Game Developers Carnival 2020

May 11 and 12 2020, a virtual event organized by XSolla and MeetToMatch in the aftermath of GDC 2020’s cancellation due to covid19, using “YourWorld“, a multi-user environment powered by Unreal Engine, as the main platform. I uploaded my experience in a couple of videos here and here if you are curious about it.

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Participating in the event was free (with an optional donation). Visitors downloaded the event client (Windows only, around 7GB) and used it to log into the world. A pretty good machine was needed for the client to perform well (even my GeForce RTX 2080 didn’t have it easy!).

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MeetToMatch provided matchmaking using their regular platform but providing meeting points inside the virtual worlds. Of all my meetings, around 50% of them were rescheduled to more traditional video conferencing tools such as Google Meet and Skype, due to the participants being unable to log into the client (because they were on MacOS, or didn’t have a powerful computer or internet connection).

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Besides meeting with people in the virtual world, you could visit booths, where you could see a video and imagery provided by each exhibitor, as well as chat with them if they were present. Conversations happened instantly, with you just getting close to whoever you wanted to speak to (it seems a headset was required). Your avatar (which was picked randomly based on your provided gender) would start talking, doing some conversational gestures, and lip-syncing with your voice.

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There were 6 worlds labeled A to F, all of them had an identical layout and activities, but different booths. They also had a big central circus arena where it seemed some talks or special content would be shared, but as far as I could see, they were just sharing the video from an exhibitor.

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Recreational activities included hang-gliding, kart racing, and the “Scream Tower”, with the first two keeping track of the high scores on a per-world basis. The games were simple but fun and challenging.

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In general, the game world worked well although there were some evident rough edges and buggy behavior. The platform is still under development and I believe it is promising; still, I think future events should also consider more accessible technologies like lightweight multiplatform environments that can be loaded from the browser even if they provide a less immersive experience (maybe in parallel with a full environment like this one). Making the event easy for people to access should be a top priority (I think most business people don’t have a gaming level windows PC with them, and some indie devs don’t need that either).

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Some ideas for improvement:

  • Avatar customization (and persistence to your profile) including uploading a picture of you.
  • More control over conversations including clicking on a person to start a conversation with them, setting yourself as available for conversation, being able to mute your mic.
  • Show more info in the booths beside the video and the pictures there. Maybe being able to download a flier and keep it in a virtual bag.
  • Being able to share documents with the person you are talking to (so you can show your company’s catalog or your project’s deck).
  • Coop games or activities you can do with someone while talking (instead of competitive single-player activities).
  • Improving environmental sound detection, which seems to use the camera instead of the character’s position.

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Final Fantasy IV Trailer Sound Remake

Years ago, SquareEnix created an awesome CGI video for their FFIV remake for the Nintendo DS.

The intro video is great, and in the background, it has remasters of the legendary Theme of Love, as well as a more upbeat theme (I believe it’s an overworld exploration theme). However… there are no sound effects!

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I think the video would be much better with sound effects and some voice acting, but I searched for a version that included that and couldn’t find it (please let me know if you know about it!).

Just for fun, I did some audio spotting that could be useful for a project to include these; I’m not sure I would ever get into it, but I’m posting it here in case someone would find it useful or would be interested in collaborating.

Check it out here

Expedition – Children of Bachue: 3 Months of Dev

The last update was from January 20. Development intensity has varied thru these months but we haven’t stopped and we keep getting closer to a playable version. Here are some of the things we have done.

Overworld Visuals

  • Changes in lighting and color grading.
  • Add mist effect controlled by time of day and scenario.
  • Add new model for explorer.
  • Tween ambient light based on hour of day
  • Activate town labels, fix scale and colliders.

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Combat

  • Tactical pause.
  • Improved selected unit display
  • Battle onboarding (First version)
  • Pixel perfect unit selection in battle.
  • Add Temple battle scene (and add support for multiple battle scenes)
  • Support for both “party members” and “bulk” units.
  • Limit camera movement to the combat area
  • Separate combat scene and overworld lighting.
  • Add shader to see units through obstacles.
  • Add support for “ambush” and “faceoff” combat placements

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Nueva Esperanza mode

  • Restore access to hometown to supply expedition
  • Display background image for hometown instead of 3D scene.
  • Add some initial inventories to hometown
  • Add quests to establish settlements with gold prizes on return
  • Cash trade goods on return to hometown
  • Preserve map between voyages.
  • New settlement popup.
  • New UI for Temple exploration.
  • Reactivate camping with new UI.

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Transfer Items

  • Add icon and info for the location
  • Highlight items that are being transferred
  • Add icons for units
  • Batch transferring for some items.

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Content

  • Start work localizing the Children of Bachue campaign to English (some infrastructure, still pending the bulk of translation work)

Music and Audio

  • Integrate “Spanish” music to exploration and towns
  • Remove “sailing” music (unified exploration theme)
  • Add Sea Ambience

Procgen

  • Place stones as rubbish in grassland
  • Place mountain models in terrain.
  • Refactors in generators.
  • Add Coast type map
  • Fix additive texture painting
  • Place native towns (WIP)

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Forests

  • Tweaks on forest placement and growth
  • Visual improvements in trees
  • Tests with low-poly forest blobs (discarded for now)
  • Disable shadows for trees (huge performance cost)

Rivers

  • River shaders with animated texture and offset “flow” animation, as well as semitransparent blending
  • Carve valley for river
  • Add test river to generated terrain

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Ocean and beaches

  • Improved settings to allow translucency
  • Improved seabed
  • Tweak colors
  • Limit ocean area instead of it expanding infinitely.
  • Paint rocky beaches based on slope

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OpenArthurianX6 0.8 released

Check out the full info and online demo at the OpenArthurianX6 blog.

I set myself to finish the project, and I’ve been streaming 1 hour of dev daily almost continuously for the past 22 days (!).

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Milestone 5 took much more work than I anticipated; building a complete mouse-based inventory system was a lot of work (even when I started from the work that Exodus Destiny had done already). But it’s working great and we are closer to the finish line now.

Emerald Woods 0.1.0 released

Still focused on UI improvements, but incorporating some major changes in the world model, procgen and some crafting.

You can play it online here or here. Your suggestions for improvements and content are also welcome in the community.

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Changelog Summary

Visuals

  • Add tree variations
  • Add intro screen

Gameplay

  • Sleep comfortably in bed and bedroll.
  • Don’t faint when fully fatigued, but unable to work.
  • Add food that recovers fatigue and health
  • Remove “safe to sleep” places (for now)
  • Multiply stamina consumption when hungry
  • Allow chopping down world objects (doors, walls)
  • Prevent dropping items in solid tiles.
  • Add jumpable world objects, walkable only for the player. Apply for Wooden Gate.
  • Remove PEX for now until the economy is implemented.

Audio

  • Add error beep
  • Created crossfade for normal time of day change. (gecko)

Farming

  • Position newborn animals correctly.
  • Make newborns immortal.

Procedural Generation

  • Prevent adding trees to flooring tiles and solid places.
  • Add prizes to stations including Bedroll.
  • Prevent animals from being generated inside fenced areas.
    • It works but is not very optimal. It will be reworked next version.
  • Add map border (unbreakable mountain)

User Interface – Display

  • Display the item icon on the list.

User Interface – Input

  • Restore explicit farming mode and shift to turn.
  • Remove auto-mine.
  • Auto-equip tool when bumping into stone or tree.
  • Confirm prompts with Ctrl, Space or Enter.
  • Remove vi keys movement.
  • Execute all actions on key up instead of keydown (only movement on keydown)
  • Remap keys to enable clean WADXpad movement

World Model

  • Add flooring layer to level
  • Model doors as transformable items instead of cells.

Crafting

  • Bridges that you can cross.
  • Wooden floor, Wood walkway, Stone road
  • Wooden wall

Technical

  • Add pathfinding infrastructure
    • Still not used for AI.
  • Craft “flooring” instead of map cells.

Emerald Woods 0.0.1 released!

This version, of course, will be the closest thing to the original 7DRL Challenge entry, without any major content additions but rather focused on adding a Save/Load function and some important UX improvements. You can play it online here or here.

Your suggestions for improvements and content are also welcome in the community.

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Here’s the full changelog:

New Features

  • Save and Load games.

Fixes

  • Prevent overflowing of messages in the top text box.

UI Improvements

  • Change facing automatically. (Except if Shift is pressed).
  • Select and use Axe or Pickax automatically when bumping into trees or rocks.
  • Unify contextual actual with Pickup command.
  • Improve nap/sleep prompt.
  • Display response to prompt.
  • Confirm craft with Ctrl or Space.
  • Display “fatigue” instead of stamina.
  • Don’t remember location of animals.
  • Preserve wild animals as long as they are close to the player.

Audio (by Quietgecko)

  • Added new melodies
  • Adjust the timing of the melodies system
  • Fixed some action SFXs not playing.

Gameplay changes

  • Don’t faint at 2am, instead become sleepy and spend more stamina on night.
  • Decrease more fatigue when taking a nap.
  • Get more wood pieces per tree.
  • Ensure at least 1 stone or wood are produced.

Content

  • Add “wooden gate” to crafting recipes.

Other

  • Big internal refactors to pave the way for future developments

Games are saved using my circular-functions library, along with lz-string to compress its output.

 

Emerald Woods – 2020 7DRL Challenge

I managed to finish another game for the 7DRL Challenge! you can play online here or here.

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Emerald Woods is the farming and exploration roguelike I always wanted to make. It’s inspired by games like Harvest Moon / Stardew Valley, however with some big differences:

  • You are alone: there is no town to buy things from, there are no other humans for you to buy with gifts.
  • You can die off hunger and sickness, so you gotta be careful and plan.
  • The map is procedural, you can roam the world and expand your horizons.
  • Watering crops and “taking care” of animals is removed. I don’t want the game to feel like a chore.
  • Related to it, the game doesn’t incentivize making a huge farm and getting a lot of money. It’s meant to be relaxing in certain way (even if you can die).
  • There is no combat of any kind. If it ever gets implemented (I’m still not sure) it will be just hunting, no evil monsters trying to kill you.
  • The setting of the game, or rather your character’s backstory, is up to you to decide.
  • Crafting is freeform, you place tiles in the world using resources.
  • …and of course, it uses a character-based display, a core design choice that supports most of the points above.

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The 7DRL Challenge entry is already a complete game, even enjoyable for a bit. But I’m planning to continue development. I managed to invest around 40 hours of development (struggling with real life, as usual 🙂 ) and posted my daily devlog at this thread on itch.io. (Also archived here).

Highlights of the development included:

  • The procedural generator, based on Cellular Automata, with “hollow” mountains to explore.
  • Dynamic field of view (both radius and “color”) which looks especially good when entering caverns.

I had contributions from mapedorr and quietgecko on the art side of things. They did an amazing work with the environment music and sound effects, as well as some visual aspects such as the palette and characters to use.

Stay tuned for more news about the game! also if you want to send your ideas or bug reports, please use the community feature.

 

Final Fantasy VII Demo

Midgar’s Sector 1 Mako Reactor is now non-operational.

The demo was pretty awesome… as an old school gamer I had issues with the camera control, and I’m still getting the hang of the battle system (I used the “Normal” one, a bit too frantic for my taste but still good, was even defeated once by the Scorpion tank :P).

The little that is shown of Midgar looks fantastic and the music is amazing. I’m definitively going to be ordering this, and any subsequent episodes.

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History / World Societies – Project from 2004

A project I did for the university back in 2004, worked a lot on the design aspects of it and managed to advance a bit on the implementation. It was a civ-like, with a focus on “realistic” growth models for the cities and very detailed technology trees. It was never finished, but I think I got a 5.0/5.0 score for the assignment.

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The main screen where you could move your units and create settlements, the minimap worked so you could drag the viewport. Tiles were a modification of David Gervais tileset. More history on that tileset here.

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The title screen, art was made by my brother. A broad scope of military technology!

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The main menu, art was also made by my brother with colored pencils.

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We also made some art for the city screen, it was meant to be composed based on its surrounding, and then have the city put in the middle.

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Excerpts from the design doc, related to the city growth model.

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Some early ideas for procedural generation, which I think could actually come in handy for my current projects.

For posterity, here are some design docs

Expedition: January 20 Update

It’s been almost three months since the last update. And many things have happened!

We finished the CREA Digital project and managed to push the game forward greatly. Then we continued working looking forward to having a public release this year. Below is a gameplay video showing what we have so far.

Doing a full changelog would probably be huge. Instead, I’ll share some pics of the more visible changes, noting that there are also great advancements in the music and sound effects.

We continue pursuing the best way to display the “overworld”; we did some changes in the perspective and added back the followers to the player (we are planning to add more variety to these units so instead of the same battle units you’ll have carts, people carrying stuff, etc). They also behave more organically now, following the player in a less rigid way.

The overworld is also now more rich with models for the different sizes of European Settlements, Mining camps, gold veins, and temples to explore. Native cities also are now displayed using different unique models for each in the history mode.

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We added a separate procedural terrain generator for highlands, canyons, and deserts. It uses pure Perlin noise instead of the random midpoint displacement used for the island generator. This generator was incorporated into the history campaigns too, increasing their replay value; in order to do that, we had to make a hybrid out of it, to add predesigned content (or rather locate it at general positions in the map). Another big chunk of work was for the grass terrain, painting patches of grass to make it look less homogeneous.

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One of the most visible changes from the last update is the appearance of forests, still a work in progress but it seems at long last we’ve found a way to represent them adequately and performing well. I decided to use full detail models instead of low poly shapes and made some tweaks to make sure it performed decently. We still need to do some work to cover more ground while keeping the FPSs up. Besides the forests, we also did a lot of changes in the lighting of the scene, as well as the post-processing effects.

In addition to the changes in how they are rendered, there were also changes in how forests are generated, placing clumps of trees of the same type together, and selecting them based on the type of tree. We also added a first iteration of drawing roads between locations on the map and having simple “conversations” along the way. The paths are broken down into segments, and the terrain along these segments is set to dirt. Next iteration will feature meshes instead for them to be much more clearly defined, for now, they also include some huts along the way, for a little variety.

For the island generator, beside a LOT of internal changes, we also changed the way beachlines are rendered, to make them contrast more vs the grass. “Snowy” mountains were also removed, giving these maps a more tropical look.

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After exposing our working alpha to player testing, we discovered we needed to do a lot of work in player onboarding; we added a helper character that guides you through the first mission, we still gotta have him help you during your first battle.

The entire conversation window was reworked, dialog options are now added dynamically based on the options that are selected, and are capable of launching the Barter interaction or, completing mission objectives. This was complemented by changes in the town popup, to group characters inside buildings and then allowing the player to choose who to talk with.

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Speaking of Barter, we revamped the Trade screen and after many iterations, we implemented the foundations of a bartering mechanism where you can trade goods with people in villages that don’t have a currency.

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The minimap now displays the direction the expedition is heading, as well as the towns that have been discovered, the roads between locations, and the previously known places and areas at the beginning of each game. The sea is now also displayed more clearly, and the town markers are built based on the size of the location.

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Of course, there was a lot of work involved in actually getting the “Children of Bachue” campaign ready in time for the CREA Digital deadline. This included finalizing the design and setting the generator for the first four missions, integrating the cutscenes art and voiceover for them, loading all conversations and characters data from design, and integrating the models for units in combat and overworld.

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For the history campaign mode, we added a “narrative mode” disabling discoveries, temples, gold veins, building, camping, etc. and providing more direct control over combat. All this so that the player could focus on unveiling the story and the world.

In order to support some of the missions designed for the campaign, the Discoveries facet was improved by adding items to the player’s inventory on discovery, and adding quests related to bringing these items to a given location.

Similarly, a simple “tracking” mechanic was added where the player can find traces or general directions to the places he needs to find as part of his mission.

Some other smaller changes in the UI include testing a new, more readable font, animations to the compass needle so it looks more organic, and a mission briefing window shown at the beginning of each mission.