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January 18, 2018, 11:12:19 pm

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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsLife on Mars (Sci-Fi Adventure)
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« Reply #20 on: December 18, 2017, 02:35:34 pm »

Really like the visuals. In part it's the lo-fi nostalgia of Commodore 64 8bit visuals mixed with some of the 3d visuals I would've liked to see in games. Smiley

Having done various pseudo 2d/3d games, I'd say if your approach can handle your requirements then it's "good enough".  But having moved to Unity makes working with the 3d aspects so much easier.  It may not be able to handle every aspect, but at first I thought you created the game visuals with voxels.

Also, after reading the title, the visuals reminded me of Total Recall (the one with Arnie, not the recent remake). Smiley 
Thanks! I've been thinking about my approach a lot and it's a bit nuts, as you could easily do this kind of style in 3D in a lot more efficient way. But as I've always had a hard time wrapping my head around actual 3D programming, this is as close as I'll get.
Sounds strange that you'd have a hard time  with 3d programming given what you could manage so far.  Sure, certain aspects might be more complex but not necessarily more complicated.  Is there something in particular?


Also, there's something about retro-inspired graphics and sci-fi themes that really resonates with me, probably because I grew up with movies like Star Wars and Total Recall. Grin
Yeah, those were great movies to grow up with. Smiley

I was also going to mention The Martian.  To me it was interesting that based on the space exploration of the last few decaded (especially, having landed on Mars), I had this strange feeling of switching between watching fiction and watching a documentary. Smiley

Looks and sounds intriguing. I especially like the story, very current topic Smiley
Haha, thanks. I gotta admit, though, the story is the part of this project I'm the most anxious about. So far none of my games had an intriguing story (more a background for the gameplay), so I'm not the most confident about my writing abilities. But I have a lot of loose ideas so far, let's see if I can come up with a nice narrative with them.
That's funny because that's pretty much how I approached the "story" for my games so far.  There are a few more that don't really need a very deep story but eventually I'd like to do at least a few games with a decent story.  It doesn't seem that hard.  Just follow the tried and true formulas.  I'm looking forward to what you come up with. Wink


Worked on a new scene today. It's a station of MARSec, the police in the colony. I'm not a big fan of the colors (I always have a hard time finding colors that go well together), so I'm likely to do another pass soon. So far I'm happy with the layout, though. What do you think?

In general, if you haven't done so, you could look into color theory.  Complimentary colors is a good place to start for selecting colors that work well together. 

In terms of the image you posted, my first impression is that here's too much bright colors (the light green) in that location compared to other images that tend to have darker colors for the floor and brighter/lighter colors for the walls or other vertical surfaces.
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« Reply #21 on: December 28, 2017, 12:15:31 pm »

The Music of Life on Mars

Today I want to explain my process for the music in Life on Mars. How this process came to be is quite the coincidence, as I discovered the software I make the music in at the same time as I came up with the idea for this game and I immediately felt that this was a perfect combination.



The Software
As I’m not a composer by any stretch and have only a vague understanding of music theory, I needed something that was easy to use and would take care of as much of the behind-the-scenes stuff as possible. I previously worked with Reason by Propellerhead, a very complex composing software that I was barely able to use to a small extent. But, to get to the point, in 2013 I discovered a small, compact app for iOS called Figure, which was also published by the aforementioned Propellerhead. The interface looked slick and the touch screen allowed for interesting interactions.


The interface of Figure, showing the three layers.

To give you a quick impression, here’s a little rundown. Every track consists of three layers, one for percussion, one bass layer and one for the lead instrument. For each layer you can select from a variety of instruments. Then you can play around with the layers, get a feel for it by touching on the colored rectangles (the output also depends on where you press the rectangle, which can be used for some cool effects). When you’re ready, press on the record button and start jamming.
When I was still learning to use the app, I started by just randomly hitting notes or swiping my finger over the screen, which sometimes lead to some cool psychedelic tunes like the one below.




The Limitation
I love using Figure, but it has one big limitation: tracks are very short. You have some basic control over how long the final track will be, by changing the amount of bars or the speed of the song, but in the end, most of my songs are between 10 and 20 seconds long. This may sound pretty short – it is – but this might not be a problem for the game I intend to make.
Let me explain: instead of having a normal soundtrack that plays certain songs at certain situations, I’m aiming for a more ambient feel, a backdrop of sound that enhances the feeling of being in a living world. This will be achieved by using something called 3D audio, which means that each sound or track has a position in the game world, so that the distance of the player to that position determines the panning and the volume of it. Often this is used for sound effects like cars driving by, but I want to use it for the whole audio. As the game plays in a colony on Mars, there are a multitude of shops begging for your attention by playing music, there are people walking around, chatting, there are – as mentioned before – cars driving by, etc. etc. All this will spin a web of sounds which in the end hopefully sound like a living, breathing place.


There’s also a big night club which will be important to the story, but here a lot of different music will be played, with people dancing to it, a light show and so on. My main goal with this approach for the music is to give the feeling that the music played in the game is not something that is played over the gameplay, but something inside the game world. To be more clear, in most games only the player hears the music, it is being played to enhance the situation he is in. In Life on Mars, everyone inhabiting the colony can hear the music, comment on it or be attracted by it. It is meant to belong in this very colony.
My big challenge will be to implement these different tunes in a way that they don’t become annoying after the third repeat. No song should overstay its welcome.

To wrap things up, here is a video of how a track looks inside the app. You can see how I moved my finger across the screen to make it. Below are also some more examples from the 45 tracks I have composed since 2013. I’d love to hear your feedback!







More Examples




« Last Edit: December 29, 2017, 05:54:17 am by Rebusmind » Logged


<a href="http://www.indiedb.com/games/life-on-mars" title="View Life on Mars on Indie DB" target="_blank"><img src="http://button.indiedb.com/popularity/medium/games/65022.png" alt="Life on Mars
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« Reply #22 on: December 30, 2017, 10:27:08 am »

UPDATE 02

Here's a little comparison of the different styles I could go with in my fake 3D game. On the left is the unchanged original, in the middle I've rounded all sharp corners and on the right I've used the LQ 4x filter on every layer. Which do you like best?


To test the new style out I've used it on the security station (while also adding new colors, which are hopefully a little easier on the eyes). I have to say, I'm pretty satisfied with the result, as I wasn't the biggest fan of the voxel look. I still have to see if it's robust enough to ensure that no important detail is lost in the conversion, but for now I think I'll stick with this.


One more technical thing: I realized that rotating the world around the player is absolutely stupid, as I'd have to calculate the paths for moving NPCs in every step, just to give one example. So I bit the bullet and changed everything, so that now the view rotates and all objects also rotate according to the view_angle. I had some problems figuring out how to handle movement now, but after a few days, everything worked (also thanks to a very helpful thread in the Game Maker Community). As you can't really see the changes in the gifs, you have to take my word for it. Wink

As the year ends tomorrow, I wish everyone a happy new year!
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« Reply #23 on: December 30, 2017, 11:10:06 am »

life on mars was a really good tv show. are you gonna include any sub plots referencing david bowie. thank you for your time
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« Reply #24 on: December 30, 2017, 11:23:21 am »

Wat, now that I know there's 2 TV shows and a David Bowie song, I gotta add all of those to the research queue for SpaceBard. Thanks for pointing that out @The Armorman.

Another good Mars-related thing I read recently was Sylvia Moreno-Garcia's Prime Meridian which might only be available to IndieGogo backers at the moment, otherwise I would definitely recommend it.
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« Reply #25 on: December 30, 2017, 10:59:32 pm »

life on mars was a really good tv show. are you gonna include any sub plots referencing david bowie. thank you for your time
Haha, I really like both the song and the tv show (the UK one). The title is just a placeholder, though, hopefully I'll come up with something better when I've got the story a bit more fleshed out.

Wat, now that I know there's 2 TV shows and a David Bowie song, I gotta add all of those to the research queue for SpaceBard. Thanks for pointing that out @The Armorman.

Another good Mars-related thing I read recently was Sylvia Moreno-Garcia's Prime Meridian which might only be available to IndieGogo backers at the moment, otherwise I would definitely recommend it.
I think the TV show (and also the song) won't give you much information about life in space, as it has nothing to do with sci-fi or space. It's about a cop who after an accident finds himself stranded in the 70s. Throughout the series he keeps questioning if he really travelled through time or if he is just in a coma dreaming it all up. It's a great show (but also very british, which I needed to get used to after watching so many american shows). So regardless of whether it's good for your research, you should check it out. Wink
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<a href="http://www.indiedb.com/games/life-on-mars" title="View Life on Mars on Indie DB" target="_blank"><img src="http://button.indiedb.com/popularity/medium/games/65022.png" alt="Life on Mars
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« Reply #26 on: December 31, 2017, 09:37:42 am »

I really like the look of this! 
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« Reply #27 on: January 04, 2018, 11:19:15 am »

Update 03

Played around with an idea: instead of animating the layers of an object, I just put the animation on it like a poster. Looks good so far, but need to make it more robust.

At first I started simply by drawing two triangles the way I needed them.


When I got that to work I added the actual sprite. Game Maker: Studio has a very handy drawing function called draw_sprite_pos(), which allows to specify all four corners of the sprite.


I cheated a little when I added this to the scene, as there are still problems with the depth sorting (the animation often clips with the other objects). But I'm happy the basics are working.

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<a href="http://www.indiedb.com/games/life-on-mars" title="View Life on Mars on Indie DB" target="_blank"><img src="http://button.indiedb.com/popularity/medium/games/65022.png" alt="Life on Mars
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« Reply #28 on: January 08, 2018, 06:28:03 pm »

UPDATE 02

Here's a little comparison of the different styles I could go with in my fake 3D game. On the left is the unchanged original, in the middle I've rounded all sharp corners and on the right I've used the LQ 4x filter on every layer. Which do you like best?


To test the new style out I've used it on the security station (while also adding new colors, which are hopefully a little easier on the eyes). I have to say, I'm pretty satisfied with the result, as I wasn't the biggest fan of the voxel look. I still have to see if it's robust enough to ensure that no important detail is lost in the conversion, but for now I think I'll stick with this.


One more technical thing: I realized that rotating the world around the player is absolutely stupid, as I'd have to calculate the paths for moving NPCs in every step, just to give one example. So I bit the bullet and changed everything, so that now the view rotates and all objects also rotate according to the view_angle. I had some problems figuring out how to handle movement now, but after a few days, everything worked (also thanks to a very helpful thread in the Game Maker Community). As you can't really see the changes in the gifs, you have to take my word for it. Wink

As the year ends tomorrow, I wish everyone a happy new year!
The new style looks good.  It still has that "rough around the edges" feel that implies a low res kind of game.

It's good that changed the camera code.  Now the camera can also follow NPCs (e.g. in cutscenes). Wink
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« Reply #29 on: January 10, 2018, 04:47:31 am »

this looks fantastic, great work  Beer!
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« Reply #30 on: January 12, 2018, 11:58:43 am »

Populating Mars Part 1

This week I’ve worked on something I was looking forward to for quite some time: NPCs. So far they all looked very alike and only stood around, two things I’ve changed now.

How to turn 4 Clones into a Crowd
Until yesterday I had only four (male) NPCs standing around. As I split every NPC into a head, a body and legs, I was able to get some variety with those parts, but not nearly enough. So in order to increase the variety without making any actual new parts, I implemented a shader (by the great xot) that can take a color and replace it with another (with some cool features like taking similar colors also into account and retaining their shade).
To make this process as easy as possible, I colored the existing parts with a set amount of colors (1 color for skin, 1 for hair, 2 for clothes, etc.). So now I can add as many new heads and bodies and legs as I want and as long as I stick to these colors, they will be properly handled by the shader. The only thing I have yet to figure out is the output colors.
The easiest way is to just randomly assign colors. While this gives a maximum of variety, it doesn’t work for things like skin or hair. For those I defined a range of colors that are randomized.


The range of colors used for the skin of NPCs.

Below is a little gathering of NPCs as they appear in the game. Now there are two issues I still need to address. The first is to make sure that the chosen colors actually are different enough from one another so that they don’t look like a flat, single-colored surface. The second is that in the gif below there are STILL a lot of NPCs that look very alike and even have the same colors. I’m not entirely sure if the shader fails me sometimes or if the randomized colors just have a faible for green and blue (I assume it’s the former).


The typical morning roll call. Spot the clones!

Getting them to Move
As the game will be playing in a colony on Mars, there will be a huge number of NPCs in the streets and buildings. It won’t be like in most rpgs where there’s only like 10 inhabitants of a city that you can talk to, but instead there will be many NPCs going on with their daily lives. They go to work, have a drink, dance in the club, etc.


Look, an unrealistic amount of running around in a police station.

The way I do it right now is by simply assigning paths to some NPCs. This will most likely change in the future, as this leads to a scene that is maybe busy, but not very interesting. I assume very few people would be fooled by this into thinking that this is a lively place they are walking through. It’s just motion without a cause. To mitigate that a little I make them stop for a moment whenever they do a turn that is greater than 90°, but it only helps to break the monotony a little. This will definitely need some more ideas and experimenting.


Here you can see the paths the NPCs follow.

Reacting to the Player
One thing that has been in the game for a few weeks but didn’t actually work that well until now is that NPCs can track an object with their head. In this case, they will follow the player by turning their head. Before, they would simply turn their head until they directly look at the player, but as they are not supposed to be robots, I added some thresholds to prevent an impression from a scene of The Exorcist.
I also check whether they would actually be able to see the player in the first place so that they don’t track your movement all the time.


The white line shows the body direction, the green one the head angle.

This concludes this article about NPCs. I called it “part 1” as there’s still a lot to be done and this is more like a first pass. Next week I will hopefully start with the first interactions between the player and NPCs (mostly interface stuff). I’ll probably share the results in a week, so please be excited.

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« Reply #31 on: January 12, 2018, 01:16:07 pm »

Those scenes look highly "unrealistic".  Not a single person looking at their smart phones, PDAs or equivalent devices (whether or not walking or standing). Grin  Or are we looking at people with cybernetic implants?   Blink


Regarding the NPC color variety, I agree that there doesn't seem to be much variety and some seem almost the same.
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