ISSUE #47                         THE VALE, QUILL                         6 APRIL 2019                         ONE BRASS





The Short Report
 

 
We've been thinking with portals this last week and have been adding in the initial system to allow for travel to various Fae realms. In fact, so distracted have we been by all our portal pondering that it was hard to wrangle the team together to put together this issue of The Post 'til now. That said, the portal's visuals are looking rather fantastic and, what's more, are running entirely in code without the need for any external art assets. We've also begun adding a few other basic particle effects here and there as well which, combined with the portal effects, is really helping give the game world a whole new layer of visual depth.

For now, these portals will let players travel to two Fae realms in particular: one is to return to Mr Fairweather and the other is to visit a brand new region called Tir Na Nog. However, the citizens of Tir Na Nog have a strict height limit enforced which means the player will have to shrink themselves down to gain admittance. This new region also uses an entirely new set of environment assets and has a colour palette not seen anywhere else in the game world.

Additionally, the initial framework of a new minigame is coming along nicely. It's called "Squeal or No Squeal" and involves strategically popping inflated pig balloons to see what their contents are. This game is run by a chap named Gnome Edmunds, whom players will get to meet in the next update.

So it's been a very productive and successful first two weeks of work for the "Gnome Pun Intended" update. We'll spend another week or so on it and then dispatch it your way to download and check out. Though for now, it's back to work for us. These pig balloons aren't gonna inflate themselves.



Taking Stock
 



 
Items! That's been my main thing over the last few days. Creating, naming, giving stats and effects, and adding 'funny' descriptions. It's great fun, but slow work - especially when redistributing everything.

I tried to ensure each Haven has at east 3 unique fish types, a couple of herbs, an ore type, a few flowers, and their own fruit and veg. The Smithy in each has 2 mould types they specialise in and the Apothecaries have shared cures, but their own brand perfume and speciality item. Each tavern has 3 local drinks of differing strengths and each store biases towards certain types of items.

When designing such things as part of world building, I consider the environment, the people, and the potential uses for each. Then I hit the biggest hurdle...the descriptions (as often my references are very obscure, if clever). Plus some items are invented, so that makes descriptions even harder.

What is my method for inventing, I don't hear you ask? With things like fish or Fae, I say letters out loud and you get a feel for which letters work and 'feel' right to start with. I start to combine letters and make sounds and your instinct tells you if a word fits and rolls smoothly. It also helps to look up Celtic folklore names, or at actual fish species lists, and those are great starting points for names.

If a wordplay can be used, or a pun, then all the better, but it is best to mix and match. And that leads me to now, looking at my Excel sheet, trying to think of a description for the Shalewyrm, a type of eel found in Pinehaven, our most northerly region. We have an eel already in another region, and that description simply reads....'Ongated'.

That's pretty much the level we roll at around these parts.



Don't Curse the Darkness, Be the Light
 



 
These last two weeks I got stuck into work on the next update. It's been a nice change of pace with a minigame to sort out along with setting up a method of teleporting to other realms. The latter isn't too complicated for those who have played the game already but it's allowed some improving on the presentation side of things. We had a review of the WIP work on Friday which had things moving along nicely.

Though one aspect which did come up is lighting, which is an extra bit of work I hadn't considered. Outside a few interactable objects that have a light component, there's a basic ambient light setting for everything else right now. So what's needed is to put together a way to add in extra lights to highlight particular bits and work in a more bespoke way per level. I've started work on this and it shouldn't be too long to start testing it out. The tricky bit is defining a good set of shapes for different circumstances.

I'm sort of torn between just providing a few different shapes and seeing how to handle overlap or going a bit further in allowing more of a tile based area of effect. First things first though: getting a system in place to test!



Ready to Rumble
 



 
This week I got to figure out what portals sound like. From the low rumble as the ground shakes when opening a portal to the eerie hum as it stays open, to an otherworldly wailing as you go through one...

It all sounds a bit ominous - and that's intentional. These are magic phenomenon, so how could you possibly have the slightest idea of what to expect? There's been some internal discussion about the technical side of how to do it. Sometimes the ideal of how we want sound to work in the game isn't exactly the least resource intensive way, and Neal tends to have to come in to say something just can't be done right now, that maybe further down the line we can do something more elaborate. So sometimes I have to figure out what still sounds good within all the restrictions that reality imposes.

Then when you get to that other world, everything should sound different there, including the ambient track. Previous ambient tracks were made from recordings in nature, but with nature itself being so different in these other worlds I can't do that here. Thus, I'll have to construct my own soundscapes. That'll be a lot of work I reckon, as even water sounds differently in other realms. So I've certainly got my work cut out for me!



Graphic
 



 
It's good to be working on a new region with the team. We'd been working so long on the blacksmith and pre-existing regions that I think we've all been happy for the change of scenery.

To provide a (much) more extreme example of this feeling, I remember once reading a Gamasutra article about the mental weight of working on graphic games and one bit of it that always stuck with me was Bungie Halo artist Vic DeLeon talking about making the flood-infested level "Cortana" in Halo 3. For a few weeks he absorbed himself in researching things like colonoscopy videos as well as medical images of tumors and lesions. As DeLeon says in the article:

"I started associating that level with feeling disgusting. Once it was built it took months and months of polishing, and in those months I couldn’t wait to work on something else. The level was so disgusting, and what I thought was neat at first really came to bear down on me."

He spent a total of eight months on that level.

Though it goes without saying that this is a much more severe example of what I'm talking about. Thankfully our team isn't dealing with gruesome levels day in and day out. In fact, I suppose it's quite the opposite - running through wheat fields on warm summer days as the bees buzz and melancholy music plays. Not walking through automatic anus doors.

Side Tangent: I gave pause when writing the above sentence, wondering if perhaps it was 'too much'. However, upon browsing the Halo wiki in search of a reference image, I've learned that their official description is "a sphincter-like orifice embedded into the floors and walls". So alright then.

All that to say, it's interesting to me how working on the same game environment for months at a time can lead to a sort of overexposure to it - even for the most pleasant of environments. Don't get me wrong, I still absolutely love running through these regions and exploring our game world. But there is something incredibly refreshing about having a brand new (and fundamentally different) environment to suddenly explore. A bit like that moment in the first Red Dead Redemption when you travel to Mexico for the first time and suddenly realize that there's a lot more scope to the world than it first let on. Granted, Tir Na Nog is just one region of many, but as we continue developing this game our hope is that you'll be constantly surprised and excited by every new place you discover in Quill's vast open world.

Did I just spend my entire update talking about colonoscopies and Halo 3? Yes. Yes I did.



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