Tunnel vision

May 092016

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… 🙂

  49 Responses to “Tunnel vision”

  1. It looks absolutely gorgeous!

  2. Excuse me, while I mop up the drool from my desk.


  3. Looks incredible!

  4. OMG this looks exquisite. thanks for the update. I love the breakdown of details you give and the game.. well.. it went from the original pre pre pre alpha looking fairly impressive to this which is.. BEYOND imagining. do you ever sit down and look at whats done and just want to cry art your awesomeness? *highfive*

    • *highfive* Glad you like it! 🙂

      To answer your (rhetorical) question: No, I just usually go “yeah, that doesn’t quite work” and try to make it better. My yardstick is more along the lines of “would I be embarrassed to show that?”. If the answer is “just a little” then I know I can show it… X)

      But more seriously I AM really happy with the game’s evolution since that long-ago stage, not only regarding the visuals but the gameplay as well.

  5. Fantastic work! This is going to be a very beautiful game! 🙂
    But I think the cave stills look too angular despite the tesselation, kinda like an hexagon.

  6. WOW! Looking fantastic!

  7. The game looks stellar! Loving the roots breaking through the cave walls and ceiling! Loving Tilo’s fur too and the sound of him switching to the lantern is nice as well. Can’t wait fo hear more of Jeremiah’s soundtrack, the OST from the campaign is STILL in my daily music rotation 🙂

  8. Tilo is really cute. 😉 And game looks amazing. 🙂

  9. Glad you sorted out the tessellation issue. Looks amazing.
    Thought the engine for the game will handle all the drawing for each frame without having to worry about such details. Interesting.

    • Thank you Evan.

      There are different kinds of tessellation methods but Unity’s tessellation by default doesn’t take care of this issue. Maybe it will change in the future when it gets more widely used.

  10. Looking great as always Seith!

    On a somewhat unrelated note, I’m curious to know how things are shaping up regarding the game’s localization. I have a number of Japanese friends and acquaintances excitedly looking forward to the game, but they continue to ask me if there are any plans for an official Japanese localization or if they will end up having to use fan translations. I’m wondering, what should I be telling them on that front? Have you made any definitive decisions?

    Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks! It is my goal that once the final version of the game is released it gets translated into as many languages as reasonably (and financially) possible. Please feel free to let your friends know that when the time comes, Japanese is definitely high on the list.

  11. the shadows! nice job, i cant friggen wait

  12. Great, i didnt know this game, but now im very interested, it remainds me of the MouseGuard comics. Great job, keep it up. Saludos from Mexico.

    • Cheers Ramses! It’s funny you say that; I heard through the grapevines that the creator of MouseGuard is aware of the game and seems to like it.

  13. In one word: amazing timelapse! Ok two words actually.

  14. the visual insights are as usual breathtaking – also this update is amazing. I cannot wait to be able to experience the gameplay myself and I really hope that also the world interaction, handling and movement are as stunning as the footage.
    how vast is the initial world, which we will be able to explore and move around? how linear will the plot be, or do you want to create more a sandbox universe? I just ask, because other companies have a huge fleet of content developers for such environment rich games. don’t you fear that this will break the neck this beautiful endeavour? I really hope not.

    • I totally hear you and you have nothing to worry about: this is one of the reasons I changed the game’s initial setting from the island of Periclave to a much more controlled (and smaller) environment. Basically I didn’t want to succumb to over-ambition.

      The game is not at all an open world/sandbox. It is very much a closed one (after all you are in a prison). But it will feature interiors, exteriors, and subterranean areas.

      In terms of story it is fairly linear in its progression; there is a beginning, middle and end. You might find a couple of different endings but this is obviously very different in scope from the likes of The Witcher and Skyrim.

      The thing you need to keep in mind is this is my first game ever. I have learned a tremendous amount over the course of the development and with Paul we have created a world that begs to be explored and expanded.

      But rest assured we remain extremely focused on making a great little game in the frame and scale that we can manage.

  15. Just one question regarding the tesselation, did you use some distances check so that the level of subdivision is kept when the polygons are close? Just like normal LOD system.
    I’ve never tested Unity tesselation, but it looks very interesting.

    • Yes, I used Shader Forge to create tessellation shaders that pretty much behave like a LOD system for the environment. The tessellation distance is clamped below and above a certain distance and anything that gets close to the camera does not get re-evaluated; it just stays at the highest level of subdivision.

  16. Absolutely beautiful, mate. So glad I backed this.

  17. Holy Cats. This looks absolutely phenomenal. If weren’t always baroque, I’d give you all the money. I guess I could make copies of money and get them to you, but then I’d need a mouse to smuggle me a file in a chunk of cheese. Anyway, I’d only heard of this today, but it’ll get noted on the site at some point this week. Lovely work, this.


  18. Awesome job everyone! Keep up the great work! Can’t wait to see this game in action!

  19. Tellement bluffant de voir la quantité de boulot abattu à chaque nouvelle news, bravo encore !
    L’animation de Tilo toujours aussi mignonne et détaillée *(o.o)*

  20. Is the game actually coming out soon, or is it all just a big tease joke that you milk as long as possible?

    Just kidding! Love the progress you made over the years, I’m sure this will be a gorgeous game! Can’t wait!

    • It is all vaporware! I’m waiting to reveal that fact next year on the 1st of April. Until then I’ll keep up the charade… X)

  21. This is my first post but have been watching quietly on the side lines from when i caught a glimpse of it at ms event..got to say its coming along beautifully and can’t wait to play ..is there any idea how long testing takes and which part of the year we can expect to get our hands on this master piece..

    • Thanks for chiming in! Depending on how many issues are raised during the process, testing can take a few weeks to a couple of months. I can’t tell you anything more precise for now, sorry! 🙂

  22. Hi Seith, game looks great, can’t wait to play!
    I am interested in how did you solve the tessellation “swimming” problem? You are probably very busy so just point me where can I find information about it. Thanks

    • Please have a look at my reply to Lucky, above. It boils down to making sure anything getting close to the camera doesn’t subdivide anymore. It’s all about distance-clamping the level of tessellation.

  23. Shut up and take my money!
    About the tessellation, do you think it’s possible to give the player option to choose the maximum tessellation level to change the quality of the game, so that game can run smoothly on different hardware? or you used too many tricks to make it possible?

    • I thought about that, and it may end up being an option in the game but the truth of it is the tessellation amount is set for things to look just nice. Anything below the current amount would look faceted and anything above would verge on overkill (although admittedly details would look even crisper).

      I’m not sure that will be part of the early access but I’ll keep it in mind.

  24. The release is def not this year, right?

  25. Hey Seith! How is it going? Please give us some news, it’s been a long time 🙂

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