Jan 222015
 
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Hello everyone! This is going to be a quick update to tell you that I’m currently in the process of converting the game’s project to Unity 5.0 (beta 20). I’m not even using any fancy Global Illumination yet, but the new lighting engine shines through:

ScreenShot 2015_01_22 12;32;41001_cropped

This is a rather involved task but it is also indispensable for Ghost of a Tale to move forward. The reason is we’re going to need the new navigational mesh abilities which should allow us to achieve our goal of streaming the game’s environments instead of having to put loading screens at select locations.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Ghost of a Tale is my first game ever, therefore it’s not going to be a sprawling epic tale. In fact, it is the very first step on a longer journey, for us as well as for Tilo.

If the game meets with success then we will be able to keep on telling this story with greater confidence. So this game is going to happen in a single (rather large) location with environments going from subterranean caves to the top of high towers (think “Ico”). And everything is consistent from a spatial point of view.

So it is important for us to be able to tap into Unity 5’s new capabilities regarding pathfinding across several streaming interconnected locations. Plus this new version has a lot of improvements in many domains (lighting, physics, animation, etc…). There are still many issues that I need to fix for the Unity 5 conversion to be considered complete, but I am confident that this the right choice. And I really hope it will pay off in the long run!

Finally -and this is completely unrelated- I thought you guys would enjoy this fun game mechanic I recently implemented (thank you Cyrille for the candle flame behavior!): Tilo can now use a candlestick to set ablaze some banners! (Make sure to watch the picture in full screen!)

ScreenShot 2015_01_18 09;58;55001_2

Who knows what it may reveal behind? Note that you’ll also be able to use a lantern in the game, which will procure a much wider light radius. However the candlestick, although far more limited in terms of lighting range, will let you to burn away a couple of things; it’s a careful tradeoff and both are definitely useful… ;)

Jan 122015
 
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Hi all! And Happy New Year! This is just to show you that the press is taking note of Ghost of a Tale. For example here we have FOUR full-color lavish pages in the latest issue of “The Game” (#4), a French magazine dealing with video games and their creators.

Some of the pictures are from older builds and don’t quite do justice to the current look of the game, yet I believe it serves as a wonderful introduction to Ghost of a Tale for anyone unfamiliar with it:

GOAT01

GOAT02

The game had already been mentioned before in a magazine, but never THAT sumptuously! This is really exciting!

And in the magazine we even afford the luxury of appearing just before a small lesser-known game called “Uncharted 4″ and an interview with Naughty Dog…! :P

Dec 242014
 
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Hello everyone, welcome to this general update regarding the current state of development! Since the end of Gamescom in late August I’ve been working very hard to basically deconstruct a lot of what I had done in a hurry and re-code quite a few things (almost) from scratch, in order to make them much more solid and modular.

This is an example of some UI code, before and after Gamescom (thanks to Unity’s 4.6 release). As you can see things are much more concise. Which results in code that’s easier to maintain and expand on as needed:

ScreenShot 2014_09_21 12;05;16001_comp2

On that topic let me share one thought: anyone is capable of doing complicated things, there’s really no merit in that. What’s more difficult is accomplishing complex things in a simple, elegant way. As Paul often says, “Be Kind to your Future Self”. It means that while I would be able to just bang out something quick and dirty, several weeks down the line I would also have a hard time understanding why I did what I did the way I did it.

Which is also the reason I always annotate my code. Because I wear so many hats on the project I need to keep track of the reasoning behind what I’m doing.

Another example of this streamlining process is in the animation tree of the actors. By fully leveraging Unity’s Mecanim system I was able to considerably reduce the complexity of the animation’s transitions:

screenshot_mecanim_anyState

Still on the topic of animation, something we didn’t have yet at Gamescom is fully dynamic skinned attachments. Behind that mouthful hides a simple concept: Tilo and the game’s other actors now have dynamic appendages and props, blending in nicely with existing animation.

For example on this Vine video you can see both Tilo’s ears, his tail, hood, lute and belt props (pouch and purse) are fully dynamic. It helps a lot in fluidizing animation transitions:

Finally, some miscellaneous bullet points, in no particular order:

  • The Rats have now more attack types and animations
  • The spiders are fully integrated in-game, with final model, animations, specific AI, etc…
  • The structure for the game is completely defined, thanks to Paul. That entails the main quests, locations required, etc…
  • Insects are now scurrying on the floor, which adds a lot of life, especially in dark dungeons (and the spiders LOVE them!)
  • Tilo can now close doors as well as open them. And the Rats can also open doors (which sounds easier to do than it is!)
  • Distractions system now feels fairly solid, with visual and auditory triggers (been iterating a lot on that)
  • Inventory and props swapping feel much more intuitive now

There are many, many more improvements and bug fixes all over and you can rest assured that although the task remains daunting, everyone involved is doing their best so that we can all be proud when Ghost of a Tale is finally released next year.

May all of you have a wonderful holiday!! :)

Oct 312014
 
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Hello everyone! This post is intended to give you a glimpse into the thought process of designing Ghost of a Tale’s models. But first a word of warning:

Arachnophobes beware!

Recently I worked on one of the game’s enemies; namely the “Blood Spiders”. I went straight ahead to get the first idea out of my system and this is a quick (admittedly very rough) first pass at the model (with garbage texture). However at this stage I realized I was not quite happy with the direction I had taken.

First attempt at a spider

The first question I always ask myself is this one: does this design belong specifically to Ghost of a Tale? Meaning does it have enough personality with the right mix of cute and dark? This question is closely followed by another: did I see this design plastered all over contemporary games? Does it have a modicum of originality?

Now it’s not always possible to make something which stands out from all the other clones you saw in countless games and movies. And sometimes it does seem like the mainstream video game industry puts a fine point in making sure creature designs reference each-other and never stray too far from an accepted norm.

Usually when spiders are concerned in movies and games the designers go for the tarantula (“mygalomorph”) look. A very meaty, brown, beefy kind of spider. So that look was done to death.

Spider montage

My first spider design was okay but it didn’t feel enough like a “real” spider to me. More like some alien monster. And as it stands it lacks appeal. Maybe I’ll end up reworking that approach at some point in the future but I wanted to try something different. So I went back to the roots of any design work: gathering documentation.

After a little more research I honed in on the very arresting Evarcha Culicivora (the “vampire spider” from Kenya). It’s a small spider that preys on mosquitoes.

Evarcha Culicivora, the African spider

The colors on its head looked a little like war paint and it was almost cute (for a spider that is). So once I settled on that new direction the rest of the way was fairly smooth sailing. I ended up with a design that satisfied me and was a lot more fun and appealing while retaining its inherent creepiness.

An interpretation of the vampire spider

And finally a quick in-engine shot of the spiders in a test level. The whole (re)design process I described took less than two days. I will probably still tweak the model later on but it is important to let time pass in order to gain a fresh perspective on things.

New spiders inside the Unity engine

The lighter patterns on the legs’ joints will also provide some nice and unsettling “visual noise” as the spiders hone in on Tilo.

Anyway I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! Have a happy (and spider-free) Halloween…! :)

EDIT: Previously this post erroneously stated that Evarcha Culicivora originates from New-Zealand when it is in fact from Kenya. Thank you to Alianin for pointing out that mistake!