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! :)

Oct 062015
 
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Hello all! Please bear with be as today I would like to give you all a candid look at where we’re at in terms of development on Ghost of a Tale. Keep in mind that all those progress bars relate to the pre-release, not the final/complete game.

Another very, VERY important notion to understand is these bars you see are NOT all equals in terms of workload and time needed to complete them.

Now that the caveats are out of the way, let’s start the tour…

charts_art

As you see there’s still some work left in the animation department. That includes a couple of animations on Tilo, some enemies and idle cycles for the NPCs.

Character models are really getting there and the props include skinned and dynamic clothes as well. I’ve been using a different export technique and the result is a much better framerate!

Environments still require some work to make sure everything is complete and works well with the streaming system and the quests.

charts_2dUI

I’ve started doing a first pass on the character portraits for the dialogs; still a lot of work there but it’s going fine and it’s a pleasure to do.

The game menus are almost there but I still need to include all the graphical options and the input management choices (more on that later).

The HUD and inventory GUI all work fine. However there’s still some visual polish to do there.

charts_tech

I covered the AI last time and I still have to transfer the new system to a couple of enemies. Cyrille is currently making good progress on the saving/loading system and he’s done with streaming.

Day/Night cycle as well as camera management are fully functional (and have been for a while).

Regarding input support: the game is definitely made with gamepads in mind but because Ghost of a Tale is primarily a PC game it means keyboard and mouse must be supported. But I believe it should only be a matter of a few days to make sure everything works as intended.

charts_sound

Jeremiah is going to write a couple more tracks for the game, most importantly themes for the NPCs that will play during dialogs.

I greatly enjoy creating the sounds effects, alas it’s all a matter of time. I usually create new sounds when new animations are locked, so it usually tends to lend at the end of the process.

charts_writing

Dialogs are also nearing completion, thanks to Paul’s mighty efforts! We still have to do an overall pass to make sure the tone is right, the voice of the characters consistent and that we’re not too self-indulgent with the sheer amount of text. But I’m very happy with where we’re at!

The Misc Writing bar is about all the items descriptions in the database, UI words and sentences, etc… The low 50% completion seems quite scary but again it’s mostly a matter of a few days for Paul to take care of this.

Quests are also almost done. We do some neat tricks with them; for example you’re told to accomplish certain tasks but if you chose to do things differently then new tasks are revealed!

So that wraps up this presentation of the state of things with Ghost of a Tale! Don’t hesitate to ask about topics that are not mentioned in the comments section.

And since I know charts can be a bit unpalatable here’s a look at an animated Kerold, the old pirate frog. Actually this idle animation cycle is an old one and many details are missing (hat’s feathers weren’t rigged, etc…); it was basically a rough blocking pass but I thought you guys might still get a kick out of it. :)


The question that many of you will ask is “What’s the release date?”. As I said last time the goal is still to do a pre-release before the end of the year. We are going to do our best to make it happen but I won’t hide the fact that it is going to require a tremendous effort to both achieve that goal AND be happy with the result.

Because ultimately, as I said before (and I will say time and time again) I will never put out something that feels broken or rushed. Even if we’re just talking about a pre-release (by definition a non-complete game) I want what’s there to be thoroughly enjoyable.

So you can take my word for it; Paul, Cyrille and I are going to be working extremely hard in the coming weeks! Wish us luck and see you all 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… :)