Project Contrivance overworld progress!

We have lots of work unrelated to our own projects, and we've been networking with other artists. That slowed our progress with Project Contrivance considerably, but we haven't stopped completely.

We've been putting together the game's story for a while now, and I'll share the version we've liked the best.

The game plays out inside a person's head. The players play as two microscopic robots that are sent out to fix the person's faulty implanted chips and other artificial additions. We're already working on boss fights that explain the various things that happen inside the levels.

The overworld will be divided into multiple chunks that give players entry to the game's levels. Because of this division into multiple parts, we can play with the post process effects and color settings of each section. The overworld's fleshy appearance will likely be seeping into the levels themselves as well, through little cracks and damaged parts.

Geril loves creating twisted, disgusting things, so he felt great making the pulsing, inflating flesh-columns and the light-up brain nerves.

The design is very unfinished, background objects are absent, there are no gates for the levels, no puzzles, and the overworld is not the final size, but much smaller. But it's a start, and good enough for testing.


Project Contrivance overworld thoughts!

This month, we've been thinking and working on Project Contrivance's structure. We decided to base the game on an overworld that houses all the levels - kind of like in the N64 era.

Level progression would be driven by beating levels and gaining resources for opening up more levels. The overworld would contain puzzles of its own, so you wouldn't have to beat every level to proceed, you could gather the remainder of the resources in the overworld, allowing you to bypass levels you don't like.
Each section of the overworld would end with a boss that goes with, and explains the previous levels' theme. Beating the end boss would open up the next section.

Other things we've thought about were giving players the ability to color their characters by finding special items in the overworld, adding competitive elements to multiplayer, and opening up bonus levels.

This system was inspired by the N64 era games like Super Mario 64. We'll show you more once we've progressed enough with development.

In other news, the Nintendo Switch has arrived, and it appears to be successful. We like the console's idea, and enjoy playing on it, so we've decided to keep the Joy-cons in mind when designing the game. We've even managed to make them work on our PCs so we can test the game with them!

Stay fresh!


Co-op puzzles in Project Contrivance!


In the last month, we worked to implement local split-screen multiplayer in our puzzle game project that we dubbed Project Contrivance for now. The levels that are designed for two players can be played with a second player, or by switching between controlling two characters in single player.

Swapping between players
We've added various nodes and boxes to spice up the gameplay: there are and, or, delay, inverter nodes and switches, and boxes that can be picked up that contain these functionalities. These boxes can be placed into sockets and will connect into the circuit, and in there they work just like the regular nodes.

Here is a long playthrough video of a test level where we fool around:

The little noises you hear are the player characters' form of communication: they have a positive and negative sound, and players can trigger these whenever they want to. We plan to add gestures to them, too.

Falling into deadly liquid
Crushed by spikes
These GIFs are pre-alpha and about everything may be subject to change. We're going for functionality first, instead of graphics.

Our big dilemma right now is deciding between deferred and forward rendering. We don't know what the Nintendo Switch is capable of yet, and deferred rendering is more costly, so I guess we'll have to wait and see, but it'd be nice to know in advance. We could just use deferred rendering and upscale, but we're not sure if it's worth it. With forward rendering, we'd lose SSAO and screen-based reflections (among other minor things), but by using MSAA, we could get a more sharp picture, which fits the theme (machines) perfectly. Forward rendering also handles transparency better.

Deferred rendering
Forward rendering

Here's a gameplay video with forward rendering:

Of course, on PC there will be graphics settings, so this won't be an issue, but planning for a console(s?) is different.




We’ve been progressing with the puzzle game project mentioned in the last post. We’re learning a lot about how to make stable things, how to manage a project and time, and how to optimize games for lower-end machines. We have a couple of game mechanics ready, so the bulk of the work will be to build levels using these mechanics.

This puzzle game has a simple goal: get to the end of each stage by solving puzzles and avoiding obstacles. For now, most of the problems are solved by pushing buttons with the character, or placing blocks onto them, with some light platforming mixed in. The whole idea is to mimic programming/digital circuits with the puzzles - think logic gates, nodes.

Here are some gifs so you can check out the mechanics with placeholder art:

A basic level's layout
Breakable glass

Playing with momentum

Picking up and carrying items

Opening secret passages

Utilizing moving platforms

Obtaining the bonus box - this box grants the player extra points if taken to the exit
 Many ways to die:

Finishing the level:

We will put the new skills we learned to good use in our bigger projects. Please look forward to more updates in the near future!


Happy New Year!

2016 has been a long and eventful year. We've started a new project (Lemniscate), it got greenlit on Steam, but in the meantime, we ran out of resources... We've learned a lot nonetheless. Even our latest fanart seems to have turned out good - it has been seen by about ten thousand people. Thanks, Yuumei, for sharing it!

Lemniscate is progressing slowly, because it requires more time and money than we currently have. Seems like we always take on bigger projects than we can handle... Anyways, since it's not in a bad shape and the foundations are laid down, as soon as we get enough resources, we'll start making a demo for it and promoting it again.

In the meantime, we're educating ourselves in game design and development with tiny (really tiny this time) side-projects. Our current side/practice project is a small two player co-op puzzle game that was inspired by the Nintendo Switch, basically. We really like local coop games and they are the minority nowadays, and we love Nintendo consoles in general. Hearing the news that Unreal 4 is going to be supported on the Switch, maybe if the project turns out to be anything good, we'll be able to release it. (That goes for all of our projects, by the way)

Thank you for helping us out with kind words, actions, or just by visiting this blog once in a while. It means a lot to know that we're not doing this in vain.

Happy New Year!


3D Yuumei Fanart: Frey Underground!


We've had some free time this month, and decided to mix things up a bit. This is completely unrelated to any of our previous stuff - it's a fanart of Yuumei's Underground picture.

The whole thing started when we realized that our portfolio was a little... one-sided. Not everyone likes the OLP stuff and style, but until now, that was the only thing we could showcase as a team. Separately we've worked in many different styles, but together we've mostly worked in one. So we've decided to try out different styles and subjects for practice, experimentation, and for our portfolio. This was also a challenge for us, to see how far we can get in about a week and how efficient we are. We've probably went a little overboard, but oh well.

Frey, the character is fully rigged and has a morph target set for emotions and complete lip-syncing. Basically we've created a game-ready character as fast as we could.

We've planned to include a violin playing and a random goofy animation as well, but exporting into Sketchfab-friendly FBX made our work hard. The process was very tedious and took up almost a whole additional day. (We're now convinced that Blender hates us) We can't include those animations in the same scene we've uploaded, and we thought making a new scene just for that would be overkill. Maybe we'll upload it someday, if people are interested.

We've decided on this particular piece because I [Lussy] am a long time fan of Yuumei and thought that shiny PBR lights would go well with her art style. It was refreshing to work based on someone else's "concept art". Can't wait for Fisheye Placebo to continue!

Here are some WIP pics:

Frey isn't happy with his incomplete hair
Attack of the placeholder normalmaps
Frey's violin in Sketchfab's editor
Some of Frey's test expressions and lip-sync
We love Sketchfab, and it's a shame that it isn't more popular. Whenever we show Sketchfab links or embeds to someone, we have to explain that it isn't a picture or a video, and that the camera can be moved. We always have to either explain the exact controls and settings (for example, this model always loads in SD quality and you have to manually set it to HD) in a wall of text, or leave out the instructions and hope very strongly that people will try clicking on the model. We went with the latter this time.

We hope you liked it! We were trying hard not to butcher the scene. Hope we didn't.


Lemniscate's gameplay structure!

It's about time we wrote a post about Lemniscate again.

Looking back, we wrote surprisingly little about the game's... "game" aspect. Yes, we are afraid of potentially spoiling the game, but we realized we can't expect anyone to look forward to a game they know very little about. So, here goes.

One integral part of Lemniscate is using items. For example: the player needs a crowbar to get into the air vents, and a screwdriver to open a fuse box.

Another usable item will be related to surveillance cameras. There are several surveillance cameras on the ship in every room. From the story's viewpoint, this is because the transport company that owns the ship requires the overseer of the ship to keep the ship's crew under constant surveillance. The overseer has a portable device for this purpose - a gadget that is connected to every camera on the ship. In-game, this is a very valuable item for the player, because it lets him look into any room he wants, anywhere he is. He can time his actions according to what happens in different parts of the ship. Obviously this item will be hard to get, and its location will vary depending on how things went during previous days.

In addition to these, we're working on various events for Lemniscate. These events will happen when certain actions are executed by the player - for example, if he changes the destination's coordinates on the ship, it will go off course and steer into meteoroids that destroy a part of it. If the player survives, he'll hear the sirens and see the alerts on every screen while the whole ship freezes and he slowly dies.

Because of this structure of gameplay, we're not basing advancement on experience points, like in RPGs. Lemniscate will be like an adventure, there will be no good or bad answers to a question, only different roads to an ending. Destroying the ship may mean revealing crucial information about the story or characters - it's not "game over".

The disadvantage is that once the player finishes the game, replaying it won't be as much of a challenge. Because of this, we're planning to include multiple endings depending on playtime and choices.

We are trying to create a story with believable characters that is one of a kind. The player will decide if he wants to listen to the story, find out more, or just play the game and ignore the hidden details. (Lemniscate's universe is the same as OLP's!)
The ship's crew will drive the story forward - not through dialogue or encounters but through the recorded notes in their PADs (Personal Assistant Device). They all had their PADs with them when the time anomaly began, so the entries will change along with the player's actions.

We're writing a lot of text, developing the visuals and thinking about the story in-depth for Lemniscate to be relatable and atmospheric. We have a lot of assets to create before we achieve the look we're aiming for - a home for a whole crew of people that have been living there for more than a decade. We hope we hit the mark and players will find the experience enjoyable.