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  • 09/14/17 11:16 PM

    3 Game Design Mindsets

    Game Design and Theory

    Penkovskiy

    (you can find the original article here along with future 2D monogame tutorials)

    It was a late Saturday afternoon as I began the walk across the crooked streets of the inner city.

    With a small tip-off from one of my trusted friends, I decided to go looking for this suspicious and mysterious looking man who usually hangs out behind Yarn’s cafe on cold nights like these.

    It was out of sheer desperation and utter determination that pushed me to get my hands on a rare type of night vision goggle that was off the market.

    As I located the shadowy figure behind the cafe, his face slowly illuminated as he moved into the light. It was easy to see from his worn and anxious face that it was urgent business that had brought him.

    Tracking this guy down was hard. After many wrong turns, a lot of false information, and a risky run-in with authority, I had finally located the dealer.

    But I noticed something strange.

    My friend from earlier had bought these goggles at a quarter of the price this guy was selling them for – I couldn’t believe it!

    His prices had actually raised significantly for night vision goggles… and only within a few hours…

    3 mindsets you can use to design practically any system in a game – and KNOW it works

    When designing the nitty gritty numbers for your game, the process can be fun. It can also simultaneously feel like you would rather poke small, long needles into your eyeballs.

    How much damage does this flaming sword of skulls and bones deal? 5,000 hit points YEAH !!!

    It’s extremely easy to get carried away or end up with an unbalanced mess that ends up breaking your game at spots where you least expect it.

    There’s a specific reason I decided to fluctuate the price of popular items in my game’s black market, however, as you’ll learn below, the reasoning why is anything BUT random.

    I love balancing my games. Not just because I’m a complete nerd, but I also use a very refined and methodical system.

    I’ve always envied games that have a fairly large-ish (consistent) player base, mostly because of two reasons:

    1. They have access to a large amount of ‘statistical’ numbers we can test
    2. Getting a large and consistent player base to test your game from scratch is hard

     

    Is it weird that when I start getting a lot of players in one of my games, I track how many times each tile has been stepped on since the beginning of the game (and then continue to run it through a heat-map process that tells me how densely populated that area is)?

     

    popularityheatmaps.png

    (lighter areas are heavily populated)

     

    I know I know, I’m a complete weirdo. You don’t have to tell me.

    I design my games using 3 simple concepts and strategies that are extremely powerful.

    By following this strategic and methodical system, you’ll be able to rapidly test, move fast, and experiment further than if you were to just throw spaghetti at the wall and hope something sticks (like everyone else).

    I’ve read a lot of game design documents, and most are super boring, or too vague to really give me actionable advice.

    “Design with the player in mind!” What does that even mean?

    What does that look like when you’ve been awake for 40 hours straight staring at your computer screen, talking to yourself, questioning your sanity?

    Here are some unique things I did to my game’s market recently;

    1. Capped the amount of money players could hold.
    2. Inflated prices on popularly bought items with a slow decay time. 
    3. Example equation:
    4. (price = 0.99*price + (1-0.99)*initial_value) called every second
    5. Fined players through money (something you don’t want players to do? Fine them heavily for it – you’ll quickly see that nobody is cursing anymore )
    6. I made players have to repair their most used items with money.

    Why did I make these decisions?

    I’m not just waking up one day and saying “Let’s fine the players! They suck!”

    Each decision was based upon testing and previous data, ran through this framework.

    If I thought it would be beneficial to fine players when they curse, I would first spend 5 minutes making a code that tracks how many times players curse and store it in a log.

    I’d look at it a week later, and based on how often players curse I would decide if fining them would have an effect on the economy. 

    Money inflation is a problem in most multiplayer games, but using a systematic approach that I’ll show you below, you will always know which lever you need to pull to get your game on the right track and finely tune it like a well-oiled machine (no matter what problems you’re facing).

    Step 1. A benchmark is something simple to track.

    Follow me through an overly simplified rpg “leveling up” process.

    A player starts at 50 health.

    Each level, they gain 10 health.

    The max level is 20, meaning the max health is 250.

    The most powerful weapon in the game deals 10 damage per second.

    The most powerful armor in the game protects 80% of damage.

    It would take (~2 minutes, or 125 ‘hits’) to kill the strongest player in the game who’s wearing the strongest armor in the game while you’re using the strongest weapon in the game (assuming every hit lands while both of you are running around).

    These are what I call benchmarks. With these benchmarks, it’s infinitely easier to see exactly how balanced your game is from an overhead angle.

    Step 2. Working Backwards

    By knowing your benchmarks, it’s infinitely easier to decide “I don’t want it to take 2 minutes to kill Bob, I want it to take 1 minute” — rather than continuously guessing why it takes the strongest weapon so long to kill bob but one hits everything else.

    Knowing this, you can adjust each variable accordingly to set an accurate (to what you feel is right) amount of time it takes to progress in the game.

    Just from our benchmarks alone, we can adjust the following variables:

    1. Bob’s max health
    2. Bob’s health gained per level
    3. Percentage of damage our armor deflects
    4. Bob’s speed slowed by his armor (changes combat dynamics)
    5. Speed of the top performing weapon (1 hit per second to 1 hit per 2 seconds)
    6. The damage of the top performing weapon

    With this mindset and formula alone, we are already 98% ahead of where you were before (and where most people are when designing games).

    Notice when most people react to an overpowered weapon, they usually just turn the damage down without knowing A.) Why they are doing it and B.) What their ultimate target is

    We could even get creative and introduce new designs to balance this.

    1. Weapon damage is (reduced or multiplied) by a percentage based on player’s overall level.
    2. Health gained per level can slowly decrease (from 10 down to 1) by every level closer to the maximum level allowed.
    3. Changing the percentage of damage our armor deflects based on player’s level
    4. How easy do items break? By striking the best armor in the game, does it destroy an item faster? If so, would your weapon be destroyed within the amount of time it would take to kill Bob?

    It can get complicated very quickly, but that’s why we test each change we make to the game one at a time, develop data, and make decisions accordingly.

    Step 3. Building a finely-tuned machine (perhaps the most important step of all)

    We can debate, and ponder, and guess all we want about how to balance a game. How to design your game. I know first-hand because I love doing it.

    It’s fun.

    It’s fun to dream about how great your game could be, and romanticize about some kind of super complex chemistry mixing system with its own periodic table of elements where player’s can mix to change their genetic codes to enhance stats or change appearances and give them special abilities, and what would happen if blah blah blah.

     

    This, my friends, is where I’ve seen more “indie game devs” fail than what I call a ‘dish graveyard’.

     

    dishgraveyard.png

     

    When I used to work for Dish installing satellite cable, I would see stuff like this. When old people moved out and new people moved in, they would change service, or in most cases, a new dish was just put up because it was easier than adjusting/tracing cables back/swapping parts off an old dish.

    It was easier to just throw up a new dish.

    And I say Indies because I’m a fellow indie who’s been plagued by this. I say Indies because most don’t have a team pushing them to focus on their most important KPIs (key performance indicators).

    It’s fun to make up ideas, get halfway through a project, and come up with some other random idea that you just have to try because motivation strikes.

    Riding that high of motivation, you jump to the next project, eventually getting bored of that until the vicious cycle begins to repeat itself.

    We can conquer this by using small tests and tracking our KPIs.

    We have the ability to test literally anything within our games — and that gets my inner nerd all fluttery and excited.

    I track things like how many times an item is bought in a specific period of time.

    I track how often that same item is discarded.

    If you aren’t tracking stats like these, shame on you!

    However, we can get super carried away real fast trying to track everything.

    What do you think is more important to track?

    • How many times a player gets killed (for no specific reason) or;
    • How quickly a player is leveling up (in general)

    Setting KPIs in the initial phase

    This is where you need to get solid on specific KPI’s first, preferably straight from the initial design phase.

    These Key Performance Indicators are going to be the most important benchmarks that you need to hit in your game.

    They will guide you towards the things that are most important now, and steer you away from the wrong things that will cause you to lose focus.

    If I were just starting out making a game, my KPIs would be the most basic –

    1. Player movement engine (with collision)
    2. Basic player animation (walking)
    3. Bear bones interaction system

    If I was trying to balance a weapon, my KPIs would probably look like this;

    1. Strongest weapon in the game takes 5 minutes of combat to kill the strongest player in the game
    2. Strongest weapon in the game takes 1 minute of combat to kill the weakest player in the game

    Simple benchmark to hit.

    The goal is to get something up and playable ASAP so we can begin testing different things with the players.

    This is another fatal mistake I see so many people make.

    They spend months (sometimes years) creating this super complex combat-combo-style-point system, only to release it to few (if any) players — (because the developer didn’t want to let people play the game when it wasn’t ‘perfect’, they couldn’t develop a pre-alpha player base)

    And come to find out, the players hate it.

    Small test loops is where the real magic happens

    • Using previous benchmarks and data from extensive testing and player feedback, we iterate through small loops.
    • Take action and test based on a small change in our benchmark.
    • Did we hit our KPI?
    • (Did our KPI change?)
    • Repeat.

    You can only plan something so far. When your work meets the real world, it’s the fine-tuning that will push it over that ‘excellent line’.

    Because in reality, your players are the market, and as much as it sucks to hear, no matter how much you liked putting in that lizard sword machine gun, if nobody uses it, buys it, or it can kill anything with 1 hit, you will have to adjust it to your player’s (market) demand.

    Unless you are tracking, planning, and hitting your KPIs (the only things that matter in the initial phase), you’ll easily get sidetracked, overwhelmed, start looking at the wrong things, make bad design decisions, and eventually, lose focus.



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      Personal Development
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      Myopically focus personal development efforts on the areas you enjoy most (such as design or programming) as opposed to the areas where improvement would yield the greatest results (such as marketing or self-discipline). Gain knowledge sporadically through just one or two primary sources (i.e. reading books and articles, but not live seminars or audio programs). Apply your new knowledge to make your strengths even stronger (i.e. product development), while falling further behind in your weakest areas (i.e. marketing and sales). Guard the best of what you've learned as a treasured secret. Maintain a competitive scarcity mentality. Repeat from step 1.  
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      Take personal inventory of strengths as well as weaknesses that specifically detract from those strengths (ex. poor goal-setting habits result in unfocused marketing plan). Identify key knowledge/skills that must be mastered (marketing, selling, programming, etc) as well as key character traits that need improvement (organization, self-discipline, focus, motivation, etc). Identify multiple sources where above knowledge/skills/traits can be improved (mentors, business associates, books to read, organizations to join, conferences/seminars to attend). Take action by diving into these sources. Read the books, join and become active in the organizations, attend the conferences/seminars, and learn from the key individuals. Patiently apply the new knowledge to your business and life, realizing that even small gains will compound exponentially as you continue running this cycle year after year. Pass on your new wisdom to others by sharing advice, writing, volunteering, mentoring others, etc. Maintain a noncompetitive abundance mentality. Repeat from step 1.  
      The amateur sees personal development in narrow, monodimensional terms -- i.e. becoming a better developer. Efforts are focused on acquiring more knowledge within this limited field. A shareware amateur's bookshelf will be dominated by books within a narrow field, such as software development, virtually ignoring other crucial parts of the business like marketing and sales.
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      Psychological Factors
      Amateur
      Nonexistent or foggy goals ("Make more money") Sporadic motivation coming from irregular outside influences (inspiring book/movie, great conversation, flash of insight, etc) Focus on making money and getting customers to buy Seeks to blame poor results on outside factors (poor economy, competition, lack of luck, unfairness, shortfallings of shareware model, etc) Expends effort on the most enjoyable actions Scarcity mentality based on zero-sum thinking ("I'm not going to give anything away unless I get something in return") Short-range time perspective used in planning, often limited to the timeline of a single product cycle Sees problems as obstacles Persistent self-doubt ("Success is elusive") Unbalanced approach improving major strengths while letting other areas slide Believes that success comes from doing (work), then having (results), then being (successful) "Once I achieve this (foggy) goal, then I'll be successful" Weak commitment ("I'll try this and see what happens") Avoids facing brutal facts, stays within comfort zone ("I don't enjoy/understand marketing, so I'll just keep programming for now") Believes that risk-taking and luck are necessary for big breakthroughs ("Releasing a new product is like betting on a spin of the roulette wheel") Success stories from others increase feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, or resentment Associates most frequently with other amateurs who are equally confused, having less frequent contact with professionals (group griping and pity parties outweigh true learning experiences) Negative attitude rips many new ideas to shreds before they pass the incubation stage Negative associations to building business (customers are headaches, too many responsibilities, being overextended, burning out, a risky gamble, can't make money and do what I love)  
      Professional
      Crystal-clear goals, committed to writing ("Increase sales by 20% within 3 months") Deliberate cultivation of burning desire Focus on filling customer needs and providing value Accepts responsibility for poor results, seeks to understand causes and learn from them (registration incentives need improvement, product descriptions need rewriting, etc) Seeks to understand causes of poor results and learn from them Expends efforts on the most important actions (in terms of achieving goals) and finds ways to enjoy the process Abundance mentality based on law of sowing and reaping ("Givers get") Long-range time perspective used in planning, often thinking 5+ years ahead Sees problems as opportunities Persistent confidence and faith ("Success is inevitable") Balanced approach to improving multiple weak areas that detract from strengths Understands that success comes from first being (sucessful in one's thoughts), then doing (actions consistent with those thoughts), then having (results consistent with those actions) "Once I believe I'm successful, the external results will naturally follow" Strong commitment ("I will find a way or make one") Confronts brutal facts head-on ("Marketing is crucial to my business, so I must become a master marketer") Avoids unnecessary risks and bets on opportunities with the strongest chance of success while seeking to minimize the potential downside ("Releasing a new product isn't a gamble; I'll just keep refining it over time until it ultimately becomes a hit") Success stories from others are mined for new ideas and insights Networks with focused and successful professionals, learning by osmosis Associates most frequently with other focused and successful professionals, less frequent contact with amateurs (continuous flow of knowledge and ideas) Positive attitude lets new ideas incubate in imagination before putting them to the test in the real world Positive associations to building business (financial abundance, good life for family, early retirement, freedom, making people happy, fulfilling one's dreams, giving to charity, creating jobs) When results are weak, the amateur seeks security, comfort, and consolation. Amateurs want to know they aren't alone, so they find safety in numbers by holding group griping sessions in forums that attract other amateurs. Their inner insecurity makes it very hard for them to accept failure, so they're looking to put the blame elsewhere... on the failure of the shareware system, on the economy, etc. Amateurs look for validation of their position, seeking out "experts" who agree that success in their field is hopeless and that only the really lucky can succeed. When hearing of dismal sales from others, they feel more secure. Success stories are unnerving to the amateur, often making them feel anxious, envious, or resentful.
      The professional, on the other hand, is emotionally secure. The professional seeks understanding and knowledge. The professional accepts personal responsibility for his/her results and is always looking to improve. When the professional suffers a setback, s/he wants to understand the causes, assuming that the reason for failure was a lack of understanding or skill that led to mistakes. The professional will suffer failures at least as big as the amateur, if not bigger, but the professional will learn from each experience and move forward with an even stronger plan.
      You can't tell an early professional from an amateur purely by looking at a one-time snapshot of their results. The key differences are internal. Professionals and amateurs who start from scratch may begin on the same footing. After the first year their initial results may appear similar. But fast forward ten years.... Most likely the amateur will have given up and left the business or is still barely eeking out a living. Meanwhile the professional has become an established leader with a strong, sustainable income.
      So what is the essential difference between the shareware amateur and the shareware professional? It can be summarized in just one word: fear. The amateur feels vulnerable, believing that certain things might happen which s/he will be unable to handle. The amateur doesn't want to deal with products that aren't selling well, avoids facing his/her deepest inadequacies, and seeks to manage fear by clinging to the familiar and the comfortable. Instead of pursuing the greatest opportunities, the amateur pursues the safest and most comfortable paths. For instance, an amateur who feels more comfortable programming than marketing will heavily favor programming projects, whether or not that's what the business needs most. The amateur ties much of his/her sense of self-worth to external factors, and when those factors are threatened, the amateur feels a strong urge to return to the safety of the comfort zone.
      The professional, on the other hand, has internalized thoughts of security and abundance. The professional believes that no matter what happens, s/he'll be able to handle it. The professional doesn't cling to a comfort zone. When faced with change, s/he embraces it, seeks out the hidden opportunities, and charges boldly ahead. This isn't to say that professionals never feel fear; they do. The difference is that professionals turn and face their fears instead of shrinking from them.
      Amateurs will normally not be consciously aware of their fears. Such fears will be hidden behind rationalizations such as, "I simply don't like marketing," "I'm genetically disadvantaged when it comes to planning," or "I feel like a scam artist when I write sales copy." Thinking about such tasks and projects will typically make the amateur feel a sense of discomfort, anxiety, or even dread, but they often won't consciously know why. When confronted about these shortcomings, the amateur will often become emotional, sarcastic, and defensive. But whereas the amateur addresses this problem by getting defensive and shrinking back into the comfort zone, the professional lets go of his/her ego and strives to become consciously aware of his/her fears, driving them into the open where they readily dissolve. A professional says, "I probably feel uncomfortable marketing right now because of my lack of experience, but I know other people who happen to love marketing. I'll talk to them to see what they like about it, get some book recommendations, and within a few years, I'll be outstanding at marketing as well." Alternatively, a professional might hire or partner with someone else who has the skills s/he lacks, but the decision will be made out of awareness of this deficiency, not from fear and denial.
      These models of the amateur and the professional are abstractions of course. Between them lies a continuum where real people can be found. Hopefully you'll find the contrasts between these two poles helpful in continuing your own professional development.
       
      Steve Pavlina is the CEO and founder of Dexterity Software and writes and speaks on software and computer gaming industry topics regularly. This article is Copyright © 2002 by Steve Pavlina.
    • By Dyonisian
      Note: This article was originally published on LinkedIn.  If you enjoy my article, please click through and consider connecting with me.
       
      Can programmers art? How far can creativity and programming take you?
      I have summarized what I learned in several months into 7 key techniques to improve the visual quality of your game.
       
      "Programmer art" is something of a running joke. For those unfamiliar with the term, it refers to the "placeholder" or "throw-together" art that programmers tend to use while developing games.
      Some of us don't have the necessary artistic skills, however, sometimes we just can't be bothered to put in the effort. We're concerned about the technical side of things working - art can come later.
      Here's what this usually means -

       
      I worked on a game jam with some new people a few months ago. I just wanted to make sure that my gameplay and AI code was doing what it was supposed to do. This would have to interface with code from other teammates as well, so it was important to test and check for bugs. This was the result.
      That's not what I'm going to talk about today though.
       
      I'm going to take a different angle on "programmer art" - not the joke art that programmers often use, but the fact that there's a LOT that a programmer can do to improve the visual appeal of a game. I believe some of this falls under "technical art" as well.
       
      My current job kind of forced me to think in this capacity.
      I was tasked with visualizing some scientific data. Though this data was the result of years of hard work on the part of scientists, the result was unimpressive to the untrained eye - a heap of excel files with some words and numbers.
      There are very few people in the world who can get excited by seeing a few excel files.
      My job? To make this data exciting to everyone else.
      My task was to visualize connectome data for a famous worm known as C. Elegans, made available by the wonderful people working on the OpenWorm project.
      Part of the data parsing to read and display the data as a worm's body with neurons on it was done by my teammate. My main task was to improve the visuals and the overall graphical quality.

       
      The first thing that comes to mind is using HD textures, PBR materials and high-poly models. Add in a 3D terrain using a height map, some post-processing and HDR lighting, and BOOM! Gorgeous 3D scene. I'm sure you've all seen loads of those by now.
      Except, almost none of that would really help me.
      The idea was very abstract - neurons and connections visible in a zoomed-in, x-ray-like view of a worm. I don't think rolling hills would have helped me much.
      I had no 3D modelling skills or access to an artist - even if I did, I'm not sure what kind of 3D models would have helped.
       
      As a result, what I've made isn't a gorgeous 3D environment with foliage and god-rays and lens flares. So it's not applicable in every case or the perfect example of how a programmer can make a gorgeous game.
      But, it does provide a distinct viewpoint and result. The special sets of constraints in the problem I had to solve led to this.
      So here's what I actually did:
       
      The 7 things I did to improve the visuals of my Unity game
      1. Conceptualizing the look
      This could be considered a pre-production step for art or any visual project. Ideally, what should it look like? What's the goal? What are your references?
      In this case, the viewer had a hologram-like feel to it (also there were plans to port it to a HoloLens eventually). I liked the idea of a futuristic hologram. And the metaphor of "AI bringing us towards a better future".
      So what were my references? Sci-fi of course!
      My first pick was one of my favourite franchises - Star Wars. I love how the holo-comms look in the movies.

       
      Holograms became a key component of my design.
      This is a HUD design from Prometheus that I found on Google -

       
      In this case, the colours appealed to me more than the design itself. I ended up basing the UI design on this concept.
       
      Key takeaway - Your imagination is the very first tool that helps you create impressive art. Use references! It's not cheating - it's inspiration. Your references will guide you as you create the look that you want.
       
      2. Shaders can help you achieve that look 
      I had some shader programming experience from University - D3D11 and HLSL. But that work had been about building a basic graphics engine with features like lighting, shadows, and some light post-processing. I had done some light Shader programming in Unity before as well.
      What I really needed now was impressive visual effects, not basic lighting and shadows.
      I was really lucky that this was about the time Unity made Shader Graph available, which made everything much easier. I can write Shader code, but being able to see in real time what each node (Which can be considered a line of code) does makes it so much easier to produce the effects you want.
      I familiarized myself with all the samples Unity had included with this new tool. That wouldn't have been enough though. Thankfully due to my previous experience with Shaders, I was able to make some adjustments and improvements to make them suit my needs.
      Some tweaking with speed, scaling, colours, and textures led to a nice hologram effect for the UI panels.

       
      I wanted the viewer to feel good to interact with as well, and some work implementing a glow effect (alongside the dissolve effects) led to this -
       
      Key takeaway - Shaders are an extremely powerful tool in a Game Programmer's repertoire. Tools like Unity's Shader Graph, the old Shader Forge asset, and Unreal's material editor make Shaders more accessible and easier to tune to get the exact look you want.
      PS - Step 5 below is also really important for getting a nice glow effect.
       
      3. Visual Effects and Animations using Shaders
      I was able to extend the dissolve and hologram shaders to fake some animation-like visual effects.
      And a combination of some timed Sine curves let me create an animation using the dissolve effect -
       
      The work here was to move the animation smoothly across individual neuron objects. The animation makes it look like they're a single connected object, but they're actually individual Sphere meshes with the Shader applied to them. This is made possible by applying the dissolve texture in World Space instead of Object Space.
      A single shader graph for the neurons had functionality for colour blending, glow, and dissolve animation.
      All of this made the graphs really large and difficult to work with though. Unity was constantly updating the Shader Graph tools, and the new updates include sub-graphs which make it much easier to manage.
      Key takeaway - There is more to shaders than meets the eye. As you gain familiarity with them, there are very few limits to the effects you can create. You can create animations and visual effects using Shaders too.
       
      4. Particle systems - more than just trails and sparks
      I have no idea why I put off working with the particle systems for so long!
      The "neurons" in the viewer were just spheres, which was pretty boring.
      Once I started to understand the basics of the particle system, I could see how powerful it was. I worked on some samples from great YouTube tutorials - I'm sharing a great one by Gabriel Aguiar in the comments below.
      After that, I opened up Photoshop and experimented with different brushes to create Particle textures.
      Once again, I referred to my sources of what neurons should look like. I wanted a similar look of "hair-like" connections coming out of the neurons, and the core being bright and dense.
      This is what it looked like finished, and the particle system even let me create a nice pulsating effect.
       
      Part of my work was also parsing a ton of "playback data" of neurons firing. I wanted this to look like bright beams of light, travelling from neuron to neuron. This involved some pathfinding and multi-threading work as well.
       
      Lastly, I decided to add a sort of feedback effect of neurons firing. This way, you can see where a signal is originating and where it's ending.
       
      Key takeaway - Particle systems can be used in many ways, not just for sparks and trails. Here, I used them to represent a rather abstract object, a neuron. They can be applied wherever a visual effect or a form of visual "feedback" seems relevant.
       
      5. Post-processing to tie the graphics and art together
      Post-processing makes a HUGE difference in the look of a game scene. It's not just about colours and tone, there's much more to it than that. You can easily adjust colours, brightness, contrast, and add effects such as bloom, motion blur, vignette, and screen-space reflections.
      First of all, Linear colour space with HDR enabled makes a huge difference - make sure you try this out.
      Next, Unity's new post-processing stack makes a lot of options available without impacting performance much.
      The glow around the edges of the sphere only appears with an HDR colour selected for the shader, HDR enabled, and Linear colour space. Post-processing helps bump this up too - bloom is one of the most important settings for this.
      Colour grading can be used to provide a warm or cool look to your entire scene. It's like applying a filter on top of the scene, as you would to an image in Photoshop. You can completely override the colours, desaturate to black and white, bump up the contrast, or apply a single colour to the whole scene.

       
      There is a great tutorial from Unity for getting that HD look in your scenes - if you want a visible glow you normally associate with beautiful games, you need to check this out.
       
      Key takeaway - Post processing ties everything together, and helps certain effects like glows stand out.
       
      6. Timing and animation curves for better "feel" 
      This is a core concept of animation. I have some training in graphic design and animation, which is where I picked this up. I'm not sure about the proper term for it - timing, animation curves, tween, etc.
      Basically, if you're animating something, it's rarely best to do it with linear timing. Instead, you want curves like this -

       
      Or more crazy ones for more "bouncy" or cartoon-ish effects.
      I applied this to the glow effects on the neurons, as I showed earlier.
      And you can use this sparingly when working with particle systems as well - for speed, size, and similar effects. I used this for the effect of neurons firing, which is like a green "explosion" outwards. The particles move outwards fast and then slow down.
      Unity has Animation Curve components you can attach to objects. You can set the curve using a GUI and then query it in your C# scripts. Definitely worth learning about.
      Key takeaway - Curves or tweens are an animation concept that is easy to pick up and apply. It can be a key differentiator for whether your animations and overall game look polished or not.
       
      7. Colour Palettes and Colour Theory - Often overlooked
      Colour is something that I tend to experiment with and work with based on my instincts. I like being creative, however, I really underestimated the benefits of applying colour theory and using palettes.
      Here's the before -
       
      Here are some of the afters -
       
      I implemented multiple themes because they all looked so good.
      I used a tool from Adobe for palettes, called Adobe Colour - link in the comments.
      I basically messed around with different types of "Colour harmony" - Monochrome, triad, complementary, and more. I also borrowed some colours from my references and built around that.
      Key takeaway - Don't underestimate the importance of colour and colour theory. Keep your initial concept and references in mind when choosing colours. This adds to that final, polished look you want.
       
      Bonus - consider procedural art
      Procedural Generation is just an amazing technique. I didn't apply it on this project, but I learned the basics of it such as generating Value and Perlin noise, generating and using Height maps for terrains, and generating mazes.

       
      Procedural art is definitely something I want to explore more.
      A couple of interesting things (Links in the "extra resources" section below) -
      Google deepdream has been used to generate art. There's an open-source AI project that can colour lineart. Kate Compton has a lot of interesting projects and resources about PCG and generative art. I hope this leads to tools that can be directly applied to Game Development. To support the creation of art for games. I hope I get the opportunity to create something like that myself too.
      Conclusion
      These 7 techniques were at the core of what I did to improve the visual quality of my project.
      This was mostly the result of the unique set of constraints that I had. But I'm pretty sure some famous person said: "true creativity is born of constraints". Or something along those lines. It basically means that constraints and problems help channel your creativity.
      I'm sure there is more that I could have done, but I was happy with the stark difference between the "before" and "after" states of my project.
      I've also realized that this project has made me more of an artist. If you work on visual quality even as a programmer, you practice and sharpen your artistic abilities, and end up becoming something of an artist yourself. 
       
      Thanks for reading! Please like, share, and comment if you enjoyed this article.
      Did I miss something obvious? Let me know in the comments!
       
       
       
       
       
      Extra Resources
      OpenWorm project
      Great tutorial by Gabriel Aguiar
      Unity breaks down how to improve the look of a game using Post processing
      Another resource on post-processing by Dilmer Valecillos
      Brackey's tutorial on post-processing
      Adobe Colour wheel, great for colour theory and palettes
      An open-source AI project that can colour lineart
      A demo of generative art by Kate Compton
       
      Note: This article was originally published on LinkedIn. If you like it, please click through, get in contact, and consider connecting.
    • By JoAndRoPo
      Hi! 
      I hope this is the right area in the forum to post this question? 🤔 
      There are games with clear data and restore purchases in the settings page. 
      Question#1: What all does get cleared when clicking on clear data? Does this only clear player statistics & player experience? What about things that the player has purchased with in-game currencies (Can this be an option placed from the developers end? Question#2: What does get restored when clicking on restore purchases? Will it restore everything that the player has purchased with real currency?   I have a basic idea on what these 2 features do but would also like to know of all the possibilities available?
      Thanks!
       
       
    • By DAddill
      I'm trying to understand how maya, blender, unity etc get new eulers in widget while user rotate model in local coordinate system by gizmo in viewport.
      This applications somehow save rotate in eulers but perform operation in quaternions. I can't understand how they save/convert quaternion to eulers and get eulers more than 180 degree
      If i simplest convert result quaternion to eulers i can't get result like in applications above. I can't get angle more 180
      Unity for example
      https://monosnap.com/file/oHigb8FSwopYTZCBjOQLqvh58vbQ8Z
      This is my code explain my attemps to do that.
       
      Quaternion rotation; //relative (local rotation) Vector3 eulersRotation; Quaternion parentRotation; //it is psevdo code where we calculate delta angle that user generate on current frame by mouse void SetDeltaWorldRotationFromUserInput(Quaternion value) { SetWorldRotation(value); } void SetWorldRotation(Quaternion value) { SetLocalRotation(parentQuaternion.inverted() * value); //set local rotation } void SetLocalRotation(Quaternion value) { rotation = value; // we save new local rotation but i want to save somehow more then 180 degree auto eulersForGui = value.toEulers(); //it is current eulers but i want to accumulate and show in gui accumulate rotation. like currentRotation + delta or somehow auto deltaEulers = (value * rotation.inverted()).toEulers(); //i can get delta eulers but i can't add it to euelers and don't know what i need to do with this value eulersRotation += deltaEulers; //it is similar wrong. I don't know how to do it correctly }  
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