Development Blog – Week 9

Week 9 not only saw headway on Chapter 2, but more polish occurred for Chapter 1 in time for a playtest coming up.

Chapter 1

Chapter 1 saw a plethora of adjustments in both bug fixes, quality of life tweaks, and overall polish. A prime example of this was the addition of hints for the third puzzle in the chapter. We had a hunch this puzzle was difficult, so as a way to aid in the difficulty as well as a way to explain the logic behind the code, we decided on an optional hint system. In this system, question marks can be moused over to reveal hints, which are laid out as comments in code. There were many opinions on how well this system worked out.

Other changes to Chapter 1 included disabling other interactions during key moments such as objects transforming via the pixelation effect and pages in the sketchbook turning. This gives these unique moments a little more time to shine without impeding heavily on gameplay.

Code Blocks can now be placed in any of the programming-based puzzles. While this doesn’t affect the difficulty of the third puzzle shown above, it does impact the first puzzle of inputing the correct code to unlock the computer since players can find Code Blocks meant for puzzle 3 before this first pivotal step occurs.

A major upgrade to Chapter 1 revolves around sound design. While Chapter 0 / the Introduction had sounds already, Chapter 1 was lacking in that department. With some musical elements and confirmation/interaction sound effects now in Chapter 1, a whole new dimension has been added to the work that really amplifies it to a new level.

Chapter 2

With Chapter 2’s design mapped out via wireframe, the team came together to discuss various options and strategies in both the art and tech departments. A key concern came from the programming side that the concepts discussed (such as texture swaps) are much easier to accomplish using 3D models rather than our current pipeline of using 2D renders of 3D scenes. While this was a cause for concern for all parties involved, as we only have so many weeks left, we made the executive decision to utilize a section of this week for exploration and problem solving on all fronts. This proved to be invaluable in solving a gamut of potential issues.

As explained last week, a big factor of Chapter 2 revolves around not only choosing what texture to apply to what object, but also giving players the freedom of customization when it comes to modifying the texture in question. We settled on having a system in which certain elements of the texture were concrete (such as pattern) but the top 2 most used colors were up for editing. Figuring out how to program this system was another story.

Given the time to experiment and explore, a mock-up showcasing how the primary color of a texture and a secondary color of a texture can be edited in real-time was built:

Another major part of this section of the design draws the links between art and tech via hex color codes. To summarize, the texture editor in question would not involve just choosing a color, but looking up its hex code (with the help of a color wheel to show the selected color’s hex code) and inputting that value to change the aforementioned primary and/or secondary color. Making this section run in real-time was also a challenge, but a prototype for this functionality was built this week as well:

A final major concern revolved around perspectives and lighting when it came to actually applying these theoretical textures in the experience. Again, given the fact that we were “faking” the 3D aspect of the world by using 2D rendered images, we were concerned about how to achieve certain effects without having the programmers start from scratch on their codebase. When it came to the issue of perspective, another prototype was developed. This is a skew shader that can be utilized to adjust and tilt the X and Y-axis of the texture accordingly to “fake” the perspective for 3D usage:

On the art side, there was a major concern that applying textures to objects in the world would appear flat and not organic. This concern was another product of our current development pipeline around 2D rendered images. However, by cleverly utilizing and applying various layers (transparencies, etc.) we believe we can circumvent this issue. In line with our exploratory period, our artist looked into “shadow matte”. In a nutshell, this would render out layers of a scene as foreground, background, and shadows. In this way, we can not only play around with the values of shadows (lighter, darker, etc.) but also have that shadow as a layer that can be applied in conjunction with the applied texture instead of having the texture slapped on the object like a sticker.

Our artist also built out the first draft of the art gallery scene; ie. the main hub where textures can be gathered and edited. Lighting was also explored in this scene to best evoke sameness with Chapter 1 in terms of them being believable in the same world while also pushing on making the gallery feel like it’s own kind of space. This involved copious tests of volumetric lighting, spotlighing, directional lighting, mesh lighting, and volume scatter to produce the rays of light:

In summary, Week 9 not only saw concerns about how to create Chapter 2 given the current designs but also saw a bulk of testing and prototyping to answer these numerous and complicated questions. Chapter 2 will be under development shortly while Chapter 1 continues to receive care to best amplify the experience.