June Update

Hey everyone! I've been working towards an IndieCade submission for Against the Wall, trying to at least get a "starting area" in the game and a few more settlements. I've mentioned this before, but texturing has always been my biggest weakness. Blender is a bit convoluted when baking a bunch of textures into an atlas, but it's a free tool and what I can afford. As such, I've taken a cue from Morrowind and other TES games and am just doing a general cube unwrap and slapping on flat textures (wood, stone, etc.). It fits with the minimalist art aesthetic, and cuts down on production time for assets.

My major challenge right now is level design. It's very difficult to craft vertically-aligned levels that have a good flow to them. I'm thinking that some HL2 or Minecraft-style ladders may be in order. The problem with such ladders is the whole planting your face right up against a texture, and they are not very fun to use... but it may be worth an experiment. Also, I was avoiding including building interiors, but it has become apparent that I cannot just have people crawling around the outside of buildings. Sure, most structures will be locked or in some way obstructed from entry, just part of the scenery, but I do need some contraptions housed in enclosed spaces.

I've spent the last couple of days coding some interactive environmental elements, just creatures and objects that provide additional challenges, or contribute to the sense that this is a living, breathing world.

On Exploration

I've been doing research into recently released exploration games, looking for inspiration. Since the semester ended, I've played Miasmata, Antichamber, and Starseed Pilgrim. Played through most of the Myst series as well. Mostly, I was looking for how each game handles second-to-second action, and how the game world is revealed.

I was toying with the idea of removing quick-saves in favor of checkpoints based around beds and such. However, I realized that this would limit the space that players could explore, if they want to wander deep into the wilderness, for instance. Also, the game is challenging as it is, what with the constant threat of falling and losing progress. Though I would like to avert save scumming, I also don't want it to be unnecessarily brutal.

A few other notes: each rest area/checkpoint should feel like home, a refuge from the perils of climbing the wall. These areas are not quite hideouts, the player has no inventory and there is no bed mechanic, etc. but I do want to make specific areas that the player would feel like living out of. This was one of my favorite things to do in Morrowind and Minecraft, just setting up camp and exploring an area.

What I've Been Playing

I've played through Uru: The Complete Chronicle. As a decade-old game, Uru game has no business being this gorgeous. I was really able to immerse myself in these little worlds for a time. CYAN seems to have a thing against repeating artwork, nearly all models in the game are individually crafted and appear once. Oh, and the sound design is impeccable. Some of the puzzles leave a lot to be desired, especially since many were originally intended for multiple players to solve. Still, I liked the ages in this game, a number of the puzzles were entertaining, and the atmosphere was spot-on.

I finally got around to finishing Antichamber. Now that's an amazingly designed videogame. It left me feeling like a champ, the puzzles were difficult but not so obtuse that I ever needed to consult a FAQ. Like Starseed Pilgrim, half the fun was in exploring the mechanics through experimentation. It never explains anything, outside of fortune cookie-like hints on panels scattered throughout the world. Also, the mechanics do not overstay their welcome, each new mechanic receiving only a handful of puzzles before a new paradigm is introduced. I must confess that I'm a completionist, so I couldn't put the game down until I unlocked all the secrets and filled out the game's map. As a first person puzzle-platformer made by a single guy, I had to check this one out to get a sense of the progression, feel, and story.

Then, there is Miasmata. The game is just pure exploration and filling out a map: a cartography-based game where you play as a plague-ridden man abandoned on a lost island and hunted by a strange hybrid monster. Again, as a completionist who loves games about being isolated and lost, this one got its hooks into me. Very impressed that it was made from the ground up by two people.

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8 comments on “June Update
  1. felixnemis says:

    It's great to hear about progress you're making on this game

    Have you considered blocks on the floor (like the ones the wall is made of) that can be extended/retracted instead of ladders.

    This is one of my most anticipated games in development and it sounds like you're making great progress, keep up the good work!

  2. Michael says:

    Hey Feliznemis, thanks for the vote of confidence!

    Funny you should mention that. I made a prototype in February, a first-person game in which the player can summon ladders from any flat surface. Not something that I want to pursue in the future, it was rather clunky.

    I guess what you are suggesting is an L-shaped brick, that extends normally, then extends appendages. Sounds like it would be difficult for me to implement. I do have bricks that bounce you up the wall, which fulfill that same purpose.

    I'm building out the starting area for the game right now, by the way. Will be sure to post another update when the models are done.

  3. felixnemis says:

    Actually I was thinking they would only be on buildings or blocks that don't retract to make them easier to implement.

    Looking forward to the starting area, Good luck!

  4. UnShame says:

    I think what felixnemis meant was something like this:




  5. Michael says:

    Ah, I see. What game was that video from, by the way?

  6. UnShame says:

    that's from UT2004, a custom level i'm making

  7. dantaro says:

    Hey, really glad to see an update on this game! Sounds like you're on a really good track, and I look forward to being able to explore the "wilderness" as you say. As a possible save mechanic, adding in a delay between saves might be an idea to allow people to explore with less fear of lost progress, but also wouldn't be (as) abuseable?  I dunno.  Anyway, keep up the great work and I look forward to seeing what you come up with :)

  8. Michael says:

    Thanks for the suggestion dantaro. I  hadn't thought about that before. What I want to do is make player forget about saving entirely, and this may have them thinking about it too much, especially if there is something of a visible timer (also, in a game with no time pressure, this amounts to forcing the player to stand still for a long time to save). This problem is perhaps best solved through beta testing, I'm at a loss for a real solution.

    Unshame, can you show me your mod when you're testing it? It's a lot like Mirror's Edge time trials, nice sense of style, minimal graphics, all about traversal and exploration. My kind of game.

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