Sunday, July 30, 2017
new tool: Yarn Weaver
I'm working on a game that uses the excellent Yarn and YarnSpinner narrative toolkit for Unity. For this project, I'm also collaborating with a narrative designer -- unfortunately, the Yarn editor doesn't actually have a play mode or a testing mode built into it -- which makes it difficult to collaborate, because the designer can't even run through the Yarn scripts without downloading the entire Unity editor and project source! What if she just wants to test a short conversation script or two?
So, I basically duct-taped the YarnSpinner example setup to this excellent UnityStandaloneFileBrowser (for native file open dialogs at runtime) to make a very small simple tool to open and run through Yarn scripts. It can display your text, parse all your variables, and render up to 4 choices.
I call this tool "Yarn Weaver". The project source files are on GitHub under MIT License, or you can download Windows and Mac OSX release builds here. I hope it's useful for people!
Friday, July 28, 2017
Toward an honesty of pixels: on Final Fantasy 12 HD and Quake 3 Arena
|combined screenshots from Final Fantasy 12 (PS2, 2006) and Final Fantasy 12 HD (PS4 Pro, 2017)|
I'm currently playing the remastered PS4 version of Final Fantasy 12 ("The Zodiac Age") and it's still the same old nonsense story about fantasy imperialists and magic crystal macguffins. One thing that surprises me, though, is how this remastered version actually looks worse -- it went from the apex of PS2-era 3D art to looking like a mediocre PS3 game running on a PS4.
When it first came out 17 years ago (!), the Playstation 2 famously had very little texture memory (4 MB!) and no texture compression (!) which meant developers had to get creative. Loyal readers of this blog know of my love of lightmap atlases and UV layouts, and so I'd like to talk about how the textures for the original Final Fantasy 12 on PS2 were utter masterpieces produced under severe constraints -- cramming so much detail into these small texture sheets, down to the pixels...
Friday, July 21, 2017
announcing: No Quarter 2017 on November 3rd in Brooklyn
|poster by Sophia Foster-Dimino|
For more info, check out this NYU Game Center page for the event. I'd like to copy and paste my short curator's statement here though --
For 8 years now, the No Quarter Exhibition has been paying game designers to make the games they want to make, and then throwing them a big fun party to celebrate and amplify their unique voices. We claim no ownership over the resulting work — we just want these artists to speak their mind, and so we give them space and support to do that. We think it’s a pretty great deal for them, but we also get a lot out of it: their act of creation, and our shared acts of play, help strengthen our communities.Also happening right after No Quarter -- game convention GaymerX East in NYC runs Saturday / Sunday. Sounds like a cool fun weekend to me! Not to mention that flights and hotels are cheaper in November too, it's off-peak... just sayin'...
Now, we do all this at a time when many people think we should isolate ourselves from the rest of the world — but we know that’s a very destructive attitude. It’s so destructive that, for the first time in the history of No Quarter, we are temporarily suppressing our vocal and insufferable belief in our city’s exceptionalism: this year, we are commissioning only artists based outside of New York City. We believe a wider diversity of backgrounds and identities can only enrich our understanding of art and community… oh, and it helps us make better games too.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
|the original prototype from early 2017, with a weirder style to match the artist's vibe|
I still kind of like the basic idea, so I'm going to replace the music and expand it to be part of the Radiator cycle. It's tentatively called "Paseo" (but the name will likely change before then) and it's about stripping, which is a popular intersection of sex and money. As a male performer, you will do strip routines and incorporate beautiful dance movements, but you also have to work the crowd and collect your tips.
Monday, July 10, 2017
Bevels in video games
Like a lot of digital artists today, I learned Photoshop in the late 90s in order to make awesome-looking fan sites and "professional" forum signature images. One of the Photoshop tricks I learned was the "Bevel" layer style, which embosses a faked thickness and depth onto a layer, as if it's popping outward toward / inward from the viewer.
When I first learned it, I felt powerful, like I could use Photoshop to "paint in 3D" and make my Starcraft fan forum avatar look even more professional. But then I realized that the bevel had a very specific look to it, and I started seeing that look everywhere. My astounding bevels quickly lost their sheen. To this day, the conventional wisdom in 2D game art is that you should just handpaint your own bevels, and it only takes a few minutes when you get good at it anyway.
Today in 2017, the bevel has arguably taken over 3D environment art, and like all the other game art gods, it demands labor from us. But unlike 2D bevels, there's no strong consensus on what the best 3D bevel techniques are, which means we're free to experiment...
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
On first person one-roomers and grass games
|old WIP production still from an early version of The Tearoom|
A lot of my games have been what I'd call short form "one room" games, where I constrain the scope of the game to one room or one small area. When I first started doing Radiator 1 ("Polaris") in 2009, that constraint emerged from my frustration with working on a large international group project like Black Mesa Source, where I wasn't sure if we were ever going to finish and release anything. I wondered, could I work alone, and quickly make a short experience in a small room?
Cut to today in 2017. I've just finished and released The Tearoom, a game that takes place in one single public bathroom. Because it was so small and controlled, I could focus on the interactions and production value very tightly, and produce something with relatively high fidelity and density even though I was working mostly alone. (But it still took me like 8-9 months of part-time work to do all that! Maybe the room should've been even smaller?)
The Signal From Tolva focused on a somewhat sparse rocky-chunky-sculpted look. Both games feature large open world environments that differentiate themselves with talented art direction that also helped them scope better too.
photoreal translucent Unreal grass, or Breath of the Wild's lush Miyazaki grass, so maybe that's why I don't bother. As much as I enjoy and admire all these grass games, I recognize that it's out of my wheelhouse and capability. Instead of trying to build a giant grassy forest landscape, I can rest with a decently crafted urinal and lean on that.
It might seem like I'm boxing myself in, and maybe I am, but honestly it doesn't feel that onerous to me. Grass is nice, but perhaps there's enough people making grass games already. I'm not sure if I have anything new or interesting to say about grass or trees anyway. (But who knows? Coming in 2018: gay trees)
By constraining the physical-geographical space, I think that helps me explore a wider conceptual-cultural space. One room doesn't just mean one idea? Or if it does, then for now, I think I'd rather make 5 one room games than 1 five room game, or 0.271 forest games.
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