August 2011

Game Background

  And now, a post about our game.   First, we must talk about our background. I'll try not to be too spoilerific here, but be warned.   To start, as I believe you know if you're reading this. The Ages of Ilathid (TAOI, to its friends), is set on the D'ni universe. If you do not know about the D'ni universe, I'll recommend you to get the original Myst games and the Myst books. The books are important too. But you may also read reference sites, like this one: Now that you know a little or a lot about the D'niverse, read on...     TAOI takes place before Myst III: Exile and after Riven (Myst II). Atrus has gathered some survivors and is sending teams throughout the lost D'ni City to search for Books as well as survivors, missed out by its destruction and by his father, Gehn. He has had some success, yet he insists on caution, and not without reason...   "You are one of the survivors, assigned to a search team; but your teammate was reassigned to a construction project. Instead of waiting for a new teammate, you set off on your own to your next scheduled area - no one will notice you, you think. After completing it, you stray off into a high-class district, guessing it might hold more hidden Linking Books.   The district has been heavily hit by the tremors - and you see from the facades of the buildings that this area was already falling from grace before D'ni fell. The upper class was already moving out to other districts.   This evaluation is, in your view, confirmed by the fact that there are no Books in the preliminary search. Instead of doing a detailed search, which would take many hours and likely deprive you of seeing camp for a few days, you decide to merely do a preliminary search on the last few places left. One of those is a crumbling manor sitting atop two great faults in the flooring, with a gaping hole in a level below the main door.   You enter and find yourself in a darkened cellar full of bookshelves... a few firemarbles weakly illuminate the environment. You take a few steps forward and the room starts to tremble. Before you can turn around, the ceiling starts dropping behind you. As the last rocks tumble down and the dust blinds your eyes, you start praying for the rest of the ceiling not dropping. As the trembling stops, you pray to Yahvo there to be another way out.   And when you get to check out the old cellar and find it is devoid of exits... you start praying that this time your Book search will go well. It is your only hope of escape."   Will it go well? It might... but it sure won't be easy. Try our demo here.

Update on Upcoming Demo

Back in April I mentioned we were trying to finish a new demo in a scorching 30 day blitz. The operational part of the post was the following: Not that we finished it all on schedule (let's just throw back our heads and laugh at that silly idea) At any rate, it's time for a progress update. We're done with the modeling, sounds, voice recordings, landscaping and a bit of the rendering. Which leaves the animations, the rest of the renderings, the coding for the navigation, some voice alteration, and the puzzle logic. But--due to some problems one of our team members is having, we'll have to put this on hold for awhile (a month or so, I guess). I thought I'd share some of the work done for the demo here. This animal is called the stinger snail. (Due to the import process from Blender to Bryce, the snail won't look this good in the demo, but in the final version it should look right.) Stinger Snail

General Design Principles

  Hello, it's Paulo again!   Now to talk about general design principles. One thing every aspiring game designer should have in mind is that everything MUST BE DONE ON PURPOSE. You just do not throw game elements around because they're cool. Dissonant elements do the charming trick of not only taking the player out of the game, but of making them stop playing the game, and, in some extreme cases, making them return the game to the shop claiming a defect and making them trade your game for the first thing they see on the shelf. In short, not good.  That does not mean you don't add new elements because they're cool ---- you make sure they have a purpose within the game. Even for old elements - if your team points out one element does not fit, you have to swallow your pride and seriously consider taking it off - but make sure they can point out WHY it doesn't fit. This is valid for all sorts of games, even shooters, racing games, sports games - the more solid and purposeful the initial framework is, the less likely it will have to be completely torn down and rebuilt from scratch several times, and the more likely any proposed changes will purely refine it further, and even that eventual correction and retifications (known as RetCon for short) of the plot in later games will blend in more smoothly. For instance, the whole question of Trap Books in Myst is a massive RetCon. Why? Because the Miller brothers simply didn't think Myst would be enough of a success to warrant a sequel, let alone a complete fictional universe. When it did go well, they had to do quite a few RetCons... however, the original Myst was well-built enough to withstand the necessary RetCons, which further demonstrate the point. If the millers weren't skilled, Myst wouldn't be such a success, nor be so easily inserted into a larger universe. The point is: If you say to yourself or your teammates "well, put whatever we have in there" or "ah, just insert in some filler", or "pick it randomly", or "I saw a cool thing in another game, put it in whenever you like" too often, and, worse, don't check the result or test it..... well, your game is probably done for, unless your team is very skilled. Bad producers kill good games. Bad designers, animators or musicians can wound a game. But bad producers are always the ones who deliver the final blow.