working title: MOLD

working title: MOLD

production blog

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to our developer blog of “mold”, an anti-retro Adventure game currently in production.

for First-Timers and all those brave men battling against the boredom of friday afternoons..

Click here to read from the beginning
( currently 75 posts in total )



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Character designs (2D)
Set designs (2D)
Character creation (3D)
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Please don’t overlook the green “Older Entries” link on the bottom right.
have fun!

production crunch report #8 — > character previews…

July 25, 2014


getting some assets done…


There is a lot of progress but my current job unfortunately doesn’t allow me to keep the blog up to date as well. So lets skip the text ;)



The frog of the first set, sculpted by Thorsten Kesse in ZBrush.


two of the Uzara Heads, sculpted by Jerome White using ZBrush aswell,


both did a great job in hitting the likeness of the concept designs and delivered some kick-ass models, so thanks for that!


2 years.

June 24, 2014


Hi everybody!

well… can you believe it? It has been two years since I started this endeavor, and unfortunately there are several years still to come (but I really try not to think about that ;) )…

it’s more like rebuilding a car from a rusty pile of “shh-whatever-car-that-was”…… it could take decades… Hell, I even think I’ll have to convince my future kids to take over the project some day ;)


‘gone social.



I’ve finally created a Facebook page for the game… I thought it would never happen, but there you go ;) ( It’s fresh and totally deserted at the moment ;), so please help us a little to get the ball running, thanks! )


so what’s the plan, what’s the “social agenda?” First of all, I really enjoyed seeing a lot of old faces again …. damn I’d even say the platform is disturbingly convenient. ;)

I’ll continue to post on this blog of course, Facebook is going to be used for bigger announcements and all client-close-combat situations ;) Tell us what you think, and help us to improve the game!

production crunch report #7 —> prototypes

May 16, 2014


Hi everybody!

It took me almost two years to get to this point …ridiculous I know ;), but I’m very proud to be able to show off some in-game footage. The third prototype will be created in the next weeks, and will feature “almost final” graphics.. at least a good impression of how the game will look like.


/edit 140519: I downgraded the animated GIFs to 10fps and a smaller size…  (to save you guys some bandwidth and cpu cycles ;) )


the most recent Unity prototype created march 2014



early tests using Visionaire, starting around 2012

production crunch report #6 — > a brief look behind the curtain

May 12, 2014


I’m working on the text adventure at the moment (it’s about 60% done), but I try to work on the 3D sets regularly, to keep the tiny renderfarm busy. (every wasted night is a wasted revision ;) )


some stats  

some production stats for all tech savvy guys out there ;)

softimage, lowres geometry triangles in scene:                             ~    9 million
arnold, unique triangles (including displacements and Hair):    ~   89 million
arnold, visible triangles (including everything, like instances):   ~ 318 million


Arnold peaks at around 14gb ram, which is pretty awesome if you consider the complexity of the set (basically every object is displaced (4K, but mostly 8K textures).

The rendertime is about 12 hours on a uptodate i7 to render a 5000 * 1500 frame, which means, for my final resolution of 10000 * 3000 it will be about 48 hours / frame. (Gladly I only have to render two, and not hundreds ;) (the two are split into different passes though)), eventually it will sum up to around 160 hours for this set (my guess).




It’s still a work in progress (Babette is working on the ship model, and I’m still tuning the look and overall set assembly), but we are getting close. ;) I’ll start working on the third prototype in a few weeks. (after the text-adventure), exciting times ;)

That’s all!


production crunch report #5 — > a quick status update inbetween

April 19, 2014


Hi everybody!

I’m sorry for the lack of updated recently, stupid enough it’s not because we don’t have enough new stuff to show, more because I couldn’t motivate myself enough to write an update (which is the sad but honest truth ;) )


progress of the first set..


The shading, texturing and lighting of the first set is coming to an end, The original resolution is 10K wide, so there has to be a lot of detail to look somewhat convincing.

I’m still not really happy with the overall style, but its pretty hard to look at it objectively after 2 months staring at it. I’m currently working on the next set, but will most likely return to it in a few weeks.. (or when the ship model is ready to be imported ;) ). There are still several elements missing (mostly foreground objects, but also some “hero” objects). anyway this is the status-quo:





prototyping the story….


The prototype montage video is not yet finished, because I spend the last weeks creating a story prototype with the “interactive fiction” engine Quest.

(I know them as text adventures, but seems like IF is more fitting in modern times ;) )  It is a really nice way to test the story and complexity of the game.


production crunch report #4 — > the engine

March 21, 2014



One important goal of this crunch was to test Unity as possible replacement for Visionaire,


risking to “pull a Duke


I’m thinking about switching to Unity for quite some time now, I even researched path finding, inventory systems and all the other good stuff ;) nobody wants to write him or herself. (at least not when you are more a storytelling type of developer)

Unfortunately even the most basic 2D adventure features were missing or were sub-optimal or non-existent on the AssetStore. So just getting to the point of having one room and protagonist (with UI, Inventory, click&point controls, loading/saving, etc.) would have been quite a task. Honestly, I got a bad feeling about the sheer mass of scripting I’d have to do,…. still … the plan was to give it my best shot no matter what..

Luckily I’m able to use the words “would have” and not “was” (which would also be impossible unless i get my hands on a flux compensator someday in the far future).

Chris Burton, a fellow CG Artist and filmmaker took the challenge and created “Adventure Creator“, an Asset for Unity which almost feels like Visionaire… well “almost”.. There is certainly more scripting involved, and some features are still inferior to Visionaires implementation, but overall this asset provides a lot bang for the buck.

The support is great (and very patient with us click-action-export-run n00bs ;) ), I’m pretty sure AC will mature even further in no time. (I bought it less than 3 months ago….. 5 or 6 updates with bug fixes and new features were released since.)

…. so Unity it is.


why not Visionaire?

as much as I feel bad for not supporting my fellow “hamburgiens”, Visionaire currently lacks in some pretty important areas (at least for Mold)… the biggest arguments against it were:

  • no other platforms except PC and MAC(beta) (iOS in development, but (more importantly)….. ->
  • no public info on ETAs, development milestones, planned features or even bug tracking… When i started Mold, Visionaires version was 3.7.1….. now, 2 years later, it still is 3.7.1.

there are quite a few additional minor issues, (like: everything moves linearly (no smooth camera, or acceleration of any sort..) which affected my decision, but the “no communication” issue was definitely the major one.


advantages and risks of using Unity

more features are usually a great thing.. but the ability to do more, often results in ..well… actually doing more.

Unity is a native 3D engine, so using a polygonal set in conjunction with some kind of projection mapping seems to be the best approach…. but the effort to set up all layers, render them in 10K, bake them to new square UV maps (almost like “batching” in unity, but manually) shouldn’t be underestimated.. seriously….

..on the other hand the results are pretty impressive (when you imagine how the final art could look like with it), I’ll post a gameplay video montage in the near future, so stay tuned!


production crunch report #3 — > leveraging everything…

March 15, 2014



Set assembly


The first thing that needs to be done is a very simple dummy set, which matches the 2D concept design… It serves as scale reference for all models and is used as a starting point to build up the set.



my current approach is very similar to real life kitbashing…

  1. create something (a rock, plant or whatever) using whatever method
  2. retopo, UVs, and bake 8K EXR displacement maps for parts or the entire object. (some are resized to 4K when appropriate)
  3. add it to the set, put a simple shader(incl. displacements) on it
  4. instantiate and fill up the set as much as possible (which is pretty much the only advantage “3D” brings to the table compared to painted or photographed backgrounds.. everything else is a lot more work, though)





soo….when your TODO list exceeds 500.000 items (like this project feels like ;) ) you begin to look for every opportunity and possibility to get something done… so to follow-up on point “1. create something”… these are the methods we usually use to create “stuff”:


…most models are created manually “new style”..


(sculpted in ZBrush or 3dCoat, then retopoed (in either ZBrush or 3dCoat), and finalized in Softimage) the following models were sculpted by Florian Stucki and (partially) myself:







…some are created “old style”…


(an aubergine modeled by Babette Kahn in Softimage, which will be detailed later in Mudbox)




..and some are even created using automated photogrammetry….


(canon 7D, a good jacket, autodesk 123Dcatch, and a lot of patience)




the quality of the (photogrammetry) output varies a lot, but I’ve already processed around 30 models and most of them are quite useable. It’s a nice and cheap way of adding organic detail to the scene.


the final images (its broken down into several layers for the game engine) are rendered in 10K (wide), so the overall quality/detail level of all models has to be (and I can proudly say “is”) pretty high, (the cube with the 2 spheres on the left side is a frog dummy, in case you are wondering ;) )

at this point I started to test the set inside the game engine….
…. but more about that later…..





production crunch report #2 — > the first element

March 7, 2014


We went right into production after the first designs got finalised and locked. (which wasnt easy… even.. or.. especially because I’m the one sketching and approving them. ;) )


sculpting and retopo


Florian Stucki started working on our so-called “BottleRocks” element of the first set using ZBrush,


I imported all highres OBJs into 3dCoat (to add the last touches myself). Which also happened to be my first “real” session with 3dCoat… and, after some struggle, user errors, and several interface “facepalms”, it ended up feeling quite nice (especially for rocks and hard-surface stuff).


3dCoats retopo process was fast an easy, but the baking process took forever. I’ve invested around a workday for additional sculpting, but the bake (rebake, and rerebake) process took probably even longer. 3dCoat always produced some (and sometimes a lot) artefacts, and outputted really weird EXRs. (the difference scaling was totally off, so I had to manually match it (Pi*Thumb)).

But after all the work and love we put into this element it would have been a shame to live with sub-par displacements, so I tried to bake it with Mudbox. This time I ended up with way better results, but it took literally hours to bake one rock (some have 20-30mio polygons). And because there is at least some trial&error involved, it would have probably taken days to finish it.

I did end up baking the maps in Softimage, which took around 5mins/rock, and brought decent results (after several tries I must admit ).

Eventually, those six different rocks became the base (instance sources) for most of the “stonework” in the following image. The chicken bone was sculpted and retopo/baked by Florian Stucki  (simply beautiul….for what it is ;) )


production crunch report #1 — > Preparations

February 23, 2014


Hi everybody!
has it already been a month? damn!


but finally…

… it has begun.



We decided to move into production, starting in january’14. The goal was (and still is :) ) to create a playable (non-public) demo of the first 3 or 4 sets of the game. a proof of concept if you will.

But this also meant I finally had to finish and lock some of the set-designs. In december, I started sketching bashkit-like elements on paper, arranged/warped them digitally, and over-painted a lot until I was happy with the final layout..





one drawback of external help is clearly the amount of work needed to prepare all designs and references, to sketch and communicate changes, generally speaking to “produce”.

I broke up the set, added descriptions and references



The mushroom got moved to another set, that’s why its missing in the final layout.


Every element got its own card in Trello  (which is a great, free (online) tool to organize and track everything.) with every info available, and additional references/links.


Thats all for now!
I will cover the actual process of creating some assets next time…



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