The terrain got an update this week, it’s bigger, prettier, and doesn’t have any visible jagged edges anymore, thanks to Blender’s sculpting tools. If you read last week’s blog, you’ll know that we started this whole process using the sculpting tools but found it hard to keep things flat. Well, this new terrain is made using a combination of both the sculpting and normal modelling tools, meaning the flat surfaces stay flat and the lumpy ones stay lumpy.
The new terrain has had a bit of a geographical redesign as well. It might seem bizarre, but we’ve taken great care to make sure that for at least one part of the game the player will be facing north, south, east or west, even if they don’t explore the island and simply stick to the pathways. The result is a more dynamic environment that feels much nicer to run around. We’ve also fixed the seams between one gradient and another so they’re nice smooth, curved lines instead of jagged square ones.
3D animations began this week; starting with the rigging of maive. Because of our low poly style, bones did not have to be too detailed as oftentimes limbs would only need one or two movements within them. Maive’s character has the most movement, and has two extra bones to control her ears. Other characters can use this same rig and remove irrelevant bones. This got us thinking, to speed up the animation process we wondered if there was a way of transferring the animations done on Maive’s mesh to all the other character meshes; and as it turns out it is very simple! Animations done on an armature can be saved and parented to another mesh. This mesh then needs to be weight painted correctly, and it will follow the previous animation.
With all of this known, Maive’s Idle, walk and talk animation were created this week ready to be transferred to other characters. Our typical ‘cute’ theme for the characters was also expressed through these animations, with hand swinging and head bobbing.
We’ve talked a lot about the 3D world, but not much about the 2D world, or, as we know it, Maive’s book. The team has been back and forth on how to present her book in a way that feels absorbing and magical but without clashing with or detracting from Maive’s 3D world. This week we finally found a style that worked! But first, some lore:
Maive is a travelling storyteller, which, in her world, is the same as being a carpenter or fisherman or tanner – it’s a trade. Like these other professions, Maive trades her wares (her stories) for things she wants or needs. But there’s a little bit of a twist. Maive’s storybook is magical, and projects the stories she tells into the real world. As the player, you will control the main characters of these stories. Whilst the characters in the game watch and hear the stories, you get to play them.
We’ve been solidly set on this concept for a while but were struggling with how to present it. Could it be a 2D side-scroller, complete with a complex environment and objects? Or should it be something more abstract, just images that pop up at certain moments in the story? After lots of testing, we settled with the latter. Now the player will control the story’s main character, and by moving left or right can find the phrases of the poems. Clicking certain words in these phrases makes objects appear, bringing the story to life.
With all this sorted, we still didn’t have a fixed style to go alongside it. Our narrative director’s preliminary research suggested that a classic watercolour and ink style would be fitting contextually, but we discovered there’s a big difference between things we think should work and things that do work. The watercolour style clashed too much with Maive’s clean-cut pastel gradients, even when we created 2D assets in a low-poly style. Lots of research and testing later, we landed on the perfect style: continuous line drawings. These fitted perfectly. They contrasted enough with the 3D world but were simple enough not to clash. They also give the impression of lines on the pages of Maive’s book coming to life, which is exactly what we were aiming for. We tested this style with some simple animations and loved it.
Slowly, but surely, more 3D assets were created along with all the other work we were doing this week. None of these are in the engine yet, as the priority is getting the mechanics working, but creating a catalogue of models that can all be added at once is very exciting. We now have a dock for Maive to arrive at, a boat for her to arrive in, boats to bob on the ocean, rocks to add variation to the environment, carts, grass, cobblestone pathways, and signposts to lead the way.
Work continued on the dialogue system by our technical director. We also discussed if we wanted to have optional responses but decided on not going for them as we wanted to keep our narrative linear. By the end of the week, we had our NPC dialogue interaction working which meant that we could start testing our dialogues and get feedback on how people responded to different characters.
More branding and marketing efforts this week; with a new set of logo designs based on the feedback from previous designs. This time cleaner, more fluid logos with distinct shapes representing the game. Each logo was picked as the best from our graphic designers personal preference, with our team liking several of them; however none of them being exactly what we were looking for, so the search continues!