Feb 182015
 
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Welcome to a new game development update! This will be a lengthy one, so please bear with me. In order to make your reading more palatable I’ve interspersed a couple of screenshots for your viewing pleasure… :)

The last couple of weeks have been particularly productive. Paul and I met to lock everything in terms of quests, story and structure. The result is an even clearer understanding of the game’s scope.

ScreenShot 2015_02_13 13;53;590012

Regarding that topic, it is interesting to note how much the game has evolved since the Indiegogo campaign. At the time I only had a very rough idea of what I wanted the game to be, but many important elements were still up in the air.

For example I thought the game would take place on Periclave, this huge island you would roam around, fighting enemies and… well that was about it really. There was no sneaking involved, no interaction with the environments, no detailed story for the world and its characters, no real AI no speak of, etc…

So I decided (about a year ago) the game actually wouldn’t take place on Periclave at all but rather happen on the mainland, in and around an ancient keep called Dwindling Heights. And you would get a chance to know who Tilo is before he embarks for Periclave. So to anyone wondering why the game doesn’t take place on Periclave, here are a couple of reasons.

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First, the story turned out so nice that it simply felt like wasting it by starting the game on Periclave, with no proper introduction to the world whatsoever. Plus I wasn’t sure I could do justice to my ambitious designs for the island. Which brings me to the next point.

Over-ambition will kill even the best of projects and I want the game to be released this year, not linger into the realms of vaporware and pretty screenshots. Biting more than I could chew was a real danger.

But the main reason is this: I want to maintain a very high level of quality throughout the project. From story to coding to visuals. And that means focusing on a smaller (relatively speaking) track of land and making sure everything works there.

Then if the game is successful (which I VERY much hope!), it will be my immense joy to expend the scope in the next game and to do justice to the intricate world of Ghost of a Tale.

But enough rambling. Suffice it to say that despite the huge workload I am indeed very happy with the way the game is turning out. Alright, and now for something completely different!

I was lucky enough to be interviewed by Canal Plus not long ago to talk about the game and I thought French-speaking visitors might be interested in watching the show online here: http://www.canalplus.fr/c-infos-documentaires/pid1829-c-le-journal-des-jeux-video.html?vid=1212596

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It was a fun virtual experience; by that I mean on the picture you can see Fred (the show host) on the left and Fabien (from PastaGames) on the right, but if you look closely on the right hand side I’m visible on a tiny screen. I was remotely controlling a Segway equipped with a webcam from the other side of the country, if you can believe it!

In the footage that was shown you can get a glimpse of the new in-game water interaction (among other things). Here’s a fun little video of Tilo wading through murky waters; I had to develop the shader to get exactly that look. It took me two days, but I feel it was worth it. I like how foam breaks in Tilo’s wake. Of course it looks better when not shot from my handheld phone!

Finally, I’m proud to announce we have a first build of the game running on an actual Xbox One, thanks to Cyrille!

This is great news because the building process itself is fairly smooth and I’m told no computer was hurt in the making of it. And even though the Xbox One version is not the main priority (finishing the game on PC is!) it’s still nice to know Ghost of a Tale can run on the console even though no specific optimization has taken place yet. So big kudos to Cyrille!

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And on those exciting news I’ll go back to work! I hope you enjoyed the update! :)

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:

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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:

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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!! :)