Hello everyone! This is a quick update to let you guys know that Ghost of a Tale will be officially presented at Gamescom this August in Cologne (Germany). There will be a playable demo so please come by our booth and try the game for yourself!
We will of course announce more details as the date approaches. Just to be clear: the demo is going to be a work-in-progress but it should give a pretty good idea of the finished product.
I won’t hide from you that the amount of work to be done until then is absolutely staggering. It is going to be a race against time on so many levels for everyone involved in this adventure.
Finally (and this is unrelated) I very recently received a package from Microsoft (thanks Alexis!) containing one of their Xbox One Developer Kits. Which is pretty neat as they are still fairly rare!
At the very least it means Microsoft is aware of Ghost of a Tale and interested in seeing it land on their new console. Which, again, is pretty cool for our very humble endeavor!
This is by no means a confirmation that the game will make it to the Xbox One of course (so many things could happen on the way). But it is a first step nevertheless and I hope you’ll agree that it is pretty exciting!
Welcome everyone! As promised this update is going to focus on the game’s lore, an aspect which has mostly been kept under wraps until now. As you all know Ghost of a Tale takes place in a medieval world inhabited by animals, each species ruling over its own kingdom. And among those kingdoms the Rats are considered one of the most powerful species. Although creatures far more fearsome exist, it is a well-known fact that, through sheer force of numbers, the Rat Army is capable of defeating almost any foe.
Today some say the Rats’ influence is so wide and far-reaching that it is more empire than kingdom. The origin of the Rat’s powerful influence can be traced all the way back to the War of the Green Flame, many centuries ago, when the world was teetering on the edge of the Bright Abyss.
No one remembers where the Green Flame appeared first. A force without conscience or thought, it killed and consumed all those standing in its path. The fallen would then grow the ranks of its army, becoming soulless puppets of the necromantic power. The great battle has passed into myth and legend now – but some facts are indisputable: the mighty Badgers of Baladhon fought and lost and even the Hawks of Halenvir fell from the sky. None of them could turn back the foul invasion.
When the news of the advancing army of the Green Flame reached the capital of each kingdom there was much debate. Some believed the Green Flame could be subjugated, used as a source of power. For others it was capable of nothing but death and decay. These quarrels took far too much time to resolve and when the Council of Asper finally stood together at last to face the Green Flame it was all but too late.
The Mice, fearing the end of their kind, attempted to send an emissary to negotiate surrender in exchange for revealing weaknesses in fortresses they had helped to design. Their actions were rightly perceived as a betrayal by the other creatures and the Green Flame laid waste to the mouse kingdom all the same.
It was then that the Rats took matters into their own hands. King Rodgar-the-First, seconded by his general Jahrlan (whom some say was the war’s true hero), led his soldiers into battle against the Green Flame’s army. There the Rats made their stand, single-handedly defeating the greatest threat the world had ever faced. Jahrlan did not survive the battle, but had he done so he would have had a chance of becoming king himself.
After the war most of the mouse lands were annexed, and Mice were never again allowed to bear arms. Nor did they ever formally regain the right to sit on the Council of Asper. There are some who say enough time has passed and that Mice should not today have to bear responsibility for their ancestor’s actions. But Rats are not known for their forgiveness.
It is interesting to note that the only trace of what might truly have happened in those long-forgotten days can be found in the oral tradition of the Myghlar Magpies, the Truth Sayers, who now inhabit the ancient tower of Periclave. To this day they scour the kingdoms, bartering in the only currency they respect: stories – facts, mostly, but also legends and songs. Yet even in their account of the War of the Green Flame one can find only glimmers of truth – the mere ghost of a tale.
One could also wonder where Tilo, the humble minstrel mouse, fits in History’s grand tapestry. After all he is merely a tiny stitch made with a single thread. But it only takes a snag in a single thread for the whole tapestry to unravel. And Tilo’s own story will be the subject of an upcoming update…
Hello everyone and welcome to this new Ghost of a Tale update!
Development is progressing at a very brisk pace. Which is in part why there hasn’t been any update since the last time. As you all know I’m very hard at work on multiple aspects of the game and I always prefer ironing out new features before mentioning them publicly.
To start, here’s a new picture for you:
And here is a summary of things that are either new or improved (in no particular order):
AI: I’ve implemented a new detection system for the enemies. Before it was a binary system which wasn’t entirely satisfying: you were either detected (and attacked right away) or you were not. The new detection system is much more organic and takes into account the player’s position, distance, speed, stance and whether you are hiding or not. There’s also a visual feedback icon on the enemy to let you know his level of suspicion (a little like in the Assassin’s Creed games). So now the whole thing is much more skill-based: it’s about how you balance the act of reaching a certain location without getting detected. Bottom line: it’s more fun!
Music: A while ago Jeremiah composed an excellent “combat” cue (actually several) which is triggered when you get detected by an enemy and I finally got around integrating it to the new detection system. Needless to say it adds a tremendous amount of tension and drama to the experience.
Animation: I mentioned before the “awareness system” in place for the player character; I’ve now added something similar for the enemies so that when they go somewhere (eg: patrolling from A to B) they actually look where they’re going. I know it may sound trivial but for me (as an animator) it really makes a difference.
Story: Paul and I worked a great deal on the story. It has grown in depth and scope and we’re focused on making sure we can explore it for all its worth. We’re also working on game design and we are now at a point where we’re testing individual mechanics to make sure everything is working as it should.
Interface: We now have a first pass on the inventory and the song system. It feels nice being able to actually see what you picked up at last (icon and description). Still a lot of work to be done in that area but it’s starting to take shape. We also have a new dialog system in place (thanks to Tony for the support on his Dialoguer asset) which works really well.
Visuals: All the game’s shaders have been converted to Physically Based Shaders using the new Shader Forge tool (thanks to Joachim for the support). What does it mean in plain English? Surfaces now look much more realistic in the way they react to lighting: stone, metal and wood actually “feel” like distinct materials.
And of course in addition to the fine people I just mentioned let me thank again Stephane, David and Cyrille for their ongoing help in this mighty endeavor.
The next update I’ll post will focus more on story and the main character…
Welcome to the Christmas update of Ghost of a Tale. This is going to be a longer post, but hopefully you’ll find it an interesting read!
First, here’s a gift for you all: a new Ghost of a Tale wallpaper. You can click on “Media” at the top of this page then scroll down a little and you’ll find an archive put there by David. It contains several different screen sizes to accommodate your favorite display. As always, this screenshot is a direct, unaltered gameplay screenshot (well, save for the logo)…
When I started the Indiegogo campaign back in May I was hoping for some kind of closed alpha to be released right about now but it seems that was a little optimistic, as I’m still putting something together as we speak. I am aware that we live in a time where huge studios cancel or delay their games on a whim, without much apparent respect for their audiences. And sometimes when they do release their games they are crippled by strings of bugs, broken features and half-baked ideas. But let me assure you that I have no desire to follow in those tracks!
Actually, given the fact that this is my first game ever (and that I’m still learning as I go) I’m very happy about the way things are evolving. Indeed I’m slowly reaching the feature-freeze stage where everything starts to gel and game mechanics just… work. Although one of the perks of developing the game 95% on my own is being allowed to change my mind and experiment with things without enduring the wrath of irate team-members. On the other hand if I break it, I have to fix it!
Still, I am glad to benefit from the help of great collaborators whenever the need arises (thanks Paul, Cyrille and Stephane)!
As a side note for a couple of months now I’ve been working with a new computer (bought with the campaign’s funds) and the speed at which I can develop the game has been greatly enhanced. It doesn’t look fancy but it’s got 16gigs of RAM, SSD drives and a GTX Titan graphics card. I am so happy about it because it makes the development process so much more effective (and enjoyable!).
And now for something completely different, here is a new peek into the process of creating the game’s sets. The dungeon you see on the new wallpaper is (probably) going to be part of the alpha. Its purpose is to show off game mechanics in a restricted environment and give a very small taste for the game.
It all starts with a process called “white-boxing”, which means that the architecture is created out of simple textureless cubes and planes in order to get a sense of space without getting bogged down by minute design decisions.
(Pay no attention to the HUD on the picture, it’s just a place-holder)
After that stage I go back to Maya and create the actual models used in-game. You’ll notice the environments require a relatively low amount of polygons since a lot of work comes from the textures themselves. As I already mentioned before, DirectX 11 allows displacement to be used to great effects. Of course geometry and surfacing need to be perfectly in sync to yield a pleasing result, which requires quite a lot of back-and-forth.
This is the same location as in the other screenshot, but the temporary white-boxed assets have been replaced with their final counterpart. Still, a screenshot doesn’t do the game justice in this case because it doesn’t convey the flickering torch lights and slowly drifting smoke, along with the sound of crackling fire.
Again with Ghost of a Tale I am striving to create an experience both engrossing and aesthetically pleasant, despite the very limited manpower. And as a friend of mine was putting it, ultimately it should feel like you’ve been invited to another world which was given a lot of thoughts and care. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if you have a fast machine and a great graphics card! ^^
On the behalf of the Ghost of a Tale small team, happy and safe holidays to you all!
Hi everyone! It’s been a while since the last update but that’s because work on the game is moving forward at a brisk pace. So here are just a few improvements since the previous update, in no particular order:
Started testing DX11 global illumination asset (called “Dynamic GI”) for potential future integration (thanks Chris!)
Integrated new camera with auto-corrective behavior (more on this at the end of this post)
Deepened the lore and background story elements for characters, locations and quests (thanks Paul!)
Implemented modular Actor AI with shared behaviors and waypoint system
The crystal crab is now functional (and quite scary)
Implemented traps game mechanics
Footsteps sounds now match the ground material under the actors
Implemented hiding spots game mechanics (really fun to use)
Implemented faction system for NPCs (player is no longer the de-facto target)
Stealth behavior is integrated
Implemented ladder climbing system (yay for verticality!)
Created new animation assets (player, skeletal rats, crab, etc…)
Created additional foley sounds
Implemented new props attachment and equipment system (great way to customize the character’s look)
Started testing a new DX 11 Unity asset (called “Fluidity”) in hopes of integrating it in the game (for cool pyrotechnics)
And since I know text-only updates can be a bit dry, here’s a picture of just a few temporary assets lying around in a corner of my test level:
Finally I just want to take a moment here to thank Cyrille Paulhiac (“Cosmogonies” on the forums). He’s a real programmer who helps me with complicated things! And he has done a tremendous job with the game’s camera up to the point where you can literally run around the test level without even needing to manually correct the view.
Of course you’re still free to orient the camera and look around any way you like but it’s one of those invisible things that truly contribute to a much more pleasant player experience.
The camera obstacle avoidance system itself is heavily based on an article by Eric Undersander published in Game Developer Magazine (Sept 2011). So thank you Eric for sharing the knowledge in the first place!
This is a quick update on the figurines: they have at last come back from the sculptor’s (Thomas & Elise) who worked on making them a little more sturdy so they are able to survive shipping!
After several tests we’ve found the best way to protect them: we put them in a plastic bag and fill it with what’s called “exfoliated vermiculite”, which is basically powdered/crushed volcanic rocks. That substance is not organic (so it’s fine for international shipping), but it is also very light yet firm enough that it can maintain the figurine safely from all angles and safely absorb the effects of inertia.
Each figurine is numbered and they’ll be shipping early this week. And then an army of undead rats will be unleashed upon the world!
Since David suggested I do a post regarding the applications I use to develop “Ghost of a Tale”, here’s a quick breakdown of how my pipeline goes, starting with Maya.
Whether it’s character or environment I tend to begin with very basic poly shapes before I then move on to thinking about details. So Maya acts as a modeling software for very early stage exploration. Of course character animation also happens in Maya. I also developed an exporter for Unity which allows me to export models and/or animations with just one click. Let me tell you it’s a real time-saver!
Of course, Ghost of a Tale wouldn’t be possible without Unity itself, which is the engine I use to create the game. Let me also mention a couple of great assets I use, like the Decals System, Advanced Foliage and FurFX. All those are developed by talented programers who do a great job of fixing bugs and implementing features when they’re being asked nicely!
Photoshop is an irreplaceable part of the development pipeline for anything related to textures. It’s a well-known program, so I won’t go into details. Let’s just say that I still remember when I started getting interested in painting on a computer using Degas on an Atari 520ST (a very long time ago). Yes, a lot of progress’s been made since then!
Another application I can’t leave without for my texture work is Crazybump. It allows me to extract 3D information from my photographs in order to use it as a displacement map in Unity. Tessellation and Parallax Occlusion Mapping (which create that fantastic relief effect) rely heavily on those.
And finally Zbrush is very useful for surfacing the characters; that is sculpting fine details when simply using an already existing texture is not enough. But it’s also great to sculpt characters or environments from scratch. Despite its unintuitive interface it’s an excellent sculpting tool!
There, so that gives you an idea of how many different applications are needed to develop Ghost of a Tale! And I’m sure I’m forgetting a couple of middleware plugins and tools that all aim to make life easier for game developers. I hope you enjoyed the quick tour!
I recently went on the hunt for source textures. Sometime you can find what you’re looking for on the web, but I usually tend to capture my own textures. This is important enough for me to spend hours trekking through thick forests until I reach a spot where I go “yes, that’s exactly what the game needs”. Those are just but a few examples showing off some in-game textures enhanced by the use of tessellation (DirectX11).
Then after that it’s back to Photoshop to work on the textures until I like the result. Which involves making them tileable and refining them to get the best impact in-game. What helps a lot is the tool from Edelweiss Interactive (found here) which synchronizes the Unity scene camera with the game camera. Since the game relies heavily on image filters I can directly see how the textures look in-game with all the post effects. No need to jump in-game anymore! A real time-saver.
Speaking of tessellation, so far I’m doing my best to keep support for DX9. I haven’t quite decided to drop it completely because I know a lot you guys still have DX9-only graphic cards. But the new generation of consoles and the hardware that’s sold nowadays all support DX11 (which was first introduced 5 years ago). And as you know with Ghost of a Tale I’m obviously trying to push the visual quality. But I’ll keep doing my best to support older tech as much as possible…
As always those images are directly captured in-game. If you use FireFox, to see the pictures at full-res, you can right-click on them and choose “View Image”.
The story is now locked (thanks Paul!) and that’s going to help in figuring out exactly what’s needed for the game. There’s so many different elements that need to fit in that it is sometimes a bit dizzying. And remember that Ghost of a Tale is not going to be a huge game by any stretch of imagination. But still, it’s a tremendous amount of work.
I would say at this point that the game is still in pre-production in the sense that I’m still designing the game. The next phase is about actively creating all the areas and character assets and I hope to be able to move on to that stage within a couple of months at the most.
On the programming side I’ve added debugging features that are going to make my life easier. Basically that debug interface gives me access to some useful information related to the player’s animation and the camera’s status.
As I mentioned a little while ago gamepad support has been added. But what I should precise is that the controls now adapt on the flight to the proper camera/locomotion configuration (keyboard or gamepad). As a result the controls always FEEL adapted to your device because the camera and character actually behave differently in both configurations. Of course, that’s transparent to the user.
There are so many other things I would like to talk about but I’ll keep that for an upcoming update…
Hey guys, this is a quick perks-related update: you’ll be glad to know the T-shirts and post-cards all shipped. So hopefully you’ll get them fairly soon (please allow the time for snail-mail to reach you before panicking!). I really hope you’ll like those…
On the topic of the figurines we hit a small problem though: the final result was not solid enough to survive shipping with enough certainty so they’re back to the sculptor who will attempt to make them more solid. Sorry for the delay, but you will eventually get them! Ideally before the end of September. Although I can’t promise anything before I hear back from the sculptor of course.
Hello everyone, this is a quick update to let you know that the cards will be leaving by mail on Monday. I’m very happy with the printing quality and the paper is rather thick and glossy. I hope you’ll like them!
The T-shirts are also on their way from the manufacturer (I should get a sample very soon). They should be dispatched to you within a couple of weeks at the latest.
The sculptor will ship the figurines by tomorrow, so all in all I would say we’re still on track to fit in the original campaign’s perks calendar.
Oh, and the game’s development is going very smoothly as well. Plenty of new assets, animations and models. I would love to be able to show you guys some new stuff, but that will have to wait for another update…
First a quick word regarding the cards perk from the campaign; the files are at the printer’s and I was hoping to be able to start sending those this month. But due to my insistence on working on the game as much as possible (and not keeping my eyes on the perks clock) I’ll only be able to send those next month. The delay is also compounded by my deciding to print a test batch to make sure the result is going to be to top notch before launching the whole process. This might mean the other perks delivery may slip by a couple of weeks as well, I’m not sure yet.
On the other end, I’m happy to report that the game is making great progress (with the help of a few very talented people). So here are a few things that have been changed/improved since the alpha trailer:
Gamepad support has been fully implemented. I never thought I would one day utter those words, but I actually prefer using the gamepad to test the game now.
Several concept art pieces were created (thanks Adam!).
Player control and animation have been completely overhauled; better collision detection, smooth transitions, new interaction animations, etc…
Started implementing sneak mode (I can’t say much more about that yet).
Started implementing dialog/interaction support. This is linked to the game’s UI and is still very much a work in progress.
Dynamics are on! The mouse’s hood is now completely dynamic, it responds to the mouse’s movements; this saves a lot of work on the animation side and looks really neat to boot (thanks Enrique!).
New fur (thanks Dariusz!), cloth and environmental shaders with multi-layered POM and tessellation support (thanks Andy!). This allows the texture work to really pop.
New interactive bending vegetation (thanks Dominik!). Bushes and grass react to the player running through them. It really adds a nice touch.
Player character awareness system; it’s a mouthful to just say that the mouse is aware of what’s around him, even if the player isn’t. So if you run about and the mouse notices something he’s going to turn his attention to it. In other words his body language will clue you in about interesting features you might have missed.
And that’s it for now…
Of course some of those things you guys might take for granted in games nowadays. But the thing is, in Unity you have to create pretty much everything from scratch. It’s a lot of work, but on the plus side it also means that you can create exactly what you need.
Finally, just a little picture of our mighty hero for you:
(Un mot pour les francophones a la fin de ce message)
Hello everyone, It is my pleasure today to announce the opening of the official website for the game, located at: http://www.ghostofatale.com
The site has been meticulously prepared and developed by David, who will also serve as community manager on the forums. These forums will present the opportunity for you to express your opinion on all aspects of the game. You can also ask questions and offer suggestions and we will do our best to answer those in a timely fashion. Of course posts will be made on the site’s home page to update you on the game’s progress.
I am still currently working on preparing the perks (post cards) to be sent next month, which will be followed by T-shirts and finally figurines in August. Quite a few of you still haven’t answered my emails regarding postal address confirmation and T-shirt size, so at some point I’ll have to assume you don’t really need those (which is totally fine by me).
Finally, just a quick word to let you know Jeremiah (the game’s composer) recently sent me the first official track for the game and it is fantastic. I’m pretty sure you guys will love it! Cheers, Seith
PS: Les francophones parmi vous pourrons trouver une section francaise dans les forums ou il vous sera possible de vous exprimer dans la langue de Moliere!
Hello everyone! Today I’ve started sending emails to all of you whose donation qualifies for the extended alpha trailer music by Jeremiah Pena. The email contains the link to download the MP3 file. So if you haven’t received this email (it mentions “Ghost of a Tale” in the subject), please check your junk mail folder to see if the message wasn’t filtered by mistake.
If however you have not received the email, then please wait for 24 hours to allow for potential technical delays on the server side. Then send me a private message (through Indiegogo) with your email address and let me know you haven’t received my email.
So far the only mail delivery error I got (out of the hundreds of sent emails) is for the following address: maxouel.killer@… (name of the carrier hidden). The server says “Boite du destinataire archivee“. So if you are Maxouel, then please contact me with an email address where you can be reached!
Also, within the next couple of weeks I will send an email to all of you who are scheduled to receive post-cards, T-shirts and/or figurines. In this email I will ask for you to confirm your postal mailing address, or let me know if you do not require any perks. In the case of T-shirts I will ask as well for the size of your liking. Finally here’s a better look at the petrified rat figurine. I’m still fairly busy preparing the perks and believe me, I am very eager to go back to work on the game full-time!
The campaign is now officially done! But I am certainly not! Just take a look at the little screen-grab of my inbox. “1234” is not a code for something; it’s just the number of new emails I have to go through since the day before yesterday. Granted there’s a lot of automated stuff in there, but still, it’s going to take me a couple of days to sort out.
Then it will be on to taking care of all the perks fulfillment (which will take some time as well). Meanwhile I’m not working on the game of course, but that’s normal; I knew what I had signed for when I launched the campaign!
I will receive help, so I think that should work out fine. In any case, I will keep on communicating here and keep you in the loop with regard to the campaign’s Perks fulfillment. Then I’ll be able to go back to work on “Ghost of a Tale” and post about the game’s development! And at some point we’ll be able to transition from the campaign’s update pages to a dedicated site and forums so we can maintain a sense of community…
WE MADE IT!!! That’s incredible! No, really; it is. Why? Because a month ago “Ghost of a Tale” wasn’t on anyone’s radar. No journalist was aware of anything in regard to the project. The campaign was a text-book cold start. So you can all be proud of yourselves, because you’ve made it happen…
In fact from my point of view that is the single most amazing thing about the whole adventure; to see that you, the backers, decided this could be a special little game worth helping. And that you acted on this feeling.
As I wrote on the main page, one of the reasons I started this campaign was to see if there were enough potential players that could be bothered; it was to be a stern (and very public) verdict on the viability of the project itself. And boy did I get a resounding endorsement!
Thank you to each and everyone of you who have contributed to this campaign, whether from a financial or moral standpoint (and often both). As one of you said in a recent message, I shouldn’t think of this success as a heavy pressure weighting down on me as I work on the game, but rather I should think of it as an huge mark of affection for the project. And indeed I very much like the notion!
I will keep posting here any important updates until I can all direct you to an official site and community forums where you’ll be able to keep being involved in the creation of the game. Meanwhile, I am sure all of you will join me in breathing a long sigh of relief…
(As a side note, if I haven’t replied with an email to one of your suggestion or question for at least 2 days, then it probably means your message slipped between the cracks. In that case, do not hesitate to contact me directly on my personal address: seith [at] seithcg.com)
More than one thousand backers… less than €3.000 left… that’s brilliant! You guys are fantastic! It is now a certainty… WE ARE GOING TO MAKE IT!!! Here, have a crab wallpaper, fresh from the oven: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/101126402/W… Enjoy!
Although at this point it would be extremely tempting to scream like a little girl, I have in fact decided to exert temperance. I will therefore indulge in a simple wheezing sound. Oh, and George Broussard (Duke Nukem 3D, Max Payne) has just tweeted: “Have to tweet this. “Ghost of a Tale” on indiegogo is beautiful.” Now how nice is that? :) It is deserving of a froggy wallpaper, wouldn’t you say? https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/101126402/W… Enjoy!
The final countdown has started… Five days! And still a lot of help is required in order to reach the goal! If you can think of a few news outlets that haven’t already done an article on the game, please let me know! Meanwhile here’s a new wallpaper featuring a scary looking undead rat and his rusty axe. Same drill, the Zip file contains seven different resolutions for both aspect ratios (4:3 and 16:9). Enjoy! https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/101126402/W…
And look how far we’ve come! I could try and list all the sites and people who mentioned the project but it would take many updates to fit all of it, so I’ll keep that for later! Let me thank all of you guys who are doing their best to spread the word and tell their friends about this little game; when the campaign succeeds, it will be thank to all of you! And a special mention to David who helps me stay atop of the campaign and is preparing a nice website for you guys (more on that in an upcoming update).