Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Salvage Youth - Week 8 Progress Report

I missed putting up a report last week, since we were focused heavily on preparing presentations for our milestone, but I'm excited about sharing all the progress we've gotten done over the last two weeks because we've gotten a ton of work done on the game.

First of all, we've made a huge step - instead of having art assets for our game, we've actually got art assets in our game. This has been a gigantic milestone for us, and is starting to make it feel like a real game rather then just a demo of the Unity Engine. The Art Team is excited, seeing their art actually in-game, and the designers are having a great time working with the assets to make levels for testing that are much more reflective of real gameplay. It's hard to overstate how critical this stage has been for all of us.

The art itself has been chugging along wonderfully - adding Dan to the team has sped up the process greatly, as he's taking over doing all the high-res sculpts of the prop objects.

We've been doing a lot of planning for the beginnings of our UI stuff, starting with the Main Menu. We've got a neat idea we're hoping to get in-game soon that should tie in well with our backstory and help explain a lot about the world in an elegant fashion. Beau's concept work for it has been gorgeous, as always.

He's been cranking out great concept work for other props and world objects, as well.

We're getting more world props built and pushed through the pipeline as well. Alexi is a modelling machine, he's constantly getting props built and ready for texture and sculpt. Unstoppable.

Zach's got Dustin's concept art nailed down and has already started modelling him.

Randy's got the first rig test complete, but we were given a bunch of information on rigging for Unity by a former classmate, Micah Zahm, that pointed out a few issues we need to address, so we're going back and revising the rig to ensure we won't have any problems getting the character in engine.

I spent some time last week working on building particle systems and getting the designers familiar with the tools. At the moment we currently have a "starburst" particle effect that creates a UI reward element for any time the player does something correctly, solves a stage of the puzzle or gets a collectible. It's already helped with some of our playtesting, giving important feedback to the player as to the context and consequence of their actions.

This week, however, I spent a lot of time researching - I came across an incredible suite of tools called Substance Designer by Allegorithmic that allows us to create modular, dynamic textures. This lets us make "dirty" versions of all of the props we already have in-game and scale between the dirty and clean versions in real-time in engine, as well as creating a ton of modifiable dynamic tiling textures using set parameters - in other words, it saves us a ton of time in our art pipeline and adds variability to our world that we wouldn't have otherwise without devoting an absolute ton of programming time we just can't budget for. Awesome stuff.

We've already gotten successful tests in-engine in controlling these "dirt" passes, allowing them to scale in real time, so we can have Jenny fix an object and reflect her effort on the model by cleaning it up over time. Really, really neat. The Substance Designer toolset is incredibly powerful, and I'm just now starting to get in and wrap my head around it, but I'm excited to spend some time with it and get the results of the work in-engine.

We've really been moving these last couple of weeks, making up for lost time from a few weeks ago when it seemed like everyone was out sick. We were a little behind for this current milestone, but we put together a very solid plan on how to get back on pace for the upcoming milestone in a couple of weeks, and we're already racing to get everything back on schedule.

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