August! Still burned into my being as the last free month before school starts back up and probably will be my entire life. So let's quickly start this newsletter before I wake up late and run to the bus and get to class after the bell only to notice I forgot to get dressed- (wait this has turned into something else…?)
In a previous newsletter I've talked about an idea for a game themed around early & simple life dealing with the end of the world, like dinosaurs being wiped out by a comet. I pictured this game having a larger scope than desert game (the project from the last few newsletters), but I realised I could capture the feel for the idea just fine with simpler gameplay, and gameplay that I'd already made. If I simplified the idea down, I could potentially finish it in a fairly short timeframe, and still develop the parts that would need to be made for desert game anyway. So, with that in mind, I sketched out some more monster designs:
I picture these guys being a mix of like… Early life forms mixed with simple game NPCs, so look-wise I wanted them to come off as rough, retro, a little unfinished and faulty… First I thought an old PC look could work - greens and beiges:
But I thought this didn't look quite Chaotic enough, it looks too soft and peaceful, where I want the feel of this game to be messy, unordered - a work in process that's being cut off suddenly. So I tried a stranger mix of colours and I liked this a lot more! Compared to the first it's clear to me which embodies the feelings I wanted:
From these designs, I'd pictured the small round dinosaur to be the player character, since they just look the part, so I started modelling, rigging and animating em. That mouth beak HAD to snap open and closed like a puppet (of course), so I set that up via blendshapes rather than thru the main rig:
I stripped desert game of most everything apart from walking, rolling, talking and other basic systems like cutscenes and interactions, then it was fairly simply to just take the lil dino guy and have em running around in Unity. It's a very cool feel to have stuff I've already made be usable for other things…
Now I had to get that mouth snapping up stuff. First I made it so the player dino could look at things programmatically rather than through keyframe animation. I gave things that I'd want the dino to look at trigger areas that would switch between controlling the head through these two ways when entered and exited. Then I added a simple function that would open and close the mouth quickly when a button was pressed:
But now they needed to be able to Eat the cubes… If the player chose to bite while in range of an edible object, it would be sucked up into their mouth and Destroyed. That's the circle of life babey!!!
Next I added a filter of sorts to the camera that limited the colours rendered while also giving it a pixelated look, since I felt that would really add to the overall feeling I wanted this game to have. I settled on a palette of 16 colours, which I think works well for now:
Then I made another guy… This was a long un so their "T-Pose" is them just stretching out:
I made it so the head of guys like this would be a point that the player dino would look at when in range, and they would look back at the player dino in turn:
Now I needed to get the player dino rollin… So first I took their rigged model and made them fit into a sphere as best I could:
Then I duplicated the player dino mesh without the rig and edited it by hand to make it more fully fit the desired sphere shape. My plan was to have a very short animation of the rigged model bending down into their roughly spherical pose, then to swap it out in game for the unrigged hand-sphered player model that would then roll around. Here's how rolling looked without the short animation leading into a roll:
And here it is with the animation, as well as demoing slow down/speed up of rolling when going up/down slopes:
The fun thing about working from stuff I've already made and covered with desert game is that a lot of it just worked "out of the box" so to speak, like what I'd already made for wall sliding and jumping. I don't think I'll use it for this though, but it's fun to see:
Now I wanted to make another guy… An even Bigger guy:
I used this guy to test talk stuff. Their claw hands open and shut with his animation here but it isn't very apparent. Oh well, I know they do at least, and now you do too:
I wanted the player dino's head to move towards whatever they were eating, since I thought it'd be a fun touch. But my first try at doing this was a lil off…
Similarly, my first try at making some test guys that would run away from the player when they were in range turned out unexpectedly too (but I actually like this look and kinda want to just have some cubes that roll away from you in game):
And again here, also giving me the idea of enemies that bury themselves and are otherwise inedible until you startle them and catch them while they run:
I made the fleeing enemies to snap to one of 8 directions, just like the player. They flee by simply going in one of the 8 directions that's closest to the opposite direction that the player currently is at, and here they stop when out of range:
If I wanted the player to need to eat a certain amount of enemies or something before they could move on or to trigger something to happen, I didn't want enemies being able to be chased across the map or split up or otherwise able to be lost from where you first saw them. I also wanted these enemies to be very simple and to not use pathfinding. My idea was to have a flock share a trigger area that they would try to stay inside of. They would move around randomly and pause for intervals when idle but, on leaving the trigger area, would turn around and try to go back to it until they were in range of it again. They would flee from the player and continue to do so when outside of this range, but as soon as they were free of the player they would head back to the trigger area. I could also move the trigger are around to force to flock to move together.
From above, this method looks kinda cool in the way that it looks like a real flock of animals, or a school of fish:
Next I wanted to test a gameplay idea that would involve filling a meter by eating then growing a bit bigger when that meter was filled. Each edible object was assigned a value that they'd add to the meter, so different things would fill it different amounts (so bigger things could be worth more for example):
And here's everything being tested together with a bunch more fleeing guys:
I don't picture the size growing mechanic working that fast if I do include it, but everything is STARTING to have that chaotic feeling I want, but needs more work yet.
Oh yeah! You might have noticed there's another guy in that last gif I haven't mentioned yet:
I actually recorded my process for modelling, rigging and animating him to include in this newsletter, so here ya go (you’ll prob wanna watch it with youtube’s speedup or just skip around since it’s recorded in real time):
I also did a lot of freelance work for August! Actually the first 3 weeks were predominantly just freelance. August turned out to be one of the busiest months I've had work wise for a while, so I'm trying to stay cognisant of that and take it a little easier this September. Two of the freelance jobs are much longer term and under NDA, but I can talk about the smaller one that's wrapped up.
I was asked by Amino to make some digital stickers in 3D based on the theme they provided, "Poodles in Poodle Skirts". They said they pictured it as a 1950s themed set, like the movie Grease but dogs. Very good, imo. Here were my sketches for four characters that would be used throughout the set:
Next I gave em "sketches" of what each sticker I planned on doing would look like in 3D:
Then I finalised three as an example of what the whole set looked like. They mentioned they wanted them animated rather than static, so I said I'd try find a compromise where I could still get 12 done in their timeframe while having some limited animation be included.
And these were the results! The downside to this limited animation was that their heads couldn't move, since I drew on their facial features over a render of the 3D models, but for the time I had to do it in I think they turned out fine:
After wrapping up freelance work I drew some tigers, because I wanted to draw some tigers:
Oh, and one last thing! The stickers for August’s sticker tier patrons were these Cat Shapes I drew based on the clay models I’d been making:
So that just about does it for August! I'm looking forward to when I can share the other freelance work, they're both fun projects I'm excited about… Until then, I've got some Back to School to prepare for with September (or at least that's what my instincts are telling me…)
Have a great month everyone, see you at the death of Summer!