Perfect Loop

Perfect loop for today. Really love this one. I think I will make one of these a day for… a year? I’m having a lot of fun making these and they’ll make for a really interesting visual research study. Perhaps even pick the best ones and put them in a room in the game as an easter egg.

PerfectLoop_2014-12-31_HR

Perfectly Looping Structures

Back to working on the game after spending the holidays with the family. Really needed the break!

I’m going to start creating a series of perfectly looping structures as a kind of “visual study” and side-research project. These may work their way into game, maybe not. Mostly it’s a way to get my creative juices going. Sort like exercise reps to complement the main activity.

The very first one:

loop01

Playing with some colors:

loop02

Now we’re getting somewhere!

loop03

Development Update – Water, Game Design, and House of Stairs

It’s been a while since I’ve last posted here. A lot has been going on. PlayStation Experience will be my last showing in quite some time. I’m back to prototyping and working on tech/design problems of the game.

Water

water still

I went back to working and refining the water mechanic. On the surface level, it doesn’t look any different from what I had before, but the code is much cleaner. Previously, the code was full of nested if/else statements that made it incredibly difficult to read and debug, especially as there were all these different cases to account for.

I finally sat down and really organized the code, moving a lot of things to separate functions which could then be called and reused regularly.

The water mechanic is now working quite well. It uses an object pool, so each “water block” is recycled (disabled and enabled again), instead of being instantiated during run time.

The boxes are basically the trigger areas. I made them visible for the purpose of debugging. There were a bunch of issues when I was using them at a larger size (1x1x1), so I made them smaller, and that fixed many of the issues.

So now, the water responds dynamically when player places a “redirection cube” in front of the stream (or removes it), and also responds when the ground beneath it moves away, or moves back into place.

3xZxqiV

6RBrDi0

Having played around with the mechanic a little more, I think it won’t actually be quite what I had originally imagined. I don’t think I will give player total freedom to redirect water streams with the “redirection cubes”. It’s just too unpredictable, causes too many design problems, and I don’t think it actually adds that much to the game.

Instead, what I’m going to do is limit the places where water can redirected, such as by having these stations in which player can change the direction of the water.

Game Design

Recently, it has been dawning on me just how massive this project is. This was especially evident as I was writing the code for water, and realizing all the possibility spaces this mechanic brings up, and all the design challenges that come with it.

I have a lot of thoughts about the design of the game’s world structure. I will sit down and write about this some more in detail next week when I’m home for the holidays and have some free time.

That being said, I think I’ve been making design decisions out of fear of negative reviews. I keep trying to make sure that the player is not lost, and can figure things out, and that moments of confusion are to be avoided at all cost. I’m starting to think I should not adhere to that philosophy so closely. Again, more about this in another post.

House of Stairs

Going to start playing with crazy architecture some more.

Here’s a space I’m trying to make which is just made of staircases everywhere.

I love the visuals, the it’s really pushing the performance of Unity to the limit. I need to figure out a way to optimize both the creation process as well as when it’s running in game.

stairs_01

stairs_02

stairs_03

stairs_04

Regarding the last two images, the player isn’t actually supposed to see that. There’s a bug which causes you to fall out of the game world. I love the look of it though. Might be interesting to see if this can worked into the game somehow.

PlayStation Experience Post-Mortem – Part 3

Day 2

The hours for Sunday was 10 AM to 6 PM. It was nice to have a much shorter day, and as expected, the crowd was smaller than on Saturday.

One of the highlights on Sunday was I got to try Luis Antonio’s Twelve Minutes. This is a game I’ve been excited about for quite a while. I had a similar idea for some time, after watching the film Source Code. During SIGGRAPH in Vancouver, I was telling Brendon Chung of Blendo Games about this idea, and the next day, Rock, Paper, Shotgun published a preview of the game.

The game wasn’t officially being shown at PSX. Luis is the artist on The Witness, and showed the game to me during one of his breaks. It’s really fascinating, and has a lot of interesting design challenges. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the game develops.

Also, a redditor from /r/PS4 stopped by and we did an awkward high-five, as originally planned:

redditor

I am responsible for about 90% of the awkwardness in that picture.

Here is a much better picture of me:

ME_PSX

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

All in all, PSX was a lot of fun, and a really great event to show at. It was my first time showing the game in the context of PlayStation, and the crowd seemed to be quite different from those at past events.

A lot of the people who came by hadn’t heard of the game before, so it was great to see the game reaching new people. Several people would walk by the booth and check out the game on account of the art style, only to completely finish the demo, which takes around 30 minutes, and walk away really excited. That was an awesome feeling and an indication for me that the tweaks and iterations I’ve made this past year have worked.

I was a little disappointed with the lack of press I got. I had emailed about 20 journalists from major outlets who were going to be there, but none of them stopped by, and the game didn’t get a single mention in the media. This is not the journalists’ fault – I think because it’s the first PSX, a lot of outlets only sent 1 or 2 people to cover the event, and most of their time was spent on the new reveals and announcements from larger titles.

Still, I was quite disappointed. Going to these events is a ton of work and quite expensive, especially as a one-man team. Sony covered the cost of hotel, but I still had to pay for flight, food, etc, and Las Vegas is not cheap.

I was flying back to Chicago on Tuesday morning, so had an extra day in town. On Monday night, I was feeling a little depressed about the lack of press I got, and went for a walk around town to try to clear my head and plan out what I’m going to do next in development. I ended up at Denny’s, and had just ordered some food, when I got a text from my friend Kevin:

“Check your Twitted feed!!”

I took out my phone, and I couldn’t believe my eyes:

jon_blow_twitter

Jonathan Blow just tweeted about my game. Holy shit.

I know this may not sound like a big deal. After all, it’s just a tweet. But if you’ve been following this devlog or me on twitter, you’ll know that Jon’s work has had the most influence on my own work and approach to game development. Braid was a huge inspiration, and RELATIVITY is very much a work along the same lines of philosophy. I see games as a way to uncover truth through exploration of a system, and I want to make deep and profound experiences. I’ve watched almost all of Jon’s talks and interviews, and had studied his work very closely.

For the past two years of development, I had been wanting to get the game to a state that was ready to show him. I met Jon briefly at PRACTICE last month, and sent him a build of the game afterwards. Even though it’s still an early build of the game, the fact that he played through it and liked it enough to share about it (and he doesn’t share about too many games), was a huge milestone for me and meant a tremendous amount.

It was the best exposure that I could have gotten for the game, and to have it come at a time when I was feeling pretty down about the lack of press attention… I almost broke down at Denny’s.

vegas

PlayStation Experience Post-Mortem – Part 2

PSX Day 1 

Saturday was the first day of PSX. The show floor hours for the public was 10 AM to 9 PM, so it was quite long.

Before the show started, I stopped by Walgreens to pick up my “booth survival kit”: some snacks, throat drops, gum, and of course, a giant jug of water

103_booth_kit

The jug of water makes you look pretty ridiculous, but it’s important to stay hydrated. In fact, the guys next to me at White Paper Games also brought jugs of water on the following day.

I arrived at my booth at around 8:30 AM to set up. It only took half an hour to get the booth ready, but I wanted to give myself some time to check out other games.

My most anticipated title was The Witness, and I did get to play it for about 20 minutes. It was exceptional. Even with the little amount I played, I can tell this game is going to be really great. I was actually quite skeptical at first, as I couldn’t quite tell what the game was about from the early footage that was released. However, after the play session, I was totally convinced, and have not been able to stop thinking about it since.

the_witness

Here were some of the other booths I checked out:

Night In The Woods

NITW

Distance

distance
Pavilion

pavilion

Anyway, even though the hall opened at 10 AM, it was pretty quiet until 11:30 AM. This was because the PlayStation keynote was happening then, so most people were at that.

Once the day got going, there was a pretty good flow of traffic. It wasn’t crazy packed like at PAX, so people actually got to play for pretty long periods. The demo of the game took about 20 to 40 minutes to complete, and several people did finish it, which was a really great sign of me.

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102_PAX_booth

By the way, in the second picture, the person playing in back of the booth is Dan Gray, the executive producer on Monument Valley! He had some really positive things to say about the game and gave me his card.

This is what the section I was in looked like:

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After the exhibit, there was a concert with the band that’s composing music for No Man’s Sky:

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I was quite tired, so I didn’t stay for too long. I went to get dinner with a couple of other developers instead.