For a long time I’ve wanted to take part in a Game Jam, but always found myself too busy to really take part in one or I was caught up in something which wouldn’t really allow for it. It was really annoying, because I’d always come across a Game Jam, get excited by it and then turn to Elise and say “wouldn’t it be cool if we made a game like this!”. We’d often end up talking about what the game could be in kind of a free-4-all verbal game design session.
And as fun as it was doing that, it kind of sucked because those ideas never materialized into a game.
For the last year, that feeling has been there all the time. Holding ourselves back to focus on one thing, which overtime accumulated more problems around it then we could really deal with. Not so much in terms of developing it, but more from the limitations of the environment we currently live in and sorting out problems which happened naturally over the years with TVOThief. It reached a point where it was impossible for 2 people to handle.
And the worst part of it all was we felt we couldn’t express the ideas we wanted to create. Like we had built some kind of wall in front of our creativity to keep us working on something which needed the thing behind that wall.
Something had to change.
So part of the changes that we’ve been making is to help break down that wall and tap into our creativity again. And from what I’ve seen, there’s nothing more creative then a Game Jam!
The source of my motivation is energy drinks and Elise with a baseball bat.
Sooo… while Elise continues to work on art for our spooky game and dispense motivation. I’ll be throwing myself into the fray getting no sleep, powering up on energy drinks and hopefully staying alive to create something fun, and hopefully cohesive, for everyone to play in the Indie Vs Gamers Jam!
Wish me luck!
And best of luck to everyone participating in the Indie Vs Gamers Jam! I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!!
For last few days (amongst other things), I’ve been working on the PSX shader to simulate that distortion you often see in PSX games. The goal is to use this shader to help add a layer of creepiness to the environment through the shader.
So before I did anything, I did a quick search on “PSX Shader” on Google to see what would come up. I ended up coming across a few forum posts which pointed me in the direction of Affine Transformations.
After doing a little bit of a deeper search, I came across a basic shader which simulated the effect, but wasn’t exactly ideal for what we were trying to do. So I spent a few hours experimenting to try and understand what was going on and come up with our own.
And I did it! But it did have some problems.
The same Affine shader creating different distortions based on the number of vertices in the mesh.
One of the problems with the shader was when in first person view, the textures underneath the player would become extremely distorted. So I ended up adding a cut-off value which determines when to blend between Affine Transformed UVs, and normal UVs to help remove the distortion underneath the player.
Distortion effect underneath the player, without and with UV blending.
It kind of makes a nice sense of normality around the player, while everything else is distorted and feels like it’s moving.
I also added vertex snapping into the shader to simulate PSX fixed precision. I used a single float value which indicates how many increments there are per unit, and rounds each vertex axis to the nearest increment.
Simulated Vertex Precision on a … sphere?!
Sliding the value back and forth also creates a pretty neat effect causing the vertices to move around and shake. Which we might incorporate into gameplay some how.
Sliding the vertex precision back and forth makes the room look like it’s breathing!
Once I got the base shader, I wrote variations which add Vertex Coloring and support for Unity Lighting, which will allow us to create interesting lighting and set the mood. And to save time on writing too much shader code, I wrote it in a Surface Shader.
Affecting the Lightmap UVs to create distorted looking UVs.
After testing it a little further, I was pretty happy with the results. The final result is a nice distortion effect to create a slightly creepy environment.
For the last week I’ve been working on the concept art for our new game! As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, we wanted to make this one a bit scary.
We loved how people scared themselves with The Very Organized Thief, and we’ve wanted to make something horror for a while. So it seemed like a natural direction to take!
To describe the setting a bit, without spoiling too much, the game is set in a spooky abandoned school! Kind of cliché? Pretty much!
I roughly drew a few key areas to try and get the look and feel right. It was fun to play with the lighting, and I’m happy with the results. :)
Hallway with stairs concept
After drawing the base art, we experimented with a few different types of lighting. I made them mostly neutral initially, but the alternate lighting picture below is probably closer to what will be in the final game. We are still experimenting, so it might not look exactly like that.
Alternate lighting – Classroom concept
Due to the early decision to style the visuals of the game to look like 3D PSX games, we decided that it would have more textures than the original The Very Organized Thief. TVOThief didn’t use that many textures, and a lot of the colours were stored in the vertex channel. When it did have textures, they were usually done in the style of pixel art.
With our new horror game we’re planning to use low-resolution pixel art textures, along with a shader that Alex is working on, to create the PSX style.
I’ve already made a few textures for Alex to test out the shader with. He should be sharing the progress on his shader in the next post! Hope you enjoyed the concept art, and are looking forward to the next post. :)
This week I setup our new project in Unity and started getting the base game-play into the game.
Since I’m mostly reusing existing code that we’re using on TVOThief, I could focus more on just coding the game and fixing up parts that needed fixing. I also wanted to treat writing code for this game as more of a way of polishing and refining what we had, adding minor features or fixing oversights based on how we end up using things.
One of the major parts we wanted to have was a painting that the player would see at the beginning of the game. The painting would then break up into pieces and fly out, spreading themselves out through the level at random locations. As a way of telling the player what they were looking for and what the overall goal is.
HTML5 Canvas Jigsaw Puzzle
The way you put the puzzle together didn’t end up being exactly the same, but the result was pretty fun. The biggest challenge was finding a way to use it without it being just some game about piecing a image together in some giant jigsaw puzzle.
For the last few days I’ve been putting it to good use, fixing it up and applying some new things I’ve learnt in the past year to improve it and get better control over it. After a few days of programming later, this what I came up with.
Flying Puzzle Pieces
The effect uses a combination of physics, to create the tumbling, and path finding to make them land at their destination using our own AI system.
And once you find all the pieces, you can go back to the painting and place the pieces back in.
Putting the pieces back.
I’m pretty happy with the result, and I had a lot of fun doing it.
The next thing I’ll be working on is creating the PSX style graphic effect using a shader and setting up a basic level to play in.
This week we started working on our new game, and things have been progressing nicely. We’re not 100% sure what the title is going to be but we’re pretty sure what the game is going to be about.
So our aim for this game is kind of similar to what the original TVOThief had going for itself. Tension. Except this time, we’re going to intentionally use that tension to scare the player by creating horror.
TVOThief was never originally intended to scare people, but people still found it terrifying. So we want to take what we’ve learnt from TVOThief, and apply it to something that is literally scary.
We’ve been talking about creating a horror game for a while because we’ve been wanting to explore the genre a little more, primarily for the type of story telling that can be created.
It also fits well with what we’ve already developed, code wise, in Unity.
We’re hoping to keep the game play simple so people can jump right into the game, which is less about jump scares and more about anticipating bad things to hopefully create a better mix of tension and horror.
We’ll also be exploring a number of visual techniques we’d like to try through programming, modelling and texturing as we develop the game.
Alex is fond of PSX era graphics, which is the visual style we’re hoping to imitate. That “almost” imprecise kind of glitch-y effect that you often see when playing 3D games on PSX. He’ll be talking more about that in a later developer diary, probably in the next few days. Mostly on the technical programmer side of things.
Elise has been working on concept art. Fleshing out the art style and direction while experimenting with different texturing effects. Looking at PSX games and seeing what might look best. She’ll be showing off more about that in another developer diary.
And that’s a little bit of what you can expect. We hope you’re looking forward to those upcoming developer diaries for some sneak peaks.
Throughout the months of developing The Very Organized Thief, a question would always come up, “Can’t we do more, by doing something simpler?”. And it was a question that would often leave us frustrated, that we could never answer.
Before we made the previous post, we’d been working on changing our development strategy to hopefully help Redefinition Games grow and move in a better direction. This change should allow us to create more smaller titles for everyone to play, as well as new content for everyone to consume.
That’s not how you consume content.
In the last few years of development, the goal with a lot of our games is based around what we want the player to feel and experience at a given moment, wrapped up in good game play. TVOThief was essentially a proof of concept for us, taking everything we knew at that point and jamming it into a small game.
From the very beginning we wanted to prioritise development around creating small games, to help us fund the development of a larger title. But along the way, we were pushed off that path, and went spiralling down the rabbit hole that has been TVOThief.
So this month, we’re creating a completely new game which we are going to keep nice and small. It’s going to be scary, because we’ve always wanted to make one (and TVOThief was never meant to be scary) and most importantly, it should be fun. The goal is to jam it out in a month, using what we’ve currently developed as a way of refining it and putting it to the test through play.
There’s usually more paper than this.
Why a month? For a short period of time, Elise and Alex are both on point for full-time development. After that, it’s back to just Alex…
“I’m sensing a recurring theme with Elise’s drawings. But I’m not quite sure what it is…” ~Alex
We’re also taking this opportunity to bring some of what we have to mobile. With the loss of Unity Web Player on Chrome, and Unity WebGL not exactly ideal for the types of games we’d like to create. Making a move to mobile makes sense, and is something we’ve been wanting to do for a while.
On top of that, VIDEOS! COMICS! And a whole bunch of other things we felt blocked from attempting and releasing. You can also expect more developer diaries with behind the scenes developments and sneak peeks of our new game as we begin to work on it.
We hope everyone is excited about the new changes and is looking forward to what we have to offer in the coming month/s. And as always, we hope you continue to enjoy playing our games.
– Alex & Elise
Our feelings about TVOThief
To be clear, we love The Very Organized Thief. We often play it ourselves, and love seeing peoples reactions and responses to the game. Throughout development we’ve been extremely excited about where the game has been going even after cutting it back in scope to make it do-able.
But unfortunately, to create it, developing a game of that scope was still outside of what we’re capable of doing given our current circumstances.
And as much as we’d love to make TVOThief happen as soon as possible for everyone and ourselves. We need to spend time away from it, in order to build up to it, so we can actually make it happen.
We are still working on it. Everything we’re doing over the coming months will be contributing and refining the development of code, visual effects and art style currently in use on the new TVOThief, as well as other planned titles ; )
If you’d like to know more, please read our previous post which explains a few things in more detail.
After much decision making we’ve decided that it’s best to return all pre-order funds generated for The Very Organized Thief.
This has come as a result of some issues out of our control and not enough funding to produce the game we’d like to make, such as incorporating things people would like to see and provide the support necessary to ensure its success in order to take Redefinition Games in the direction we want to take it.
As we’ve worked on The Very Organized Thief, observed games of similar niches and the industry in general, we’ve come to better understand what is possible and what is not. From both a development and a marketability standpoint.
And in order to get The Very Organized Thief into a position where it is possible to create it, we need to step back and do a number of other things before we can truly take it forward to produce a good game.
As a team of two developers, getting the funding we need to produce the types of games we’d like to create is critical and has to come from somewhere.
And it is clear, that pre-orders aren’t working, for a number of reasons.
First reason being, we’re only two developers, making it difficult to generate or maintain the kind of buzz that can help a game succeed.
Second reason, despite it being a simple game in appearance, there is a large number technical hurdles to overcome in order for us to create and manage the experience we’d like everyone to have. This takes time and pushes the general release date back to a point where it’s no longer reasonable for pre-order-ers to wait that long.
And thirdly, not enough funding to sustain development or to responsibly hire the help we need to develop The Very Organized Thief.
There is also growing reluctance to support developers in this way (pre-orders and Kickstarter). Which has come about as a result of setting expectations too high, technical issues at release, or large groups of people being disappointed or not completely satisfied with the end results. Or all of the above.
The Very Organized Thief is a game which grew wings of it’s own, took off and landed in the hands of both small and large content creators who review and Let’s Play games. All of which happened on it’s own.
This created more attention than we’d planned for and pushed a more manageable business plan out the window.
The effect of this is that we will not be able to produce a game which lives up to the hype and expectations of everyone in a timely fashion as a result of all of the above. So rather than developing a game in the same vain of Icarus flying into the sun, we are bringing ourselves back down to earth.
By doing that, we will be able to adjust our focus to produce a range of smaller enjoyable games, in order to help us generate the funds we need to produce a major game of respectable quality.
This doesn’t mean that development has stopped on The Very Organized Thief. We will be continuing to work on it as usual, along with posting developer diaries.
This decision simply removes the looming pressures of having to fulfil pre-orders and setting a final release date which is currently indeterminable based on the reasons previously stated.
It has been yet another tough decision this year. But we feel in order for us to continue to make games, changes needed to be made, starting with removing pre-orders and release date expectations.
We hope everyone understands and respects our decision.
Thank you to everyone who has played The Very Organized Thief, and took a chance at supporting us this early on. Your support will not go unnoticed ; )
In this article I’ll be talking about the start of the character design process we went through for The Very Organized Thief.
The first character we started working on is one that many people who have played our game should be familiar with, the Owner! Since this is the first character we wanted to design and model, we went through many iterations to get the tone and style of the character. This was fairly important because it’s the style we’ll be using for the other characters we’ll be creating during development.
Some early concept designs of the Owner
In the original prototype many people mistook the Owner for a woman, and although I loved the confusion, we decided to make his gender a bit more obvious. I drew many sketches trying to get the new design of the Owner just right, which Alex provided advice and input with.
Further refining the Owner’s design
Once we were happy with the new look, I drew a T-pose drawing, which you can see below.
The final concept design for the Owner
From this Alex created the 3D model of the Owner using Maya!
The Owner model in 3D!
He then rigged it to be used with the animations, and set it up in Unity with the new AI system and a number of other things. Alex will hopefully talk about that in a later post. :)
Here is the owner in game. He’s chasing you!
Because of the number of iterations we went through it took quite a long time, but after all the effort we’re very happy with the results!
We have other character designs we’ll be showing off in later posts, so I hope you’re looking forward to that and enjoyed this little sneak peak. :)
This week I’ve been spending a lot of time improving the physics collisions to fix a number of funny issues that people could do in game. Such as standing where the Owner spawns and the owner spawning on your head, or using props to “Prop Jump” into the floors above.
After moving to Unity 5, with its improvements to the physics system, these glitches were even easier to do. Pushing the characters upwards on top of colliders if they penetrated too far into the object. This problem was even worse when walking through doors, pushing characters through the roof or on top of door frames, and sometimes both.
Not how you get upstairs.
As funny as the glitches can be, it isn’t exactly normal.
The problem lay in the type of collider I was using, which was the Character Controller. A useful component that is notorious for having a number of physics related issues in specific scenarios.
I ended up replacing it with something that behaves similar to the existing movement controls, but without the problems. Changing the Character Controller to a rigid body capsule to allow for more “realistic” results. It still behaves the same, and is less glitchy. It even feels a little bit smoother.
It’s not a ground breaking change and is pretty standard for Unity FPS games.
Thanks to those changes however, I have to rewrite how a number of interactive objects are handled along with the how the AI will deal with these changes.
It’s kind of sad to see the glitches go, but it does open the door to some more interesting game mechanics to do with physics. And I have no doubts that people will also figure out other ways to have fun with the physics.