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Weekly Journal - Yuletide Update
The end of the year is upon us and things are getting festive around the office which really adds that extra sparkle to our development routine.
Next week Alex and Lisa will be at MIGS (the Montreal International Game Summit) to give a talk on Making Wellington Wells Memorable, i.e. all the non-story narrative in the game. Feel free to come say hi if you are attending!
Design Team - David, Hayden, Antoine, Adam, Ben, Eric, Roxanne and Benji
Adam “pretty much lead level designer” Alim
All of us are dog-piling on Arthur’s story playthrough this week. Eric and I have been leading the charge on scheduling and prioritizing his playthrough, and handing out assignments based on those priorities. So for now, The Mad Scotsman and Miss Thigh-Highs get a little rest.
As for details to the changes we’re making: we had some playtests set up with several people playing certain parts of the story, and taking notes on where there are lulls or dips. As we thought, there were quite a few, so we’re reworking some areas and adding in a couple of new moments to better transition between moments.
Art Team - Whitney, Emmanuel, Tito, Marc-André, Sarah, Guillaume, Cary and PH
For the first part of the week, I've been working on finishing the new ivy vines that are on the buildings in the garden district. I first started by modeling leaves and laying them out by hand on branches created with spline curves inside Autodesk Maya. Doing this by hand gives me a lot more control over the look than outsourcing photos. For foliage, we are leaning toward a cartoonish side.
I baked/transferred those arrangements onto a 2D plane, creating what essentially is a sprite sheet. I had to generate a lot of textures to get nice quality and control over the final artistic result, which I achieved in Photoshop.
Since we will be placing a lot of them and want a high density of leaves, it was crucial that I kept the polygon count as low as possible (in this case, between 240 and 500 verts). I laid out the sprites on low-poly cards inside Maya to create the 3D arrangements. I imported these and the textures in Unreal and created a new material with all of the features.
Relying heavily on vertex painting and masks, I implemented the following features:
-Choice between procedural/vertex painting of color variation
-Ability to vertex paint branches that are dead, to quickly create variety
-Transition of colors from green/red to purple when player is on Joy
-Dead branches during Joy overdose/withdrawal
-Wind & Subsurface
Here is an example of vertex painting of the vines in action. It is very easy to change the color and density of the vines directly inside Unreal in the game's levels.
For the second part of the week, I’ve been helping Eric on the blocking of an exciting new bridge.
With the new vines from Marc-André, I was able to give an art pass on the garden district buildings. It’s already better and we are quite happy with the organic feeling that we are able to achieve. We’ve finally got this overgrown nature that we were looking for. So we will soon enter the 2nd art pass on the garden district and we will try to polish everything with little details and more colors.
Engineering Team - Matt, Serge, Michael, Lionel, Rob, Evan, Maarten, Céline and Guillaume (sometimes)
A lot of small things this week. Beside the panic-ridden “oh, WTF is the worldgen system doing?” moments (followed by “oh, people are giving it really bad data”), I mostly worked on the road intersection and the foliage/patterns systems. The first one is simply slowly getting to where we want. The second is a reuse of an experiment we did a few months ago. It seems to be working but it is a bit early to be final on this. No screenshots this week.
This week we had a meeting to review combat. We want to decide soon whether there are still features missing, or whether we have what we need at this stage, and we can move on to just bug fixing and tweaking values to deliver something that we’re happy with.
So people from Level Design, QA, Animation, myself and Guillaume sat in a room and got into some fights, in game. It’s quite good to watch other people play and to have these discussions as a group because it highlights things you wouldn’t notice, or wouldn’t consider from your own playstyle. Also if you’ve been working on aspects of the system, you can get into a playstyle to test what you’re working on. I’d been working on blocking and parrying, and NPC reactions. My style is either quite static, or moving towards the NPCs. So watching Lee play and be constantly moving and backing away from enemies was a good reminder. The meeting generated a lot of tasks to work on, but I think we have a lot of the systems already in place. To avoid the impression that we have shallow or repetitive combat we just need to be better at highlighting these systems/tactics to players and showing the depth that is in there (like parrying, stuns, throwables in combat), and then improving the feel of them and how they can be used together. So no new features, but some good feedback and direction to keep improving what we have.