May 052017
 
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Welcome to this new Ghost of a Tale update! 🙂

We’ve been working on so many things over the last few weeks that I have a hard time keeping track! But just to summarize (in no particular order): new quests, dialogs for new NPCs (where Paul is doing a bang-up job as usual), optimizations, whiteboxing, Xbox One certification and new locations!

And speaking of new places you’ll get to explore in the game… As promised in the previous update here’s your first look at the catacombs sprawling under Dwindling Heights!

Catacombs!

The catacombs are the burial ground for soldiers and commanders whose bodies were entombed over the centuries since before Dwindling Heights ever became a prison.

As expected it’s a dark, eerie place. No doubts quite dangerous for a minstrel mouse!

Screen Shot 04-25-17 at 05.15 PM

It is whispered there might even be relics of the War of the Green Flame under there. And it’s probably haunted too! Although spiders might make quicker work of explorers than ghosts. But who knows…

One thing is for sure though, the Dying Lights lend a chilly atmosphere to the place. Their spectral blue flames do not give out any heat but they possess the distinctive feature of being virtually eternal. Indeed they cannot be put out by normal means. Which is why they’re often a fixture of pirate ships as even the strongest of storms won’t snuff them out.

Some sailors even say on a calm night while sailing on lake Vaelia you can sometimes catch a glimpse of the ghostly blue lights from long ago sunken ships deep under the waters.

Screen Shot 04-27-17 at 05.09 PM

(Oh and just to be clear: the catacombs are not yet in the early access version of Ghost of a Tale. We still have to connect several elements before you get a chance to explore them 🙂 )

Magnet Aim:

One of the aspects of the game that was recently overhauled is the throwing mechanics. In the game Tilo can throw several types of items (sticks, bottles, slime jars, etc…) to different effects. For example if you time your moves properly you could throw a bottle at a guard’s head to momentarily knock him out.

But up to now it was a finicky business. You had to perfectly align your target then throw and after that it was literally hit-and-miss. In short there was really no way to precisely aim at something.

As a result the experience wasn’t really fun and didn’t feel responsive enough. So I recently implemented a system we baptized “Magnet Aim”. It’s not exactly a locking system in the traditional sense of the term as Ghost of a Tale is definitely not a fighting/combat game. So we came up with something else, as illustrated by this short video:

 

(Note that for the video I made the targeting distance longer than in the actual game, for testing purposes)

Basically you just need to aim roughly in the right direction and the targeting reticle with snap to the relevant place (within a certain threshold of accuracy). If you throw at that moment, Tilo will send the projectile flying with mostly predictable results.

Now of course if you deviate a lot with the camera (say you aim wildly to the side of your target) then the aiming reticle will snap back to the center of the screen and Tilo will simply throw straight ahead. Similarly if your target is moving fast then it might not be a sure hit anyway.

We feel it’s a nice mixture of getting a little help from the system while still requiring the players to know what they’re doing. Of course you can turn off that feature in the gameplay options if you prefer to solely rely on your skills.

Loading Speed:

In the previous update I mentioned our new reloading process. So I thought I’d just show you a short demonstration of its speed. Please keep in mind that my machine has a solid-state drive so it’s already pretty fast.

(Please note that in this video I’m reloading a save located at a completely different place and progress of the game)

 

In the previous version when reloading a save we also reloaded almost the entire game (in order to reset things back to their default state). But we reworked our data managing system (thanks to Cyrille) and are now able to surgically reset things in the game’s world as needed. So we don’t have to wait for all the game’s locations to be read again from the disk.

This might not seem like a big deal for very fast gaming PCs but it makes a lot of difference on consoles and more modest PCs.

That’s it for this update. Thank you for coming by and as usual don’t hesitate to leave your questions/remarks/support down in the comments section! See you in the next update! 🙂

Sep 082015
 
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A few weeks ago while testing the game, I had to face the fact the AI (the artificial intelligence driving the enemies) was simply not good enough. It had become extremely bloated in terms of code complexity and yet was not quite delivering the quality I wanted.

So I decided to redo the entire game’s AI system from scratch, this time using a different behavior-tree technique.

It was a scary decision as during a few days the game wasn’t even playable; first I had to unplug all the actors’ “brains” and then I started again, slowly building up their new behaviors, piece by piece. I knew exactly what I wanted so I was able to get to the point rather quickly. But this time while I worked I hid away all the models, the animation, etc… and only used capsules.

Capsules are simple shapes that roughly represent the volume and orientation of the actors. Here’s an example with Tilo as you’ve probably never seen him before: he’s turned into a mix of a minion, a fire hydrant and a cucumber! 😀

 

(On the video you can see the capsule changing color depending on whether or not it’s in contact with the ground)

The result of this huge endeavor is in the span of 2 weeks I was able to redo and greatly improve the AI that had taken me more than a year to get into a flimsy “mostly-working” state. Except this time it is much more robust and I know exactly WHY it works the way it does.

So although the decision to redo the AI was a frightening one it ended up paying off BIG time:

  • The AI asset I use is quite visual (it’s called “Node Canvas”), so I can see exactly what’s happening in real-time
  • I was able to get rid of hundreds (if not more) of lines of codes, making the maintenance and expansion on the system much more manageable
  • The capsule approach allowed me to focus on the behavior itself without animation clouding the potential issues
  • The AI is now far richer than it’s ever been before and allows for really neat tricks

Here’s a bird’s eye view of what a behavior tree looks like. All the branches light up and change colors according to their state (as you can see in the inset picture).

ScreenShot 2015_08_20 11;43;59001s1

I have also finally come around to implementing IKs for the actors. What this means is the character’s feet are now actually hugging the ground instead of remaining up in mid-air on a virtual flat-plane.

It wasn’t too difficult to implement thanks to a great asset I found called “Final IK”. Integrating the system into the game’s pipeline was painless and it yields very satisfying results! Here’s a quick test video:

 

(Don’t mind the red cube, it’s just a debug visual for the AI’s target position)

You’ll notice the Rat is really pushing on his legs as he climbs up the slope, contrasting a lot with Tilo who is a much lighter and nimbler character. Your speed (and the ability to sneak) is your main asset in the game; believe me, you don’t want to let these guys get their hands on you, especially without wearing any protections!!

Anyway, that concludes this update. I hope you liked it! Please don’t hesitate leaving your thoughts and questions below… 🙂

Apr 142014
 
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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.

Fresco

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… 🙂