Live from the Wizard Jam front, episode #2

Hey there! This is my second missive from the WJ4 front – read the first one here.

I spent last weekend finalizing the geometry so I could turn it into a prefab and use it across all scenes. It mostly came down to adding some final furniture and building out the surrounding terrain and forest. About halfway through, I realized I was putting way too much effort into it, and it served its purpose just fine the way it was. So I packaged it all up and finally started the first story scene.

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Unfortunately, it turned out that Adventure Creator was not 100% foolproof in turning everything into a prefab. The common interactions (opening and closing all the doors in the house etc) were especially dire; they turned up blank after being imported into a new scene, so I had to go into each of the associated objects in a new scene and hook them back up. Not great. Lost a lot of time troubleshooting that. But in the end I had a basic scene that I could duplicate, a sort of prefab if you will, so at least I could now set it and forget it.

Mid-week I finally had some time to dedicate to the game again and I set up the first scene’s logic, which went pretty quickly. That offered some hope for the remaining days. I got started on character sprites too. I wanted to try a more detailed style with thinner lines, like Californium, but in the interest of time I went with my go-to art style. I’ll fix that in post, as they say.

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Once I got them in the game and had a few expressions to play with, things really started to come together. I also made a menu that displays which delivery you are embarking on, like the splash screen for the days in Firewatch. Then it was just a matter of knocking out more scenes and more character sprites. Which I did on friday.

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I skipped after-hour drinks at the office to get into THE ZONE, and by midnight I had set up about half of the game. Granted, those scenes were the easiest to make and contain very little pithy gameplay, but it was nice to be able to punch those out real quick. I might still make the sunday night deadline with something half decent! It doesn’t help that there are a national holiday and a concert in-between me and that moment though, but oh well…

 

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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Week 92 – Three deadlines and a playtest

This is a weekly recap of what has been going on in my professional life. It’s to keep track of what I’m up to and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator. For illustrated depictions of these events, visit my daily comics page.

It’s been a busy week!

Hubbub was finishing up the first beta for Home Rule on monday and tuesday, and at the same time I was drawing hard for the Suitkees project, as that soft deadline turned into a hard deadline for the end of the week. And in the meantime I had to finish up my #wizardjam entry. Luckily I had been smart and done most of the work on that over the weekend, so all I had to do was make some promo art and write a description for the itch.io page. I did that on wednesday morning and launched the game before heading to the war museum in Oosterbeek with the Hubbub guys to playtest Home Rule.

Tim and Alper

It’s been a while since I did an actual in-person live playtest on location. The target audience is kids 8-12, and they are always fun to work with. And to our surprise they really picked up on what we were trying to do and had fun playing the game. It was nice seeing them contemplate aloud the moral dilemmas people in a warzone have to face. We came away with a bunch of good feedback and happily dug into some pizza at the end of a succesful day.

On thursday I finished up the Suitkees drawings, sent them out and then went to the housewarming for the Dutch Game Garden in their new home next to Central Station. I ran into some old friends and made a few new ones, and generally felt glad to be part of this industry. It was nice to be among peers again and I considered one day getting an office there when business gets good enough.

Once that was all behind me it was time to unwind. I spent most of Friday making my portfolio website responsive and mobile-friendly, and I got pretty far with it. And over the weekend I fired up Shadow of Mordor with the intent of finally finishing it. When you’re purely interacting with its mechanics and ignoring the story, that game is so good.

Next week: A late start after Kingsday and planning new ventures.

Week 56

This is a weekly recap of what has been going on in my professional life. It’s to keep track of what I’m up to and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator.

A strange week in indie land.

At the start of last week I was moved by Dom2D’s post about the state of his life. I admire Dominique‘s artistry and optimism, so it’s not great to see he struggles with things. I can identify with a good number of his sentiments from various periods in my life, about making ends meet and feeling like an imposter sometimes, which I wrote about before. But it was heartwarming to see all the nice responses he got. I hope he’ll feel better at the new studio he’s working at now.

Further good vibes were obtained at the Idle Forums, were responses to Black Feather Forest were positive, and some great constructive feedback was given in terms of writing and character development. I was stuck in a rut a little bit, because once you have a project that shows promise it’s sometimes hard to decide in which way to proceed with it. Especially in games there are so many variables, and everyone has a preference for a different thing. But discussing the narrative got me going again.

During the week I edited some dialogue, converted each existing scene to a new workflow method that solved a few strange bugs, and I reworked the interaction icons. I’m ashamed to admit it but I completely overlooked those when polishing up the demo, I was so focused on other things I forgot they were still using the low-res default icons supplied by Adventure Creator.

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I was quite pleased, then over the weekend a shitstorm broke out. It was like everyone had to get their bad vibes out at the same time. Zoe Quinn, Phil Fish, Rami Ismail, they all got mangled on the social media. A delegation also decided to hate on me for even trying to tell a story a subject more grounded in reality than your average videogame, which shook me up pretty bad on Sunday. I wish people wouldn’t make assumptions based on a headline and a cursory glance at my blog, I’ve done my research.

Anyway, new week, fresh vibes.

Next week: fresh vibes.

Week four

Week 3 wasnt very interesting so I skipped it. Last week I’ve mostly been working on my Fawlty Towers game. I discovered some cool optimalizations I could do code-wise, and I polished some of the puzzles I implemented so far. The game is pretty playable already so I think I’ll work to finish this one soon.

Other than that I kept trucking along with the thesis artwork assignment. We’re down to the last batch now so I think I can wrap this up by the end of the month.

I’ve noticed that time seems to be flying by too quickly. Without a commute and colleagues it gets hard to tell the days apart. So to become more concious about working hours etc I installed Breaker, an app that keeps track of work cycles (like every 45 minutes for instance) and alerts me to take a short break when one is over. It really helps to brings some structure to my day.
To that end I’ve also moved my desk away from my wall to face outside, so I have a view and can also keep track of the time of day better.

On friday I played Gone Home by Fullbright. I’ve been excited by this environmental storytelling game since I heard about it through the Idle Thumbs podcast, and it definitely lived up to my expectations. It was very cool to play it in one sitting with headphones as it was dark and raining outside. Recommended if you enjoy good stories and dark basements.