December really only consisted of two weeks before the holidays kicked in, so I thought I’d go over what I got done, as well as do a quick recap of 2017, and a little mention of the things to come in 2018!
What happened in December?
I started to add more content to the game. This primarily included wall and floor textures
Right now they’re relatively calm and “normal” options, but don’t worry, there’ll be some weird and crazy ones coming up!
I also worked on building some pieces for the game from which you’ll be creating your own objects. It’s been quite interesting trying to figure out what pieces would be useful and in what sizes.
Right now I’m not allowing scaling of pieces, but as I’m using the tool I’m weighing up whether or not this is a good idea. I like the “Lego” feel of having set pieces to use, but I don’t want players to get to a place where they cannot create what they want because the right piece sizes aren’t there. Guessing the necessary pieces has been tricky, and I going forward I think I’m going to start building furniture items that will be available to the player, and then use these to figure out what pieces to add so players can create their own objects.
After months with the ugly old head on the avatar I decided to put together a new head! This ended up being quite fun because I got to try out a whole bunch of things in Modo (the 3D software I use) that I’ve not used before, namely their sculpting tools and their topology tools; both of which worked pretty well for what I was after!
I essentially started with a sphere and used the sculpt tools to create the head shape I desired, I then took this high-poly mesh as a start point and used their topology tools to create a lower resolution mesh for use in-game. Like I say this worked really well, and was quite a pleasant way of doing things so I think I’ll do this again in future for head variations and villager heads too.
I decided to put together a small festive scene on my last day in the office. In order to get the player and the villager smiling in the shot I quickly tested out an idea I’d gotten from Polygon Treehouse about swapping head meshes when showing different expressions. I created new meshes and textures for the Pig and the avatar for their “happy” emotion, and after bringing them into Unity updated the character state machine system I had built to allow for an emotion. This means that any state a character can be in can have an emotion, and their head is automatically swapped to the new mesh when entering this state. It worked reasonably well, and I’m going to play with it for a while to get a feel for how it fits the game stylistically.
Right now I think the pop of the head clashes a little with the smoothness of other animations; I may look therefore at making the other animations more poppy to fit the heads, this could also make the game a bit more fun in feel. I’m really reluctant to add facial rigs and proper animation to the characters as this is a whole bunch of work, and may not be worth it considering the top-down camera view. I may also investigate using blend-shapes for the facial expressions to see if that fits better.
While working on floor items, like rugs, I came across bugs and issues with how things can be placed. Rugs and floor objects became tricky because of how the rules for whether or not an object can be placed on-top of, or have other objects placed on it were defined. I’ve become a big fan of Scriptable Objects in Unity, and decided to use them to create assets that hold rules for object placement. Previously each placeable object would have its own settings, and these ended up basically being the same for all tables/chairs/etc. With the new system, settings for an object are grabbed from a list of rules, based on what the object is. After this I added an “evolved” form of the rule object, whereby the object’s dimensions are checked against a set of rules; if the rules are met, then the object uses these rules to determine how it can be placed. This second type of rule will apply to user-created objects that don’t have a designated type (Players choose when creating an object if they want to follow a blueprint, from which rules will be automatically applied, or go “freestyle” where the game needs to figure out rules automatically)
All placeable objects, including those created by the player now have proper thumbnails in the menu. Previously they would just be shown as placeholder textures. When an object is finished, a picture of it is captured and used as a texture for that object in the menu. I also set up some scripts to automate the process of capturing objects I create myself.
As I mentioned I did a quick festive scene on my last day before vacation. This meant adding some wearable items, such as the “Rudolf set” and the Santa hat. The pig also got a nice Santa outfit too!
2017 was the first year Wonderscope was in operation, and it saw me leaving my prior job at Arrowhead to go indie. It saw me move into a small office near my apartment with a bunch of ex Autodesk, Fatshark, DICE and other indie developers, creating a small gaming “hub” of different creators. It also has a permanent, cute dog resident named Zelda!
2017 also saw me solidify more the direction of the game. Originally I had been getting quite stressed and panicked when I reached a point when I didn’t know where I was going. One or two of these moments hit during the year; but after contemplation and focus I found the heading I needed and continued at full force. I’m super confident with where the game is going now, and I’m genuinely excited to get players playing it!
Near the end of the year I decided to put together a demo or a small “vertical slice” of the game and since then have come a long way with it. I remain confident that I will start getting this out to a small bunch of people near the end of January, after which I will expand the release to others. Once it’s out there and a few players have given it a go, I intend to contact publishers and investors to seek help bringing the full game to market. I also intend to do a mini press-release to get the word out about the demo, as well as build excitement for the full title.
So as 2018 stands, we’re looking at a demo release at the beginning of the year, hopefully some funding acquisition and a full-title early release at the end of the year. I’ll be off to GDC again too in March, to meet up with old friends; get inspired by other developers; and enjoy the warmer climate for a week or so!
I’m looking very much forward to growing the game outside of just the one room! It will be great fun writing all the villagers, designing the quests, houses, events and content for the full title.
I’m so genuinely excited for Wonderville that I can’t help but smile inside thinking about it, hehe!
Thank you for reading, and so very much for the support during 2017!