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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsThe Resurrection - A game about (re)building the past
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Schrompf
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« Reply #100 on: October 28, 2019, 11:19:16 PM »

Great to see you're still going!
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« Reply #101 on: October 29, 2019, 01:43:02 AM »

quoted because pagination:

It’s snowing hard outside, it’s very cold, the morning light is dim, the local school is cancelled. Here at work the lights are all off, we aren’t open yet, the Library is lit only by the greywhite light from the windows, and I am the only person in the building. I have a few moments entirely to myself. It’s cozy.

I have this very rare moment to compose an update.

Still on the Map


Yes, I’m still on the roadmap toward a demo. Despite a sustained period of increased family and work commitments, development grinds steadily onward.  The basic form of the first site, the parish church, is compete and functioning in-game (you might have seen some posts on Twitter’s #screenshotsaturday).  I’m working on the finishing details of the church now – the roof structures and some basic furniture.

Here’s some shots of the progress:


The shell of the church.


Two forms of tracery for the east window.




The east end being assembled in-game.

I was getting kind-of worn-down on development because there didn’t seem to be much progress or time for progress.  However, a couple of weeks ago, when I had the basic building blocks done and setup in the game, I was able to see the form of the complete building for the first time and I caught a glimpse of how the game might look and feel for a first-time player.  And it was magic. 

So, with renewed encouragement, I’m back to work.

What’s Left for the Demo?

Details.  Lots of details.  I think there are always details that could go in.  But they don’t have to go in, so I’m trying very hard to take note of them and then set them aside for now. 

Audio.  All of it.  Again, I want to thank everyone who has offered to help on this.  I’m flattered and humbled (oxymoron?) by your interest and your talent.  I’m also very sorry that I don’t have the funding in-hand to be able to accept your generous offers.  I don’t want to ask anyone to work for promises on later return.  This is such a niche game, I have set my expectations very, very low in terms of sales.  I simply want to create an experience that will delight and entertain.  As such, I’m not sure there will be any income at all from this – and I think asking anyone to spend the most valuable thing they have – time – for free is just not right, in this case.  So, for now, the audio is in my very amateur hands.  Hopefully my placeholder audio will be just that – placeholder, and, later, if I can find some modest funding, we can use it to build something beautiful!

Time Travel. I think the wobbliest of my systems is time travel.  It’s so fragile that I’ve held off further work on it while the main structure of the church comes together.  But I’m going to have to get that system working reliably, so this is a point where work will slow down a bit, but it is essential to make it robust enough that I can move forward on creating content.

’Cutscenes’. Those odd ‘cutscenes’/vignettes need to be triggered in some way.  This will be a combination of triggering based on other events in-game, the player’s current physical location, and their current temporal location.  I need to work out the rules for this and build them.  This is a lot like the other rules working behind-the-scenes, so I think it is a matter of adapting work that is in-place and functioning, rather than forging something new.

Menus. Well, UI generally.  A year ago I created a working menu system and starting screen.  But I need to get that better integrated into the game now.  And I need to add a way to have multiple save files that the play can access.  (Multiple save files will also help development because I can load different points or branches within the game at-will.)  Again, I’ve got the basics of this already working – but there is some user-facing work that needs to be done.

So, it’s all still progressing.  One of my major time commitments just came to an end, so, for a couple of months, I won’t be dealing with that.  I might be able to convert some of that space to dev time, which would make me very happy.

And, of course, I want to get back into more regular posting here because this, too, is an important place of encouragement, learning, and motivation.

Thanks for reading.  I’ve got to go turn on the lights and shovel some snow!

Fantastic update, like  Schrompf said it's great to see this is still going strong! Also, that opening paragraph has me reaching for a hot cup of tea
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« Reply #102 on: October 29, 2019, 08:34:40 AM »

It’s snowing hard outside, it’s very cold, the morning light is dim, the local school is cancelled. Here at work the lights are all off, we aren’t open yet, the Library is lit only by the greywhite light from the windows, and I am the only person in the building. I have a few moments entirely to myself. It’s cozy.

I have this very rare moment to compose an update.
Wow, you've transported me, and I'm going to stay for a while.
New posts from you are always a pleasure. It's great to see a clear roadmap to a demo, and to hear you found a fresh spark of magic.

Also, that opening paragraph has me reaching for a hot cup of tea
Much the same. Time to refill my coffee!
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« Reply #103 on: October 29, 2019, 09:08:07 AM »

I've missed some updates on this! Really cool to hear a demo is on the way. Looking forward to that a lot. Those effects in the video are mesmerising. Kiss Your progress reminds me a lot of my own, with all sorts of systems kind of done and available in the background but all needing some fixes and bringing together, haha. That's solo game dev…
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« Reply #104 on: November 08, 2019, 06:43:32 PM »

Details Details…


The best laid plans … I planned to post on Monday this week, but things came up, life happened, and now another week has gone by.  So much for planning.

The past two weeks have been dedicated to the finishing details of the parish church site.  Once the player reconstructs the shell of the building, the details such as the roof and furniture populate themselves, based on the player’s choices.  This takes agency away from the player a little bit, but it’s a compromise in terms of design because these finishing details are often quite specific to the final form of the shell of the building and sometimes do not lend themselves easily to “meaningful” modularity.  Also, I have a feeling that the game is already repetitive enough and that these finishing details, which would not be open to case-by-case variations in design due to their dependence on the building’s shell, would only be busy-work for the player.


Rendering of just the details of the church, after the player completes the shell, with the basic form of the shell shown in wireframe.

I do feel there is justification for having the finishing details (and other features) filled-in automatically.  Auto-completion can lend a sense of conversation between the player and the building.  This is especially true after a string of smaller back-and-forth moments where the player has chosen a number of options, one after the other.  Once they have completed a series of choices, an auto-completion event is triggered, as though the building has, in some way, been listening to the player and participates in their ideas – or having posed a series of question to the player, has revealed its own thoughts, based on their answers.  This also punctuates gameplay, moving the players from one idea to the next, giving them space to think, to evaluate their own decisions in light of what gets auto-completed at the end.  In the best situations it creates moments of revelation.

You can see an example of auto-completion in the following animation.  It happens quickly, so you may not catch it, but the tower’s roof and parapet details appear and then the camera zooms back, and the topsoil is removed from the rest of the parish church site.  This completes the idea of the tower (based on the player’s choices, because another form of tower is possible, if the player chooses different options earlier) and then provides a moment of revelation as the rest of the site is uncovered.




Completing the tower and revealing the rest of the church site.

(At least, it feels exciting to me when I playtest, and that’s probably a good sign.)

The edge of visual acuity
A couple of weeks ago Heather Penn, the art director and one of the modelers on Overland celebrated shipping the game by asking if anyone had any questions about her modeling process.  A lot of good questions were asked.  I’ve been following her work for a couple of years now, and admire it greatly (you will notice some visual similarities between her work on Overland and mine here – and I hope the similarity is not so close as to be considered plagiarism, but rather creative response to an inspiring style). 

Heather Penn’s invitation on twitter: https://twitter.com/heatpenn/status/1188144601858596864?s=20

Anyway, Heather’s question got me thinking about one of my struggles with low-poly style: detail where it counts.  In my professional practice the clients always want photo-realism and detail.  Detail everywhere.  Indiscriminate detail.  Detail for detail’s sake.  This is especially true for the medieval church interiors I specialize in.  Take this rendering of the interior of St Stephen’s Chapel in the Palace of Westminster c1360, as an example:


My model of the interior of the private royal chapel of St Stephen, Palace of Westminster, c1360.  (Part of the Virtual St Stephen’s project: VSS Project)

The visual style of The Resurrection is a little different.  There are no textures.  All of the detail must be accomplished with geometry (and vertex color) alone.  (There is an old but absolutely excellent post on this by Alain Puget here: Alkemi Games’ blog)  The practical cost of geometry in terms of frame rate has been steadily going down for years, but there is still a cost and it needs to be balanced against some of the more expensive aspects of the visual style such as the cross-section shaders and visual effects.  So, how to strike this balance between geometry and detail where it’s needed?  I don’t know.  But that’s what I’m trying to discover with the finishing details of this site.

The answer, it seems to me, lies somewhere in the realm of the limits of visual acuity.  Given the rendering style, what can the eye discern as distinct detail at various camera distances?  What is necessary and what simply won’t show up?  This depends, in part, on how close the camera is allowed to get to the models.  In this game, the player can zoom the camera in and out within quite a large range.  In fact, I think they can zoom in a little too closely, past the point where the low-poly style starts to break down aesthetically.  But, there are potentially small objects and small details which might interest the player in certain places and at certain times.  I have the feeling that most players will want to keep the camera at whatever distance frames the portion of the site they’re currently working on, and this is usually at such a distance that the finer details will be invisible.

So, I have created a test with the parish church finishing details.  The roofs are more than just the outer coverings.  They are also structurally accurate.  This is because the player can cross-section whole buildings whenever they want, and I think accurate structural details help sell the look – and they’re interesting.  But, these structural details are left pretty lo-fi – just the main structural components, but without the details such as mouldings or carvings.  The camera never dips below the horizon, so the player will never be able to look up at the roofs from below, where most of such detail would have been concentrated.  But, in the chancel, I have chamfered the beams, as a token nod to such detail.  I’m curious to see how that looks in comparison to the other roofs.  The furniture is even more detailed.  Most of this furniture is composed of the screens that separated different areas of the church into separate chapels and semi-private spaces (whole PhDs have been done on these screens and partitions – I know, I wrote one of them!).  This wooden screenwork is composed of lots of detailed moulding and carving, including wooden tracery.  But it’s also small in comparison to the structure of the roof.  And it’s inside.  I’m curious to see how much of that visual detail will be apparent to the user.  It’s going to be my benchmark to determine level-of-detail elsewhere in the game.  Stay tuned!


The font cover.  In medieval churches this was an elaborate piece of woodwork.  It happens to be the research focus of a good friend of mine, so I felt compelled to do an extra-fancy one.  Let’s see if that detail even shows up in-game!

Next
My goal for next week is to get the details into the game and then to work on the system that triggers those “cutscenes” I discussed last summer.

Thanks for reading!
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« Reply #105 on: November 09, 2019, 06:42:21 AM »

Maybe you could have some kind of mechanic where you could interact with certain elements to see them in greater detail? Use lower-poly models to show them in the zoomed-out view, and you can click on them to zoom in and pan around the beautiful high detail versions.

The game looks really cool so far, keep it up!
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« Reply #106 on: November 09, 2019, 12:41:31 PM »

Great to see you're still going!
Thank you! Sometimes the going is slower than I'd like, of course, but at least it's moving steadily.

Fantastic update, like  Schrompf said it's great to see this is still going strong! Also, that opening paragraph has me reaching for a hot cup of tea
That snowy morning here was just perfect for some cocoa and some time to report and reflect.  It has warmed up and all of that snow is gone now.  Speaking of snow, someday I'm going to work snow into my main shader...

Wow, you've transported me, and I'm going to stay for a while.
New posts from you are always a pleasure. It's great to see a clear roadmap to a demo, and to hear you found a fresh spark of magic.
That was such a helpful moment, when I saw the whole site come together. I was so pleased with it that I respond to a tweet from Mike Bithell (where he asked devs to share something positive) and he responded personally with an encouraging comment.  Which was pretty cool, honestly.

The demo will take, like, fifteen minutes to actually play through, but all of the important systems will be in-place and I will gather some feedback and good advice, I hope.  Wouldn't it be cool to have it ready by the New Year.  Might be a bit ambitions...

I've missed some updates on this! Really cool to hear a demo is on the way. Looking forward to that a lot. Those effects in the video are mesmerising. Kiss Your progress reminds me a lot of my own, with all sorts of systems kind of done and available in the background but all needing some fixes and bringing together, haha. That's solo game dev…
Thank you! I'm going to work on those build effects.  I have some ideas, but I need to level-up in my own knowledge of shaders to accomplish this.  That amazing Recompile game always inspires me.

Also, I absolutely agree on the game being a loose collection of all kinds of systems and now I'm starting to knit them a little tighter together.  The good thing is that I can see how the complete toolset works together now, and that's very encouraging.  I'm not doing anything crazy, like building my own engine while also designing a game, though.  That would be crazy...  Wink

Maybe you could have some kind of mechanic where you could interact with certain elements to see them in greater detail? Use lower-poly models to show them in the zoomed-out view, and you can click on them to zoom in and pan around the beautiful high detail versions.

The game looks really cool so far, keep it up!
Thank you, and you're right - I've been thinking sort of along the same lines about detailed objects in close-up.  Players can uncover architectural fragments (which can unlock additional building options) and artifacts (some of which can unlock time travel options) and players can look at these individual items in the inventory screen close-up and interactively.  I hadn't thought of extending that concept to non-inventory items, though.  Perhaps to major features like the screens in the church, or sculpture, or whole building interiors...  Thanks for your suggestions!
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« Reply #107 on: November 11, 2019, 03:20:33 AM »

Another amazing update. Good timing for me too, since I've just started on my own system for piecing together modular buildings. Cheesy Very inspiring. Didn't know you also make these even more intricate models in your work outside this game. That must take quite some time…
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« Reply #108 on: November 11, 2019, 08:45:41 AM »

[...] as though the building has, in some way, been listening to the player and participates in their ideas – or having posed a series of question to the player, has revealed its own thoughts, based on their answers. [...]




Completing the tower and revealing the rest of the church site.

(At least, it feels exciting to me when I playtest, and that’s probably a good sign.)

Compromise or not, I think this auto-completion is great. This game has such a unique flavor, where slow and deliberate choices are favored/required, that it feels incredibly satisfying and even exciting when a structure auto-completes. I could sense that even in that preview video.

With this pace in mind, however, I think slowing down the auto-completion animation would make that moment feel even more important and rewarding. Along with some tasty sound design and possibly a musical cue, it'll be fantastic!

Great update, great work Smiley
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« Reply #109 on: November 15, 2019, 09:09:22 AM »

Another amazing update. Good timing for me too, since I've just started on my own system for piecing together modular buildings. Cheesy Very inspiring. Didn't know you also make these even more intricate models in your work outside this game. That must take quite some time…

I have trouble devising modular designs myself - I'm just not that good at object-oriented, logical thinking, especially when dealing with historic build period where things were not usually devised on a grid.  I know there are lots of tricks to getting away from the grid-based look, but it hurts my head to think about it.  I am a huge admirer of Oskar Stalberg's work where he creates procedural buildings which feel organic.  But I think he's capable of thinking on quite a different level from me!   Undecided

More detailed models ... yes, that's my professional work and it does take some time.  That image I posted of St Stephen's Chapel was part of a larger project which I worked on for three years (not full-time, but very close for sustained periods)!

I'm watching your devlog with great interest.  I'm looking forward to seeing how you approach the whole modularity challenge - and I hope to learn something, too.

Compromise or not, I think this auto-completion is great. This game has such a unique flavor, where slow and deliberate choices are favored/required, that it feels incredibly satisfying and even exciting when a structure auto-completes. I could sense that even in that preview video.

With this pace in mind, however, I think slowing down the auto-completion animation would make that moment feel even more important and rewarding. Along with some tasty sound design and possibly a musical cue, it'll be fantastic!

Great update, great work Smiley

You are so right!  Those auto-completion animations go WAY too fast.  Slowing it down will feel so much more rewarding for the player.  That's a very good idea.

And the sound design will be critical, too.  Perhaps even more than the visual design.  I'm itching to get to audio.  If I can at least block out something, perhaps that will provide the foundation to create something good later on, if funding should appear.
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« Reply #110 on: November 16, 2019, 03:35:19 PM »

I'm looking forward to seeing how you approach the whole modularity challenge - and I hope to learn something, too.
I too hope to learn, haha. Haven't really done much of this in 3D before. I do want it to feel somewhat organic too (have seen Oskar's stuff before as well) so we'll see what I can come up with!

Also agree on the animation! Not sure why I didn't think about that earlier. Shocked
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« Reply #111 on: December 05, 2019, 07:31:20 PM »

The Agony of Options

How did a whole month slip by?

Quote
My goal for next week is to get the details into the game and then to work on the system that triggers those “cutscenes” I discussed last summer.

Well, that still isn’t 100% ready yet.  What a surprise!

I did get the roof and furniture into the game and functioning.  I create the buildings in the game by laying out blocks the size of each building unit and then I build the detailed models that will fill those blocks as-needed.  So, the first time I saw the roof and furniture in-game was also the first time I saw the whole parish church complete.  I was very excited.  Here it is, in case you missed it on twitter:


Ta-da!  The complete parish church.  Well, one version of it (and there are still some details to finish).  The version you build might look different in some of its details, and I hope it does.

But I did not get the cutscene-activation system finished.  And that’s because of the terrifying consequences of choice in branching-dialogue-type games…

The terror of choice
I’m playing through Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.  At one point in a side-quest I am present as a family reunites.  It’s the climax of the quest as parent and child talk to each other for the first time.  I’m given a dialogue option: say something encouraging, to bless the reunion; or say something to cast suspicion on the relationship.  I’m playing as a nice-guy – and my Kassandra (of course) is more of a goofball than a cold-hearted killer (which means plenty of ludo-narrative dissonance) – so, naturally, I’m going to be encouraging.  But, my finger slips and I choose the suspicious option.  Now I’ve soured the whole moment.  Way to go. 

I find branching dialogue games to be full of tension.  In most games, the text of the dialogue choices you see on-screen rarely matches the words your character speaks.  You’re never quite sure if you’ve interpreted the intent of the options correctly.  I had the worst time with this in LA Noire and sometimes even in that narrative landmark The Witcher 3.  Also, you often don’t understand the weight of your choices.  Most choices in narrative-heavy games are smoke-and-mirrors, having very little impact on the course of the game.  Only a few options lead to fundamentally different branches of narrative.  The tension comes from not knowing which choices truly branch and which choices are decoration to make you feel like you have agency.  In Odyssey, again, during the “Dagger to the Heart” sub-quest, I really do wonder if I ever had agency (without doing some kind of outside-the-box shenanigans) during what felt like a very significant and weighty moment.  Finally, for dialogue choices, there is no undo.  Whatever you choose (on purpose or by accident), you must deal with the consequences.  My daughter and I played through Life is Strange and we experienced more terror, dread, relief, and joy than most games I’ve played simply because we shared the agony of decision-making in the full knowledge that there was no undo.  Sure, in reality there is undo in Life is Strange, it’s the core mechanic of the game, but that system is so elaborate that the moment-to-moment tension in decision making remained, for us, satisfyingly terrifying.


Showing-off the cross-section system. (I just placed this here to break up the wall-of-text.)

Ryan Hamann wrote an excellent piece over on Cane and Rinse a few years ago on the weight of decisions in narrative games, and how various forms of “undo” can enhance or undermine a game’s moral and philosophical goals.

But, I don’t know of any branching narrative game that gives you an immediate, ctrl-z type of undo.  I think there are a few reasons for this: as Ryan Hamann noted, undo tends to suck the tension out of decisions.  It’s a matter of design and developer expression.  It’s also a matter of resources.  If you’re going to allow immediate undo then players are going to be able to traverse every branch of your dialogue tree rapidly which either reveals your narrative to be the flimsy sham it might be or force you to create unsustainable amounts of alternative content for the player to burn.  There’s some expediency in keeping secrets from your players.  Finally, it’s a UX thing.  The narrative flow grinds to a halt with immediate undo, which is frustrating for everyone.

However, undo is a fundamental quality-of-life feature in building games.  Chose the wrong block in Mincraft?  Pick it apart.  Wanted a wall with a window instead of that solid wall you just placed in Fortnite?  Edit is right at your fingertips.  The Resurrection seems, at least superficially, a little bit like a building game.  But there is no undo and no edit.


Turns out, it’s more fun to ruin a model than to build one.

So what does all that have to do with the cutscene system?
Cutscenes trigger based on a combination of factors: events, time period, and the player’s current location.  It was a fun system to figure out.  But, in order to test the system, I need to time travel.  And, of course, that’s when the mingling of building-as-dialogue-system, branching narrative, and time travel began to show its onion-like layers…

The onion:  In order to time travel, I need to have the content for each period ready, so I can make sure the cutscenes are playing nicely with their surroundings.  I don’t have all of the content for the church in other periods finished yet.  So, I started working on that.  Then I realized that the one cutscene I’ve put together plays within the chancel of the church.  The chancel has a roof and walls, which means the player may not even notice that the cutscene has appeared.  I had always planned for the chancel to be in ruins for this cutscene – which would also mean that the cutscene would be more visible.  So, I started building the ruins (which is tons of fun – see the picture, below).  But, player choice posed a problem.  The ruins have to be specific to the player’s choices, otherwise their choices are without consequence, and the narrative of the game is undermined.  So, I had to figure out how to create a system that allowed for both whole and altered versions of the player’s choices, which means tinkering with the building system.  And, while working with the building system I’ve started to think about undo.

But, will undo undermine my expressive goals for this game?  The thing I love about dialogue systems is the tension that comes from the permanence of decisions you’ve made based on an incomplete understanding of the consequences.  I want that for this game.  But, this game also feels like a building game, and even I have wanted to undo on occasion while testing.

So, what do I do?  You might say that a choice lies before me: to add undo, or not to add undo?  Oh, the delightful agony of choice.  Undecided
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« Reply #112 on: December 06, 2019, 08:14:54 AM »

It's a bit hard to tell at this resolution but that looks like a ton of little details to fill in Shocked
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« Reply #113 on: December 06, 2019, 02:12:15 PM »

How often will the player be doing actual construction?

I think undo is good and almost expected when the de/constructing happens nearly constantly (Minecraft, etc). If it's fairly infrequent and comes only after a good amount of exploration and thought, I think keeping undo out is the right choice as it would definitely cheapen the narrative aspect.

This is a dense game to work on, but you're doing great. I really like the screenshots too!

Also, I found this thread from Jon Blow recently that feels potentially appropriate (but still good regardless).

Edit: that article you linked is very good. Thanks for that!
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« Reply #114 on: December 13, 2019, 02:35:58 PM »

Also, you often don’t understand the weight of your choices.  Most choices in narrative-heavy games are smoke-and-mirrors, having very little impact on the course of the game.  Only a few options lead to fundamentally different branches of narrative. 

This is something that the Choice of Games people solved years ago with delayed branching. Of course, it's not the only solution, not even my preferred one, but it's one of the simplest.
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« Reply #115 on: December 22, 2019, 02:50:24 PM »

Ghosts in the Chancel


Quote
My goal for next week is to get the details into the game and then to work on the system that triggers those “cutscenes” I discussed last summer.

Done!

In my last post I went on a bit questioning the existential ramifications of dialogue mechanics in games.  That bit of navel-gazing was prompted by having to deconstruct substantial portions of my codebase in an effort to get the disparate systems of the game working together.

The last couple of weeks have been a comparative marathon of bug fixing, refactoring, and tweaking in order to end up with something that would reveal a vignette (what I’ve been calling a “cutscene”) after the right combination of player choices, at the right time in history, and in the right place in space.

I’m pleased to say, as of Friday afternoon, I saw it functioning as intended in-game.  Here it is (I don’t expect anyone to be able to make any meaningful sense out of this image):


Ghosts in the chancel engaged in mysterious rites. If you squint you can just make out their vaguely human forms.

Milestone reached
I’m very pleased, but boy, was it a slog getting here!  This is something of a development milestone because it means that all of the key systems are now talking to each other.  The rebuilding system is talking to the inventory, which is talking to the time travel manager, which is talking to individual building components, which are talking to the cutscene system.  All of the spaghetti is being followed along all of the twists and turns of logic.  If a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the game, a (carefully and deliberately constructed) storm is eventually unleashed in another part.

Along the way I had to tear apart a portion of the rebuilding system because I needed the flexibility to not only swap out parts of buildings as the user moves through time, but also to swap out variants of those building parts determined by a combination of rules set by pre-determined design and runtime player choice.  I was part-way through that last time I wrote.

Once I had the rebuilding system as flexible as I needed it to be, I really had to just grit my teeth and tackle the time travel system (again).  This has always been a system which worked better in theory than in practice.  When I started sometime last week I could rebuild the church but when I jumped in time, parts of it would just disappear.  Navigating around the 3d scene would also result in most of the remaining parts of the building vanishing never to return.  Over a year ago I had also created a  cool portal effect where you could catch a glimpse of another time period before actually travelling there.  But that did … weird things … , too. 


A portal to the past? I love this look but I have no idea how I made it do that… (Also, this might just be my new cover art.)

After a lot of line-by-line debugging, following the logic and the data as it was transformed from system to system, the whole mess started to slowly fall into its proper place.  The underlying concepts and processes turned out to be pretty sound.  There was a logic tangle in the layer-changing system which turned out to be the main culprit.  With that sorted out, things just started to work.


Time A … Time B … Time A … Time B …

The portal took some extra work as it was a combination of bad design, poor logic, and … shaders.  It was pretty delightful to see that start to work properly, though.  The effect doesn’t play nicely with the Ambient Occlusion postprocessing effect, though, but I’m okay with that.  I kind of like the resulting visual artifacts.  (See the video, below.)  Similar artifacts exist in the system that fades out building walls to allow you to see inside, and again, I think they’re visually interesting.


I like the ghosting effect.

The most difficult part of the whole marathon turned out to be the cutscene management system.  The logic behind it was pretty good – even elegant (for me).  But, it just wouldn’t play nicely with any of the other systems it needed to talk to.  Cutscenes can be triggered by an event, a time, a location, or any combination of these.  Getting events, time, and space to all talk to the manager, though, was quite a challenge, compounded by the fact that I don’t understand how compute shaders work with Unity’s layering system.  But by Friday afternoon I had worked around that problem, too, and the results are that odd picture at the top of this post.

”That looks like a ton of little details to fill in”
JobLeonard’s and ChrisLSound’s responses to my last post have been rolling in around in the back of my mind for a couple of weeks now.  They’re so interesting, and challenging. 

JobLeonard commented that the ruined alternate versions of the building looked like:
It's a bit hard to tell at this resolution but that looks like a ton of little details to fill in Shocked

Chris’ comments were along the same lines:
How often will the player be doing actual construction?

I think undo is good and almost expected when the de/constructing happens nearly constantly (Minecraft, etc). If it's fairly infrequent and comes only after a good amount of exploration and thought, I think keeping undo out is the right choice as it would definitely cheapen the narrative aspect.

You’re both on to something.  In the game’s current design, when you rebuild a portion of the building you do not manually put the pieces back in place.  They assemble themselves.  This has always been my intention.  One of these days I’ll talk about standing in the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey in York imagining all of the thousands of fragments lying around the site flying through the air, coalescing into the battered form of the magnificent medieval church that once stood there – rising from the past like a ghost-ship from the depths.

In practice, though, the automatic rebuilding process means that play is relatively snappy.  You can rebuild this whole parish church, which I ‘ve been working on for a couple of years now, in five minutes.  I’ve always been aware that this is all too brief and that I would like to encourage the player to explore, to notice details, to ponder.

This is what Chris was talking about when he mentioned careful choices.  Right now, you can make careful choices, but you can also just click willy-nilly and assemble … something.  So, how do I not bog the player down in jigsaw-puzzle repetition while also emphasizing that this game is not a race?

I have some thoughts on that.  I think the most effective way to achieve a leisurely pace is via UI/UX.  With some careful design I might be able to encourage players to explore, and to notice details a little more, to want to take their time and simply enjoy these ruins and the possibilities they present.

Still on the map
The main part of the time travel portion of the roadmap is in the review mirror.  Now I can turn toward the unexplored region of basic audio design and then the vast sea of content.  But, the framework of the game is now complete and functioning.  I might be so bold as to say I can see a demo in 2020!?

Happy Holidays!  (…now, where did I put those plan for a snow shader?...)
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« Reply #116 on: December 24, 2019, 05:57:03 AM »

Sounds like you had a ton of work cut out for you!

I was actually thinking more in terms of you having given yourself a really high work-load for having to make finely detailed architecture that also crumbles in realistic wasy.. but I guess that may affect the players too
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« Reply #117 on: December 24, 2019, 09:09:32 PM »

Quote from: amasinton link=topic=66820.msg1416743#msg1416743
So, how do I not bog the player down in jigsaw-puzzle repetition while also emphasizing that this game is not a race?

I have some thoughts on that.

I'm very eager to hear in detail what your ideas are for this. I imagine the way you first introduce mechanics to the player (the "tutorial", I suppose) will strongly influence how they interact with them as they move forward. Of course there needs to be more than just this to solve the above problem, but it should at least set the tone.

Quote from: amasinton link=topic=66820.msg1416743#msg1416743
Now I can turn toward the unexplored region of basic audio design and then the vast sea of content.  But, the framework of the game is now complete and functioning.  I might be so bold as to say I can see a demo in 2020!?

So exciting! Congratulations and great job on overcoming some of the most difficult parts! I look forward to more updates, as always. Happy holidays!
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« Reply #118 on: December 27, 2019, 04:07:02 PM »

How often will the player be doing actual construction?

If by actual construction you mean kind-of click-dragging individual pieces into their proper places - so far, never.  I had thought about that as a kind fo mini-game, and I might do it for very, very specific cases (Gothic window tracery is really fun to do this with, for example) - so, perhaps, eventually, minimally.

In the normal course of game play, though, the player selects one reconstruction option from an array of alternatives and that portion of the building re-constructs itself.  This is a pretty quick "loop" (if it can even be called that) but it is tied to several other "loops" which means that, in some cases, reconstructing a portion of a building will lead to a chain of other activities before returning to the main loop of click-to-reconstruct.  So, perhaps it all won't get too tiresome?

Quote
This is a dense game to work on, but you're doing great. I really like the screenshots too!


The logic behind-the-scenes is quite dense and sometimes overwhelms me.  But, to the players, this all just seems to happen naturally - which I'm hoping is a sign of "good design"!

Quote
Also, I found this thread from Jon Blow recently that feels potentially appropriate (but still good regardless).

That is very relevant, thank you!  It's exactly what I'm going through.  I went through this all the time when I used to write novels, and especially when I was writing my PhD thesis.  It holds true for gamedev, too, it seems.  I'm kind-of surprised that it comes from Jonathan Blow because his games seem to be immaculate works of logic and comprehensive vision from day 1.  I never said thank you for sharing that thread - I missed the first time it went around - but I found it really helpful.  So, thanks!  Hand Thumbs Up Left
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« Reply #119 on: December 27, 2019, 04:23:43 PM »

This is something that the Choice of Games people solved years ago with delayed branching. Of course, it's not the only solution, not even my preferred one, but it's one of the simplest.

!!! This was just the thing I've been searching for!!!  I've been trying to find a way into the "literature" on the theory and architecture of multiple-path or branching narrative design for a while now and I've just not really known where to begin.  This was perfect!  Turns out, I'm doing a little bit of "delayed branching" already, but I'm also doing bits and pieces of other approaches, too.  I just didn't know what to call them, so I had little to go on for searching for more writing on the subject.  From your link I found Emily Short's exploration of several other approaches, too - which as also been eye-opening.  I'm a neophyte in the theory of this all right now, but I'm loving the learning.  Thanks!
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