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A Record of Trying and Failing and Trying Again
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I'm really digging this post-process effect on my Halloween 2014 game's mood. I'm close to getting a nice mix of both creepy and nostalgic -- just what I am aiming for.
Unfortunately I'm hitting stumbling blocks with the audio design. I wanted to use 3D sound and audio cues to present the player with a "maze" to navigate, but it is proving to be a challenge. More on that as it develops.
What do y'all think of this change in visual style?
I'm most of the way there with finding the visual "tone" or mood for this game, so now on to some game mechanics. Since this is intended to be both simple and free, I'm going to play to my strengths and use sound as a primary source of gameplay. My experience has always been that sound can make (or break) both films and interactive media. I have fond memories of entering the underground looking for Strelok's stash in STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl. At a certain point during the exploration you hear a literal roar reverberating throughout the tunnel you are in. Much more effective than 1,000 jump scares!
Today and tomorrow I'm going to experiment with the following maze:
the most direct path through being highlighted in dark grey (created with Excel!). I intend to overlay this maze onto my environment and place triggers throughout the path. These triggers will play audio cues -- almost audio "clues" -- on the proper path. This maze will be less claustrophoic than it looks as it will cover roughly one square kilometer and have very few literal walls blocking vision.
The key will be audio design and some camera tricks, as well as a fantastic foliage shader that will allow me to move bushes, trees, and grass around like somethin' big is coming at the player.
I'm also going to make the physical paths in game (the ones between areas) look more like the following:
Lots of work to do!
So I've managed to rough out a very small (1/2 acre) chunk of my environment. I feel like I'm about 50% there in capturing that late-Autumn feeling. The lighting is a bit off still, but it's feeling good.
Other problems in Unity are NOT feeling good, so I'm already behind in Week One!
You've got to say it like "Halloween twenty-fourteen" to get the awesome rhyming effect.
Yesterday, 01-July-2014, I started the design work on a free-to-play Web game to be released on 01-October-2014. Here are some specifics:
Title: Hide Your Eyes (working title)
Genre: First-Person Perspective (FPP) Horror/Adventure
Synopsis: Escape from an isolated forest before nightfall with your sanity intact. Use your eyes and ears to find your way through abandoned structures, maze-like woods, and away from the ominous presence that grows stronger with the setting of the sun.
Platform: Web Browser (Windows/Mac/Linux PCs)
Play Mechanic: Use audio cues to find clues, items, and locations. As audio cues are triggered, false/distracting audio cues are instantiated, requiring the player to discern which to avoid and which to pursue. Proximity to multiple negative audio effects will impact the characters sanity, visualized through rendering and camera effects, and can only be counteracted by "hiding your eyes" -- closing your eyes to reset all of the audio and which also changes the environment (locations, time-of-day, inventory) when you open them again.
Tools: Unity3D Pro, Visual Studio Pro 2012 and C# scripting, Cubase (5.1 surround audio production), L3DT Pro, Blender, GimpShop, Articy Draft 2, MuseScore (music notation)
Key Features: Relience on audio and color pallete to create mood and atmosphere.
My hope is to post to this thread as I work through the project. Three months is incredibly short, so I will be utilizing many third-party assets to create the basic game:
UFPS -- https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/2943 -- for Camera, Character Controller, Events/Messaging.
Autumnal Nature Pack -- https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/3649 -- for environment textures, grass, foliage, and trees.
Sound Manager Pro 3 -- https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/9209 -- for audio and sound effects management.
DF-GUI -- https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/10438 -- for the game menus and user interface.
ProCore Utilities -- https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/15447 -- because I use the entire suite of tools in every project! I can't live without ProGrids!
Advanced Foliage Shader v3 -- https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/3253 -- another of my go-to, must-have tools.
Relief Terrain Pack v3.1 -- https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/5664 -- because it looks so, so good!
This week I'm jotting down design ideas, collecting inspiration from photos and movies, and sketching out what I can before I start integrating the above tools. I'll be needing more assets as the design develops and I will list them all as I evaluate and incorporate them. I've also started sorting through my sound effects library and jotted down some melodic ideas for music.
Input, feedback, support, questions, criticisms, devil's advocates, and playtesters are all welcome! I'll have a private alpha Web build available in August for those interested.
Prototype Environment Screenshot: