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I don’t update this blog very much anymore, and that is because most of my updates go on twitter or my Patreon.

 

If you support me on Patreon you can get access to a few games not on this site or my itch store, also $5+ patrons get a new work-in-progress game build every month.

 

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Rose & Time – Remastered

So I recently spent a couple of weeks crunching on something secretively (or at least as secretively as I can manage :P), the result of this work is a new version of Rose&Time, which you can buy here (or if you’re fast enough, in this bundle here).

The main things that have been done are;

  • New music by Aeronic, who I worked with on Swift*Stitch
  • New character model for Rose
  • New physically based materials for everything
  • Newer menus from the OUYA version
  • New story art
  • New environment effects (clouds, rain)
  • Different lighting on some levels (dusk, night, dawn)
  • New rewind/paradox effect
  • Much improved gamepad support

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 18.18.06

The rest of this post will be mostly how I went about going from this to this in just two weeks, so if you’re not interested in that kind of thing then don’t feel guilty for skipping it 😉

So here’s what I used:

  • Unity 5
    • For it’s new physically based shaders and improved lighting/shadows
  • Blender
    • For making new 3D models (including high-detail/sculpted models) as well as making tweaks to older models (better UVs, nicer edges, that sort of thing)
  • Substance Painter
    • For creating all materials/textures, including for baking normal maps from high-detail meshes onto the game meshes
  • Clip studio paint (AKA: Manga Studio) with FRENDEN brushes
    • For the new story art, and some particle textures
  • Colorful
    • For new post-processing effects.
  • Time
    • I used almost every moment I could these past two weeks to get everything done for the deadline, I don’t recommend you use this tool too much for work, it’s exhausting!

So, the first thing I did was open up Unity, change the environment lighting to match the sky, add reflection probes to each level (the effect is subtle because there isn’t much that is very reflective, but it helps place the objects in the scenes), and fix a few issues that came up when upgrading the project to Unity 5, and try using the new standard PBR (Physically Based Rendering) shader on environments – they looked better, but didn’t look too great – but that’s what I was hoping for! I’d recently treated myself to Allegorithmic’s Substance Painter tool and was looking for an excuse to make use of it in my games!

Step 1 in making replacement textures was new high resolution models to use as a base. For this I used blender to make some tiling detail models in 3D which mostly matched the original textures (so I could use them on the same environments and all I’d have to do is swap out the old material for the new one). These were sculpted in blender and baked onto flat planes in Substance Painter

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 17.16.34

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 17.28.19

I had to do very little in substance painter to get the environment tiles to look how I wanted, the preset weathered rock material immediately gave the effect I was looking for, for most tiles I didn’t need to make any tweaks at all and just exported the new textures, put them in unity and had nice PBR (though not realistic, because realism is too often boring :P) environments.

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 17.34.58

I did pretty much the same for the props (spawn points, buttons, crystal, doors) though most needed a little more tweaks to get them just how I wanted, but the really big job was the new Rose model.

First thing I did was do a draw-over of the original rose model, to figure out what details I wanted in the new version, the design stayed pretty much the same though.

RosePaintOver

(As evidenced by the little doodles on the side, one of the biggest challenges with the new Rose design was just how to tie her scarf, most attempts resulted in failure and in the end I had to just put on a scarf myself and draw my design from that)

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 18.00.38

So, I made a high-poly model of Rose, a low-poly model for the game, baked the high detail one onto the low detail on in substance painter, made all the materials and applied them and had a brand new 3D Rose. Which fits in one sentence now, but it took several days to do in reality.

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 18.05.08

If you want to see the new Rose model in your browser, I’ve put it on Sketchfab here.

Once textured, I made a new rig for Rose, and made animations that mostly matched the old ones (I like them :P) – I did have to animate the scarf by hand though, it would have been tricky to use a physics solution for it that would work with the time-rewind mechanic. The result is the scarf movement is a little more subtle/stiff than I’d have liked, but it’s still miles better than it was!

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 18.13.02

Once I had all the core 3D stuff upgraded, I started work on environment effects. The most notable part of this was wanting dynamic effects like rain and clouds which animated, but also animated in reverse whenever the player rewound time. I tried a few things using unity’s own particle systems to get this to work, ultimately though this either resulted in broken particles or huuuuuuuuge slowdown when simulating minutes of particle animation each frame. In the end I came up with my own particle system which uses a lot of procedural generation techniques, but generating animation instead of space – Much like you can quickly specify a location in a game like minecraft and it can generate the environment around you based on that, I can specify a time with my particle system and it knows where particles should be without having to simulate the entire animation from time zero.

The main upshot of this, is watching clouds and rain animate backwards as you rewind time is cool as heck.

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 18.47.34

As for the story art, I was pretty rushed to get it finished on time, but I was rushing to finish it for the first version, and the update I made to it after, so it’s probably tradition at this point 😛

Because I was lacking time, most all of it is traced over 3D models of rose posed as I want her. The advantage of my passable line work and shading, without having to spend an hour trying to get the proportions and perspective right with every drawing.

storyy

 

I think that’s most of the interesting stuff I’ve done covered, if you’ve got any questions feel free to ask me on twitter or send me an email 🙂


It’s been a long time since I made a blog post

You know, it’s been quite a long time since I made a blog post. I wasn’t too sure how to feel about it at first, but then I realised I didn’t like it. This is the very front of my site and it’s not being updated? That doesn’t look cool.

So I thought “I should make a new blog post”, but I didn’t have anything much I wanted to say. So I thought, “Maybe a blog post can be totally pointless.” and it turns out I’m totally fine with that!

If you read this, you wasted your time, but at least my blog has a recent post on it, isn’t that nice!


Let’s think about videos of gameplay

Recently, people decided that a new way to justify their absurd hatred of Phil Fish was to say it was wrong of him to call out youtubers who display game content and call it stealing.

If you generate money from putting my content on your channel, you owe me money. Simple as that”

Now OF COURSE this is totally wrong because… actually, wait a minute… maybe there’s something to this? Something we ought to look into? You know, maybe let’s think about stuff before we do our best to make someone miserable?

YouTube and Video Games:

It’s probably news to nobody that you can make money by recording gameplay of a videogame and throwing it on youtube. YouTube throws up adverts next to your video and sends you some cut of the money from that. But whose work are you profiting from? Is it your own? Is it the game developers’? Perhaps some muddy mix of the two?

If we removed the “game” aspect from the equation, it would certainly be problematic for youtubers to do. Very few people would have a good time trying to justify taking artwork/music/animations/etc someone else made, putting it online and making money from them without having something worked out with the creator. There is plenty of criticism for sites that steal artwork/comics from artists’ own websites and earn money without the artist seeing a penny, doing that is an easy way to get recognised as an asshole.

But the same isn’t true for games, sure if it was just artwork, or music that was being taken and profited from there would be problems, but people seem fine with it when that stuff comes from a game. If we remove the ability for people to play a game and put the rest in a video, do all of the game’s non-interactive elements become worthless? Is it OK to use my textures, my 3D models, my audio work, my writing, etc as you please just because you can’t “play” with them anymore?

I’ve seen plenty of people argue that sprite-ripping and the like is bad, especially for commercial work… but somehow that argument disappears if instead of putting those game assets in another game, you put them in a video. At least sprite-rippers usually try to mix things up a bit, but in these youtube videos the content is copied direct from the game. Content which doesn’t materialise out of thin air and attach itself to gameplay – it takes real work to build every aspect of a game. I’d like to think all the effort that goes into writing dialogue, designing characters, building models, setting up lighting, painting textures, animating monsters, mixing audio, recording foley, authoring particle effects, and so on (and on and on and on…) does not become worthless the moment it isn’t attached to one other aspect of a game (the “gameplay” in this case). How much of this stuff does the youtuber have the “right” to make money from, without a thought for the people who did the work of making it in the first place?

It’s certainly not absurd to think that the people who do this work, might react much the same way as any non-game creator would react if their novel/comics/art/music/whatever was taken by someone else and used for profit without any consideration.

But gameplay videos are different right? The person playing the game is doing some creative thing that sets the recording apart and makes it unique… right?

I say no. Here’s a thing many people don’t know about gameplay; the game developer designs that too. To an extent that might surprise a lot of players in fact. Every action a player can do in a game is enabled and afforded by the game’s developers. No less crafted than character portraits, the old castle level’s architecture, the way footsteps echo when you walk through that one bit of the map. It’s a popular perspective that what exists as the “game” is a thing created through the combination of a player and the game, but in reality this is no different to a reader and a book, a viewer and a movie. A player’s actions are within our scope of crafting because they are largely reactions; We decide when you are surprised, we decide when you are inclined to push on, we point you down the paths you follow, we decide when you find things more difficult, we decide when you die (in the game that is, I’m not making a threat :P). And this isn’t just ‘grand’ actions, it comes down to each and every frame – we decide how things move from one moment to the next, we account for every possible input and decision a player can make in a game and tell the game what to do under those conditions.

Certainly, some games are great mediums for a player to express their creativity, a quick and simple example would be players making their own structures in minecraft. And there are things we can go and have a discussion about like finding the optimal playset in a game so complex a developer must constantly re-balance as new plays are discovered, or we could talk about things like exploiting bugs and so on.

But all the same, those systems used were crafted by someone. Crafted in a way requiring no less skill, effort and dedication than learning to paint or compose or sculpt or whatever.

Even if you want to discount that (though I’d rather you didn’t), and argue the gameplay “belongs” solely to the person playing the game at the time of recording – the entire rest of the game is still most certainly the valuable work of someone else. And they ought to have some say in how it is used, and most certainly ought to have some say in how it’s monetised.

But where is the harm?

When I brought some of this up on twitter, plenty of folk felt the very strong need to tell me youtube videos of games is good for games. It’s “free exposure!”, and it “leads to more sales!” after all. But this is certainly not true in even the vast majority of cases, and the youtubers this is said to be true of, tend to make far more money than the game developers whose work they use, but most importantly, it’s beside the fucking point.

The point being that a person who does some work on a thing ought to get a say in how it is used. It’s about respecting the people who craft games (including everything that makes up a game) and the things they craft themselves.

And let’s not forget that “free marketing” is not always something that is desired. Plenty of us have a hell of a lot of dislike for various aspects of marketing, sometimes even the concept of marketing itself. Assuming everyone is a fan of the exact same model of capitalism that you love is inconsiderate to say the least, and not letting people have a say in how their own work is “marketed” is bullshit.

But hey, let’s assume that developers don’t deserve a say in any of it. Let’s assume that taking their work and putting it in videos is valuable marketing that any developer would want. We can do as we please so long as we can argue that what we do will send some money to the developers, right?

It’s a shame you can’t really argue that though, since the draw of a lot of games are the story, of experiencing something for the first time, of the artwork, of the music, of how the game explores a theme. A gameplay video spoils almost every aspect of a game besides the part where you are the one pressing buttons, which is very often not the most valuable part of a game. Plenty of people can watch a gameplay video, appreciate the work that has gone into the game, but have no need to play it having taken everything of value already.

But hey, fuck all this stuff! Fair use right? FAIR USE!

Yep, this is about when we get to the legal discussions, if we can’t argue that youtubers are right in using other people’s work without consideration the next step is arguing “hey, maybe it’s wrong, but if it’s legal than they should do it.” or at the least, that if it’s “legal” it can’t be wrong (I shouldn’t have to explain why that is a bullshit perspective).

I am not a lawyer… but hey, neither were the people making these arguments to me so let’s continue shall we?

First up, fair use is something many people bring up, but what they think it is and what it actually is tend to be quite different things. It’s not a license to profit from someone else’s work so long as you can put up some seemingly reasonable justifications for it – it’s a set of considerations to take into account when there is a copyright dispute. It’s also strictly a U.S. legal issue, sure there are various equivalents in various places, but we are an international community so don’t act so surprised that some people will call bullshit on your own so-called “fair use”. In general though, if you reproduce large portions of a work without any consideration/licence and make money from that you’re going to have a tough time arguing fair use.

So what’s next? Derivative work of course!

People talk over the top of these game recordings, and sometimes bookend them with branding for their particular youtube channel too. So these videos are original work belonging to the youtuber, right? It doesn’t matter what the original developer says and the youtuber can do as they please!

Except that’s not quite the purpose recognition of derivative works is supposed to serve, as best as I can tell it’s meant to protect both the original author and the author of the newer work, it doesn’t look much to be about stripping the original author of their rights.

In truth, I don’t understand this level of copyright law all that well, since this stuff is not straightforward and intersects with a bunch of other copyright issues and if you’re not well read in all of it, you’d probably do best not arguing what is and isn’t a derivative work, and certainly not what that means you can do with it, if you don’t want to look like a fool.

Regardless of legal stuff though…

It’s certainly common for game developers to be fine with people uploading and monetising videos of their games, and I am no different myself. But that attitude is not something that should be expected (and certainly not demanded) of the people who make games that we enjoy; their work deserves respect and if they object to how their work is taken and used then they have every fucking right to voice that objection.

If you have a problem with that, fuck you.

If you are a youtuber and have a problem with that, let me know so I can download all your videos, put them in a game environment with minimal peripheral changes and charge money for it. I need the money myself after all.

(comments are still disabled because I know what you fucks are like :P)


Huh? Whose footprints are these? – an Essay

It’s 1998 (but you’re pretending it’s 2005), you have made your way onto an island full of hostile soldiers without much commotion. You reach the surface and see the snow falling gently through the night for the first time. After a few hushed words with HQ over the radio you push onward.

“crunch, crunch, crunch”.

Your steps leave little footprints behind you. You might have realised it sooner, but this drives the point home; this is a well crafted game, it’s special. You haven’t played a bad game that had footprints left in the snow. Amazing set dressing, it really speaks to how much the artists cared about this world.

“Huh? Whose footprints are these?”

Holy fucking shit. Just like, freeze everything what the fucking fuck. This has never happened before, what the hell is going on? This motherfucking toy soldier has noticed the pretty set dressing and is using it to hunt me down, holy shit am I going to die?

~

These days in games it’s not uncommon to joke about enemy AI characters vocalising their current AI state. We’re well aware that “Did you hear something!?” translates to “I heard the player and now I’m announcing that I’m going to go look for them”, the AIs that are usually out to kill you, are kind enough to tell you where they are, where they think you are, what they are doing, when they are doing it and so on.

It’s laughable and if you’re trying to take a game seriously the absurdity of this feedback will really ruin the mood (not necessarily in a bad way, but I don’t feel like it’s much of an accomplishment, outsmarting a group of soldiers who move slowly and tell me what they are doing each step of the way). So why was this time on Shadow Moses Island any different?

Because it had never happened before. I expected the enemies to follow their little paths until I got close enough and that would be that. That was what always happened, I expected one thing and I got another. The AI surprised me, but it wasn’t some cheap “AHA I UNEXPECTEDLY SPOTTED YOU!” surprise, it spotted some secondary part of me that I had thought was nothing more than nice graphics. It communicated immediately what had happened and I had time enough to both be shocked and think up a way to deal with the problem.

I’ve talked about surprises in games before, how a game can use a player’s existing expectations (or instill new expectations) and subvert them for great effect. Link here so I don’t have to repeat myself.

 

SO that expectation that footprints mean nothing, that enemies will never suddenly suss you out by a trail you’ve left behind no longer exists. “Whose footprints are these?” and all other related phrases that have been used in games since, don’t *feel* the same because we now see them coming. They are just a part of a standard problem presented to gamers and games don’t seem to ever try and subvert this new expectation.

Which would actually be really easy! For example you could still have stupid “you search that way, I’ll search here!” dialogue, but what if the other grunt responds “Fuck you, I’m tired of your shit! I’m doing this my way!” and barrels down the corridor right towards where the player is. “No! Caleb!” screams the other grunt. BOOM you just had your expectations subverted and a memorable gaming experience. Or how about another? invert that stealth shit; the enemies already know where you are and they are trying to sneak around you (to surround you or something) and it’s only when you see them (or their footprints!) that they make a noise “Shit, they spotted me!”

“Huh? Whose footprints are these?” is not memorable or remarkable because it’s the first instance of AI verbalising their current state that most players experienced, it’s because for a little moment when you heard it; you didn’t know anything anymore. This little clump of polygons on a playstation had just become sentient and you had some skynet motherfucker alive in a videogame and hunting you down. You had this expectation of what a game was and for a few glorious seconds after hearing that audio-clip, a videogame could be anything at all.