Sunday, January 22, 2017

Hello 2017... it is about time


     It is about time I finally post a proper 2017 update. So, whats going on? What ever happened to the new game project? Where is the new Steam Greenlight that was suppose to be posted at the end of December 2016? Do you even still make games? Alright, so I haven't been very active on the blog and have been doing a terrible job communicating about progress on current and new projects.

It is near the end of the first month of 2017 and I am just now going to talk about my plans for the new year. I did mean to get this post out way earlier but life just gets in the way sometimes. First of all, happy new year to everyone (a bit late on that one) 



     Anyway, although it seems like I haven't been very active, I have actually been working really hard on a lot of new things. I have a lot planned for 2017 that I want to get done and put out there, so it has actually been a busy first month for me. I'm actually working on multiple new projects and juggling back and forth between them. I will get more into that in a moment. First, I want to talk about the main project. The most important project that I am working on, "Samer Hills". 


     Whats up with "Samer Hills"? Why isn't this finished and on Steam yet? So, this is a project I started working on shortly after releasing my first game on Steam "Potato Thriller". I have been posting so many blog articles over the past few months talking about this project and even kept making promises I couldn't keep like saying I would have the greenlight campaign for the new game up before the end of last year, or having the entire project done at a certain date. Despite not keeping these smaller promises, there is one promise I will keep and that is that I will eventually finish and release this new game. Some people think that I just got bored, or lost motivation and canceled the game, but actually, the game is far off from being canceled. I have been spending most of my time working on "Samer Hills" and have made great progress on it even though I haven't really been sharing the progress made every step of the way. I won't make anymore promises and announce deadlines, release dates, etc anymore. I learned my lesson. It will be available when I am ready to make it available. But I would like to confirm that I am indeed working on the game and going to release it as my second Steam game. 


"Samer Hills" is going to be a big game. I have made a lot of progress on it and here are some more recent screenshots and images from development to showcase the progress I have been making. Also I will share some more details about the actual game. 

Environment: First, lets talk about the setting of the game. 

Lovely eyes...

I keep saying "Samer Hills" but what is it? "Samer Hills" is where the entire game will take place. This will be the main setting for the game and it is the name of an old abandoned town as well as the main characters hometown. This game will take place mainly in outdoors types of environments. So settings like forests, caves, streets, farms, etc is where most of the game will play out and the kind of areas the player will get to explore. There will also be some indoor settings like the characters house and some buildings that the player will eventually get to go to because of the game's story progression, but for the most part, outdoors settings is a main focus point. In my previous game "Potato Thriller",  about 90% of the game took place inside house/building type environments. The entire first half of the game took place in a long house type setting while the second half took place inside of a challenging tower. My new game, is kind of the opposite of what "Potato Thriller" did.








Gameplay: This game will be entirely a third person game. There will be various features like puzzle solving, fighting enemies, avoiding traps, quick time events and so on. I am doing my best to keep the game entertaining and fresh from beginning to end so I am developing it in a way where it constantly introduces new gameplay elements and throws surprises at the player. 







There will be traps, different weapons, etc. 

Story, Genre, Characters: "Samer Hills" is going to be a post-apocalyptic horror/thriller game with a non serious and more comical tone thrown in. One of the games biggest focus is on the main character himself. I mentioned in an older blog post that the game will let you see what the main character goes through on his adventure and how he changes throughout the experience. However, throughout the game you will come face to face with many other characters in the games worlds and learn more about them. The characters will be unique and interesting and hopefully memorable. That is something I really want to achieve with this project. Creating memorable characters. 


                           

Look at those blood fxs!!!




And here is just some extra screenshots from development:








When will the Greenlight come out?!?!?

     What is taking so long? I am really working hard and taking my time with this new game project. I want this game to be perfect and better than any other game I have ever created. After all, the game does have my own real name in it (so egotistical I know.) "Samer Hills" is going to have a lot in it. Especially plot. This is going to be my biggest, most polished and possibly weirdest game ever. So I am really going that extra mile and putting in a lot more effort into this game than any other project I have worked on. It has to turn out exactly how I am envisioning it to be. 

I know that there is a good amount of people who visit the blog daily to check for updates on my projects and I think that is so cool. I mentioned this before, but the fact that there is a good handful of people out there who take time out of their own day to see updates on my projects and come visit my blog means the world to me. So thank you everyone for being so patient. I will do my best to keep posting daily. I think the game will turn out better this way. I aim to deliver a really bizarre yet intriguing entertaining game with unique characters and personalities as well as a believable post-apocalyptic game world that you can get pulled into. I want this game to be a memorable experience and hopefully contribute a really unique game to the indie gaming community. 
     
OTHER PROJECTS:
     Before I end the blog for today I want to talk about one more thing that I plan on doing this year and that is getting more into YouTube. I have brought this up numerous times throughout the years. Saying that I want to start using my YouTube channel more and start posting daily videos and content, etc but never really got to it. This year, 2017, however is different. I really want to use my skills as a 3d artist/animator/developer etc beyond the scope of just making games. I want to try and do new things and expand from just being a indie game developer. What better way to share content, ideas and art through YouTube right?

     Earlier I did mention that I was working on other projects and those other projects are short animation videos that I started working on for my YouTube channel. Here is a little preview.





Looks weird I know and that is because the content/animations I will create and post to YouTube most likely will be weird.. Just like my game projects. The point is that, I love creating and I will continue creating as long as I enjoy to do so. But yeah, I have been working on a few short animations which will be going onto my channel later on in the year. At the moment, my main focus is finishing up my next game, but after that I hope to post videos on a daily basis on the channel.

Lots of new content to look forward to. I am really excited and motivated to create and share all these new experiences. I have a really good feeling about the this year and I hope to make 2017 my most productive and best year yet. I am really just an artist with a lot of strange ideas and I wan't to get as many of those ideas out that I possibly can. Thanks for reading and more updates coming soon! 

By the way, most of these screenshots I posted in today's article are more recent screens I posted on my twitter. I am not as active on my blog, but I am very active on my twitter account and post almost everyday, for more daily updates follow me here: https://twitter.com/snowconesolid (I am sometimes annoying on twitter)



Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Working with landscapes for games


     Okay, I know what you are thinking. My last blog post was in the middle of December. I said that the plan was to get enough of my new game finished and post the greenlight campaign to Steam by the end the month. Obviously this did not happen then I just disappeared from the blog ever since.  And now I come back, in the middle of January and this is my first update for 2017!? Talking about landscapes!!! Are you kidding me!? What  great way to start off the new year right? Okay, joking aside, I have been working on my new game, I have been making a lot of progress and I will have a proper update blog post later on to talk about my plans for 2017, give more info on the new game project and so on. But for now, I want to talk about working with landscapes in a game project. 


   I was working on a new scene for the game that features a piece of land that is split down the middle. This can work as a river for example. I was happy with the results and I thought that I just had to share this on the blog. In games or just 3d modeling in general landscapes can be very tricky to work with. The Unity game engine does have its own terrain system which has a ton of great features and tools to help you create massive terrains for your game. Personally, I hate Unity's terrain system based on past experiences with it trying to create good landscapes for my games. It can be very time consuming to sculpt in main features like rivers, you end up with these giant empty terrains that look messy, constantly switching between brushes, adjusting sizes, erasing over areas constantly to try and get something looking right is frustrating to do within the Unity engine. You get all this unnecessary geometry/increase in poly count that could take a hit on your games performance, etc. I can go on and on about the many flaws the terrain system and tools the Unity engine bring. If you are a Unity developer and have used the terrain system or even if you used a terrain system in a different engine you might understand what I am talking about.  

     I figured, instead of throwing in this giant unnecessary piece of land into the game, why not just focus on the important features of the land that the player will actually get to explore? Before I continue, just know that this is more of a personal design preference and depending on the kind of game you are making, this might not be a proper solution for you. For example, if you are working on a huge open world game that's all based on terrain like MGSV for example, then you might want to actually sculpt and entire terrain. But for my case, I am working on a linear game that is broken down into smaller scenes with loading times in between. Anyway, I realized that just focusing on the important parts of the landscape such as rivers, canyons, etc is all I really need to create. I can save a ton of time and polygons by just putting in the parts that matter, and then make it feel seamless or give it that seamless illusion in post such as covering the area with fog, decorating it with trees, foliage and other props to make the land feel more believable and adjusting the camera clipping so that the player never sees past the edges of the world. There is no need to create a massive landscape that would take the player time to traverse. That would just be filler. Just cut straight to the main parts of the game. 


     So in the screenshots I am posting I am showing this grassy type land that is split down the middle which shows the under side of the earth. This can be used as a river, I can re-texture it as a canyon or really any kind of land-form that splits. This literally only took me about 5-10 mins to model and texture in blender. It is very low poly, it looks good in the Unity engine and just works for my game. Here is a breakdown of the mesh so that you can see and get a better understanding of how it was made. 


Here is the actual mesh inside of blender. The wireframe shows that it is actually very low in poly count. The loop-cuts/edges/vertices/faces (whatever it is you call them) are very clean and form the mesh very nicely. 

Here is the textured mesh. (Still inside blender) Everything was done in blender then exported to the Unity engine. About the textures - it can be very tricky to texture landscapes because they have all these different materials blending into them like dirt and grass and wet mud and rocks and so on. If you are using a terrain system like Unity's terrain system you can easily just paint and blend textures directly onto the terrain and make it look seamless. When you actually model a piece of land like this that has very few polygons, texturing and blending can be tricky to do. What I did for this is created two different materials. Grass and dirt. I applied these to the model on the appropriate uv coordinates. The trick to making everything blend together is within the mesh itself. It is very important to make the right amount of polygons for the model. Just focus on the silhouette of the landscape first. Model in the areas that are needed then you can apply you're textures. If the model looks right without the textures and you can visualize where the grass needs to be placed or where the mud needs to be placed, then texturing will be simple because you know you have the right amount of polygons and it will look fine.

The best part about this particular model is that it is modular. Meaning that I could just reuse this river/landscape split over and over again. I can extend the river and make one huge seamless formation. I can use it for different environment and so on. 

Here is a screenshot of just a simple lighting test done in blender. 

     It won't be perfect and that's okay. Keep in mind when working on games there are so many other things to take into consideration besides the graphical appearance. Poly count, performance, gameplay, etc. The landscape won't be perfect. Mine is not perfect. Up close you can see a very straight line where the grass and mud separate. The trick with games is, you can get away with this kind of stuff because most likely the player would never even need to get that close to notice anything. Plus as mentioned before, these small things will be hidden by other game elements like foliage, fog and so on. Don't focus on making something perfect. Just focus on making something look believable and acceptable then move on. Remember there is still a lot of other stuff that needs to be worked on in a game. So never dedicate too much time to a single piece. You can get away with these things. I was thinking about how older games like Zelda Ocarina of time handled landscapes when the hardware was so limited. I looked at a couple of screenshots from various parts of Hyrule and noticed that those landscapes seem to be modeled very similarly to how I modeled this river example I am showing above. It wasn't perfect at all, but it just works and it still felt like I was in this believable game world even with some of the obvious seam lines. 



Sunday, December 18, 2016

Here's the plan... (Next Steam Greenlight campaign)


     I have been making excellent progress on my next game project and I gotta say, I have never been so excited about anything I have ever made as much as I am for this new game. Anyway, I don't want to start rambling on about how much of a good job I did on my new project. That doesn't mean anything at all. Instead of going on and on about how great I think my game is - I need to actually focus more on completing it and getting it out there. Gotta tone down that ego. Sheesh!


     Anyway, in all seriousness, yes I have been making excellent progress on the game however, it is no where near complete. It's not even close to where I want it to be yet. That is not necessarily a bad thing. I am taking my time with this one and polishing it up in every area as much as I can. Polish and quality is something I have been talking a lot about lately here on the blog and it is something that I am really stressing and pushing into the next game. I want the game to be as good as I possibly can make it.


      As much as I am proud of my first Steam release Potato Thriller. This game will be nothing like Potato Thriller in anyway. Not even close. And I don't want it to be like Potato Thriller actually. As I said in an older blog post, I have grown and matured a lot since the release of Potato Thriller and really have learned and become more skilled as a game developer. I want this next project to show that. I am capable of more Potato Thriller type games. 


I know I often say this, but I will try to say this in the least braggiest way as possible - This is going to be the most polished thing I have ever worked on. Damn! that still came across as egotistical... Honestly though, I am just really excited about the work I have put into this project and I keep trying to show that in the blog updates but it comes across as some looser indie developer who is really full of himself. But it really is not my intention to come across like that. 

Next game has dev's name in the title... Say's he doesn't want to 
come off as egotistical...

     The reason I want to share this next game so bad is because when I originally released Potato Thriller, sure it had some fans but, it also had a lot of other people who criticized it harshly. 
And I have said this before, but I always accept all forms of criticism. I have nothing against negative criticism at all. I actually even agree with most of the criticism I got over Potato Thriller and this is really one of the main reasons as to why I am trying to improve and show that with my next game. I feel like I kind of got this image as some kind of "hack dev" or some cheap indie dev who doesn't care about the quality of their games and just puts stuff out to make a quick buck. That is not me at all. I care so much about the quality that goes into my games. Hopefully I can do that with my next game. And I am really excited to get it out there and share it with the world. I love video games so much and respect them as the wonderful art form that they are. I'm very passionate about games. It's cheesy I know.

WOOOOW character has different uniforms built in!

     This game will definitely be a 2017 release. But hopefully early 2017. I had originally planned on launching the Greenlight campaign on Steam for this game by the middle of the month if I reached a certain point in the games development. Unfortunately that won't be happening. So here's the plan (for now) - I am not that far off from hitting that "certain point" in the games development. What I want to do is get more done. My goal is to try launching the Steam Greenlight campaign by the end of this month and then hopefully finish and release the game early 2017. No promises just yet. Might not happen. But that is what I am aiming for and working hard to stay on my schedule. In the meantime there will probably be less blog post and updates but I will come back on here and share more whenever I get a chance to do so! If I launch my Greenlight campaign before the end of this month then I will definitely post an update here on the blog.




Until then, this might be the final post of 2016. If it is, I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful holiday break. Spend time with your families, play some video games! See you in 2017!

Things are gonna get weird...