Author Topic: First animations/music video, and SEVEN screenshots (not one)!  (Read 2620 times)

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First animations/music video, and SEVEN screenshots (not one)!
« on: February 04, 2011, 03:07:03 AM »

Pre-Alpha v001 A Valley Without Wind Footage And Music
A Valley Without Wind is the latest exciting game from Arcen; it will be our third full title.  This video represents the culmination of about six months of design work, but we're only about two weeks into the actual implementation of the game.  It's super early days yet, but we've made a lot of exciting progress already, and wanted to share.

The art that you see here is expected to be pretty close to the final version used in the game, if not the final version, in most cases.  The office buildings in particular need a lot more work, though, and of course we need thousands of more images in general to get the variety of location that we need for the game.  And yes, the character's running animation is a bit funny at the moment -- we need to add a few more frames to that. :)

The music featured here is the new title music track for the game by our composer, Pablo Vega.  The soundtrack for AVWW has been under way for more like two months, and so is a bit further along than the rest of the game.  We're anticipating this being our biggest and most varied soundtrack yet, and it's a new style for us, too.  The soundtrack jumps around between all sorts of musical styles and genres as appropriate to the mood and the various locales, but the unifying element between all of them is the chiptunes instrument line(s), which often drive the melody.  Those chiptunes, unusually, are paired with a lot of more traditional instruments, such as the drum kit you hear in this track.  But that's just one example among many.

Thus far, our focus for the game has really been on getting the art set up, because with a procedural world like this, we have to know the techniques for the art right from the start in order to be able to build everything dynamically.  Finding our visual style was a big part of that, because we had to make sure that the technical components left enough room for making art that would stand out.  A lot of the art style actually just came together today -- it went through a more painterly phase, but wound up being a bit more comic-book-ish, which seems more fitting for the action-adventure genre of the game.  Plus it just looks cool; we get mesmerized by the swaying trees...

Stay tuned!  We'll have more screenshots and/or videos on a weekly basis as we get closer and closer to our alpha release!

Updated Screenshots
Can be seen here: http://www.arcengames.com/w/index.php/games/avww-features

A Few New Tidbits
Can be found from our press release officially announcing the game to the press: http://arcengames.blogspot.com/2011/02/first-valley-without-wind-screens-and.html

There's also a preview-related interview with yours truly coming on a major PC gaming site very soon -- possibly tomorrow, but I'm not sure.  And looks like there will be some other interviews coming up in the next few weeks; at least one other is already lined up.  Lots of good stuff coming!
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Offline Weteor

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Re: First animations/music video, and SEVEN screenshots (not one)!
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2011, 06:31:54 AM »
I am looking forward to this game, sounds really fantastic. After watching the video twice I begin to like the art style (needed a bit getting used to on my side ;) ).

I know this will change quite a lot, but I there are two things in the video that bother me. First I think that the camera is a bit too "low", you can't see the surroundings well enough. The second thing is that the scolling to the top starts a bit late (the "player" touches the top of the screen).  Both things together make the scenery feeling really narrow and small. Maybe it is different, when you "play", its a bit difficult to judge from only 2 min of video :)

oh, and the music is really great, I love chiptunes.


Offline TechSY730

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Re: First animations/music video, and SEVEN screenshots (not one)!
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2011, 07:19:58 AM »
Woa, all this already?  :o Looks good so far. Looks especially great for a pre-alpha.

Just a trivial question. What is the difference between a pre-alpha and an alpha?

Offline Castruccio

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Re: First animations/music video, and SEVEN screenshots (not one)!
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2011, 08:55:22 AM »
The player-created content stuff sounds terrific. 


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Re: First animations/music video, and SEVEN screenshots (not one)!
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2011, 09:59:21 AM »
Thanks!

A few notes:

1. Yeah, the art style is really unique. I'm really really happy with it, though (office buildings aside). A lot of the animation, etc, doesn't come through on the video as well as I'd hoped even at 720p. But it's not too bad.

2. I definitely noticed the thing with the top of the screen panning up too slowly. It will be fixed shortly. :)

3. The camera definitely isn't going to get any more zoomed out. If anything, I was worried it was too zoomed out already. The size of the viewport is different by screen resolution, though, so if you play with something later than 1280x720, what the screens and video are at, then it will seem further away. Like with ai war, that will also harm performance somewhat and will probably male the text smaller, though. I think some of the disconnect in that video might be that he is just constant surrounded by massive objects. The trees and office buildings are to real life scale, not game scale, in there. Compared to a 2d Zelda game, at that screen resolution ts actually more zoomed out than them. Hope that makes sense!

4. Pre-alpha is referring to this vein before the public alpha. ;)
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Offline Weteor

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Re: First animations/music video, and SEVEN screenshots (not one)!
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2011, 10:10:50 AM »
3. The camera definitely isn't going to get any more zoomed out. If anything, I was worried it was too zoomed out already.

Did I say too narrow? I meant its perfect ;)

The size of the viewport is different by screen resolution, though, so if you play with something later than 1280x720, what the screens and video are at, then it will seem further away. Like with ai war, that will also harm performance somewhat and will probably male the text smaller, though. I think some of the disconnect in that video might be that he is just constant surrounded by massive objects. The trees and office buildings are to real life scale, not game scale, in there. Compared to a 2d Zelda game, at that screen resolution ts actually more zoomed out than them. Hope that makes sense!

That makes sense. I just wanted to mention it.

Looking forward to see more.

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Re: First animations/music video, and SEVEN screenshots (not one)!
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2011, 12:37:03 PM »
An excellent video indeed, seems like a number of good things are coming together nicely.
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Re: First animations/music video, and SEVEN screenshots (not one)!
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2011, 01:26:23 PM »
Ok, i'm finally back (some have you may have noticed my absence -- long story)! And i come bearing my opinion :)

I wateched the video, and by the end of it here was my stance: I really liked the environment, but felt that the character, the jeeps, and the "office building" was really out of place. Not only did their perspective feel off compared to the environment, they look like they were cut out from random books and magazines more than anything else, which really doesn't seem to fit. Hopefully, this is just an artifact of the game being alpha ^_^
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Re: First animations/music video, and SEVEN screenshots (not one)!
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2011, 01:56:37 PM »
Nope, the characters and the jeep are probably final. It meshes better in-game. And with lots more stuff in that style, it will fit better, too. The office buildings are very much a work in progress and don't look right at all.

In general, though, expect a vey flat, painted comics type of look for the game. Like how bill watterson had cartoon Calvin on top of a very sketched or watercolor background at times. He's the master and our stuff won't look that good, but it's a similar sort of stylization. It's not up for debate, this is the best of the sort of styles we can do with our team and budget, and I think that the result is really nice. It's also incredibly incomplete, though: a key part of this approach is having lots of varied details (as in more sprites), but it's so early yet that there isn't as much of variety on the screen as there should be for it to fully gel. That will improve steadily with time.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2011, 01:58:18 PM by x4000 »
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Offline Zhaine

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Re: First animations/music video, and SEVEN screenshots (not one)!
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2011, 02:21:46 PM »
Nice one. Thanks for sharing so much so early on. . . It's quite a brave thing to do for a lot of reasons but I also feel it wins you a lot of fans, me for one!

The style looks good (more so in motion than in individual screens, so I'm glad you did the vid), and fairly unique (which is also good), though I'm of course glad to hear that there will be a lot more variety to settings and objects as development continues.

I was also struck by the thought that the view was a little 'zoomed in', but it's really hard to tell if that's the case before we know what sort of interactions we'll have with the world and how they will work. A lot of games have seemed to have either a weird scale or a weird level of zoom on first impression, but once you understand how you control and interact with the game it suddenly clicks and makes sense (AI War is a prime example of this: it felt weird until I'd spent an hour or so with the game, getting used to the scale of things when viewing a planet and when to zoom to what level when doing various things). At this stage I'm definitely going to trust that you know what you're doing!

I appreciate this is early days and you probably haven't finalized this yet, but what (if any) thoughts and decisions have you made about the interface? Will it be minimal to emphasize the art and the exploration, or will you see a lot (all?) of your stats/inventory on screen? Just trying to get a picture of how we'll be interacting with the game :)

Keep up the good work. As others have said, your money is mine as soon as you'll take it!

Offline BobTheJanitor

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Re: First animations/music video, and SEVEN screenshots (not one)!
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2011, 02:43:17 PM »
I like the painted style for trees and such. Nice approach. I am confused by how our intrepid hero acquired jeans, a hoodie, and some stylish sneakers. Did he chip them out of glacial ice? I was expecting more along the lines of robes and armor. Not that this is a bad thing, it just adds to the anachronistic techno-magical setting.

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Re: First animations/music video, and SEVEN screenshots (not one)!
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2011, 02:46:13 PM »
Thanks, Zhaine.

In terms of the "zoomed in" nature of it, I really think that has a lot to do with the specific scenes shown here, but we'll see.  When you're out in the overworld, everything is larger than you and so the world sort of seems to close in around you.  In a lot of classic adventure/RTS games, they have a funny sense of scale where pine trees are twice as high as a person, as are two-story buildings.  All the buildings are like clown cars or the tents in Harry Potter -- miniscule on the outside, and massive on the inside.

For a lot of reasons, I wanted to go the opposite direction, and have a more consistent sense of scale.  From looking at a building from the outside, you can judge exactly how large it is inside, same as in real life, etc.  When you're outside, this makes the world feel pretty huge and you pretty tiny.  Or, in the case of the viewport, it makes it feel smaller than it is because you can't see so many things entirely on the screen.  We're used to being able to see every building pretty much on screen all at once, and certainly trees.  Having them be as tall or taller than the screen is fairly new in a 2D game, and I think that's a big part of these reactions.  I could be wrong, but that's my read.  

When my wife was first looking at the builds in action, her reaction was that it seemed too zoomed out, which is what I think is a little odd.  In those builds, though, there were very few trees onscreen at the time, so suddenly it made the screen feel absolutely massive.

The more I think about this, though, at 800x600 or similar resolutions, the game IS going to feel incredibly too zoomed in.  So for a lot of reasons along those lines, I guess we probably will wind up supporting zooming after all.  It's not technically challenging, and obviously we already have the code in place for that because of AI War, but if you zoom out too far and there's too much onscreen at once, it's going to really tank your framerate.  Using a larger screen resolution also has that effect to some degree, but with only half the performance hit because the graphics aren't having to be scaled (which is nontrivial, depending on your GPU and how much is onscreen at once).

In terms of the interface, that's something that we haven't fully designed yet by any stretch, but the goal is to have as little as possible onscreen at once... paired with the goal of having as few menus and submenus as possible.  So that's going to be the tug of war as we go through trying to implement it.  Critical things like equipped items and health are definitely going to be onscreen.  In terms of non-equipped items and other less-prominent stats (XP, etc), probably I will aim for those to be only shown in a menu.  Though if some folks feel strongly about that sort of thing one way or the other, then we might make some toggles for things that some folks always want in view, but which most wouldn't want cluttering the HUD.
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Re: First animations/music video, and SEVEN screenshots (not one)!
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2011, 02:50:41 PM »
I like the painted style for trees and such. Nice approach. I am confused by how our intrepid hero acquired jeans, a hoodie, and some stylish sneakers. Did he chip them out of glacial ice? I was expecting more along the lines of robes and armor. Not that this is a bad thing, it just adds to the anachronistic techno-magical setting.

Thanks!  In terms of the clothing, it's going to be a real mix.  Plenty of robes and medieval dresses and whatever, but also modern clothes... and in some regions, some quite futuristic stuff, too.  The story on the modern stuff (including things like wooden houses and other perishables, aside from clothes) being that it was all flash-frozen and preserved, and then thawed without too much damage.  Unrealistic?  You bet.  But this is a world with magic, so I guess it was a magic ice age. ;)

Probably no characters will be visibly clothed in armor, because armor is something that can be crafted and "worn" by any character, but it won't update their sprites.  Like with Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger or whatever, you can be armored to the gills but your character still draws in light robes. ;)

But yeah, definitely trying to create a lot of anachronisms, but hopefully ones that all flow together in a sensible format like a lot of my favorite examples mentioned in other posts.  Crystalis, etc.
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Re: First animations/music video, and SEVEN screenshots (not one)!
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2011, 07:35:53 PM »
I have actually no idea how the game is gonna turn out, by i made some (graphical) observations (what else  ;p) that bugged me, not the camera though, more technical in nature. So i have some questions... This will be "adhoc" so it may be a bit chaotic.

- Will the ground tiles be "known" to the procedural generation scripts? (so that grass is not placed on concrete etc.?)
- Will there be multiple layers of "things" possible to be generate by the scripts? (Base layer = Terrain | Layer 1 -> Dirt/rocks/Tinting of Base layer -> Layer 2 - Plants small -> Layer 3 -> plants large ?
- What about terrain shading? Tile based approach only allows terrain shading if you blend shading elements over them before applying the plants, so its important procedural generation can be done in layers and stages....
- Light and Shadows? Yes, no, Maybe?  ;)

- Will we be able to define shading and blend methods in the procedural generation scripts? So that we can say - blend a shadow of a torch stand in layer 1 - then a torch stand in layer 2 and at a certain height above the torch stand in layer 3 an particle emitter that emits particles we define procedurally (ie, chooses an emission pattern and style and uses this) ?

With all 3 elements being interlinked in 1 procedural chunk (so that that element can be procedurally spawned according to certain rules but always in the same "layout" ?

Basically, what kind of advanced terrain features can we produce procedurally?

My idea would be to simply have a base underground and then apply shading in the first procedural pass - this shading is then applied to all the procedural elements that are placed above if we set it do that so that a grey rock placed in blue shading produces a slightly blue rock etc....

Ehm yeah, just random thoughts and questions.
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Re: First animations/music video, and SEVEN screenshots (not one)!
« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2011, 08:13:16 PM »

Quote
- Will the ground tiles be "known" to the procedural generation scripts? (so that grass is not placed on concrete etc.?)

Yes.  That is already the case, which is why you don't see trees on the road or grass on the skysccuddly hugr.  But grass going over concrete is desirable, as this is a post-apocalyptic setting.

Quote
Will there be multiple layers of "things" possible to be generate by the scripts? (Base layer = Terrain | Layer 1 -> Dirt/rocks/Tinting of Base layer -> Layer 2 - Plants small -> Layer 3 -> plants large ?

Yes, that's also already evident in the screenshots and video, actually.  We don't at the moment provide tinting control (as diffuse colorization doesn't look super great for this sort of thing), but the rest is featured already in what you're looking at.

Quote
What about terrain shading? Tile based approach only allows terrain shading if you blend shading elements over them before applying the plants, so its important procedural generation can be done in layers and stages....

Nope, not supported, not likely to be.  The ground layers can be large and repeated, as can other elements, though.  The tile system is 64px square, but a lot of the actual textures used are other larger powers of two.  Those in turn can be tiled one direction or more.  And in terms of the grasses, etc, they can obviously have smaller elements that are individually animated (as you see). 

None of that stuff will be player-definable in scripts, though.  We'll provide the types of tiles, and players choose from them.  The best scripts will actually support many random different sets of tiles, rather than one specific look, but that depends on the type of script, certainly.  The idea is guided randomization, rather than a jillion hand-crafted designs.  Though the hand-crafted non-random designs are also possible.

Anyway, if there are player suggestions about types of tiles, or new behaviors for tiles, or even art submissions, in alpha and after we'll definitely take those into consideration, but we'll have to do the implementing and they'll have to fit with the overall art aesthetic, etc.  But that sort of thing is pretty quick for us to implement in code, and if it's just new art you can replace existing assets with your custom ones to test them out, same as with AI War.

Quote
- Light and Shadows? Yes, no, Maybe?  ;)

This is a 2D game, so definitely no real shadows.  We may support having blob-type shadows for a few things, but not even sure we're going to go there.  It won't be a focus for alpha, though.  I think it would possibly clash with the art style since it would only work for certain types of objects anyway, but we'll see.

In terms of lighting, we are planning on supporting lighting in dark places.  So, for instance, inside caves or whatever, having the player emit a weak light source, and other things like candles, lamps, etc, emitting stronger light.  That won't be player customizable, though, as we'll have to wire up the behaviors of any new objects, and in general players can't directly add new objects or functionality: just new compound object designs, basically, using the building blocks we provide.  But, of course, we'll be open to suggestion and submissions of art and whatnot, time permitting. 

During alpha (and especially before) we're going to be pretty crazed just trying to get all the functionality we want in there, and so we won't be implementing a lot of feature suggestions due to not wanting the schedule to get off track -- some suggestions, just not a lot of them.  Then during beta, we'll be doing a whole heck of a lot more content implementation, and in general trying to focus on polish, new building blocks, new scripts, new art, etc, etc, etc.  Even moreso than in alpha and pre-alpha.  So during that time we'll be particularly receptive to suggestions and submissions, though we'll welcome having them prior to that, too.

Quote
With all 3 elements being interlinked in 1 procedural chunk (so that that element can be procedurally spawned according to certain rules but always in the same "layout" ?

It's actually pretty cool, there's a lot of layering you can do, and multiple randomization methods you can use to accomplish them.  It's hard to explain without getting to in depth, but we'll be showing examples of the results through screenshots every week between now and alpha, and beyond.  It's a pretty flexible system, but there are certain limitations that I'd rather not get into just yet.  Mainly that it's difficult to handle transitions between different ground types inside a single chunk, and so most of the time it's going to be a matter of plants and objects seeded on top of that ground providing the variance, rather than doing anything particularly fancy with the ground (dirt, etc) itself.  It will be easier to show you some of what's possible as we get more content in the game, but the screenshots so far are a pretty good rough guide there.

Quote
My idea would be to simply have a base underground and then apply shading in the first procedural pass - this shading is then applied to all the procedural elements that are placed above if we set it do that so that a grey rock placed in blue shading produces a slightly blue rock etc....

That sort of thing won't really be possible at all, unforunately.  Instead you could have something like a grey rock layer, and then a layer of partially-transparent mud perhaps, and then a layer of road over part of it, and then different kinds of grasses on top of all of the above, and then some water over near the mud, with reeds by the water... all sorts of things like that.  But it's all geared about combining multiple sprites and layers, rather than having any shader capabilities whatsoever. 

We want this to run on a toaster, is part of it, but also that sort of visual styling just isn't the focus on the game.  We're here to create lots of unique and interesting places, and the art is in service to that, but the art itself isn't intended to be a showpiece like Crysis or something. ;)
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