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April 21, 2019, 11:09:46 PM

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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsuntil biglight - a 3d mousepunk exploratory visual novel
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Author Topic: until biglight - a 3d mousepunk exploratory visual novel  (Read 939 times)
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« on: March 23, 2019, 02:08:47 AM »

until biglight
rent's due.

these last few cycles have really kicked your ass, but maybe that's just how it is once you move out from your childhood burrow, out from under your parents snouts.

getting to the outskirts felt like the hardest part, but things only got harder as you realized how terrible your opportunities for work are out here. you'd never be able to afford outright moving to the Den, but this is at least a step there... if only you can manage not to lose your footing. chedda's a hard thing to come by on short notice, and it's even harder to tuck away.

people here don't seem super eager to reach out to a new neighbor. it's been a few moonshapes and no one has come to introduce themselves. you've kept to yourself as well; anti-social behavior is your bread and butter. it hasn't been exactly conducive for getting you employed, but you'll figure things out. soon enough.

it was a long night, you had decided to head out and do some delivery work for Whiskr, the fastest growing crowd-sourced delivery service in the Mousedom. it's basically unheard of out here, but, still, you scrape by on some long treks when you get them, and were able to secure this little hovel you now call home.

rent was subsidized last month, but you should be able to just afford the next payment in a few days.

you take a few puffs of the last of your felvine, and drift off to an uncomfortable sleep...


mission statement:
interested in exploring the aesthetics of 90's console games, specifically the PSX, i set out to create a small mood piece revolving around a community of mice living under a tree, and the history of their world. honing in on it, a very human element began to emerge, and as my own life began taking some sharp turns, i wanted to craft a story that explores the harm of capitalist systems, the uncontrollable march of progress for a select few, and the dangers wrought from an oligarchy bending political agendas to their will. alongside this, i wanted to reach into the more minute, specific issues some deal with on a day-to-day basis within this miasma of cruelty: power abuse by landlords, multi-level marketing schemes, disregard of agency for the sake of your superiors, destruction of the significance of a group's cultural heritage, and what it means to try and rise up against a machine which is built to swat you back down immediately.

in all of this, you play as a mouse forced to ask your neighbors for help to pay your rent, or face eviction by sunrise. as you poke and prod amongst the denizens of this small haven, a conspiracy begins to unravel, and you find yourself in the center of what may be the beginning of an uprising that can save mousekind from the iron paw of Fat Cats Inc: the most powerful monopoly in the Mousedom, funneling chedda into the purses of those in power to bend lawmaking to suit their own needs. their goal: subsume all of mousekind into their quest for compliance and profit.

taking cues from several genres, until biglight plays similarly to a visual novel, focusing on talking to characters and taking in a mostly linear story. however, the game takes place in a first person perspective and allows you to explore the world at your own pace: reading books, taking in the sights, learning about this small slice of a much larger world and its denizens. there is no combat, no action sequences, or failstates.

one of the more challenging things i wanted to do with this project is recreate an aesthetic similar to that of FromSoft's old PSX titles such as King's Field, Echo Night, and Shadow Tower. utilizing dsoft20's PSX shader and SophieH's Palutte i was able to achieve the basics of the effect, but through fine tuning colour, fog, palettes of available colours, and pixelation, i have achieved a close enough approximation of the PSX's rendering style for my purposes.

development log:
1:evolution of style & intent

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« Last Edit: April 15, 2019, 06:30:07 PM by cathroon » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2019, 02:09:43 AM »

evolution of style & intent:
back in 2016, i became very fixated on the idea of creating a first person RPG in the vein of the King's Field series. involving swordplay, magic, and exploration, the idea for the game was to have the player explore a house as a mouse with the goal of eventually taking down the human owner of it.

this was far beyond the grasp of my skills at the time (and probably even now). adjusting scope, i settled on the world itself that i was crafting and my interest in exploring it. not sure of what a narrative for this would look like, i aimed to create a space that would be populated with denizens eager to give you a view into a slice of their lives, fleshing out this universe. there wasn't a set goal, just a set of NPCs in a world that you could interact with. finding items or being given them could unlock more conversation trees, to the player's desires.

as time went on and i worked more on refining the visuals, i graduated uni, moved to washington from the midwest, and was faced with grappling the impossible world of property rental in an uncaring city built for tech workers and those who benefited them. i was able to secure temporary housing due to crowdsourced subleasing via queer facebook groups, and could afford gas/groceries/etc via the goodwill of others on twitter until i landed a part time job at a grocery store. i realized in all of this, that without the selfless actions of others, i'd have never had a chance to make it in this new place, much less gain a foothold.

changing the direction of the game again, i honed in on the idea of a story kick started by the need to immediately pay rent and having to rely on others to achieve that goal. while everyone may not be willing to lend a hand, or able to, having the player strive to try and understand the struggles of those around them to in turn have them understand the player's struggle became a center focus. around this, i shaped the world to resemble something more like ours, if not a bit more bleak and exaggerated.

however, throughout all of this, i wished to hold tight to the elements that resonated with me in terms of my own experiences and those that i had been privy to of others. within this society of mice, an upper class of felines wishes to maintain their hold on power and bend mice to their will. much like the monopolistic, oligarch-dominated political system those in the United States find themselves, this is a system built not to support and provide for all, or lift up citizen who have fallen into disarray, but rather churn through them in a desperate attempt to grasp on to a fleeting sense of security.

this cannot last.

and, in until biglight, i hope to illustrate the dangers of allowing such a system to flourish, and the damage it can cause to those caught underfoot of its forward march.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2019, 09:45:39 PM by cathroon » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2019, 02:10:01 AM »


while not creating an rpg or anything, i wanted to allow the player a bit of freedom to explore this world to a degree beyond simply talking to other mice. i hope to explore this through books scattered about the world that the player can read excerpts from. this has allowed me to approach worldbuilding in a much more scattershot way, and give a greater overview of life within the Mousedom besides the glimpses into this world through others.

i floundered for a bit back and forth on whether or not i would go the route of elder scrolls and have the book's text actually on the page, but given the lower resolution of textures in the game i decided it may be best to abstract the reading more, which also retains the lofi/retro aesthetic more. outside of the act of skimming books, the player is also capable of acquiring food or drink that they may give to other mice either because the player wants to share their bounty, or because that mouse desperately needs it.

although i'm not offering a great depth to the fidelity of the game, i do want to take advantage of modern tech where i can, such as faking some basic liquid physics.

the only other noteworthy aspect of the game that exists other than the simple act of speaking to other mice is the collection of chedda. i've been tweaking the effect when you are given crumbs, wanting it to be a very joyous, fun moment. as with everything else shown so far, this is all temporary, but i very much enjoy the explosion as a foundation.

at the end of the day, i'm simply making a visual novel, and the most important aspect is that you can simply engage in the story without any extra baggage. but, for the curious few, i do hope that the tiny details such as the ones outlined here can help flesh out the lore of this world, as well as keep driving them towards their goal of avoiding eviction.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2019, 01:34:43 AM by cathroon » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2019, 02:10:14 AM »

post-processing stack:

just gonna give a quick overview of the couple different things i'm using to achieve the aesthetic of the game, and show how each influences the image. i have not written any of my own shaders for the game at all, and have relied entirely on open source or free-to-use plugins and shaders.

first and foremost i exclusively use this PSX-styled retro shader for all objects to achieve the surreal texture warping and wobbliness of affine texture mapping. this goes a long way for the style but it's simply there to provide a squishy feeling overall, less so about nostalgic callback but more about the sense of space becoming somewhat more organic and less rigid; malleable. here is the game without any post-processing effects turned on:

the first thing i add is a unity standard pixelation effect to enhance the lofi look of things:

then, we add unity standard color correction to make things pop and heavily crunch blacks to make render fog more intense:

less interesting layer here with unity standard tonemapping to bring the highlights down a little bit to avoid blowing them out, add a bit more of a "natural" edge to the oversaturation:

and then finally, the thing that ties all of this together and makes it actually work, is SophieH's Palutte plugin. with it we get a simulacrum of PSX dithering (to a certain degree) but most importantly it limits the palette to specifically earthy tones, causing some interesting and sometimes bizarre color remapping:

that's it! not doing anything super fancy or graphically intensive, no need to pick up a thousand shaders and learn code for them, just simply using what i have at my disposal to its fullest and bending it as far as i can to achieve what i'm going for. overall, most of my dev time since production began has been finding the right collection of things to translate the aesthetic from my head to screen.

i hope this gives you an idea of how to achieve these sorts of looks on your own without going overboard, and is sorta interesting to see in terms of behind the scenes stuff.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2019, 12:52:14 AM by cathroon » Logged
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Hi! First game-dev experience!

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« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2019, 02:36:49 AM »

just a little bit too dark...

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« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2019, 01:37:01 AM »

just a little bit too dark...

agreed! while the game is definitely not as dark as these gifs make it out to be (i dunno why but my recorder really dislikes accurately capturing colour), there has been concern on my end as to how to best handle visibility. don't fret, though! i'll be making sure to include an options menu with simple brightness adjustments so that everyone can have an ideal viewing experiencing on their own monitor. Smiley
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