slow, but nevertheless a number of things were done:

On the visual side, and as shown above, work continued on the crystal lights found in level five.

For one, the working light is no longer washed a near-uniform blue, flattening it and obscuring its glow. To achieve this, I rearranged things a bit such that the illuminating blob-light--the source of that blue--would no longer take effect on the crystal. Then, so that the crystal wouldn't be too dark, I added another, dimmer blob-light to more-faintly brighten the crystal, and that alone.

Furthermore, the effect of blob-lights in the crystal shaders has been tweaked, now employing vector-reflection to give a slightly more accurate highlight.




Sticking with changes to level five, I did a little bit of work on its visible geometry, too: there is now a proper railing in place of the previous stand-in.



On the UI and gameplay side, I added a new state to the in-game central cursor.

There are occasions in A Door to the Mists in which the game briefly enters an in-engine cutscene, generally to cover a longish action taken by the player. For example, this happens when clearing the debris-blockage in level two, with a fade to black, audio of things being moved, and a fade back in. (Don't worry, such occasions are intended to be rare!)

But it occurred to me in the week just past that this wasn't conveyed very well.

In particular, there's an "in-engine cutscene" that plays out in level five when, on the player's prompting, the player-character makes an initial skim through the lower-level books. This involves the view fading out and in a few times, on each occasion showing a different set of bookshelves, until at a certain point a lead is found and control is restored to the player.

But since the various fade-ins look much the same as ordinary gameplay, there was no clearly-indicated divide between "no, you can't move yet" and "yes, you can move now".

So in the week just past I set about to--hopefully!--better convey this state.

In short, when the game now enters "cutscene mode", the central cursor--usually a fuzzy dot--is replaced by a small scroll containing an ellipsis; once control is restored, the standard cursor is likewise restored.



The week just past also saw work on the upper-level puzzle found in level five--a bit of puzzle-design that has proven quite tricky!

You may recall that on the lower level, the player is tasked with following various references from book to book, uncovering information as they go.

On the upper level things are different: here the books and papers are historical records, ordered by date; there isn't the same referential connectivity to trace. Instead, the player is tasked with finding a specific point in history, containing information that will send them on to the next stage of the journey.

But how to implement this as a puzzle?

I went through several variations: simply giving the player the data--multiple entries per shelf--and letting them get on with it; creating an explicit binary-search puzzle; having them choose from keywords to search for, and automating the rest; jumping the player from binary-search point to binary-search point; and perhaps others that I'm forgetting besides.

All had problems: being too easy; encouraging tedious brute-forcing; relying on knowledge of binary searching; potentially disorienting the player; and so on.

In the end, I went with something simple: Each shelf is divided into four date-spans, giving a total of sixty-eight sections to potentially look at. Examining a section reports what of relevance--if anything--is found there. The player is thus tasked with determining whether a given result indicates that its point in history lies before or after the desired one (if it isn't that point itself, of course).

However, when a section is examined, I also then re-label all of the shelf-sections, showing not only their date-range but whether they fall before and after that point. This, I hope, will nudge players away from brute-forcing and towards some degree of binary search.

You can see this labelling below, albeit with the actual labels being as-yet unwritten (what you're seeing instead are the underlying text-ids):



As with the lower-level puzzle, this upper-level puzzle begins with the protagonist skimming over various documents in the above-mentioned "cutscene mode". In the week just past, then, I also added a sound to accompany this, composed of footsteps and page-turnings.

Moving away from level five, in the week just past I put in some work on two screens specific to the demo.

The first is simply the end-of-demo screen; while it existed previously, with the new demo being longer than the old it has now been moved to occur after level five.

The second is a short demo-note that stands in place of level three: with that level not yet built, this note serves to inform the player of the plot-advancement that takes place there, and to allow them to continue on. This is visually a bit sparse yet, but the functionality is there and at least a first draft of the text has been written.

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

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #495 on: August 13, 2020, 10:38:22 AM »

Another nice update! Smiley
The crystal lights look nice.
The railing is nice, too. I like that it stops a meter before the platform, just like: If you stand there, it's your own fault for falling down! =P
 
I bet the cutscene cursor will work, although it might be a bit distracting, being a lot larger than the interactive cursor. Your cursor is very faint anyway, so it might not work by just hiding the cursor (and thus your means to interact with the world) to indicate that you should sit back.
I don't know if it's just visible in your example screenshot, but I'd expect all UI and info texts to disappear in the cutscene (unless they are part of it in which case everything is fine ^^).
 
The puzzle part is interesting. I think your approach wil work out. I will check it out in the next demo (hopefully). ^^
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« Reply #496 on: August 14, 2020, 04:52:05 AM »

Another nice update! Smiley
The crystal lights look nice.
The railing is nice, too.

Thank you very much, on all counts! ^_^

I like that it stops a meter before the platform, just like: If you stand there, it's your own fault for falling down! =P

Honestly, I forgot about the edges! I should go back and figure out what should actually happen there! ^^;

I bet the cutscene cursor will work, although it might be a bit distracting, being a lot larger than the interactive cursor.

Hmm... That is a concern. That said, "cutscene mode" usually involves a fade-to-black, so there's not much that's visible for the cursor to distract the player from.

Well, we'll see how players react, I suppose!

I don't know if it's just visible in your example screenshot, but I'd expect all UI and info texts to disappear in the cutscene (unless they are part of it in which case everything is fine ^^).

Ah, that's a good point--I should perhaps have those fall behind the fade-to-black, indeed! Thank you for mentioning it! ^_^
 
The puzzle part is interesting. I think your approach wil work out. I will check it out in the next demo (hopefully). ^^

Thank you! ^_^

I've actually--albeit tentatively--just today decided to implement a sort of mini-minigame-puzzle-thing for this. What I had just didn't feel like enough: even with fades-to-black to slow things down, it still felt too viable to just brute-force one's way through it.

Again, we'll see how players react--I'll confess that I am a little uncertain about this, and especially about introducing a (possibly once-off) minigame so late in the experience... ^^;
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« Reply #497 on: August 17, 2020, 03:07:32 AM »

Blog post (17th of August, 2020)
Searching the Shelves


Summary: In which a demo-note is likely finalised; the level-five upper-puzzle sees much work; a new mechanic is added for the level-five upper-puzzle; and a plot-relevant inventory item is added.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows the note intended to be shown in place of level three in the new demo:



Perhaps the primary work of the week just past was in the upper puzzle of level five, with a small miscellany of other things done besides:

As shown above, the note shown in place of level three was updated in the week just past: touch-ups were made to the text, a bit of logic added, and a border placed to either side. I think that this is more or less done now, barring further touch-ups!

But, as mentioned above, the main work of the week just past was likely that which was done towards the upper-level puzzle in level five.

Some of this was fairly uninteresting: the writing of various responses for historical events discovered in the puzzle; adjustments to the position and orientation that is the end-point of the initial cutscene-mode skim through the documents; adding of a few clues to the level's clue-page to give direction here; assignment of year-ranges to each section of bookshelf; and possibly a few other things besides.



Perhaps more interesting is the structure of the puzzle itself.

I believe that I've mentioned before that I've had some uncertainty regarding this puzzle: how might I make a search through date-sorted histories engaging?

As of last week's blog-post, I had taken a simple approach, as I recall: each shelf was divided into four sections, and the player was tasked with examining a given section, determining whether the revealed information--if any--lay before the target section or after, and then moving to a new section as appropriate.

That basic premise remains, but in the week just past I realised that by itself it was just too easy to brute-force. There were, after all, only sixty-eight sections (I think that it was), leaving few enough that simply going from one end to the other wasn't overly troublesome.

At first I tried to deal with this via a simple fade-to-black, held for a few seconds, with the sounds of page-searching overlaid. This did slow things down... but still not enough, I feared. And furthermore, it wasn't terribly interesting.

I did have another idea--but I wasn't sure that it fit the game in tone. In addition, using it meant adding a new minigame-puzzle, not only late in development, but somewhat late in the experience of the game, too. Was this wise...?

But I wasn't happy with the fade-to-black, and the minigame might at least give the player something to do, and so I implemented it.

In short, this minigame presents the player with a page of miscellaneous words, and asks the player to select the one word relevant to the search. Do so correctly, and a useful response is given; otherwise, a response indicating that nothing was found is given.

There is a catch, however: there's no guarantee that a given section, and thus its associated puzzle, will contain such a relevant word: some sections just don't hold anything of interest.

It's a simple mechanic, but I'm hoping that it will engage players a bit more in the search than just clicking on sections might, and slow them down enough to disincentivise brute-forcing.

Right now the words have vertical offsets to baffle the eye a little, making it harder to skim over the lines; I'm not yet confident of keeping this.

Furthermore, I currently have it in mind to add an accessibility mode that reduces the number of words and spaces them out further.



In the week just past I also added the inventory item that's gained at the end of this level: a date torn from a history-record, associated with an important event in the timeline of the city Ketel/Catol. I don't intend to show that here, however, as it's a bit of a spoiler for the upper-level puzzle!

And finally, a few other things were done 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 #498 on: August 18, 2020, 08:58:37 AM »

I wanted to answer earlier, but I was searching for the right words (no pun intended... ok, maybe a little).
This page with all those words is kinda looking like an old school copy protection, where you had to enter the 3rd word on page 4, paragraph 3 (Sierra, I'm looking at you!). It seems overly complicated to keep the player from bruteforcing it. What I fear the most is a player that gets so frustrated that he stops playing, not that he brute forces it.
I had players brute force a puzzle that was totally obvious to me. Smiley
 
Alright, but to be honest: I would need to see that in action to get really know how this plays out. I'm not even saying that this might work. But just from looking at this devlog entry I was kinda... overwhelmed by your fight against brute force players. =P
 
PS: Of course I still admire all your thoughts that went into this puzzle to make it work. I'm kinda anxious when it comes to the playable build of my next puzzle for internal testers. I actually fear that I will have to completely change it.  XD
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« Reply #499 on: August 18, 2020, 09:37:31 AM »

I am, straight up, a huge fan of presenting problems with potentially no solution or reward, where part of the solving is choosing how much to commit to discovering just how unsolvable it is.

Regarding the "old school copy protection" look, is there any chance you could display this exact same minigame as titles on book spines, rather than clickable words on a page? That feels like a significantly more tangible feel-y satisfying metaphor for what you're trying to do here.
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