Friday, May 22, 2009

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Status of the game: I'm still on vacation but I'll get back to it next week or so

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Finishing Up only to Start Again

So Mr. Glaiel has been done with school for a few weeks now, but I have 2 days left of exams and I'm almost out of here to catch up with the project. But not immediately. This past week Tyler tells me Closure (Flash version) got into Indiecade, an Independent Games Festival type show that features a few Indie games at different expos. So we were awarded free passes to E3 in LA. Tyler can't attend this year but I happen to be in California for a few weeks during that time interning with my uncle of Whitney Digital so it all works out nicely. I will be attempting to attend all 3 days, June 2-4, demo-ing the Flash version of Closure at the Indiecade booths on the show floor. So if you're going to E3 make sure to stop by and check it out! I'm also advertising the new Closure we will be working on all summer, handing out business cards to all who are interested or pass by.


Concept art has been on hold for a little while now and this is stalling it further, but in my opinion, E3 is definitely worth it. I made business cards today, and I am in the process of setting up my soon-to-be website, http://www.jonschubbe.com/. I'm getting my cousins of Whitney Studios to redesign my current site, http://www.starogre.com/ into something more professional and simple before E3 comes around. I've kinda been pushing off school work for this type of stuff but what's college going to do besides give me a degree anyway? :P Just kidding, stay in school.


So artwise, the project is on a standstill but I'm excited to start working on it when the time comes. There were a few issues I had during the process of the last project that I want to address. First, of course, concept art. Concept art is tough on the spot. Needing something that stands out among all others that fits the criteria of what the lead designer is asking for. Now, it doesn't sound that difficult, but when you get down to it, you gotta have style. I'm going to try and give this game a lot more style than the Flash version because the Flash version was very basic in terms of artwork. There were a lot of repeated assets that were just thrown in onto the polka-dot floor (which I didn't like too much to begin with) which tied the levels together SOMEWHAT but they seemed a bit too bland. Since we have so much more time to work on this game and I have practice with the graphics engine, and TOOLS (<3>


A second issue I had was the choppy graphics Flash produced when Tyler incorporated the light engine. I colored in the individual layers of each graphic so that as the light moved around the assets, parts of them would speckle away and disappear/reappear depending on how I painted them. It was hard to get details with the speckles because once I started drawing small, it'd look a mess. In the new version however, I plan to use a simpler yet more effective style that still looks 'realistic' or draws you into the atmosphere. I'm shying away from cartoony'ness for that reason. Also, because we're not using Flash, and we're using a much higher resolution and more graytones, it allows for much more variety in what I'm able to do as far as detail and style go, and I won't have to worry too much about the choppiness that came out of shading.



And finally, because Flash Closure was the first game I've ever made graphics for anyone else besides myself (that's right, I used to make my own games), I'm still getting used to giving away 'complete' graphics, rather than mediocre or unfinished ones that can kinda sorta pass as finished. I guess this can be included under needing to follow a specific style and making perfect lines and making all the in-game graphics look like they belong together, but I am trying to produce high-quality, professional graphics this time around. No etcha-sketch stuff. This will take a lot of work and time to start off, but once I get the hang of it and let my mind free, I should be able to pull it off or get on some kind of idea-spree. I felt very constricted in terms of what Tyler wanted and what the engine was letting me do so my mindset was also constricted. It's just another artistic struggle or block I have to get through so I'll let you know how it turns out when I start doing concepts!



Since I'm starting to try and be more professional, I made up my very first business card, ever, today for Closure that I will be passing out at E3. It's not too unique but it does its purpose.











And here is the one I made for myself which I will also be passing out. Still not too unique but it's my second card ever and still don't really have an idea for what video game or video game artists' business cards look like. (I guess that means I don't know whether or not it IS unique but I could imagine a few crazy ideas people could get for this.)











Now, back to school for a couple more days and I'll have finally finished freshman year of college...to start working again soon! :)

Monday, May 11, 2009

New Video

As promised, new video:

Current Status:

Got a bit of work done on this crazy nighttime plane ride I was on. Added the last of the originally planned new features in. Essentially where I am right now is the basics of all the objects are in. There's a lot of work to be done refining them and tweaking their behavior and some will probably get completely revamped in the future (balls come to mind, I'd like to add boxes too and that would require an overhaul because the balls were pretty much hacked in there at first). I also swapped out the flathead placeholder with a new one (the character from the original). It's still a placeholder though, all the art is getting revamped from scratch, and most likely in a new style. Jon is able to start work in a week or 2, so we might start seeing some more interesting, less tech-y screenshots by then.

We keep coming up with potential new ideas for the game. As a partnership we can do that, whereas a large company working on something like this would still be in the "planning" phase of development. Another plus for small teams! There's so many good ideas that could work with this game, in fact for a lot of them we're simply borrowing from common platformer elements and adding the lighting mechanic to them. It makes them feel new again really, and hopefully it all works logically. I don't know if you've played one of my games from last year, Blockslide 2, but that is probably my biggest released game to date (biggest, not best). Course, that was the problem in it. It was TOO big, and most didn't draw on common elements of similar puzzles. Instead, I opted to creating new rules for many of the 25 or so block types, and how they interacted with the other blocks. That's hundreds of interactions, and many of those had completely arbitrary rules (ice slid on grass but not on ice was probably one of the worst). 25 levels in the tutorial wasn't even enough to cover everything, and most people thought it was the whole game.

That's not to say the game wasn't good. By all means if you managed to learn the rules of it, the 150 puzzles in it plus the editor and the (about 800 by now) fan network puzzles were challenging and entertaining to solve, and well made. The barrier of entry though is just through the roof, and as a result, nobody enjoyed it but me and a couple of other people who cared enough to learn the rules.

One of the main goals of the design of the original Closure was to keep the new mechanics to a minimum. We had the lighting, and the pedestal behavior really. Keys were derivative of most platformers, and I'm not sure where No Drop Zones came from, but their behavior is extremely self explanatory. We had other ideas for it, but the limits of flash kept us in check for most of development. Now we have what feels like unlimited power to work with (even with no real graphical optimizations, I can still push 60 FPS on 1980x1080 resolution fullscreen) we have to keep ourselves in check with how much new stuff to add.

So how much stuff do we add in that's completely new? Really, nothing much. We have the lighting and the pedestal behavior inherited from before. Most of the new features we're adding are basically derived from traditional platformers, specifically the ones that can be made interesting through lighting. I want to avoid Blockslide syndrome as much as possible. The less we have to teach people, the more we can focus on actually designing good puzzles and telling interesting stories.

One of the things we've been struggling over in the design is what to do with No Drop Zones. In the original, they were a side effect of the engine. I had to decide what to do if you drop an inverse orb or key inside unlit ground, considering they weren't effected by light due to a need to have them shrouded in darkness, unlit ground still counted as ground. We basically decided to just not let you do that. A simple extrapolation from that concept, what if I make ground that never gets lit up? We get an area where you can't drop orbs. In the first game, that was how it was implemented. There's a spot where we discovered later you could drop an orb on top of one of the zones and it would sit there. That's not how it's implemented in the new one. Anyway the need for them is great, as a lot of puzzles work best with no drop zones, but we need to figure out what to make them. "No Drop Zone" is very much an outcast of the design of the original game. It's a very technical and boring thing compared to everything else in the game. It's sorta like calling the lava in mario "No Walk Zones", or spinies "No Touch Boxes", which is technically what they are. Problem is, nothing we've come up with as a potential solution to this is logical. Rainy areas was one idea but that makes no sense.

Which leaves us with 4 options:

1. Get rid of no drop zones period (least favorable idea)
2. Keep them the same (less than favorable)
3. Find a good mask for them (we're trying but it's extremely difficult)
4. Replace them with something that has the same effect on designing puzzles (ground that breaks orbs and keys you drop on it? Perhaps but there's still some limits there.)



So that's the current status of the game. It's still early and there's a lot to be done both graphically and mechanically, but it's already more than the flash version was. New video soon, I just have to make a few more test levels and record them.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Video

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A clarification

Some of you seem to think that the pink Dan Paladin guy is the new character in the game.

No he's not. He will not be in the final game, and Dan isn't involved in the project. We're going to swap out that graphic as soon as we have a rough sketch of the real character. He's simply a placeholder because using a box gets boring sometimes.

Sorry if we confused some people.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Ahhh progress

Save graphics, the new engine is now capable of everything the flash version had, plus a little more.

I'm way ahead of schedule here but that doesn't mean its time to slack off!
No new screenshots, nothing really changed much graphically from the previous versions besides a few particles and some placeholders.

Well there is this satisfying screenshot



Friday, May 1, 2009

Today's work

Didn't get anything done today, went on a bike ride instead. First real exercise in quite a while. I needed a break.