Oct 222016
 
twittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmail
(Note that this post contains a couple of nifty screenshots by talented forum member Nautilus)

Welcome to this long-due Ghost of a Tale update! :)

As the title says we’ve been extremely busy this month, dealing with a lot of different topics ranging from bug-fixing to improvements and optimization as well as working on what lies beyond early access. It’s been a very pregnant period in terms of ideas, concepts and overall dealing with the feedback from players as well as gameplay suggestions.

After pouring over the feedback Paul, Cyrille and I talked a lot among ourselves about ways to make stealth in Ghost of a Tale more challenging, more realistic, more demanding, but… well, after a while it became quite clear that this wasn’t the proper route to follow.

One day I found myself watching many videos of stealth games and came to the realization that I was basically trying to make Ghost of a Tale behave like other more hardcore stealth games. And that was definitely wrong.

We’ve got a pretty clear idea of what Ghost of a Tale should be and that never entailed consciously mimicking other games’ mechanics. Ghost of a Tale is not a hardcore stealth game (like Styx or MGS 5); it’s a hybrid of action/RPG/stealth. It is about exploring Dwindling Heights, dealing with the enemies (sneaking is one way), talking to well-defined characters and leading Tilo in his quests.

That being said I believe the stealth elements need to blend better with the rest of the game; which is why we’re currently working on a sizeable update. Here are some of the main lines. Please note that NOT all of those will necessarily be included in the next build release!

The costumes should play a bigger role:

Costume’s items will now have a direct effect on Tilo being detected by the enemies. Visual and auditive discretion will vary depending on the cloth you wear.

Items you wear will not only have an effect on your resistances but also have a direct impact on the rate at which your stamina depletes and the speed at which it regenerates. So there will be a greater emphasis on practical differences between the costume items.

Costumes however will not change Tilo’s health amount anymore. Only resistances, sneaking skills and stamina will be affected by them.

rhmecju

Being able to explore the world more freely:

And here’s a big change: some of the costumes you complete will let you walk around Dwindling Heights without getting attacked right away by the guards. How much time you get before being considered a target depends on which costume you’re wearing.

What will happen is the guards will become gradually more suspicious of you and then they’ll walk towards you. If you manage to break the line of sight and hide without scampering away then they’ll just lose you.

But if they reach you then they’ll challenge you (e.g. “Who are you? What are you doing here? What’s the password?”, etc…). If you answer correctly they’ll let you be for a while. But if you raise their suspicion then they’ll attack you (as they do now).

But remember this mechanic only works with some of the complete costumes; running around as a thief or in mismatched clothes will still make the guards aggressive towards you.

ggejzn6

It’s an important nuance in the game: If the rats attack Tilo that’s because they recognize him as a prisoner who escaped his cell. Not because they’re inherently evil (they’re not).

Conversely, you’ll meet other mice in Dwindling Heights which are not prisoners, like contractors working on rebuilding dilapidated parts of the place (mice are famous for being good architects all across Pangia). But they might not be willing to help Tilo just “because they’re all mice”; they’ll just see him as an escaped convict and want nothing to do with him.

Once again this drives home an extremely potent point: rat guards do not attack all mice on sight and other mice are not necessary your friends just because they’re mice.

Enemies and combat:

There will be different types of guards in Dwindling Heights: some are the slower halberdiers you meet in the jail. Some others will carry swords and shields and be much quicker on their feet. Finally some will be armed with crossbows (introducing the element of range combat). They will definitely offer a greater challenge for those seeking it.

In the final game Tilo will also have additional tools to deal with guards (ie: ability to throw hornets’ nests at them, etc…). This will enhance the interactivity with the rats without overpowering Tilo.

Quests offering more rewards:

Completing quests will grant Tilo renown points. Every time Tilo gains a certain number of points he gets one additional health/stamina slot. So Tilo’s health and endurance levels are now in direct relation to your actions as the player.

On top of this the NPCs will grant you some florins and items when completing their quests, so as to make the whole experience a little more rewarding. As usual, those florins can be used to buy some special skills/information from some NPCs.

screenshot-2016_10_17-165328001

Better Platforming:

This has been greatly improved and Tilo can now climb much more freely all around. It makes a big difference! :)

On top of that, if you maintain the jump button pressed as you run around, Tilo will automatically climb over things as you run into them.

Improving assets quality:

I have done a huge reworking of the vegetation (thanks to coder wizard Larsbertram) and the game now has trees that react to proper wind zones and sway in the breeze, gently waving their branches and leaves.

As you can see in the video the leaves translucency is also more accurate when the sun creates back-lighting. Trees were always something that bothered me in the current release and since we have wooden areas coming in the final game I really had to rethink my whole vegetation pipeline.

The game now also uses Unity’s new Temporal Anti-Aliasing which is a step up from the one we were using before.

screenshot-2016_10_04-235423001_taa1

Recently I started using photogrammetry for some rock assets and ground features; they bring a touch more credibility while all the while being easier on performance thanks to the use of LODs (there are almost no LODs in the current release).

screenshot-2016_10_22-121616001

I have also reworked the water interaction (after having been inspired by the tech presentation from Playdead’s Inside). I’ve posted about it on Twitter already but this is a better quality version for those interested:

Which is a great segue into…

Xbox One:

We have made huge progress on this front. Basically the game currently runs at 30fps in 720p, as you can see on the video below (sorry for the shaky-cam).

Microsoft has some a strict certification process and I’m sure it will take a while before Ghost of a Tale’s Preview version can land on your favorite console. Still, already having the game chugging along is no doubt a step in the right direction and I just wanted to let you guys know!

The good thing is it looks exactly like the PC version. No real dumbing down. Just a LOT of optimizations without compromising the way the game looks.

The PC version also benefits from this of course. As a result the tech requirements for the game will go down. For example my computer is 3 years old (albeit with a kickass video card) and the game went from 70fps to 90+fps (in 1080p).

All thanks to having to optimize the game for consoles! 😛

And let’s not forget that we made drastic structural improvements in the way zones are loaded and activated in the background. Those might sound less exciting but trust me when I say that they are every bit as important as the shinier improvements.

It also means that your saves probably won’t be compatible with the next release but that’s the price to pay for this performance boost and game mechanic changes.

So when is the next early access release happening?

We don’t know yet. But I just wanted to make sure you all understood that if this update is taking a long time coming it’s not because we don’t care anymore, quite the opposite! It’s because the changes are fundamental and require a lot of work and planing to get implemented!

Alright now it’s time for me to go back to work. As always, please feel free to share you reactions and ask questions in the comments… :)

Aug 192016
 
twittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmail

Now that the dust is settled I can at last find time to post an update! What an experience it’s been! :)

Ghost of a Tale has been out in early access on Steam and GOG for more than three weeks now. And it’s been both exhausting and exhilarating. Some days we worked nonstop around the clock with only 4h of sleep so it was rather intense, but in the end it was all worth it.

I want to thank Cyrille (Cosmogonies) and Paul (FakeNina) for answering emails and replying on forums while at the same time toiling away on the game. If Ghost of a Tale’s launch wasn’t a total chaos it’s all thanks to their constant dedication and hard work, for which I am immensely grateful.

Thank you also to all of you guys who took the time to send us your saves, screenshots and bug reports! You have truly made the game better for all those who will come after you.

To say the reactions to the game have been overwhelmingly positive is an understatement. Here’s a typical example of a player’s reaction about the game:

ScreenShot 2016_07_26 16;29;18001

I’m really glad we tested the game beforehand as best we could because it actually paid off: Ghost of a Tale was called one of the best example ever of a game released in early access. For some reviewers it even set a new standard in terms of quality of a pre-release. Which is music to our mousey ears! :)

Of course there are still bugs remaining and we’re working tirelessly to squash the most annoying ones as quickly as possible. We also added requested features and players were sometimes amazed to see we genuinely cared for their feedback.

We’ve got some great suggestions (regarding AI, game mechanics, etc…) which will make the game even better than it is while keeping the original vision intact.

All in all I’d say the game has attracted a really nice crowd, with a lot of good will and a genuine desire to help. And that’s probably one of the most welcomed achievements of the game as far as I’m concerned.

How did the game do in early access?

It did alright! The sales are not fantastic by any measure but it should allow us to finish the game as intended. Now for any slightly bigger studio that level of revenues would without a doubt spell the end of the project. But not in this case, rest assured the game will get finished!

Early access games are rarely a smash success and we released Ghost of a Tale without any publicity whatsoever. I didn’t even have time to do a proper new trailer, Microsoft couldn’t provide any marketing support since the game is not yet out on the Xbox One and almost no journalists were aware of the game’s pre-release. Talk about a hard sell!

Anyway the uptake is a lot of players went “This looks really nice, I’ll wait until it comes out of Early Access!”. So if Steam’s dashboard is to be believed we have ten times more potential buyers waiting for the game to be finished than the actual amount who already bought it. Which seems to indicate the game should be fairly successful when it gets officially released.

So what now?

The very first step is to take care of all the remaining bugs to ensure the early access is basically as bug-free as possible, since the systems and game mechanics will be used in the final version.

The second phase involves tweaking the gameplay, integrating more feedback from players, etc… Then early access will be deemed complete in the sense that it procures a thoroughly enjoyable experience to players new and old. Development will then branch out to what will become the full (final) version of the game. We are currently nearing that stage.

On that topic, a quick message to all of you backers who got access to the Beta version of the game on Steam: you can now switch back to the default branch. The Beta branch is going to be used mostly for experimental builds, where we introduce tweaks or changes not yet ready for prime-time.

So if you’d like to provide us with feedback about new features (and potentially new bugs) please stay on the Beta branch. If not, then simply opt out of it in the game’s properties.

What about consoles?

We are currently working on getting the Preview version onto the Xbox One. I will of course post here whenever there are related news.

Regarding the PlayStation 4 we don’t have anything to announce yet, besides the fact that Sony is indeed aware of the game and would like to see it come to their console. Once more I’ll let you guys know as soon as there’s anything new to report. :)

Will the game be available on the Humble store?

Yes it will, thank you for your patience! It will also be possible to buy the game directly from this site through the Humble Widget. I’ll post an update when that’s ready to go.

Alright, I have to get back to work now. And I’ve still got hundreds of emails to go through. So please be patient, it will take me some time…

Finally I simply want to thank again all of you backers of the Indiegogo campaign who chose to give Tilo a chance three years ago. It looks like you won’t have to regret it! 😀

Jul 182016
 
twittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmail

Welcome everyone! The early access version of Ghost of a Tale is nearly upon us! So it’s now time to talk about specifics.

The game is going to be available for PC in early access on Steam, GOG and this very site (with the help of the Humble widget).

If you’re a backer of the Indiegogo campaign you can look forward to an email from us within the next 24h to 48h. You’ll be able to choose which key you’d like to receive and when you get that key it will let you play the game right away! :)

For everyone else, although you can’t yet buy the game you can still access the store pages by clicking on either of the pictures below.

steam_logo

Console versions will come at a later time since the PC release must be done before anything else is possible.

But before I continue talking about the early access let me say this: I recently looked at the last trailer (from 2014) and was really surprised by the difference in visual quality. So I captured a frame and tried to match it roughly to the same angle/time-of-day. First the 2014 version:

ScreenShot 2016_07_17 15;10;55001_2014

And here’s with what the game looks like today. I really need to start working on a new trailer!

ScreenShot 2016_07_17 15;10;55001_2016

So much has changed since then. And I don’t mean just the graphics! 😀

But let me go back to the topic of the early access. Actually instead of boring you with a dry litany of information let me break it down into a series of questions you may ask yourselves.

What are the technical requirements for Ghost of a Tale?

Well, you need a gaming PC of course. By this I mean essentially a graphics card that can run modern games. Laptops which are mostly used to browse the web or play older games probably won’t cut it.

On the CPU side an Intel i5 @ 2.5Ghz is the minimum. On the video card side, see if you can locate your card on this chart (available on videocardbenchmark.net) and look at its score:

ScreenShot 2016_07_16 19;03;23001

In a nutshell, here’s what to expect (assuming your CPU is not the bottleneck in your machine):

  • If your video card is well above 7K you’ll have a grand old time, period!
  • If your video card reaches 4K or more, you’re hunky-dory; that would pretty much warranty 1080p at a solid 30fps.
  • If your video card is between 2K and 3K you might have to lower the resolution to 720p in order to maintain 30fps.
  • If your video card is well below 2K I advise you only buy Ghost of a Tale with the understanding that you will not get a smooth experience unless you bring down the resolution even more.
  • If your video card is well below 1K then I advise you do not buy the game as I cannot guarantee it will run as intended.

Do I have to use a gamepad to play Ghost of a Tale?

No. However, while the game fully supports mouse/keyboard it is fundamentally designed with a gamepad in mind (I use the Xbox One’s).

Since Ghost of a Tale is a third-person game where body-awareness is fairly important it’s just nicer and more precise to use a Gamepad. But in the end it’s your choice of course.

What can I expect from the early-access version?

A beautiful place to explore, NPCs to encounter, secrets to discover, dialogs, quests, etc…

If you intend to immerse yourself in that world and try to do each quest then you’ll have quite a few hours of enjoyment ahead of you.

The early access represents roughly 25-30% of the game (at most). But by a lot of aspects it only shows a VERY LIMITED slice of what the final game will be. We removed some mechanics, enemies, and systems and walled off several locations linked to quests that are not yet available.

Eventually you’ll be able to explore the whole of Dwindling Heights and meet all of its denizens; this is just a portion of it.

(One last note: the “fancy hat” edition will arrive later on, either as an update to the early access or with the final version of the game…)

Is the early-access English-only?

Yes. For now. Dialogs and quests will evolve until the final game is complete, so if we translate the game now a lot of work is going to have to be completely redone later on. And at the moment we simply cannot afford to do this from a financial point of view (more on that later).

Here’s a screenshot to provide some breathing space. Look, the sun is about to rise over Dwindling Heights…

ScreenShot 2016_07_07 09;29;07001

Why should I buy the game now instead of waiting for the final version?

That’s a fair question and the answer revolves around money: there’s none left.

Successful games’ crowdfunding campaigns can reach a few hundred thousand dollars, sometimes even close to a million. The campaign for GoaT brought roughly $40K of effective budget.

As some of you know I’ve been working on Ghost of a Tale each and every day of my life for the last three years and I’ve paid myself $500 per month. The rest of the money went to buy hardware, licenses and of course to compensate my collaborators.

Note that I’m not complaining at all; no-one is forcing me to create Ghost of a Tale!

Now we could very well start a new crowdfunding campaign but it would require quite a lot of time and energy and it would push back the game by as much. I prefer to put that effort into development. And given the advanced state of Ghost of a Tale I think the early access route is the best for everyone.

That being said I totally respect players who would rather play the game when it’s finished and prefer to wait for the final version to be released.

If however you choose to buy the pre-release version, know that you are actually making the development of Ghost of a Tale possible. Plus you get a better price while the game is still in early access since the final version will likely be more expensive when it’s out.

And if I’m still not convinced…?

Well, what can I say. How many games let you play as a minstrel mouse in a world that looks right out of a fairy tale? Which doesn’t expect you to slaughter anyone and instead appeals to your sense of wonder…? :)

If you believe in the game then please, spread the word! Let your friends know that the pre-release is coming very soon!

I’ll do an update to let you guys know as soon as the pre-release is out for everyone. If we don’t discover anything catastrophic during the next few days then everyone will get a chance to experience Ghost of a Tale next week, on Monday the 25th of July… :)

Jun 272016
 
twittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmail

Welcome to this new development update! So much work accomplished since the previous update. So many long hours and concerted efforts to get the game closer to our goal.

Along the way my graphics card died on me! So I got one of the newly released Nvidia beasts as a replacement. Alas my computer is not top of the line anymore and it doesn’t allow the card to fully showcase its power (both CPU and motherboard are the bottlenecks). As a result my frame rate on GoaT is stuck between 60 and 70fps when I know it should be much higher.

Anyway, you’re not interested in my technical woes because you read the title of this post and it says “BETA TESTING HAS BEGUN”! Yay! And as you can see we only use the most discriminating professional testers… 😉

DSCN6308_cropped

More seriously though, we’re currently testing the pre-release on a bunch of different rigs, squashing bugs left and right. For the first time in a long while people who’ve never played the game got to experience it at last!

And before you ask: yes, this is a closed beta process. We will add more testers in the coming weeks and although we do appreciate everyone’s willingness to help we’ve got testing covered for now! If you are among the next (small) wave of testers then we will get in touch with you soon.

The entire process has been an eye-opener though and we’ve already got some quite astute notes. But I’m very happy to report we haven’t heard anything of a nature to make us doubt the validity of the entire experience! Whew! 😉

ScreenShot 2016_04_20 22;27;060012

What we’ve got in spades are insights into what some players expect, or may take for granted. If you’ll allow me to digress here: When I was working on movies we did what’s called “test-screenings”, after which producers would come back to us (the crew) and make us change A LOT of things, sometimes putting into question the foundations of the project.

I always disliked those periods. Not because of the feedback itself (it often had merit) but because it meant our leaders (the studio) didn’t make the right decisions in the first place. Sometimes even though we were telling them there were issues.

To be fair, creating a piece of entertainment is always difficult because it has to be communicated clearly. You need to make sure your intended audience “gets it”. Although it can sometimes lead to a certain amount of pandering. Or on the opposite end you can get obtuse experiences with a mightily cerebral message, which does not appeal to me either (at least as far as games are concerned). Finding the right balance always is a difficult act.

But it’s exciting watching players put two and two together and as a result wanting to learn more about the world they explore. Which is why I don’t want to reveal too much about the story or even some game mechanics.

ScreenShot 2016_06_26 15;40;59001

But I must say the game has gotten much richer and deeper than I would ever have anticipated. When I started development 3 years ago (how time flies) I thought GoaT would amount to a moderately nice-looking romp involving hitting enemies until they went down. Period. And boy did it turn out to be so much more!

Anyway, there are still many bugs to fix before we can officially launch the (public) pre-release so I’ll go back to work now!

Barring any unforeseen catastrophe you guys should be able to put your hands on the early access version of Ghost of a Tale in… “not too long”. Meanwhile, thank you for your patience. It shall eventually get rewarded… :)