The PixelCount Post - Issue #31
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  1. #1
    Matt's Avatar

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    The PixelCount Post - Issue #31

     






    ISSUE #31                         THE VALE, QUILL                         8 JUNE 2018                         ONE BRASS





    Monster in My Pocket
     



     
    This week saw the first pixel concepts of our first monster type appear. These are the basic 'filler' creature that are the most populous. I had to write up a brief about them to Gary, our character artist, who came back pretty quickly with a few variants.

    It was funny as I privately messaged him that we didn't want anything green / orc-like for them, but didn't see he had already posted them all in green. I am very keen to avoid high fantasy and anything remotely Warhammer, so one set of concepts were too goblin-like and were dismissed. However, the other set were very cool and one of them was a light grey-blue, which looked nice. We decided to do colour variants based on melee grunts, ranged grunts, and the larger elders who command them.

    The creatures are slightly cute and a little comical (think Hobbes in Fable), so we will look to get concepts of the more dangerous folklore type monsters before we show them. Combat will be fairly simple in the easiest forest, but should ramp up massively for the harder places, making prepping all the more important. Some of the monsters are going to have certain criteria before appearing, so such knowledge will be essential - basically a cross between Monster Hunter and Witcher 3, but with a much smaller budget.

    Another thing we are keen on is avoiding the usual array on creature types...so there will be no zombies / skeletons / giant spiders / orcs / high fantasy type trolls / flying eyeballs / lizardmen / big rats, etc. A refresh of the RPG is in order...begone treasure chests, health bars above heads, XP as we know it, traditional leveling, classes, instant health potions, chopping down trees for wood, magic spells, and so on.

    It is a risky thing to take player's away from the usual crutches of the genre, but we feel it is necessary to realise our vision and try something a little bit different.



    Cooking Up Minigames
     



     
    This week seemed a slower week though it was quite packed with work on the new build released 8th June (and then a little more was fixed the morning after for a crash and some cases of NPC's going missing!). Most of the time was spent working on the cooking and baking minigames, which are coming along quite nicely. The art is all in place and the flow has been adjusted to include a preparation step that feels a bit more natural. They do need a second pass in terms of refining the balance and presentation but already feel a more solid addition to the experience.

    Other work included some fixes to mouse input problems which appeared on some monitors displaying at 4k @ 30hz. Not having one of these displays I was confused on the cause but eventually tracked it down to some screens accepting input during the draw phase of the game. By doing this (at 30 frames per second while the update runs at 60fps) it was missing the detection of mouse clicks. To solve this, I've made it so the draw detects mouse position over the different boxes but the clicking is now done in the update loop. It was good to finally understand the problem as it is something that has been frustrating Charlie in the editor too!

    Another activity this week was our first Dev Pub backer development stream! It was the first time of live streaming for me and I found it a nice and interesting experience. It's odd watching the stream at the same time and led to me developing short term memory loss where I couldn't remember what I'd just said, though I hear that it gets better with practice! I'm keen to try doing some streaming in the future where I'll just be doing my usual work and see how that goes. With our company all working remotely there isn't the opportunity for dropping by other's desks, so it'll be interesting to see how a virtual setup for that might work out and lead perhaps to some extra ideas or more collaborative work.

    With E3 next week we've decided to have an experiment and divert from normal build update work. The plan is to spend the time working on planning, behind the scenes code, and other activities that'll be beneficial in the long run for the game. I'm excited to see how it goes as it might offer a solution to this feeling of being somewhat trapped into a pattern of never-ending build updates which is very focused on the short term gains. There's definite progress being made week to week, but there's a tendency to not have the time to fix issues or improve workflow that might make efficiency that much better in the months to come. If successful, we might plan to do a cycle of 3-4 builds and then have another experimental week to see if we can figure out a good rhythm to development.



    A Hard Balancing Act to Follow
     



     
    While The Vale has a lot of music in it already, it's only a relatively small part of the complete game world we strive to create for this game. And recently I got to see a map for all the other areas that we want to make. Believe me, we have lots of work left to do! But I also look at that map from a different perspective.

    To me each area has its own culture and should have its own 'sound'. This means that I have to come up with ways to musically represent those different cultures for each haven in the game, of which The Vale is only one. The work has now started to determine the musical identity of the next havens. This is a balancing act between keeping an identifiable 'Kynseed' sound throughout all of them, and yet making each culture distinct enough to have its own sub-identity as well. We want you to feel the differences, yes, but not to the extent where it feels you're playing a whole different game.

    To give you an example, a place called Poppyhill is a town of hard-working people who are known for their beer. For their music, I've drawn inspiration of German beer fests. But I'm still using the same orchestral 'backbone' to build that style on top of. I'm just adding some unique instruments to that backbone to give it its unique identity. In this case, the additions are instruments like accordions, which also feature in the mummer music you'll be able to see in the tavern later in development. I first tried a very different direction for Poppyhill, with banjo and marimba, which I had based on some of the concept art for their houses. But it didn't pan out. I have to keep in mind that there are plenty of other cultures left in the game that'll need their own musical identity, so I can't afford to use too many things from my bag of tricks on just one of them, lest I run out of unique things for the other ones.

    Meanwhile, work on sound effects also keeps on going, which recently meant I had to make a new sound for when you first pick up an item. My first attempt was a completely new sound, but it didn't quite work. So for my second attempt, I used the basic sound of the normal pickup to construct a new melody. This way the two feel a bit more linked to one another. You'll now be able to hear this new sound in the latest build. As always, all your feedback is crucial in knowing we got it right. So by all means, give us your feedback!



    Pre-E3 Glee & Me
     



     
    For me, this was certainly a week full of preparation. Some of this was preparing for the developer stream, but there was also some pre-E3 planning to do as well. Every year I seem to always forget how far out the E3 craziness begins. The convention itself is only on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of next week. But there's other events (press conferences and such) starting as early as Saturday. And even a week before that is often filled with registering for events and contacting people to coordinate various things.

    Still, it's the sort of craziness that I find exhilarating. Before I lived in LA, I was a mere visitor in this city, attending my very first E3 in 2013. I've attended each E3 since then (making this year's my 5th in a row!) and there was always something magical about visiting LA in the summer to attend one of the largest game events put on. So whenever another E3 comes 'round, it always puts me back in those shoes: summer in LA, bright eyed about the games industry, hanging around downtown, and meeting many people I respect and look up to.

    I'm still bright eyed, but now I live just a few blocks from E3. And yet, during E3 week I always feel like I'm from out of town again, seeing everything as if seeing it for the first time. So all that to say, I love the E3 craziness. I know it's a somewhat overinflated gaudy mess at times, but I can't help but find its garishness oddly charming.

    As for what I'll be doing at E3, it won't be anything too terribly exciting I'm afraid. We had considered getting a small booth somewhere (probably over in IndieCade), but as anyone who's worked at Lionhead can tell you, you'd be amazed at how much a distraction making an E3-ready build can be. Typically these builds don't offer much in terms of meaningful development. Plus, the build simply isn't at a state where we think it's worth spending the time and money on a booth. But perhaps next year!

    That said, I'll still be at E3 meeting with various folks (Valve, some occasional press perhaps, etc.) as well as taking some time to actually enjoy the event and play some games even! If any of you lovely Seedlings are also in attendance to E3 and want to say hello, send me a message on here, Discord, or Twitter! I also plan to personally give a full walkaround tour of the entire E3 convention center (both outside and in) over on my Twitch channel, so be sure to follow and enable notifications if that's something you'd be into.

    See you all on the other side!



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  2. #2
    BriarRose's Avatar

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    Looking forward to the unique creatures of the Vale! I love cute enemies like the Kobolds in WoW and of course Hobbes.
    "I have a cloooooooooooooothing stooooooooooore in my noooooooooooose."- Jurak, Dark Cloud 2

  3. #3
    Charlie's Avatar

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    We may have you covered there...

  4. #4
    Matt's Avatar

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    After a week away from the printing press for E3, The Post is back in action with Issue #32.
    Everything in moderation, including moderation.

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