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Games [Now Released] Eastshade: A game about exploration

Discussion in 'Works In Progress' started by djweinbaum, Jun 13, 2014.

  1. lazygunn

    lazygunn

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    i love seeing news on this game pop up, looks ace (although pethaps the translucency on your npc's skin shader is a little overzealous, not that i can criticise, skin shaders are my most overzealoused of all shaders)

    i have a little dream that my own work will eventually get to 'proper actual game, playable section ready' status but i fear the oculus has buggered me for a while there - talking of which, if you ever get there, i'm as stated, excited with conviction at the prospect to see the artistry of this through those lenses. keep posting!
     
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  2. djweinbaum

    djweinbaum

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    I haven't posted my progress in a long time, but I'm still cranking. I'm constantly conflicted with how much to show because I don't want to spoil things for potential players. Its so much cooler when you see things in the game and see them for the first time. Even the things I could show would be better if I showed them later, so its hard for me. However, I know that no one will care about this game if I don't show the goods, so at some point I'll have to open up a bit. I think that point will be when I have a trailer. In the meanwhile I'll try to post more technical posts and opinion stuff. I posted this sassy little opinion piece Without Combat, What Do You Do? on the site.
     
  3. moure

    moure

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    Hi, nice read about one of the most common questions in game design that has rased a lot of debate the last years especially with titles like dear esther and gone home coming out and beeing succesful. Is this piece of software a game? Is it a walking simulator,an arch visualization or a movie?
    Shooting down enemies is one of the oldest and easier ways to gamify someones experience. It immediately creates a game loop that requires skill and a fail state(you get shot and die) and you can really find this basic loop even in the oldest games like space invaders or pacman. Even in telltale games that are praised for their storytelling there is still the general fail state which is geting your character killed by failing to perform some quick time events. It is actually very hard to find games that dont rely on this general game loop (besides of course puzzle or sports games) whether that is falling into spikes in a platformer or losing the battle in an rts or moba game.
    So i think that what your friends are really asking isnt "what do i do if i dont shoot people?" but more of "what do i do so as not to lose?" which i think is a legitimate question when you tell someone that you develop a game.
    Its a very interesting subject that has also troubled me a lot. Is it possible to create a game where the fail state isnt dying? Is it possible to have no fail state at all and if you do is what you made still a game or more of a visual novel?
    Id like your thoughts on it, since it seems you have come across the same issues during your dev cycle!

    Btw, coming myself from an arch vis and artist background and less from a developer one, your world looks great, well done!
     
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  4. djweinbaum

    djweinbaum

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    Its always really nice to hear when someone else is thinking about this stuff. I think its a very interesting and important conversation. I do agree it is a totally valid question, and I do know what they mean. I think there are three different things being talked about all at once here.

    1. combat
    2. fail/win state
    3. opportunity for strategy


    A game can lack all three of these things at once. It can lack two of these things or one of these things. Or it can have all of these things. There's a term I heard these guys use called "Orthogonal Game" which basically means a game with opportunity for strategy/skill (a game that one can actually be good or bad at). Dear Esther is not "orthogonal" because it has no opportunity for skill, though I would say that it has a win state.

    Its very clear that a game doesn't need #1 to be "a game" even by the strictest ludologist's standards. That's why I think its weird when people are perplexed by lack of combat. You can have a loop about anything. There are games about everything. Papers, Please has a very gamey reward loop where you check immigration papers! Its very clear that a game can lack #2 and still be a game. The Sims is a very gamey game about family life, but it lacks #2. Minecraft also lacks #2. Games that lack #3 have been around for ages. Snakes and Ladders is apparently an ancient "game" that has no gameplay decisions at all. You simply roll the dice and act according to rules.

    But #2 is a weird one because some games don't have a binary fail/win, but they do have a quantifiable way to measure how well you're doing. Sim City technically lacks #2 but it has money and population to gauge your strategic success. So maybe we should change #2 to something else idk. I haven't figured all this stuff out yet. But I do know (and I'm sure you'd agree) that thinking all game loops need to be about killing dudes is very narrow-minded.

    Eastshade currently has none of these three, although it may have #2 one day. Here's the thing... I have no idea if Eastshade is going to work! Its kind of an experiment. A very expensive, multi-year experiment. This is how I think of it: I'm making a virtual place that lives and breaths, and responds to the player. I'm trying to capture the spirit of exploring a new place. I feel that if I have sufficient feedback that acknowledges the player's actions, and the world is sufficiently interesting, then it aught to be an engaging experience. I have a weird theory about feedback being inherently engaging that I want to write about one of these days.
     
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  5. chingwa

    chingwa

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    This all sounds very interesting. What I enjoy most out of a game experience is the ability to be placed in a separate world, where I can just experience what it has to offer. Winning/Losing are secondary to the experience of the world for me, and in fact, if the world is engaging enough, I'd rather make up my own activities that make sense in the world-space.

    My two favorite games of the last 3 years (and in fact the only games I've played recently) are Arma3 and GTA5. These games have an incredible sense of "Place" just by the amount of attention that has been lavished on the environments. I've only played a little bit of each game's story mode, and prefer to just get into the world and see where it takes me.

    In my last play of GTA5 I headed off into the barren hills walking an old dirt trail. I spent a good half hour, just being taken in by the surrounding visuals and sound and it really felt like a nature hike. The weather started to change and rain began to fall, and I had an instinctive feeling that I should head back down the trail and get back to civilization... then I heard a high pitched growl and I suddenly got jacked by a Mountain Lion! I "woke up" walking out of the hospital, got a car, and headed back into the hills. This time it was no nature walk I pulled out a shotgun and went to deliver some revenge on that Mountain Lion. Got to the same path, same hill, and I had my guard up. Almost the same spot exactly and I again got jacked by that Mountain Lion. In the end it took me 4 tries, but I finally got him. And I never felt so satisfied to stomp on the body of a dead digital cat. On my way back out of the hills I came across an entire family of deer, and instead of killing them all, I sunk down and sneaked past without disturbing them back to my car... because the game allows me to do this as well.

    I suppose this is all technically a win/lose state. However the game didn't tell me to do any of this, it merely offered the opportunity to create my own story... This is what I feel is the embodiment of "Play".
     
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  6. ensiferum888

    ensiferum888

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    First off: How in the seven hells can you pull off such gorgeous graphics just by yourself? I don't know if it's the lighting in here but it looks more beautiful than The Witcher 3 or Kingdom Come.

    Now that this is out of the way. I really think it depends on what kind of gamer you're talking to. Some people want an engaging story, some people want over the top action, good flow/rythm, some people want an open world sandbox, etc.

    I don't think there's a good / bad way to make a game, but there certainly is a good / bad audience for that game.

    Personally your game resonates a lot with me because I've always been a huge fan of sandboxes. Hell I remember when I was young I would try to make sandbox experiences from extremely linear games (for example playing commander keen I'd pretend the house in a certain level was mine, etc)

    I'm only still making my first game but I know for a fact that every single one of the games I'll ever make will be open, sandboxes.

    There are some games that do it very well, for example Crusader Kings 2, where you lose if your character dies without a heir. And you win by.,.. well you don't. You just keep playing until you're tired or you reach the year 1453 and then you get a score for your dynasty. For me this is amazing because I have a vivid imagination when I'm just given a world to play in and make my own choices.

    I have some friends on the other hand who will flat out refuse to play any open world games. They find Skyrim boring (I played close to 900 hours) because they're not on a rigid level design.

    And it's fine, different people like different experiences.

    Anyhow keep up the great work!!
     
  7. djweinbaum

    djweinbaum

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    @chingwa and @ensiferum888 you guys sound like my kind of gamers! I too love a sandbox. And I like to role play as well. I think its important that the game gives you feedback for your actions, whatever they may be. It suspends the disbelief and helps one feel they are actually apart of the world. The more systemic feedback there is the more the games feels like a real sandbox.
     
  8. djweinbaum

    djweinbaum

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    I have a new blog post! Its about my struggles with implementing a suitable conversation system making an editor. Its extremely unity-centric so I'm going to post it all inline right here:

    There was once a time where I was unsure of whether Eastshade would feature non-player characters. My initial plan was to make the game as if there weren’t going to be, and then add them if I had time/money left over. After much head scratching, I started to feel like the design challenges of creating intrigue without characters loomed larger than the technical challenges of implementing these characters. I think we are inherently interested in our fellow humans, and while there is charm in desolate worlds such as Myst, I’m more excited by the prospect of an inhabited world. I can only prescribe narrative excuses for scattered notes and recorded messages so many times before the tactic wears thin.

    At this point in development, characters are a pillar of Eastshade’s world design, and many points of interest in the world rely on them. I’m trying my hardest to make them feel like inhabitants, rather than info booths or quest pickup points. In my efforts, I’ve created a scheduling system so that they can be programmed to go about their daily business, and have conversations with one another as well as with the player.


    (The dialogue interface. The character model is a work in progress.)

    With NPCs now a massive part of the game, there came the need for an elegant way to wire up conversations. I could immediately sense that scripting every conversation in C# would not do, so began my journey to find a solution. The first thing I tried was Unity’s Asset Store, as there are a number of dialogue suites for sale there. I’d settled on one for a while. The tool had some quirks that made things more difficult than they needed to be, but at the time I felt creating my own tool would be a net loss time-wise. After about 10 conversations, I grew to loathe the task. Because of how much I dreaded doing it, I found myself avoiding the creation of new conversations, opting to focus on anything else I could conjure up an excuse for. When I came to realize this, I made the decision to roll my own solution. I decided that even if it turned out to be a net time loss, net joy is also something worth considering in production.


    (The markup language. Perhaps “string data format” is a more suitable name for it.)

    I initially tried to make a sort of conversation markup language, where I defined each conversation stage with an ID and tags for the data. I opted to make something very specific for my needs rather than using XML. I’d write these text files, and I had a parsing function in C# that read all the strings from these text files and stored the data in a serializable class to be saved in the Unity prefab. Clearly this was an ingenious idea. Except that it wasn’t. Authoring these text files turned out to be even more nightmarish than the asset store tool I’d been using. It was impossible to keep a mental image of which choice went to which stage of the conversion.


    (This is a fake conversation to demonstrate how the system works.)

    So my first attempt turned out to be a failure, but not all was lost. I’d written a GUI Manager and data structure that worked very well, I just needed a different way to author the data. I now knew that I would need to take the more conventional route of a visual node based editor to wire up my conversations. I’d already lost days on my first failure, and was rabid to kick the problem in the face with vengeance. I thought hard about how I’d go about it. Writing a unity editor extension seemed sensible, but after some research, it seemed zooming (ABSOLUTE NECESSITY FOR A NODE EDITOR) was going to be tricky to implement. I contemplated writing a standalone app, but as a fairly green programmer, I’m not terribly familiar with any GUI libraries other than Unity’s. Then I had a crazy idea…

    Of all the GUI libraries I’ve used, Unity’s new run-time UI (UnityEngine.UI) is the one I understand the best. With that one, I knew I could crank out a node editor with flying colors. I could even build the project as a game itself, and have myself a standalone app to work in. I would author my conversations in this game/app/tool monstrosity, and it would save out these text files in the markup I’d created. With my conversation assets being human readable text files, I could open them to make quick edits that didn’t require seeing the whole node tree. I could run any search and replace functions a text editor has at its disposal. So this turned out to be the winning solution.


    (A medium size conversation.)

    With the conversation crafter “game” being a portable standalone app, as well as highly specialized for Eastshade’s needs, an understanding Unity scripting is no longer needed to implement conversations into the game. This has enabled my partner, Jaclyn, who is creative and like-minded, but isn’t a programmer, to contribute weird and interesting characters to the world! All in all, this detour took a week or so, which isn’t substantial considering how much more palatable this aspect of development is now. I no longer have the trepidation when I need a new conversation, and that has been well-worth the price.
     
  9. Apparaten_

    Apparaten_

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    Have made some apps like this myself using unity, and its a thrill to not have to use similar assets from the asset store, simplicity is very often lacking.

    I would love to se more blogposts like these, very interresting reading!
    keep it up, will be awesome to see the finished product! :)
     
  10. djweinbaum

    djweinbaum

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    I really appreciate your giving it a read!
     
  11. NomadKing

    NomadKing

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    An interesting read - creating standalone authoring tools seems like a great time saver. Thanks for the write up! :)
     
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  12. Rinoa_Heartilly

    Rinoa_Heartilly

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    the scenes are beautiful and realistic also
     
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  13. djweinbaum

    djweinbaum

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    A quaint seaside inn!
     
  14. Iguanapl

    Iguanapl

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    Nice touch :) Very nice.
     
  15. NomadKing

    NomadKing

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  16. Cottage_Pi

    Cottage_Pi

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    This looks really amazing. Your attention to detail from these pictures is pretty apparent.
     
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  17. Cottage_Pi

    Cottage_Pi

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    Thanks for this mini tutorial on your techniques. Really useful. Photogrammetry is a really good idea to capture difficult to model things such as rocks and walls! I'd love to use this technique more in my games. A couple of the things I did in my WIP were laser scanned from plasticine models. But nowerdays I don't have access to that technique.
     
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  18. djweinbaum

    djweinbaum

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    I love me some circle doors! :)
     
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  19. djweinbaum

    djweinbaum

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    In an altogether unfocused effort to share my development progress, I present… Dev Lapse 2! This one doesn’t document my culinary expertise, however, in this 10 minute production, I share part of my process for making a virtual building!



    I also present a new screenshot:

     
  20. Whiteleaf

    Whiteleaf

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    You should definitely make more modeling videos, I really enjoyed it.
     
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  21. djweinbaum

    djweinbaum

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    Thanks for watching! I think I will.
     
  22. FreakForFreedom

    FreakForFreedom

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    I'm no artist unfortunately and I wish I could 3d model half as good as you do it - but I enjoyed watching your video :)
     
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  23. djweinbaum

    djweinbaum

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    A friend asked how I'm doing my skies so I made a quick and dirty breakdown image. I'm posting it here in case anyone is curious. On the space layer, I have a tiling texture for the background noise, and then the more prominent stars are geometry, because a sky texture needs to be HUGE for sharp stars otherwise. All this stuff follows the player around as the move to avoid parallax at the extremes of the explorable area.
     

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  24. jimmikaelkael

    jimmikaelkael

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    Eastshade is really stunning! I'm eager to visit this peaceful place :)
     
  25. AlexConnolly

    AlexConnolly

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    Beautiful stuff. Really motivates me to get back to basics, but finding it difficult to motivate myself.
     
  26. zenGarden

    zenGarden

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    Than you for sharing your workflow. I never thaught on exporting as much from Blender to Unity and visualize the result before going back to Blender.
    Some package like ProBuilder could help you for simple geometry and working in Unity without leaving the editor.
    Will you use some LOD as your buildings looks very detailled ?

    Will you sell your conversation system in the Asset Store ?
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
  27. ensiferum888

    ensiferum888

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    Wow that modeling video was absolutely amazing please make more! You also have a good voice and flow which is nice as I usually watch those on mute!

    A couple of questions if you don't mind!
    How long did it take you to make that spherical building to your liking?
    Is the final building using multiple materials (broken into submeshes) or are you combining all the meshes and materials on the final iteration?
    How many tris/verts did the final building have?
    Do you make LOD models? If so do you use a modifier in blender or do you redo the topology yourself?

    Thanks for your time!! And keep up the amazing work, as long as you don't give up you can finish this game! With your talent I believe in you!
     
  28. Ed Frost

    Ed Frost

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    love this... really love this. keep up the good work :)
     
  29. djweinbaum

    djweinbaum

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    Hey everyone! I have a long overdue blog post which I'll post inline right here:

    Tissue Testing


    As we’re developing the game, having others playtest is invaluable and essential. We can hypothesize about how the flow of the game will go, but hypothesize is all we can do until someone else has played it. For Eastshade, there is one type of playtest that is particularly important: Not a speed run from myself or Jaclyn (who helps me with writing and design), not a thorough test for bugs or performance hot spots, but a tissue test! (I think kleenex test is the common way of saying it but I like the double T.) A tissue test is where you watch someone who has never played the game before, play without explaining anything or guiding them along. The more unfamiliar they are with your game and the less you speak while they play it, the better. They call it a tissue test because a someone can only be a first-time player once. As creators, we’re unable to see the game from fresh eyes; we know the hooks for every quest; we know where to find every item and we know every nuance of navigating the menus. Only from a tissue test can we can see if the UI is intuitive, or if a certain quest goal isn’t being communicated clearly enough.


    Every few months, I’ve been trying to schedule a play test with a one or two folks who are unfamiliar with the game. As I’ve said before, I’m trying to be frugal with the amount of fresh eyes I use up, and I usually get so much feedback from just a few tissue tests that it keeps me busy for a month or more. Just recently, a test session took place (long over due!), and I’m happy to report it went astoundingly well! The content took longer to complete than anticipated, which is a good thing (as long as it wasn’t because something was unintentionally tedious or frustrating). The successful impact of certain quest moments filled my heart as a designer.

    Despite these hopeful tidings, we still have mountains of work to do. We found we needed more gameplay “breadcrumbs” all around, to lead the player on the interesting paths. In fact, I’ve found there can never be too many breadcrumbs! As long as the hints are diegetic (in the actual game world rather than in a UI or something) and don’t spell things out too much so as to spoil the player’s sense of discovery, adding more breadcrumbs decreases the chances of the player getting lost or stuck.

    In addition to the in-person play tests, I’ve attempted to give the build to some friends to test remotely, and I learned a valuable lesson from this: At this point in development, remote testing is far less fruitful than on-site testing! Without being able to see exactly how certain moments go down, I’m completely in the dark as to how to interpret feedback. In addition, the game has to be really polished for this kind of testing to be of any use at all. Little bugs or unfinished things can be devastating when the player has no idea what went wrong and I can’t be there to set things right with a console cheat.

    Some days I look at the work left to do on this game and think “Who am I kidding? I’m in way over my head!” And other days anything seems possible. I find it hard to put a percentage on how complete the game is because of the volatile nature of production. The portion of the game currently being worked on is about a third of the total planned content, and this portion feels close to being done. Once this part is A-Z, the next section of the world will be kind of like Eastshade 2, because we can use the experience gained so far to go back to the drawing board with designing new content. So, onward we go!
     
  30. AlanGameDev

    AlanGameDev

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    Hi there. Nice to see you're still working on this.

    It's nice to hear that you have someone to help you, in terms of motivation, I found out from my own experience that when you have a team (2 or more :p) it's much harder to get demotivated than when you're working alone.

    If you're having problems with contents, perhaps you could make more things procedural. I'm not talking about generating geometry procedurally (although it's totally doable for those inorganic and geometry packed models), I'm talking about perhaps something that puts pre-made stuff together, although I really have no idea on what you need. It's not going to have the same value of a fully hand-made stuff, but at least, depending on the case, it could speed up the dev time considerably. I'm talking about adopting a 'modular' design for your buildings and developing a program to put the modules together randomly. "Modules" could be rooms, whole houses, walls, etc. it depends on your necessity. It's just an idea.

    Same thing here. In my case it depends on my mood, and my mood depends on weather lol :). Somedays I feel like I could put a Skyrim together in a week, and some days i feel like I'm not capable of doing a flappy bird :p.
     
  31. Rombie

    Rombie

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    I've been watching this project now for a little while and first off I'm super impressed with what you have achieved graphic wise. The visuals are absolutely stunning.

    I love the fact that your game revolves around story and immersion opposed to violence and combat. This I feel is rarely done nowadays due to the risk factor that the game will result in a bore; but if done right and details a truly captivating and astonishing story it will result in an amazing peice of Art.

    I can't wait for this project to come out; keep up the amazing work. It's all worth it and will pay out in the end.

    Looking forward to your next updates.
     
  32. djweinbaum

    djweinbaum

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    It is indeed really good for motivation as well as always having someone to bounce ideas off of. As far as procedural content, the bottleneck right now is honestly quest and narrative content rather than art. My tools for rigging up quests and conversations are getting pretty mature so I'm excited to see how much we can produce in the coming months.

    Thanks so much for these kind words! Its very encouraging to hear!
     
  33. lazygunn

    lazygunn

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    its always good to hear more about this project, keep it up!

    i keep getting scared off by such projects myself because of the amount of work that is involved, even now trying to make something solid for the first time in forever i start thinking 'why dont i just make a game where youre an ogre and you smash your level to bits'
     
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  34. dogzerx2

    dogzerx2

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    You're putting together a very interesting and beautiful world!
     
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  35. DBar

    DBar

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    Up to the top! :)
     
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  36. RavenOfCode

    RavenOfCode

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    Absolutly stunning! :)

    I wish I had this kind of artistic talent.

    Keep it up. :)
     
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  37. djweinbaum

    djweinbaum

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  38. djweinbaum

    djweinbaum

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    In addition to redesigning the website, I wrote a little progress update:

    The vertical slice, effectively a third of the game’s total content, is now at a point where it can be completed without console cheats (most of the time). Some testers have managed to finish everything there is to do (so far), without needing any direction or explanation. There is a game here, and it reportedly doesn’t suck. This is a joyous and momentous milestone!

    There are still some placeholder assets and usability things to iterate on, and it will inevitably regress as we continue to make game-wide changes, but at this point the vertical slice is beta level, and we are ready to move on to the broader world of Eastshade! The great part about having polished one section is that we’ve worked out the design and built the framework which will carry us throughout the rest of development. As we were careful not to tangle ourselves in a tapestry of story dependencies, we will have a lot of freedom moving forward. Fresh starts are exciting! Especially when you feel you can attack with a honed strategy.

    Unity 5.3’s new multi-scene features could not have come at a more perfect time. Everything now streams in as you walk around. There is only one quick loading screen when you start the game, and from there the world is completely seamless. The player can walk into new areas, caves, cities, and interiors without a hitch. Its also much easier to work in the world from an authorship side, because you can unload things you don’t need to see at the moment, and the editor stays light.

    Content development is moving faster than ever at the moment. We have specialized and mature tools for authoring conversations and quests. We’ve settled on the game’s systems; they are implemented and working and we won’t add more. We’ve cut things that didn’t work, and revamped things that had potential. We’ve refitted content multiple times as we struggled to find the game’s center. The volatility is settling down now. All of the rest of the game’s content will manifest through the verbs we’ve established, enabling efficiency and better quest design. I’m excited to finally capitalize on the foundation we’ve been building for two years!
     
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  39. djweinbaum

    djweinbaum

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    I haven't talked about it much, but Eastshade is a game where you play as a painter who can paint anything you see. Painting is core to the game. The game is aware of the time you made the painting, the place, and objects that are in the painting. Certain puzzles are solved by making paintings of particular compositions, and the NPCs will commission certain paintings from you as well. Here's a little peek:
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2016
  40. roryo

    roryo

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    Incredible! Its hard to believe that is all realtime. Can't wait to see more!
     
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  41. moure

    moure

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    Damn compression artifacts! :D
    Anyway it looks great nevertheless. I would still like to see an updated small clip of the environment in all its glory in 1080p 60fps. I need to have a video link handy for anyone that says on reddit that unity cant look good ;)
     
    nasos_333 likes this.
  42. nasos_333

    nasos_333

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    Just wow :)

    Indeed :), Unity can look rather stunning with the right art and handling.
     
  43. botumys

    botumys

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    Gorgeous ! And trees are amazing, are they speedtree models?
     
  44. djweinbaum

    djweinbaum

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    @roryo @moure @nasos_333 You guys are too kind! I'm pretty close to a full-blown trailer. I'm beyond excited to get it out!

    Thanks botumys! They are not speed tree. They are hand-modeled.
     
  45. dogzerx2

    dogzerx2

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    Haha amazing!!!
     
  46. zenGarden

    zenGarden

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    Seeing the trailer i would say, taking phtography pictures instead of painting. Reading the title i thaught the player would really paint virtually with some pencil, i am disappointed.
     
  47. dogzerx2

    dogzerx2

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    But, zenGarden, cameras did not exist in that time and place! The concept is the same as photography, frame and capture the environment.

    This is not to say, painting manually wouldn't be interesting as well. What's more, it would be an awesome idea for oculus touch controllers!!!!
     
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  48. zenGarden

    zenGarden

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    Why not taking the picture it creates a white board, and just moving some 3D brush with the mouse it would erase the white color revealing the painting ? Once the painting completely done you can move on and pursue the game or cancel the painting at any time ?
    This should not be too hard to achieve in Unity and would get a better painting feeling ?
     
  49. chingwa

    chingwa

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    Dec 4, 2009
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    @zenGarden it seems like painting is not really the point of the game though, as it looks much more like a game of discovery. Besides composition and framing are arts unto themselves, no need to over-complicate the game with unnecessary mechanics.
     
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  50. Rinoa_Heartilly

    Rinoa_Heartilly

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    Jun 26, 2014
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    the light and shadow are so beautiful



    I just wanna sit here, grab a book, read and fall asleep ..
     
    NomadKing likes this.