Bright future, anyone?

Graffiti by banksy

Graffiti by banksy

When I was a kid, older people always said something like “their generation is the future” about me – about us. I’m 28 now, and I keep thinking about my daughter exactly the same. Their generation is the future.

I look around and I see people stroking their phones. Drinking. Being dumb beyond belief. Made by the same defective template. At some point in time we stopped being bright future and turned into dull present. We’ve achieved nothing. And now we lay the responsibility to be the future on kids. Our job is to earn money, their job is to be the future. They’ll do it fine.

We repeat – like repeating stuff makes it true – they are the future. We repeat it until we stop understanding the meaning of those words. We just know – they ARE. For some reason we dare to believe that they will do the job that we have screwed up.

How can we expect good future if we failed to deliver decent present? Where will it come from? We cannot teach them anything good. We have fucked it all up.

How I created an avatar – model and animations.

SLIDE: platformer has been in development on and off for a year now. Yet, you still control an orange ball of a main hero. A proper player representation – an avatar – has been loooong time overdue.

For some time I’ve been hoping for a proper 3d artist/animator to show up, with his shining armor and a white horse, he would surely deliver awesome avatar. But it looks like I’m not really worthy of hero-modellers’ attention, or no one really heard my telepathic cries for help.

So I had to actually do something myself. Well, apart from procrastination.

current model - in game

That’s the first time anyone can see new avatar. Yeah, it’s still small. But it’s not a ball anymore!

Yeah, but what exactly should I do?

Well, there are several criteria for my game’s main hero:

  • I should be able to pull it off – and I suck at modelling and animations
  • Avatar’s size is rather small – no tiny detail are allowed, just shapes
  • It should look like a part of the world I’ve created so far
  • It should look like it can perform those types of moves that exist in the game – most notably squishing while sliding along floors, walls, ceilings and in-betweens
    • Its height should be close to its width. Kinda like circle or square…

It automatically means no humans, humanoids, animals and robots. Nothing with limbs, facial expressions and such.

So I had the options:

  • Simplistic and futuristic vehicle exploring foreign planet
  • Abstract-shaped animals
  • Slimey oozeling-like creature

Vehicles did not turn me on, I could not imagine abstract-shaped animals, so slimy-ooze it was.

Slime - first drafts

This is the first draft of what I thought my slime-dude could look like.

Side note: I’ve been thinking about avatar long before I had the visual style, and among other things I considered:

  • A particle flying along some sort of electrical chain
  • A soccer ball – like it was kicked and now the ball has got to hit the goal
  • An girl in a hovercraft on a hostile planet (I could not help but picture it in anime-style). I feel like I should make it readable and post somewhere…

 

Anyway, making slime-thing seemed pretty simple. I mean it’s pretty easy to model something like this, but how do I go about animating it?

Current model

This is the way slime-dude’s model looks like now up close. It’s almost as cool and detailed as Drake from Uncharted 4 =)

I mean, I know the basics of the technology and process involved in rigging characters with bones – you make a mesh, create a skeleton, assign bones to vertices of the mesh so that when you move bones the model deforms and you are ready to animate. Even I could do it. I can’t do it well, but if I were to make a stickman waving a hand, you’d understand that it’s waving a hand, not taking a piss. At least that’s a starting point to get better from.

But how do I create a skeleton for something that should become any shape? Experiments with bones yielded nothing relatively resembling what I hoped to achieve, leaving me severely demoralized.

As a last resort I had to ask google for an advice (to think of it, maybe that’s where I should have started😀 ) – and it helped. Turns out Unity supports blendshapes (since version 4.3). Basically it allows to have direct control over each individual vertex’ position. I can transform my mesh into anything I want as long as the polycount does not change.

It works like this:

  • First, I need to create an initial model – the one that will be transformed into all other shapes and things.
  • Now I need to create “poses” – the shapes to turn into. In order to make sure there are no weird thing going on during said transformations, I just copy-paste initial model and move vertices until I’m happy with the result.
  • Once the poses are ready, I have to tell the initial pose about the existence of other ones – it’s simply done with the morpher modifier (in 3ds max).
  • I import (or export?) it in Unity – that’s where I actually create blendshape animations. What I do, basically, is say “at this point of time your shape should be 90%poseA and 10% poseB, and in 15 frames you should be 0% poseA and 100% poseB”.
  • Finally a little bit of coding is necessary to tell the game what animation should be played at what conditions (ie play run animation if the player is running, play slide animation if the player is sliding etc)
Animating in unity

This is how animating looks in Unity. Really simple – for simple animations, like mine.

To think of it, it is essentially identical to any keyframe animation. the difference is that I have to manually model those keyframe-poses once, and then I can transform my avatar into them.

The clear upside of this approach is the level of control – if I want to, I can transform a ball into a house and then into a car and then into an octopus and so on.

On the other hand this control is achieved by manually moving each and every vertex to a “correct” position.  Which is OK in my case – my avatar is pretty minimalistic – but it can easily become too damn gigantic amount of tedious work to pull it off.

Poses

All the poses I could come up with. I use them as keyframes to animate the slime-dude. Some of them look weird, right?

Unity 2014-12-27 00-57-54-82

So here we are, above are the poses I’ve got so far, and those are enough to make basic running, jumping, sliding, standing, yawning, squishing, stretching, attaching, pushing the wall, birth and win animations – of course they need a lot of work but at least I have something to improve now.  Except for the death animation, but I suspect I would have to do it somewhat different.

By the way, if you are a ninja-animator with mad skills (or at least if you know stuff) I’d be really grateful if you were to share how you would approach animating such kind of character.

BTW, SLIDE: platformer needs your help to pass the Greenlight process, so hit this link and leave a vote. Thanks! =)

SLIDE: Alpha funding on Desura and pricing philosophy.

So, finally (mostly for us) we’re ready to release SLIDE for alpha-funding, on Desura. This will happen on april 25, 2014. Hooray!

In this very first Desura build you will find at least 15 levels, which should be enough content to keep you playing for 2 hours. I’m sure you are well aware that this is a playable alpha, which means that there will be lots of stuff missing. But we made sure that the game is stable and there are no progress-blocking bugs. If there are – you can skip the level, but this feature won’t last long – we are planning to get rid of it shortly.
Also, do not be surprised to play without sounds and interface (you do not need the latter)

You might have noticed that we claim to have versions for PC, Mac and Linux, but only windows version is currently available. Two other versions will be added shortly.

Anyway, pricing. Without any doubt purchasing a half-made game is a huge risk for you. Our pricing takes that into account. As we will add more content to the game the price of the game will gradually rise. The earlier you buy it – the more you save, potentially.

So, the game is divided into 3 chapter, 25 levels each. As we are working on the first chapter and SLIDE costs $2.99. The plan is to add $1 to the price tag every time we complete a chapter. And $1 after the round of polishing. Those numbers are not set in stone, but that’s the plan.

Needless to say, no matter when you decide to purchase SLIDE you will constantly get new builds and eventually a complete game.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you like SLIDE. Have fun!

Desura Digital Distribution

Greenlight_button_small  indiedb

SLIDE – Greenlight and IndieDB

 So, finally, we are on Steam. Well, not on STEAM Steam… We’ve submitted SLIDE on Steam Greenlight, like 20 hours ago.

Now, everyone says that Steam is something different, and it is. Before that, only couple of people have seen our game. In less than 1 day, almost 2000 people has seen our game. Or at least the page of our game. That is a lot, and it’s just the first day. And what’s more important, there are people who like it. Frankly, this is the most excited I’ve been for last several years. On the downside, instead of working on the game I’m constantly refreshing game’s page to see the numbers rise.

Upvotes, as heart-warming as they are, are not the only one thing we got from submitting to greenlight – actual, real players send us their feedback. And it is useful in 2 ways:

1) it is highly motivating. I mean it – just one person saying something like “I kinda like it” means the world to me, and makes me wanna make SLIDE better in every aspect there possibly is.

2) there is stuff I’m blind to, just because I see it every day. New players have fresh eyes, they do not know that “it’s just for now and will be better in such and such ways” – they just see flaws and report them. ANd it is really good! Of course, there is the matter of filtering the feedback, but having it is definitely going to benefit the game.

Of course, not everyone like the game – and I knew that’s the way things are. But still, everything has “the other side”. And the hardcore 2d platformer is not supposed to be universally loved, but on the emotional level I’m a bit sad that some people vote “not interested”. I know that it’s the way it should be, and if I were not bothered by “downvotes” I guess I would by bothered by the fact that I’m not bothered… 

Anyway, we have also submitted SLIDE on IndieDB – those of you who do not know, it’s like the main hub of indie games, linked to a digital game store Desura, which is the platform we hope to have SLIDE on, when it is ready for sales.

Anyway, if you are interested in hardcore 2d platformers – take a look at the playable demo:

If you like the gameplay, here’s our Greenlight page, where you can vote for us (thanks): http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=231718917

Greenlight_button_small  indiedb

SLIDE – demo available!

Hi there!

Last couple of weeks were interesting.

First of all I’ve created a demo version with 10 first levels for everyone to play. Yay.

And I had to come up with the name for the game. So, it’s called SLIDE. Because we have a nice sliding mechanic =)

Also, there is an open indie game festival happening in Russia and I am participating. I cannot say that there was that whole lots of feedback, but the precious few comments are actually not bad and helpful. Whether the haters do not post stuff or the game is universally likable I do not know. but what’s important is that there are people who like it.

Also I’ve spent like 7 days working on the hero, but I have to admit I was not able to produce anything I would like – my modelling and animation skills are not much worse than my taste level, I guess… That lead to bad mood and I was hugely discouraged, which resulted in a real strong decline of productivity. Quite conveniently there was a TESO beta happening right at that time, so I took 2 day-offs and had a good rest from my game. I’ve replaced the orange ball with the orange low=poly ball for now, and I would have to resume to the avatar later, but now I just can’t waste more time on it((

Last 4 days I was not creating new content – I was reorganizing the project – brought some order in the naming convention, asset structure and stuff like that. It took me almost 4 days, but it was worth it – now everything is neat and clear, and I can easily work with previously made levels.

I’ve also worked on a color palette of the game – now it’s a bit softer and pleasant.

Slide v 0 2014-02-18 20-13-45-99

Now, for the plans.

We still do not have sounds in the game, or any deat\birth animations.

We are also planning to submit SLIDE on Steam Greenlight. Sure, we have a Greenlight concept pagem but not whole lots of traffic there =)

So, we are staying busy.

Ok, that’s it for today’s update.

See you later =)

Slide – gameplay video

 I filmed my playthrough of those 5 levels I talked about couple of posts ago.

Now  I need to deal with the model and animation of the “main hero”.

Also, I desperately need someone’s help to draw the “logo” of the game. You know, for the greenlight\desura\IndieGoGo\preloader picture.

I’m available here, or on twitter @ArseniyShved

Do not forget to follow this blog and tell someone about it. C’m on, I’m serious. Do tell =)

The paradox of a correct jerk

Here’s the thing.

Not that long ago I started to build awareness about my game on couple gamedev forums. But just saying “look, the game” seems not productive, so I decided to engage in various conversations, to get others to know me, and from time to time mention my game. I have participated and witnessed several arguments and a very weird cognitive conflict happened. But here’s a quick intro in what I think is relative to the case.

There is this halo effect. Yes this is the one I mention it every other post =). Basically it means that if I like (dislike) on trait of a person/thing/encounter I tend to attribute that liking (disliking) to the other traits of said person/thing/event. For example if I learn that some politician cheated his wife, I tend to think he’s a bad person in general and an awful politician in particular, which might not be the case at all.

Also, even if I know about some sort of illusion or bias – like optical or cognitive, it is still close to impossible to see the real thing, not the illusion. Now, I can sometimes detect the halo effect, but I cannot control my feelings.

So, what’s the conflict I’m talking about? It is not uncommon to see 2 people engaged in an argument. And sometimes person A says something I completely disagree with, but he does that in a polite manner which makes me respect him. Person B on the other hand says something I wholeheartedly believe in but he does that in a disrespectful manner.

If I knew nothing about the halo effect I might not think about it, my feelings would instinctively figure out whom I disliked more and told me whom to support and I’d be writing some stuff I might not actually believe in (it’s a speculation by the way).

But here’s what happens in my mind – I really do want to support B in a conversation. But his manners make me wanna punch him, so (probably) as a way to punish him I feel inclined to support party A. But I disagree with party A and I do not want to support him. I do try to remain objective, but knowing just a bit about brain quirks makes me question the existence of objectivity. Anyway, I try to remain calm and polite, not to pick sides, base my arguments on proven data and say what I DO think. But that annoying feeling bugs me like hell, once detected I cannot shake it off, as it buzzzzzzzzzzzes in my brain.

Of course, I could give up forums, which is not actually an option – I need to promote my game (and myself ^__^) and there is no one to do it for me.

Anyway, what’s your take on this matter? Have it ever happened to you?

Let me know here, in comments, or via twitter @ArseniyShved (yep, I hope you start/keep on following me).

‘kay, bye! =)