Happy Holidays!

It's Geril.
This was a stressful end of the year for us, but at least we had a few days to chill a bit.
Lussy got a shiny new guitar and I got two buckets of bubble tea pearls for Christmas.

We haven't yet talked about it much, but we actually like making music. I play the blues harp – you can hear it as the background, ambient music in our project, Project Contrivance – and Lussy is playing bass and electric guitar in her free time. So when we work on our own pet projects, we're probably going to make our own music for it.

Oh, and we played Mass Effect 3 again. It's still hard to start it up on the Xbox One, but we finally got to the Citadel DLC, and wow, it's awesome!
Like, this is what was missing. Some humor, creative writing, characters and yeah, some fan service. I mean, seriously, this is the final game of the trilogy, they've got a lot of awesome characters, why not use them?
We haven't done the house-party part of the DLC yet, but even now, we're just happy because of this expansion. I mean, it feels like an expansion, rather than a DLC.
Best DLC ever? Maybe.

We're also upgrading most of our old consoles' video cables to Packapunch cables. These cables are awesome. I had no idea that an original SNES can output this sharp of an image.
So we now have scart cables for the GameCube, the SNES, PS1-2 and a RadX for the N64.

For a Non-CRT setup, these kinds of cables are a must and can add a lot to the image quality. We can't recommend them enough.
Now we only need a Framemeister or an OSSC.

And we also had time to assemble the game boxes.
We still want to print out more N64 and SNES boxes, but they are bigger and harder to print efficiently, so it takes a bit more time to create them.

And hey, it's 2020. We started working on this blog in 2013, seven years ago. GTA 5 and The Last of Us were the big titles that year, and we played a lot of Link Between Worlds, the shiny new console was the Wii U, and at the end of that year, the new generation of consoles – the PS4 and Xbox One – got released. So 2020 will have some similarities to 2013.

We have learned a lot, had some hard times, some good times, and overall we are now inside the game development industry.
Not really as Indie developers though.
We'll change that later. For now we'll work hard, and who knows, maybe in 2020 we'll post more about game development, and less about... everything else.

We're looking forward to the new decade.


November has come... and went.

Hi, Geril here.

Another month full of work.
And we didn't have much time for anything else.

At the end of last month, I got my hands on a GPD Win 2, and I'm having a lot of fun with it.
This is more of the same as my old GPD Win, but more powerful - and with better button positioning.
Games run on it OK, but I'd hardly be satisfied with that only. What I want is to work, and to be able to work anywhere. And Unreal Engine 4 is running on it quite well.
Nothing really surprising, but with forward rendering, the little machine can manage itself quite well.
Lussy and I have some ideas for smaller games, but with this much work, we only have free time when we're on a train, bus or in a car. But with this palmtop, we can make things on the go.

And we've also done some home improvement stuff, like printing out old video game boxes for cartridge-based games we have, in miniature, just-fitting form, and we bought some cartridge cases as well.
So we can have a classic game collection that isn't just grey cartridges on top of each other.
But again, for that, we need some time to work on it a bit, cut out the boxes, and print out labels.

But to be honest, we're very tired. We work all day and then we go to sleep, just to wake up to work some more.
We're looking forward to having some time for ourselves.


More Mass Effect woes!

Hi! It's Geril.

We're working hard in our jobs and learning a lot.

Other than that, we started playing Mass Effect 3. And because it's us, it's never easy.

We installed the game onto our Xbox One, bought the DLCs and downloaded them. But when it loads to the main menu, the initialization never ends. Checked it online, and it's a typical issue – what else? – and the solution is that you have to go offline.
But to play the game, since it's backward compatible, the console checks the disc and looks it up online and only then starts it. So we have to start it up while the console is online, then turn it offline just to get through the main menu.
But it plays.
Except when the disc is somehow unreadable. No real reason – it's not scratched or anything – it's just when we turn the Xbox back on, sometimes it doesn't read the disc and we have to restart the whole thing, sometimes more than once.

When I was little, I had pirated most of my video games. A lot of things I learned about workaround methods and basic software trickery comes from that time. Later, in some of my late teenage years, I went to make up for it by buying most of the games that I pirated back then, to zero-out my karma (because how can I ask anybody to pay for something that I made, when I rarely paid for the things I liked myself?). And it was always surprising how easy it was to install an official copy. No cracks or tacky and long workarounds, just put the disc in, type the serial number in, install it and boom, it's done, and works as intended (well, if I met the system requirements).
Console gaming is even easier. Put the original disc onto the tray, close it, and it plays.

But somehow, our experience with playing the Mass Effect series reminded me of those times when I had to check .NFO files and online boards about game cracking and copy protection workarounds. It's as if we have no right to play this game.
It's a bit nostalgic somehow.

The funniest thing about this whole painful experience is that playing Mass Effect 3 right after playing Mass Effect 2 is just disappointing. The second game was the peak of this series, and the third is missing the quality of the writing, and it's just very unpolished.
But we'll finish it, we're just not as enthusiastic about this game as we were about the second one.

Oh, and out "new" Xbox 360 Slim came. It came a bit late, and in retrospect, we should have waited for it before we started playing the 3rd game. Maybe on that console we would have fewer issues.

Other then this, I finally got my GPD Win 2.
It's the same old Win10 palmtop, but stronger than the first one. I like it, and will probably use it to play some games, and even for some of my work.
I may write about my experience with it next month.


Righteous Rage!

Hey, Geril here.
Not much has happened work-wise, except for us still not having much free time.

In our limited free time, we don't really feel like doing anything productive generally, so we started playing the Mass Effect series together.
Lussy has never played it, I only played it a long time ago, and our work is kinda related to it, so it made sense.
But oh boy, it is hard.
Not the game. Everything else.

First, the original Mass Effect game barely works on a modern PC. NPC-s charge around, performance is unbearable and glitches are everywhere. But no problem, we own this game for the good ol' X360.

We have the original Xbox 360, without the HDMI out and with the fans what sound like a vacuum cleaner. But whatever, we have a component cable for it, and we can pump the volume up.
We started playing, but we couldn't even start a new game, the console just told us that the disc was dirty. Of course the issue is actually with the disc drive, but whatever, we copied the game onto the mighty 12GB HDD. It took some time and tries, but it succeeded eventually.

I always played the Mass Effect games on the PC, so I had no idea that the game's Xbox version was this... problematic. Low framerate, and texture streaming issues everywhere.
We played for a while, then got fed up, and installed the game onto our Xbox One. It's even in the Game Pass, so it was an easy install. But the game still ran horribly. Oh well, we slowly finished it. Lussy liked the story, so we looked forward to the next game.

That we own for the X360. It was the German version.
If somebody told me that a high profile game made in 2010 has no language options, I would call them an idiot. But lo and behold, there's no other language on the disk. And what about the Xbox One version, that actually just downloads the game files? Nope, still German only.
I got pissed off, so I just bought the game again. But first, the Microsoft store locked me out for some reason, so I had to contact support.

Mass Effect 2 has some pretty important DLCs. Like whole stories and characters are locked behind them. So I got to buying the DLCs on the store but there was only 2 of them. The Arrival and Kasumi - and also some appearence set. What?

Installed the game on the Xbox One. Main menu, connected to Cerberus network. Tried to download the Kasumi DLC I bought, and it just said that it was going to download. But nothing happened.
Tried to download the other one, still got the same pop up notification. Then nothing.

Got fed up again, checked it online. In our country (and in some other ones around us), we can't download any kind DLCs (besides Arrival and an appearance pack) on Xbox One. No reason, we just can't.

So we tried buying the DLCs on the Xbox 360 so that we could trick the Xbox One into downloading it. We put the glorious German disc inside the crappy disc drive, and it started grinding it. Very loudly. Error message, and the disc drive opens without warning. Disc got some pretty big scratches - not a big loss - but the disc drive now doesn't want to stay closed. Not even when we turn off the damn console.

We checked it online, it's not a rare issue. But the only viable solution is to send it to Microsoft with warranty. That is not an option for us, especially in 2019.
But the machine itself works, and I'm not the type who gives up if it's about a video game, so I installed the digital version of Mass Effect 2 onto the X360's HDD. It was slow, but it downloaded. Game starts, I enter Cerberus network and then download all of the relevant DLCs.
But the X360 only has a tiny 12GB HDD, so I had to wipe everything else on it. And we still can't download the Overlord DLC.
Well, at least everything else is installed and ready to go.
I moved the console against a furniture so the disc tray couldn't open, and we played the game. And man, it's just as good as I remembered. Lussy and I are having a great time playing.
But the damn machine is loud and sometimes the HDD doesn't start, so we're gonna buy a slim version soon.
Maybe with that we can finally play the game without issues. One can only hope.

It sucks that we can't talk about our work publicly now, but until we get more time to work on our personal projects, there's not much to say.



Hi, Lussy here.

This month has been an absolute grind. We're involved with one more project, and we barely have any free time. As a result, we couldn't spend time on our personal projects.

The FPS game project is progressing well. The plan is to have a playable version of it released by the end of the year, so we're working towards that goal rapidly.

The other project we can't really talk about, but it's also going well, and we're learning a lot thanks to it.

There's not much else to say this time.


New (non-personal) project!

Hi, Geril here.

This month we met a fellow artist who happened to be working on a FPS project.
He showed me their work, and although I liked the quality of the graphics, I thought the technology behind it was lacking. I made a deal with their team: we'll make an FPS project similar to theirs using their assets, but in Unreal; and if they like it, we'll be able to get on their team.
So this month we worked hard on making an FPS game from scratch. Of course because Unreal is excellent for shooter games, it was much easier than the other projects we have worked on, so we made rapid progress.

As of now, we have implemented:
– health and shield systems
– a basic enemy AI
– sprinting
– a weapon database with different weapon types (we made lasers, ballistic bullets, explosives and an energy beam for now)
– weapon sway and recoil for feedback purposes
– ammo logic
– weapon and ammo pickups
– a GUI directional hurt indicator
– different enemy types and a spawner
– a gore system (dismemberment and such)
– custom damage logic
– interruptible death sequences before ragdolling
– splitscreen local multiplayer
– switching to third person camera on player death

And some more, smaller stuff.

The team liked what we did in less than a month so they let us on the team!
As for now, we can't show you any images or videos, but we'll ask them if we could share some test footage here.


Another Project Contrivance build!

It was a surprisingly hard month.
It started out slow, but at around the middle of it, we suddenly got a bunch of work to do. We'll talk about it more when it's relevant.

Also, we uploaded a new build of Project Contrivance!
You can download it here.

It has a new overworld, where you can choose the puzzle maps you want to play via warp pads, and you can also discover secrets (but it's mostly just WIP things for now).
Also, you can find a secret warp in each of the puzzle maps as well. They are pretty hard to find.
Other than that, there's a new puzzle map, too.

We hope you'll like it!


Contriving again!

Hi! Geril here. It was a quite mixed month.

Our friend Davy said something that made us think: we should concentrate on one single project until it's done.
Well, yeah, it sounds obvious, but because we make a living as developers working in outsourcing and such, it's hard to concentrate on just one thing, since we have to train ourselves in different parts of game development.
But he's right. If we want to be independent developers, not just regular developers, then we have to deliver a game. We've got a lot of Unreal projects just laying around, most of them are for paid commissions, but some of them are ours. So we started checking our projects, and their potentials:

OLP is a bit too big in scale to be feasible with just two of us. It's an excellent project to practice animation, locomotion logic and such, but it's a game that we can't really finish by ourselves.

Project Blind aka. Lemniscate. Oh Lemniscate, you grayscale mess, you... The main issue with this project is, we were inexperienced in Unreal, and what we made is very unstable. Last time I tried, it wasn't able to launch itself in the editor. So we'd have to remake the whole thing from scratch. And that game is so dark and uninspiring to begin with that we just don't have the spirit to work on it.
Maybe if we have something to shake up the visuals and gameplay, we'll take another look.

Project BPM. We do have ideas as to where we could take this proof-of-concept project, but for now, it's just a Taiko clone. But that's fine, since it was only made to figure out if it was possible to develop an accurate rhythm game inside Unreal 4, and it was a success. We will work on it further once the concept becomes more solid.

Project Contrivance aka Puzzle For Two. This project works surprisingly well. We checked it again, and wow, it still works fine and can be built on pretty easily. The design is basic, but it can be charming (the robots glow and make cute little noises when you pull the L or R triggers, we still like that part). The movement could be tighter and the camera needs a complete rework, but the game's logic is solid, and basic visual programming as a gameplay element is kinda fun.

So we started working on Contrivance again. In just a week, we made two playable maps (okay, we made one and touched up an older one) and added lots of features to them. We'll bake it this weekend and put it up for download later. We'll leave a link here too – if you have time and want to try something very unpolished and gimmicky, then you're free to download it. We are more than happy to hear your opinions and criticism on it. We have to improve ourselves somehow, after all.

Davy, if you guys are reading, our reply is coming soon! :)

EDIT: We have uploaded the project, here is a link.


Animated Game Boy!

Howdy! Geril here.

This month we've made some assets for a scene that will feature our previously re-introduced female character. She'll be playing Donkey Kong on a classic Nintendo Game Boy system, and the console is even animated  so you can check out the gameplay.

For the Game Boy asset, I made a high-res Game Boy in Blender, baked it to low-res and Lussy finished its textures in Substance Painter.

The hard part was the animation.
I recorded a bit of gameplay from the classic Game Boy Donkey Kong game, and then exported its frames as images. Then Lussy put them together into one big texture.
In Blender, I made a plane for every frame and then made them move separately by shape keys.
So every frame is a shape key that moves the appropriate plane up a bit inside the Game Boy, to bring it just under the screen's surface.

And the animation is just that. As time passes, every frame goes up a bit, becomes visible, then goes down. I synced it to the sound of the gameplay, so it matches up.
After testing it on Sketchfab, I even gave it some bones, so now it looks like Mr. Invisible is playing the game.

We liked it, so we ended up publishing it even without the character.

You can check it out here:

We'll put together the full scene later. I even made a low-res N64 with a Hori controller for it, and Lussy's in the process of modeling her old childhood CRT TV.


Continuing a past project!

This month, we went back to one of our older projects that we were stuck on. It was this one, originally intended to be a character that utilizes mesh swapping for expressions. We decided to go ahead and make her into a more regular character so we can use her on any platform. She still has a video game associated with her, but it's only at the concept phase and so we're just concentrating on the character for now.

We plan to publish a scene with her on Sketchfab, because it's been *checks Sketchfab* almost two years since we've published anything (but we're still getting new followers).
We probably won't let it be an actual 2 years of hiatus.

For now, it's still a work in progress of course, but we'll share some images anyways.


We decided to continue this character because we've been having a rough time with work and we're a little burnt out. I (Lussy) am tired of working with Blueprints all the time, and it's been about a year since I properly textured anything, and Geril's happy to be working with only a few bones and a basic rig. So I got to texturing and Geril made the mesh, rig and animations as usual.

For now, we only concentrated on the face and mimicry, so the body is a work in progress in every aspect.

In other news, we finished a prototype of the Oregon Trail project in the first week of the month. Because we worked with a history teacher, we took his advice and made the game more quiz-like. Now the baked project is in full Hungarian, and we haven't really made any new assets for it, just used some from the previous historical projects.
It's not that impressive or anything – it was done quite quickly – but it has a lot of modules and possibilities.
Here's a video.


Work-work and Rocksmith!

Hey, Lussy here.

This month has been much of the same, so we don't really have a lot to say about work-related stuff. We're still working on the Oregon Trail project, although it has changed considerably and the gameplay is somewhat different now. We'll talk more about it as soon as there is something new to show.

In other news, we've wanted to talk about Rocksmith.

I've been "playing", or rather using this software for half a year now. For more than a decade I've tried to learn bass – I've had the guitar but never had enough motivation to just sit down and do it. By disguising learning as a rhythm game, Rocksmith succeeded in getting me to spend at least one hour every day practicing songs.

The software itself, aside from the brilliant concept, is nothing special – in fact, it's rather cumbersome to use. We suspect that this is because of the engine it was built in (Gamebryo why?), but we're not sure. In any case, there are times when the UI is unresponsive and there are times when the sound glitches out. Sound is pretty important in a software like this, and the most annoying thing is the slight bit of latency that throws off my accuracy no matter how hard I try to stay in sync with the backing track. It also frequently misregisters notes. And that's not even mentioning the time when it froze the whole operating system, forcing us to cut the power to the computer, which then refused to recognize the hard drive until we reset it a few more times.

However, I am a big fan of the way the charts are made. Coming in after playing just about every rhythm game imaginable, the charts read intuitively, and after a few months, I could find the notes on the fretboard without having to look down at all.

As a learning tool, it reached its primary goal – I learned from it. The cable it comes bundled with (that we bought separately) is high quality and works well, so after I got tired of the latency issue and the somewhat weird sound mixing of the software, I could plug the guitar directly into my Macbook (which has no line in port, so I've had no way of doing this before) and use it with GarageBand's virtual amps. It has no latency (or at least very minimal, compared to Rocksmith) that way, and also sounds way better.

And since the game had created a habit of sitting down after work and at least playing a few songs, if not even learning anything new or working on new techniques, I continued this habit and paired it with looking up information manually and learning songs either by ear or from tabs.

I've read a lot of negative opinions about Rocksmith, because it's 'not really playing guitar' or 'not teaching enough' or 'not teaching things in the proper order', but while I agree with some of these – it really doesn't give enough information or proper feedback –, for some people (e.g., me), beginning something with proper lessons ruins the fun of playing around and figuring things out.

The same thing happened to me with drawing: as soon as I went to school, I was bombarded with rules on how to properly draw and what not to ever do if I wanted to be taken seriously as an artist. And most of these rules are there for a reason, but if a student is forbidden from ever making these mistakes, they won't really learn why they shouldn't do them, they will only have a mental checklist of things to avoid, just because.

I could have been told in the beginning, for example, that deathgripping the neck was bad, but then I would never have stressed my hands out so much that they hurt for 3 days straight. I'm not saying it was good that they hurt, but now I can differentiate between good and bad pain instead of just taking someone's word for it, and I definitely won't make a habit of it since I know exactly what it leads to. But I guess the learning process just works differently for different kinds of people.

Wow, this turned into a really long ramble.
I guess the bottom line is, Rocksmith is a perfect example of a good idea with less-than-polished execution. It's far from being a good rhythm game, but it's a good way of starting to learn guitar or bass.


New historical project and also some OLP!

Whew, this has been a tough month.

We've been working on a new project based on The Oregon Trail video game. We're trying to recreate the game mechanics and most if it is already done in fact, and it has only been a week or so. It feels a little like practicing, really. We made it so that it will run on very low-spec devices, something we've never had to worry about in the past, so we're also learning new things.

The shaders are entirely unlit, and the graphical representation so far is very minimal. There is already a working menu system however, and the game can be started up and finished – something else that we've only got to once or twice. It's a bite sized project and it's satisfying to see how fast we are progressing with it.

The project is half Hungarian, half English at the moment, and the subject will most likely be related to Hungarian history, the historical accuracy assured by the same team that we worked with for our past historical projects. Here's a test playthrough of it. There is no UI design yet whatsoever, so it's very cluttered and basic, but gets the job done.

In other news, you can now throw weapons against the wall in Project OLP, and they will stick. So there's also that. Here's a strangely wide video: