Adventure Creator and the great workaround festival

I love the Adventure Creator plugin for Unity. It’s no secret. Chris Burton has made an essential piece of software for me to make games with, and continues to improve it dilligently.

That said, there comes a time in the life of any piece of software where you get so familiar with it that you want to do things that go outside the realms of its functionality. Many of these dreams I had became official features, but sometimes you gotta break open Monodevelop and just start hacking.

Here are a few examples.

By default AC only supports 10 inventory grid slots, with 30 slots max. I needed 12, with a maximum of 36, so I followed the declaration tree, deep into the jungle of AC’s core code base, and modified the values there. Because of the cumbersome way Unity has decided to handle the plugin upgrade process, I have to remember those modifications so I don’t accidentally overwrite that file.

The reason I needed that many inventory slots is because I am using them for something other than carrying around items – I wanted a 3-row grid of icons in the dossier that you can click on to read information. So instead of making 36 buttons and hooking those up, I made 36 items and used their interaction functions to call on an actionlist (essentially a piece of code).

menu

And it works great! This greatly simplifies the code I need to unlock a new entry in the dossier, and because it is based on items, it integrates very neatly with the Dialogue System For Unity plugin, which syncs items and variables between itself and AC.

Don’t even get me started on making the Dialogue System GUI style look the same as the subtitles menu made with AC’s built-in menu editor… Both methods of making a GUI are radically different, but I’m proud to have gotten both up to the same standard.

dlggui

Another problem I had was that a character’s collider would flip to the wrong axis if he or she turned around, which made the clickable area much smaller.

This would be corrected if I switched to the newer and better Unity2D mode, which I’m in the middle of now, but that is a big endeavour so I solved it by making a direct call to the right-facing animation of the character. This means that to the engine the character had not turned around, but did have that appearance because it used a different sprite.

Converting the game to AC’s Unity2D mode is not free of challenges either. I have to flip every game object to a different axis, use orthographic cameras instead of perspective ones, and swap some components around for their 2D counterparts. This might result in a scene like this:

Not that it’s not entertaining, but I’d rather it works normally.

AC is a great plugin, and these workarounds are only a testament to its flexibility and extensibility. If I think of any more examples I’ll write more about it. And check it out if you’re working in Unity. Or is anyone reading this out there working with it? Share your experiences or projects in the comments.

Blur architecture

One evening, I don’t know why, I was thinking what it would be like if instead of a glass house architects would build with thick milk glass, to mimic the sort of ios7 translucent style, so I did a quick skecth. I guess this is what it could look like. YOu can sort of see a heatmap of where the activity in the house is without being able to see what is actually happening.

Week 55

This is a weekly recap of the goings-on in my professional life – to keep track of what I’m doing and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator.

Last week I took some time to decompress after the deadline. I pulled up my Steam backlog and finished The Wolf Among Us (so good), caught up with Team Fortress 2 and played the shit out of State of Decay Breakdown. I loved State of Decay but the story in the main campaign had me beat at some point. My main dude kept dying and critical missions failed. Breakdown lets go of all that and just lets you build a home base somewhere and then survive infinitely. Unlike for instance DayZ, they’re very good at creating narrative around these random characters, by generating missions where they get lost or spot a special zombie. It’s really fun to play, even though the AI is sometimes absurd.

I also binged on The Killing’s final season. That show has also been an inspiration in how Black Feather Forest came to be, and I’m glad to have more of it, even if it is just 6 more episodes.

Somewhere along the week I took a look at the intro of my game, where you are introduced to the main characters, and went to rewrite it. I realized it was the only conversation free of player choices, so I made it a bit more engaging and flavorful.

On twitter I saw Fork Parker tweet an image of someone who had reimagined a scene from True Detective as a Lucasarts adventure game. It looked awesome, and I hope the people who crave that to be real can find some satisfaction in my game when it comes out. The creator, Lazerhorse aka Arthur Doyle, was even Canadian himself, a nice coincidence.

Next week: some actual work???

Week 54

This is a weekly recap of the goings-on in my professional life – to keep track of what I’m doing and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator.

Last week was the final week of the second development period for Black Feather Forest, its goal being to polish up the demo to submit to an event here in Holland. I’m glad to report it was succesful, which means you can play the new version right here!

Content-wise not a lot has changed; I’ve mostly fixed bugs, edited dialogue here and there and added a few of the planned features to the GUI. Notably the Dossier is nicer to look at, and the dialogue UI should play nicely on all resolutions now. Initally I wanted to also add some new locations, but with the time I had I decided it was better to make the existing content solid before moving on to new challenges. And the past week left me no other option when a handful of game-breaking bugs came to light!

being a game developer is sometimes a bit like being an explorer, because you often see really weird things that nobody has ever seen before. Especially when there are several plugins working together in ways you have no idea about.

Things like a conversation with an NPC only triggering if it was the first location you visited in the game. Or menus that you explicitely disabled popping up again if you press the skip button at the wrong time. Colliders rotating on the X-axis when a character turned on the Y-axis. Cutscenes that only run half of their actions. Z-buffers that sort differently between engine and build. Every day is a new adventure.

Luckily both of these plugins are made by devs that really understand how to run good and swift tech support. So thanks Chris and Tony.

So now that the demo is ‘done’ I can comfortably start adding new content. Basically starting the production towards the final product.

And finally, there is also a matching url now: http://www.blackfeatherforest.com

Next week: the tale of how I’m probably going to break all of the things by upgrading the software.

If you have other topics you’d like to hear about in a future blogpost, let me know in the comments.

Week 53

This is a weekly recap of the goings-on in my professional life – to keep track of what I’m doing and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator.

Last week I got some great feedback on the Black Feather Forest demo. Articles ended up on warpdoor,  indiegames.com, rockpapershotgun, badogames, indiegamemag, and I even got a call from Canadian radio! I’ll be on their morning show later today.

When you’re working on a thing in isolation for a while you start to lose sight of whether it’s any good or not. I hadn’t expected people to get so excited about it yet, so this definitely cements that I’m going to finish this game. Working on it is so satisfying that sometimes I forget I’m not earning any money this way. That will have to be stage two of this campaign.

Sadly there was a problem with my new internet connection at the new house so I’ve had to subsist off of the wifi of parents, friends, cafe’s the past week. Not having reliable internet is such a burden, and when emails pour in and you have to participate in heated discussions in comment threads that’s a bad position to be in.

There was a bit of discussion about the influences in the game that led me to de-emphasize some mentions in the script. The people I spoke with were very accomodating and I think we came to a good solution.

In terms of progress, I’ve been working on a new iteration of the ingame GUI. I’m still having problems hooking a few menus together the way I want to, but at least they look good now. A big issue I had before was that the dialogue GUI didn’t scale well on lower resolutions. I finally sat down and adjusted everything, so now the look is unified and works at any size.

menu

Aside from that I’ve been mostly doing polish on existing content, and adding new animations for all the characters to make the whole thing feel more alive.

Next week: the premiere of the new demo build.

Week 52, or Year One

This is a weekly recap of the goings-on in my professional life – to keep track of what I’m doing and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator.

It’s hard to fathom that it’s been a year since I started working for myself.

Said goodbye to my desk job designing games for someone else (honestly it was a sweet job, what was I thinking) and started my own thing.

I got some assignments pretty quickly, thanks mainly to friends/colleagues putting in a good word, and thus I started incing my way up. I’ve been able to carve out a pretty okay living so far, struggling some months when the work dries up for a bit, but enough to move up to a nice studio apartment with my girlfriend and pay the bills (and jump into a Steam Sale every now and again).

And now, 52 weeks later, I announced my first solo commercial title! Holy cow I hadn’t even thought of that. When people asked me around week 45 what I was going to do for my ‘anniversary’ I shrugged. Turns out week 52 was pretty special after all, thanks to the fellas at Warpdoor. More on that in next week’s update.

But for now I want to thank the fine folks that offered their support, good conversations, and/or advice this past year. Some names that come to mind: Jens, Michiel, Adriaan, Bojan, Benjamin, Ilona, Lowen, Anke, Alwin, Niels, Esther, mom and dad, Ralph, Anne, Matt, Chris, and ofcourse you, dear reader.

Then, presskit! I am perhaps disproportionately excited to have this bit of php code, but if you as a journalist or what have you ever needed any info on my company or my games, the presskit’s the place to be.

So now, back to the daily grind.

Before HoT started getting picked up by the media I found myself mostly doing small tasks – a subconcious way to avoid having to deal with the large and nebulous tasks still in the backlog. However it wasn’t without its merits, the demo segments are a lot more polished now. “But,” I thought on tuesday, “what actual new content was added to the game? None!” So I got to it and started doing animations, and made a start on a new scene. Then over the weekend I went on a small vacation with friends, during which the social media coverage really fired up.

Next week: tales of exciting new improvements to the interface, and great feedback on the demo from cool people.