Firewatch Dutch translation

TL;DR: Download link.

As a little passion project I’ve been translating the game Firewatch into dutch in the off hours of the past two months or so. It was a bit more work than I anticipated but I had a good motivator: my girlfriend. I wanted to play the game with her but I knew she wouldn’t fully understand it if it was in english. Plus I like translating things, and this would be a good addition to my ‘portfolio’.

I had previously translated Gone Home, but Firewatch was a whopping 6827 strings, topping out at 53220 words. Transifex made it very easy with an excellent online editor though. Part of it had already been translated by other people but, nothing against them, it lacked a consistent tone, and some bits were just translated incorrectly. So I went through and reviewed everything, tested it in a full playthrough last week, and I’m ready to release it out into the wild now. There might still be some small errors or typos, so if you find those: let me know. And otherwise: enjoy!

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How to do datamoshing in Photoshop

Datamoshing is “the practice of intentionally using compression artifacts in digital video and animated GIFs to create glitch art”.

It’s an effect popularized by Kanye West in his video Welcome To Heartbreak, but it’s mostly been an effect exclusive to video. There are a few crazy ways to get this effect on images by editing them with text or audio editors instead of image editors, but it’s hard to find a straightforward way to just do it in Photoshop. But, there is a fairly simple way to emulate it with a few filters.

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1. Choose the image you want to mosh, something with a bunch of contrast and detail in it. For the purpose of this demo I’m using one of my own illustrations.
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2. In Photoshop, duplicate the layer, then run Filters – Texture – Patchwork on it to create a kind of pixelation. The values 0,0 should be fine, but here I’m using 9,3 to get a bit more size and definition on the grid.
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3. Use the Marquee tool to select and move a few random sections of the image around, creating small ‘glitched-out’ gaps. It works best if you move them all a short distance in the same direction.
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4. Save this file as a PSD, then run Filters – Distort – Displace. It will open a file dialog without any explanation, but just select the PSD you just saved and click OK. Getting the values right depends on the type of image you’re moshing, but generally something like -100, 60 works well for a high-res image like this.
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5. Duplicate the moshed layer and run the filter again with different values until the effect is intense enough for your liking. I usually reverse the direction of the numbers (so in this case 80, -120 or something like that).
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6. I like to put the top layer on blending mode Multiply to get maximum glitches while still retaining a bit of the detail of the original image.
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7. If you’re going for the hacker look, desaturate the image, then crunch the blacks a bit more with the Levels or Contrast adjustments.
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8. To top it off, I pulled the original image through an ASCII art generator and pasted the result over the image.
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9. Fade the ASCII text into the image by adding a layer mask to it and painting black in the spots you want to erase (or just use the eraser tool).

Congrats, you just datamoshed!

5 simple tips for demoing games at events

As I’m getting ready to demo Last Voyage Of The Orlova at the Opium Torenkamer Festival, I’m adding some extra features to the game to make my life easier during the two weeks it will be there. Demoing a game at an event may seem like a simple errand: put the executable on a computer and let people go wild. But there are a few things you can do to make everything go smoothly.

Make it easy to reset the demo

Not everybody will finish a demo at an event, and you don’t want the next person walking straight into a running game and missing all the onboarding and tutorial content. You want each person to start fresh, generally, to reduce the risk of them not understanding your game. So add a Reset/Restart option in the main menu, or an inactivity timeout that does it for you automatically.

Make it easy to remember the game

If people DO reach the end of the demo, you want to send them off with some kind of next action. That could be a flyer with the website URL or download link, but I like to include that in the demo itself. Show a nice splash screen with the name of the game, URL, release date and maybe some screenshots from the rest of the game. Add a QR code to make it even easier. And after a minute or so, loop it back to the start of the game (see above).

Know which platform you’re demoing on

This may seem like a no-brainer if you’re only building to one platform, but if you support both windows and mac (and linux), you might want to check which system you will be demoing on. You’ll need a different executable for each, of course, but it’s the small things that can get ya. For instance: button mappings for a controller are different between different platforms for some crazy reason. Your Xbox Controller might work fine on your windows laptop, but half the buttons won’t work on a Mac. And even screens can be a pain; Your laptop may only have an HDMI port, but if the screen needs a VGA port, you need an extra cable.

Make it easy to analyze

If you won’t be at the booth all day (and even if you will), you might want to add some analytics to the game to make reviewing all the playtest data easier. This is super duper easy to do in Unity, so there’s really no excuse. You can track some important events in the demo, or how many people reach the end, and how fast. Basic data like that is always nice to have.

Make it hard to quit*

This won’t always apply, but if you’re demoing on a PC, it’s good to make it impossible to leave the game. Disable the Quit option in the menu, and if your game supports both keyboard+mouse and controller, demo it with a controller so no one can alt-tab out to the desktop. And if possible, put the PC case behind lock and key, so nobody can access the USB ports or otherwise.

Doing some or all of these things ensure you can focus on showing off your new game and engaging with potential fans, and not dealing with the technical difficulties.

Trilinear thinking

As I get closer to releasing a beta for Last Voyage Of The Orlova, I’m doing lots of little polish things. Making the ship rock back and forth on the waves, adding a subtle blur behind the UI elements, better-looking fog, random little interactions, analytics, but also adding mipmaps to all the sprites.

Mipmapping means that instead of using just one sprite for, say, a chair, it makes progressively smaller versions of the same sprite to display when the camera moves further away. This avoids the image quality becoming crunched and blocky, like in the screenshot below. It’s like antialiasing for your sprites.

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It’s a built-in feature of Unity, literally as simple as checking one box on the sprite importer, but I never used it because I generally want my sprites as sharp as possible. But I decided to try it recently, and it looks way better! You can see there is better definition on the arm, and it smooths out the straw in the glass. It just looks more polished in general. Gotta remember that setting.

Scratching that itch

Hey there blog denizens!

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of itch.io, thé online marketplace for interesting indie games these days, but I never added ALL of my projects before. And it would have been weird to upload unfinished games to a webstore, but itch has evolved tremendously lately, offering support for limited betas and early access games. So now you can find all of my personal projects of note at hedgefield.itch.io.

But wait, there’s one more thing.

Last year I stopped blogging weekly about my indie escapades and created a once-in-a-while newsletter, but I noticed that I then also shared less little gamedev insights, something which the blog was perfect for. So I’m bringing that back. As I wrap up work on the first Orlova beta for an upcoming event, expect more work-in-progress posts. It’s time to turn this place back into a proper devblog.

Starting with the new title screen for Last Voyage of the Orlova.

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