working title: MOLD

working title: MOLD

production blog

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Welcome,

to our developer blog of “mold”, a modern 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 90 posts in total )

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have fun!

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my weakest discipline…

June 30, 2016

160626_3d_interface_header

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… is without any doubt interface / icon design. It is hands down one of the biggest obstacles (actual content creation is the biggest ;) )  I’ve faced since I started to work on the game and it’s still a big one to overcome. Lets take the basic control interface as an example (..of my design insecurity and painful suffering in this case ;) ).

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the first concept, a verb based interface

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the original plan (back, when I experimented with Visionaire) was to have a “Day of the Tentacle” style interface. Six verbs, static and always visible in the lower half of the screen, nothing too fancy. So, in 2012 I started to work on the first tests….

interface_old

the text was painted digitally, then mapped on to 3D grids in Softimage and rendered with Arnold (please note the complete unnecessary shadows and depth of field :) ) the main reason to move the 2D text into the 3D realm was primarily the way better animation capabilities, but in hindsight, it just was a big time-sink and should have stayed in a simple on/off concept-quality.

(I somewhat like the oldschool feel, though)

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the switch to Unity and a new temporary coin interface

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After my first tests in Unity4 (and with an early version of the AdventureCreator asset) it was getting clear, a ‘coin interface’ would be the best and easiest control method to implement (this phrase was ‘coined’ by Monkey Island 3)

151205_interface_icons_proto

It opens directly beneath the cursor, and seems to have become the standard interface of modern point and click adventure games. I grabbed some free icons from the web to test the game logic, while i drew version after version of 2D icons, but not a single one was really convincing or fitted the style of the game.

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my desperate move to 3D

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160626_3d_interface_icons

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so to get over this hurdle, I started to experiment with a 3D prerendered coin interface. The initial tests were pretty promising, so I dropped the 2D plan, and continued to build the icons out of parts of the protagonist. I’m still not 100% convinced of the idea, but the consistent look seems to fit quite well with the game..

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interface_rollUp

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so, what’s the reasoning behind the strange doughnut shape of the thing? Mold feels and controls quite differently compared to standard point&click adventures (you run fast and a lot ;) ), so it got really annoying when you double clicked on the set (to run), but hit a hotspot instead. The double click opened the menu and executed the choice in the center. With the hole, it simply opens and closes again, which helped to keep the gameplay fluid and intuitive.

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interface_explodeThe latest version (fully animated and hooked up in Unity)

That’s all for this time, feel free to tell me what you think about these controls! (either here or on facebook) ;)

–stephan

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woa… it’s really time for an update ;)

June 10, 2016

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….it really is, sorry for the long silence! We are slowly ramping up again (after a, granted, slow last half year). And to kick it all off again, lets start with something positive ;)

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the main menu

I’m working on this one for quite some time…. well, way too long for a main menu if you ask me ;)

Menu_beauty_Main_v39_smallstill a work in a progress, but it’s getting there…

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the original image was rendered in 6K, so there has to be a lot of detail pretty much everywhere (and detail always takes massive amounts of time)
Menu_beauty_Main_v39_cropa 1:1 crop of the original resolution

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I’m still adding details and stuff (like those carefully placed cans ;) ), but overall, we are close of putting this scene into the engine.
160706_menu_dosen

That’s all for this time!

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irons in the fire….

December 9, 2015

…. and lots of ’em. :)

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Hi everybody!

While it’s a constant battle to find a free minute for Mold, we managed to work on all (started) sets and assets quite regularly… but without – actually – finishing something. I wouldn’t call our desired quality level too high, just veeery high ;) which makes even small models quite the tasks and time-sinks to be honest.

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“daddy longlegs”

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Babette started this fellow some time ago (I just lighted, rendered this rough and noisy image, besides of the character design) and is currently animating the clips/cycles needed for the game (which look pretty funny and awesome already). There are still some shading and texturing issues, but it’s definitely on the right track and close to be finished.

Weberknecht_blog

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“the aphid”

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Babette also modeled and base textured this little critter, I continued with texturing and shading and got it to this (still not rigged) state. The character is extremely tiny, so it’s definitely a bit over detailed. (and we know it, but still, it’s so hard to stop at a lower detail level)

151201_blattlaus_shade

That’s all for this time, have a nice one!

–stephan

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Artificial Stupidity™

September 23, 2015

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150923_brainTitle

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Hi everybody!

It’s time for a closer look on the fauna of Mold, more precisely on the micro brains of all those little (gladly pretty stupid ;) ) critters, which populate the environment.

The hole idea of having free acting / AI (artificial intelligence) controlled insects in the game came when I bought playmaker for Unity :) , which adds finite state machines (FSM) to the mix. I originally planned to simply move a few insects on predefined paths through the sets, but with this addition, even I had a chance to get something more dynamic going ;)

Before we start, let me ‘state’ that i am by no means an expert on FSMs or AI so take my advice or setups with a big grain of salt. I’m basically just reporting how I did it, and how i got it to work, not how a ‘FSM/AI pro’ would probably do it. (so in case someone notices a big no-no, please don’t hesitate to contact and correct me.)

… but it works and by my understanding everything was done as it should be. (see? apply salt here ;) )

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Ants (approx. IQ: 0,05 points)

 

ameise_AI_stresstestBUGS!! BUUUUGS !!!!!!!!!!

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I created the first version of this FSM for the third Mold prototype (v0.03.xx), which, granted, did the job, but had some major (but not very obvious) problems. (like sporadically vanishing ants) The entire setup (still) relies on Unity’s pathfinding, but some parts of the FSM (like setting the agents goal) ran incorrectly on ‘Update()’ (means: every single frame), which probably caused this behavior.

I revisited this AI after i (learned a lot from and) finished the fly, and fixed most of its problems as far I can tell.

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The Unity hierarchy looks like this:
[ANT_prefab( FSM1 )] -> [Sprite( FSM2 )] -> [view collider( FSM3 )]

A simple cone/cylinder (acting as trigger), follows the ant and “looks” for the player (it fakes the insects point of view). This event is fed into FSM1, which resides on the main prefab and controls the overall movement and behavior. The view cone itself is randomly (and in steps) rotated around its Y axis, which causes some of the insect-like, erratic movement. FSM2 finally just aligns the sprite to the active camera.

Finally, a forth FSM instantiates the ants, modulates their speed, and registers/add them to the AdventureCreator engine as NPCs.

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Fly-o-poop (approx. IQ: 0,07 points)

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lastenfliege_AI_stresstest_small

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Unfortunately this (flying) creature needed a completely different approach, so I started from scratch and used the opportunity to improve on my old design. (which is usually pretty easy if your last design was also the first ever :D )

This time i couldn’t use pathfinding (well, it flies), so I had to get my hands dirty(er than usual) and transform it manually (basically creating my own tweening inside playmaker)

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Unitys hierarchy looks like this:

[FLY_prefab( FSM1+FSM2 )] -> [noise( FSM3 )] -> [Sprite( FSM4 )]
[FLY_lookAt]

This NPC has 4 basic states. 1. Fly from start to goal, 2. follow player, 3. annoy player, and 4. fly home. This time I didn’t use a trigger to detect the player, I simply check the distance between player and fly.  FSM2 is just there to generate all global perlin noise vectors (+distance calcs) which get fed into the other FSMs/states when needed.

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150924_fly_FSM

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A big improvement compared to my ant AI is that all states transition smoothly (which is not as trivial as you might think ;) at least for suckers like me), the noise FSM(3) applies additional random transforms to the fly without further complicating the main FSM. (in my opinion it’s easier to use Unitys hierarchy instead of trying to calculate every motion or offset in one state)

The Flies are aligned to the FLY_lookAt gameObjects (FSM4), which  are moved between the view targets by the main FSM(1) (yellow lines in the animated gif). (the green lines show the camera alignment, the colored label of each fly shows the current state)

that’s all I can remember for this time ;) , have a good one!

–s

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post {-posthum} silence…

August 21, 2015

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Hi everybody!

The last six months were.. well… pretty crazy,….. I got one job after another – some even overlapped – and being a freelancer, ;) I usually take what I’m able to get, especially if I get offered such amazing opportunities like this year. So my progress on Mold was comparably trivial so far in 2015. Unfortunately….

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;) anyway…
soooo besides the tomato…

…what’s new?

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The second set progressed quite a lot and is pretty close to be finished. A few details here and there, the low res geometry and last but not least the characters are still on the todo list.Uzara_room_comp_v44_small

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The third set (strictly speaking it is the first set you encounter in the game) is coming along as well… it’s basically as far as the second set and primarily misses the characters and some additional look development (it’s not good enough to show yet, obviously ;) )

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and I’ve continued to work on the main character’s animations, this is the movie I use to test the cycles before everything gets implemented. Some clips (and all phonemes and emotions) are still missing, though.

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That’s all for this time,
have a good one!

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techniques behind the prototype #4 “inside Unity”

August 9, 2015

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Hi everybody!

I’d like to close this prototype overview soon, so this will be one of my last posts on the subject. It’s time to make some ground on the production side, get some stuff finally done. (Hear, hear! ;) )

I’d still like to write a dedicated post on the frog, but lets see when that happens.

The primary goal, ‘le grand objectif’, is to finish the first three sets this year. (sounds crazy slow if you think we’ll have to do ~35 sets in total…. totally crazy…) – Fortunately (or unfortunately) I’m still hoping for a miraculous increase in efficiency ;) so the journey continues. But this manual effort/process with a decent and consistent quality was and is very time consuming, and nothing will ever change that.

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150405_unity_ship

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You can clearly see how “fake” the set is ;) lowres geometry and some sprites positioned in 3D space. That’s basically it. (yellow and red labels represent hotboxes, orange ones are triggers in the game)

150405_unity_scene_overview

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and that’s all I got for today. Hopefully these screenshots give you some insight or ideas of how this kind of projection mapping works.

Have a good one!

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a tomato, with bad intentions

July 20, 2015

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Hi everybody!

I finally had the chance (and free time ;) ) to detail, shade and texture the “dead mayors” watchdog. He is one of the obstacles the player’s going to encounter in Mold.

Now, when i think about, “Heinz” would be good name (you can clearly see his german ancestry ;) )

tomateHorror_shade_v015.0002
tomateHorror_shade_v015.0001

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Beautifully sculpted by Tobias Schlage, with a little bit support from Babette Kahn.

Tomato_guard_03

the sculpt is a based on a design (and matches it pretty well btw. ) i did about a year ago.

char_tomate_guard

techniques behind the prototype #3 “projection mapping”

March 31, 2015

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Hi everybody!

Before we were able to continue our tedious workflow, we had to first build the lowres geometry. It’s constructed with simple grids, in a similar style as the layers we outputted before. These objects are formed and located as close as possible to the highres geometry.

150313_dummy_geo_andShip(the projection mapping geometry of the toy ship.)

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every object got its own UV space, which were combined and packed into groups (shown via different wireframe colors in the image above) depending on their relative screensize (objects far away get less UV space).

150327_ship_uvs(the UVs of the ship)

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one tool to bake them all….

Instead of creating all camera projections in Softimage with secondary UV spaces and a slow and user-unfriendly bake-tool, we decided to do it all in Nuke. (which was a massive timesaver, and one of the better ideas of this workflow ;) )

The lowres geometry and camera were imported via FBX without any problems, and were added to the test-layer-comp. (the big colored backplanes show the bake outputs)

150320_comp_final_prepare(a monstrosity of a comp tree)

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We had to add dozens of new corrections and vector paints, because the way back (2 compositions) for a simple correction was way too time consuming. To make the layers work correctly inside of Unity, we eventually had to refine quite a lot. (but it’s still not perfect)

In our first attempt we baked everything in 4K, but we later learned that some GPUs/platforms don’t support it yet, so we regrouped everything and exported 2K maps just to be safe.

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this is how the baked texture of the ship looks like:

150327_set_06_2K_ship_baked

and this is result, the textured FBX model.

150329_ship_FBX_model

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Well, that’s basically the workflow before we move on to the characters, and later the realtime business of things.

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