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April 16, 2021, 06:52:21 AM

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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsThe Resurrection - A game about (re)building the past
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amasinton
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« Reply #180 on: August 14, 2020, 02:57:37 PM »

While they are also very different, there are so many parallels with what I'm doing with my game right now, haha. Will see if I can cover it in a smaller update back in my own thread.

Loved that post over on your thread - I replied and I appreciate your reply to that! There are quite a few parallels in the development - and some thematic parallels, too.

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Seems like a complex game to deal with, but I think it might be worth it!

Yes! Worth it? Personally, it's already worth it, but it would be so satisfying to have someone else think so too after they play it! That's the dream: to catch someone else's imagination with something you've created - to co-dream, for a moment.
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #181 on: August 16, 2020, 01:19:07 AM »

I replied and I appreciate your reply to that!

Coffee

That's the dream: to catch someone else's imagination with something you've created - to co-dream, for a moment.

Yesss!
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amasinton
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« Reply #182 on: August 17, 2020, 07:22:44 PM »

Gosh, so much cool stuff here. The pieces are really starting to come together for me, to where I think I have a good idea of the feel you're going for.

Thanks!  The feel is something that hasn't changed much during this whole process so far, in my own mind, but expressing it in an understandable way to others is quite the trick!

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Interestingly, "metroidvania" has recently been super helpful in designing my own (very early, side-project) game - using it as a sort of model/philosophy to think about not-typically-metroidvania mechanics. The links in your posts have also made me realize I could probably learn a lot from Outer Wilds.

Yes, that's what I'm finding useful about this whole "Metroidvania" discussion we're having here - a sort of model/philosophy, rather than the specifics of platforming and sidescrolling, etc.  It's a robust but flexible model for storytelling which is non-linear while allowing the player to retain the good sense that linearity provides, because the player strings their own path through the world/content.  The whole world is there from the beginning, but the player forges their own way through it (but not in the way you experience an open world game, which is often much more haphazard).

I'd love to hear more about your own game idea(s).  Start a thread here!

Also, Outer Wilds!!! I'm only about 3 hours into it and I must confess I haven't really grasped what's going on.  I like it, a lot, and I can see some of the genius in the design, but so far I'm mainly trying to get the hang of zero-g traversal!  (The constant, gentle humor helps keep me going, too!)

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that's how historians/archaeologists work - by locking themselves in arbitrary rooms of the time dungeon
Now that is a cool pitch!

Never thought of it like that - but that would be a cool game to play.  Just leave out the years of work on committees and the thankless grind of grant writing, please!

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... Tightly-focused, highly-curious passion projects with low stakes in terms of dev cost. I think it's rad as hell to just explore ideas like this!

Same!  The great luxury of indie/hobby dev at this level is that the dev cost is mainly in time, rather than treasure, and so you are free to explore a bit more.
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« Reply #183 on: August 17, 2020, 08:02:04 PM »

I have been trying to carve out a quiet few moments (when I'm not exhausted from work) to reply to this - because it really touches on what I've been thinking about recently - and I think it's important for the overall design and feel of the game.  I just got a few of those moments ...

This reminds me so much of the process I went through when I switched to studying art/design after dropping out of physics. Physics is based on the idea that there is one external objective truth about how the universe works that we can get closer approximations of by better measurements and building better models. The result is that it is accepted in the physics community that eventually our understanding of the universe will converge on one universal theory of everything. Meanwhile art is all about acknowledging that no two subjective experiences are exactly the same, and that knowledge and interpretation is contextual.

Yes!  I'm strongly in the arts side of this equation - so much so that I did lousy on the logical thinking part of the GREs because I just couldn't grasp that there can be only one "right" answer to the questions they were asking.  I didn't understand that the word must in their questions was prompting me to find the one true solution.  To me, there were always several possible...

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I guess archaeology sits somewhere in the middle: when it comes to historical events, something has objectively happened at one point. We can get closer reconstructing to it via contextual knowledge, but must accept that there will be many gaps and different possible paths that we cannot exclude with certainty.

That is precisely why I love archaeology - because it is in the middle between "science" and "art" (in American universities Archaeology is taught, very strongly, as a Science but in the UK it sits out as its own branch, drawing students and staff from arts and humanities equally).

You're right: something objectively did happen in the past, but that one true moment, in its fullness, is lost (if it was ever possible for anyone to understand it even as it happened).  So, when an archaeologist studies the past, they are keenly aware that their interpretation of the evidence will only be an interpretation.  Nevertheless, it's hard for archaeologists to admit that, in a very real way, they are inventing history as they study it.

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Interesting how this makes your game a complete contrast with, say, Return of the Obra Din, which is a deduction game where One True Answer will come up via a process of elimination.

I think you picked up on this a while ago in this thread - before it had consciously occurred to me.  I don't think I even figured that out while I was playing Obra Dinn, at least not for a while, and that was reflected in my playstyle.  If Pope had left it up to me entirely to figure out all of the right answers, rather than letting the magic book put things in their proper place once you had gathered enough evidence, I never would have figured out the first death!  To me, there were always alternative solutions running parallel to the main one the game was trying to get you to follow.

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So basically, your intent is to craft this game in such a way that people aren't just discussing what the open ending means, but what is the ending to begin with, right?

YES!!!  I would LOVE it if people would discuss the game at all, but especially the ending (whatever that is for each of them because it is unlikely two players will have exactly the same ending).

- also -

MAYBE???  For the past couple of weeks I have been trying to figure out how to help the player feel they have come to some kind of ending.  There are events that have happened in the game spread across the island's (mostly)human history, and most playthroughs will be touched by those events in some way (some more deeply than others). But how does the player know, presuming they're engaged with the game, when they are at the end?

I finished AC Odyssey a few weeks ago - maybe even months ago - in that I got to one of the endings of the storyline about Cassandra's family.  But, I'm still wandering around ancient Greece, picking up the odd quest here and there, hunting cult members, sort-of trying to find the things creepy old Pythagoras wants me to find. But I have no sense of ending - nor do I have much sense of being in an ongoing story.  I think I've felt that way about almost every open world game I've played - and I love the genre, but it kind of just peters-out and eventually I just wander off and stop playing.

I'd like that to NOT happen here.  But I want the player to come up with their own history of the island, too - so I don't want to hand-hold or railroad them too much either.  So, how do I let the player know "there's more to do here" or "okay, that's pretty much all there is here" so they have a sense of progression?

You'll hear more about this in the next proper update.

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It might be interesting to approach this from a reverse point of view: imagine a "completionist" type gamer playing this game. How would their typical playstyle "ruin" your game and the intention of it for them, and what could (or should) be done about it? Do you want to nudge them to frame the game differently?

I say this because I'm also sort-of a completionist: I want to explore every possible story thread that a game has to offer. It's not the same as getting 100% on a game but still quite relevant to this game I'd say Wink

I love this.  It has been rolling around in my mind since you posted it here.  I don't have an answer for you, exactly, but it has sparked some really intersting thinking.  It certainly ties into how to give the player a sense of progression within the story they are telling to themselves.  I like thinking about the game from the perspective of a story completionist (thanks for the phrase!).  That's how I play games, too.  I'm strongly drawn to story, and to exploring every thead, twist, and turn I can find.

I don't think a completionist playstyle would "ruin" or break the game because I don't think it's possible to experience all of the story.  Wait, let's put that another way:  Every playthrough is complete, regardless of how long it takes or how much content is "consumed", because it's the player's story.  When you reach a branch in the story, you aren't really "losing" one pathway, rather, you are interpreting your evidence and finding ways to make that evidence work withing the overarching narrative framework you are building in your head while you play.  It's not a branch so much as an assimilation.  (?)

This approach to interactive narrative leans heavily on Kentucky Route Zero and Cardboard Computer's idea that the player is almost roleplaying or playing emotively - when presented with a choice, which choice would the character you are currently inhabiting make, based on your understanding of that character at that moment?  Your choices build the characters in your own mind.  You choose what feels right.  And you trust that there are no "wrong" answers which will make lots of sweet, sweet content inaccesible to you.

I don't know if this makes much sense, but thank you for the time and grace to waffle on about this anyway!

So far, the way I've found to give the player a sense of progression while also leaving them to write their own history of the island involves tiny EQ graphs in the inventory.  Nice, eh?  UI as narrator.

Maybe?...
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JobLeonard
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« Reply #184 on: August 28, 2020, 04:02:25 AM »

(just replying to let you know I'm interested in continuing the discussion, but I just spent the last week proofreading my partner's master thesis and am completely out of fuel regarding academic discussions for a few more days  Tired)
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amasinton
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« Reply #185 on: August 28, 2020, 11:44:15 AM »

(just replying to let you know I'm interested in continuing the discussion, but I just spent the last week proofreading my partner's master thesis and am completely out of fuel regarding academic discussions for a few more days  Tired)

Ha! No worries, I can sympathize.  And, I got carried away and wrote a wall of text - and I'm not certain it says much, for all that.  Please extend my congratulations to your partner!
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amasinton
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« Reply #186 on: December 01, 2020, 09:59:11 PM »

November Update
(Wait, now it’s December?!)

It has been a loooong time.

In this update: the other project is “finished”, content creation continues apace, I’ve had to fix time travel (again, again), I’m having second thoughts about a key visual element, and I’m cautiously optimistic about a demo.  …  Naturally, I’ve begun to rebuild the project.  (Also, music?)

It’s been a minute
While this project has been running slowly for quite some time, the the other project has been running even longer (five years, at least).  The most important difference between the two projects is that the other project is for a client, and that client has already paid me, and they really do need to have something to show for it.  I have been splitting what little dev time I have between these two projects, and it has not been healthy for either of them.  In August, I took a week of holiday, said goodbye to my family, and drove six hours away to my parent’s house, where I worked 10 to 12 hours a day on the other project.  I’m happy to report that that was the concentrated effort needed to move that project forward and (almost) across the finish line.  It has gone through (some) playtesting, further refinement, and is now in a state where the client can use it in their university teaching.  Early next year, my client and I will co-teach a couple of undergraduate sessions using the project.  Hurrah!


”The Other Project” – A “game” where you rebuild a medieval cathedral one bay at a time.

September was devoted to getting the other project into playable shape. Turns out, when you finish a game, you’re not even close to finished, because all sorts of problems pop up when you try to build the game, distribute it, and when players run it in the wild.  So, September was bug-fixing, support, and polish month.  That also carried into October.  And November.  What I learned will help with The Resurrection, too.

Putting the sea of content in its place
Work on the game has never been put aside entirely.  Much of this year has been spent on creating content for the different time periods of the demo.  I have amassed a good collection of work which needs to be added to the game.  How all of that content works with the subsystems and mechanics of the game itself is an open question. In some cases it works very well.  In others, not so much.  All of it is helpful, though, because it shows me the strengths and weaknesses of my design.  It’s just … time-consuming.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, you can go have a watch/listen to my Twitch dev streams where I have been documenting the painful process of mashing together the content and code.  They’re archived in a playlist over on my YouTube channel (link in the caption, below).


The cure for insomnia: a playlist.  



Time travel lost, time travel regained
One of the game systems which absolutely must play nicely with content is the time travel system.  Having gotten a grasp of how the rules work in July, I’m now back to making sure the code itself works.  Turns out I’ve been over-engineering things (Surprise.) and I need to work on the logic a little more (Surprise.).  This has had the added benefit of streamlining some of the underlying architecture of the game – even in systems beyond time travel.  Because of my time travel work during the past couple of weeks I am now re-thinking my approach to asset-streaming, too.  This is a good thing.  (I’ll be setting aside my home-rolled, Addressables-based system  in favor of Sectr streaming (why reinvent the wheel?))

At the very least, the time travel system is more stable than it has ever been before.  I can jump between periods reliably now with landscapes and human-made features all appearing in their appropriate times.




Jumping through 8,000 years of landscape.

That’s time sorted out.  Now, what about space?
The time travel and asset-streaming business now has me rethinking a key element of the game’s visuals: live cross sections.

This is one of my darlings and I think it might be time to kill it.  From the beginning, I have been charmed by the idea of sectioning through a landscape and a building in realtime.  It turns everything into a diorama.  It’s fun to see underground and above-ground details emerge as you cut through the models.  I just really love it.  It must speak to some deep archaeological fantasy I have.


Live cross-sectioning in action.  (We’ve seen this gif before.)

BUT … the technology for making this happen has never been stable, and the justification for this feature in the game has become less convincing.

The technology relies on two orthographic cameras rendering sections through the models via replacement shaders into separate render textures projected onto invisible quads.  That means that at all times there are at least three active cameras rendering the scene.  There can be up to five, sometimes.  This places more strain on the device running the game and eats up resources I might like to spend elsewhere.  The technique does not yield perfect results, either.  It’s close, most of the time, but without some very careful and time-consuming modelling, there are a lot of noticeable holes.  Also, for reasons I don’t understand, sometimes sections of meshes are showing in utterly the wrong place.  This is something to do with the render textures not clearing in time to display the correct content – but it is so intermittent that I can’t track it down.  So, without some clever geometry shaders (which don’t run on all devices, including my development Macs) and code to generate polygon cross-section caps for sometimes very complex geometry at 60fps, I’m having my doubts as to whether this effect is doable.

The game design justification for the effect is even less convincing.  While it looks lovely (I just have a thing for it), it restricts the player in ways I’m not entirely happy about.  The player loses context with their focus is narrowed by this effect.  The game is set up as a number of ruined sites scattered about the island.  Each site tells a story.  But, the player can freely roam about the island, encountering the sites in any order.  For this to be successful, the player needs to have a good understanding of the island as a whole.  But, when they engage with a site, they need to have their attention narrowed.  The cross-section effect is useful, but not all the time.  If that’s the case, I can be more deliberate with the effect while also being more efficient.

So, I keep the effect, but not applied to everything.  I divide each site into a series of landscape tiles – as I have done all along – but these tiles do not get cross sectioned live.  They fade into and out of visibility as whole objects.  The buildings, however, remain “cross-sectionable” in realtime.  This effect can be done with a more conventional cross-section approach using the old “inside faces are rendered a solid color so it looks like a cap” technique.  This requires no separate cameras at all and much simpler shaders, with less branching code.  This all equals a big boost for framerate and freeing up resources for use elsewhere.  

(An Aside: Flirting with Porting to Unity 2020)
(I’ve managed to prototype this basic cross-section shader in Unity 2020 using Shader Graph in the URP.  Porting the project to 2020 is a whole post in and of itself.  I’m still not convinced it will work, but it does provide an excuse to rebuild the entire project, clearing it of clutter, and creating something like a production-version using the latest Unity.  But all of that is for after the demo.  Right now I’m just tinkering.)


2020 noodling.  There’s a realtime cross-sectioned cube in one time overlaid by a portal into the same space in a different time.  Impressive, I know.

The Twist
Finally, I can report some secret success in softening up my wife for the moment I reveal to her that I’ve been working on this game.  (I’ve never told her outright for … reasons.)

I presented to her a time travel narrative paradox and, to my utter shock and delight, she engaged with it.  For hours.  We talked and talked about it and the next morning we talked about it some more.

This never happens.

The narrative paradox is about reversals of cause and effect as a storytelling device.  I’ve been thinking about it since the beginning of this game (since before then, honestly).  Done right, this paradox would be a very satisfying “third-act twist”.  I just haven’t entirely grasped how to do this right.  It feels so near, but the more details I try to draw out, the more it falls apart.  Since my wife is far cleverer than me, I finally asked her how she would do it.  And she was uncharacteristically encouraging.

Just what this twist is, I can’t really say right now.  I’ve been studying equivoque and the plot structures of narratively baroque films such as Moulin Rouge and Memento (also Rashomon).  My wife has pointed out that this is all very well and good, but the most satisfying use of the paradox may be the most direct, eschewing all attempts at dazzling feats of logic or intellect.  I reckon she’s right.


The frames of Moulin Rouge’s! elaborate framed narrative.  Graphic by Helen Alexander, from her 2010 University of Glasgow MMus(R) thesis, “Music, myth and the pursuit of meaning in Moulin Rouge!”.  Download her thesis here.

Conclusion
Where are we headed now?  Towards a demo.  We’re still on the roadmap from a year ago.  It’s so slow, nibbling away at this, especially when I have had to take a long break to finish other projects.  But, the overall shape and structure of the game is much clearer now, and that leads to faster content creation times.  With most of the mechanics and underlying code of the game established, it is feasible that I can turn more and more exclusively to matters of storytelling and content creation.  And that’s a good thing.  

I’d better get back to digging graves, trying to hammer out a few more modeling techniques, and looking for ways to keep the player asking “what happened here?”

(Also, I just noticed I said something about music.  Yes, I'm having a go at music.  It's placeholder, I promise!)
« Last Edit: December 02, 2020, 04:57:34 AM by amasinton » Logged
Alain
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« Reply #187 on: December 01, 2020, 11:05:28 PM »

Thanks for the update amasinton. The Resurrection has a very unique touch to it and I am looking forward to the demo!

I found it interesting that you kept working on your game a secret, because I did something similar with an older project of mine. I hid it from my significant other for almost a year. I didn't hide that I was working on a game, but also didn't go into details. I guess I wanted to be sure that it is good. I did it differently with BattleJuice Alchemist (my current game) and was glad to get a lot of valuable feedback early on from people close to me. I am happy for you that you shared your game with your wife and that she likes it and engaged with it for such a long time.
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« Reply #188 on: December 02, 2020, 01:46:07 AM »

I am upset, you had another project and you didn't even make a devlog for it?! Cheesy

Come on, don't you want us to give you useful feedback for that too? Wink

Jokes aside (but seriously, second devlog?), amazing update. Sounds like the project needed the break it had. Luckily it's unique enough that there's no real rush either Smiley
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amasinton
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« Reply #189 on: December 02, 2020, 08:40:48 PM »

Thanks for the update amasinton. The Resurrection has a very unique touch to it and I am looking forward to the demo!

You and me both!  The demo will be a big milestone reached - thank you for the encouragement.

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I found it interesting that you kept working on your game a secret, because I did something similar with an older project of mine. I hid it from my significant other for almost a year. I didn't hide that I was working on a game, but also didn't go into details. I guess I wanted to be sure that it is good. I did it differently with BattleJuice Alchemist (my current game) and was glad to get a lot of valuable feedback early on from people close to me. I am happy for you that you shared your game with your wife and that she likes it and engaged with it for such a long time.

Thank you for sharing this with me.  It's very personal, and something I don't hear other developers talk about very often - but it matter so much!  This resonates with me, and also gives me some hope.  Was your partner pleased to find out what you were working on or were they hurt that you had stayed quiet about it?  I'm worried about this in my case.  It seems like your partner may have, eventually, been more open to taking an interest in your projects, and that this has become a positive point in your relationship.  Well done!

I haven't showed my wife the game itself.  I think she's about 50% aware that something is being developed, but I'm still hesitant to open it up fully.  This time travel/story telling discussion was the most I have ever dared.  I'm so hesitant because many of my projects in the past seem to just ... wither ...  once I show her.  I guess because I see it from the perspective of her powerful intellect and sensibilities and it sort-of loses its charm.  So, I've kept this one pretty close.

BattleJuice Alchemist looks amazing, BTW! Hand Thumbs Up Right Hand Thumbs Up Right Hand Thumbs Up Right  It must be so fulfilling to be able to work on all aspects of the development, and to have such a clear style.  Well done!
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amasinton
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« Reply #190 on: December 02, 2020, 08:50:28 PM »

I am upset, you had another project and you didn't even make a devlog for it?! Cheesy

Come on, don't you want us to give you useful feedback for that too? Wink

You know, a devlog about that project never even occurred to me!   Facepalm  Its development went on for ages, and it went through so many major changes and rewrites, it might have been an interesting journey.  There's no narrative and no real "game" there - it's just a tool to teach a very specific aspect of architectural history.  Maybe that's why I never said much about it here?

Right at the end of development I started to stream work on the project.  Sadly, I didn't archive any of it because it just felt like I was shouting into the void.  This was a job for a client (a very good client) and sometimes clients don't like you to share process!  (Turns out, this one was fine with it.)

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Jokes aside (but seriously, second devlog?), amazing update. Sounds like the project needed the break it had. Luckily it's unique enough that there's no real rush either Smiley

Thank you!  And, yes, I think the break was beneficial.  It IS fortunate that this game is kind of its own thing and doesn't have to be rushed (but I do wish I could hurry it up just a little bit!).  Roll Eyes
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« Reply #191 on: December 03, 2020, 01:12:20 AM »

Thank you for sharing this with me.  It's very personal, and something I don't hear other developers talk about very often - but it matter so much!  This resonates with me, and also gives me some hope.  Was your partner pleased to find out what you were working on or were they hurt that you had stayed quiet about it?  I'm worried about this in my case.  It seems like your partner may have, eventually, been more open to taking an interest in your projects, and that this has become a positive point in your relationship.  Well done!

I haven't showed my wife the game itself.  I think she's about 50% aware that something is being developed, but I'm still hesitant to open it up fully.  This time travel/story telling discussion was the most I have ever dared.  I'm so hesitant because many of my projects in the past seem to just ... wither ...  once I show her.  I guess because I see it from the perspective of her powerful intellect and sensibilities and it sort-of loses its charm.  So, I've kept this one pretty close.

It is strange, right? Maybe we keep our work a secret for years sometimes, because we don't want to shout from the rooftops what we are working on and then not be able to finish it. For the project I kept quiet about this was actually the case. I ran into technical difficulties and realized that I would not be able to make the game the way I intend it to. So, the big reveal moment to my partner at that time never really came. I think I showed her some screenshots later on, though. After the relationship had ended, I briefly worked on a game prototype with a friend and I got to know the women I have been with since then over this friend. So she knew from the beginning on that I make games. She and the friend studied arts together, so she is really great at giving feedback and shoots a lot of encouragement at me and my work.

As I don't know your wife, I don't want to make any suggestions. But if I had to, opening up and showing the things you love is rarely a bad thing. You work on such a beautiful thing that I think even people who are not that much into gaming can understand the beauty of. There are reasons for why you are hesitant to show the project that you can explain, so I assume she will understand why you kept the details a secret for some time.

In my experience, there is a great benefit that comes with sharing your project with your significant other: Most of the time, this person is the one that knows you the best. There is a good chance that they can understand what you are going for with your game on a very profound level. If our partners are able and willing to articulate their feedback and we are able to listen, this can often do something really good to the project, I think. At least for me this was the case with BattleJuice Alchemist. It would not be the same without my girlfriend's support and input. And it is simply so much fun to see someone close to you play and bond over that experience.
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« Reply #192 on: December 04, 2020, 07:10:54 PM »

Alain, thank you, again. Your openness and willing to share is very welcome.

... opening up and showing the things you love is rarely a bad thing.

Yes, you are right, of course.  When you live with someone for a long time (22 years for us) you never simply begin a conversation.  Your'e both five layers deep into it before you even start.  But you're right, I really do love making this game, and people love to love things other people love - and that should be the context I present it in.  Thanks for helping me to see that.

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If our partners are able and willing to articulate their feedback and we are able to listen, this can often do something really good to the project, I think.

It's a two-way street.  I need to show a genuine openness to listening.

Well done for you and your partner for crafting your own work together - what a true joy that is!  No wonder it looks so confident!
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« Reply #193 on: December 05, 2020, 01:37:54 AM »

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Well done for you and your partner for crafting your own work together - what a true joy that is!  No wonder it looks so confident!

Thank you, that is really nice of you. I have to say that I really appreciate you talking about one of the real life struggles that come with making games. Communicating to the people around you about projects that are (I assume) very personal for many people here, is not an easy thing.
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« Reply #194 on: December 06, 2020, 05:10:23 AM »

Another nice update! Interesting tidbits about your own game and other media alike. Kiss I've seen some of it in the videos of course, but having it condensed like this is very helpful too.

Cool to hear about the other project as well, quite interesting too. Smiley

Can't say I quite understand keeping it secret, but we're all different, and it makes a bit more sense after you explained that you're worried about showing something and then failing to complete it, if I got it right? I hope you figure out what's best for you!

I know I'm excited to see more of the game either way!
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« Reply #195 on: January 25, 2021, 04:26:29 PM »

January Update
(Already?!)

In this update: The one with the mysterious, show-stopping (not in a good way) bug. Also, changes for “narrative reasons”. And Cyberpunk exerts a ghostly influence.

2021 is off to a good start?
It is my sincere hope that this entry in the devlog finds you very well, healthy, and safe, regardless of when you’re reading this.


An artsy render. See “Neon churches”, below.

The Holidays came and went, and they were good despite, and because of, a quarantine scare (false alarm) that forced us to re-think our plans.  This gave me the better part of a week where I didn’t have much of my day job to do, but my family was busy with their own thing (which almost never happens), and so I concentrated on the game.  It was one of the best weeks I’ve had in several years and confirmed for me that doing this kind of work is absolutely what I want to get back into doing full-time.  So, on the last day of December, I set two goals:

… Finish the demo …
… Find a publisher …

I’m truly excited about this!  Just finishing the demo will be a Big Deal™ … a publisher would be life changing.

Neon churches
So, a while ago in this devlog I jokingly commented that I should add some neon tubes and kanji script to the old church tower.

Well, I did “cyberpunk-up” the tower a bit.


Needs more neon.

How the IRL historic environment survives in the coming centuries is a really serious question.  In some parts of the world heritage legislation is too lax and historic buildings are easily demolished.  In other parts of the world, heritage legislation is so strict that it faces backlash and historic buildings get demolished out of spite.  I imagine one future where historic buildings are not particularly valued, and only survive so long as they serve some kind of “useful” purpose.  This is what I’ve got for the end-of-days for that parish church.  I really, really enjoyed modeling this and am looking forward to exploring more of this concept with the other sites in the game.

(Archaeological aside: Ancient structures only survive because they keep being “useful”.  The Isle of Jersey is a big inspiration for this game.  On the island is a site called La Hougue Bie which is, in chronological order, a Neolithic passage tomb, two medieval churches superimposed on each other, an 18th century tower and signal station, and a WWII bunker.  This is the depth of time and re-use I really, really love.)


La Hogue Bie, Jersey.  Who knows what this will be three centuries from now? (Image source: Arthur F. CC BY-NC 2.0)

Showstoppers
Why is everything so difficult?!!  All I want is to make a 5D narrative citybuilder with multiverse time travel! (There’s already a much better game like that!)

So, during the first two weeks of January the Twitch dev stream was dominated by a (one? there might be more – who knows?) bug which causes the Unity editor to hang.  I can’t find anything in the system logs, and Unity itself certainly doesn’t give any tips as to what’s happening.  The issue only happens sometimes (mostly when live streaming, of course) and not always in the same way.  It’s difficult to reproduce at-will.

It got me pretty down.

Of course, you will have already guessed that there’s an infinite loop somewhere, but that it’s conditional, possibly event-based (whatever that means), and invisible.  It looks like you can track down such loops by attaching the Visual Studio debugger.  I only use VS to write the code, and nothing else.  I have no idea what all of the bells and whistles do.  If I wasn’t so fond of intellisense I would just use the Mac equivalent of Notepad++ (BBEdit).  I don’t really know what an IDE actually is.  The past weeks have underlined that point.  I could not get the debugger to show me the call stack or the threads or local variables at the time of a hang.  I even wrote a script to hang Unity on purpose with an infinite loop – just so I could test.  But then, late one night, I figured out the incantation.  And now I can see all of that info.  Yay!

About two thirds of the way through this stream (I think I've linked to the right timestamp) is where I get to tackle the bug live – and, after two tries, I get some direction on what’s happening.

It’s the Metronome system.  And it’s a while loop.  (Of course, what else would it be?)

Maybe there’s more, but that’s fixed it for now.  I think.

(Meta)Storytelling
The meta-narrative of the game has been on my mind a lot.  Narrative frames help me plan out and produce content.  (This is the Wrong Way™ to develop a game – mechanics should be first – but, there you go.)  For lots of reasons, the meta-narrative has been problematic (Jeremy Bearimy™ issues).  Here, too, progress has been made.  

Up to now, time travel has been possible in the game only through artifacts.  Find an artifact, pick up that artifact, travel to when that artifact was made.  Easy-peasy.  This is a clear mechanic.  But, when you rebuild an area of ruins, it hasn’t been clear what time that rebuilding represents.  


When are we, exactly?

Example: You’re in the 20th century and you rebuild a Roman lighthouse from some ruins you.  Now, you have a complete Roman lighthouse, but if you’re still in the 20th century, why is there a brand-new Roman lighthouse here?  If you’re now back in the 3rd century, how did you miss the time change and why hasn’t anything else nearby changed?

So, I’m altering the time travel framework to include rebuilding.  Usually, you find a rebuildable ruin close to the time in which the building collapsed, but it’s still confusing as to when we are.  I’m working on a change where, after you complete a ruined building, the camera slowly zooms out a little while a “YBP” counter counts down (or maybe sometimes up?) to the year the rebuilt building represents.  That, hopefully, makes things a little clearer, also provides some excitement to finishing a ruin, and provides more story flexibility.  It also changes the gameplay itself, perhaps, the implications of which I haven’t explored.




The year counters appear in the lower corners.  Blink and you’ll miss it, though.

(BTW, “YBP” stands for “Years Before Present” and is a concept that archaeologists, especially archaeologists of the deep past, use for lots of reasons, particularly ease of thought (you don’t have to add 2000 to every date) and freedom from specific cultural associations.  It’s easier to understand that construction at Stonehenge began about 5000 years ago, than in about 3000 BCE.  It’s also delightful in its vague specificity.  Perfect for the meta-narrative here.)

The YBP counter introduces an element of UI on-screen during in-world gameplay (as opposed to the inventory, which has previously been the entirety of the UI).  This is a big visual design change.  I hope it doesn’t detract from the experience.  But, it does open up the possibility of other UI elements appearing, including one which I’m hoping will help communicate when there is something more for the player to do in an area.  Right now it’s in the form of a kind of “EQ” with bars jumping up and down randomly.  If that symbol appears in the corner, it means there are still things to do in the area.  If the bars align and begin to move in a regular sine wave, it means there is Something Important™ to do.  I’m hoping the effect will suggest a process of “tuning” an area until some kind of harmony from chaos is achieved.  That’s a lot to ask.  (It may also be borrowed from Assassin’s Creed, but I wouldn’t know anything about that.)


The “EQ”.  It snaps into a synchronized sine wave on command.

Finally, I’m working on the opening moment of the game.  It’s very brief, and won’t mean anything the first playthrough until the end.  The main building mechanic involves rebuilding from ruins.  But the first in-world action will be the opposite – demolition.  It will all make sense eventually.  I hope.

Onward
We’re inching closer to the demo.  There are a lot of things to iron-out, obviously.  The big idea, though, is to get a 90% working demo ready and then use that as part of a pitch to publishers.  It would be a dream-come-true to achieve this goal and it’s what gets me up in the morning.  The showstopping bugs, not so much.

The focus for the next month is to implement those meta-narrative sorts of things and to get the game running to the point where I can get through the parish church rebuilding and into the time traveling part of play.  February and March would be occupied with creating the assets for a few, smaller rebuilding opportunities at different times in the past.  (I’m not forgetting audio – I’m just afraid of it.  Someday, I will scrape together some funds to hire one of the amazing audio folks who has been in touch.)  Maybe by the start of summer the work will change over to bug-fixing and polish.  Maybe by sometime in the Autumn the demo will be “done”.  Then … pitching to publishers?

Finally, a warning: I think parts of this game could be an idle game.  I’m flirting with the idea of rebuilding something, and then just letting the virtual days fly by, watching the ghosts come and go, maybe some birds and other animals passing by, ivy growing.  Scope creep?
« Last Edit: January 25, 2021, 04:43:21 PM by amasinton » Logged
Alain
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« Reply #196 on: January 25, 2021, 11:28:20 PM »

Thanks for the update! The scope could be scary indeed, but I am sure you can boil it down. Once you have tried enough things out and identified the most fun parts, I am sure you will build something great. I have no clue what it is like to find or work with a publisher, but I wish you all the best and hope you find one that suits you and your vision of your game.
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #197 on: January 26, 2021, 01:23:57 AM »

Hooray!

Great update as always. I wish you the best of luck with completing the demo and finding that publisher!

I've watched a few streams but there was still a lot of stuff in this post that I hadn't seen, like the neon church. Really interesting to see more of the world-building aspects of the game. Getting curious about the initial demolition as well!

I think those simple UI elements can work fine without being intrusive. The EQ might be if it's constantly animating, but if it's occasional and mostly in response to new things the player does I think it'll be fine. Will it be synchronised to the metronome? Tongue

Probably definitely scope creep with the last thing you mentioned, but a nice stretch goal for later maybe? It would absolutely add to the atmosphere I think.

(and as always appreciate the real-world archaeology tidbits Kiss)
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JobLeonard
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« Reply #198 on: January 26, 2021, 01:49:58 AM »

Quote
The meta-narrative of the game has been on my mind a lot.  Narrative frames help me plan out and produce content.  (This is the Wrong Way™ to develop a game – mechanics should be first – but, there you go.)  For lots of reasons, the meta-narrative has been problematic (Jeremy Bearimy™ issues).  Here, too, progress has been made.

1) I mean honestly, this always had a bit of a 5D time-traveling walking simulator feel to it, and walking simulators are all about meta-narratives so why not embrace it?

2) I can totally see the Jeremy Bearimy issues for this game and am so looking forward to having my brain fried trying to make sense of it in-game, hahaha
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ChrisLSound
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« Reply #199 on: January 27, 2021, 03:29:29 PM »

Your excitement in that clip where you solve the bug is great and very relatable. Cheesy Glad you got the debugging tools working. They can be so very very helpful!

That zoom out with YBP counter looks like just the type of thing I'd hope for as a little "nice job, look at this cool thing you did" reward. Smiley

I agree with Ava that the EQ element may be too intrusive if it's always active. It also seems too abstract and one-dimensional to effectively communicate 3 potential states: "nothing to do", "more to do", "important to-do". Though, honestly, I'm not sure what makes something an "important to-do". I think a binary representation might be better: smooth sine = "stuff to do", flat bars (or very subtle bouncing [or hidden]) = "nothing to do".

I'm very interested in trying out the demo (obviously!) because I'm still a little unclear on how things flow. Like, if I'm exploring a time period, see some sites I want to come back to later, start rebuilding some other site, then finish that site... do I get zoomed back/forward to when that site was originally completed? How do I get back to the previous time period to work on rebuilding the other sites I put on the backburner? Can I rebuild them even in this new time period I find myself in?
I could have this totally wrong, so sorry if I do! Giggle

Regardless, I always love reading your updates and I cannot wait for us all to have a demo in our digital hands. It's also great hearing you've had some renewed ambition and motivation. I wish you the best of luck on the publisher front!
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