I started my first serious game dev project, it doesnt have a name so I'll call it Ma.
normally when i make things, i dont really ever plan. I just do whatever i think i should do next, but with this all I wanna do is plan out ideas.
I'm gonna start putting my ideas here rather than in a google doc, just so it can live in a space thats a little more public
Unity: My game engine of choice, I honestly think Godot is better but I'm too used to the unity ecosystem to change, maybe for my next game. Saying how you'd rather use another engine isn't a glowing review is it? I do like unity. It's probably the best free engine for 3d games, but it has been slow recently. While its true that I need to upgrade my computer and clean out the project filse a little, Unity still takes ages to open up. Saying that I want to work on the game means I have to commit to opening the unity application, which takes ages.
Adobe Photoshop: It goes without saying the power of photoshop. It's easy to learn, and can do pretty much anything when it comes to video editing. It's slow, like an adobe program, but only on start up. It never crashes and you can make some fun glitch art with their .raw file format.
Having finished the inventory system, the next step is going to be creating the crafting system for the world. I need to be constantly referencing the idea of self expression and creativity. Not like in game's like Minecraft that has rigid systems. There should not be one correct way to create anything. Similiarly, I need to ensure that even if there are multiple ways of crafting something, that the player actually has a reason to not just do it the best way. Every option needs upsides, but also downsides. These benefits / detriments need to be subtle but still noticable.
One week since my last post even though I've been working hard on the game's inventory system. I lesson I've learned is that even though someone was difficult to make it does not make it impressive, especially in an artform with so many invisible moving parts like game dev. I'll start talking about the inventory when I have some actual gameplay, probably in the form of the cooking portion of the game. But let's talk about gameplay. What is it in my game? This is a rather important question that has been doing funny little dances in the back of my head ever since I started planning out this game. He's been taunting me, like an enderman begging me to stare him just so he can smack me with the realisation that no, I don't have a primary gameplay loop planned. The thing that the player is actually doing in youe game I don't even know what it is.
Continuing the enderman comparison, what do you do in Minecraft? You collect resources (mine, explore, chop down trees) and then build things (houses, tools) with those resources. You run out of resources, and the loop repeats. This is actually the secondary gameplay loop, the actions in the brackets are the primary gameplay loop as they are the moment to moment stuff that the player is constantly doing.
CS:GO's primary gameplay loop is throwing grenades to get you and your teammates into positions so they can kill people. The secondary gameplay loop is managing things like team economy, as well as less tangable factors like team morale. I refer to these two games a lot because they are the game's I've spent the most time in. I think two some they seem "low-brow" because of their mass market appeal and complete absence of story or thematic through line. But I think it is exactly because of this that these games are so important to reference when discussing gameplay. A game needs to have an incredible story to have shitty gameplay, which I don't think my B+ english essay standard writing ability can accomdate. As dev's we need to look at games that people play, rather than games that are simply watched or experienced. I love the Frog Detective games but they have zero gameplay. It feels like playing the electronic version of a colouring book.
I began to sketch out what I believe the secondary gameplay loop for my game to be and as I was doing so, I realised that painting, the game's focus, didn't really fit anywhere neatly. Sure there were places it could slot in, but it never closed the loop, per se.
Some explanation for this chart: Green is exploration, red is combat, and purple is creative. Notice that I want cooking / crafting to be a creative process, just as it is in real life. And I want the characters clothing to be an integeral part of the game, to emphasise self expression and creativity (similar to animal crossing, as literally everyone I know who has animal crossing posts photos of their little guys in the game wearing cute skirts or whaterver becvause its fun and cool to have nice clothes even in games) Painting does not fit in anywhere. The way to solve this is make painting more than just decorative, lock certain elements of progression behind the need to paint a certain amount. I don't know how to do this without the game feeling contrived. Another way of "closing the loop" is by completely removing combat all together. This is bold, but as I think about it more I never really decided to have combat, it was just a hold over from every other stealth game. Thinking about it more, sneaking into an area not killing anyone, and painting something completely unseen is a lot more realisitc to graff in real life. Also, I can't think of a stealth game that doesn't have killing. This could be a genuinely new and exciting form of stealth gameplay.
Now this isn't perfect, and some would say it raises more questions still, but I like how clean it looks. I will try and address these over the coming weeks as I flesh out this new direction some more.
I'm tring to figure out how to launch an arrow from a location to destination, given a launch angle. This is not too hard, but I want to be to customize the launch speed. How could I do this? My grasp on physics is limited.
Spent a couple hours working on my game today, with nothing real to show for it. I added the grass shader and got it working, but I'm having some trouble with the lighting but I know kinda how to fix it. Then I worked on the player model and custom clothing / hair which mostly went no where. I realise that I need to put more focus in on gameplay, on making it the game feel like a game. If i wanna talk about core gameplay loops I need to recognise that the game has none. There is nothing to do in the game. Tuesday night I will making the bow and arrow work, hitboxes and health and maybe even death if I'm feeling crazy
I have some big descisions regarding the way progression works that I need to answer soon! I'm coming into the school holidays in the next couple weeks and I want tobe able to bang out a lot of work on this game so I should really make some choices soon. The way I see it there are a few choices. 1: The world is like minecraft where the player sets up a central base and is constantly returning to it. They can still explore but most of there play time is in one area: farming, building, etc. 2: The game is a traditional linear game where there is no home base and the player is constantly moving. 3: Metroidvania style progression where the player ventures out with a clear goal, constantly moving, but they back track frequently. 4: A combination of 1 and 2, using a hub world or something similar to give the player a home and to keep them constantly moving, never back tracking.
None of these are bad options. But if I want to keep a focus on graffiti then backtracking is crucial. I want the player to be able to paint something and constantly return to it, which is something I really like about real life graffiti.
From a gameplay perspective however, I really like the idea that the player is constantly moving. Maybe I give them a horse (or other crazy beast) and carriage for them to ride on and bring their gear and loot with them. This means the game world would need to be near open world in scale which I do not like. The world I had planned out is probably closer to a pokemon style map then an actual fully realised world.
I think this diagram represents it well, or if it doesn't here is a metro-map style version of it.
Obviously this is not the final map design, its just an example of the world type I was thinking of. Large areas of interest like towns or forests, split up with connecting trails - think routes in the pokemon games. The player is aware that this is how the game works which I am fine with. I am really not afraid of the player knowing how the game works like Rockstar games. I'm not a fan of GTA because I don't get immersed like that. I like CS:GO because I understand all the systems and I immerse myself in the mechanics of the game, rather than the fictional world surrounding those mechanics.
Looking at his desig, the player will backtrack, but never more than a few sections. I don't like fast traveling because I think you need the jounrey to make the rewards good, and I want the player to get lost / distracted on their travels. For now, I'm gonna be designing the world around the idea that the player will backtrack, but likely won't spent more than a couple days in any location at any time.
Been a while since the last blog, and i havent done that much work on the game. Gonna start working on AI / stealth mechanics, starting with animals. I had this ant model that i made lying around which is why i used it, probably gonna replace it with a big dog or pig or something. Finished making the tree. Gonna make it so the ant can tackle the tree for food.
I was initally really excited to use the the new unity scritable render pipeline but I am having some serious issues. I discovered that decals are only available for the HDRP not the URP which is fine, but the open source alternatives arent really working, I can't get shadows to cast on the decals, meaning they appear behind the graffiti. At this point I wonder why I even upgrade, I still have the old unity project files. I can go back but I kinda fucked up all the materials which will take me a while to redo. I can't really think of any benefits to using the SRP, so I'm probably gonna go back to using the normal one and finding a new system for the graffiti. Thankfully going back to the built in pipeline shouldn't take me that long, but I kinda wasted all of today. I'm genuinely too frustrated to work on it today. oh well.
The visual style of my game is something i think about a lot, maybe too much and now im in my own head about it. Originally the game was 2D and pixel art, I just bought aseprite and was really enjoying pixel art. I love how the limited number of pixels makes each one more meaningful and deliberate, but I also enjoyed being reckless with shape and line, where it only looked when zoomed out. But I was really frustrated with the limitations of pixel art, especialy when it came to lighting. Titan Souls is actually a very pretty game but every screenshot looks so dull and depressing, and not in a way that is fun. I think lighting is such a big part of setting the mood / tone of a scene, and there really wasn't an elegant solution. Eventually I tried making the world 2.5D, with pixel art in a 3D world so I could fake shadows. Eventually I decided that I should just make the game 3D because at this point it would be just as much work.
One of the biggest inspirations for me right now is a game by Adam Robinson-Yu called A Short Hike. I haven't actually played it but I watched his GDC talk on the subject. I'm using his technique of downscaling the viewport with a render texture to make the world made up of big crunchy pixels which I really like, but it means I have to be careful with the amount of detail I add. I love tiny little details but unfortantly most of them wont show through the pixel filter. Looking at screnshots from A Short Hike reveals how simplistic the world actually is. This has me worried that my idea for a detailed graffiti filled world is just incompatible with the filter, but I can't think of another visual style I would really want. idk shit has me worried.
I followed some of Ian HUbert's lazy tutorials which are so fucking good its crazy. even thoug theyre meant for photo realism I tried using his methods for pixel art buildigns and they worked pretty well. I downloaded building textures off textures.com, down sized them in photoshop and then posterized them to remove some of the detail. theres defeninetly a better way of doing this because it fucks up a lot of the colours so i go in with the paint bucket with contiguious turned off and just go crazy with it. Because Ma is in a fixed perspective I only actualy need to model / texture the top and front side of the buildings. The next step to this process is adding the graffiti, which before I was just doing by baking it into the building textures. I dont think this is best way to do it, especially if I want the player to be able to paint on any wall (which im still not sure is what i want). I might try and use unity's decal system but i need to unfuck up the project which is cant be fucked doing rn, maybe friday.
I actually really like this building, even though it might not fit the game world. Its kinda cyber punk distopian, probably because thats what Ian Hubert tends to create. I made sure theres lots of spots to put graffiti, but still interesting details. The bits that stick out arent a big deal because in the real world artists go over sticky-outy bits all the time.
The world right now is actually really grungey and kinda gross, which is not the vision I had in mind. I was more thinking clean shapes and flat colours but as I think more about a world overtaken by nature the more I want to portray human society as gross and unnatural. It does get me thinking about graffiti then, like would people start painting on trees? I remember I wrote something in pencil on a tree in my grilfriend's backyard and she really didnt like it and said that I was disrespecting trees. I don't really want a world where the trees all have paint on them, but maybe it will be a necessity in a world without walls. I'm fine with graff on rocks tho i think that can look cool.
upgraded from the regular unity renderering system to the HDRP which left my entire scene looking real fucked up. turns out the HDRP doesnt support custom shaders like the ones ive been using. its not all bad, and i can fix it by remaking the shaders in shadergraph (which is something i wanted to learn to do anyway) but i think its bad to leave something in such a sorry state. like im gonna come wanting to work on something cool and be forced to deal with yesterdays fuck up. anyway, th e HDRP also has better shadows (hopefully) and a decal system which is better than what id been doing before with sprites as bullet holes. staying up late tn to watch the new episode of rick n morty feeling like such a fucking redditor - not a good thing laawl fuck reddit fr
One big real world inspiration for me was definetly seeing the poverty in American states like Alabama and Misiisisissisispi.
I remember the first words I wrote down about this project were " you play as an ant beneath a boot that doesn't know you exist. you a piece of driftwood trying to catch itself on fire in the middle of an ocean. armed with rusty cans of spray paint, arrows, and guns without bullets, you venture through the wasteland trying to make your mark. I honestly dont know what i meant by the drift wood thing but you get the point, you are nothing in the grand scheme of things. I wrote that when I truly did feel like nothing mattered, especially when it came to the eneveitable climate catastrophy, but in truth I don't think that any more. Of course you matter, of course I matter! You are the only thing you know is real, and sure, in the grand scheme you don't matter but who is paying attention to the grand scheme. Think about all the people you affect every day, your friends and family. Maybe even just the kid on the train who liked the way your pants matched your shoes. You made his day better. I also just think that believing that nothing matters is one step away from accelerationism, that since nothing matters we might as well burn all the coal we can and live like kings for a fortnight before we all die. We all matter, just not enough to change the world on our own. That's the message I wanna leave the player with.
Music inspiration playlist
trying to find simple, minimalist songs to add. probably gonna be folk / country / idk like gentle piano songs.
been watching some music theory stuff on dynamic sound tracks / breath of the wilds soundtrack. how they focused in on the piano and used that as the driving force for the whole game. i wanna include piano but i think i wanna avoid comparisons to zelda just because any game i make is never gonna be zelda also i havent played zelda lol