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Wikzo
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« on: February 01, 2017, 01:43:53 PM »

NOTE: Most of this opening post is outdated. Please scroll down to read the latest posts instead Smiley


Download newest build - January 2018



Original post from February 2017:

Hello everyone.

We are Tunnel Vision Games, a new indie studio from Denmark. A few years ago we developed a small prototype for our university project called See You On The Other Side.

See You On The Other Side is an atmospheric puzzle game that takes inspiration from titles such as Closure (shadow mechanic), The Talos Principle and Antichamber (puzzle design mentality), as well as LIMBO (artstyle and atmosphere). The game revolves around the usage of lights and shadows. Objects in shadows do not collide with the player. The vision for the project is to create a compact, fulfilling experience that explores the shadow theme. In this regard we are inspired by Four Sided Fantasy, which is relatively short, but still manages to fully explore the screen-wrapping mechanic.

We just finished a new prototype in Unity, which we would like to get some general feedback on. We've already tested internally and with other local game developers. Now we would like to get feedback from more external people.

The game is still very much work-in-progress (especially the graphics). For now, the focus has mostly been on designing the puzzles.

We would like to hear your opinion on:
- The main shadow mechanic
- The puzzle design
- How intuitive you think the game is
- How much time you spent on the demo
- Other thoughts and opinions

Thanks in advance! Smiley
« Last Edit: December 09, 2018, 02:18:51 AM by Wikzo » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2017, 04:20:39 PM »

Here are some of my playthrough notes.  I played for maybe a half hour (I'm not sure because I kept pausing to write this).

I get pretty nitpicky here, but also I don't get so nitpicky if I don't see a possibility for greatness Smiley

General:

-- The general idea of Closure in 3D is pretty good.  (It also reminds me of some of the Mario Galaxy mechanics, like in the Matter Splatter Galaxy.)
-- It's pretty intuitive, I think.

Oddities:

-- The virtual "footprint" of the player (for the standing-on-something calculation) seems way too narrow, leading to some nonsensical situations (like I'm clearly human-sized when compared to lamps and doorways, yet I can fall through a 2-3cm crack in the ground).  It also makes the "jumping puzzles" frustrating.  (Metroid Prime is a good example of a wide "footprint" making first-person jumping tolerable.)
-- It's a bit jarring that the lamps obey a different physics than the player, like they can stand on things that aren't illuminated.  Like when I fall off a cliff, the lamp doesn't; it looks odd to respawn and see the lamp standing there where I couldn't.  (It's a bit inconsistent, actually; in the back-up-to-make-a-bridge-level it sometimes fell with me, sometimes stayed, and once stayed until I approached it, then fell slowly as if into ooze.)  You can sometimes use this to solve a puzzle in a way that I'm not sure was intended, like one where I ran a gap with a lamp, dying but leaving the lamp suspended in midair, then respawned on the other side but still in reach of the lamp.
-- It seems like the footprint calculation differs depending on whether the player is holding a lamp.  Carrying a lamp, standing near the edge of something, and putting down the lamp can sometimes cause me to plummet to my death, which doesn't make sense.  (If I'm carrying it, then what matters are where my feet are. Even if I'm dragging it, my feet have to be in contact with the ground or dragging doesn't happen.) 

Puzzle design:

-- I'm not particularly enamoured of the puzzles yet; I didn't really feel a lot of "aha" moments where I realized something about the mechanics that I didn't notice at the outset.  This will probably improve in the future if you plan on increasing the number of mechanics. 
-- It was more "I realize what I'm supposed to do, but I guess I need to move the lamp about 0.5 meters over and 3 degrees further left."  That sort of adjustment wasn't fun for me.  Cutting down the possibilities (maybe that lamps can only be pushed and rotated in quantized increments?) might have cut down on having to do little adjustments, and made it clearer when I had or hadn't found the right solution.

Level design:

-- I'd start out closer to the first puzzle, or condense that area into something smaller.  Hit me quickly with what makes your game special.
-- The endpoint of the level wasn't always clear to me (like the puzzle where it's not the door but the circle of light beyond the door, or the second-to-last puzzle where I didn't see the exit until I was almost there).  This is a difficulty of 3d, since the nature of 3d is that things are occluded from the camera.  It'd be good to lay things out so that your vantage point upon entry into an area shows you both the goal and the fundamental problem keeping you from it.  (Similar to Warren Spector's "no backwards puzzles" maxim, where the player shouldn't be able to see the mechanical solution to a problem before they see the goal they're working towards.)

Gamefeel:

-- The latency of the jump feels a bit too long; I always jump a split-second later than I'd expect.
-- It wasn't immediately obvious that you can't jump when you're holding a lamp.  (The visual clue for jumping -- that everything moves -- isn't quite as strong as in other games, because it may happen that where the player is looking is mostly dark.)  Rather than disabling the jump key, it might help to juice a failed jump a bit (like with a bit of a movement plus a grunt sound plus a clank as the lamp hits the ground again).
-- Having a light flicker a bit as it turns on and off gives a bit of warning as to what's happening.  (Also, it's nice to give the player a bit of a "temporal footprint" where they can briefly be unsupported if there was ground there a split second before or after.)

Anyway, good work and I'm looking forward to see where this goes!
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« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2017, 10:00:18 AM »

Here are some of my playthrough notes.  I played for maybe a half hour (I'm not sure because I kept pausing to write this).

I get pretty nitpicky here, but also I don't get so nitpicky if I don't see a possibility for greatness Smiley

No problem! This is exactly the type of feedback we need Smiley 30 minutes sounds about right; other playtesters spent about the same.

-- The general idea of Closure in 3D is pretty good.  (It also reminds me of some of the Mario Galaxy mechanics, like in the Matter Splatter Galaxy.)
-- It's pretty intuitive, I think.

Cool. I've actually heard that comparison to Galaxy before. Maybe we should take some inspiration from it.

-- The virtual "footprint" of the player (for the standing-on-something calculation) seems way too narrow, leading to some nonsensical situations (like I'm clearly human-sized when compared to lamps and doorways, yet I can fall through a 2-3cm crack in the ground).  It also makes the "jumping puzzles" frustrating.  (Metroid Prime is a good example of a wide "footprint" making first-person jumping tolerable.)

Spot on! We are very aware of this issue and haven't quite figured out a good way to solve it yet. Part of the problem is how we detect the feet. Right now, each foot has four points (think a rectangular shoe). When all of these eight points are in shadow, you fall down. However, we still need to tweak the size and distances of the feet.

The other part of the frustration is the visual feedback (or lack thereof). We have some ideas about visualizing the player falling into the shadow as a volumetric mass. Think something like quicksand, goo or water. We don't know yet how to do this, but some shader work could maybe make it more clear. At the moment, we have a placeholder vignette camera effect that shows when you are inside an object (e.g., being sucked into a shadow), but this doesn't work fully yet.

In general, we are having a hard time dealing with how to visualize that the player is inside an object, since it just looks odd to be inside a 3D model. We are thinking about having camera effects that somehow illustrate this "dissolve" effect. Beyond: Two Souls had a nice effect when the camera was clipping inside an object (looked like smoke or paper burning).

About Metroid Prime: Yes, that game has superb first-person (jumping) controls. You have a great sense of body awareness (proprioception). One trick they use is to tilt the camera down when you jump.

For our game, we are actually not THAT interested in first-person platforming, but we thought it would be nice to have some to vary the experience. The ventilator jumping area definitely needs tweaking and balancing. Same goes with player movement, speed and jumping height.

-- It's a bit jarring that the lamps obey a different physics than the player, like they can stand on things that aren't illuminated.  Like when I fall off a cliff, the lamp doesn't; it looks odd to respawn and see the lamp standing there where I couldn't. 

We don't really tell it in the prototype, but the idea is that only the player has the "shadow ability". Everything else works as normal. That being said, we are thinking about having special properties for specific objects (think Braid where some objects obey the rules of time-travelling, while others don't).

(It's a bit inconsistent, actually; in the back-up-to-make-a-bridge-level it sometimes fell with me, sometimes stayed, and once stayed until I approached it, then fell slowly as if into ooze.)  You can sometimes use this to solve a puzzle in a way that I'm not sure was intended, like one where I ran a gap with a lamp, dying but leaving the lamp suspended in midair, then respawned on the other side but still in reach of the lamp.

That's definitely not intended. Sounds like some bugs we need to figure out. Would you have time to reproduce this and maybe record a GIF of video?

Did you notice the green outline for the lamps? The idea is that if an object gets stuck out in the darkness, you can recall it by clicking on this outline. The visual aspect for this is far from finished, but it gets the job done. We would like an effect similar to Reaper's teleport in Overwatch.

-- It seems like the footprint calculation differs depending on whether the player is holding a lamp.  Carrying a lamp, standing near the edge of something, and putting down the lamp can sometimes cause me to plummet to my death, which doesn't make sense.  (If I'm carrying it, then what matters are where my feet are. Even if I'm dragging it, my feet have to be in contact with the ground or dragging doesn't happen.)

I think what happens is that you place the lamp down and immediately fall into its shadow. We know that this is very annoying. We are thinking about making the lamp not cast a shadow, but unsure how to communicate this in an intuitive way.

-- I'm not particularly enamoured of the puzzles yet; I didn't really feel a lot of "aha" moments where I realized something about the mechanics that I didn't notice at the outset.  This will probably improve in the future if you plan on increasing the number of mechanics.

That's fair enough. We do indeed hope to introduce more mechanics to challenge the player to really think outside the box.

-- It was more "I realize what I'm supposed to do, but I guess I need to move the lamp about 0.5 meters over and 3 degrees further left."  That sort of adjustment wasn't fun for me.  Cutting down the possibilities (maybe that lamps can only be pushed and rotated in quantized increments?) might have cut down on having to do little adjustments, and made it clearer when I had or hadn't found the right solution.

We've heard similar feedback before where players describe it as "hacking" or "exploiting" the game. We believe this is due to the analog nature of the game, as you describe. It's currently too much about specific solutions where you need to place a lamp at EXACTLY one spot. We want it to be more about mentally solving the puzzles, not so much about the "dexterity" of it. I think introducing limitations as you describe might be a good approach. When you think about it, a game like Portal also limits where the player can place portals (white, flat surfaces).

-- I'd start out closer to the first puzzle, or condense that area into something smaller.  Hit me quickly with what makes your game special.

Point taken. The prototype doesn't necessarily reflect how the beginning of the full game will be, but what we have right now was designed from the mindset that we need to teach the basics step by step. We also aim to put more emphasis on the graphical aspect, as well as the narrative and atmosphere, to make it more interesting and engaging. We would love to create a vibe akin to LIMBO or INSIDE.

But yes, we could definitely start out with the puzzles earlier. Maybe the jumping section with the ventilations should be (re)moved.

-- The endpoint of the level wasn't always clear to me (like the puzzle where it's not the door but the circle of light beyond the door, or the second-to-last puzzle where I didn't see the exit until I was almost there).  This is a difficulty of 3d, since the nature of 3d is that things are occluded from the camera.  It'd be good to lay things out so that your vantage point upon entry into an area shows you both the goal and the fundamental problem keeping you from it.  (Similar to Warren Spector's "no backwards puzzles" maxim, where the player shouldn't be able to see the mechanical solution to a problem before they see the goal they're working towards.)

I agree. We actively tried to do this, but I see there is still room for improvement. We are inspired by the philosophy described in this Gamasutra article: A 'key' tip about keys and doors from BioShock's lead level designer. Also, in the final game we wish to make the world feel more connected and seamless and less like loading new "levels".

-- The latency of the jump feels a bit too long; I always jump a split-second later than I'd expect.

Got ya. We might also need to introduce a ghost jump.

-- It wasn't immediately obvious that you can't jump when you're holding a lamp.  (The visual clue for jumping -- that everything moves -- isn't quite as strong as in other games, because it may happen that where the player is looking is mostly dark.)  Rather than disabling the jump key, it might help to juice a failed jump a bit (like with a bit of a movement plus a grunt sound plus a clank as the lamp hits the ground again).

We definitely need some feedback for this. The reason why we disable jumping when holding an object is to limit/avoid situations where you can exploit puzzles by taking a lamp to a place that we don't intend.

-- Having a light flicker a bit as it turns on and off gives a bit of warning as to what's happening.  (Also, it's nice to give the player a bit of a "temporal footprint" where they can briefly be unsupported if there was ground there a split second before or after.)

Sounds like a good idea (kinda like in the old Road Runner cartoons Tongue).

Anyway, good work and I'm looking forward to see where this goes!

Thank you! And thanks for the elaborate feedback. Much appreciated! If you have any interest in playing future builds of the game, you can subscribe to our newsletter at our homepage: http://tunnelvisiongames.com (big blue button)
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« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2017, 03:34:47 AM »

For our game, we are actually not THAT interested in first-person platforming, but we thought it would be nice to have some to vary the experience. The ventilator jumping area definitely needs tweaking and balancing. Same goes with player movement, speed and jumping height.

Yeah, while I found them a bit frustrating in execution, I think having them gives your game a richer experience.

It might be worth having challenges that you can pass by first-person platforming, puzzling, or a combination of both, depending on the kind of player.  Like if you have a platforming sequence of moving light that some players find frustrating, and a basic puzzle that some players find boring, you could combine the two into a single sequence, like where if you solve the puzzle you can make a stable light bridge that renders some or all of the moving lights challenge moot.  So speedrunner types get the satisfaction of "Haha, I got this, I'm so agile I don't even have to solve the puzzle" while more methodical players get the satisfaction of "Huh, no way do I want to do that, but I bet I could avoid it if I can move this lamp to there, and then that to there..."

Even one moveable lamp in a platforming challenge gives the player an interesting choice.  Here's a tricky platforming exercise, but you get one "free platform" to put where you need it.  Where do you need it most?

Quote
You can sometimes use this to solve a puzzle in a way that I'm not sure was intended, like one where I ran a gap with a lamp, dying but leaving the lamp suspended in midair, then respawned on the other side but still in reach of the lamp.
That's definitely not intended. Sounds like some bugs we need to figure out. Would you have time to reproduce this and maybe record a GIF of video?

I don't have a GIF recorder handy, but it shouldn't be hard to reproduce.  In the level with the two grates (illuminated and dark), jump through the dark grate, grab the lamp, run back through the dark grate and die.  Sometimes you respawn on the other side with the lamp on the same side as you.

Quote
Also, in the final game we wish to make the world feel more connected and seamless and less like loading new "levels".

What I found myself craving during play was a connected environment like a Zelda dungeon from the 3d era, where the level has a central hub with a multipart set-piece puzzle that you solve in stages, and then corridors leading off it and looping around with thematically-related smaller puzzles in those.

A good thing about your game mechanic is that it can very straightforwardly solve a problem in Zelda-like level design.  The problem with exploratory levels is that you often don't want to repeat challenges upon re-traversal, since a player who's stuck and looking for something may go through an area several times.  So the game needs to disable challenges or open up shortcuts as the player completes them.  Your central mechanic basically gives this to you for free.

On that note, there's a reward type that you might make use of that I think would be a powerful motivator: upon completing challenges, players get access to switches that "turn on the lights" within a local area.  That combines several rewards into a real whammy: it gives the player new art, a better cognitive understanding of the structure of their world, reveals new places to go, and expands the zone in which the player can feel safe.

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« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2017, 04:58:50 AM »

Thanks for your comments Smiley

It might be worth having challenges that you can pass by first-person platforming, puzzling, or a combination of both, depending on the kind of player. 

Sounds like a good idea to provide choices.

What I found myself craving during play was a connected environment like a Zelda dungeon from the 3d era, where the level has a central hub with a multipart set-piece puzzle that you solve in stages, and then corridors leading off it and looping around with thematically-related smaller puzzles in those.

On that note, there's a reward type that you might make use of that I think would be a powerful motivator: upon completing challenges, players get access to switches that "turn on the lights" within a local area.

We are actually considering doing a small hub-like structure, maybe similar to The Talos Principle or Braid, where you can choose between a subset of puzzles.

Yes, we definitely want to play around with the aspect of turning on/off lights to reveal new areas. In the current prototype, we basically just load new scenes, but in the full game everything could be in one scene and then we enable/disable certain areas by using the light.
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« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2017, 08:45:35 AM »

Saw your new trailer earlier today. Looks interesting!





If you have a newer demo available, I would be happy to try it out and provide some feedback.
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« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2017, 11:09:21 PM »

Oh, I actually came in here to post it, but you beat me to it! Nice! Tongue

Yeah, we just released a new teaser trailer. We took a lot of the feedback you guys provided to heart. We will soon be conducting some new tests, so stay tuned Smiley
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« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2017, 02:23:33 AM »

We are now ready to test the new builds. You can download them via the following link:

Pre-alpha – See You On The Other Side (August 2017)
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« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2017, 06:32:07 AM »

I should have posted something right after I played this the other day. I haven't had a chance to play all of the levels yet and don't have too much feedback at this point, aside from - Awesome start and I'll definitely be following your progress! I figure any feedback would be welcome, so here's my rather limited feedback thus far:

Personal preference, but I'm generally not a fan of timing-based elements in puzzle games (though there are a few exceptions). In one of the early levels, there were 3 time-based components (in the gate level I think?), which (after dying a couple times in a row) I became overly cautious of and stopped in between each because I didn't want to risk rushing through and falling off the world again!

The other puzzles I played in your game so far don't have this, but a puzzle design note I'd like to point out is that in the 2nd area of the 1st level, I realized I might need both light sources before actually seeing the need for both. Puzzle games do this a lot, but I personally think the player should see the goal before they see how to get there. I understand it's a tutorial level, but I wanted to point that out in case it appears in other puzzles.


It did take me a little while to get used to navigating with the light sources, and there were a couple of times where I fell off the world even though I thought I was in the light. (This happened at least once when I was walking behind the light source.)

At the onset, I couldn't tell where two lights overlapped, which made navigating across large areas while alternating between 2 light sources a little challenging.


Anyway, just popping in for now to say I love the concept and puzzles so far! I especially like how you show the distance from another light source via the inner cubes. It's a really nice way to show information without the player having to stop and look around.
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« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2017, 06:23:22 AM »

Thanks a lot for your feedback! Yes, we are definitely thinking about how to use timing-based puzzles, since they can easily get frustrating.
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« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2018, 12:44:00 PM »

Hey guys. It has been a while since our last update. We recently finished a new vertical slice demo to show to publishers and other partners. This demo is a more compact, fledged-out experience with narrative and polished puzzles.

We would love to hear some feedback.

You can download the new build here.

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« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2018, 01:17:45 PM »

* More important stuff:

- you should definitely add save/load option. This is especially really important since the player can irreversibly mess up.
- the game is too demanding, even on medium setting. I think if you want the game to become popular it should be a lot less demanding.
- I saw a bug where I'm holding a light but the game thinks I'm not, so I can pick up/put down another one but I cannot put down the original light. It happened near the rotating intersection where you have to bring the two lights out.
- I saw another bug where I'm flying through walls. This happened while I was alt+tab ing to write this text.
- while holding a light, it goes through walls.
- it didn't make sense to me when I tried to put down a light on a steep surface but the light didn't rotate to get aligned with it.
- in general, I think you should play-test the game a lot more on different computers and do some stupid sh*t (which players will do inevitably) to find all the bugs
- the "I told you to stay away ..." line shouldn't repeat every time you go to the "restricted area".

* personal suggestions:
- I think the "fog" is unnecessary. I prefer a sharp look.
- I think going in darkness (and falling) should "feel" better. I don't have a suggestion on how to improve it.
- of course, I couldn't tell what the story is from the short demo, but I hope it is unique and not formulated and/or forgettable. I personally prefer not having a story and just providing a solid experience to something that is there to check the "having a story" box!

* pros:
- a brilliant idea
- very interesting puzzles
- looks really good
- a lot of potentials
- I genuinely think it can be one of the year's best selling games if it is properly executed and advertised
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« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2018, 03:49:04 AM »

Thanks for your feedback and suggestions! There is definitely some way to go, especially in regards to performance and optimization. The demo was mostly intended to showcase to investors+publishers, so some of the things can be bruteforced/exploited. We will make sure to fix the bugs you mention Smiley
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« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2018, 03:29:25 AM »

We are slowly starting to post regular updates about the game's development. Here's a timelapse video where our level designer creates a puzzle from scratch using ProBuilder and Unity Smiley



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« Reply #14 on: August 16, 2018, 04:12:36 AM »

New name and new trailer :D

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« Reply #15 on: December 09, 2018, 02:40:33 AM »

Lightmatter is now on Steam if you'd like to wishlist it: https://store.steampowered.com/app/994140/Lightmatter/

And here's a new trailer:

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« Reply #16 on: June 01, 2019, 04:58:52 AM »

We have yet another new trailer for Lightmatter! (even though the thumbnails look the same)





Announcing David Bateson as our voice actor! Plus we are now running an alpha playtest via Discord Smiley
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« Reply #17 on: August 03, 2019, 01:22:37 AM »

Here's a new screenshot from one of the more hardcore puzzles in the game:

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« Reply #18 on: December 07, 2019, 04:26:58 AM »

We now have

for Lightmatter! Smiley
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« Reply #19 on: December 08, 2019, 11:25:44 PM »

Looks good. Some mystery story on top suits this nicely.
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