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).
Back 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
I’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.
Honestly, I’m a bit ashamed at how little time we took to communicate this last year. I’ve always wanted to share my experiences, just to repay everything I’ve learned from others generous enough to publish sources, tutorials, study cases in the game industry. When we started Alkemi 3 years ago, I tried to write tutorials regularly but I was soon overwhelmed by the work required to finish our game and the contract jobs necessary to finance its production. 2012 was a stressful year but hopefully all of that is behind us now and I really want to get back to playing with small ideas and sharing a few tricks here and there.
Designing small visual or development techniques and tricks is my favorite part in the game making process. It is in fact far more rewarding for me than game design or pure visual creation. I’ll share here what I’ve learned over the years and more recent stuff.
My first topic will be something that is massively used in Transcripted : normal-mapped-sprites. In other words, how to make your 2D game look like it’s real time 3D. Well… to some extent. A lot of recent 2D games are made with 3D engines. For tools like Unity, a 2D game is just a simple scene with an orthographic camera filming orthogonally a lot of planes with pretty textures mapped on each of them.
Let’s face it : planes are not really interesting when it comes to how they react to light. There’s not much you can do with dynamic lighting and dumb planes or sprites. Sure, you can use light attenuation ranges to create halo of lights in darkness but you won’t get a lot further than that…
Transcripted has been released for 5 months now and some of you may have noticed that the game just disappeared from Steam a week ago. Instead of cursing and swearing and kicking all over the place, I’ll follow my lawyer advice and state things as formally as possible : due to a conflict between Alkemi and Topware (our publisher), we have decided to terminate our publishing agreement and this termination is now subject to litigation. We very much hope this problem will be solved at some point but I’m told these things take time…
For Alkemi, 2013 is really like a new start : Transcripted is out. Mickael one of the 2 original founders of the company went his way to work on his personal projects. So here were are, ready to work on brand new projects, just the two of us, back with a vengeance !