Been studying like crazy, I passed Auditory! It's been very very hard. I'm now this close for graduating as accountant (yes, I'm a C++ programmer, a modeler, and an accountant. Being versatile helps keeping oneself open minded and you learn a lot; as well as taking a business seriously)
Ogre Meshy hit 1.3 version. Three versions had been released since last time I posted. Bones can now have their names displayed in the 3D window, better Linux integration and improved stability. Fixed crashes on some resource reloads. It now supports the latest Ogre's 1.8 skeleton format.
The juicy stuff! Best things come last. I've been working on new models for the game. They're all secondary and primary characters (aka protagonists). By reusing as most as possible, I've been doing new characters at a rate of about 7-9 days per model. This includes modeling, texturing, rigging and readapting the new animations. Each character is taking less time. Last one took me 6 days.
At the beginning I was trying to make each character unique. As a start, each character having it's own height. Really bad idea! Blender is terrible when scaling a skeleton (oops, they call it “armature”) as their animations may need serious adaptations. Blender doesn't have retargeting algorithms to automatize the process, so it takes one to two days in fixing these bugs.
Lesson learned: From now on, use standardized sizes. One for boys, one for girls.
Note the following screenshots were taken as is during development. They don't reflect the quality of the end product.
And now, let me introduce you to...
“Look at the camera sweety”
She's young, passionate, sweet and cheerful. One of the main character's love interest. I have very special plans for this character (you'll have to wait for the game!) as a key plot element for the story. Rachel comes from a gifted family, manifested every now and then as a yin-yang symbol in her eyes instead of regular pupils. Naturally, her connection with the spirit world is stronger than most people.
Don't bully him about his girly complexion or he'll kill you. Despite his appearance he's a trained deadly assassin who went rogue. He helps the main team as much as he spends fleeing from the Hashashin order for leaving them.
Originally, I intended him to be the “pretty boy”, with some story jokes about it. He was the first male character I did, based on the female models I've been doing. As a result, he looks very feminine. It looked far more feminine than I envisioned. But he wasn't a primary character, and I spent one week on him and wasn't noticeable until it was too late. To be honest, his design is the one I liked less. Let me rephrase... I don't even like it. He was supposed to be a bad-ass looking assassin paying tribute to the game that inspired me to make this game, with a “pretty boy” harassment. So I said “f*ck it”. He's staying so. Instead, I've slightly modified the story and he's now a rogue assassin with a psychological complex for being bullied for looking as a girl. I'm considering making him mentally unstable.
His fellow assassin will be bad-ass when it's time for their Order to enter the story (by the way, the other are all bald)
By the way, Matrix-style capes may look awesome, but they're painful to animate. Unless you have a real-time soft body simulator, it gets through everything. It always finds it's way.
“Leave them be, it's not our problem”
One of the main characters. Prefers avoiding battles where he is not involved or has nothing to do with it. This clashes with Nathan, which is the exact opposite. Once he is involved though, his impulses makes him quickly engage directly in battle.
Very astute when it comes to planning. Usually cold, which is the way he hides his emptiness and despair from the harsh world they live in. He's rather pessimistic.
I'm truly proud of his design and details. Took me 7-8 days. He was based on Ismael's model. This time my mom (yes, my mom!) helped me with the face shape. She made me notice the weaknesses in the previous model. For starter a woman's face is more rounded, and if we were to find a shape for the head, it is more like a triangle or pyramid.
A man's face instead is a cube. Of course a rounded cube, but a cube; and with sharper, crisper details. The chin must be considerable wider. His cheeks must stand out to give his male appearance, but they must cover a big area in the face otherwise it looks like a girl's cheek, causing the opposite effect, which stand out even more but are smaller.
As for the torso, a female's body has curves, it's looks like a parabola from both sides. A male's body is a straight triangle pointing down, or a trapezoid.
He's probably my favourite character. Although the name “Joseph” doesn't have quite a ring to it. I'm open to suggestions to change his name.
“Are you looking at me? Good, that way you won't lose hope”
The main character alone with Adrianne. Nate for short, Nathaniel is actually his real name. Determined and focused. Doesn't like injustice, which makes him involved in trouble more than he needs. He understands though, to carry his mission he needs to cast away his feelings. Tries to fill his sadness with smiles and humour.
When Adrianne is near Nate's judgment becomes clouded, causing trouble in the team.
I wasn't sure how he was going to end up looking. I had a rough idea in my head about his clothes, but not about his face. His design wasn't as clear as Joseph's.
In the end I like how it turned. I admit he looks rather typical 16-year-old girl's stereotype of “pretty boy”. Nevertheless it as an opportunity for appealing to part of the female audience, while I'm hoping the other part of that audience will be attracted when Adrianne is completed (She's a strong, independent, lone wolf protagonist). The story will tell a sad love story, where the protagonist has a crush on the girl but in the end... well. Talked too much already. What I will say is that it's not a tragic love story, it's a sad one. Tragic (cliche) love stories are about two love birds until one of them gets shot. This is NOT it. It's about complex relationships.
I was dubious whether to make him a pretty face boy who gets rejected, or a tough guy with a soft/weak spot when it comes to her. As the model ended up, pretty face boy it is.
Budget drives plot? Sort of
A plot driven by budget like the title says, sounds like it will result in a terrible story. But wait... what has budget have anything to do with the plot? Nothing is cheaper than writing a sheet of paper, unless you're paying a best seller author full-time to do it.
Well, it boils down to time and technical constraints. The most notable example is the character “Ismael”. I've adapted his story to fit his looks, rather than spending 3-4 more days in him to make him look the way I wanted. For a more important character I would definitely spend more time until he looks just the way I envision him.
There are other small details like height. Due to scaling the skeleton being such a PITA, the model's height doesn't always match the specification document I wrote (which has far more heterogeneous values). A few liberties have to be taken and be prepared to accept some changes in order to achieve a fully polished game in a realistic time frame.
I'm usually an obsessive person when it comes to details. And I believe a story has to maintain certain coherence to express the author's true intention. But you have to be able to adapt to the situation, be realistic, evaluate what's important and what's not.
This is still a fun process. It's not always “budget” constraints. During development there were a lot of bugs, wrong parameters, or even tests that failed to do what they were intended to do. Nevertheless out of that process great, original ideas are coming out. I've had lots of ideas just by thinking, and I'm afraid I will only be able to implement less than 1% of these. It even worries me the final product doesn't get to a repetitive boring game by always focusing on the same few things (Assassin's Creed 1, anyone?). I have to be watchful for it and gameplay test a lot.
The cool aspect of the ideas coming out of bugs and failed test (which often results in quests, innovative boss battle ideas, minigames) rather than pure thinking is that if they're already working... then I won't lose time implementing them! Just develop it a bit further, understand why it works, and include it in the game. Simple as that. The hardest aspect now becomes how it will fit in the progress of the game and story, it can't look like a just threw a minigame in the middle of nowhere, with no relevant plot relation at all.
This week I probably won't be doing much, I have to study for another hard exam (wish me luck!!! Thank you). Afterward I will resume development of Distant Souls. I have very specific ideas about Adrianne, so I will spend in her as much as I need, as she's very important for the game. That should take around a week. May be I'll do a few weapons, which are easy to make and are certainly lacking.
After Adrianne, it will be time to focus on smaller characters, like crowds, enemies, minor NPCs. Their quality will be considerably lower. We could say they're “mass produced”. All of them should take between 2 and 3 weeks (I'm hoping for less). Furthermore the current character have lots of detailed animations (Nathaniel has circa 25 different animations) while these won't have as many, only what's needed for them. Many crowd models will also probably be just a texture swap, same model, same rig.
After that, it's time for attack animations (I've done a few tests so far). That may take quite a long time depending on how it goes (may be even 2 months!) They have to be done once I've done all major characters so that their attacks (times, reaction speed, invulnerability frames, hitboxes, attack combos) are all balanced.
Once that's done it would be time to deal with buildings, level layout, then quests, missions, etc. I'll wrote more about it once I get there. Once missions and levels are laid out, bosses will be modeled.
Some cut scenes will be done along the way, while the rest once everything is done.
All this and I haven't got time yet to talk about the main antagonist. He'll be feature in another post.
It will be a tight schedule but I'm aiming towards February 2012.
I'll keep you posted!!! See you soon!!
Don't forget to comment, feedback is king!
Thanks for reading :)
PS: If you're a talented environment artist or animator and want to join the team, contact me at dark_sylinc [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] ar Note we work on a profit share basis.