Feedback, Improvements and Xbox One!

Oct 222016
 
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(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.

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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.

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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.

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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… :)

  24 Responses to “Feedback, Improvements and Xbox One!”

  1. Awesome update. Looking forward to the sneaking improvements and I like the way how the HP are getting increased through quests.

    Good luck with the development!

  2. Really impressive progress on so many fronts. Keep up the amazing work!

  3. Amazing work! That water and those trees are incredibly impressive. Also really cool that you’re giving the guards a condition in between oblivious and full on murder mode. Always wierd in games where you’ve got police or whoever and bumping into them apparently warrants an instant death sentence.

  4. I am so proud of you and all that you are achieving. This is really a huge milestone for you and every update seems liek SUCH a huge improvement. Kudos man, you and your team totally kick butt!

  5. I have never been interested in getting any of the Xbox One preview games until now. This game looks amazing, and I plan to get the preview as soon as it’s available. I love that you’re sticking to the original vision of the game. Can’t wait to explore Dwindling Heights and learn more about Tilo.

  6. Nope, nope, nope. Not favourite console at all…

  7. What an update – I can’t wait to see it!

  8. Console makers really need to lighten up with these strict certifications they require. What i don’t understand is if they are so strict how does so much crap make it unto consoles. I hate that this wonderful looking game, an original concept with great vision, is going to take such a long time to get into my hands because of msoft or Sony. Been waiting on this for so long but i know it will be worth it. Keep chuggin along boys.

  9. My God! the game looks amazing on Xbox One! I understand the issue of reducing the resolution, and seeing this video I understand perfectly! beautiful game! I will buy and play on my Xbox One, yes, it is my preferred platform! Congratulations to you all! super excited to have this game soon!

  10. I ask you to launch the game when also available for Xbox Live Brazil !! do not forget us! <3

  11. Toutes ces améliorations ajoutent à mon impatience de jouer au jeu final!
    J’évite de trop jouer à la version anticipée pour profiter à fond de la version finale mais dors et déjà cette preview confirme tout ce que j’espérais lors de la campagne de financement et bien plus encore!
    Bravo et courage pour la suite (et fin?) du développement.

  12. I am very impressed with the way u r handling this early access process! Keep it up!

  13. Great to see another update. I recently got the chance to play the Early Access and I loved what I experienced in it so far. From the looks of it it’s only going to get even better, so I cannot wait to play the full game.

  14. >Every time Tilo gains a certain number of points he gets one additional health/stamina slot.

    If this game don’t have a combat, why do you need more health/stamina? Run longer if you’re screwed up or be ably to take more hits if you’re screwed up? But if you’re doing good, this two upgrades is absolutely useless. This “leveling” system of sorts looks unnecessary, in my opinion.

  15. Now that unity linux supports tessellation is there any chance of a port happening?

  16. Woah, amazing update.

    Can’t wait to play thru the early access portion of the game again when the next update drops.

  17. Great to get an update and see what you’ve been working on behind the scenes. I really look forward to seeing more interactions with fellow mice (as well as rats). Thank you for steering away from “Rats are evil, mice are good.” Keep it up!

  18. Thanks for posting the update. To date, this is the only Early Access game I’ve bought (and the only one I intend to buy, unless something really striking comes along). I’m not typically a fan of that publication model, but your ethos, openness and art direction really inspired me to pick up a copy – as you can imagine, I’ve been nothing but happy with the purchase!

    It’s good to hear, though, that the stealth mechanics are being worked on; I haven’t played many stealth games, and I found the portion of the game immediately after exiting the starting area to be overly daunting, prompting me to wait on continuing for now. It’s really cool that you are taking this perspective into consideration, as I’d not even considered voicing my inability to adapt to the tougher game conditions.

    Anyway, the point of this is to say thanks for offering us such a beautiful world, lovely characters, and an ongoing look at your development processes :)

  19. if you are looking for a game tester i got a pc with gtx 1070 i would be happy to test the most resent version of the game and see what bug may have been over looked and report back to you asap

  20. Thanks for all your hard work, Seith. I’m glad to hear that you’ve given ample time to figure out just what Ghost of a Tale should be rather than simply putting all your efforts into technical matters. I agree with you that Ghost of a Tale is not primarily a stealth game – it’s a side effect of Tilo’s situation – but adding naturalness and depth to the mechanic will be a welcome adjustment.

    I look forward to playing again when the next release hits. The probability of losing my progress doesn’t shake me at all, and that’s saying a lot.

  21. Hi, Seith! It’s me again)
    Can’t wait for Xbox version to play. Still hope for 1080p and 60 fps)) Think you reach it!
    😉
    It’s most awaited title in time!!!
    And, fosure, i wanna write big review for this one, when it launch

    p.s. and, what a price for Early Access on One?)

  22. I’ve watched with salivating jealousy at some of the Gameplay videos of this beautifully realised game. It seems to have all the elements of what i, in my very humble opinion, makes for a thoroughly enjoyable game. My game choices are usually the same as my reasons for choosing books; Good story, characters and setting. “Ghost of a Tale” seems to have these in barrel loads along with a sensibility and tone that is unlike anything i’ve seen. Like a good book, it makes me want to return to this magnificently realised world.
    For the first time in my life, i am actually envious of people who have a PC. I only have an Xbox One. Stupid Console :)
    I really love those two Fatale & Gusto and there whole Thieves Guild delusions of grandeur. As i am deeply entrenched in the Skyrim Special Edition at the moment, it brought to home how funny that is. And doesn’t it make perfect sense that the best thieves would be little mice.

    I haven’t even played the game yet, but i’m already excited. I’m hoping it comes out for the Xbox One. But then i’m already hoping there will be some DLC in the future about the Mis-adventuers of Gusto & Fatale.

  23. When this comes to Xbox One, i’m going to treasure it like my favourite copies of a book. I’m going to play it over for months. The world just looks and feels so special.
    I’m writing a novel myself; it’s been travelling through the outskirts of my imagination for a few years. The main character is a mouse, along with other creatures. This game has given me a new zeal for the project when i have had many doubts about it lately.
    I hope Microsoft stay commited to the game and we see it soon on the console.

  24. I just finished playing through the early access release, and I loved every minute of it. Really impressed with the visuals, the mechanics, the writing, everything. This kind of game is right up my alley, being an old Thief-taffer and lover of stealth games – recently playing a lot of The Dark Mod. I also love that you are clear on that it’s not a ‘hardcore’ game – too often devs are forced to make concessions to those who want the hardest game ever, instead of making a game everyone can enjoy, regardless of ‘skill’ level or ‘l33tness’. So thanks for that!

    Also pretty amazing to me it’s made in Unity. Usually I am sceptical of Unity games, for various reasons, not the least of which is performance. This must be the best-looking and best optimized Unity game I’ve played – and there have been a lot of bad experiences with them. You guys actually know how to use exclusive full-screen, and proper monitor resolution options. Looking forward to the next part, keep up the good work!

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