Arcen Games

Games => A Valley Without Wind 1 & 2 => Topic started by: x4000 on February 18, 2011, 02:06:21 AM

Title: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: x4000 on February 18, 2011, 02:06:21 AM
Original: http://christophermpark.blogspot.com/2011/02/shadows-traps-and-particles-oh-my.html

It's been a productive week!  The difference in the feel of the game between last week and this week is pretty astronomically huge, which is awesome because I spent at least half my time on non-AVWW business stuff this week.  That means future weeks will go even faster -- but I digress.

Here's the new video:



And here's what is new:

Art Progress: Shadows!
Last week we showed off some of the first buildings, and the first basic particle effects, as well as redoing how all the plants were blended into the scene.  That seemed to really make people happy compared to two weeks ago, but there were still a lot of comments that folks wanted to see shadows in the game.  I'd been reluctant, because I figured there was no way shadows would look right in a game of this sort.

I have never been happier to have been massively wrong.  This week we now have shadows in place, and they are utterly transformative.  The buildings and plants from last week are all unchanged, but with the addition of shadows they now seem so much more grounded in the scene.  And the terrain seems so much more alive at the same time, too.  The exterior art style for the game is now feeling very close to final in these versions.  Granted, I need to do art for a ton of more terrains, buildings, objects... you name it.  But they will all be done in this style.

Skelebots
Keith, meanwhile, has been hard at work this entire week on gameplay and the HUD and menus.  Characters and enemies now have stats and levels, and gain experience points from killing things.  The robots have been renamed to Skelebots, by the way, since they look partly like skeletons.  Humorously, some of the skelebots started cannibalizing each other as they chase the player, and thus gain experience and eventually combine into one Super Skelebot that is very hard to kill if you let them chase you long enough.

This is because the enemies are now much better at pathing, and both the players and the enemies will slide around obstacles rather than getting stuck on them.  And in terms of the skelebots in particlar, they will knock down weaker obstacles (trees, cars, etc) as they home in on you.  The effect of this can be quite terrifying, as when there are thick  trees you might not even see the skelebot, but you see this cloud of dust being kicked up as trees are snapped in a line heading straight for you.

Luring enemies into open ground is a definite strategy, although keeping things to close quarters can still work, too. Last week we had barely gotten this first enemy in place, and so it was getting stuck on obstacles all over the place and generally being ineffective.  They looked scary, but were ridiculously easy to evade.  This week... they're unsettling, to say the least.

HUD
The on-screen HUD for the game is intended to be very minimal, as with many action-adventure games, to let you see the most of the action as possible.  There are six skill slots along the bottom of the screen, and you can switch between three different sets of these slots with the press of another button.  The text to the left of these slots, showing the level and experience points, is very temporary and still in the AI War font.  But that's about the extent of the HUD.

Spell Targeting
One thing that the PC folks complained about last week from the video was that combat was basically only on the four main compass directions.  This is pretty familiar to console gamers, and so I hadn't thought much about it (being a pretty even mix of lifelong console and PC gamer).

Keith was experimenting around last Sunday, though, and put in a targeting system where you can press tab to cycle through enemies -- and that turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.  That let us increase the speed of the skelebots, for one thing, so that they run only a hair slower than you.  Before that would have been instantly fatal, but now you can lob fireballs or other spells over your shoulder as you run.  That really changes things up.

There are actually two different fireball spells now, you might notice from the screenshots or video.  One is just a dumbfire mode that either aims along a compass direction or straight at an enemy you've targeted.  It doesn't change course once it's been fired.  The second is a homing fireball, which curves to seek the specific target you've selected, following them as they move.  The homing fireball really only works in open spaces, but it can be shot in a dumbfire mode along the compass directions as a backup, too.

Inventory and Scrap
The first bits of the inventory have now been implemented, although we still have some visual and code work to do with it.  This is pretty exciting, because a ton of parts of the game revolve around picking up items and loot and later crafting or trading with them.  Also, all of the spells and other actions you can take aside from moving around are based on items that you equip into slots.

Last week we just had a couple of spells hardcoded into place for early prototyping, but this week they are fully spell gems that are equipped and which can be shifted around.  In this week's video, you can also see that the enemies and other destroyed objects are dropping little glowing balls.  Those are the earliest versions of scrap being dropped, such as various types of wood, metal, etc.  These are useful as minor components in crafting -- more on that later.  Suffice it to say, this is coming along quite well.

Traps
Bear traps have been added to the game as the first trap.  These are used just like spells, but are deployed directly in front of you.  This makes it almost impossible to deploy traps while enemies are actively chasing you, since you can't run backwards.

The effective trapper sets up his/her traps in advance, and then lures the enemy across them.  Traps are one of the five main classes of craftable items (along with weapons, armor, magic gems, and consumables), so there will be lots more to come from them.

Particle Effects
Last week we had a very basic particle system, and some particle effects that looked okay.  However, this week we now have the final versions of the fireball and heal spell effects in place, along with the teleport and summon tree effects.  Plus lots more types of death explosions, which look pretty cool. When you die, there's a big red poof.

This was my big project for about half my AVWW time this week, and I'm really glad to have it in place now.  Not only did this involve a lot more particle animations in Particle Illusion, it involved a lot more programming of possible particle behaviors in the game itself.  Fades, movements, delays, scaling, shader selection, and other things.

There's still more that we can do in the future, but the particle scripting system in the game is pretty darn robust at this point, and lets us get some pretty complex effects.  What you see actually implemented so far is just the tip of the iceberg, but will give you a pretty good idea of what's coming.

New Objects And New Junkyard Scene
There are a variety of new objects in the game this week, although not as many as last week since we were mostly focused elsewhere.  A couple of new kinds of grass and reeds for the junkyard type scenes, new shipping containers also used there, and tire piles as well.  All of these objects (not the plats) are destructible by players and enemies.

The randomized junkyard scene is mostly for testing and example at this stage, but it adds some more variety to our green cliffs and snowy woods scenes that you've seen before.  These are using the "chunk scripts" that will later be the underpinning of the procedural generation methods for the game, but right now they're only so random.

Story Evolution
Over there on the official AVWW page (where you can see all the new screenshots, too, by the way), the "What Is A Valley Without Wind?" section has been updated to include one new paragraph at the end.  The story about this being a post-ice-age survival game is still true... to a point.

The receding ice age has been the whole of the characters' existence up until the start of the game, but as the game gets underway the scope of that story actually expands to contain something much larger.  No spoilers!  But for those who are wondering: no, it isn't time travel.  I do love a good time travel story, but this is something more original, at least in the world of game stories.

Coming Soon
A big goal of ours coming up is to get the world map going, and actually cross-chunk movement and the more official regional seeding scripts.  That's when we'll start seeing more unique and interesting regions, and where all those tons of new art pieces are going to be coming in handy.  That, plus building interiors, caves, etc.

I can't believe we've only been working on implementing this project for four weeks -- with all the months of design talk, it feels like longer, but we're also just so much further along than I would have expected for this sort time period.  That's... unusual for us.  We're still looking good for the first public alpha hopefully in late March, but of course we'll keep you up to date over the coming weeks as development continues.

As each subsystem comes online (art, HUD, particles, actors, world map, etc), that's taking us ever closer to the point where we can really let loose and focus hugely on content and gameplay almost exclusively.  That's exciting, because even for the first alpha I want to have a huge amount of variety.  So far that's looking quite feasible!
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: Weteor on February 18, 2011, 03:28:18 AM
Wow, that looks great
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: Fiskbit on February 18, 2011, 05:10:28 AM
Big improvements over last week, for sure! I really love seeing games develop, as the amount of progress you see in such a short time is really exciting. Looking forward to next week. :)

As a side note, Chris, the embedded video was broken in Chrome (though not Firefox) because of a line break in the string indicating the plug-in name. I fixed that here, but you'll want to fix that in the blog post, as well, so it shows up properly for Chrome users.
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: cupogoodness on February 18, 2011, 06:06:21 AM
I figure instead of starting a new thread stating to a lesser extent what Chris has posted here via our press release/news post, I'd just include the relevant links here.

12 new screenshots over on the AVWW feature page: http://www.arcengames.com/w/index.php/games/avww-features

The latest video footage in HD: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iI8yG5AknSE&hd=1

Blog post: http://arcengames.blogspot.com/2011/02/valley-without-wind-progress-report-3.html
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: eRe4s3r on February 18, 2011, 07:20:43 AM
Just wondering, but it is intended that the buildings and objects have a vastly different perspective than the trees and ground? It looks kinda.. ehm, weird? (talking about the scrapyard container yard mainly) ;D

Good to see that shadows are in, they look really nice (as I said ;p)

Much improved in any way ;)

Naturally i am gonna go all out and say, is there gonna be romance? And speaking of being attached to annoying things, pets?
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: x4000 on February 18, 2011, 09:09:31 AM
Thanks, Lars -- fixed the video link on the blog and main site!

eRe4s3r -- Yes, the differing perspectives are very intentional, using the same technique as every 2D top-down SNES/DS/etc game.  It can give cognitive dissonance if you stare at it a certain way, but that's true in Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana as well.  Nothing that can be done without using a really unpleasant side-only or top-only view, which I'm not going to do, or moving to full 3D, which I'm definitely not going to do. ;)

Anyway, glad the new stuff is a hit!

As for romance and pets -- I'm not sure, but possibly!e  Neither are first-line features, but if the game takes off then I expect we will want to add some of both, given time. :)
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: eRe4s3r on February 18, 2011, 09:56:55 AM
Heh yeah i am playing star ocean (SNES) atm and the perspective differences are quite drastic - since i am doing 3D stuff it just immediately springs to the eyes....

Seeing the game right now naturally i am wondering whether you plan to support gamepads with dual analog sticks etc. naturally also keyboard and mouse ;P ? And more importantly, a dialog wheel, what about paperdolls for equipment (BG2 + paperdolls in google ,p)

I was also wondering whether you plan to include water and lava ?
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: Rxauin on February 18, 2011, 11:34:01 AM
On Looting:

Recently I've been playing the Rift MMO beta. There's a little feature in looting that makes me smile everytime it happens. When you loot an dead enemy, it automatically loots all other dead enemies within a certain radius. It's a little feature that makes me happy.

Think AVWW can have something similar? Maybe even a spell that pulls everything to your backpack.
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: BobTheJanitor on February 18, 2011, 11:47:45 AM
Video looks good, I think. I can only watch videos at work by abusing a web proxy that barely works and shows videos in terrible resolution. The environments looks great. Shadows look great (except they appear to be layering themselves on top of things unnaturally in some of the shots). At the rate of deforestation we're seeing in these preview videos, we may have to subtitle the game "A Valley Without Trees". If I blow up a bunch of trees in an area and leave and come back, are they going to magically reappear, or will I be leaving a swath of destruction in my wake? With the old school style adventure game feeling, I think you could get away with having everything reappear without too many complaints, although permanent destruction would be interesting as well. Or maybe saplings regrow later. But then again, I doubt you're wanting to build a fully functioning biome simulation that won't have much effect on the running around, shooting bots, and exploring.

What are the odds we might get a dilapidated parking garage environment in the game at some point? This is apropos of nothing, but I walk through a parking garage at work every day, and I always think it would make a good post-apocalyptic environment. Cracked concrete pillars, rusting cars, light filtering down through crumbled walls, killer robots. You can't go wrong with that. Anyway, great looking update. Hopefully this will finally quiet the art critics.

Edit: Also kinda sad we didn't get a new music track with this update. I'm really enjoying the tunes.
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: eRe4s3r on February 18, 2011, 12:36:46 PM
Speaking of trees, maybe there ought to be tree stumps and several stages of "destruction" to make it look less, ehm "insta tree b-gone" ;p
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: x4000 on February 18, 2011, 01:14:39 PM
Let's see, to the various  questions here:

- We'll be supporting gamepads with dual sticks, but there won't really be anything to do with that second stick.  I don't think we'll support aiming via that, as you need that hand in order to press face buttons to use abilities, and I don't want to confer a special advantage to folks with special hardware like that.  It shouldn't be needed, anyway.

- We won't be supporting mouse interaction with anything in the game itself, not even in the menus.  All keyboard or gamepad.

- For looting, all of the enemy drops will be visible on the field itself, rather than something you have to explicitly pick up from a corpse.  Think dropped hearts and rupees in Zelda, rather than dead bodies in Fallout.  In general, we will be hugely limiting the number of containers you have to search through.

- That said, when a player dies, they drop a back that contains all their stuff in it, and you can open that bag and get stuff out of it completely or piecemeal.  When players choose to drop one or more items, this also happens.  Any player-dropped items all combine into one bag per player if they are a certain amount of closeness to one another, so you don't wind up opening a bunch of bags to find what you need, or sorting through an immense stack of loose stuff.

- For trees and other things you destroy, when they are gone they are gone.  Everything is permanent, so if you have loot laying around on the ground, that also does not disappear with time.  So there's never a time incentive to rush back and get something.  So you can really clear-cut areas if you are so inclined, and it will look pretty desolate after that.

- In terms of enemies, when you kill all the enemies in a chunk, they also don't respawn immediately.  However, using the rapid-aging technique, they will come back over time as you explore other areas and later come back.  If you kill all the skelebots in one chunk and then leave and come right back, they are still all dead.  Five minutes later, a few of them are back.  An hour later, and it's crawling again.  We might do something with tree regrowth or something later on, but that would likely not be until beta at the earliest.

- Definitely there will be parking garages. :)  A lot of things in this game actually aren't that dilapidated (see the updated story notes as mentioned in the OP), but they are deserted and overrun.

- I wanted to do a new music track with this one, but this one was just such a kick-butt new video with all the shadows and new effects that I wanted some music to match.  The other four or five tracks are awesome, but don't have that same level of driving intensity as these two.  Next week and after that shouldn't be as much of an issue, so expect to hear the new tracks there more. :)

- Regarding the trees and the like, mostly it is going to be "Death poofs."  At some point in the future I might make them fall over and fade out, but that's also for beta or after.  In terms of tree stumps, there's a possibility we might do something with that if we get into regrowth-with-time, but I haven't decided yet.  That again would not be for a good while, though.
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: tigersfan on February 18, 2011, 01:15:37 PM
So, one question I have from the new video (which is great btw) is... is leveling based on time? The way the leveling part of the UI looked, (with New in :15 or something like that), it looks like you level up based simply on how long you've been playing. Is this correct?
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: x4000 on February 18, 2011, 01:36:25 PM
So, one question I have from the new video (which is great btw) is... is leveling based on time? The way the leveling part of the UI looked, (with New in :15 or something like that), it looks like you level up based simply on how long you've been playing. Is this correct?

Nope, that's how many EXP was remaining.  So it's new in 15 EXP points.  The exp is gained solely from actions you take in game: finding "points of interest," killing monsters, completing little jobs, and doing other things like that.

That's great feedback, though, as that is very unclear from that part of the interface, so thanks. ;)  That part of the interface still needs a lot of polish, although the slot buttons are looking the way I want.
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: tigersfan on February 18, 2011, 01:49:45 PM
So, one question I have from the new video (which is great btw) is... is leveling based on time? The way the leveling part of the UI looked, (with New in :15 or something like that), it looks like you level up based simply on how long you've been playing. Is this correct?

Nope, that's how many EXP was remaining.  So it's new in 15 EXP points.  The exp is gained solely from actions you take in game: finding "points of interest," killing monsters, completing little jobs, and doing other things like that.

That's great feedback, though, as that is very unclear from that part of the interface, so thanks. ;)  That part of the interface still needs a lot of polish, although the slot buttons are looking the way I want.

Ahhh, good news! :-) I was really hoping it wasn't simply time based.
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: ShinseiTom on February 18, 2011, 01:52:38 PM
Nope, that's how many EXP was remaining.  So it's new in 15 EXP points.  The exp is gained solely from actions you take in game: finding "points of interest," killing monsters, completing little jobs, and doing other things like that.
Wait, "points of interest?"  Does that mean this game will have places awesome in some way, and you get experience points just for managing to find them?   Because I like games that truly reward searching every nook and cranny.  Few games these days do.
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: Zhaine on February 18, 2011, 02:19:24 PM
Looking good, congratulation on the level of progress  :)

Will XP and health be 'bars' rather than the current placeholder text. I think it's always better to be able to see the level of health at a glance rather than having to read X / Y (especially as this looks like quite a fast paced game). And I also love seeing XP creep up towards that next level rather than it being some abstract number.

No mouse support is the first thing that's made me a little sad, but then I am very much a PC-only gamer, and it remains to be seen from actual play whether this is something I'll miss or not. Tab targeting for spells does sound good. . .

More random questions, feel free to ignore:

How is the camera working now? Does it move as soon as the player does? I can see this is being steadily tinkered with in order to get the right feel.

Will you be able to set of your own traps if you're not careful?

As always, thanks for sharing, can't wait to get my hands on this!
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: BobTheJanitor on February 18, 2011, 02:37:51 PM
Wait, "points of interest?"  Does that mean this game will have places awesome in some way, and you get experience points just for managing to find them?   Because I like games that truly reward searching every nook and cranny.  Few games these days do.

I love this idea. Some massively popular MMORPG (which shall remain nameless) gives you a pittance of XP for uncovering an area of the map you have never seen before. While this is fun, it really has no bearing on the game since the amount of XP you get really isn't enough to have any effect. If there were special out-of-the-way locations that gave an extra XP boost for discovering them, that would really be a neat mechanic.

Unrelated, I also noticed one of the new screenshots actually has a shadow stretching across the sky. Not to harp on it, but I just want to be sure someone's aware that the shadows are acting a little wonky right now.
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: x4000 on February 18, 2011, 02:48:21 PM
Nope, that's how many EXP was remaining.  So it's new in 15 EXP points.  The exp is gained solely from actions you take in game: finding "points of interest," killing monsters, completing little jobs, and doing other things like that.
Wait, "points of interest?"  Does that mean this game will have places awesome in some way, and you get experience points just for managing to find them?   Because I like games that truly reward searching every nook and cranny.  Few games these days do.

Well, having awesome vistas and interesting places is a major goal of the procedural generation overall, but that's not really related to the POI system.

The POI system is relating to how much you've explored a given region.  Rather than tracking your explored-percentage as a "fog of war" type effect that is very precise, it's just got a few POIs scattered around the chunk and when you get near them they get activated, given you an EXP boost and increasing your explored-percentage.  The fow-based approach is annoying because it's so precise: sometimes you can wind up at 99% explored in an area in some games, and finding that 1% remaining is like looking for a needle in a haystack.  We wanted to keep it a lot simpler and more flexible.

The idea, though, is that the POIs are related to other features of the map in some way, stuff that is notable at least in a minor sense: clusters of buildings, a little junk pile, an old campfire, whatever.  Lots and lots of possibilities, of course. 

This is one way that you can level up while avoiding combat partly or completely, and just exploring the game and dodging enemies, for example.  It also provides at least some reward to exploring around, even if you don't find the materials or treasure you were hoping for.  It's also in some cases going to be related to erecting wind shelters on a region tile on the world map, I think. 

The game is very exploration-focused, and the POI system is one subsystem among several that ties in with that.
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: x4000 on February 18, 2011, 02:51:28 PM
Unrelated, I also noticed one of the new screenshots actually has a shadow stretching across the sky. Not to harp on it, but I just want to be sure someone's aware that the shadows are acting a little wonky right now.

Hmm, I didn't see that screenshot, I'd meant not to include any that did that.  But the shadows are actually working perfectly fine, they are 100% done.  We just can't have things that cast shadows too near to the sky.  You mentioned that they cross buildings and other stuff a bit oddly at times: that's also unavoidable, as these are not literally shadows (this isn't a 3D game).  So we can't  do shadows that bend or do other crazy effects. 

This was, in fact, my original argument for not including any shadows in the game at all, but all the artists that are fans ganged up on me and assured me how the slight wonkiness wouldn't bug people as much as having no shadows at all.  I decided that they were right.  But, the wonkiness isn't going anywhere, those shadow effects are final. :/
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: x4000 on February 18, 2011, 02:58:30 PM
Looking good, congratulation on the level of progress  :)

Thanks!

Will XP and health be 'bars' rather than the current placeholder text. I think it's always better to be able to see the level of health at a glance rather than having to read X / Y (especially as this looks like quite a fast paced game). And I also love seeing XP creep up towards that next level rather than it being some abstract number.

I haven't fully decided yet.  To some extent, some abstract bar is kind of unhelpful too, because you can't tell your relative health.  But doing a bar would probably show a lot better and be a lot easier to understand, for both this and the exp.  I'll have to experiment with it and see, but I think that's a good idea.  If someone winds up wanting the numbers, they can always look at the character stats page, or if they need it in the HUD we could make an option for that.

No mouse support is the first thing that's made me a little sad, but then I am very much a PC-only gamer, and it remains to be seen from actual play whether this is something I'll miss or not. Tab targeting for spells does sound good. . .

I grew up playing games like Demon Stalkers on the PC.  You don't need a mouse to be a PC gamer, unless that game is in 3D with head control.  I really dislike games like Diablo where you are just ordering your guy around by clicking, it feels very disconnected to me.  Granted, that's what is awesome for RTS games and other strategy games, but when I'm one character I don't like issuing disonnected orders, and that's basically all the mouse is good for in my experience with that sort of thing. 

Of course, you could use it for moving and then firing spells, but then you only have one or two buttons, yadda yadda yadda. ;)

How is the camera working now? Does it move as soon as the player does? I can see this is being steadily tinkered with in order to get the right feel.

It moves when you do, at about twice the speed you move until it gets suitably far ahead of you, and then it moves with your speed.  That way it winds up leading you most of the time, but it doesn't flip around crazily when you're changing directions a lot.

Will you be able to set of your own traps if you're not careful?

Yes, it is super easy to do that, actually.  If you press the button for a trap as you are running, you wind up stepping in it instantly.  Don't do that! Heh. :)

As always, thanks for sharing, can't wait to get my hands on this!

Sure thing!
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: BobTheJanitor on February 18, 2011, 03:19:43 PM
This was, in fact, my original argument for not including any shadows in the game at all, but all the artists that are fans ganged up on me and assured me how the slight wonkiness wouldn't bug people as much as having no shadows at all.  I decided that they were right.  But, the wonkiness isn't going anywhere, those shadow effects are final. :/

Of course I have no clue about the complexity of getting it into the game, but being an ignorant onlooker I have to ask, couldn't the shadows be put on their own layer, and then that layer be put above the ground layer but below everything else? Sure you'll still have shadows continue 'underneath' buildings, but it would look better than having them overlay the top of buildings. If this is one of those technically incredibly difficult things that I just don't understand, please don't hit me.  :-X
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: x4000 on February 18, 2011, 03:28:29 PM
That could be done, but it would largely destroy the point of having the shadows at all, because they would be invisbile under... pretty much everything.  Even the grass, etc, is all done in a pseudo-3D fashion with the other things like buildings, etc.  There's nowhere better to slot the shadows than what we're doing, I'm pretty sure, and a big feature of having shadows is making it so that the player, etc, show up under them when you are in them.

This is a pseudo-perspective, it has to be emphasized.  It's not true 3D, any more than any other top-down 2D game is.  That's an important note, because in all these games that means that something is always slightly to majorly wonky.  It's literally impossible to get rid of all those sorts of wonky things without moving to true 3D (which has a host of other drawbacks).  This is okay, though, because human eyes and minds are built to find recognition and patterns in things that look slightly off.

Anyway, so the challenge becomes not "remove all wonkiness," but "choose the wonkiness that gives you the highest-fidelity, most-descriptive, most-pleasing result."  When it comes to shadows, I think this is pretty much the sweet spot on that scale.
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: getter77 on February 18, 2011, 09:40:11 PM
Congrats on the robust slate of progress indeed.

Random question:  Did the recent Unity 3.2 update happen to result in any particular AVWW-centric elation with the team or was it just a bunch of generally "thumbs-up" improvements that makes everything roll a bit better?  Unless I've completely lost the thread on it all and AVWW is using something other than Unity....   :P
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: Teal_Blue on February 19, 2011, 12:40:53 AM
Just saw the new video Twice! and it is Very, Very, Very Cool!!

The shadows look amazing!! And make everything look even more realistic than before, very 3 dimensional, though i am sure it is just a trick of the eye, it is still a very, very nice effect. You have done a really, really good job on this.

I like the light on one side of the buildings and the shadows on the other, or the tree shadows along the ground from trees you can't see yet. Even the sloping shadows of one junkyard container that overlaps the other, it makes it look very realistic.

And i am guessing it might be possible to see an enemy coming at you before you see them, just from their shadow. Terrific Work!! And Beautifully done. :)  Am looking forward to new progress as you and Keith move forward. Very Nice Effort!  :)

AVWW is looking Fantastic!!

:)

-Teal

p.s. Oh i almost forgot! The different kinds of crafting you spoke a few posts back really has me intrigued. Am looking forward to that alot. Someone also mentioned spouses and pets, which also sounds like a wonderful thing to add to make the story seem even more real, but will wait and see in beta if it still is possible. But wanted to put my vote for it, if you do decide to do it.  :)

Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: mlaskus on February 19, 2011, 03:50:37 AM
Hmm, I guess you are getting a bit fed up with all the talk about the shadows already, but bear with me for a minute.

Have you thought about making the shadows a bit shorter? The sun seems to be very low in the video.
This seems like the simplest way to minimize the amount of wonkiness in the scene. If the shadows are short, the problem of them overlaying over objects in a jarring way becomes less common.

How about separating the objects into two layers, tall and short(mostly grass), and use them when applying shadows?
As in, if a shadow falls on a short object, you leave it as is.
When it falls on a tall object, you split the shadow into two parts, the intersection and the rest.
You leave anything but the intersection as is, and apply a reverse transformation to the intersection, making it vertical again.
Oh and there is a convenient restriction to be applied here, only intersections that include the bottom of the object have to be transformed like this. Otherwise, the shadow falls behind the object, so it simply gets layered below.

Effectively, the shadow is a middle layer with the exception of shadows intersecting the bottom of tall objects.

EDIT: A small improvement, when you have a valid intersection, you check the how tall it plus the top of the shadow would be after applying reverse transformation to them.(which is simply length from the bottom of the intersection to the top of the shadow times a constant value)
Now, compare it to the height of the object. If the shadow is taller, you only transform the intersection. If the object is taller you transform the intersection and the top of the shadow.
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: yllamana on February 19, 2011, 05:46:57 AM
Clearly you need a 2d height map for all your objects that you can use to do realistic per-pixel shadows despite having 2d object graphics.

*ducks*  ;)

I'm looking forwards to seeing it live. :)
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: x4000 on February 19, 2011, 09:56:11 AM
Thanks, all!  To the questions/comments:

- Unity 3.2 (http://unity3d.com/unity/whats-new/unity-3.2) looks fairly interesting, but we haven't upgraded to it yet.  Past experience has taught us to wait just a bit when we are in a position to do so to avoid potential new bugs coming from the engine.  It seemed like a lot of the biggest improvements were for the mobile platforms, but things that were of relevance:
-- Having a newer version of FMOD and better sound playback efficiency sounds quite nice, though it's not something that's been a big problem for us.  The streaming improvement on www.audioClip is particularly nice, as we use that for all sound and music playback.
-- The new debugger/profiler stuff could be interesting, although the debugger nor the profiler tends to work with our games because we have "too much" code.  Since they store all their profiling data in memory in the same process as the game, which is a terrible way to do it.  Perhaps this will actually let us use the profiler, we'll see.
-- Some of the editor crash fixes sound nice, though we've mostly learned to work around them.
-- There are some rendering performance optimizations that aren't just related to OpenGL ES, so that could be quite nice actually.
-- The ability to disable log files, and thus have compatibility with the Mac App Store, is wonderful.  Waiting to see if Apple rejects things for any other reason, though.
-- It's actually really annoying that they added a watermark to development builds on standalone, but we can work around it.
-- Their "other fixes" section has a number of other fixes to things that we haven't really run into, but which sound like they might fix things customers of ours could run into.
-- Beyond that, there's not a lot, because we don't use Unity's physics, networking, gameobjects, editor-for-anything-but-compiling-and-editing-the-GUI, IDE, 3D shaders (we use our own), or 3D assets (water, trees, any of that).  So there's quite a lot there that's exciting to many Unity developers, but not so much to us, heh.

- Glad the crafting and such sounds interesting!

- In terms of sorting shadows into layers, note that short stuff doesn't have shadows.  Grass, bushes, and so forth don't cast shadows at all.  Those are what we refer to as "doodads" in the game.  The larger "game entities" all cast shadows, though.

- In terms of making the shadows shorter, that certainly would make them less dramatic, and mildly pointless since they would tend to be too close behind their object except in the case of something like trees.  If we're going to have shadows, they're going to be flipping dramatic. ;)

- Note that "splitting shadows" and "detecting the intersection" are ridiculously impossible to do in a realtime context.  We can't chop up images or detect per-pixel image collisions in a realtime sense.  And even if we precaclulated it, the hit to memory would be absolutely astronomical.  As in, hundreds of megs of memory.  I appreciate that the approach could work in a non-realtime renderer, but there are very good reasons why there is a lot of stuff that is possible in Photoshop isn't possible here.

EDIT: And note I do appreciate the suggestions on the shadows, that probably came out sounding way harsher than I meant it.  It's just extremely out of bounds of what can be done in a raster environment.
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: Ozymandiaz on February 20, 2011, 11:46:50 AM
Looking forward to getting my hands on this more and more ;)
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: Zhaine on February 21, 2011, 01:55:28 PM
Quote
Quote
No mouse support is the first thing that's made me a little sad, but then I am very much a PC-only gamer, and it remains to be seen from actual play whether this is something I'll miss or not. Tab targeting for spells does sound good. . .

I grew up playing games like Demon Stalkers on the PC.  You don't need a mouse to be a PC gamer, unless that game is in 3D with head control.  I really dislike games like Diablo where you are just ordering your guy around by clicking, it feels very disconnected to me.  Granted, that's what is awesome for RTS games and other strategy games, but when I'm one character I don't like issuing disonnected orders, and that's basically all the mouse is good for in my experience with that sort of thing.

Of course, you could use it for moving and then firing spells, but then you only have one or two buttons, yadda yadda yadda. Wink

You're right of course, PC doesn't automatically mean mouse, I just meant I don't have the NES/SNES background of many people here (but phrased it very badly).

I just don't like the idea of navigating an inventory or other bits of the interface without my trusty mouse, especially if I'm doing lots of things like crafting and trading (is there trading?). But I hasten to add this is just my first impression on hearing about no mouse support, I don't want to push the issue or get into a big debate until I've actually had used the thing myself, and if you say that it's the right way to go and the interface will work perfectly well and intuitively without a mouse then I'm more than happy to reserve judgment until I can play :)
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: x4000 on February 21, 2011, 02:14:57 PM
All good. :)
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: MuttersomeTaxicab on February 22, 2011, 02:18:59 PM
Looks like things are really starting to take shape. Don't have much else to add aside from being pretty excited for that alpha in March.
Title: Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
Post by: RCIX on February 22, 2011, 04:25:57 PM
 :o

Holy.... It's really stunning how much the shadows help! :) I'm starting to wonder if you shouldn't listen to us a bit more when we all should think you should do something that you don't want to do (in every case i remember, it's turned out well) :P ;)