Ultraviolet Nowhere (GGJ2018)

So, I haven’t posted in… a while. I started a new real-person job a few months ago and, naturally, all my game projects have stalled. Those gears are starting to turn again, so hopefully I’ll have more updates soon.

In the meantime, here’s the game my team made for Global Game Jam 2018!

Jam page: https://globalgamejam.org/2018/games/ultraviolet-nowhere
Web build: https://l-e-webb.github.io/ultraviolet_nowhere

The theme of the jam, for those of you who don’t know, was “transmission.”  In Ultraviolet Nowhere, players aim a deep space telescope and search the sky for transmissions that may be echoing through the void. Aim the ‘scope with the arrow keys, and use the console to home in on any signals you find. (The arrow buttons control spectrum bands, the slider is a fine-tuner.) Some transmissions will show text once you have a strong enough signal, others just play audio. The audio transmissions include actual “space sounds” (courtesy of NASA), and a piano piece by yours truly.

I did the bulk of the programming and a lot of the writing. Shout out to the other members of my team–Jonathan (space stuff art, programming), Aubrey (console art, writing), Jeffrey (music, sound design).

I plan to make some improvements and bugfixes here and there than put this bad boy on itch.io

-Louis

Glitch Art in Crown of Thorns

In Crown of Thorns (see this post for details on the project), some areas are infected with a malicious distortion.  I’ve illustrated this through glitch art, and I’m pretty pleased with the overall effect.  Here are some examples of animations I made:

 

They look like a hot mess on their own, but the effect in context is something like this:

crown_of_thorns_glitch1
The Library of Grace Ma’al, afflicted with distortion.
crown_of_thorns_glitch2
The Church of Grace Daru, afflicted with distortion.

I made these through a mix of glitching techniques called databending: opening a media file in incorrect formats to mess with the data.  In this case, I opened image files as text files in a text editor and as audio files in Audacity (open source sound-editing program), manipulated them by changing the text or applying audio filters, then converting them back into images (though, in all honesty, there was a good dose of good old fashion GIMP audio filtering too).  It’s mostly a trial and error process, though sometimes you can get fairly targeted effects.  For instance, the horizontal striations in the static filter on the screen in the above examples came from opening the static images in Audacity and applying the wahwah audio filter, and where the striations appear and how wide they are corresponds directly to what portions of the “audio” data I applied the filter to.  In the object animations, when whole parts of the objects are jumbled around, that probably comes from copying and pasting portions of the raw data to other parts of the file.  If you’re interested, Google “databending” and you’ll find more informative tutorials than I can give.

On some level, I wish I could have procedurally caused visual artifacts in real-time during play rather than preparing a bunch of glitched assets.  Programmatically glitching visuals in-game seems more in the spirit of video game glitch art.  Still, it was pretty fun including these techniques in a game.

Speaking of the game, this project is currently in testing, and needs a lot of music and sound design, but should be ready for release soon!

-Louis

PAX West ’17 Rundown

I was only at PAX West for one day.  Here are the highlights:

  • Heard the word “aftercare” used to mean dealing with emotional aftereffects of a high gravitas tabletop role-playing game.
  • Decided all of once to try waiting on line to do something in the expo hall, but the line was full.
  • Spent more time in the Indie Megabooth section of the expo hall than the rest combine.
  • Was reminded that the vast majority of games and gaming-related products hold zero interest for me.
  • Napped on a beanbag.
  • Was randomly given a cookie by a cute girl.
  • Saw Koji Igarashi but was too shy to introduce myself.
  • Saw Christine Love but was too shy to introduce myself.
  • Saw the entire staff of Extra Credits but was too shy to introduce myself.

So… all in all a success, would buy again.

New Project: Crown of Thorns

A side project I’m bringing to the front burner to try to get done, Crown of Thorns is a darkly atmospheric fantasy adventure game.

Players assume the role of Brunhilde, a mysterious and silent knight with an unknown mission at an empty castle.  Using magical portals, she goes back and forth between two versions of the castle: one pristine, the other decrepit and ruined, but both mysteriously deserted.  A foreboding presence pervades the ruined castle, causing strange distortions in the world.

Brunhilde must overcome various obstacles to clear the distortions, break through magical seals, and eventually reach the center of the castle, and its mystery.

The primary gameplay of Crown of Thorns is exploration and puzzles, where players must use both versions of the castle to overcome obstacles, in the vein of light world / dark world or past / present type puzzles seen in Zelda games and similar works.  There is no combat in Crown of Thorns, just mystery and exploration.

crown_of_thorns3

There is a lot of religious iconography in Crown of Thorns (in case the name didn’t tip you off).  Throughout the world, you will find (fictional) scriptural passages.  These texts tell of a religion that worships angelic figures called Graces, who brought divine gifts and moral guidance to humankind.  To you, their words serve as a backdrop to the slowly unraveling narrative, and as riddles that tell you how to get past various obstacles in the game.

More on this project as it comes along.  Hoping to have a playable beta available in a few weeks!

-Louis

Asteroidal Projection in Beta

Last winter, while stepping onto a bus, I had an idea for an Asteroids-like game that took place in the Poincaré Disk, a model of the hyperbolic plane best known for its use in M. C. Escher tessellation art.  Well, I haven’t followed through on that, because it would be hard to do.  Instead, I grabbed a much lower-hanging fruit which, to a layman observer, has a similar visual effect.

Thus was Asteroidal Projection born, an Asteroids-clone that takes place in normal Euclidean space, except with the plane compressed into a disk-shape.  Distances become increasingly distorted as you get farther from the center of the screen, with distant objects remaining visual, though warped, in the edges of the disk.  This visual distortion gives the illusion that the game is occurring on a curved, dome-like surface, but this is actually not the case.  Mathematically, the game world is topologically equivalent to the plane, and all the physics and collision detection occurs identically to how it would on a flat play area.  You can think of the game’s visuals as an alternative way of viewing flat space which keeps much more of the play area in view at once but does not preserve shape, distance, or angle.

For the topology/complex analysis nerds out there, the visuals in Asteroidal Projection are the image of the Euclidean plane through this homeomorphism:

equation

And yes, strictly speaking, this is not a projection, just the standard homeomorphism from the plane to the disk.  What can I say?  I didn’t think “Homeomorphic Asteroids” had the same ring to it.

Anyway, you can play it online here:

https://l-e-webb.github.io/asteroidal_projection

This “beta” is very informal, just drop me a line if you have any feedback!  (feedback@tangledwebgames.com)

-Louis

PS I still haven’t decided whether I’d rather use really minimalist, purely geometric visuals for this game.  What do you think?

 

The Blue Room in Beta

I’m pleased to announce that The Blue Room, an short adventure game about depression, anxiety, and loneliness, is now in open beta and available on itch.io:

https://tangledwebgames.itch.io/the-blue-room

The Blue Room is a room escape game, but instead of locked doors and puzzles, the true impediment to escape is the protagonist’s own depression and agoraphobia.  The central narrative of the game is framed by the two choices your character is given when you attempt to open your door and go outside: “No,” and “Nah.”  As you explore the room and learn more about the character’s past and daily life, you unlock more excuses for not going outside–“I’m too tired,” or “I’m not ready,” or just plain “I don’t want to.”  Throughout the game, the paralyzing effects of depression and anxiety are simulated for the player by the restrictive choices presented to them.

This is a deeply personal work for me, inspired by my own experiences, and those of people close to me.  Even when it moves out of beta into it’s final release, I will never charge money for The Blue Room.  I only hope that it raises awareness about how challenging depression can be, and engenders empathy in those who play it.

-Louis

New Project: Dreamquill

I’m pleased to announce my latest project, Dreamquill.  Made in RPGMaker is my take on the classic turn-based RPG genre.  Key features include:

  • A touching story of self-discovery centered around magic-wielding teens, including romance options and a variety of endings.
  • Determine the exact properties you want your spells to have in the midst of battle with an innovative spell-crafting system.
  • Beautiful dreamscapes to explore.
  • And, of course, plenty of monsters to beat, puzzles to solve, and treasures to find!

Story

Players assume the role of Skylar Chaudhri, age 17, one of the top students at Armistead Academy, a prestigious boarding school for aspiring runemages.  Along with two of her classmates, Skylar is assigned to investigate reports of strange goings-on in nearby Chantelune Forest, a place with a reputation for being mystical at best and downright haunted at worst.  Once inside, Skylar and company are attacked by monsters and separated.

Undaunted–well, okay, pretty daunted, but unwilling to give up, Skylar sets off on a quest to find her classmates and escape the forest.  She finds herself trekking through a strange world where past and present, truth and falsehood, reality and illusion seem to interweave seamlessly, and she is pitted against deadly monsters, obfuscating puzzles, and sometimes her companions or even herself.

What’s the cause of all this strangeness?  Can Skylar find her classmates?  And even if she does, will they survive to greet the dawn?

My recommendation is to combine Ice and Empower to cast Crystalize on that Fire Imp.

Battle System

Dreamquill features a turn-based combat system similar to classics like Final Fantasy.  However, instead of each character having a fixed list of spells or skill, in Dreamquill you form spells on the fly by combining runes.

Each character equips up to five runes, and runes are put together to form spells.  For example, the FireArrow, and All runes can be used to form the spell Hail of Fire Arrows, a powerful attack which damages all enemies.  The Poison and Shield runes can be used to cast the spell Poison Ward, which protects a character from the poison status ailment.  When you cast a spell, the runes used to do so will be on cooldown and unavailable next turn.

This system has a number gameplay benefits:

  • Rune combination adds depth in combat by allowing you to choose the exact spell effects for any situation, such as whether to target one or all enemies, what element to use, and how powerful the spell should be.
  • Each character can form a wide variety of spells based on the runes they equip, giving you a healthy amount of choice in battle.
  • You can freely rearrange runes between battle to find combinations that best suit the enemies you face.
  • Rune cooldown acts as a natural limitation on your spellcasting ability, removing the need for cumbersome resource bars such as MP.

Glittering thing. Stop ignoring the glittering thing.

Development Schedule

Dreamquill already has a playable prototype, and a good chunk of the art done or in the pipeline.  I hope to launch a Kickstarter campaign soon to raising enough money to commission the rest of the art assets.  From there, it will be approximately 3 months to a playable beta, then hopefully 3 more months to final release.

How so fast?  Well, the core game is already made.  From here on out it’s integrating art, fine-tuning gameplay, fixing bugs, and implementing changes based on eventual beta-user feedback.  In a relatively small-scale game, I hope this can happen quickly.  This promise may blow up in my face, but we can hope not.

-Louis