Our first official week of development came in the wake of a few important bits and pieces. With the game’s design proposal already made, we were working from a schedule that we’d created outlining what needs to be done in order to make a game in fourteen weeks. Due to the scale of our game, however, some development had already been tackled before those fourteen weeks officially started.
Maive’s main mechanic involves the player taking control of the characters in Maive’s magic book, and exploring a limited, 2D environment to uncover the story. Our narrative director spent a few weeks writing these stories, or rather, poems, before development was scheduled to begin. The three playable stories that correspond with our three secondary characters in the game are titled The Magpie and the Treasure, The Bear and the Firefly, and The Lost Kitten. After a lot of research, we decided to use rhyming couplets, a traditional form of poetry often used in children’s books to help with predictability of sounds when kids are learning to read. All our stories are written using this technique, and it gives the poems a lovely, traditional feel, like the poetry of A.A. Milne or Dr Seuss.
Also, before development started, there was a little bit of style experimentation undertaken by one of our visual developers. We’ve known for a while that Maive is going to be predominantly low-poly 3D, but that bracket of modelling has a lot of variation in it. We had some fun in Blender and settled on this slightly irregular, wonky style, which injects a lot of personality into our models and subsequently Maive’s world. The first models created with this in mind were some of the buildings for the first area in Maive’s island – Calico Cove. This cute little fishing town aims to capture the feel of real-life equivalents in coastal Britain, with colourful, weather-beaten buildings, glowing lamps and fishing boats bobbing in the ocean. The test building captures the feel for us. It’s gradient shaded, which makes it super easy to change the colours of the buildings. It’s modular too, meaning we can make lots of variations of buildings using only a handful of models, something that’s really helpful with just over three months to develop this game! We made a handful of other models too – barrels and boxes for decorating the town with later down the development road.
Now, getting on to the actual first week of development. Our technical director started experimenting with the player movement, making sure that the main character feels good to play. This was done rather quickly but the movement felt a bit stiff. The character felt more like a robot moving than anything else. We decided to polish this and add a very subtle acceleration and deceleration to the movement so it felt a little more real. With the movement finished and tested, we started working on the dynamic camera system. We wanted the camera movement to capture the important aspects of our game and make the player feel immersed in our beautifully designed environment. To achieve this, we used Unity’s Cinemachine Package as it is very easy to learn and provides a wide range of features to explore. We set up various trigger points in the environment that would affect the position of the camera when the player collides with it. We wrapped up the technical development of the week by designing an NPC detection system using YarnSpinner ,Toon shader and Water shader.
With turnarounds in hand, our visual developers got to work turning these into 3D models. The first to be brought to life was Garveet, a proud and flamboyant peacock with a bit of a superiority complex. Garveet is one of our secondary characters, and his style is defined by his love of splendid and beautiful things. His was the fiddliest of the character models, with jewels and a cape and a glorious plume of feathers that took a while to make. He’s also the only character model in the game who doesn’t use the base body model – something we’ll get onto a little further down this post. Like all the models in the 3D world, however, Garveet is gradient shaded, which made taking him from a drab grey model to a vibrant coloured character a (fairly) easy process.
As mentioned before, our base body model was finished further along in the week after being updated from a version made before development started. This base model would ensure the similarities of characters even with a wide variation of different details. The model has short legs and a round tummy to elevate the cuteness of each character; an aspect we want to stand out and be one of the recognisable features of our game. Having a base model for every character also allows an easier time for our animator later on.
Using the base body, we made Lennie, our malcontent teenage leopard gecko desperate for an adventure. His model wasn’t quite as finickity as Garveet’s, but his gradient shading was a little bit of a challenge. Usually with our gradient shading, we make one 64×64 pixel png that gets separated into little squares and rectangles with specific gradients applied to them. Then by selecting certain faces on the model in Blender’s UV editing mode, the faces can be moved about the image texture to sit within the boundaries of certain colours. For example, the faces that make up Lennie’s t-shirt were selected and moved from his pastel yellow body colour into the brown gradient block on the image texture designed to colour his t-shirt. This is a simple and efficient way to colour models, however Lennie is covered in spots. This meant we had to make him a separate image texture with a variety of brown blotches on it painted on top of his yellow body colour. We then selected specific faces on his skin, and with a lot of tweaking, moved them about so a whole spot fit comfortably inside the face without looking stretched and ugly on the model. But all in a week’s work, right?
Progress also started on our main character, Maive. A witty and wise red panda created to show honesty, experience, and be enjoyable to the player. Her base model was created this week, free of any garments and treasures. Maive’s model was quite straightforward; the ears and detailing proved to be hard to work into the current mesh, however with some straying from the turnarounds they looked perfect.
More environment models joined the fray this week, with a reworking of our original residential buildings and the introduction of some town and market buildings to give Calico Cove a bit of variation.
This week, the team also thought about our branding and marketing efforts. Some logo sketches were created from our graphic designer as a starting point of where to go forward. The logos focused around key points of the game, The book, maive and the environment. Inspiration was taken from an upcoming game; Little witch in the woods, to create some of the designs.
We also started our patreon where people could show support and leave feedback for our game.