Thursday, January 31, 2013

I made a game!

I spent yesterday following a fabulous Unity tutorial to get familiar with the editor. I even made a game! If you can call it that... Haha! It's quite terrible, but it has a menu, win/lose conditions (get a score of 10 to win), a countdown timer plus triggers for particle effects, colour changes and audio. It also taught me some super useful things about raycasting, moving objects around and how to use object tags, which I'll need to use to get my character movement working.

AND, look at all the code I wrote! Look! Look!

I'm trying to enjoy this smug feeling as much as possible, because I know it won't last. And how do I know that? Because I've spent this morning adding ALL the work for this project to Hansoft:

Provided I do absolutely everything bang on time, this schedule gives me a finishing date of around the 20th of May. Oh dear. However, this list includes art. Lots of it. Even animation. Lots of pretties will have to be sacrificed - but I knew that from the start. I never expected to actually make a fully functioning point and click game with final assets. But now that it's all in Hansoft I'll be able to shuffle things around and cut things as I go along, while keeping a good overview of the project.

Here's this week's sprint:

Wish me luck...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

UI elements and movement mechanics

Yesterday I created the UI elements I need for the prototype.

The top icons are the character selection icons, and the bottom ones are the items that can be picked up in the level.

I've also gotten Unity up and running, which is super exciting! The first - and probably most difficult thing - I want to implement is the character movement. I REALLY want to use a click-to-move mechanic as opposed to WASD-style direct control, but this requires some element of pathfinding since the free version of Unity doesn't support navmeshes. Cue headache...

I was trying to figure this out as I was falling asleep last night and I realised I might be able to just stick the characters on splines. It SHOULD work for this simple level - the tricky part being when and how to switch between different splines depending on where the player clicks. I should be able to hack that together with trigger boxes though... We'll see. There is a glimmer of hope though! Anyway, this is what I'll start with:

Here we go, wish me luck!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

First pass of asset list done

Same file as yesterday!

I will update and change this sheet as I go along and figure out how things work, but for now it gives me a good place to start. Onwards to placeholder asset creation (for use both in the demo and in any design docs)...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Level functionality list

...can be found here! I've also started writing the asset list in the same document, but it's not quite finished yet. Hoping to have it done by tomorrow. At this point I would like to highlight the fact that all functionality has a much, much higher priority than the art assets... Once (or should I say "if") I get everything up and running I will pretty things up as much as I can, but ultimately I want to focus on building things.

I'm going to use Unity for this project because I'm dying to learn it, there's a ton of resources out there and because it should be flexible enough to handle the functionality I'm after. As soon as the asset list is done and everything is set up in Hansoft (which is working great, by the way) I'm off on a great big prototype adventure! Yaaaaay...! I haven't built anything in FOREVER so this will be so much fun!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Level: light version


I also tried to tone down the blotchiness of the dark level, but something's up with the layers... It really isn't rendering right when I paint. Oh well. The core illustrator file is intact so nothing's lost. Hopefully it will print OK if needed!

Next up: asset and feature lists...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Level: dark version

Here's the dark version of the level:
Illustrator and Photoshop decided that they didn't want to play nice with each other, hence the dark blotch in the corner... CMYK colours don't seem to render well with multiply layers and overlaid textures! I'll take another look at it as I finish the light version.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Getting prettier

Quick update with a progress shot of the level design:

Not to worry - I'll make it less busy! This is just a WIP screengrab straight from Illustrator.

I will paint over this in Photoshop later, to mark out the dark areas, because Illustrator doesn't play well with gradients (at least not the gradients and glows I need). I'll also make a dark version that shows the level when Otis and Fawn are apart.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Demo level design (the non-pretty version)

I've been noodling on a level design, and I think I have enough for a blog update...

I want to do a cave level, for a few reasons:

1. They can look amazing and magical and lovely, with glowing mushrooms and dust motes and light shafts and water falls. They can also be dark and horrible and cold and windy and full of scary eyes and shadows.

2. I went here during Christmas and it was really cool! You had to wear a hard hat and you got to go down in a little boat and on the sides of the narrow, cramped boat tunnel you could see the little safety holes that the miners had dug. Eventually we reached a big cavern with stalactites and wooden beams and a "bottomless" pit with water constantly pouring down it from above. It was so cold it took me the rest of the day and many, many blankets to warm up, but it was totally worth it!

3. A cave is a nice little contained, themed environment that people recognise. "Reach the cave exit" is an easy enough mission.

4. Fawn and Otis could wear hard hats.

First up are two little sketches:

I then decided that Photoshop is a bad, bad place to do a level design, and moved over to Illustrator to make a grid-based version. I also wrote a little list of nice/neutral/not nice things you can find in a cave or mine:

Not nice
Mushrooms - glowing

Mining carts




Light shining down


Light shining down (isolated)

Dust motes

Wooden beams

Eyes in darkness

Lit candles/lanterns
Buckets (lines)

Strange blind creatures

Plants (nice)


Plants (not nice)
Nice glowing things
Mining tools

Strange glowing things


Cave tentacles (?)



Mining cart rails

Rail switches


I wanted to do some simple light/darkness based puzzles (caves being the perfect location for pitch black places) and make the player assemble a little lantern that can be used by the characters.

Before building the level I gave myself some distance rules. 
I've been wanting to give Otis and Fawn different abilities, to force the player to separate them, and decided to keep it as simple as possible: they can jump in different ways. Otis, being a little chubby blob with wings, can flap upwards and reach ledges above. Fawn can make long horizontal leaps.

I've also been thinking about the light/dark change...
  • Should the entire level change when the characters are close, or just the area around them?
  • Should the player see the whole level at a time or just a zoomed in version?
  • If they can see the entire level, and if the whole level changes when the characters are near each other, does the game become too easy?

Hopefully the demo will answer those questions. For now, I'm going with the concept of the entire level being shown to the player at all times (like Machinarium) and that it all changes if the characters are close to each other. Whether or not this is fun or too easy will have to be decided later. The joy of prototyping!

Here's the level layout:
...I told you it wasn't pretty! However, it is enough for me to start building the level. But I'll probably paint over it in Photoshop and storyboard the entire thing just for the sake of my portfolio.

The mine 
This level is set in an old, derelict mine. The ground surrounding the tunnels has collapsed and the couple must venture into the caves in hope of finding another way forward. 
Sunlight shines in through the top parts and a river runs along the bottom. Forgotten mining equipment, strange plants, glowing mushrooms and old wiring systems can be found throughout the mine. Some areas are permanently dark, regardless of how close Otis and Fawn are to each other, and full of shadows and staring eyes... 

A.        Flower cave 
Light, first visit
This cavern is full of strange, pretty cave flowers . They are all closed. Otis and Fawn can hug to make them open, revealing a key in one of them. However, the flowers close as soon as the hug has ended and the key can't be picked up; a permanent light is needed. Cracks in the ceiling can be seen.
Dark, second visit
The flowers have turned to creepy tentacles! No interaction.

Light, second visit, with dynamite and lit lantern in inventory
Place the dynamite in the wall cracks and light the fuse with the lit candle from the lantern. This blasts a hole in the cave roof and light shines in. The flower holding the key opens permanently. Fawn can jump across the gap to grab it.
Dark, second visit, with dynamite and lit lantern in inventory
The cracks in ceiling can’t be seen, and the dynamite can’t be placed. 

B.        Cavern with light switch and glowing mushrooms 
Use the light switch on the wall to turn on the lights at B and C.
Hug to make the mushrooms glow brighter. (Bonus interaction; no impact.)
Pitch black, with a low glow from the mushrooms. No interactions.

C.        Dark cavern
Only accessible by Otis. Completely dark until light has been turned on at B. 
The lantern is revealed and can be picked up. It lacks a candle. 
Eyes in the darkness - Otis is scared. No interactions. 

D.        Candle
Visible in both light and darkness, but is harder to spot in darkness. An unlit candle lies on the floor behind some rocks. It can be picked up. The candle can be combined with the lantern from C. 

E.         Gate
Visible in both light and darkness. Locked. Requires key from A. 

F.         Burning torches 
Visible in both light and darkness. Use them to light the candle from D and get a lit lantern. 

G.        Dynamite cave 
Only accessible by Fawn. Always dark without lantern.

 Light (requires lit lantern) 
A few sticks of dynamite can be seen in the corner of the room. They can be picked up. Use it at A (light) to obtain the key for E. 
This cave is pitch black without a lantern. Nothing can be seen.

I have started painting over the grid-based level in Illustrator, but I'll probably finish it off in Photoshop. There will be a light and a dark version of the level design. For now, here's the base, looking a bit less...square:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Extreme pitch makeover

First pass of pitch document (PDF).
Final version (PDF).

First of all, it was clear I had to sort out my font choices.

Above: the old cover (which, in my defence, wasn't quite finished).

Above: the new cover.

I ended up using a thick script in white for the headings and title, with a glow effect added to it to give it a more ethereal look. I also created a more interesting background image and let the clouds overlap the text slightly.

Next up was the flow of the document. It didn't make much sense, and even though I'd been moving the pages around through the entire process I wasn't happy with it. The flow was as follows, with one page for each topic:

1. Story
2. Game overview
3. Feature list
4. Main characters
5. Controls and inventory
6. Screenshot of game
7. Support cast and audio
8. Business model and future

I shuffled this around one final time and ended up with a MUCH better flow:

1. Game overview
2. Feature list
3. Story
4. Characters
5. Controls and inventory
6. Hugs and items
7-8. Level example
9. Support cast and audio
10. Business model and future

PJ had mentioned that if I added two pages to the document, changing it from 10 to 12 pages, he'd be able to help me print it as a little booklet. So in addition to a much improved and airier flow, I also have a brilliant little physical copy of the doc. Win!

Next up were the images; not their content, but their presentation. PJ suggested I get rid of the floating image boxes completely, and this made the doc about five million times better.

Above: what the first spread would have looked like with image boxes.

Above: the first spread, now with the images incorporated into the background. Much better, right? Yep!

Above: rather than turning the drawing of Fawn on the beach into a background image, I framed it as a polaroid. This allowed me to create another full background spread with the picnic image.

Using background spreads rather than single sheets was such a "doh" moment for me... Can't believe I haven't done it that was before. A full spread looks SO much better than a repeated image on each page.

Above: in my mind and in the old layout the screenshot didn't need any explaining. It was a mock-up image from the game, pure and simple. The controls were all crammed together and the whole spread looked quite messy.

However, PJ's 12-page requirement sorted this out!

Above: new spread with controls and abilities. The images got plenty of room, and I turned the old one-page background into a spread to get rid of the horrible mirrored-image-ness. 

Above: the level screenshot got an iPad as a frame and a little walkthrough. 

I don't think I've shown this spread before! It deals with important things like plushies and singing forest spirits. I've also made an inspirational Spotify playlist for the audio section, and this can be found here: Adore.

Next up is a little level design for the prototype. I'm SO excited to actually get to BUILD something...! Whee!


It's done!

I actually finished the pitch document during my last week at work, but haven't had the chance to update the blog until now. I'm well and truly proud of it!

Blitz have their own pitch department and it's lead by the most helpful person ever. I asked him for some feedback on the layout and armed with this I transformed the doc from a cute little pitch to a polished portfolio piece.

He even helped me print and bind it! One full spread is as big as an A3 sheet, so it's a really lovely and non-intimidating size. It is printed on a thick matte paper that makes the colours look incredible.

In the next post I'll go through the changes I made for the final printed version and show some before and after images...