Aug 192016
 
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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! 😀

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… 🙂

Feb 082016
 
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Welcome to this new Ghost of a Tale development update! It should come as no surprise that hard work continues, more intense as ever; Cyrille and Paul are toiling away on their task list and we still have to implement quite a few things before we’re ready to start beta testing. I mean we do test constantly of course, but this time it should be with people who never actually touched the game before.

Here’s a picture of Tilo exploring the sewers. Ooh lookie, he found the Red Ranger’s hood (the Red Ranger is a folklore character in the game’s world)! 🙂

ScreenShot 2016_01_20 17;18;29001

Jeremiah also has a lot of work ahead of him to compose all the tracks needed  for the pre-release. But he’s as fast as he’s good, so I’m not worried. Instead I’m excited to be the first one to discover his work!

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve done a huge amount of work in animation, 2D art and coding. I’m currently squashing A LOT of bugs which is actually pretty nice because that means hopefully you won’t find them in the game (no, you’ll find completely new ones! 😀 ).

I’ve also started implementing in-game tutorials. As you know it’s a tricky task to trigger them only at the right moment and location. I personally hate it as a player when a tutorial message interrupts the game just to tell me something I’ve already figured out. So that shouldn’t happen in GoaT!

Next I would like to thank all the contestants of our papercraft Tilo “contest”! Paul was so proud of all the creative energy put into bringing paper-Tilo to life!

papercraftMontage

Those pictures are just a sample of the ones posted in the thread. Congrats to all the winners; you guys will be able to claim your Steam key when we the pre-release goes live. You earned it!

Which is a nice segue into the next topic: Steam! Cyrille took it upon himself to dive into all the tutorials related to the online distribution platform and came up with a plan that worked (as you can see in the picture below).

ScreenShot 2016_01_30 18;26;22001

We have tested the Steam publish pipeline and were able to upload a build which we could then access through our Steam accounts. Needless to say this is a significant milestone! It means that when the time comes to go public we should be able to do so with minimal fussing.

(FYI the build we uploaded was just a dry run and didn’t contain the game’s environments – hence the small footprint; the Early Access download itself should be a little over 1GB)

Alright, I’ll go back to work and leave you with this short test video I posted on Twitter a few days ago. It just shows the game’s starting area. See you all in the next update! 🙂

Jan 182016
 
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Hello all and welcome to this first update of the year 2016! 🙂

We’ve reached feature freeze! Simply put what this means is from now on we stop adding new features. This is so we don’t fall into a loop of “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we did this…”. It is always very tempting to add little (and sometimes not-so-little) features and get caught up in what’s called in development terms “feature-creep” (which itself can ultimately lead to “vaporware”).

We now have a very clear idea of what the pre-release needs to be –as well as what it can live without. So rather than attempting to cram in every idea we have, we’re going to make sure that each feature which gets into the pre-release actually works as expected. I prefer the early access game to feel solid rather than overly ambitious and half-broken.

ScreenShot 2015_11_13 18;27;46001

Unity’s new scene management system (introduced in 5.3) is a boon to us; as you may remember from the previous update it was a hard pill to swallow but it was worth it in the end. For me specifically it means I can now work on any area as needed and when saving my work, only the changed scenes are saved. So I don’t have to wait for the entire game world to be saved anymore; it’s a great time-saver. And it’s also much cleaner to manage.

Cyrille has recently completed his work on the trigonometry code for our new map system. To be honest at first I was thinking of doing away without a map; huge games like Dark Souls don’t have one. But watching some people attempt to play GoaT without a map system turned out to be an exercise in frustration for all involved.

So we now have map items in the world that you need to discover. Once picked up they allow you to see a 2D representation of the current area and to know where you are. It’s neat and it doesn’t make things too easy either. This is not an always-on-screen minimap; it takes a big part of the screen and you can’t see what you’re stepping into when you look at it. 🙂

Paul did a lot of work during the last few weeks polishing the quests and dialogs. It’s all coming together quite nicely! For example in this GIF, Tilo finds a mysterious message that triggers a new quest (sorry the picture is rather small, but that way you won’t be spoiled!).

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Finally in terms of work left to do, the big chunks are: AI, 2D art, UI, animations and a couple of game mechanics that still need to be implemented.

But from week to week Ghost of a Tale looks more and more like a “real” game; I mean a professional-looking, pretty good gaming experience. And that in itself is quite rewarding! 🙂