Itch.io Refinery, Design Club

itch.io refinery

itchio refinery

Itch.io has just announced the itch.io refinery, a customizable system of tools for developers to distribute beta versions of games and get useful feedback.

I’m proud to say that Manifold Garden will be one of the first games to be using this.

I’ll be starting beta testing of the game soon, and refinery came at just the right time.

I think itch.io is doing a really great work in the game distribution space, very much like bandcamp is for music. It’s still a very small audience compared to Steam, but they’re really putting control back into the hands of developers, and I think that’s awesome.

Design Klub

desing klub

(photo courtesy of Rob Lockhart)

This past Saturday, I had another session of the Design Club (or rather, Design Klub, as the slack group is called). If you’re unfamiliar with what this is, it’s a day long session where a bunch of game designers in the Chicago area get together to work through various design problems in their respective games. I organized the first one in January of 2015, and you wrote about the experience here: https://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=37314.msg1101273#msg1101273

The games presented this time were:

Codemancer
Tumbleseed
Aerobat
Sausage Sports Club
Manifold Garden

I presented 2 primary problems for Manifold Garden, based on my observations from Indiecade East

1. How can I establish engagement for the player beyond the puzzles within the first hour? Namely, the puzzles and architecture are engaging for an hour, but then players are starting to question “why” they are playing the game. This is where a narrative or sense of mystery needs to be set. How can I do that within the first hour?

2. When players enter the area for the double gravity cubes, it feels like a let down, especially after coming from the infinite stepwell level, which for many people is the highlight of the first hour of the game. How can I make the double gravity area not feel like a let down?

Regarding the answer to the first question, I’m going to withhold that for now, as it would spoil the game ;)

However, regarding the second question, Thew Yeager, the dev of Aerobat, pointed out how the intro to the double gravity section is just a simple room. You come from the infinite stepwell level, which feels incredible and open, and are then presented with a small enclosed room with a button.

ManifoldGarden_2016-05-20_02-43-09

As you can see, it doesn’t exactly scream “exciting!”

I decided to move the portal outside of the room, so the player has to do a bit of searching around to get to the entrance, but I think visually it is much stronger, and feel like the game is scaling up rather than down:

ManifoldGarden_2016-05-19_17-12-39

More Volumetric Light Experiments / Giant Interlockables

Did some more tweaks with the volumetric lights. They’ll definitely need some custom work with the code in order for it to fit well with Manifold Garden’s art style. I think the key here is that it needs to be used sparingly. If it is over used, it will ruin the art style that I’ve so carefully cultivated.

Here are some screenshots captured this weekend.

ManifoldGarden_Screenshot_001 ManifoldGarden_Screenshot_002 ManifoldGarden_Screenshot_003 ManifoldGarden_Screenshot_004 ManifoldGarden_Screenshot_005 ManifoldGarden_Screenshot_006 ManifoldGarden_Screenshot_007 ManifoldGarden_Screenshot_008 ManifoldGarden_Screenshot_009 ManifoldGarden_Screenshot_010

I think the voluemtric light needs to only come in in very special moments. Moments where players stop and go “Wow…” and nowhere else. Right now I’m just experimenting with the style.

Also started working on giant interlockables. Or rather I should say, started re-working on them.

ManifoldGarden_Interlockable ManifoldGarden_Interlockable2 ManifoldGarden_Interlockable3

Programmer Search, PS4 bug, Indiecade East, Twitch

A major part of the last several days has been the search for a programmer to help me finish Manifold Garden. It’s been very exhausting, but also really eye-opening. It has definitely been a learning experience.

Earlier last week, I met up with the Young Horses, the creators of Octodad. They’ve been looking for an environment artist to joined the team, so I talked to them about how they’re going about searching for someone and what their interview process is. It was very informative.

I tweeted about the job post daily for about a week and also sent it to a few mailing lists that I’m on. I got quite a lot of applicants, and it’s actually taking me quite a while to go through all the emails and respond to everyone. (If you sent it in and haven’t heard from me, I will be responding soon.)

Anyway, it’s my first time interviewing people for a position, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount. One day I would like to write a full blog post about this.

PS4 bug where everything is rendered on top of each other

Due to a null reference bug, on the PS4 build, all the renderers for the different levels were getting loaded in simultaneously. It actually made for a really cool looking level. It was unplayable, mostly because you couldn’t tell which things had colliders, but it definitely gave me a lot of ideas for some new levels.

10.0.0.90-20160418-0029 10.0.0.90-20160418-0030 10.0.0.90-20160418-0033 10.0.0.90-20160418-0034 10.0.0.90-20160418-0037 10.0.0.90-20160418-0039

Indiecade East

I’ll be at Indiecade East this weekend. Manifold Garden will be playable at the Sony booth. Need to submit a build to Sony by Wednesday. It’s looking pretty good so far so I’m not too worried.

Twitch Front page of creative

twitch_devstream

Starting last week, Twitch has been featuring my channel on the front page of the creative channel! It’s been really amazing. The concurrent number of viewers went from 20 to over 100! The most I had at once was 150, which was pretty awesome. Also really positive feedback. Lots of people learning about the game and getting excited about the art style.

My stream schedule now is basically every weekday at 3pm CT / 20:00 UTC.

Pacing Across Levels

Starting to spend time thinking about pacing across levels. It’s a very different challenge than pacing within level, especially because everything in the game is seamlessly connected via portals.

I’m still figuring out the proper workflow and what works and what doesn’t. Will aim to keep updates about that process here.

Dark Mode and Portals

In dark mode, the growth process is reversed. When you bring the dark mode box to the dark mode tree, it shrinks down into the seed it grew from.

Tree Growth Inverse

 

Also, David has started working on portals. We’re no longer using the system I set up about 2 years ago, but instead going with building something from ground up to work with all the other mechanics.

Portal

Now you’re thinking with portals!

Tree Band Problem

David fixed the issue with the floating branches when you merge the tree. Mostly it had to do with getting quaternions right to handle the correct rotation.

We had another problem though, with the bands on the tree:

treebandproblem

These are only supposed to appear at the base of the tree to indicate how many fruit cubes grow from it. I think Chris wrote the script so that it should only go on the trunk part, which should be separate from the rest of the tree.

Anyway, right now it is getting applied to the entire tree.