Monday, May 20, 2013

Master release candidate - awwwhh yeah!

Click here for the SUPER FINAL version of the prototype!

The hint backgrounds have been fixed, and as a special bonus there's also a little fuse particle effect on the dynamite before it explodes.
I'm working on a reflective development diary at the moment, and I'll finish it off with a little write-up of what I would have done if I'd had more time and talent. Having said that, I think the demo turned out quite cute in the end and I'm really quite pleased with it :)

Over and out!


I thought I'd take a step back and post something should have been posted much, much sooner, but never really made it due to tasks with higher priority... This is a post about the things that have inspired me throughout this project, from the very beginning to the end. I never made a moodboard or set out to collect inspiration references when I first designed Adore; instead I just channelled all of the things I love into a game. This post outlines some of those things, and explains how they've influenced my work.

The Moomins
I've grown up with the Moomins. I think Tove Jansson's extraordinary stories are in the back of my mind every time I'm given creative freedom, and this is particularly obvious in Adore.

What I love the most about her stories is how they appeal to every age group, and I wanted my world and characters to do the same. As a child, you love the Moomins for the amazing adventures. When you're older you read them for the deep and surprisingly human characters, the melancholic undertones and the social commentaries. While my prototype doesn't exactly touch on any huge philosophical questions, I could see the actual game subtly dealing with separation issues, fear and the challenge of stepping outside of your comfort zone.

I also love how Tove Jansson brings in lots of everyday items into a completely made-up fantasy world, because they make it incredibly easy to relate to the characters. Moominmammas purse becomes the very source of security and home, and Hemulens glasses, long robes and magnifying glass all reinforce his obsessive, dry disposition. This is echoed in the image of Otis and Fawn on the hill, where they sit next to a picnic basket with wine and cheese, and in the beach image, in which I gave Otis a pair of striped swimming trunks. None of them wear clothes in other images, but being able to bring in recognisable objects can help convey a certain mood. As an added bonus it's also quite cute and silly.
Overall I've tried to channel my own take on the Moomins' quirky loveliness and charm into Adore. It might not show in my little prototype, but I'd like to think that I have created a world with room to explore more than just pretty graphics and neat mechanics.  

Amanita Design
When it comes to inspirational studios, Aminata Design truly stands out. Machinarium is one of those games that seem to have it all; bucketloads of charm, beautiful graphics, brilliant puzzles... I've always loved playing point-and-click games, but Machinarium made me want to make my own. If Adore makes it to full production, "Machinarium-quality" will be the benchmark. Aim for the stars, right?!

I haven't played Botanicula, but the trailers look fantastic. The audio design in particular is something I just want to rip out and put in Adore; the character noises, the music... It's perfection, and definitely served as inspiration as I was scavenging the web for character audio. (It also made me despair quite a bit, since it's pretty much impossible to hunt down the type of audio I was after. Oh well.) 

Amanita Design is definitely a kind of superhero-studio in my eyes, but there are so many other  fantastic games out there... I'm drawn to anything with charm and and heart, and lately this has included Happy Street, Contre Jour, Tiny Wings, anything by Simogo (!!), Bunni, Tiny Tower, Middle Manager of Justice... Yes, most of these are iOS games - that's all I have time and money for these days. I'm rarely interested in perfectly polished action games with realistic graphics or generic 2D platformers. I want to play and make games that have a heart.

Music and audio
Like I said - I've learned that finding sound effects online is an absolute nightmare. You have this idea of what you want your game to sound like, but nothing you find comes close to it. There is about five billion explosion sound effects on, but ONE set of cute character noises. D'oh. I made a little Spotify playlist quite early on with some lovely music; Amiina, Stealing Sheep, Jónsi... All of it a little bit quirky and whimsical.

I think it's an unwritten rule that all game caves need to be purple.
Now, I usually hate cave and underground levels in games. They're dark, creepy, and generally uninspiring. However, there is something about nice caves that really appeal to me. The Cave, Torchlight, LostWinds are all stunning examples of this, and certain locations in Fable and World of Warcraft are also super pretty. After Chris and I went to this awesome place I knew I wanted to make a cave level. While I've settled for placeholder art for this prototype, the idea of a lovely pretty glowy magical cave has always been in the back of my mind.

Artwork and forest animals
I've had a thing for cute art and forest animals lately, preferably combined. Owls, deer, bunnies, foxes, bears... I can't get enough. I have so many owl earrings that it's almost concerning, and I'm seriously considering buying this. Ahem. Naturally, when I got the chance to design my own game it simply had to feature two woodland creatures as the main characters.

I've found websites like and Etsy to be absolutely fantastic for discovering lovely art, and I've collected a bunch of delightfully pretty and inspirational images on a Pinterest board. Click the images for the source page. Not all of the images feature a visual style that can be directly traced to Adore but they all have feature these whimsical aesthetics that I absolutely love, and are full of charming little woodland creatures, papery textures and stylised environments.

Right - this is the cheesy one I'm afraid... But I can't talk about my inspiration for Adore without mentioning my all-round amazing boyfriend. Shortly after we met I went back to Sweden on my own for about three weeks, and it was absolutely heartbreaking. The entire concept of Adore comes from the empty feeling that fills you when you're away from the person you love, and how your world becomes dull, different, and even frightening. Sickening, I know. But also quite lovely.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Finished! ...allllmost

I am very happy to announce that, apart from one teeny tiny pesky bug, my prototype is done! I've spent the weekend adding sound effects, tweaking the particle effects, tightening up the collision and generally fixing little bits and bobs. Oh, and the characters have faces now!

Here's the (almost) finished build!

Click here for a browser version. The UI looks weird in all browser builds; I genuinely dislike (or just don't understand) how Unity handles GUI textures for different resolutions. The web version of the game might also look quite horrendous, so I don't really recommend running it in a browser at all.

Speaking of GUI textures... The one remaining issue has to do with the backgrounds for the hints; they're all fine when the game runs in 1600x900, but when the resolution is decreased they shrink and no longer match the text. I'll have to have a look at it tomorrow.

So apart from that pesky lil' bug I am pretty happy to call myself finished with this demo. It plays well, it looks all right and it's pretty close to the original level design. It would have been epic to get the hug mechanic in, to have custom audio and lots of animations... But I'm only human, and as a design portfolio piece I think it's pretty sweet.

I'll post the super-final build once it's done, and I'm also working on a post that goes through all the things that have inspired me and influenced this project. Aaand then there's the expanded prototype dev diary that I want to write. And then I need to tidy up all the folders I'm submitting. And then, I think, I'm done.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Playtest results

I sent the previous build out for testing and so far I've received some SUPER useful feedback. I was looking for some all-round thoughts about the game and UI, to find out if people understood what was going on. I've sent the game to six people and so far I've had feedback from three.

These are the questions I asked:

Did the tutorial make sense?
Did you understand the light/dark change?
Did you complete the level?
Was anything in the game confusing?
The game is supposed to be pitch black in certain areas, but did you ever think it was it too dark across the entire level?
Did the game run smoothly, or was it jerky and stuttery?
Do you have any other comments?

Here's a fancy Excel sheet with the comments.

The most confusing thing seems to be the inventory, and knowing which character is using which item. For instance, people are trying to open the gate with Otis while Fawn is carrying the key... Which won't work. I've tried to clarify this by adding a coloured highlight around the active object - orange if Fawn is carrying the item, and blue if Otis is.

Other improvements include:
  • All icons have shiny new alpha channels and should appear less jaggedy.
  • Particle effects and audio on character selection.
  • The dark/light fade time is a bit longer to make it less abrupt.
  • Items in the inventory can be right-clicked for a description.
  • The candle icon has been updated; the old one looked too much like dynamite.
  • I've fixed a bug with the top most ladder, where the characters would fall through the floor and snap back... D'oh!
  • The hint visuals have been improved a bit, with a nicer font and better background.
  • I've added the new gate, which has a big, shiny padlock. Before this it was a bit confusing to know where to actually use the key.
  • More sound effects.
  • ...and of course, it's much prettier! I've added a gazillion rocks, some wooden beams/supports, more mushrooms and tweaked the lights. 
I haven't changed the help icon in the corner yet, because I can't seem to create a button-style icon that doesn't make my eyes bleed. Since none of the other icons have a "background" it just seems to clash... I'll soldier on, though.

Here's a build!

Some screenshots:

My remaining to-do list, from Hansoft:
It's getting there...! Well, I guess deleting the entire animation sprint helped. The walk-bouncies will have to do for this prototype! There's no way I can model, rig and animate the characters for Friday. I'd rather spend that time polishing the rest of the game than creating shoddy newbie-animations. But for the submission I'll include a little write-up of all the things I would have added to the game if I had also been a gifted audio designer and artist who could rig, skin and animate.

I've kept Hansoft updated throughout the project and it has really helped keep me from freaking out about the workload. It's been more of a fancy to-do list and overview than anything else... But that's all I've needed, since the game (and team, haha) is so small.

I want to sent another build out to people next week, to see if they think the game has improved. I'm very reluctant to make any major changes after this weekend so it won't be a huge test, but still useful.

Right - now to find some more sound effects...

Monday, May 13, 2013


Hiii there lil' blog! I know I haven't updated for ages and ages - more than a month! - but that doesn't mean I've been slacking off... No no no! In fact, I have a SUPER DUPER EXCITING announcement to make...


:D :D :D

CLICK CLICK CLICK! This is the .exe...

...and this is the browser version.

One big change I've had to make is to ditch the hug mechanic for this demo. The original plan was to have the gate key inside a closed flower, which was opened temporarily if the characters hugged near it. To open it fully the player had to blow a hole in the cave roof to let the sun in. I know, I know, it would have been so nice... :( But having Otis and Fawn find their way to each other, play some kind of hug animation, hook up environment triggers, model and animate opening flowers, create a huge roof explosion... There's no way I'd be able to implement all that to a high enough standard. I don't even know how to animate... Ahem. So the scope-hammer had to come down, and instead the route to the key is blocked by some boulders that the player has to blow up. It's the same level flow, just one less mechanic.

Other new things:

A tutorial!
Getting all the puzzles and items working was obviously a priority but close after that was the tutorial. I want to get this out to people to playtest this week, which would be pointless without any kind of tutorial. It's really hard to write instructions when you know your game inside and out, though... So hopefully I'll get some good feedback. There's also a little help button which brings up the tutorial screen again.

An end!
The game restarts when you finish the level.

Right click on areas of interest to bring up a little description or hint. I've only added a few of these so far, and they need to be prettied up, but the functionality is quite nice.

Walk wobbles!
The characters bounce when they walk! Daawwh. There's also some basic stepping sounds, and a joyous bonus bounce at the end of the game...

I've done a first pass of the lighting and light functionality for the dark level. There's a light switch and a camera transition which reveals the lantern, and the dynamite is now hidden until the lantern is lit. Oh my gosh, I haven't shown the lantern, have I?! Oh dear!

The characters now carry the lantern, and it has a light and everything and it's really quite lovely :D

I think that's it... So a lot of things are kind of in-progress still, but the game is actually playable. How awesome is that?!

Still to do:

Usability test
I'm going to send out a build with some questions to a handful of lucky volunteers and see what they say. Obviously we're quite close to the end of the term so if they come back with feedback along the lines of "the light/dark mechanic is terrible" I might not be able to act on it. However, I'd still like to do a quick write-up of what I WOULD do if I had the time.

The gate
This is still a rather ugly placeholder model. It could do with being a bit less, well, ugly.

More hints need to be added, and they need background textures. Speechbubbles maybe?

The light level
The dark version of the level looks more cosy and interesting than the light one... So I need to fix that. The free version of Unity is TERRIBLE when it comes to pretty things like lightshafts and glow effects, but I'll try to figure something out. 

The dark is too dark
The dark level looks lovely on my machine, but on other monitors it's pitch black and completely unplayable. I'm not quite sure how to fix it at the moment. I might look into adding some kind of brightness slider, or I could chop up the ground meshes into different bits and light them differently... We'll see. This is a scary one.

Messages and feedback
It would be nice to have little pop-ups when you're trying to do something that isn't possible. So if you're trying to light the candle without the lantern it'd tell you to find something to put the candle in.

I need to scavenge the internets for sound effects! I might even record my own little voices for the characters... Haha. I REALLY want some silly Botanicula-style character sounds.

Rocks, mushrooms, flowers, eyes in the darkness, wooden beams... I want it all! My plan is to spend this week polishing the daylights out of the game... Depending on the usability feedback, of course.