Development Diaries

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The Love of Gemma and Ofelia

Hoo! Never use the blog feature sorry.
anyway i spent the last 3 months writing a story about a cat n mouse who fall in love!
https://twitter.com/marikeDrawinge/status/1526189120195661824
https://gisbrecht.itch.io/the-love-of-gemma-and-ofelia
please promo if you can i spent 3 months on this >w<

and comment!? on itch. or here if you'd like
and for the first time, you can pay me for a thing because im not infringing on mario...yahoo

...turning a fable on its head!

Impossible Isles

FREE (no ads/grind/shop)

iOS https://apps.apple.com/app/id1558679967
Android https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.WonderingStar.Impossible_Isles
PC & Mac https://wondering-star.itch.io/impossible-isles

Impossible Isles is an original daily turn-based map-like puzzler for everyone. Just place tiles on a map according to simple rules to create a tiny world and score.
But every day the Imp resets the world - a new pack on tiles, dealt in the same order all day. A new starter map and wildcard. Even the Imp's path is the same all day so there's no luck, everyone plays the same content each day.

The game has a few secrets up it's sleeve so check your score against friends on the daily leaderboard (iOS/Android only).

Impossible Isles

Impossible Isles.png

FREE (no ads/grind/shop)

iOS https://apps.apple.com/app/id1558679967
Android https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.WonderingStar.Impossible_Isles
PC & Mac https://wondering-star.itch.io/impossible-isles

Impossible Isles is an original daily turn-based map-like puzzler for everyone. Just place tiles on a map according to simple rules to create a tiny world and score.
But every day the Imp resets the world - a new pack on tiles, dealt in the same order all day. A new starter map and wildcard. Even the Imp's path is the same all day so there's no luck, everyone plays the same content each day.

The game has a few secrets up it's sleeve so check your score against friends on the daily leaderboard (iOS/Android only).

Psilocervine's Open World Jamstravaganza - Making Your Way in the World Today Takes a Robust Character Controller

Despite my lack of updates, only some of my lack of progress is because of Elden Ring. I can't help it. The game lets me marry a living doll. I have a type.

That said, I'm 100% going to miss the deadline but I don't care because I've been enjoying working on this game. My most recent efforts have been focusing on making a vehicle controller for the hoverbike thing the protagonist is going to be jetting around on and lemme tell ya, it has been an ordeal.[i] My first attempts basically just involved using invisible wheel colliders and having those provide all the functionality I needed, but it turns out that Unity's wheel colliders are kinda... awful for that? Figuring out what their specific dampening values and everything need to be is also an arduous process because they're all expecting ranges I'm expected to just guess I suppose.

My next solution was to use raycasts and physics forces. Figuring that the best way to ensure the bike from flipping would be to have some spread out forces, I put four of them around the bike and lowered the center of mass so that it was always inclined to stay upright. This [i]kinda worked, but it meant that applying forces at positions for steering had to have special offsets, and that resulted in weird torque behaviours that were a nightmare to diagnose and even more of a nightmare to code.

Not fun.

Then, one night, as I was tossing and turning in bed, I awoke in a start. Not because of inspiration, but because I'm prone to nightmares. To work myself down from the post-nightmare anxiety, I started thinking of new ways to get this to work, and I finally settled on a hybrid solution of an idea I had the night before and a new one as well.

Instead of using four raycasts, I use two, front and back. Next, I lock the bike's rotation along the z-axis and only ever change that with direct access from code to make the steering look "cool" by giving it a bit of a banking effect. Then, on top of all this, I added some dampening physics to it all. The front raycast gets a low dampening value to make it extra bouncy, and the rear raycast gets a high one to make it more rigid. In a way, it sorta recreates the suspension of a motorcycle! Neat!

After that, I added some extra quality of life stuff. Instead of immediately losing forward thrust in the air, I made it so that if you spend too much time in the air (about half a second), you start to have the amount of thrust the accelerator gives you drop to half its strength, meaning you can't fly around forever. I also added some functionality to make the bike automatically balance to face the horizon after a second or so in the air to help keep the player from flipping around all over the place. In the end, after far too many lines of code (both included, commented out, and deleted) I finally have something I think I really enjoy zipping around on, which is all I could really ever ask for!

Motion sickness warning on this video, by the way. I'm still mucking about with the camera system.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIZVrT5BFNA

I just think it's neat!

Psilocervine's Open World Jamstravaganza - Streamlining Terrain

So! I decided to take part in the Open World Jam and the first realization I had was "this is a terrible idea."

However, that's pretty useless when it comes to getting things done, so I threw it away. Instead of focusing on that, I decided to focus first on streamlining the process of making terrain in Unity, only to be met with the fact that the Unity terrain shader is... kinda awful.

There's constant repeating textures, horrible smearing along sharp inclines, basically everything that drives me up the wall when I play an open world game! Luckily, I am very smart, or at least persistent. The first thing I wanted to tackle was getting rid of the awful tiling pattern since I prefer to create natural looking environments, and repeating patterns in nature generally aren't built along explicit grids. The solution to this problem is something known as Stochastic Sampling.

The idea behind stochastic sampling, at least from a very simplified perspective, is to tile things using a triangle grid with semi-random offsets and blend between the grid elements. If you want a better explanation than I'm able to give, there's a very in-depth paper here (Google Drive link to a PDF). It seems daunting at first, but with a little bit of finagling, I was able to get much better results.

As you can see, the tiling is effectively invisible! The downside to this is that it requires three texture samples to pull off, but even integrated hardware is so overwhelmingly beefy and bandwidth capable enough that that's not much of an issue. On top of that, stochastic sampling means I can get away with lower resolution textures in the first place. Unfortunately, we can still see some very ugly smearing. Fortunately, this is also much easier to fix because all it requires is something known as Triplanar Mapping.

Triplanar mapping is much easier to explain than stochastic sampling, thank god. Effectively, you're projecting the textures towards three different normal axes and blending them: X,Y, and Z. Again, this requires sampling three times, which is some overhead, but thanks to the stochastic sampling there's not a terrible amount of overhead. It DOES mean that my texture coordinates are now in World Space, which takes some adjustments, but by applying this method, we get some suddenly wonderful results!

Smearing? Gone! Tiling? Gone! Self-confidence? Through the roof baybeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Most of what was left was really just generic cleanup and making things play nice with Unity's terrain tools. By including a reference to the _Control texture sampler in my shader, I'm able to use four environment textures and paint them the same way I would a standard Unity terrain, but with none of the gross texture distortions. I can even paint holes in the texture by adding the _TerrainHolesTexture sampler. This is a massive boon even if it took a couple days to get to work because it massively streamlines dealing with terrain.

Now there is one last problem: authoring terrain in Unity is a dreadful experience. You really don't get much control over the specifics of the terrain, such as height and other features, and making terrain stamps only gets you partly there. Rather than let Unity control me like some kinda game engine cop, I cut it out of that part of the equation and took to Blender instead. Really there's nothing amazing going on here as I haven't gotten terribly far, but the general process is

1. Create a terrain in Blender
2. Join the meshes together in a big mess
3. Export that mesh to Unity
4. Use a free utility called Object2Terrain to convert that mesh into a terrain

In a perfect world (men like me would not exist, but this is not a perfect world) I would simply export a heightmap from Blender and use that heightmap to drive the Unity terrain, but Unity's terrain only accepts heightmaps in RAW format, which is notoriously difficult to export to from just about anything aside from expensive terrain authoring tools. Thankfully, Object2Terrain works a treat.

That's all for now, I suppose! I'm very pleased with the progress I've made, since it makes content authoring a lot easier on the terrain front, and that's always a tricky spot with open world games.

Video Game Anomalies

chubgam.png

so I recently stumbled upon some youtube video and it got me thinking..
thinking about stupid stuff that is so this will be just a ramble mostly
feel free to ignore it

I sort of remember searching for FPS games or list of FPS games and somehow
Chub Gam 3-D and Red Babe usually found their ways onto these lists
and I mean among the big ones like hanging out with Doom and Duke3D
the greats there was usually Chub Gam for some reason
and i'm not sure why it was selected among the many other GCS games
but to this day you can find it on wikipedia, it seems to be everywhere
(I wouldn't be surprised if congress has a floppy of Chub Gam for being
culturally significant)

and I'm not pro or against Chub Gam it's just strange to me how it seems
to be everywhere .. maybe it's just me

another similar anomaly is that at a time I remember nearly every game
developer interviews mentioned that the guy or gal has worked on
Project Gotham Racing in the past in some sort of role
so it was just like some random game and they would mention
XY or so and so has previously on the team for Project Gotham Racing
apparently everyone and their dog has worked on Project Gotham Racing
which also has nothing to do with batman it's some sort of other Gotham
i'm not exactly sure about that part

other similar anomalies:
- whenever Tim Curry appears on a talk show he always gets introduced
as the guy from Rocky Horror Picture Show (despite being on hundreds of other
projects, movies, tv shows, games whatever since then)

- Mega Man always ends up as called the "Blue Bomber" and it makes no sense
afaik the games didn't bomb and he is not using bombs in the games
I mean he is not exactly bomberman who literally uses bombs

Has anyone experienced or remember any similar things?

Whoa!!!

I came here looking for an old game someone made and decided to make a blog post!!!

I'm still around and still making games! I do miss my trainwreck days. I've thought about going back to it now and then, but my life has changed too much since dem wild west daze.

Hope everyone here is doing well!!! Thank you for keeping the trainwreck dream alive!!!

loutra

6.png

in contrast to my last post, i write this, and ive written it a number of times and closed the tab, losing my progress.
in contrast to the utter artistic pessimism in the last post.
i went on an art residency in 2019, to the island of nisyros, a round island with a volcano and just about two small towns. 11 days, we had two masters students who spoke fluent greek, 3 undergraduates, and me- i'd just graduated in july. my grandmother had just died, and everything was clearing up, and this trip was my first dip into post graduate life. before the burden of the arts space, and finding work, i had this. my gran would have been proud of me, for certain, a free holiday...
we arrive in rhodes, stay a night, have breakfast in a terrace courtyard- with a whole lime tree making up the ceiling, a red canary, eggs and ham. we get a ferry to nisyros. its a big boat, ice cold inside. we turn up on the marina at night and a guy on a moped attends to us. he was a bit of a slimeball, ominous guy, i didnt trust him at first and he didnt trust me.
we got a car ride to the bath house, where we were staying. the driver mentions his one available reference, manchester united- it struck me pretty hard, because i noticed how out-of-touch i was with reality. whenever football is mentioned, its like im back in school, and that ball hits me square in the head again, i realise i dont have a clue about it and that makes me out of touch.
we have 11 days to do whatever. id brought a crumb of hashish in a pair of shorts, so i was savouring it. listening to the leaked Kanye West Yandhi album. every now and then, i would catch recommendations through the radio, or through my new friends. Trash Island by drain gang was released at this time too.

the first night, i think, was our first exhibition opening in the basement gallery space. i was in greece- so i didnt make it, but my girlfriend at the time was there. come to think of it, she didnt talk much about it, but she probably couldnt get a chance between me gushing about the trip. to be fair to me, it felt incredible.
there was a small restaurant / taverna attached to the bath house. i spent the first day combing the beach and swimming in the ocean, i hadnt done for many years. cutting into those waves was damn scary, envigorating, always though they would push me back to the rocks.
days after, we meet with the mayor in his office. all their PCs are running Windows Vista. he agrees to let us have an exhibition at the archaeological museum, we'd visited days prior looking to hold an event there. we had basically turned up and demanded a venue, but this didnt matter to me, i couldnt feel self conscious, i didnt know the language. and everyone was kind, the mayor, the curator at the museum.
they were already busy, we couldnt have the interior space, so they let us install in the courtyard.
the mayor also invited us to a celebration event at a monastery at the top of the mountain. they cooked goat, i think, or a cow, and rice.
we cooked in a small outbuilding on a raised area behind the bath house buildings. the first few nights, having coffee, ham, we would walk into mandraki to buy pastries in the morning. all made by sweet, stoic grandmas.
there was a group of these grandmas at the celebration, headstrong, strategising on how to serve the guests. it struck me heavily because it reminded me of my gran, as that was the person she was too, just on the other side of the equator. i cried about it silently for nearly two hours, luckily it was dark, but my friends noticed when the lights were around. i told them i was mourning.

i would get an iced frappe from the taverna in the morning, smoke, listen to the owner groan along to Chelsea Wolfe. i would swim when i wanted.
my artwork was rudimentary. found object sculptures, glowing pigment, photographs, lots of photographs. i have a habit of finding ephemeral items and holding them up like relics, and then i inadvertently destroy them somehow along the way. i would trace images straight off my laptop screen in ink pen, or pencil, on japanese rice paper, mounted on aged archival paper. i'd found it in my grans shed when we were clearing out her home. it was a dark yellow from being in storage for so long. as soon as i got there i was determined to remember everything. it was like stepping into a fantasy! a dream. a bath house, i sat in the water, heated by geothermal energy, i floated in it. marble bath tubs.
we would eat at the taverna in the evening. play cards. one day, we took turns reading characters dialogue from macbeth. i was him, watching all my friends fight and die around me, before dying myself. poison! duels! how cruel.
the later half of the week was filled by hosting the exhibition. there wasnt much of a lazy-morning feeling when we had to go into town for breakfast. better to be in town before 12pm, because even in october, making that journey in full view of the sun was debilitating.
the exhibition went successfully. children arrived and stayed for as long as they were allowed. some spoke excellent english. i gave them all my glowing items, bones, stones, sticks. they loved them- all bright pink. tourists visited, but they mostly wanted to talk about themselves. locals visited, but they seemed to struggle finding things to say. even the mayors bodyguard, the guy who met us on the marina the first night, arrived to share his opinion.
some work on display was undoubtedly well made, beautiful. mine was not exactly so. and as a result the henchman stayed on mine a bit longer than others, looking at it intently. maybe he was picking it apart. weighing up what was good and what wasnt, just like i do when i look at artwork. he had seen other shows before, hes searching, on some kind of path. id seen a cross and some rosary beads wrapped on the handle of his moped , scuffed plastic, and some fancy metal-alloy brake locks. this is a swell for me, where the story swells, paths, journey, riding, spiritually, half-trapped and half protected by masculinity, one day i can put all that into proper words.

i dont see anything wrong with presenting half-good artwork... as long as it helps you appreciate what youre looking at more. its all in pieces, dont condescend an audience, let them see their bigger picture, let them interpret, thats a good thing.

the last few days were spent invigilating the exhibition, sat in the hot sun. we rented a car, and went to a beach far away from the towns. it was just us there. coarse sand, i could see every grain. they stuck to me like armor. i found a fragment of obsidian on the ground, wish fulfilled. i could see the clouds of the milky way when i looked up at the stars at night. but the steam was spent, all hot air, we were revolving again, down the barrel back to somewhere else. a new life, back at home, NEET now, but thats a boring story for another time.

this is when i decided to make games. it has been a twisted path, definitely weird, ive had to turn away from things that werent right. but its all good now, i think. we shall see.
i re-built the bath house and marina, its in a Unity project. it has a unique visual style, nothing like reality, but i love it still. i still work on it, the trip was in 2019, so its been nearly 2 years now. its no game, its just a place. dont know how to package it, ship it, gamify it, i dont want to. ill just keep working on it and it should fall into place.
ive spent a few solid months work on the Loutra virtual space. ive been learning unity at the same time, unreal engine, releasing other things, learning 3D. it will come out one day, and it will be a big picture. i promise

apologies for present / past tense mixing

art gallery

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i had been working on this game for a while, posting to twitter regularly at the time- my aim was to create a sort of 3dimensional room to install digital artwork.
around this time NFTs were gaining notoriety too. I felt it was at least relevant or interesting to work on this idea and make it real. i love the idea of tangible virtual spaces that have purpose or atmosphere. i was just finishing up a two year curation residency, after graduating me and a few friends were given a gallery space to host exhibitions... it was fun, exciting, but the space was a basement gallery, full of damp and mould, it was trash really. but it felt like something. so i photoscanned one wall of the gallery space and i was going to make it into a virtual gallery.

this wasnt my first time trying and failing to do this- i wrote about my experience doing VRChat art gallery here: https://d48bc053-7c66-4794-971d-1fdc40fa85fc.filesusr.com/ugd/a5eb28_8004c9a6388f4ce99b741cd8230695de.pdf
( as part of this publication: https://www.softspotsoftspot.com/sso3a )

tldr it was a similar failure, in truth i guess not many people share this weird dream i had of art galleries being monasteries or institutions for experimental thought & practice... maybe people can 'feel' it, but they can't get involved, they have ther more tangible things that burden them. and honestly the more i did these things the more they felt like a burden, thats why im writing here, for some catharsis maybe.
a 'white cube gallery space' is a type of interior design (?) or something that is adopted by most art galleries. they are devoid of character, and devoid of life maybe- its kind of the point, so they dont interfere with the work. but to pretend like white cubes really exist in a vacuum is just pure unbridled fantasy, and it does more harm than good- me, a young graduate doing a vague unpaid internship was sold a life as a fantasy. and i didnt make anything good out of it. both myself and the system i was a part of are to blame.
working digitally i met the same issues as in the physical space. these issues were mostly, audience and publishing, who and what is being platformed, identity of the space & how it exists- as a 'thing' and in peoples lives.
physical space- almost entirely attended by art graduates being sold the same fantasy (i also use the term dream, but honestly, no one dreams of this), mature people who have doubled down on the fantasy, or have nothing else to value higher than this... and very rarely, one or two alienated members of the public, too nervous to engage. i think its completely hostile to that sort of person. and they are total aliens, its hard to explain, they move through the space and people move around them, like they arent part of this fake world, maybe im actually jealous of them.

tldr art galleries in modern times exist as a hostile liminal pseudo-environment that is riddled with challenges and fundamental issues.
i enjoy sculpture parks, art in open air, the experience can feel slightly more sincere, but that may be my personal bias.

in 2018 we held an exhibition in a disused bank- it was being sold and in the process of changing hands, and in the UK, theres a bit of a subculture around abandoned spaces and squatting laws that permit / provoke people to engage with them. so you have little events managers holding raves or lock-ins where everyone stays inside and gets smashed and does a load of drugs. but in galleries this type of fun is Not Allowed because everyone is upholding that hostile pseudoenvironment rule. (not to say that either is better than the other)
we basically talked to the guy who was hosting events in this space and got to install work there, there were like 5 of us and the space was HUGE, had everything- vaults, underground vaults, back tea-room, front area, lil offices... buildings are made of bones, and organs, and they all function like a living thing when we move through them. this space, its bones had so much character, it feels fulfilling to exist within that. knowing its all been picked clean lets you see it in the new perspective, lets you understand everything a bit better. this experience is probably the most valuable part IMO
we had projections in the vaults, we recorded videos in the basement and played them upstairs, cosmetic sculptures around, narrative-led artworks in offices, a whole installation in the main foyer, performances in the tea room. we served drinks out of the tills. it was actually good, now im writing about it, that felt really good. this was before we were given the actual art space, and i think it was probably the most exciting part of anything we did, even if we didnt know at the time.

we had a lot of benefits helping us tho- we were still connected with the graduates above us, as well as ppl in lower years, it was very local and easy to get to, properly unique interior space, solid work involved. it would be unrealistic to imagine that a similar thing of that scale could happen again and receive as much attention. it was a one night thing, be there or be square.
(sidenote: we had a lot of random people attend this bank show and actively engage with us, other people, and the artwork on show. they had been to other events in the space etc. so cultural diversity was high i guess. this essentially never happened at a 'real' art gallery, where the crowd was always the same)
maybe in a big city that depends on its subcultures, you could convince a relatively large crowd to visit something similar- i think of that 2015 noisey video about UK raves, how you have these old-heads committed to their vision of the scene, racking lines on CD cases in the back of cars, in some backwater car park in wales... contrasted with wealthy london young people desperate to be cool, doing pills to dance then balloons on the floor in a white room. in the vid, the guy talks about the latter as if its the mecca of raving, (in fairness it probably seemed good compared to the other options) but after i watched it, i was hit with this pervasive thing, i cant describe, i guess it made me face my meager relationship with subcultures in general ... im still not over it, cant quite figure it out.

one of our aims as a collective was to facilitate collaboration / conversation with people in a range of mediums. this was essentially impossible to do and we fell into a rut of googling artists and picking ones we liked the look of. if anyone in my real life heard me say that, they would hate me for it, but it is the sad truth.

i like virtual environments and building them because it does allow me to explore headspaces and thoughts i have from a new perspective, as i get older and my responsibilities change this can get muddy. i start thinking i need them to do something or there should be an outcome i can hold up and be like "i did this, its like this, and it works".
so back to this art gallery game, it went nowhere and still is nowhere, after seeing things like Art Skool on nintendo switch and cyber.io NFT art galleries, my milk turned sour you know what i mean? then i think, maybe i should apply myself to these things and provide my thoughts to them, but for some reason im not going to do that. im a bit of a weird hoarder in terms of the things i make, i cant put them down even if theyre garbage, i still hold them up and mount them in my brain as if they have value.
my idea was to have an open-house virtual art-gallery environment that's free to use by anyone for whatever they want. i quickly realised that no one really wants this, even if they think they do; the real-life equivalents is not better, is less desirable, and requires more effort. my real life experience curating gallery spaces, its incredibly enriching to install in the bones of something old, with a relationship to diverse subcultures. joining altgame community i hoped i could have something similar happen but whatever i was doing wasnt right. maybe too rigid, too reductive, too bland, too hostile to facilitate engagement. but i sitll have it in me. the title for the game was originally 100rooms, then underground gallery, now its abandoned (and not in a cool way).
i sometimes think about tiktok and roblox, or these types of metaverse(EUGH) platforms , and wonder if they are for me. but i feel like they are not. gamedev twitter is a lot of shilling, no hate to anyone, i guess free-market means you have a LOT of desperate traders. and its exhausting, especially if you want to see this stuff as artistic, creative, spiritually valuable, to have so much murk to wade through. i guess this is why curation is crucial, because it allows the audience to be free from the burden of over-saturation, makes things comprehensive.

but how do you curate in an ethical way, on a philosophical level, and how do you apply that as logic / formula to these platforms that capitalise on free-market, so don't really want it to happen? they always just let algorithms do it? like, if you could curate roblox, you can no longer tell every kid that they can make it big and go pro because its demystified- either someone is pulling the strings, curating the popular stuff and is responsible for the fame, or the systems and feedback loops that we are vulnerable to become obvious. at least thats how it appears.
with free games YOU are the product - no joke. you are at the mercy of brain chemical induced feedback loops. LoL, Valorant, Apex, Warzone all run on the same chemicals and they are proliferated by all the people who freely give their time to these experiences. Adopt Me on roblox has lootboxes too. i thought it was just a fun roleplay where kids were being kids (like when i was a kid, watching other kids play Family RP in Blockland) but no, turns out its heavily gamified via dopamine loops. i dont know what to think of this, something tells me its all wrong. but maybe if its fun theres nothing wrong with it... but maybe these games become institutions and they rob their players of other more enriching experiences. i dont know.
i also resent the systems that guilt their consumers in order to make sales, or weaponise their independence. i just feel like grassroots as a USP is just as bad as a marketing strategy.

i wish we were free online. we can be whatever we want, and we choose to drag these terrible things in here. like imagine walking through a monastery with your dirty shoes, claiming you're a monk, keeping your shoes on, and never sweeping up. saying that the dirt belongs there, because dirt is on the ground. maybe its unrealistic to think of cyberspace as a spiritual place.

i dont feel comfortable with the term curator, i barely am one. im barely an artist nowadays too. not sure if this is the place for this type of writing, or what exactly im trying to do, but at least im trying. we can be glorious trainwrecks

next game? go again? extra LIFE? hopium??

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