Childhood: The Open Studios Version

Friday, I participated in my program’s yearly event, Open Studios, with the game I’ve been working on all quarter. Overall, it went pretty well. Four of us were stationed in an arcade on the third floor of the building, and we had quite a lot of traffic, despite being out of the way. There were four of us in the arcade and it was pretty busy. I won’t talk much about the event here, but I will talk about the version of the game I had for Open Studios.

The version of My Childhood on the RS Anthony for Open Studios is far from where I want it to be, but it was a playable game. First, I will describe what the Open Studio version has in it, and then I’ll talk about what the game needs to be acceptable as per the design.

So, the Open Studio version is missing a lot of content, but for the most part the mechanics of the game are there. I did a lot of coding this week, and put all the abilities into the game. This is after deciding to remove the fourth ability set from the game, as I mentioned before. The obstacles are also in place.

The most difficult of these was probably coding in the guards, which required me to make a rudimentary waypoint system. I’ve never made one of these before, but it wasn’t so difficult to implement. At the moment, the guards don’t move except to be distracted. This is probably for the best, because if they moved, people might be able to sneak past without the required skills. The other two obstacles were pretty simple to make, although I had some problems with getting the cameras to detect properly, and to convey the area they cover properly.

I had a lot of performance problems at the beginning of this week. After doing some tests, I determined that some of my plant models had a bit too many polygons. I spent a lot of time searching for new trees and flowers that allowed for better performance. The drop in performance was also caused by the large number of lights in the game world. I changed to a localized light system, but this meant that the ceiling no longer had any features. I would have liked to have my plants and lights in the game, but there were a few limitations that I ran into.  The biggest problem was that you can’t use occlusion culling in the free version of Unity. This means that even if something is obscured by something else, it still gets drawn, and then it gets covered by the other objects. Normally in 3D, you wouldn’t do this, you would use occlusion culling to only draw what is not obscured, but that wasn’t available to me. In retrospect, my decision to make the entire game in one scene was a poor one in this respect. If I split it up into different scenes, I would have less of a problem with this. I’m considering moving the game into separate scenes to combat this.

I did not have enough time to put much of the game’s narrative in the game. As a result, I had to put in a secondary set of objectives for the Open Studio players. Instead of the day-by-day structure of the game, I have it working just on the concept of gatekeeping. The player starts with no abilities, goes to a location and finds a white flower, to select the first ability. Once the player has that first ability, it determines where the player can go next. There is a single place accessible by each of the combinations of abilities, so where the players go is determined solely by their ability decisions. There is no end to the game as it stands. For much of the night, I called my game an exploration simulator. People also spent most of the time during Open Studios just running around looking for things. This is pretty problematic as exploration is part of a component that isn’t supposed to be foregrounded in this game. So I need to tone down the exploration feel of the game.

For the future of the game, I have a lot of work to do. First, I’m going to take a break from it for a few days before I continue. When I start working on it again, my first order of business is to decide whether I want to change the way the environment is setup to reduce the exploration problem, as well as to ease up some of the performance issues. This would mean moving the parts of the ship into their own scenes, and reworking a number of variables into global or static variables on completely different objects than they currently are on. Then, I need to work hard on getting the narrative structure and progression in place. That entails making more things interactable and the areas more interesting, plus there needs to be more of a time structure with each event occurring over the course of a single unit of time like a day. A lot of this is already in place, I just have to write the text and set it up. Finally, I must work on getting some sound into the game. At the moment, it’s very quiet. This is a bit of a problem, since one of my abilities is supposed to make sound.

My Childhood on the RS Anthony is really my first 3D game1, and I learned a lot from the experience so far. Particularly, understanding what will affect performance and how to combat it, as well as how to build environs. I also have had a crash course in shader programming, as well as some Blender training, though I find Blender’s interface completely confusing.

Anyway, the game has a long way to go before it’s ready, but I at least got the bulk of the work done for the event on Friday. If you want to try the Open Studios version for yourself, then here it is.

 

1-Follow the Sun is 3D, but it was the most rudimentary 3D. This project is a much larger dive into the 3D space.

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