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Messages - Ilyich

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AGS Games in Production / Re: Whispers of a Machine
« on: 09 Oct 2018, 16:17 »
Haha, you are all much too lovely! Excited to be involved in this game, I have a vague suspicion it's going to be a good one! ;)

Hey Lewis! Nice to see that you're making another game!

I think that the style works well in general, but the 1st screenshot feels like the best one by far to me. The obvious reason for that is that it has strong dramatic lighting and simple, punchy colour palette.
So that would be my advice - add clear light sources to the scenes, and use similar soft lighting, breaking up the backgrounds into areas of shadow and areas of light.

Here's a quick example of how that can go:

Lorenzo's lovely edit of the bar also introduces something similar, and his points about differentiating the vertical and the horizontal planes a bit more are also very much worth listening to. :)

Best of luck!

Critics' Lounge / Re: Thoughts on Storytelling and Puzzle
« on: 09 Feb 2018, 14:38 »
I think finding plot holes has become a popular way of criticizing narrative works because it feels like objective criteria, and we are always on the lookout for 'objective' means of rationalizing how we feel about art and culture.  Which makes sense - how do you even talk about something, if it all just boils down to subjective perceptions? We can't help but like things that are this cut and dried - having plot holes = bad, not having plot holes = good.

But the problem with objective criticisms is that they tend to be (almost by definition) surface-deep, and as such - largely useless when it comes to explaining why we respond positively or negatively to a work as a whole.
So my suggestion in this matter is to treat plot holes as any other element, and to mostly consider how they contribute to the story as a whole. Does having those plot holes detract from the main goals you were setting out to achieve with your story? Does not having them makes a meaningful difference? If you take a David Lynch film (or a show) - it's quite clear that explaining everything neatly and 'fixing' the many, many plot holes would not just be inadvisable - it would simply be impossible while maintaining the same surreal tone and feel.

I think most creators are very familiar with the desire to explain and justify questionable details of their scripts - you don't want to hear people complain about a problem you were aware of, after all. But over-explaining has become one of my pet peeves over the years. Games are particularly bad at this, since, unlike films, they have the time and space to do a lot of over-explaining. Resist that urge, though - in most cases you'll only be drawing attention to something unimportant. Going on unnecessary tangents can be fun and worthwhile, but you should not do that to the detriment of the natural flow of your story.

Of course, my opinions on the matter come from my subjective experiences, and I have to admit that I can't recall ever being truly bothered by a plot hole in a story (except for in the stories I've tried to write myself, naturally :)). I'm sure there are many people much more sensitive to that sort of thing, but my main point here is rather simple - you don't have to care about it. There is no right or wrong in art.

I want to say Alum - it's not in any way Christmas-themed, but it's so Christian - it almost passes as a Nativity scene. And just a genuinely sweet and lovely adventure.

Nice topic, and one very near and dear to my heart!
Most of the examples below would fall into the categories already established in the first post, but hopefully would still give someone some new and better ideas. :)

I think point-and-click adventure games is one of the least directly interactive genres in gaming today, with little-to-no direct control over the player character and not a lot of audio-visual feedback in general*. And we only tend to exacerbate this inherent problem by not 'juicing up' our interfaces as much as we probably can.

Now, the main form of interacting with a traditional PnC game is just hovering your mouse over things, and clicking on them. And that means that when you hover over things, things should happen. Things happening when you do things with things, that's what game-feel is all about. And the more things happen for every player's action - the better. So, for example, when you move your cursor over a hotspot - it's nice if your cursor brightens up a bit. It's even better if it also starts animating. Better still, if a hotspot label appears as well. But why stop there - add a glow or an outline to the object you're hovering over, if it's a GUI element or an inventory item - make it bigger as well, let some sparks fly from the cursor, play a soothing sound - whatever and everything you can think of. And ok, it might be a bit too much if you include all of those together, but then it might not be. It's hard to go too far when it comes to letting the player know they are interacting with the game correctly.

Same goes for the clicks, obviously, and I'm not talking about the interactions and descriptions that follow them. When the player clicks - she needs to be 100% certain that the game understood and reacted to her input. There is little worse than clicking on something, and not being sure whether it registered. You can try it out with some arrow buttons that don't visibly react to your clicks - that's what hell is probably like. Adding a pressed-down state for your cursor or a particle effect on impact can be helpful here. And if you've clicked on the ground, in the hope that your character would move there - why not mark that destination? Strategies and RPGs have been doing this for ages, but the only adventure game I've seen this in is Kentucky Route Zero. Maybe there is a good reason for this, and stuff like this might potentially be immersion-breaking, but you won't know until you try. And, chances are, once you add it - taking it away would feel quite alarmingly bad.

Similar kind of thinking can(and should) be applied to every element of design, taking every chance you get to let the players know they've done something right. Actually, if they've done something wrong - it's even more important to tell them.

Here's some more random examples of things that can help the player feel like they are affecting the world of your game [some of these might be bad ideas]:
-When you pick up items - make a note of it - write something like "Crowbar added to your inventory" or pop up your inventory tab with the new item glowing proudly.
-Add a quest log/journal, and tick the boxes when the player solves the puzzles. I personally despise this idea for being cheap, manipulative, unnecessary and intrusive. I would also probably enjoy a game more if it has this.
-Make the NPCs notice your existence. They can greet you, follow you with their eyes suspiciously, stop whatever they were doing when you get near - as long as they react to the main character in some way - you're on the right track.
-Add parallax effects for background and foreground elements - might be a bit hard to do nicely in AGS, especially if you're not designing your scenes to be scrollable, but this is not only a cute visual effect that adds depth and dynamics, but a tool to emphasize the fact that the player is making things move around.
-Make each inventory object have their own sound - it's much easier to make a brick sound heavy than it is to make it look heavy, especially if your inventory icons are tiny.
-Nice unique sounds for GUI buttons can go a long way in setting up the mood. If you've played Dark Souls or Silent Hill - you know this. These are particularly important because the player is making these sounds happen.
-Add musical cues everywhere. It's much easier to create an impact when the player already knows how to feel about what's going to happen, and music is great at subtly setting up the tone.
-Add optional interactions that only serve to change small visual(or audial) things. Turning lights, TVs and radios on and off is just fun - you don't always have to affect the world in meaningful ways to feel more connected to it.

*Adventure games also have the widest range of different interactions possible, and almost all the feedback you get in them is unique and new. I'm mostly talking about the lack of more mechanical, repeating kinds of feedback here.

Are we talking Photoshop settings here? I'm so bad at Photoshop brushes. Every single time I have to check Google to even remember how to create one.

Sorry, should've elaborated more on those in the first place! Here's a quick rundown on the most important Photoshop brush controls for this kind of task:

- Creating your brush - draw the shape or pattern you want to use in black on white (or transparent) background, then go to Edit -> Define Brush Preset, give it a nice name ("Sampled Brush 6" in my case), and now you have your very own custom brush!

- Press F5 (or Window -> Brush) to open the detailed Brush settings.

Here, in the Brush Tip Shape tab find your new brush, select it, and set the appropriate Spacing.
Spacing sets the distance between each brush tip placed, so setting it low means smooth, unbroken lines, while setting it high means you'd see each individual brush mark separately.

- Now, on to Scattering!
Scatter basically moves your brush marks around randomly, the higher you set it - the further apart they'll jump. Ticking the 'Both Axes' box would mean that your marks would scatter in every direction, making the pattern more random, but harder to control.
Count refers to the amount of marks being spawned
Count Jitter adds randomized variation to the Count parameter

- For more customization and randomization, Shape Dynamics is a good next step.

I won't go into detail about what all of these do, since it's easier to just try them out and see, but the general idea is that 'Jitter' parameters add some variation to different aspects of your brush.
Using this with the 'Pencil' tool for cleaner pixel art can be pretty problematic, since it mangles small brushes quite badly, but can still be useful for creating complicated patterns and shape edges.
There are similar controls for the colors in Color Dynamics and for opacity in Transfer.

And here's what it looks like when you just draw a straight line with these different settings -  a picture is worth a thousand words, after all.

That last FotAQ background looks like it was painted with a custom scatter brush, which is a technique I personally quite like for foliage, and have used extensively in Quest for Infamy, admittedly with mixed results.

It's also a bit harder to use for cleaner pixel-art styles, but I've done a (very) rough test, and it seems reasonably easy and efficient:

The basic steps here are:

- Block out the general foliage shape with your darkest colour.
- Draw your brush - it's just this blob with 3 leaves in my case, but for better results you can create a variety of brushes, ranging from single leaves to meatier clusters that can fill an entire area.
- Set your brush to scatter and start layering that foliage, from darker to lighter. I'm only using 3 colours here, but you can use more, nobody can stop you. I'd suggest adding some size and rotation jittering for the lower levels, so it doesn't look too samey, but leaving the brush 'as is' for the brightest layer, to get that variety in detail and sharp highlights.

Some additional fun can be had by adding separate gradients to these layers of foliage, adding colour jitters to your brushes, or by cleaning it up by hand at the end, but I am too lazy to try any of that out.

Not sure if this method is helpful or painfully obvious(and it's pretty much exactly what Ben's already described, only I have pictures), but that's roughly how I would approach corner-cutting when painting lots of trees.
And if anyone wants to use that brush sample - feel free to take it, of course.

General Discussion / Re: Character Portraits Resolution
« on: 27 Sep 2017, 14:47 »
Hello there!

As someone who's painted portraits for a couple of Wadjet Eye titles, I can safely say that they are usually painted at a higher resolution, then scaled down and cleaned up a bit. In my case they tend to be around x8 of their final size, here's an example from Shardlight:

And I believe Jen Pattison from Infamous Quests paints at even higher resolutions, so there are no limits to how high you can go, just remember that some of those details will definitely be lost or distorted, so it's better to transition into the 'cleanup' stage earlier rather than later.

That said, Future Flashback seems to have a much cleaner pixel art style than WEG and IQ games(both tend to have painterly backgrounds with lots of anti-aliasing), so drawing the portraits cleanly at the correct size might also be a good option for you.

Hope this helps a bit, best of luck with your lovely-looking game!

Completed Game Announcements / Re: Sepulchre
« on: 06 Apr 2017, 22:49 »
Hi! Welcome to the forums!

This game has been updated and became a part of "The Charnel House Trilogy". You can still play Sepulchre for free by downloading the demo from Steam, or by following this link. :)

Critics' Lounge / Re: Game speed : 40FPS or 60FPS?
« on: 21 Mar 2017, 16:28 »
Also the mouse movement would feel noticeably more responsive at 60FPS - that's probably the biggest obvious advantage.

Completed Game Announcements / Re: Sepulchre
« on: 26 Mar 2016, 12:10 »
You can download it as a Demo to The Charnel House Trilogy on Steam. Not sure if it's up anywhere else at the moment, though, I'm afraid.

Adventure Related Talk & Chat / Re: OROW Dating Thread
« on: 23 Aug 2015, 18:44 »
I'd love to tag along and help someone with art, even if just a little!

Finished it the other day, had a blast! Very nice and meaty game that channels the spirit of Fallout and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. pretty much perfectly, with extra dashes of Lone Survivor, NEO Scavanger, Organ Trail, Wasteland... It's an interesting mix of all things post-apocalyptic, is what I'm saying. An easy recommendation to anyone who loves that sort of thing. Really looking forward to your next projects, keep up the good work!

AGS Games in Production / Re: Type Dreams
« on: 17 Jun 2015, 16:00 »
Sounds wonderfully unique and humanistic! The hectic collagey artstyle is quite something too, love it! Very much look forward to this, hope my terrible typing skills won't stop me from enjoying it! Best of luck!

Critics' Lounge / Re: Hey, remember Ben Jordan?
« on: 04 Feb 2015, 22:52 »
This gives a very nice and concrete insight into how one can improve their art - a lovely display! It's always great to see this sort of progress, thanks for sharing!

 And since we're in the CL now, I wanted to offer a small tip that might help with figuring out aerial perspective, levels/contrast issues and composition overall, and the tip is - try looking at your image in terms of values from time to time. Which basically means turning it to greyscale. Let's try and see how this works, then:

O-okay, so the bright road and the tree help save this one, but the foliage part is barely readable, with way too little sense of depth and space. It's important to remember that the closer the things are to us - the higher the contrast between shadows and light, and the further away they are - the lesser the contrast and duller the saturation. And you really want to exaggerate those relations, and you want the silhouettes of closer objects to read against the more background ones, you want them to pop.

Here's my quick, somewhat washed out edit of the greyscale picture with those things in mind: 

And here's how it translates to the coloured image (the result of putting the edited greyscale image over the original with "luminosity" blending mode and some minor additional colour-correction):

Hope this helps a bit! Obviously you want to design your image with those things in mind from the start for a better result, but switching to greyscale still might help you notice important issues at every stage of the process.

Lovely! Really cool, evocative art, lovely Vangelis-like retro sci-fi music and a nice concept. The overall feel of the world was just the right tint of cyberpunk for my tastes too - more Gibson and Stephenson than Blade Runner (minus the music :)). The design and implementation are pretty rough, but considering it's a pretty long MAGS game - great work, guys! Would love to see more from the same team, be it in the same setting or not!

The Rumpus Room / Re: Happy Birthday Thread!
« on: 10 Jul 2014, 17:37 »
Happy birthday(if it's your real birthday), Technocrat(if it's your real name)! All the best! :)

The Rumpus Room / Re: Happy Birthday Thread!
« on: 13 Jun 2014, 16:57 »
Happy Birthday, Eric! 32 seems like an excellent age to make an excellent game! ;)

Completed Game Announcements / Re: The Samaritan Paradox
« on: 28 Apr 2014, 06:44 »
Finished the game a few days ago and really liked it! Lots of good-to-great puzzles - challenging, but not to the point of being frustrating or plain silly, and quite varied. Charming graphics, especially the stylish, yet grounded in reality Gothenburg locations are a pleasure to explore, and the dramatic multi-threaded plot, although not without its problems, kept things interesting and moving throughout the game and was generally pretty well constructed and, ehm, I don't want to use the word "fun", but yeah, fun. :)

All in all - an enjoyable and very decently-sized adventure of code-craking and accidental gonzo journalism, thanks and congratulations on the release! Hope to see more from you in the future! :) 

-The ending was abrupt, yes. In my case, so abrupt that I wonder if there's a bug and I missed something:
Add spoiler tag for Hidden:
After finishing Ch. 3 and not knowing what to do next, I decided to go look for Sara the last place I saw her: the cabin. There I run into Veronika, and out of nowhere accuse her of having murdered Jonatan, referring to photos I have absolutely no knowledge of. (I still don't know who "Max" is or what actually happened when Jonatan was killed.) Then shooting, and the game is over. Huh. There must be something missing, right?
That is most definitely a bug, yeah - the ending is much less abrupt and awkward in its actual form. :) Also,
Add spoiler tag for Hidden:
Sara's cautious questions about weird things in the book softened the "twist" in the end for me a fair bit, since it was pretty much what I was expecting. And I mean it in a good way, since it didn't feel quite as random as it might've been otherwise. Didn't expect it to be delivered as a plot-twist, though.

Completed Game Announcements / Re: Blackwell Epiphany
« on: 24 Apr 2014, 17:01 »
Yay! Much congratulations to Dave, Janet, Ben and everyone else involved! A momentous occasion in AGS history, this! Looking forward to finally finding out whodunit! ;-D

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