📰 The PixelCount Post - Issue #50
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    📰 The PixelCount Post - Issue #50

     









    The Short Report
     

     
    Goodness, it seems our humble PixelCount Post has reached issue #50! We've been writing these so routinely that it very nearly snuck up on us. To help celebrate, we've included a few extra things for this week's issue. In addition to the usual crew that writes for The Post, we also brought along a couple of our other teammates to pop in and say hello. This includes Gary, character artist extraordinaire, as well as Caz, creator of lovely icons.

    Another fun extra for this week's issue is that we thought it'd be fun to include some images from the earliest of early Kynseed builds that were ever made. We're talking extremely early here - ugly placeholder art and all. We've scattered these images throughout the issue and have included a small descriptive blurb under each one.

    You can check all that out further down, but as for our game progress: last week we began our initial work on getting our first optimisation update underway. As mentioned in our trusty roadmap, this update will focus on refining some background systems and paving the way for future systems to come. For our first week of that update, we've taken some time for a bit of polish and clean-up of the game's Prologue.

    Neal typically has to do the heavy lifting for these sorts of updates, but the plus side is this gives the rest of the team time to catch up on other areas of content creation in the meantime - such as making all the adult player animations. Those are especially time consuming to create, because it requires recreating every player animation over again but at a different age - and for both twins no less! So all in all, these optimisation updates are providing the team a nice change of pace while simultaneously allowing us to catch up on a fair bit of back end work.

    Okay, so maybe this week's 'short report' is not so short. In fact, this entire issue is pretty hefty! Though we figure a 50th issue is reason enough to do a bit more than we usually do. Thank you to all of you who've been reading along since the very beginning as well as those of you who've just joined us. There's still a ways left to go on our journey and we're happy and grateful to have each of you with us.




     
    This is one of the earliest screenshots of Kynseed's prototype that we were able to find. (The art is all generic placeholder, of course.) Even at this early stage we already had a few basics in, like finding dig spots, pets that follow, throwing items, and even playing catch with the pets.


    Drawing a Crowd
     



     
    When I joined the Kynseed team as character designer/animator, they already had a small demo up and running showing the first section of the game. My challenge was to take the established characters, along with concept art, and put my own twist on things.

    The first thing that struck me when playing the game was how beautiful and rustic the environmental art was; lush fields, colourful flowers, tall imposing trees, and cosy cottages made up the world of Kynseed. To contrast, I wanted to make the characters a bit more iconic/cartoony and try to make them stand out on the rich detailed backgrounds.

    The design process for these characters begins with a rough outline document from Charlie. We are very much on the same page when it comes to reference material and influences on our designs - in fact, our book collections and movie watching habits as kids are strangely similar.

    When I was designing the monsters, I would think back to creepy sketches in old English folklore books or the Usborne Guide to the Supernatural World books from my childhood, crossed with an unhealthy dose of the Deadites from the Evil Dead movies.

    A year and a half later, with around a hundred villagers, animals, monsters, Fae folk, and of course Mr Fairweather under my belt...all designed and animated. (The amount of animation frames created is scary!) I think weve done a pretty good job and its been a real pleasure working on the game.

    I had an absolute blast designing the monsters of Kynseed and they are next on my animation list once I finish the grown up twin animations. I really hope you enjoy meeting/being stalked by these creatures and get a little creeped out by some of them!



    Iconography
     



     
    Happy 50th issue, and it's such a pleasure to speak to you all! I'm Caz, and I'm a pixel artist from South Wales who's currently responsible for slowly replacing Kynseed's item icons with fancy new ones. With Fable being one of my favourite game franchises as a kid, you can imagine what an absolute honour it is to work with these guys and see all the hard work and love that gets poured into Kynseed.

    Besides pixel art and games, my other biggest passion is food and baking, so naturally there's a lot of room for crossover between that and my art. Nothing makes me happier than being able to churn out all the different icons for the game, from Apple Pie to Bacon Surprise.

    It's always a great joy to find creative and funny ways to express the same brand of unique humour that Kynseed possesses when it comes to drawing the icons, and I hope some of you eagle-eyed players out there will spot some of the references!

    Thanks for letting me blab, and I look forward to seeing more of you enjoying the game's progress!




     
    As prototype engine work continued, we began slowly adding our own art into the game. A few other features began to show up as well, ranging from lamp post lighting to shadows under sprites. The basic outline of the farmhouse began to also tentatively take shape.

    Fifty Shades of Posts
     



     
    Amazing to think that we have hit 50 editions of The Post. If we had stuck to our schedules we might have had 3,000 editions by now. Some weeks can be a challenge to think of what to write...while others just flow easily, like the results of Sipp & Winter's Go Easy Potion.

    It is great to see that our readers really enjoy our periodical. We were thinking of having some more titillating content to add some sensation, but the thought of Tice wearing just a cloak as he cosplays Herbert Lemon was too ridiculous to consider. We thank everyone for sticking with us through 50 editions and look forward to creating the next 50 over the next 50 years. See you again next week, same time, same batty channel.



    Thinking Outside the Mailbox
     



     
    With the "Gnome Pun Intended" update out, I've been busy fixing bugs as they popped up. It feels like they are slowly shrinking in numbers but still lurking around just out of view. I've been trying to take it strategically in reducing them because they can be rather time consuming, as mentioned last time, when it takes a while to even get them to happen consistently enough to figure out.

    Now that we're in our optimisation update we've been talking over potential candidates for work. For last week, those include some tweaks to the Prologue, introducing a few new items, setup of a noticeboard, and even a first pass of a mailbox. I can see the benefits to these but do find myself wondering if they are the best thing to be doing. My plan is to get them done quickly to move on to other items in subsequent weeks.




     
    Eventually the engine was able to handle more layers and complexity, so we began adding in additional art like foliage and paths (and even insects, like the little bee on the far left). This still used our old player asset, although pet art did receive another update at this point. (And of course, there were a ton of new engine features not pictured in this simple screenshot.)

    Personal Effects
     



     
    I can't believe we're at issue 50 already! It's been such a wild ride to get where we are today. Before writing this I decided to go back to the first issue and see where I was at back then. I remember how at the beginning I thought I was only going to be doing music, which is my 'comfort zone' as a composer. The first issue doesn't even mention sound effects, which I've had to learn to do since then.

    I was very nervous about it, and felt mostly lost. Nowadays, I feel so much more confident about doing sound effects. With it I've gained new skills, new insights, and new familiarity. Lately I've been working exclusively on sound effects and ambient (environment) sounds. The fear is gone. When I'm asked to make a new one, I no longer automatically think "I don't know if I can pull this off...", and it feels very liberating to have that confidence.

    That said, I'm still no SFX expert. Even in music I have a bazillion things to learn, but in sound effects I'm even further away from knowing everything. That first issue I spent talking about how I wanted the music for the game to be diverse, yet consistently 'Kynseed-ish'. So far, I'm quite happy with how much I've been able to reach that goal. Not that there's no room for improvement, but it's good to look back at goals you've set and see that you're on track to completing them.

    I reckon my focus will remain on sound effects for a little while longer before work on new region music is required. It's a good learning opportunity. We're coming up against prioritization choices where we know certain adjustments are needed, but when to implement them isn't straight forward. Do we fix that ambient sound not being optimal but requires code to get the solution we want, or is that coding time better spent elsewhere right now?

    So for now, I'm writing a list of changes for sound and music I'd like to see that'll require Neal to implement. Then I'll need to wait for the right time to get them implemented. 50 issues from now, I'm hoping to see a lot of "i's" dotted and "t's" crossed in the music and sound effects. It'll be interesting to find out 50 issues from now if that goal has been met!



    A Change of Cutscenery
     



     
    Useless trivia: 'quinquaginta' is the latin word for 50. Neat.

    When not waxing poetic about hitting issue #50, we've been otherwise busy with initial prep work for our optimisation update. The tricky thing with these updates is that they're a bit more free form than our usual updates, the latter of which typically have fairly clear cut goals pre-established as per our roadmap. However, for optimisation updates, we've intentionally left those blank ahead of time so that we can stay reactive and agile during development. So the very first thing we have to do for these updates is agree on some ad hoc development areas and then order them by priority.

    One of the first areas of priority, which we began work on this week, was to polish up a bit of the game's Prologue experience. Though for the subsequent weeks, we'll probably switch over to improving and streamlining some of our developer tools. There's many areas of the game's development which require hands on the code - which essentially means only Neal is able to do them. However, whenever we're able to create game engine tools that the entire team can use, this democratizes the game's development in such a way that it frees Neal up to work on other areas of the code.

    A good example of this is our cutscene tool. In earlier versions of our game engine, cutscenes were handled exclusively code side. So if we wanted to make even a minor change to a cutscene, such as repositioning a character, Neal would have to go in and make that change manually in the code. This proved to be extremely cumbersome, so to solve the problem Neal created a cutscene tool within the game engine that the entire team could use.

    The other great thing about this method is it lets the more cinematic minded team members have hands-on access to creating and modifying cutscenes. Different areas of development require different creative instincts, so the creative strengths of one team member are often different than the creative strengths of the other. Thus, opening up access to the game's tools allows the team to accentuate its individual strengths.

    This is surely one of the chief benefits of having a programmer on the team who has experience in creating tools. In fact, creating developer tools is one of the many areas that Neal worked on over the course of his 12 or so years on the Fable franchise. It's certainly coming in handy for us.

    That's also why these optimisation updates will prove so important for our development. Working on back end things like our developer tools won't be immediately visible to players, but they end up significantly improving development speed and workflow long-term. In particular, I'm looking forward to putting on my director's cap in the next few weeks as I dive into our cutscene tools and start crafting a handful of cinematic moments for future game updates.

    Lastly, I know we've already prattled on a fair bit about this being our 50th issue, but I do just want to take a quick minute to personally thank all of you who've been enjoying these little glimpses into our team. We've found that they're just as helpful for us as well. In some ways, it's akin to keeping a journal. Though to provide a bit of context and backstory:

    Long ago, there was a chap at Bungie named Frank O'Conner who began writing weekly development updates for some little game they were working on called Halo 2. (Shout out to Mister Chief.) Up to that point in my life I'd only ever just played games once released, but this was the first time I found myself following a game's development before it was released - years before, even. O'Conner wrote those weekly updates in such a laid back accessible sort of way and he'd sometimes even include snippets written by other team members. I found the whole thing fascinating and, I suppose, it's what later inspired me to do something similar here with Kynseed. So the fact that there's so many of you regularly following and reading these is not only exciting and humbling, but it also means a lot to us. A big and hearty thanks to all of you who have enjoyed our silly rambling issue after issue. No doubt there's lots more rambling still to come.




     
    This is a look at where the engine is currently. Player art is updated, there's now two twins to play as, all pets received a final round of new art (plus new breeds/colours), foliage was cranked to 11, there's bees and butterflies, and the father is there with his watchful eye. This little screenshot barely scratches the surface of everything that's in the game these days, but it is interesting to see how far Kynseed has come from that earliest of early prototype.



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    Last edited by Matt; May 11th, 2019 at 08:39am.

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