2018/11/28

Still consistently working on OLP! (...sort of)

Hey.

This month was a pretty intense crunch time for us, but we did make time for progressing with OLP.

Some of the systems we've integrated include head/eye IKs.
These were already included in the original OLP, but as a sort of always-on feature that we were surprised even worked. The version we've created now is only active when it absolutely needs to be.


IKs are activated when the character gets near an interactable item (in this case, a pickup). Once the item gets in range, it sends an overlap event that turns on the IK and saves the item's position.
This next part caused us some headache at first: if an item isn't moving, there's no need to get its position every tick. So we turned on sleep/wake events for the item to let the player character know when it was moving or physically active, so now the position only gets updated when it is absolutely necessary. We also included kill switches for the head and eye IKs separately, so when the characters are so small on the screen or running so fast that they wouldn't be visible anyways, they don't get calculated.


The most unnecessary feature we added in relation to this is a blink for when the IKs get activated or deactivated. Since the eye pops onto the target object immediately, it looked weird, but the blink fixes this. So even though it's unnecessary, we kind of like it.

Oh, and the Lookat node inside AnimBlueprints is a broken nightmare. We still have to do something about the head IK's transitions.

In other news, we are traveling to Tokyo next month!
At first, it was my (Lussy's) idea to go, and Geril was a little reluctant. But after checking out all the generously packed video game stores online, even he is pretty hyped up about the trip. We're pretty sure we'll be back at the end of next month with at least one very weird story about it.

Laters!

2018/10/28

Remaking old stuff!

So after last month, we continued working on Project OLP.

Our current concept of OLP is heavily based on this GDC video by David Rosen (we highly recommend checking this out!).

We've created our player character's movement animations by hooking up poses only and blending them from blueprints. The only actual animation sequence we used was the idle animation.

And her tail and ears are physically active.
We've also cleaned the project out of all outdated assets and code and started almost from scratch with all the experience we've gained since we last worked on this. It's kind of cathartic to be able to start it all over and have development go so much faster and smoother.




We're almost caught up with all the features that were present in the original project, only now they work better and the Tick event isn't as badly overused as it used to be (still looking for ways to optimize blueprints, though).

(Sorry about the last frames of the gifs, our capture software likes to mess things up as it stops capturing. Also, I'd like to note that it's impossible to arrange inserted pictures in this editor.)

Now that we could actually create some gameplay elements as opposed to only being able to move the character around, we've been creating pickup objects that can be used for combat, or as usable items. Geril is modeling all sorts of random things that players will be able to throw at each other when they don't have a weapon equipped. You'll be able to pick up most objects you see, and even destroy things to make more objects for yourself – if a wall shatters, you'll be able to take the bricks and throw them at your opponent. Different objects will have different properties and special effects: for example, a glass vial will shatter, leaving shards behind that will hurt whoever walks into them.



You can expect more to come in relation to this, we're kind of on a roll here.

2018/09/30

On shipping something less than great...

We're not proud of every piece of work we've done.

I guess it's part of being a creator, but sometimes the final product of a project is so... not good, that we'd rather it didn't have our names attached to it.
It's a depressing feeling.

Story time.
We worked on a project for about a year. It was a day job for us, making a historical-educational movie that was rendered in Unreal Engine 4. We created AI for big armies and individual characters. It was kinda hard – most of the small team wasn't really familiar with UE4, and the assets were not optimized for videogame technologies (and some weren't even PBR). But the team decided to go ahead anyways.

We finished the AI and most of the logic by May, but the rest of the team had to work on a lot of other parts of the production as well, and so they had no time to test crowd simulation, combat and such.

Mid-June, they started rendering clips for the final movie, but they had trouble with the untested blueprints (as expected of untested technologies). Since we were already pushing the deadline, instead of properly testing and taking a step back and refining the system, the team rushed work and tried to work around smaller issues. On top of that, we didn't have time to properly train them to use the huge and complicated system they described they wanted, so the majority of the features we implemented went unused.

For example, we created a face customizer, kind of like in The Sims. A character could have a randomized, custom face applied, so the crowd didn't look like an army of clones. But instead of using that, they left the crowd without custom faces, so yeah, it does look like an army of clones. Or, at a lot of parts, blueprints weren't even used, just featureless skeletal meshes (no custom faces, no mimicry, not even eye movement).

We also had to animate a lot of scenes in a few days; scenes that would, under normal circumstances, take a few weeks, maybe a month to set up. So you can imagine what the quality of those animations is like.

When we saw the final version of the movie, we were baffled. We suspected, based on our communications with them, that the final result wasn't going to be spectacular, that the team had to cut corners to meet deadlines, but we never imagined they would ignore features we spent months on developing. It was just sad.

After watching (that was a funny situation, trying to keep a straight face in the office for our coworkers while watching the video), we came home and tried to go back to work but it was just too hard. I mean we spent a year on this project, and it looks and feels like we created nothing. Were we this bad at communicating, or was it just too complicated for others to use? Guess we'll never know. But it just about killed all of our motivation for a few weeks.

We're gonna continue working together with them on other projects – they said the main problem was the miscalculated deadline – and we're gonna use the experience we gained to try to make things better. It's just hard to do work after a result like this.
Especially on our own projects.

We wanted to post another Sketchfab thing this month, but this finished movie just shook us.
We've had almost no free time to work on our own stuff, and all for this...
But we digress.

We actually went back to our old project, Project OLP, to see if what we made back then was any good, or if we just imagined it. And... it still works, and it's a lot more developed than any of our other projects... so maybe we should continue working on it.
We'll decide later. But as for now, it's fun to work on something that we have full quality control over.

Still trying to figure out if there's life on mars.

2018/08/31

Fallout 4 Vulpine race mod released!

Hey.

So this is sort of a huge milestone for us.

A few years ago, we started collaborating with BeardofSocrates on a mod for Fallout: New Vegas that brought a fox-like playable race into the game. Given how much we worked on anthropomorphic animal characters, it wasn't too far out of our comfort zone. But we ended up completing that project under the pseudonym Mystery Science Team, because of the backlash these types of mods tend to generate.


After that was done, we started work on a Fallout 4 version, and a lot more work went into that one, since we included a full character creation as well, with a complicated weighting and morphing process. Since Fallout 4 uses pseudo-PBR, the textures ended up looking a lot more detailed and complex as well. We thought about using the pseudonym again, but we decided we were proud enough of this mod to deal with the backlash.


An unbelievable amount of guesswork and trial and error went into creating this mod, and because of scheduling issues, we progressed slowly, but alas, the female version has been mostly completed and released a few days ago. You can check it out here.


Reading the feedback and comments on the public release, we're glad to see a lot of people think it's a quality mod and that makes the whole thing feel worthwhile. Of course there are also those who hate on the mod without giving it a chance, and label it as a furry mod right off the bat. We expected this, but it's still a bit baffling to see. Targeting furries wasn't our intention; we have collaborated in the development of the mod because animalistic mimicry is a lot more fun to create than human mimicry, fur is fun to paint, and modding something into a game that isn't supposed to be there is a challenge.

The male playable character is currently in development, and should be available eventually.

So, bottom line, we were Mystery Science Team and we are proud of what we have achieved with these mods. We're also happy that we ended up working together with BoS, because we wouldn't have made such a good friend otherwise.

PS: We're still trying to figure out if there is life on Mars.

2018/07/30

Pump It Up arcade hardware!

Hi!

Phew, it's a really hot summer this year. We'd rather just lie down in a cold air-conditioned room, face down, and sleep. All day.

But!

Today we're showing you something different than usual.

My (Lussy) probably biggest wish as a kid was to have my own Pump It Up arcade cabinet. For those that don't know, Pump It Up is a Korean rhythm arcade game similar to DDR, but there is one additional panel on the floor and they are arranged differently. I prefer it to DDR because of the different panels, and also because of its soundtrack.

It was really hard for me to research anything about the arcade hardware, but a few days ago I found a main board for an older cabinet type, the MK-3. What little research I was able to do showed that this was the model that my old favorite software ran on, so I ended up buying it. It's a proprietary PC motherboard with some custom chips thrown in for good measure, and a glorious CD-ROM drive to read the software off of.


There are a bunch of parts missing, most notably the power supply, so we weren't able to test it yet. When we do get it running, the biggest challenge will be to find a set of pads for it, and find a place to store them at. We can't even begin to imagine what adventures this little machine will have us go through until we make it complete and get it in working order, but we're looking forward to them.

By the way, we are still working on our own rhythm game project, and the gameplay concept testing phase is coming along nicely, however there's still some work we need to do before we can show it off.

2018/06/28

Beatmap editor in Unreal 4!

Hey there! This is Lussy.

We've been hard at work on our rhythm game projects, and we've managed to create a feature we've never thought we could do with Blueprints only, coupled with our current experience. But alas, it has happened.

We've created a beatmap editor inside Unreal 4 using only Blueprints and Rama's Victory Blueprint plugin (it's a godsend, check it out if you're using UE4!).

For the editor, we used osu!'s editor as a reference, and for now it can only create and edit Taiko type beatmaps. We plan to overhaul it almost completely for our own game, but first we had to try if it was even possible to create.

The editor uses .ogg files as music, and creates a text file with a matching name for each new .ogg file. The file contains BPM and title information, as well as all the beat objects or notes in the song - similar to how osu!'s .osz files work. We dubbed ours as .beatmap files though.


Once the file is created, the user can enter a BPM calibrator that lets them tap a button in time with the music. The editor then calculates based on those clicks the BPM of the song, or alternatively, the BPM can be input manually.


After this is done, the actual editor lets users put notes down on each beat of the song, change their colors around and then save the beatmap. The beatmap can then be played in play mode.

The whole thing is very raw right now, because we haven't had as much time to work on it as we wanted to, but it's getting there. This tool will be very useful for developing our rhythm games, and we plan to include it in the game too, so users can create custom content with songs they like.

At this point we're starting to feel like anything is possible in Blueprints with the right nodes and tools. Of course knowing C++ would help greatly, so we're going to get on that, too, but there's no rush.

2018/05/26

Unreal Game Jam!

Hi! It's Lussy.

This month was... hectic, to say the least.

We're still getting settled into our new home, but we did have some time for our personal projects. So we decided to enter the Unreal spring game jam.

At first, we started making a turn-based RPG for the theme 'Transformation'. It featured a bug of some sort that could take the defeated bugs' and insects' limbs and use them as its own. We got quite far with the development, the combat system was mostly finished, it had a basic interface, experience points, 15 levels with new abilities unlocked at various levels. The whole thing was inspired by observing a dead mosquito in our bathtub that fell apart with all of its legs detached. (Why does that happen, by the way?)

...Aaand then we realized that we couldn't finish it in time, so we abandoned it and started developing a much simpler game. We managed to make it in just about one day. It featured a sphere shape that could transform into a variety of other shapes at the press of a button, and the player had to control this shape and guide it through a series of holes in walls that were coming towards it.
We called it 'Andy and the Wallhole'.


Just as we were about to upload the finished project (which was very much not finished, we wanted to include a lot more features and even a soundtrack, but oh well, game jams), we noticed that it was half hour past the deadline. I made a mistake in converting the deadline from New York's time zone to our own. Sooooo... that was that. We uploaded the project to itch.io nonetheless, but it was not accepted. I'm including the link, so if you want to try out this earsore of a project, go ahead.

The whole thing left a very bitter taste, but we do plan on going ahead with the shapes project and making it our own rhythm game. We've been trying to come up with some gameplay mechanic to put into our rhythm game framework ever since we recreated Taiko. So at least this is a plus! I also feel like I gained some experience in working really fast with blueprints. So it wasn't all in vain. That's what we keep telling ourselves, anyways.

So, until next month!