Indigo 2014, Shaders, and progress September 29, 2014
It has been over 3 weeks since our last blog and a lot of things have happened since then. Many of these things aren’t directly related to the development of Fragments of Him but we would like to share the moments that are. Here is a run-down of some of these highlights.
We have started a period with a new couple of interns who have been absolutely great so far. Kaylee Mulder has been taking over the character art department on Fragments of Him and is doing very nice job. Maik Bentlage is also doing a wonderful job with developing a key location in the game. Starting last month, we now adopt a method of weekly milestones with intermediate progress checkups. This is proving to be rather successful from a production point of view. It provides the team with a clear, self-imposed, goal to achieve for each week whilst getting feedback on fixed moments. It helps to get the right amount of iterations in and creates leaps in progress. In terms of development on Fragments of Him we have finally reached a golden thread in the story. This means that we can, with more certainty, undertake production steps with less worry about cutting a lot of work. With that being said we are planning to do a motion capture session pretty soon to get a large chunk of all the animations recorded.
In the meanwhile, we have also created a shader using Shader Forge that enables us to drive the variables that we need. To illustrate this you can look at the difference in the results below. On the left is the default material that Unity gives us that makes use of diffuse, specular, and normal maps. On the right hand side we have the same maps with increased performance, better colour control, full range in specular intensity and glossiness control, Fresnel intensity and colour control, and the ability to make it transparent and opaque. Additionally, we now have a skin shader that makes the skin for our intended look behave better when subjected to shadows at an improved performance. With simpler terms you could say it just makes things look prettier.
Last week we have also been at Indigo 2014 to give people the opportunity to play the prototype that forms the foundation for the full game. The responses from peers and players have once again been very positive and wonderful. This edition of Indigo marked a lustrum with it being the fifth edition. With 32 games of notable quality available to be played at the event you can say that our industry is definitely moving forward. The first day had a recorded attendance of over 600 visitors. That same evening was reserved for press and industry professionals which also resulting in quite a crowd. The second, and also last day, also brought in a good number of new faces although was not as well visited as the day before. We are very happy to have been able to allow so many people experience Fragments of Him and would like to thank the Dutch Game Garden for selecting our game to be part of this catalogue of titles. Thank you for sticking around with us for this blog. Follow us on Twitter @SassyBotStudio or leave a message on our Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SassyBotStudio if you want to get in touch.
Apartment & Interface Update September 5, 2014
After an exhausting week at Gamescom we continued work as usual. Since then, we had to say goodbye to Baiba, Corné and Arber, who worked at SassyBot until school started again last Monday.
It was great having you all work with us and hopefully we’ll get to work together again in the future. As for that future, 2 new interns started work this week! Kaylee will be taking over from Baiba in the character art department where she’ll be finishing off some of Baiba’s work and add detail to the rest of the cast.
Maik will be working on environment art and has started working on one of the unannounced scenes. Hopefully he can show some of his work in the near future.
It’s been a while since we showed screenshots of Fragments of Him, so here’s a couple of them:
The Unity3D update 4.6 introduced new tools to create interfaces, which we have been waiting for. Tino was very eager to start making the interface, and we have been making a lot of progress with that. Here’s a gif showing you how it looks at this moment. Do note that we’re still working on finalising a lot of things, and everything shown is subject to change.
The menu is designed to support both mouse and controllers. If you’re a PC gamer using a controller we make sure to change the interface based on what you’re using. Hopefully this’ll make switching between these 2 input devices as smooth as possible.
That’s it for this update, next blog we’ll be talking a little bit about interactions and gameplay, so be sure to check that out as well!
Gamescom 2014 Report: Day 4 and 5 August 19, 2014
On Day 4 of Gamescom (Saturday), Elwin and I went to enjoy all the greatness of the conference. Fragments of Him was only on display for a few days in the business area which was closed over the weekend. We woke up early so that we could enter the conference before the general public by using our exhibitor passes. I was able to try out Sony’s answer to the Oculus, the Morpheus. It’s external aesthetics are a bit daunting although the experience it’s able to offer very much reminded me of a slightly better version of the Oculus Rift DK1. The demonstration placed me in a diving cage where underwater wreckages started moving and a shark was aiming for my life. Luckily, I was equipped with a Dual Shock controller and by moving it around it made a flare gun in my virtual hands move. It’s flares didn’t really seem to have any impact although playing around with it was certainly enjoyable for a while. As I moved my head around, I was also able to aim a virtual flashlight around. Looking at my feet felt strange as I witnessed feet that weren’t mine. The inability to move my virtual legs felt very strange, something that I didn’t expect to feel that weird. Before I got to play around with Morpheus I also had a chat with a guy running the stand. After explaining that I’m a developer we started chatting about the possibility of using Morpheus in the future. He was particularly intrigued after hearing what kind of experience we would like to use it for and as a result he gave me a card of a person we should definitely contact after Gamescom to explore the possibilities.
Next up on our list was to play some Destiny which Elwin has been urging me to check out. After waiting in line a bit we were treated on an explanation of what the game was. Why someone would even consider waiting in line for anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour to play something they don’t know is beyond me though. I played as a Warlock and got to get the feel of the game. The controls felt quite responsive although the settings felt far too sensitive. Customizing its controls was a pain with a localized interface but I assume that making it feel right in the full version shouldn’t be too difficult. Elwin, of course, had to show off whereas I was happy with a 4th place as a first time player. The rest of the day consisted mostly of sightseeing as I hadn’t seen anything of the 3 remaining entertainment areas. It was good to see that developers such as Riot Games and Blizzard had a few developer focussed things on display such as artwork, fan art, concept art, and even live drawing sessions by Luke Mancini. The show floor day 5 came to an end by watching a very exciting match of Counter Strike: Global Offensive with RYStorm. In the past, I’ve sunk many hours in CS 1.6 and seeing all these maps reimagined and played by pro’s was pretty awesome. At the end of day 6, Elwin and I went back in to see the final map played of the Gamescom ESL One finals. The hall was filled and the tension was incredible. After the show floor closed it was time for the Sony party which wasn’t accessible to the general public. The drinks were on the house and the hall had a great atmosphere. One of the booth’s big screen was used for visuals with a DJ playing all kinds of genres mixed together like a pro. For some reason, dance battles seemed to be showing up all throughout the evening. Some them popped, locked, and flipped as they were hyped up by the crowd around them. The night came to an end around 4:30 with the DJ trying to extend the party by playing at least 3 final tracks. After getting passed the problem of being locked out of my room with Elwin asleep inside I went to bed at around 6:00. Apart from the CSGO match on Day 5 there wasn’t much noteworthy that happened. Hopefully, I’ve given you some insight and enjoyment from reading about my Gamescom experience. I really hope to back again next year although time will tell. Follow me on Twitter for more updates or to hook up for a chat.
See you around!
Gamescom 2014 Report: Day 2 and 3 August 17, 2014
Day 2 of my time at Gamescom was absolutely killer. Killer for my feet because of the 11 hours of standing at the booth. Killer because of all the wonderful responses and feedback from players, developers, and press, and killer because of the night that followed.
People really seem to like the experience we are trying to put together with Fragments of Him. It really resonates with players by moving them to tears. Hearing them speak about their time with the game and view on the teaser makes us a bit emotional too. It’s been the first time that I’ve actually seen someone’s tears well up after just watching the teaser video. That person wasn’t quite sure if they were ready to play the game just yet at our stand.
Standing by and constantly talking to people that play your game can be very tiresome. Fortunately, we could tag team and see some of the show floor in the meanwhile as a nice change of pace. The Koelmesse where Gamescom is held is absolutely massive. I’ve only been able to see half of it before I felt I had to head back to our stand.
Halfway throughout Day 2 it was time for a networking drink at the Holland Pavilion. The networking drink really helped lift up everyone’s spirits and drew in a crowd. It made it a bit easier for us to persuade some to check out Fragments of Him. The time and effort that the people from The Creative Fund NL and Dutch Game Garden have put in to organise this has been really great.
When the 2nd Gamescom day was over, I said goodbye to Mata as it was his last Gamescom day and Elwin who went back to the place we were staying at. Around 20:00 it was time to pack up and head into Cologne to find something to eat. I ended up with some of the other developers at a pizza place and had a few laughs and good conversations. The ‘out of conference hours’ are where people tend to loosen up a bit more and the conversations get more transparent. It’s a way to get to know your peers a bit better in a nice and informal way.
After having a nice meal the group insisted that we’d go into a karaoke bar. Apparently, karaoke is a thing during games conventions among its developers. I ended up in the weirdest karaoke bar imaginable. Immediately after entering, we went down some stairs into a basement where we witnessed a group of people sing asian songs. Combined with the cheesy lighting and lasers, the mood was set. After a couple of songs and drinks the place started to get crowded with names I’ve only seen in E3 interviews or on stage at console press conferences. My mind was blown. Later that evening, after the bar’s closing hours, we went to look for a bar that was still open around 3:00 AM. We passed the Cologne cathedral when we noticed a drone flying over. Apparently it was a Blizzard VP whose name I won’t mention. You can surely understand that this was an unbelievable evening. I was tipsy enough to ask for some business cards to be able to back up this crazy night.
Day 3 of Gamescom was the last day where the business area was still open. With a rolling stomach and 3 hours of sleep I thought of happy things and faced the day. The last business day was not as crowded as those before although we managed to get some interesting people come over to play Fragments of Him. At the end of the last business day we had a small celebration with some beers and cocktails that were making their rounds. When everything was packed and done we went into the EA area for some last drinks before calling it a night.
Stay tuned for a report on the two remaining consumer days on the show floor.
Gamescom 2014 Report: Day 1 August 14, 2014
As some of you might know, Fragments of Him was selected as one of the 10 games that are playable at Gamescom this year. Supported by the The Creative Industries Fund NL, we are fortunate enough to have received an arcade cabinet spot at the Holland Pavilion this year.
Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the pavilion how it currently looks although I did find an image (courtesy of Control Online) of the place while it was under construction. They have done an awesome job representing the games on the side of the pavilion as well.
The Holland Pavilion will still be open until Friday I believe. Afterwards, we get to face the huge crowd in the entire Koelnmesse (which is huge) from Saturday until Sunday. Some said that Gamescom is expecting over 300.000 people to show up. I have personally not been in Cologne before although I really marvel at the awesome looking city I’ve encountered these past two days. We are staying at a place fairly near the Koelnmesse with a breathtaking view. Today we went for some food and drinks with the other developers at the pavilion and generally had a great day. The people that have played Fragments of Him and have seen the teaser have been really positive in their reactions. We have seen some familiar faces from press, companies and players, although most of the people stopping by at the stand today were new to us and it has been exciting to meet them and see them play our game. Tomorrow, we will be at the booth for roughly 10 hours to explain Fragments of Him to people and why we think people should play it. The tagline that Mata came up with is working pretty well so far which is: “Do you want to play the saddest game on Gamescom?” Even though we have no real way of knowing, the emotional responses of some of the players do seem to give us the impression that we aren’t far off with that claim. That’s been the short report on our first full day of the Gamescom experience. Hopefully, I’ll find the time and resources to give you another update tomorrow.