A Game of Tricks IV – Stylized normal mapping

Ok. First thing, I’m sorry this isn’t the second part of the particles tutorial. I think I have vastly underestimated how complex it would be to extract a clear explanation of our FX system which is very very cool in a twisted and intricate way. Making the rest of the explanation worthwhile will require that I isolate some code from a more complex set. I’ll probably have to split it in two more parts to swallow the effort.

But today, I’ll write about normal maps… and rocks. I have already explained how we had used normal mapped sprites for Transcripted. If you don’t know what normal maps are, you can take a look at this previous post to learn the basics. Drifting Lands is a much more 3D game than Transcripted was. All ships and a lot of background elements are “real 3D” but with a pretty stylized modelling and fancy shaders hopefully making the whole thing look more like an illustration. The overall look of the game is influenced by a lot of games (Journey, Diablo3, Darksiders…) and a lot of animation movies (Disney and Ghibli productions mainly). The art direction is more focused on shapes, silhouettes and harmony of colors, than on detailed hi-res textures or realistic physically-based materials.

01_DriftingLands_Capture

Drifting Lands takes place over, around and inside a broken planet. There will be plenty of flying bits of rocks involved in all environments of the game. The background rocks represent a large part of the visual identity of the game so we have worked quite some time to find the good balance between polycount and shader complexity to create nice looking blocks. Right now, we will focus on how these rocks catch the light.

Continue reading

A Game of Tricks III – Particles fun (part1)

One of the first tool we developed for Drifting Lands was a brand new FX / particle system. The artistic direction of the game is headed toward a very graphic and stylized rendering and we do love traditional animation ! Here’s a sample of particle FXs in the current alpha version. Each of these effects requires from 3 to 20 or 30 particles max.

For Transcripted, we had used our Flash-like MovieClip system but it had a major flaw I didn’t want in the way this time : to have ‘long’ and smoothly animated FX we had to create a big array of bitmap frames and store them in atlases or spritesheets. Though we had total control over the animation, it was requiring a large amount of RAM and VRAM to store the image sequence if the FX was a bit too large.

a spritesheet for one of Transcripted FX

See this modest organic explosion effect above ? We’ll it’s kind of the only one used throughout all of Transcripted because it’s already taking way too much texture space for what it’s worth ;)

Continue reading

New alpha gameplay video for Drifting Lands

And here’s a new video to show more of the actual gameplay of Drifting Lands ! An example of a run with a frontal AoE attack, a dash, a healing skill and a reflecting shield. Also featuring : a first draft of an in-game UI and a taste of what the music could sound like.

You can now start to see how Drifting Lands relates more to an hack & slash rather than a pure shmup with the intense use of timed skills. If you spend all your energy (=mana) on attacks, you might not have enough to dash through a wall of bullets or heal your burning ship !

First alpha footage for Drifting Lands

Here it is : the first video of Drifting Lands at an early alpha stage. This video is not representative of the final gameplay (and certainly not of any sound design) but it’s here to show, where we’re trying to go with the visual style in this project.

Feel free to say what you think of the look of the game so far ! And stay tuned for more content in the coming weeks.

Shoot & Loot

ShootLoot is the internal nickname we have used for Drifting Lands during this last year. Our work folders are actually still named like that ;)

Drifting Lands Early concept

Why ShootLoot ? Well… if I often describe Transcripted as the illegitimate offspring of Zuma and Geometry wars, Drifting Lands parents’ will definitely be Diablo and R-Type or Path of Exile and Sine Mora, or… Ok you got it : there will be shooting and there will be looting. A massive load of them. At the same time.

Above, you can see the first concept image on which we put together the visual identity of Drifting Lands. In a week or so, you should be able to discover how it translates in the actual game, so… stay tuned !

And our next game will be…

After months of (to be continued) legal action to get our first game back, months of contract jobs to keep the company afloat and make it grow even bigger than it was. We’re ready to announce that our next game will be a SHMUP ! Yes, we do love those games !

So le met introduce, project ‘Drifting Lands‘, our new experiment to breed classic shooters with well… other unexpected species.

Drifting Lands

We will reveal more about the whole concept in the coming weeks, and hopefully in a few months, start to invite as much of you as possible to play test the game and help us make this game… a damn good one !

If you’re a shooter enthousiast or an action game amateur be sure to come back here or follow us on facebook, over there.

See you soon.

A game of Tricks II – Vertex Color

Vertex color is my friend. It should be yours too really… plenty of cool stuff to do. If you’re not familiar with it, let me introduce the concept. Vertex color, or vcolor, is essentially just a color with RGB and A channels stored for each vertex of a mesh. It’s a pretty standard, pretty old and classic 3D feature. Originally, the main use of vertex color was to allow color variations on large 3D surfaces with a single or limited number of textures. Back in the days, you’re typical video card couldn’t pile up to 8 or even 4 textures on the same triangle. Even blending two textures was considered expensive and mapping large expenses of earth or grass often ended in ugly tiling surfaces. But you already had the possibility to use vertex color to add variety to break the tiling effect and make richer visuals at a small cost. As a gamer, my most vivid memory of intense vertex color use is the first Planetside game (my first and last really enjoyable MMO experience).

vcolor_planetside2

Continue reading

Alkemi’s chronicles – part 2 – (2011-2012)

icone_surpriseBack in november 2010, Mickael and I had an interesting discussion with Julien Villedieu, representative for the SNJV. Among other things, Julien urged us to submit an application for the FAJV which is a governmental grant to help french video games production. Now, there’s something  you need to know about me. I’ve got really deeply ingrained principles when it comes to money and public money… to the point of stupidity sometimes I’ll admit. I need to be sure that I deserve it. In the first company that I’ve founded with friends, we had spent a lot of time and energy to obtain such grants and honestly I felt like we were surviving at the expense of the system. I was reluctant but Mickael convinced me : with this money we could hire someone and the creation of a job was well worth the public help.

I’ve spent more than a month on this application between december and january 2011. I had the help of nadya jahan, another studio founder in Nantes whose experience in marketing and communication was clearly beneficial in the redaction process. The FAJV finances 50% of your game production (up to 200 000 euros). In your application you must demonstrate that :
- you have a very clear idea of the game you want to make,
- you have an accurate estimation of the cost of production,
- you’ll be able to bring the other 50% necessary to actually finish the game,
- your game has at least some commercial potential.
In essence, you must make the demonstration of your credibility as a game studio and the credibility of your project. If you want the totality of the grant, you’ll need to release the game and demonstrate you have indeed spent at least your 50% on the production. But don’t worry, unless you’re really experienced at this, chances are you’ll have underestimated the cost of your game and have to spend more. Continue reading

Alkemi’s chronicles – part 1 – (2009-2010)

duoI’ve been asked to talk a bit about what it takes to create and manage a game studio these days. In the following lines, I’ll try to recount all the important facts in the life of our small and still young company and what led to its creation in the first place.

Alkemi today is a team of 2 people (one of the original founder aka me, Alain, and Christophe my colleague). At the end of 2012, Mickael, the other original founder decided to go his own way because our views had sadly become quite incompatible. He just started a new small entity which is called Potion of Wit to develop his own projects but we’re still in good terms and work together for contract jobs.

We’ll come back to our present situation, but first let’s take a look at the origin of the project… and even before that to the first time I contemplated the idea of making games as a job.

Continue reading