📰 The PixelCount Post - Issue #32
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    📰 The PixelCount Post - Issue #32

     






    ISSUE #32                         THE VALE, QUILL                         24 JUNE 2018                         ONE BRASS





    Stoke More Folklore
     



     
    A week off during E3 is probably what the team needed, but in some ways made things harder. The cogs need to start turning and the cobwebs need dusting away from the darker corners of PixelCount Castle.

    I found the show to be pretty dull, with many pretty games but nothing that made me squeal like an excited piglet. The lull gave me time to get my quill out and write some terrible one liner jokes for the Juggler and songs for the Bard. I have no idea how stand up comedians get so much material that is actually good - it's tough!

    I also had chance to do more reference research for our folklorish cast of monsters. The first creature animations appeared and combat is about to begin its tentative first steps, so it is going to be an exciting time. For me, this coming week sees us finally expand away from The Vale, although this won't be exposed to players for a little while yet. The adventure begins again!



    Stalking NPC's
     



     
    Time flies with two weeks since the last Post! The first being the experimental E3 week, which didn't exactly play out as planned but still had benefits. Perhaps because of being more tired than expected from the constant build pressure (mostly probably a self-induced pressure) plus a slow start on the first few days of the week (watching the conferences and checking out all the pretty but not particularly inspiring games) meant things didn't progress much on my side.

    Some progress was made behind the scenes on tools to aid the import process but a lot of the ambitions I had going into the week didn't get much further than thoughts. I did end up feeling renewed for the start of this week though and that time away has helped change perspectives a bit and led to digging into some areas that had previously been a struggle to start on.

    Much of the work this week has been around bugs, in particular for the NPC's in the village and expanding on the tavern entertainment which will be the main new feature for the next build. I think the key thing which has helped with bugs is looking into the debug tools for understanding what the NPC's do.

    There's still more work to do on them but it feels a lot easier to follow their actions with a combination of an overview that shows their position, current order, and a way to focus on one at a time only running their 'script' with the camera following them. These tools were mostly in there before, but thanks to perhaps a step back and change of perspective I actually looked into ways to make them better, providing a more friction-free experience. I think if I'd looked at the bugs before, I probably would have been too focused on trying to make the NPC's just work and solve the immediate problem without thinking of the benefits that debug tools have. I've started looking to apply that in a few other areas as well, which I'm excited to see the advantages that having a robust system will have!



    Suddenly There Came a Tapping
     



     
    North of The Vale there lies a forest. This forest, I have not yet seen. Currently there is no concept art for it. I have only had it described to me. I know what the player will be doing once they get there, and I've seen some of the excellent work being done on whatever it is that dwells within said forest.

    Based on these things, and some references of other music, I set out to create the forest's music. Subsequently, I got it wrong...

    But that's ok. Rewrites are a fact of life for a composer. One difficulty I often run into during this process is that if I get linked music as reference,
    I have to still figure out what aspect of that reference music it is that they want me to pick out. In this case, there was talk of faerie-tale elements. But what I thought that probably meant was a wondrous atmosphere, especially since the trees were described as pretty. However, what I was meant to pick out was a much more scary version of faery tales.

    So, back to the drawing board I went. And this time I got it right! The atmosphere is much creepier now. And there is a mysterious sound of tapping on the trees, somewhere deep in the forest. I had a percussive element in my collection of samples that happens to be the sound of tapping against redwood trees. Within the musical 'frame' I've set for it, the sound is quite creepy indeed.

    It was a happy accident, really. I just happened to come across the samples in my collection of percussion while trying things out, and it worked.
    At current, the track is still in an early stage and much more work needs to be done on it. But now that I know I've got the vibe right, the rest will go smoothly I suspect.

    What's not so smooth is what my portion of our collective HDD storage looks like. Over time I've made a mess of it, and I need to restructure it. But I never take the time. Perhaps next week I can finally take it off my to-do list. Along with a few other items that have gotten stuck on there for too long.



    The Night of the Roundtable
     



     
    As anyone who's ever attended a con can tell you, the week after a con is often spent recovering from the week of the con itself. Such is the way its always been each year at E3. I spend an entire week (if not more) making preparations for E3 logistics, then it's the entire week of E3 itself, and then the week after is typically spent trying to catch one's breath and recalibrate back to a work routine.

    Here on the team side of things, we anticipated that E3 would be a distraction heavy week and that with me attending we wouldn't be operating as efficiently as normal. So we took it as an opportunity for everyone to work on smaller experimental things that we've simply not had time to tend to in prior weeks/months. As Neal mentioned above, some of that experimentation is for things like refining image importing systems (the process of adding new art assets and tiles into the game). This is the sort of change that is invisible to the player and so it's often hard to legitimize spending time on it, but for Neal it's a huge part of his workflow. Making such systems more efficient will save ample time in the long run.

    Meanwhile, as the team was busy recharging and experimenting, I was off on various E3 related adventures. One of these adventures even included a roundtable discussion with Valve, a rare opportunity indeed. It was a small group, so we had the unique chance to ask Valve about various things and to share with them our thoughts and feedback on the Steam platform. At one moment during the roundtable, the conversation began to trend towards community and how to properly support it.

    Apparently I've begun to get a reputation about constantly yammering about game communities, as one of the Valve employees specifically asked me about my 'community strategy' with Kynseed. In typical fashion, I had no shortage of opinions to offer on the subject. It was definitely nice to have the chance to talk directly to our proverbial Valve overlords about such things.

    I'll perhaps share some of the interesting community discussions in the next issue of The Post, lest this week's article becomes an even bigger wall of text.

    As for the games themselves, nothing particularly grabbed my attention this year - but that's fine. Every now and then there'll be a lull year for E3, where exciting things have already released but new exciting things aren't yet announced. As such, I suspect that next year's E3 may have some surprises up its sleeve.

    As for this last week, my focus has been on getting back into the groove of my work routines as well as streamlining some of our support channels to make it easier for the team to use. As our community grows in size, we'll get more and more support messages across all our platforms (Twitter, email, Steam, Discord, etc.). Making sure we can keep it all organized and efficient is an unexciting but important task. Beyond that, I've also been spending a little time capturing game footage of various features. We've found that seeing little snippets of the game's core features in video form makes it much easier for us to notice little things that need to be changed or fixed.

    This upcoming week will thankfully be a return to normalcy for the team. As Charlie mentioned, we're also starting to take our first steps beyond The Vale. Seeing the art come in for all this has been rather exciting, especially as it's so easy to forget that The Vale is just a small portion of the game's (much) larger world. Plus, combat is now within the team's crosshairs and we're looking forward to showing our progress on all this once it's ready. Stay tuned!



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  2. #2
    Matt's Avatar

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    It's lukewarm off the presses (we were a few days late), but here's the latest issue of The PixelCount Post!
    Everything in moderation, including moderation.

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