Jul 182016
 
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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
 
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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… :)

May 092016
 
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Welcome! At the moment we are all intensely focused on a single goal: reaching closed beta status. Which is the phase preceding the pre-release (at which point you’ll get a chance to experience the game for yourself). There’s still some work to be done but we’re definitely nearing the end of the tunnel!

We’re testing things all the time, making sure one change doesn’t break anything distantly related. So when we do release, bugs will not be of the kind anyone can see within the five minutes of playing. No, they’ll be much more devious than that… 😀

As you probably know, Ghost of a Tale relies a lot on tessellation. Now tessellation is great because it creates micro details based on a texture while the base mesh (the original “flat” model) remains quite simple (and thus does not tax CPU or memory as much).

In the following pictures you can see the base (Maya) meshes for the set. Their density is kept quite low and mostly uniform:

ScreenShot 2016_04_07 14;51;14001a

And here’s the final in-game picture, with textures and lighting (although the torch’s fire particles are turned off):

ScreenShot 2016_04_07 15;18;10001small

One of the issues with tessellation though is that it’s not “stable” by definition. Meaning it constantly re-evaluates the subdivision level, usually depending on the camera’s distance to the mesh.

The result of which can lead to “swimming” textures artifacts; the details created by tessellation seem to constantly morph in an almost organic way. It’s quite distracting and can look frankly rather poor.

But not long ago I have found a way to fix this issue and now all the environment feels rock solid; no more wobbly textures! Yay! :)

Here is an example of Tilo walking near that tunnel area.

 

On a different topic I’ve just integrated the new sound effects provided by Nicolas (www.nicolastiteux.com), the foley artist helping on the game, and they sound awesome! It’s a delight hearing Tilo scamper from a ground surface made of earth to climbing steps made of stone to plodding on a wooden floor, etc…

Jeremiah has also been delivering soundtracks and they’re (as usual) terrific; they blend in super nicely when talking to characters and bring another level of immersion.

Finally here’s a little time-lapse type video of the day quickly going by over Dwindling Heights. It looks far better in the game because you can see braziers lit around the tower but I thought you’d like to see it anyway.

 

And with that I’ll go back to work and end this update. Thank you for reading it and for your patience waiting for the game, of course. I think you’re all going to be pretty happy when the time finally comes… :)

Mar 082016
 
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Those last few weeks have been rather intense in terms of workload but they’re definitely bearing fruits. It’s fantastic watching everything come together. I feel a bit like Tilo, catching a tantalizing glimpse of the outside world! :)

ScreenShot 2016_02_19 22;18;39001

Talking of the outside world, I recently took a field trip with a friend of mine to an old abbey in the south of France. There, I was able to capture amazing new textures to improve the looks of Dwindling Heights and give it a more authentic cachet in some areas. And again it’s one of those rare occasions where I can actually work on GoaT while leaving the house!

It’s hard to believe but it’s going to be three years almost to the day that I have started working in earnest on Ghost of a Tale. How time flies when you’re having fun… 😀

I found an old picture of the environment I showcased during the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign (running on Unity 4.0) and compared it with a recent screenshot (running on 5.3), just for the heck of it (it’s obviously not the same location)…

ScreenShot 2016_03_07 22;51;36001

So much work and experience gathered in-between those two pictures! And great people met along the way without whom Ghost of a Tale would not be what it is today (Paul, Cyrille, Jeremiah, I’m looking your way).

Which brings me to the crux of this update: if everything goes well (and it’s a big “if” of course) we should go to beta within the next couple of weeks. The beta version will contain all of the pre-release’s features but some will be incomplete (as they’re still being worked on). Place-holder asides though it should give us a good idea of the game’s actual state.

The goal for us is to get feedback from people who never played the game before. And hopefully we won’t have any bad surprises! On that topic, we already have a short list of potential testers so I think we’re all set on that side… 😉

An unknown that remains in the equation is we’re going to try and move to Unity 5.4 when it’s released (very soon). The reason is a few of the bugs we still have (and which unfortunately affected a couple of recent Unity games) are supposed to be taken care of. So fingers crossed!

And as always, please feel free to express your support and/or ask questions in the comments section below…