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By Jack Meade, Oliver Smith

Raft-building has never seemed so possible.

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Finally, a game where you can throw a crossbow at a raccoon

We've been making steady progress on the game and are really trying to find a look that feels right, yet is also easy enough to work with that we'll be able to have a lot of content. Jack made this concept image for a forest biome:

And then I spent many days trying to procedurally generate a similar look. Here's the current progress on that:

Also we decided that rather than use weapons, you should just throw them at raccoons instead:

By the way, check out these other in-progress games that have been inspiring us:

  • Future Unfolding is a really pretty looking top-down procedural game.
  • Salt is really close to what our original 3D rafting prototype was going to be like!

Run and swim to your heart's content

Clothes are a version 2 feature. Or maybe just paid DLC.

I just realized how different this looks from the screenshots a few weeks ago, but it's all incremental updates. Check out the new dynamic ocean as the character moves around! I might do a longer post on it later if anyone wants, but it's using the same technique as Arcane Worlds (which is a really visually striking game). I'm guessing it's the same technique as From Dust too, but I'm not sure.

Game Development Stage 3: Caught in the Clutches of a Near-Crippling Insanity

So on top of the work we have been doing thus far, I have been considering a major overhaul to the realism and functionality of the art in general, but specifically with the customizable characters (including the player). In an effort to nail this down, I have built a contraption out of garden-accoutrements in order to capture what life is like from 5 feet overhead.

I am hoping that after a few more tweaks, and probably a complete re-fabrication I will have something really useful for accumulating animation references for top-down perspective, which is really difficult to find on the internet. I have gathered some walk/run/jump/sneak/combat cycles, but I want to post something more representative of where we are in the development of the-game-formerly-known-as-adrift (symbol pending), so here is me mock-rowing like a moron around my backyard while my dog disapproves.

Imagine what this looked like to my neighbors over the fence.

I also recently found this amazing tutorial for modifying Photoshop to work really well for pixel art, and I feel like I must share this, because holy hell, Dan Fessler is a great guy for writing this up. To anyone who thinks "Yeah, well, that's not REAL pixel-pushing" I say: "You, sir (even if you're a woman), are a Philistine."

Dan Fessler - HD Index Painting in Photoshop

Dan is currently working on a game called Chasm by Discord Games, and I played the demo a while back. It looks amazing. Check it.


Okay so I took a moment to see what this might look like, and I think this is going to help out a lot. Look how much more natural this pose is than the classic "I AM FACING FORWARD DAMMIT!" stance in most top-downs.

P.S. Salmon pants are now IN for this game.

More work on the ocean

Today we did some more prototyping for our ocean effect. Inspired by this technique for rolling waves underneath water tiles, we came up with this:

It's done with two layers of images that Jack drew, overlayed on each other at angles and distorted by moving sine waves (in a shader). We're going to experiment more but I think something like this could look pretty good.

Unfortunately we can't do what Alcove Games did in the above link and roll floating objects back and forth, which looks really cool in their video. Because we're completely top-down it looks weird to do that. With some wakes or particle effects in the water, objects will look more like they're floating I bet.

An ocean of plasma

When I first learned to program, graphics coding was mostly done in C with hand-coded assembly for the parts that needed speed. At one point I found some code for a "plasma" demo effect. It was a few hundred lines of assembly and I remember just staring at it, having absolutely no idea how it worked. These days it can be done in five minutes with about two lines of code in a pixel shader. Here's mine from today:

Here's the method I used.

This week we're tackling the ocean problem. In most 2d games water is done with looping animated tiles (or two sets of layered tiles moving at angles to each other), but since the ocean is such a huge character in our game we want something at least a little cooler. Ideally we'd be able to do wakes, dynamic waves, shadows of large sea creatures just underneath the surface, phosphorescent plankton, coastlines, and whatever else. Unfortunately, water physics are hard and we're not seeing much out there in 2d to crib from. I was looking into the plasma effect above to see if it could be made to look like ocean waves but I don't think it's the right way to go. Jack came up with some layered images that look good so we're going to try that approach next.

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

I just finished this book on game design (warning - greedy affiliate link gives me money which I will spend on ice cream):

I think it deserves its high rating on Amazon. Some of it is kind of stating the obvious, but I like that it's so comprehensive. In particular the chapters on balancing gameplay, player interest curves and character design are full of things to think about. This is not a technical book, but there are plenty of other more specific books and websites about technical game-making. The book builds up 100 "lenses" which are basically just condensed guidelines to consider when you get stuck or need some inspiration. My only complaint is that the business advice is not that relevant to indies, who can't get away with selling games in stores for $50. I would like to see an updated version that talks about mobile app stores driving prices down, the saturated indie market, and the effect of Steam Summer Sales and the Humble Bundle. Recommended!

Maiden voyage!

That .gif actually represents a pretty considerable amount of work. I rewrote the raft attachment code from scratch because the physics-based implementation was not working well - Unity's hinge joints act kind of like rubber bands instead of being mostly rigid like I was hoping. Now I'm using parenting to stick things together and the raft acts as one whole rigid body. Also, the propellors don't actually have to be in the water to work. :P

Player movement is like Hotline Miami right now (always facing the mouse), but that could change in the future. I tried to make things flexible since you're in cramped quarters - your player slides along edges when possible rather than stopping. The player stays on the raft essentially by checking the projected next position and making sure it's a walkable surface. I tried a few other things first, like creating invisible physics walls around platforms and making platforms into trigger areas that Unity understands, but neither of those solutions was straightforward. It would not surprise me if I end up rewriting the character movement completely at some point though.

Jack has also been doing a ton of work creating new assets, including a bunch of character work which I'm pretty excited about. We're going to have a ton of different combinations of NPC types from the looks of it. Here's a palette he's working on too, apparently based on Goethe's color wheel, which I had not heard of: