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The voices behind Fragments of Him February 5, 2016

By Bas de Jonge

In last week’s blog, Elwin announced that I would be introducing myself this week, so here I am. My name is Bas de Jonge and for the upcoming 5 months I’ll be interning as a marketeer at Sassybot. Rebellious as I am, though, I won’t just introduce myself in this blogpost; instead, I will introduce you to the very talented voice actors that have brought the story of Fragments of Him to life.

For the casting of the voice actors, we teamed up with PitStop Productions. They helped throughout this entire process: setting up our casting, gathering all the auditions, and eventually recording all the voices. The casting process resulted in over 250 auditions, which were eventually narrowed down to a list of four actors, namely Jay Britton as Will, Joan Blackham as Mary, James Alper as Harry, and Katie Lyons as Sarah.

Jay Britton

Jay Britton

Joan Blackham

Joan Blackham

James Alper

James Alper

Katie Lyons

Katie Lyons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jay Britton is a professional voice actor. You might have heard Jay in video games, on television in animated series’, or one of the many commercials. He’s a talented actor with a broad range of accents and voices, which made him the perfect choice for Will. Jay’s voice brings a lightness of tone, uncertainty, and optimism to Will at a turning point in his life.

Will’s grandmother Mary has been voiced by Joan Blackham. I personally think she has the perfect voice for Mary, and so did Mata Haggis, he says: “Mary is a complex character to portray. She is both staunch in her own opinions but also coming from a place of love. From the auditions, Joan stood out by pouring all of that complexity into a beautifully subtle performance of simple lines. There were many wonderful voices for the part, but Joan stood out immediately. She has a long history of television and film performances, and this experience shines through in her delivery.”

James Alper is the voice actor behind Harry. James has performed in theatre, film, and television shows, as well as video games. According to Mata, “James Alper has a very rich and resonant voice – the kind of voice that makes you want to smile when you hear it. James brought out emotions in the script that I had not realised were there, but immediately his reading added a new and powerful layer to the scenes.”

Sarah is voiced by actress Katie Lyons. She has previously acted in games such as The Secret World, Dreamfall Chapters, and Dirty Bomb. Besides voice acting in video games, Katie is perhaps best known for her performances in British television series Green Wing, among other appearances on television and in films. She has an incredible warmth and charm in her voice, perfectly matching Sarah’s own journey in Fragments of Him.

After the casting process, PitStop Productions have also been creating the music and many of the sound effects. The score for the game complements the emotions that the actors have brought into their scenes. Each of the actors has given a passionate, heartfelt performance for their role, and the recording sessions were days full of both tears and laughter. We are very excited to share the results with you soon this year!

Elwin Verploegen

SXSW & Certification Round One January 29, 2016

By Elwin

SXSW 2016

I’m very happy to announce that Fragments of Him has been selected as one of the finalists for the South by South West Gamer’s Voice Single Player Award. And as such we will be showcasing the game at SXSW Gaming the 17th – 19th of March. We will update you with specifics as soon as we know more about our location.

Certification Round One

Certification for Xbox One

Last week we submitted Fragments of Him for the first round of certification for Xbox One. This is simply a check on Microsoft’s end to make sure that a game meets their platform requirements and is up to standards to be released on their Console. For us this means the first big milestone after 2 years of development. While there are a couple more rounds to go, we are incredibly excited to finally get to the point where we can see the release coming up. We have since then had a report back with a couple of minor issues that we have to fix before we can give it another go.

End of an era

Saassybot_2016_Q1

After 5 months we say goodbye to Midas & Stefan, who have both successfully completed their internship at Sassybot. They have both been critical to getting Fragments of Him ready, introducing some new systems, polishing the experience and making sure that we were ready to go into certification. Midas has a promising future ahead of him and Stefan might stick around for his graduation that may include VR (unrelated to Fragments of Him). Thank you both for your awesome personalities these past several months and of course the great contributions to Fragments of Him!

As one sun sets, another rises. And as such, Bas de Jonge started his internship at Sassybot this week, and will be working with us on the marketing side of the game. He will introduce himself next week in a blog post. Welcome to the team Bas!

Elwin Verploegen

Fragments of Him coming to PlayStation 4 & Steam December 9, 2015

By Elwin

After our earlier Xbox One announcement we can now proudly add 2 more platforms where you can get Fragments of Him.

PlayStation 4

PlayStation 4

After Xbox One, we couldn’t let the PlayStation players stay behind. We will be releasing on the PSN store next year.

Steam

Steam

PC gamer? No problem, we got you covered! Next to the latest generation consoles, you’ll be able to get the game on Steam (and Humble).

You can read the full press release over here: http://www.icomedia.eu/portfolio-item/fragments-of-him-also-coming-to-playstation-4/

Make sure to follow us on Twitter & Facebook to keep up-to-date as we release more details about our upcoming release.

Elwin Verploegen

Gearing up for the release of Fragments of Him December 3, 2015

By Elwin

As we move towards release, we thought it was time for an update on the development of Fragments of Him. It has been a long journey (over 2 years), but we are starting to see the finish line. Internally, we are creating regular builds and are seeing these builds become incrementally more stable and enjoyable. In addition to that we have had private playtests that revealed opportunities for improvement. Over the last 6 weeks we have fixed a lot of bugs (295, to be exact) and we’re working hard to make sure that all of the remaining issues are resolved before we launch early next year.

Voice Acting

It finally happened!

Recording the voices for Sarah and Will.

Recording the voices for Sarah and Will.

Mata Haggis, the collaborating narrative designer, visited PitStop Productions to assist in the direction of the voice actors. Since then, the recordings have been processed and implemented. By now, all of recorded voice overs are in the game and let me tell you, it sounds amazing! We would like to eventually release the official voice acting cast in a future blog post so keep an eye out for that.

GaymerX

gx3-logo-pinkbanner1Just like last year, we will have a presence at GaymerX at the San Jose Convention Center (December 11-13). If you attend, you will be able to play the prologue over at the Arcade area (once we have an exact location we will let you know). This will be the first (and probably last) time that you will be able to hear the final voice acting before we release, so if you are around be sure to stop by!

Mata will also be attending and is on a panel with Joe Ortega where they will discuss how they addressed diversity in their work in games.

Throwback Thursday

Ah the good ol’ days of computer limitations, static characters, and unrefined gameplay. From now until release we will be releasing a before & after image of familiar (to those who played the prototype) locations. We will start this off by showing the living room of Will’s apartment.

Internship positions

It’s that time again, and this time we have 2 internship positions open, a Game Designer & Producer and a marketing position. In both cases you will be working closely with us to make sure Fragments of Him will have a successful launch, after which you’ll be working on our next project. You can read all the details over here.

Lastly, we have another cool announcement coming up towards the end of next week, so make sure to keep an eye out on our Facebook & Twitter pages for that one!

Tino van der Kraan

Baked Soft Shadows in Unity 5 November 20, 2015

By Tino

This blog shares some insights into soft shadows when baking lights in Unity 5. Light baking is a technique in the field of computer graphics where computationally expensive virtual lighting operations produce textures called lightmaps. Lightmap information baked into these textures are then used to display a virtual scene as if it was affected by real-time lights at a fraction of the cost compared to using real-time lighting. The combination of baked lights and real-time lights are often used to create a more believable virtual environment.

When observing how lights interact with objects in your environment it becomes apparent shadows are hardly ever perfectly straight. Light travels in a straight line, although it’s highly unlikely that your light source is infinitely small as to produce perfectly straight shadows. In order to make your scenes look more believable it’s worth considering what soft shadows can do for you if your software supports it. In this article I will demonstrate some comparison cases to better understand how baked soft shadows works and can be set up. Even though this tutorial focusses on Unity 5, the information here could be applicable to other software packages.

Let’s talk about light falloff in Unity and how it can enhance the look of baked lighting in your scene. To illustrate the soft shadows in a photographic example I would like to show you this image taken from a blog on lighting in photography. The image shows nicely how the shadow gets softer as it extends further away from the object. Let’s look at how we can achieve a similar result in Unity 5 .

Creating a Test Environment

When trying out unfamiliar techniques or investigating a problem it helps to isolate the issue in an empty project or scene so as to not be worried about accidentally breaking the one which is already working or that external factors might interfere and obfuscate your results. To better understand the effects of soft shadows in Unity I have therefore created a comparison setup in a new project.

If you want to follow along and reproduce these results then follow the steps below.

1) In a new Unity 5 project, use the 3D template and change the Rendering Path to ‘Deferred’ and the Color Space to ‘Linear’. You can do this in the editor by going to: Edit > Project Settings > Player

RenderingSettings
2) Turn your scene completely dark by disabling the Ambient Intensity and the Skybox so that you have control over how lights affect your scene. This scene uses the following settings which you can find in the editor under: Window > Lighting

TestLighting
3) For the objects in the scene I have a ground plane which is a simple quad and an object (cube) where both are set to static which is required in order to be included in light baking. A camera is optional but if you have one, set the Background to display black. While on the topic of the camera, eventually you may notice banding in your bake results in the Game and Scene view as can be seen on the shadow side of the cube below, you can address this by setting the camera to HDR in its component settings.

HDR_Settings

4) Lastly, the scene contains a light source which in this case is a point light. Set the point light Baking setting to Baked and the Shadow Type to Soft Shadows. With these elements in place you should have a similar scene that you can use for testing.

Point/Spot Lights – Baked Shadow Radius

To achieve light falloff on point lights and spot lights in Unity 5 you will need to set the Shadow Type of your light to Soft Shadows. Doing this will expose a variable called Baked Shadow Radius. Below you can see how this setting affects the results of a light bake.


Click the image above to enlarge it

The purpose of this setup is to show how you can control the soft shadows of a point light in Unity. The white sphere in this setup acts as a radius visualiser where its uniform scale corresponds to the value in the Baked Shadow Radius. This means that if the Baked Shadow Radius is set to 0.5 this is visualised by having the sphere use a uniform scale of 0.5.

Directional Lights – Baked Shadow Angle

Directional lights are often used as the sun in virtual scenes. It’s worthwhile looking at the characteristics of the sun before assuming that the directional light is simply the sun in your scene. While light travels in a straight line and knowing that the sun is incredibly far away, it’s false to assume that this results in perfectly straight shadows as can be seen in this image below.

Directional lights use a Baked Shadow Angle variable to indicate how its soft shadow should look. Look at the example below to understand how this behaves at different settings.


Click the image above to enlarge it

Area Lights

Area lights, which are baked only in Unity 5, naturally have soft shadows and only require you to aim and bake as is demonstrated below. Area lights are a great way to push more light into an interior scene when positioned over window frames.

AreaLight2

With this I hope to have demonstrated how you can create soft shadows that could enhance the believability of your scene in Unity 5 when understanding and applying soft shadows. If you have found this information useful then I’d love to hear about it on Twitter @Tinovdk.

Have a great day. :)