📰 The PixelCount Post - Issue #16
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  1. #1
    Matt's Avatar

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    📰 The PixelCount Post - Issue #16

     






    ISSUE #16                         THE VALE, QUILL                         19 JAN 2018                         ONE BRASS






    The House That Screamed Blood
     



     
    I am cursed.
    Or the house is cursed.
    Or the house cursed me.

    I have been pondering which of the 6 Fae Goddeses I upset this week. Druida, Goddess of Orchards? Aurore, Goddess of the Sky? Or perhaps Freyl, Goddess of the Fields?

    I was moving house and a string of breakages and accidents plagued me daily. I dropped my 3DO console, making the top come off. My Fable II framed game I was awarded on launch inexplicably flew off the wall and smashed, taking one of my Lionhead trophies with it (which thankfully survived).

    Water was spilled on the sofa. I stubbed my toe on a door. I reversed my car into another (tiny bump with no damage...phew!). My home internet cut off 2 days early (new one being installed soon). I was in the bath and scuttled downstairs holding a towel over my bits to turn up the water temp, and slipped on the kitchen floor, sending me somersaulting onto my bare arse.

    I am going to double my Offerings.

    In amongst the carnage of the move, I managed to do some screenshots with the new screenshot tool that Neal cooked up. It is very cool. NPC routines design docs are in progress too...hoping to bring life to their lives.

    Yet, I keep hearing giggling from the fireplace and light footsteps in the pantry. I might triple my Offerings.



    Bubbles Below the Surface Can Only Rise
     



     
    This week in code, a certain development (slight pun intended) occurred that reprioritised a whole bunch of work. I think it turned out all for the best though, in that this felt like another of those moments that I've seen happen on game development (and undoubtedly happen in many other projects too). What I mean by that is that there's often a tendency for ideas to come up somewhere in the midst of work that would improve productivity or make the game better. These ideas stick in the mind but are always bubbling just below the surface as something that isn't in the immediate gaze of whatever goal is pressing at that time. Eventually though, something will occur that makes them feel super critical because the alternative is a lot of manual tedious work that really wastes so much time.

    In the past, the combosprite editor was an example of this. We had some pieces to construct trees back in 2016 and we were intending to combo them together but being in the thick of other things I didn't get on it right then. Instead, I think it came about in the next year when we were starting to get bored of looking at the same tree everywhere. Once that went in, it really did transform the game very quickly into a much richer environment. It also lead to further ideas (such as wind moving the leaves and making selected parts of the tree transparent where the player is) that would have been near impossible without.

    Anyway, going back to this week, the new tool that I created was one called 'screenshotmode'. This takes the pressure out of carefully engineering circumstances in the game and making sure to take a shot at exactly the right moment. With it, characters can be moved around the screen and their animation pose can be changed to any of the ones they have. It's been great seeing the shots created already from this tool and it'll be cool to see it taken further as the game and mode develops more! To be fair, this is perhaps a double-edged sword of a tool because on the one hand it allows Charlie and Matt to create much more carefully composed shots but it does also mean that what they compose is not exactly what you might see in game. So the trick now will be to use these shots as a blueprint for how to improve the sim and make those shots happen in the game organically.

    Other than work on that, which didn't take too long all told, work has also continued on gameflow; importing new art and exposing more data to be edited via the editor. My pick of the week apart from the new tool would be some commands I added for playing with the size/angle/color of rain. It's great being able to make real time changes and try out crazy ideas very quickly without a rebuild! 'Til next time, have a good week all!



    Lest Less Is More, Less Is, More or Less, Less
     



     
    Things are speeding up as we draw closer to Early Access. I want to create the best possible first impression on the music front, and that means a large and varied soundtrack. So I'm writing as much as I can. I've invested a bit of time into making a new default file to start from as well. It contains every instrument of an orchestra, neatly pre-configured and put in its correct position in the room so that it has the correct reverb applied to it.

    Previously, I just added whatever instrument I needed as I went along, but over time that meant redoing all the settings that come with it many times over. It adds up. On top of that I began to have a habit of continuing to use the instruments I already chose thus far, rather than adding new ones, and that's not always good. While there's something to be said for 'less is more' (mainly that less can, in fact, be more), sometimes more is more. Which is more or less obvious.

    There's a few spaces in the game that still need their own dedicated music, and that's my current focus. I just did a track based around a particularly quirky character in the game, which was a lot of fun to do. Kynseed has some lovely quirkiness to it, which forms the inspiration for the more lighthearted tracks in the game. Though there's more atmospheric music as well, which creates a nice mix. Looking back on what I've done so far, it's interesting to discover the soundtrack's 'identity' as you go. I'm trying to keep it consistent, yet diverse, which isn't easy.

    Also, over time you change as a composer, which can lead to the early works in a soundtrack being quite different from the later ones. To an extent, this is unavoidable. But it mustn't become too obvious, or the entire soundtrack becomes inconsistent. By the time the entire game is done, so much time will have been spent on the soundtrack that I just won't be the same person I was when I got started on it. I'm learning so much as I work on it, and listening to the older tracks I already sometimes feel the urge to change things because I want to apply what I learned on those tracks as well. That can work to an extent. Though at some point, you have to let go of the fact that anything you do is a reflection of the time at which you did it - or you end up amending it indefinitely.



    Puttin' on the Blitz
     



     
    Oh dear, is it my turn? Um...alright. Sure. Just...uh, give me a minute here to shuffle some papers and pretend to look like I'm prepared.

    Ahem.

    Hello and welcome to another completely well planned and totally not off-the-cuff article written by yours truly. Oh, that thing catching fire in the corner? Never mind that. This is fine.

    As you might expect, this week's article is one of those 'best laid plans' parables where I basically ramble on about how unexpected things arise that sometimes put all other things on hold. Yet even though it sometimes feels like you're putting out a fire, in this particular case the unexpected distraction was a rather positive one.

    Early this week I was aiming to focus exclusively on getting our digital stores set up and prepared so that we could eventually make these public so as to let people start wish listing the game. I was all set to focus on that and get very far along in it when, out of nowhere, we saw an opportunity arise extremely last minute and we all halted what we were doing to focus on it.

    As a result, this entire week has been a bit manic, but for good reasons. I shan't get into any specifics, partly because nothing's set in stone. Though it's also partly because...and I don't know that the rest of the team has even admitted as such...that we don't want to jinx it. So please forgive me for my vagueries and, instead, silently root for us from the shadows as best you can.

    All of the above resulted in us focusing on key areas of the game and doing a polishing blitz on a few things, something that I think we needed to do anyhow. When working on a game as complicated as Kynseed, it can sometimes be difficult to know when to work on the core game verses when to work on the polish. Both are no doubt important, but time is our enemy. If we spent all our time polishing content then the core gameplay would suffer. If we focused only on the core gameplay, then the game's presentation would suffer. It's an interesting balancing act, because both of these disciplines are critical to get right.

    Presentation and polish can be huge for a game's success. Polish determines almost all of the game's marketing materials (screenshots, videos, etc.) and also play a big part in the game's first impression when it's played or when there a Let's Play/stream. Then there's also the core gameplay to consider, because at the end of the day the game still has to be fun and functional.

    The thing is, no amount of polish can make up for poor gameplay. I suppose that sometimes good gameplay can make up for poor polish, yet one can't help but wonder how many people would be put off from even trying the game in the first place if the polish isn't up to snuff.

    So yes, it is a balancing act to be sure. When time is limited, it's important to make decisions on where best to focus efforts. Lately, gameplay has been the focus but, of course, this means we've been generating a backlog of polish needs. Thankfully, this week's unexpected opportunity was such that it made us do a blitz through a big portion of polish that we've been meaning to get to.

    Despite not focusing on what I set out to accomplish this week (in addition to the entire week being a bit manic and unpredictable in general), it was actually a rather amazing week all said. The team works incredibly well when presented with a challenge and a unified goal. Neal was rigorously diving into the code and coming up for air only to show us what magic he had managed. Charlie was busy creating amazing screenshots and prettying various regions in the game. Then I was there helping to keep the PixelCount machine well lubricated by organizing our strategies and making interesting assets in Photoshop and all other manner of things.

    I always get super proud of our team during crazy weeks like this, so the next time you see Charlie or Neal when you're walking around the grounds of Castle PixelCount, be sure to give them a higher five than you usually give. They deserve it this week.



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    Last edited by Matt; February 6th, 2018 at 01:32am.

  2. #2
    BriarRose's Avatar

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    Fingers crossed for whatever vague thing you are alluding too!

    Is the screenshot creator going to be available to the general public as part of the combosprite editor? I think it'd be fun to see what silly screenshots we fans can make. Though understandable if you have some good reasons to keep it for the devs.
    "I have a cloooooooooooooothing stooooooooooore in my noooooooooooose."- Jurak, Dark Cloud 2

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    Carbunkel's Avatar

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    The highest of fives!

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    Charlie's Avatar

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    Looks like the vague thing is a go...so more news very sooooon....

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    Finger crossed! May Freyl bless all your work and team!

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    *Sits in the darkest shadows, silently rooting for you all!*

  7. #7
    Matt's Avatar

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    A new Post has been...well, posted! This issue also includes some really cool fan art of Old Mother Hubbard.
    Everything in moderation, including moderation.

  8. #8
    Inudemon's Avatar

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    Wonder if the vague thing is getting the game published by a publisher.

  9. #9
    Charlie's Avatar

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    It's not :-)

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