Everend of the Year Wrapup

It’s finally time for our game to take flight!

After working for a long year, running into road bumps, problems, and difficulties along the way, our game has finally hit the show floor! On Wednesday, we attended the Stout Game Expo, where all of the Game Design students at Stout showcase the games they have been working for the past few months. We were blown away by the attendance! Just look at all of these people!

13082622_791660020933916_1560514448848333890_n

If you look over to the right, you can see our display.

13083249_791660644267187_5759682340186579243_n

And here’s a closer look! We had an incredible turnout and quite a lot of positive reception. Many people were interested in our game, and we got to talk to lots of people and share a few of the experiences and wisdom we had garnered creating the game. We were even voted to be the best 3D game of SGX! Overall, I’d consider it a huge success!

That being said, it’s been a long year but we’re finally getting ready to wrap up…

Well, not quite yet. Right now, we’re currently at GlitchCon to show off our game. Unfortunately, it’s too late to purchase tickets, but if you’re attending please be sure to look for us!

Additionally, and perhaps more relevantly, we’ll be appearing at the School of Art and Design Senior Show on Friday May 6th! The show runs from 5pm to 9pm and will showcase senior projects developed through the semester, including our very own Everend. If you missed us at SGX or would like to see it in an even more polished state, be sure to visit us at the show! Attendance i

It’s been a long year of work, but the entire team is extremely proud of the game Everend. We’ve poured our hearts and souls into this game and we are ecstatic that the game had such a warm reception! We cannot wait to see what opportunities we’ll have in the future, whether it be further showings at conventions or eventually further developing our game. We look forward to seeing what heights our game soars to!

There may be more news to come as May rolls around, so we’ll see you around then!

Polishing the Animations

So now that we are nearing the end of the game and all the animations have been complete it comes down to polishing.  That requires a lot of play testing and attention to detail.  Just because an animation is complete doesn’t mean it is done.  You can always improve upon an animation.  It is critical that you go over everything you animate before you send it off with your stamp of approval.  Its essentially proof reading your paper before committing.

Screencap6

Animating a short film has a different approach then creating looping animations.   For example if I were to create a cut scene animation everything would be controlled by me and the user wouldn’t have a chance to break anything because they wouldn’t interact with it.  However when creating animations for a video game you have to deal with transitions.  Good transitions are something you won’t notice, its a difficult thing to accomplish.  The way I went about making this more manageable was to have a default pose which I used at the beginning of all my animations so once the animation was finished it would go right back to the default pose and move on to the next animation with no one noticing the transition.

A lot of the times what may seem like a good transition in maya might not look that good in unity.  Mainly because it all comes down to user input on the controller.  If you have an animation being spammed over and over it might not look as you wanted it to.  This happened with Kaia’s first jump animation.  I had the wings flap for the initial jump and then flap again on the double jump.  However when you played the game it felt as though she was flailing about to much and did not look how I wanted it too.  I ended up changing it so that she only flaps on the double jump.  This ended up with me changing the animation entirely but there are some transitions that don’t require such drastic changes.  For example the animation between the jump and the glide was not fast enough.  Luckily there is a lot of control unity can give you to help out.  You can tell unity which frame of your animation you want to start at and adjust the speed of the transition itself.  With a little fine tuning and number changes we ended up blending multiple animations much better through the character controller.
Screenshot (25).png

I think the most difficult aspect of the the whole project would have to have been understanding how the transitions were going to play out in the game.  Attention to detail and communicating with the the programming team helped a lot from where we were to where we are now.  Another difficult aspect that many animators start out having trouble with is giving your animations a soul.  What I mean by that is you have to give it a little extra something that makes it unique.  There are many generic walking cycles out there but if you don’t give it that extra quality that defines what kind of walk cycle it is you’ll be missing out on your overall goal which is to give the character life and I think that is what it is all about.  Animation is creating life.

Owls, Moles, …and Rocks

As developers and designers of Everend, we have made many design decisions throughout Everend’s development. Deciding that we wanted the main character to be an owl was one of the first and biggest decisions we had to make, and that decision held true throughout the whole development of the game. But the thing is, there are many decisions made that were either scrapped or changed  throughout the development process as well.  Some of the biggest changes we have made have even involved some of our core game-play mechanics. For example the mole and the push-able rock have gone through plenty of these changes, both of which I will touch on below.

When we were figuring out what kind of puzzles we wanted to add to Everend, we came up with the idea of using a simple mechanic like pushing around a rock. We then added other mechanics to it in order to make those puzzles more complex. Simple right? Well, that didn’t turn out to be the case. The functionality that a rock was able to be pushed was never really the issue that we dealt with though, the issue that was dealt with was that we never really liked how it felt when pushing the rock. What I mean by this is that we changed how the controls worked while pushing the rock several times, but we kept the basic functionality of pushing the rock the same.

GoodRock
Kaia is determined to push this rock.

 

It may not always be easy to make a decision that changes the development process, but sometimes these decisions are necessary in order to make the game better overall. I know that we all are happy with results of all the iterations of the pushing rock controls, so it was all worth it in the end.

As mentioned before though, the pushing rock was not the only thing that changed through our development process. An even bigger decision that we made was changing how the mole would react to the player. As the pushing rock was more of a controls change, the decision to change the mole was a complete game-play change.

GoodMole
Uh Oh… Kaia, I think you should run!!

Originally the mole was designed to run away from the player when they would have a lit torch and it would move towards the player when the they didn’t have a torch. After creating the prototype of the mole we realized that there just wasn’t enough game-play involved with the current version of the mole so we decided to make a change. The new mole was designed to perform a charging attack when it is angered by a torch. The mole will then stay on the attack until the player figures out how to defeat it. And that is for you the players to figure out. 🙂

Overall, many decisions have been made and changed throughout the whole development process. Whether these decisions were made to cut, add or change things in the game, we have almost reached the end of the development process and it has been full of hard decisions that have shaped Everend in many different ways. We can’t wait to let these decisions be shown in full to everyone when Everend is released.

 

Upcoming Events

Its crunch time here for Strix Studios! Every member on our team has been working overtime to make sure we hit every deadline from here on out. Personally, I have dove head first into creating the particle systems in Everend. A particle system is a technique in game physics, motion graphics, and computer graphics that uses a large number of very small sprites, 3D models, or other graphic objects to simulate certain kinds of fun phenomena. Some of the particle systems currently in Everend is fire on the pedestals and Kaia’s torch, Kaia’s bubbles, ambient spores, waterfall foam, and a glorious glow (work-in-progress) for if Kaia missteps onto a dangerous area. In the future we plan to implement electricity on the eels, and ambient particles unique to each area.

In addition to official release dates coming soon, we are also preparing for some public events where we will be able to show off our progress. Here is some information about where our game will make appearances around campus.

SGX

Every year, Stout hosts the public Stout Game Expo (SGX) where all the UW-Stout Game Design and Development students get to reveal the games they have been working on. The SGX invites you to play 30+ free games at their annual gaming event. The games were created by freshman, sophomore, junior and senior students on platforms ranging from PC and mobile to virtual reality.

This Game Expo is a great opportunity to see the creations of other game designers and show off your own. Plus hundreds of people including friends, family, faculty, and public, show up to see everyone’s progress.

We had the pleasure of announcing Everend at Game Launch last semester, but we are very excited to finally reveal it at this year’s Stout Game Expo.

SGX this year is scheduled for April 27th in the MSC Great Hall from 6 to 9 p.m. We hope to see you there!

SeniorShow

Another exciting opportunity we get to participate in is UW-Stouts Senior Shows. UW-Stout’s School of Art and Design will wrap up the semester with several special events May 6, in the Applied Arts Building and adjacent Micheels Hall atrium and Furlong Gallery.

Designs and artwork by 89 graduating seniors will be on display from 7 to 9 p.m. during the annual Senior Shows. Individual and group student work can be seen throughout the Applied Arts Building.

The event is open to the public, with a special showing for industry professionals from 6 to 7 p.m.

Everend will have an awesome themed booth so make sure you come see that as well!

We hope to see you at these really great events, but if you are unable to attend, we will continue to post weekly updates here on our blog site. Also we hope to have an official release date very shortly!

GDC Post Mortem

headerv3-2016

Last week several of our developers, including myself, were able to attend the 2016 Game Developers Conference. It was an excellent opportunity to promote the game and get feedback. Getting feedback from industry professionals and even some feedback from some unity representatives was extremely exiting.

11218698_783146988483145_5023661772816422320_n

Before the conference even started our art lead Emily Dillhunt was able to create a game during the train jam on the way to GDC. She even collaborated with developers from Campo Santo to make the game ‘Discharge’!

train_jam_observation_car.0

On Tuesday I was able to attend the ‘level design in a day’ workshop along with our lead designer Mitch Clayton. The workshop involved a series of talks that revolved around creating more intuitive, creative, and fun levels and puzzles. Later in the week some of our developers were able to visit the Unity offices where they were able to get some of that valuable feedback.

1375_783147095149801_5006982615076745478_n

All of that, and it still only describes a slice of what we were able to get done at GDC. We were able to meet a lot of good people, do a lot of networking, as well as have a lot of fun. Most valuable of all, we were able to get a fresh perspective on our game. Beyond that we’re back from GDC and ready to get started on finishing the game!

Zack Pasterski

Light at the End of the Cave

Hello Everend blog readers,

I am the lighting designer and one of the programmers of the team. I am going to talk to you about the lighting of Everend. I will walk you through the lighting from day one to the current development. Some of the sections that I will talk about are the baking process and the steps I take when baking the light for the game, some of the cheats I use to help keep the performance down while still keeping the lighting worthy of the game.

When we first started in the fall, we talked about the roles everyone would be doing. I have had almost eight years of experience in theatre lighting so I said that I would be interested in lighting and Emily our art lead said that the experience may be useful because lighting would be a big component of the game. At the time I was a little nervous; a programmer was about to step into the realm of artists, but I threw caution to the wind and spread my wings, then I jumped. I then remembered I am not Kaia and I do not have wings so there was that.

Having the experience in theatre was not going to guaranty that I would be able to do the things that we envisioned at that point. I spent the first few weeks working on tutorials and documentation about lighting in Unity, the engine we are using to make the game, after that I felt I had the tools necessary work in Unity. That brought up the next big question though, what should light look like in a cave? I wanted to make sure that the light was realistic looking and would interact with the art of the levels positively. The trip to crystal cave that the team did in the fall was a big help to that.  It was such a big help that we wrote a blog post about that, you can find that here: https://thatowldevblog.com/2015/11/19/crystal-cave/. Taking what we gathered there we felt more confident about the lighting. As Mitch and Emily worked on building the levels I talked with them about what they wanted for lighting. After the first level was finished being boxed out and was starting to be set dressed I took some screen shots that Emily pasted together and started marking it with locations of lights and what she wanted those lights to do.TutorialLevelLighting This is what I was handed which I then used to place the lights in the game.

I started to experiment with a few different lighting settings including a shader setting called emission. Emission uses a map that is in greyscale which shows which sections emit light and which ones don’t, this saves on lights in the scene and are just as diverse as regular lights. One major thing that I determined would make the performance of the game faster was to bake out as many of the lights as I could before we built the game. Baking means that we take lights that are set to baked or mixed and use the light that they emit and shine and project it onto anything in the scene that is set as static, these are things that we are not expecting to move at all walls, floors, and ceilings are examples of this. Before baking and the placement of the lights we have this:start After the placement of lights and baking those out we have this:quick turnaroundOne thing that you may be asking yourself is, what about Kaia? She moves around? Baking will not affect her, or will it? A cheat that allows me to get away with having most of the lights be set to baked is light probes. These probes grab the light that is shone on them and saves it as a small map. Those probes then communicate between their close neighbors and when a dynamic object moves through those probes the ones closest to it form a tetrahedron, a polyhedron composed of four triangular faces, and will apply the light data stored by those probes to the dynamic object. One big thing to keep in mind is that if those probes are not placed very close together or there is a major change in light between two probes which are not adequately placed it can cause slight problems with the dynamic object. When I place probes I have to make sure that I place enough probes in major changes of light to give the feel that the dynamic object is being properly affected by the lights. Here is a picture of the probes in the first area of the first level. The yellow spheres are the probes themselves the purple lines are the connections between those probes.probesYeah that is a lot of probes but it is important that they are there, because without them Kaia looks like this.kaia without probesNow I know what you are thinking “that does not look too bad” but when you compare it to this.kaia with probesIt looks a lot more realistic. Kaia looks like she is being affected by the sunlight and we are saving on performance because there are less dynamic lights in the scene. Here is a look at what it looks like in the scene view instead of the game view of Unity. kaia interacting with probes

The yellow area is that tetrahedron that I was talking about earlier. You can see the greyish spheres that are in the area are those yellow spheres from earlier and they are showing how the lights are affecting them really well.

Now that I have rambled on for a bit I will talk about the actual baking process and the steps that I take to bake out the lights for a scene. In Unity there is a window for lighting with a large amount of settings. I am not going to go into detail about each individual setting but I will go into detail about a few of them. One of the big things I use to add color to the scene without using a lot of lights is the ambient source. I use a gradient of three colors that I get from Emily. I spent a few more weeks working on getting the settings for baked global illumination ironed out. The settings that I came up with allow me to quickly turn around the lighting and show Emily and Mitch what the scene looks like with lighting in. Here is photo of the quick turnaround lighting.quick turnaroundIn the baked GI section there are two settings that I do not have set when I do the quick turnaround they are very costly in the time department. The first of these is final gather to improve the quality of the light ray tracing is used at the last bounce that the light makes it adds to the visual quality significantly. Here is what that looks like.final gather addedThe second of the settings is ambient occlusion. Since the light will hit everything indiscriminately corners and indents will be lit just as much as the flat surfaces. This will determine how large the contrast is and how far those shadows will go out. Here is what that looks like. ambient occlusionWe are nearing the end don’t worry. Thanks for reading all the way through I hope that I shined a little light on how the lighting is done in the caves of Everend. Taking all the things I talked about in the last section combining the quick turnaround, the final gather, and the ambient occlusion into the game we are given this which is the final result of the game.final result