Live from the Wizard Jam front, episode #1

Hey there dear reader!

The last time I did a live devlog was when I was making 15 Minutes, my 24 parody game. And that was back in 2011! I’ve moved on to Unity since then and made a bunch of games, but I don’t often participate in jams. The last time was ol’ Wizard Jam 1, the Idle Thumbs community game jam. But this time around the planets and stars aligned and I had enough time and a good idea, so I’m participating in Wizard Jam 4.

I got a bit of a late start as I was at a conference on the island of Texel last weekend, but I managed to catch up in the free moments throughout the week.

The concept

A few weeks ago I had a dream. In it -among other things- I biked to a villa in the forest and met the man of the house and his maid. I don’t know why, but when I woke up that image stuck with me. I wanted to go to that place and look around more. So, in keeping with me basing games on dreams, I thought it would be a nice thing to make for this jam.

The groundwork

I wrote out some details about the game and its events in the past week, so I had enough to jump right into Unity. I decided to use my trusty Adventure Creator plugin, and since I’m not very good with 3D modeling I’m going for a 3D world/2D characters style like The Tell-Tale Heart / Californium / Trackless.

The player character will be a pizza delivery guy, so the first thing I wanted to get was a little scooter, and I found the perfect one on the Asset Store. And together with a first-person character I was testing last week I had the basics of the first scene. Next was greyboxing the essential geometry. I used assets from the Stylized Jungle Pack I purchased for Reconquista in combination with just regular grey cubes.

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Then I started looking for forest villa reference photos.

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This gave me the idea to add a driveway and carport around the side of the house – a nice hidden area you’ll only stumble upon if you go snooping around. And of course, a carport isn’t complete without a car. Then I got a little carried away… but hey at least this confirms the interaction system works!

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I fiddled with the camera some more after that. It was really jittery, so I imported the First Person Drifter Controller, a neat little plugin I keep around for prototyping these kinds of games, and pulled the mouse smoothing script out of it to integrate with my player prefab. The result is really smooth!

Next was setting up the interaction system and UI, and I hollowed out the cube I had used to represent the house. I built some rooms and a glass facade, and then I really needed furniture. While browsing the Unity Asset Store I found some really great assets by OneSquareFoot. Their furniture mega pack was perfect to furnish the house with. And a nice opportunity to re-enact the Matrix.

I tried a few interior layouts and eventually settled on something that felt logical and looked good. Then I moved the sun a few degrees so that it would shine on the terrace for a longer period of time each day, justifying the reason the house was built at this angle. Would that I had such powers in real life.

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I was getting antsy to try the character style so I added a quick 2D guy. I should really work on the gameplay a bit at this point, but I wanted to have the house ready so I can turn it into a prefab and use it across all scenes without cutting into my own fingers later. So I spent some time adding collision to the interior, interactive doors, a staircase into the cellar, curtains, outside lights that react to motion and a functional doorbell that summons the man of the house. Just a bit more sprucing up and it should be ready to go.

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Reconquista 2.0 – revising a released game

When you’re making games on your own, finishing a project is already a pretty big milestone. But chances are you had to cut some corners to get it done. There are usually a few features that fall by the wayside depending on time, energy, or technical complexity. But how do you decide to either write off those ideas or keep them stored away for a potential version 2.0?

Since Reconquista was my first 3D game, I had to cut a lot of corners, so when I finished v1.0 I did not feel fulfilled. There wasn’t much to do outside of make a beeline for the temple, and the enemy AI was pretty rudimentary – it didn’t really reward exploration or experimentation. So when I released the game, I knew that I would someday revisit the game design. And I did.

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I came back for three reasons; I wanted to:

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By the numbers

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The demo for Last Voyage of the Orlova has been running for two weeks in a corner of VondelCS, and in that time Unity Analytics has been quietly tracking some key events in the game. Here’s a quick breakdown of those numbers:

It’s hard to say exactly how many people played the game, but I know 107 made it through the first few minutes and fired up the lighthouse.

77 hopefuls then entered the derelict ship floating through the mist.

41 of them figured out how to open the engineering deck and end the lockdown.

35 then made it to the front deck and found the axe.

They swung that axe 708 times, altogether. Wowzers.

And finally, 23 hardcore problem-solvers made it to the end of the demo.

These numbers are pretty impressive considering it’s running on an unattended fully-functional windows machine in some cafe hallway, away from any kind of gaming expo context, and without any strong tutorial content. It also shows that I could do some stronger foreshadowing in certain areas, but it might as well be that people had to move on or weren’t invested enough to explore further.

All in all, I’m glad I added the analytics in last-minute.

Firewatch Dutch translation

TL;DR: Download link.

As a little passion project I’ve been translating the game Firewatch into dutch in the off hours of the past two months or so. It was a bit more work than I anticipated but I had a good motivator: my girlfriend. I wanted to play the game with her but I knew she wouldn’t fully understand it if it was in english. Plus I like translating things, and this would be a good addition to my ‘portfolio’.

I had previously translated Gone Home, but Firewatch was a whopping 6827 strings, topping out at 53220 words. Transifex made it very easy with an excellent online editor though. Part of it had already been translated by other people but, nothing against them, it lacked a consistent tone, and some bits were just translated incorrectly. So I went through and reviewed everything, tested it in a full playthrough last week, and I’m ready to release it out into the wild now. There might still be some small errors or typos, so if you find those: let me know. And otherwise: enjoy!

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How to do datamoshing in Photoshop

Datamoshing is “the practice of intentionally using compression artifacts in digital video and animated GIFs to create glitch art”.

It’s an effect popularized by Kanye West in his video Welcome To Heartbreak, but it’s mostly been an effect exclusive to video. There are a few crazy ways to get this effect on images by editing them with text or audio editors instead of image editors, but it’s hard to find a straightforward way to just do it in Photoshop. But, there is a fairly simple way to emulate it with a few filters. Here’s how:

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