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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsShadows of Doubt - A First-Person Detective Stealth Game
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ColePowered
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« Reply #20 on: August 18, 2018, 05:58:04 AM »

Last update I had made some progress on the first-person game world and these last few weeks have continued that trend. I'm enjoying working with voxels so much that switching to 3D modelling for the game actually feels like a nice break from the programming, so it's a win-win situation as far as development is concerned! It's why the graphics suggest the game is further ahead than it is. Since the last update, the biggest implementation is a basic character model, complete with walking animation.




Despite the endless repetition, having a human model in the game has really brought the first-person mode to life.

Originally, I had planned to make the characters as 2D billboard sprites in a 3D world (think original Doom). However, after some experimentation, I decided to try and make a character model using voxels and the same technique I'm using for, well, everything else. Turns out 3D voxel modes are actually way easier- for several reasons: The first being that it's much less time consuming to animate compared to drawing every single frame for every animation for at least 4 different directions in 2D.  Secondly, although obviously right now the city is pretty non-diverse with my basic film noir white detective, I have big plans for having all shapes, skin tones, hair colours, and hairstyles etc. Building the character models in a way that is easily segmented into head, torso, and legs means this diversity among characters will be possible, and that's super easy to do with voxels.

The walking animation was achieved by making different leg meshes for each' frame' of animation. This achieves a stop-motion-like effect. Since the legs are symmetrical, I was able to save time and resources by simply mirroring the mesh in the latter half of the walk cycle to complete the animation. I then added some subtle transform movement of the torso and head meshes using Unity's built-in in animation editor. It's by no means final, but honestly, it's better than I was hoping floor (I don't have a lot of experience in 3D animation at all, and I was dreading the task making all those billboard sprites).


These last few days saw the first implementation of doors.

But wait there's more! This week I've also made some doors for the game. Doors in Shadows of Doubt will be able to be closed, open, locked, unlocked, lockpicked, destroyed and keyholes peeked-through. I've only got the first couple of things on that list working so far, but the implementation was relatively painless, and it all seems to be working as planned for now.

I mentioned in my last post, one of the limitations of having a procedural world is not being able to bake lighting. I've already come up with some culling techniques for expensive real-time shadows and illumination. One nice advantage is though, I can have dynamic lights being visible through cracks under doors- a very noir-esque way of telling if the light is on in the room within. This actually happened by accident first of all due to wonky door positioning on my part, but I'm absolutely keeping it!


Crime scenes are beginning to take shape!

Lastly, bringing this blog entry up-to-date with my current focus- crime scenes! This is one of the biggest challenges of the game as murders need to be able to occur anywhere and leave behind logical clues. In other words, I don't just have to place some clue objects and a few blood spatter decals around- I actually have to simulate what happened and have the game generate the objects and placements using that. I have yet to really dive into the simulation aspect, I'm just getting the basics down for now.

Most importantly though, the player drops little yellow crime scene placards when you inspect a clue at a crime scene. Priorities.
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« Reply #21 on: August 19, 2018, 02:45:28 PM »

Fantastic work. I love the premise for your game. I had an idea to make something similar once. As a kid I loved the game Murder, on the Amiga. There were little tidbits in there where a suspect would tell you meaningless information, just random things they saw that didn't help with the case. But they were purely random, didn't tie together in a cohesive narrative. What I wanted to do was simulate the entire night and the back stories. So someone might be having an affair, and some people would know about it. Red herring motives. Basically like an episode of any modern crime show where there are always suspects that seem to be the likely person, but turn out not to be. I never got around to making it, though it's still on my list of game ideas for the future.
So I'm a huge fan of your simulated crime scenes and I love the noire. So I'm really excited for this game. Keep up the posts, I'm really enjoying them.
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« Reply #22 on: August 20, 2018, 07:05:44 AM »

Fantastic work. I love the premise for your game. I had an idea to make something similar once. As a kid I loved the game Murder, on the Amiga. There were little tidbits in there where a suspect would tell you meaningless information, just random things they saw that didn't help with the case. But they were purely random, didn't tie together in a cohesive narrative. What I wanted to do was simulate the entire night and the back stories. So someone might be having an affair, and some people would know about it. Red herring motives. Basically like an episode of any modern crime show where there are always suspects that seem to be the likely person, but turn out not to be. I never got around to making it, though it's still on my list of game ideas for the future.
So I'm a huge fan of your simulated crime scenes and I love the noire. So I'm really excited for this game. Keep up the posts, I'm really enjoying them.

Thanks Bacon! Sounds pretty much like what I'm trying to do with this project- definitely a challenge for sure, but that's the goal. Glad you are enjoying Smiley
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« Reply #23 on: August 26, 2018, 07:49:56 AM »

This is such a clever idea
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« Reply #24 on: August 26, 2018, 10:21:30 AM »

Quote from: ColePowered
Secondly, although obviously right now the city is pretty non-diverse with my basic film noir white detective, I have big plans for having all shapes, skin tones, hair colours, and hairstyles etc. Building the character models in a way that is easily segmented into head, torso, and legs means this diversity among characters will be possible, and that's super easy to do with voxels.

Good on you. I also like hearing about the technical considerations behind making in-game diversity feasible. The gamedev community has lots of available info on why it's important, but not so much info on how.

Love the look of this, the Deus Ex and System Shock inspirations, and the promise of gruesome, detailed, generated crime scenes. Nutty.

Have you read From Hell? Put it on the inspiration pile for sure!
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« Reply #25 on: August 27, 2018, 08:47:02 AM »

Wow! I'm hyped  Grin Definitely keeping this one under radar.
Love the concept, the art style and the UI (big fan of Deus Ex and System Shock here).

Need alpha testing ?
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« Reply #26 on: August 27, 2018, 11:21:28 PM »

This is such a brilliant idea. Following.
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« Reply #27 on: August 28, 2018, 12:28:28 AM »

Doors! That crime scene looks particularly grizzly, will there be more subtle crime scenes, e.g. poisoning? Exciting to see the plot thicken.
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« Reply #28 on: August 28, 2018, 02:12:16 AM »

such a cool idea!
I had a similiar plan for a game, but trying to confine it to a very small space, like a house (inspired by the murder mysteries of Hercule Poirot and the such). But I was worried the NPCs were just too few to guarantee enough clues and story. I guess in a big city with thousand of them it might be easier to do?

all the best, looking forward to play this Smiley
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« Reply #29 on: August 28, 2018, 10:44:49 AM »

Here's an idea: mysterious suicide cult.
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« Reply #30 on: August 28, 2018, 11:14:45 PM »

This is a fantastic project, I'm so hyped to see where it goes! The management layer all sounds great, the city looks incredible in first person, and I love all the UI, the cork-board is especially cool. Really exciting stuff!
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« Reply #31 on: September 02, 2018, 01:06:58 AM »

Looks great, right up my dark, rain-swept alley for sure. I've seen other projects which talk a good talk about this sort of narrative generation but you seem to have the work ethic and skills to really succeed with it. Very excited to watch it develop!
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« Reply #32 on: September 02, 2018, 09:55:42 AM »

I love the idea and the graphics look great too! Following Smiley
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« Reply #33 on: September 13, 2018, 08:42:26 AM »

Wow thanks all for the feedback & enthusiasm! Grin

Quote from: ColePowered
Secondly, although obviously right now the city is pretty non-diverse with my basic film noir white detective, I have big plans for having all shapes, skin tones, hair colours, and hairstyles etc. Building the character models in a way that is easily segmented into head, torso, and legs means this diversity among characters will be possible, and that's super easy to do with voxels.

Good on you. I also like hearing about the technical considerations behind making in-game diversity feasible. The gamedev community has lots of available info on why it's important, but not so much info on how.

Love the look of this, the Deus Ex and System Shock inspirations, and the promise of gruesome, detailed, generated crime scenes. Nutty.

Have you read From Hell? Put it on the inspiration pile for sure!
Glad you approve. I have not read From Hell, it's been on my list for aggggges, I really need to check it out!

Wow! I'm hyped  Grin Definitely keeping this one under radar.
Love the concept, the art style and the UI (big fan of Deus Ex and System Shock here).

Need alpha testing ?
Thanks  Grin I'm not that close to any kind of testing phase though- the game probably looks a bit more further along than it actually is right now. I'm back to focusing on getting the gameplay down so it actually becomes playable!

Doors! That crime scene looks particularly grizzly, will there be more subtle crime scenes, e.g. poisoning? Exciting to see the plot thicken.
I haven't finalized how many different kinds of murders there will be. Poisoning is definitely on the cards though.

such a cool idea!
I had a similiar plan for a game, but trying to confine it to a very small space, like a house (inspired by the murder mysteries of Hercule Poirot and the such). But I was worried the NPCs were just too few to guarantee enough clues and story. I guess in a big city with thousand of them it might be easier to do?

all the best, looking forward to play this Smiley
Thanks! This for sure is a very difficult project to work on, and I'm still a bit worried of that. My plan is to fill the world with enough detail that simply the act of investigating is fun and engrossing. We'll see!


I was ill last week, hence the lack of updates recently- but I'm back to it this week. Hopefully a new dev blog this weekend.
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« Reply #34 on: September 13, 2018, 11:24:41 AM »

I finally watched Red Dragon last night. I've gotta stop doing horror movies on weeknights. Now I'm trying to decide if I should go on to watch Hannibal (the TV show) and/or read the original books. Thoughts?
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« Reply #35 on: September 14, 2018, 04:41:33 AM »

I finally watched Red Dragon last night. I've gotta stop doing horror movies on weeknights. Now I'm trying to decide if I should go on to watch Hannibal (the TV show) and/or read the original books. Thoughts?

I haven't seen Red Dragon but I loved Manhunter (I'd recommend that- also based on Red Dragon). I didn't really get on with the tv series oddly, and it seems right up my street. I only watched the first half of the first season though, I've heard it gets really good by S2 so don't take my word for it!
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« Reply #36 on: September 14, 2018, 07:03:02 AM »

Great idea and amazing execution so far.

I have a stupid question: murder misteries usually rely on clues, and those clues are usually tied to human behaviour. Detectives associate clues with specific traits of people so they can narrow suspects, but because your model of murderer's mind will be simple, player could end up guessing traits that are not really into your model.

Are you planning to create a set of "guessable" traits? in that case, wouldnt the game become repetitive after having watched all of them? (p.e. - oh, a stub at the crime scene, so the murderer smokes... -)

Anyway, Im pretty sure you will end up with some great gameplay.
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« Reply #37 on: September 14, 2018, 07:52:12 AM »

Great idea and amazing execution so far.

I have a stupid question: murder misteries usually rely on clues, and those clues are usually tied to human behaviour. Detectives associate clues with specific traits of people so they can narrow suspects, but because your model of murderer's mind will be simple, player could end up guessing traits that are not really into your model.

Are you planning to create a set of "guessable" traits? in that case, wouldnt the game become repetitive after having watched all of them? (p.e. - oh, a stub at the crime scene, so the murderer smokes... -)

Anyway, Im pretty sure you will end up with some great gameplay.

Great question! The key, I think, lies in the joy of playing through something emergent and procedural as opposed to scripted. In my opinion, a game is more engrossing with the knowledge that everything happening in your game world is unique to your game, your character and decisions- that's what I'm going for here too. I'm never going to be able to recreate the narrative intricacy of a detective novel, but the strength of this game will be allowing the player complete freedom to conduct their investigation.

To use your example- a cigarette stub at a crime scene; so the killer smokes. But where were the cigarettes purchased? You might search for the nearest store that sells them and question the shopkeeper, then the people he/she saw that night. You might from now on decide to prioritize suspects who smoke (or even smoke that particular brand). Or you could send the cigarette to your forensics lab- they might be able to tell you when it was put out, giving you a more accurate time of death. Your department might have access to advanced DNA facilities, so you could test for that in the hopes of retrieving some DNA traces! But that's expensive, and you could decide to spend those resources elsewhere...

So it's all about creating those decisions for the player at every turn.
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« Reply #38 on: September 15, 2018, 11:23:04 AM »

In this dev blog, I'll discuss the challenge of creating and simulating the population of the city.


At the core of this project is the simulation of 100s of little citizens, all going about their daily routines. They all have jobs, places to be, things they like doing, and favourite places to eat and drink. Most of them will happily go about their day while you play, unaffected by the grisly murders happening elsewhere in the city. You'll likely never interact with 90% of them. Yet they're essential to the game because they are the hay in your needle-in-a-haystack search.

The average citizen currently makes to about 4 - 10 different journeys every day. A typical day might involve getting up and going for a coffee at the cafe down the street from their apartment before going to work. They'll have lunch at the pizza place in the shopping mall, then back to work. After work they may visit the local sports bar before finally heading back home, picking up some groceries on the way.


Citizens' needs for caffeine are actually simulated too!

Simulating 100s of the above would be a hugely intensive task for a system to handle in real time. That's why I've chosen not to handle it in real-time. Instead, the game needs a brief period of calculation time before the start of each day (typically no more than 10 -15 seconds depending on the population count). During this time their activities for the day are chosen and mapped out for them. This way I can have the number of citizens I want without it being too demanding on the system. Of course, they can deviate from this if the situation calls for it, and their altered routine can be calculated by the game in real time as there will never be more than a handful of citizens requiring deviations. For example, if they find a dead body in their apartment they may not worry quite so much about getting to work on time!

In addition to having a routine and places to go, they also need to record what/who they've seen. This is in case they are relevant to one of your investigations and you decide to question them. Most 'memories' the citizens form are sightings- these are triggered by a global check that loops through travelling citizens and checks if they can see one another:


The green lines represent citizens seeing each other, the red ones means they have met/are familiar with each other.

Citizens can also see into windows across the street adjacent to their own if the light is on- this means in certain circumstances you may wish to question the occupants of an apartment in an adjacent building for example. It's systems like this that can help broaden the logical options available to the player, and hopefully makes the open-ended detective work satisfying!

Citizen memories start off by being pretty much 100% accurate, but over time they become fuzzier. How long memories last depends on a large variety of factors- for example, if and how well they know the other person, their visual distinctiveness, whether they were behaving strangely, how good the citizen's memory is in general (can be affected by age), and even the alertness level of the witness.

As memories fade, time accuracy is reduced up until the point the memory is lost completely, and therefore won't surface when you question someone. This creates a natural time pressure within your investigation- you're going to want to discover and question your witnesses as efficiently as possible so their memories are fresh in their mind and you can get the most accurate picture of what happened.

You may need to be wary. If the citizens know their presence at a certain place looks bad for them (they may have been near the scene of the crime and have no witnesses to back them up) they may actually choose to lie or bend the truth to avoid being treated as suspicious, even if they actually are innocent! Most innocent citizens will be more inclined to tell the truth however. Lying is whole other kettle of fish that I still need to explore in detail to find what works.

You're not always going to need to go to searching for witnesses either. After a press release and appeal for information, you may get witnesses reaching out to you. Spending more of your resources in getting the word out about your investigation may increase the chance of this. It's your case and it's completely down to you how you want to handle it! Freedom in this respect is this game's killer feature.
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« Reply #39 on: September 15, 2018, 01:34:28 PM »

Amazing post. More thoughts I just thought:

  • For the NPCs' AI in deciding what to tell you during questioning/when and what to lie about, what little I've skimmed about game AI tells me Utility Theory might be a good approach to take. Have you looked into that/am I on the right track?
  • You could make the daily simulation period seamless if you did a cute montage/scroll-through of the day's news events while the system is plotting out NPC schedules. So, press releases about murders, and maybe other random items of interest like the newspaper headlines you get at the start of every level in Papers, Please.
  • The coolest thing about Red Dragon was how the killer was counter-sleuthing to try and kill the detective first. Something like that should definitely happen!
  • ...Maybe in a million years that could actually be a multiplayer mode where one player gets to be the killer trying to cover their tracks  Evil (an extremely ambitious idea, that one)
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