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September 19, 2020, 02:41:09 PM

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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsA Door to the Mists--[DEMO updated!]--traversal, exploration, puzzles and combat
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Author Topic: A Door to the Mists--[DEMO updated!]--traversal, exploration, puzzles and combat  (Read 38523 times)
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« Reply #500 on: August 18, 2020, 09:51:13 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

I definitely hear you: it's not the most interesting of puzzles ever!

As to brute-forcing, it's less that I want to fight brute-forcing at every turn than that I fear having brute-forcing becoming the dominant strategy. I fear having the process of going through the shelves be so quick and easy that there's little reason to engage with the puzzle: Why bother thinking about how to accomplish the task when one can just click from one end to the other and be done in (unhyperbolically) a minute or two?

If brute-forcing does end up as a dominant strategy, then this final set of interactions becomes rather boring--rote clicking until the reward is given.

And while that might be okay on occasion, I don't want it to be the experience at the end of this level, in particular given that this is the final part of the search for an important clue and the lead-up to a plot-advancing discovery. And furthermore, I don't want it to be the experience on which the demo (more or less) ends.

In addition, the puzzle isn't all that far removed from what the character does in this section: skimming through irrelevant entries looking for scattered references of interest.

(Heh, I do somewhat-fondly recall those old copy-protection methods. ^_^)

PS: Of course I still admire all your thoughts that went into this puzzle to make it work.

Thank you; I appreciate that. ^_^

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

Heh, I do understand such a feeling, I do believe!

(Indeed, I've been hesitant to move too far with this mechanic of mine, waiting for feedback such as you and droqen have given.)


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.

That's encouraging to read! ^_^

And indeed, that's part of what I like about this: the question of how long to spend looking through a set of words, knowing that there may be nothing there--one doesn't want to spend a long time and come away with nothing, but conversely, one doesn't want to dismiss a given set too quickly and potentially miss something...

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.

Hmm... Book spines specifically wouldn't quite work, I think: it doesn't match the nature of the documents present, and doesn't allow for enough entries to make the finding of a single entry somewhat challenging.

But perhaps a change of presentation might help, indeed--I'll give that some thought, I intend. Thank you! ^_^

[edit]

Hmm... I may have an idea...
« Last Edit: August 18, 2020, 10:37:15 AM by Thaumaturge » Logged


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« Reply #501 on: August 24, 2020, 01:40:49 AM »

Blog post (24th of August, 2020)
Revamping a Puzzle


Summary: In which the level-five upper-puzzle sees further work, and visual changes; the end-of-demo screen is reworked; level five's geometry gains a few elements; levels four and five have music assigned, and in one case logic added; and a variety of minor changes are made.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows an updated end-of-demo screen--albeit redacted somewhat to eschew spoilers. You'll have to wait for the next demo to see what it says beneath the coverings! Wink



The work of the week just past was somewhat of a miscellany: there was puzzle-design; graphical work; bug-fixing; and even a little bit each of music, level-detailing, and writing!

Perhaps the most salient piece of work done in the week just past was once again the development of the upper puzzle of level five.

I believe that I reported last week that I had implemented a simple minigame to form part of this puzzle; a matter of searching through a page full of words, aiming to find, if present, one relevant to the puzzle's objective.

However, it was pointed out that said minigame was somewhat lacking. And indeed, I think that I agree: as presented last week it was a fairly insipid thing, just a page with lines of arbitrary text.

So, in the week just past I put further work into improving it.

For a while my primary focus was on reworking the puzzle entirely. I went through several potential mechanics: overlapping pages that had to be moved; papers that one examined to reveal their contents; and perhaps other things besides. Possibly my favourite was the idea of overlapping pages, potentially leaving the player uncertain of whether they'd seen everything. But still, none quite worked for me.

So in the end I retreated somewhat: I returned to the previous mechanic of finding a single word amongst many, and instead reworked its presentation. Instead of words lined up on a page, they're now each placed on a separate scrap of paper, and those scattered more widely. This, I think, makes for a more interesting appearance, and perhaps even makes the search just a little bit trickier as a result of visual clutter.



The other largish change of the week just past is the one shown in the screenshot above: I've significantly reworked the end-of-demo screen!

Previously, this was simply text against falling mist, with a few vague images flanking, and some buttons at the bottom.

Reworked--and rewritten--the text has a paper backdrop and is shifted to one side. To the left, the falling mist now backs a series of more-specific teaser-images. Amongst the link-buttons at the bottom, a link to my TIGSource dev-log has been added. Furthermore, those link-buttons have been reworked--and I'm rather happier with this button-image than its predecessor, I do believe! And finally, I'm experimenting with a new choice of music for this screen.

On the level-editing side, I did a little work on the geometry of level five in the week just past: the railings of the mezzanine now ward the open ends near the doorway as well as the long curve; and pens, inkwells, and papers have been added to the central tables.

Furthermore, music has been assigned to both level five and level four. In the former case, this is much as with previous levels. In the latter, a different piece of music is used--and logic has been added to change it as the enemy found there goes to the attack!

And finally, a number of changes were made that don't seem worth detailing here: pieces of writing related to the upper puzzle of level five; the hiding of the item -icon and -name when fading to black for "cutscene mode"; a few tweaks here and there; and a variety of bug-fixes!

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #502 on: August 24, 2020, 10:23:22 AM »

The "pile of words" is a big improvement. I kinda like the look, although I still have no idea how it's used. Smiley
I bet the ending screen looks nice in motion, too.
You know what I am hinting at...
I DEMAND A DEMO!  Smiley
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« Reply #503 on: August 24, 2020, 11:21:25 AM »

The "pile of words" is a big improvement. I kinda like the look, ...

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

... although I still have no idea how it's used. Smiley

Heh, it's really simple; I'll leave it unsaid for now (unless you ask directly), and we'll see perhaps whether it proves easy to pick up in-game!

I bet the ending screen looks nice in motion, too.

I hope so! (I am somewhat fond of my mist effect, I'll confess. ^^; )

You know what I am hinting at...
I DEMAND A DEMO!  Smiley

Hahah, in due time, I do hope!

There's work yet to be done--but I think that I am perhaps getting there...
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« Reply #504 on: August 31, 2020, 01:49:53 AM »

Blog post (31st of August, 2020)
Problematic Polygons


Summary: In which the end-of-demo screen is polished; the contact-dialogue is updated; the logic of examination is tweaked; an accessibility mode is added for the new minigame; level five's geometry sees work; and a troublesome problem is encountered.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows a decorated iron staircase--and the source (or notifier) of a problem...



The week just past was, I think, a reasonably productive one, the above-mentioned problem aside:

I mentioned last week, I believe, that I had updated the end-of-demo screen. In the week just past, then, I made some likely-final tweaks and polishings of it: I touched up some text; I worked on the logic, placement, and transparency of an animated element; and I finalised the music to be used (different now from that used in the previous demo, I believe).

Hopefully this screen is now ready for the next demo!

Similarly, I made some changes to the "contact" dialogue that can be opened from the main menu.

To start with, it now uses the button made for the end-of-demo screen.

Perhaps more notably, the button-texts have been shortened, each now showing only a one-word name for their destination; the full URLs are now parenthetical in labels beneath. The result is far more readable and appealing, I feel!

And finally, I added a link to the TIGSource devlog to the list of buttons there.

Here, then, is the result:



On the game-logic side, I made a tweak to the handling of the examination of objects within the game.

This was prompted by an issue that I'd discovered in the conclusion to the upper puzzle in level five: when it was completed, multiple "character-thoughts" were initiated, conveying the protagonist's response to the discovery made there, and indicating what next to do. This worked well enough. However, these events occurred with the player looking at the bookshelves of that puzzle. As a result, clicking through those "character-thoughts" (without moving away) resulted in examination of the bookshelves, and thus multiple iterations of the response to that examination.

And indeed, it makes sense that while clicking through responses, the player may not intend to examine something new--let alone multiple times over.

That said, I do want players to be able to examine objects while a preceding "thought" is showing: requiring that they first click away the "thought" seems cumbersome, and may disincentivise examination.

So, after some thought on the matter, what I implemented then was this: examination occurs only if there are no "thoughts" in the queue, waiting to be shown; if there are no more queued--even if one is showing--then examination occurs as before. This means that when there are multiple "thoughts" to click through, the player won't be flooded by unintended examinations.

It's not perfect: when the last "thought" in the queue is removed and shown on-screen, the logic once again allows for an unintended examination--but at the least only one, and not several!

Sticking with game-logic, with the new minigame for the upper puzzle pretty much settled, I added an accessibility mode for it. This provides a much-simplified version of the puzzle, perhaps useful for those who either don't like the experience or have trouble with it:



The geometry for level five also saw work in the week just past.

I polished the rough form of the mezzanine; worked on the collision geometry for the railings there; and added a material where it was missing.

But perhaps most saliently, I put in place the model for the staircases that would provide easy access to the mezzanine--if only they weren't very much locked, and quite unpickable for our protagonist.

These are tall iron-cage stairwells, decorated with curving ironwork designs, and having an iron-barred gate at top and bottom.

Furthermore, I added logic-objects to the gates, and a sound for basic interaction: the player can attempt, in vain, to open them.

I'm fairly happy with the way that they turned out, I believe!




However, not long after setting these in place, I activated the frame-rate meter--and found it to be showing a value below sixty frames-per-second! (I forget quite what it showed; somewhere between forty and sixty, I think.)

Concerned, I set about investigating the issue. I used Panda3D's performance-grapher and its scene-graph analyser to look for an obvious problem. I tried deleting various elements using one of Panda3D's graphical tools. I experimented with exporting various sub-sets of the level's geometry.

(I also tried merging various elements to reduce the node-count, but this seemed to actually backfire a bit. Conversely, reduction of the vertex-count in one set of elements may have helped a little.)

In the end, it looks like there were two elements that accounted for much of the problem, and two problems in effect.

The two elements were the iron staircases, and the books.

The two problems were the overhead of rendering everything to the shadow-buffer, and--I think, at least--overdraw.

The former of those problems was at least somewhat ameliorated by excluding certain elements, in particular the stairwell and the books, from shadow-casting. It's a pity to not have shadows cast by the stairs, but so it perhaps goes.

The latter of those problems is trickier. I'm not employing deferred rendering--I'm simply not familiar with the technique--which means that full shading is applied to all non-culled surfaces, even if they're hidden by a later-rendered object. This can be reduced by controlling render order (and I've done so here)--but that, I fear, only goes so far.

What changes I've made have at least brought the frame-rate up above sixty frames-per-second on my machine, I believe. More than that I don't know; I want to explore some possibilities, but don't yet know whether any of them will help.

And finally, I made some changes in the week just past 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 #505 on: August 31, 2020, 03:53:32 AM »

That's a really nice stairway. Unfortunately it's always the nice things that are causing the most performance problems. ^^
 
About the message queuing: I'm showing a "..." when there is at least one more dialog line in the queue and the player can click to skip to the next or right click to end it. I'm also not queuing new messages for a new player action when one is showing. I don't think that the player would want that. When he examines an item while a message is showing, the current one is replaced by the new one. This leads to a quicker more convenient gameplay, I think. Smiley
 
As for the performance: I hate this part of gamedev (not as much as advertising, but still...). I'm just trying to improve this as well. Do you use occlusion culling? Is there a system for this in your engine?
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« Reply #506 on: August 31, 2020, 04:37:41 AM »

That's a really nice stairway.

Thank you very much! ^_^

Unfortunately it's always the nice things that are causing the most performance problems. ^^

Alas, in this case at least! :/

About the message queuing: I'm showing a "..." when there is at least one more dialog line in the queue and the player can click to skip to the next or right click to end it. I'm also not queuing new messages for a new player action when one is showing. I don't think that the player would want that. When he examines an item while a message is showing, the current one is replaced by the new one. This leads to a quicker more convenient gameplay, I think. Smiley

Indeed, for the most part I'm not queueing multiple player-examinations: in general, when only one message is present, examining something both clears the extant message and examines the something in question, potentially prompting a new message.

In this case, however, an in-game event generates multiple messages (intentionally), which take up space in the queue. With messages in the queue, the logic involved (as I previously had it) simply queues up any following messages, and so allows the results of clicking through--and thus potentially examining--to enter the queue. The new logic prevents that by not allowing such to happen while there are messages in the queue.

As to skipping or continuing, right now the "examine" button both examines things and skips messages. I don't want to use the "action" button in this because I don't want to stop (most of the) gameplay for messages, and I really don't want to add yet another button to the game.

As for the performance: I hate this part of gamedev (not as much as advertising, but still...). I'm just trying to improve this as well. Do you use occlusion culling? Is there a system for this in your engine?

Yeah, it's not fun indeed. :/

As to occlusion, I believe that the engine has all of the standard stuff--indeed, that's part of the reason that merging objects backfired, I imagine: it reduced the amount of stuff that the engine could automatically cull away.

I've also set up both portal-culling (which is part handled by the engine, part handled by me), and a grid-based culling system of my own. However, neither of those really apply here, as it's a single room that one can almost see all the way across. :/

Indeed, in the particular view that I've been using for testing--standing on the central table and looking at a particular railing-end beside a staircase--there's nothing obvious to me that might be culled away (aside from stuff that's out of the view frustum, which as mentioned above should be being culled away already).
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« Reply #507 on: September 07, 2020, 03:15:41 AM »

Blog post (7th of September, 2020)
The Case of the Disappearing Level Geometry


Summary: In which performance is improved a little; the sky is removed in places; level-geometry is expanded, detailed, and fixed; and an oversight results in level-geometry vanishing.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows progress made on the geometry and appearance of level five:



The week just past was perhaps a bit of a slow week, but nevertheless a few things were done:

I believe that I mentioned in last week's blog-post that I had encountered some performance issues with certain views within level five. In the week just past, then, I worked on ameliorating these issues.

My initial attempts focussed on the idea of creating a lightweight version of my primary player-light shader. However, exploring and experimenting here produced few results: while sweeping changes could improve the game's frame-rate, the smaller-scale changes implied by them didn't seem to be all that effective.

However, another idea to come to me: I realised that in a level like this, the sky-box would never be visible. But it was nevertheless being rendered, unseen behind everything, potentially affecting the game's performance.

So I tried removing it--and indeed, this did help! Not hugely, mind you, but enough to be worthwhile, I feel! ^_^

Furthermore, with that discovery I went through some of the preceding levels and added logic (and triggers as appropriate) to do likewise there. It's hard to say whether it's a significant aid in those places, but it likely helps a little, at least.

But most of the work of the week just past went, as I recall, into the geometry of level five.

To start with, I added a pair of lecterns near the entrance to the level. Once perhaps guard-posts, all that remains to tell of their use is the graffiti carved into their surfaces.




Also visible above is the decorative curlicue-work that has been added to the level. This sort of design was somewhat ubiquitous in ornamenting the upper districts of Tenereth-of-old; as such, this particular decal may see re-use when I go back to make level three.



A minor addition is the inclusion of a handful of breaks in the facade of the structure; places where cladding has cracked, or fallen away to reveal stone blocks within. One example of this might be somewhat seen in the first screenshot of this post, beside the left-hand lectern.

Furthermore, there were a number of changes made that don't seem worth detailing here--work on the textures used on the floor and ceiling; fixes to minor issues of geometry; moving a chair that intersected a table-leg; and so on.

Towards the end of the work-week, however, something happened:

It was near to the time at which I intended to stop work, and I decided to make a fairly minor change--the moving of the working crystal light from one spot to another. This I did, and afterwards exported the level and imported it into the game.

Only to find that much of the level-geometry was gone! It simply wasn't there; the level was composed of a handful of elements surrounded by an empty black void.

This was, as you might imagine, a little distressing. o_o

So I set about investigating. I exported-and-imported various sub-sets of the level; I looked at engine-provided scene analysis; I examined and experimented with various bits of my code.

In the end, it seemed that exporting certain sub-sets of the level resulted in the geometry appearing as expected, while others resulted in the problem of parts disappearing. Furthermore, it looked as though the problem was being caused by the exporter crashing when dealing with some object or other.

But why? It seemed to make no sense. And no matter what I tried, the issue persisted.

Then I discovered something: an object that, presumably in the moving of the light, had ended up with all of its vertices deleted. And this, it seems, was the thing that was causing the exporter to trip up: deleting the object and re-exporting the scene resulted in everything showing up properly again! To quite my relief, as I recall!

That, then, is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #508 on: September 07, 2020, 04:44:55 AM »

Oh, that are some very lovely decorative elements, you got there. Smiley
 
I love your asset design. Those lecterns (never heard that word before ^^) look really nice and those carvings are a great detail and rewarding when found by the player, I think.
 
And good to know that you made it through the "mystery of the vanishing objects". I hate when something like that happens and the build behaves different than in the editor. Smiley
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« Reply #509 on: September 07, 2020, 04:53:48 AM »

Oh, that are some very lovely decorative elements, you got there. Smiley
 
I love your asset design. Those lecterns (never heard that word before ^^) look really nice and those carvings are a great detail and rewarding when found by the player, I think.

Thank you very much indeed! :D

... lecterns (never heard that word before ^^) ...

It's a good word, "lectern". ^_^

And good to know that you made it through the "mystery of the vanishing objects". I hate when something like that happens and the build behaves different than in the editor. Smiley

Indeed; it's a frustrating and unpleasant thing, the causes of which aren't always obvious! :/

I'm glad too that I managed to find the cause and fix the problem! o_o
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« Reply #510 on: September 14, 2020, 01:12:17 AM »

Blog post (14th of September, 2020)
Ink-Stains


Summary: In which level-geometry is perhaps done; doors are detailed; stains are applied; crystal-light changes are finished; omissions are discovered; an icon is in progress; a new collectible is added; and the initial demo-note is tweaked.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows a new collectible, found in level five:



The work of the week just past fell primarily in the visual arts:

Perhaps the most notable part of that work is that level five's geometry may well be complete now!

Some of these changes were fairly minor: A few tweaks were made to the objects on the central tables; the doors have been smoothed and given a little detail, as well as threshold-stones at their feet; and what lies beyond those doors has been blacked out.

Perhaps more saliently, stains have been added to the central tables. People once wrote in this place--perhaps studying, or researching, or composing something new. This is evinced by the scattering of papers, pens, and inkwells found here. And now, it is evinced too by the ink-stains that spatter the table-tops; a hint at the myriad spills and drips and splashes and sprays of ink that might have been over the long years of the tables' use.



I mentioned in last week's blog post, I believe, that I had moved the working crystal-light that's found in level five. In the week just past, then, I finished the work incurred by this change: regenerating certain values for the crystal; fixing the logic for the "inner glow" object; excluding elements from the related blob-lighting; and so on.



In the week just past I discovered, as I recall, two omissions that I'd made:

First, that I'd forgotten the icon and page-image for a lore-entry. (The one associated with the brass instrument that's now found in level two.)

And second, that I'd neglected to include a collectible in level five. This might not have been an issue, save that level four also lacks a collectible--reasonably, in its case--meaning that there would have been no collectibles since the level before that. And furthermore, level five is the last level of the demo--I don't want to so end without a collectible!

The first of those omissions I've only started work on: I'm partway through the creation of the lore-icon, I believe.

The second, however, is now done: a collectible brass pen can now be found in level five, and which is shown in the first screenshot above.

The scrollwork on this thing gave me a little trouble, I'll confess--it took a few tries to get it to something like my satisfaction!

Similarly, the ink-stains proved tricky: Just including them as part of the pen's colour-texture incurred some shader-related problems, alas. As a result, the stains are actually applied via a separate mesh with its own colour-texture--a solution that itself incurred some sorting challenges!

Furthermore, getting it to work with the collectible close-up view involved a minor change to the rendering of the frame that borders that view--beforehand, the ink (and only the ink) rendered over the border!

(I also implemented a minor change to my inventory-item shader, albeit one that I think isn't being used in the final version of this pen.)

Still, I believe that I'm happy with the way that the pen came out in the end. ^_^

And finally, I made some touch-ups to the note that appears at the start of the demo. Aside from being perhaps a little lengthy, this looked, I felt, a little drab. Thus I've added a little bit of decoration to it, rewritten its text in places, and tweaked its colouring. I'm not sure that the text is quite done yet, but I think that it looks a little less plain now, at the least!



That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #511 on: September 14, 2020, 11:06:48 AM »

Well, as it's mostly a visual update, I can probably say: It looks really nice.
There is a great amount of details to discover and enjoy here.
 
Any date for the demo, yet? Smiley
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« Reply #512 on: September 16, 2020, 08:11:36 AM »

Well, as it's mostly a visual update, I can probably say: It looks really nice.
There is a great amount of details to discover and enjoy here.

Thank you very much! ^_^

Any date for the demo, yet? Smiley

Hahah, no, I'm afraid not yet! ^^;

Soon, I do hope, however. Maybe even in less than a month's time, if all goes well...
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