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At the point where the game first last off, there was only a single scene with a map that encases all of the objects, leading the game to have no linearity to allow players to understand how the game was supposed to flow. Since there have been a lot of changes since the last post, I was unable to keep track of when all of the changes were made. However, I have categorized them into different sections that helped build the game to its current level.

3D Modelling

Unfortunately, after the last iteration of the sad tree, I had to abandon it since it was impossible to animate. At certain angles of the tree, a very noticeable gap can be seen through the tree. On top of that, it did not fit in with the style we currently have, so in order to keep it consistent, I decided to remove it from the scene.

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Instead, Parth and I decided to use one of our old tree assets created a few weeks back, and to modify it so that it looked more like a tree with personality. By extending the top parts of the tree and adding a few more branches and spirals, I managed to make the tree in the image below.

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I spend a couple of days trying to find out the best method to creating leaves for all of our tree assets. As a result, I learned about the Object Paint tool, where I can select the leaf I model as my “brush” and can paint on top of objects. As a result, I was able to use that tool with the spiral tree in the image above, as well as in the background trees I modified. I didn’t have a lot of time to experiment with making trees again, since it proved to be the biggest challenge for me, so I resorted to modifying old trees.

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I later animated the spiral tree and placed it in the game. I created an animation where the tree would become upset, and “let’s out a giant sigh”. I created another animation of the tree where it shakes its “head” violently to express that the player is doing something wrong. Since we used text prompts in our game to allow the tree to return glyphs, after user testing, a friend suggested that instead of using text prompts, the bushes and trees can carve the character in the dirt instead. I created an animation where the tree is brushing the dirt to reveal a glyph.

Before modelling the trees, we established we need an animated bush. Since I made a bush in previous weeks, I spent some time rigging and animating the bush so that it would wiggle.

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(Credits to Parth for the .gif)

We later added a shard collection system in our game. This gives the players incentive to talk to trees and bushes, allowing them to be more motivated in the game. After collecting ten shards, which for testing purposes was reduced to three, the player makes their way to the seed collector and is required to draw a glyph to transform the shards into a seed. Since we didn’t have time for concept arts, we needed something for testing. As a result, I created a stone rock with the symbol of the shard on it.

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When I was working with bushes and trees, I stumbled upon the Paint Deformation option in 3DS Max which allows me to raise different vertices of the terrain like Unity does in order to create various heights. Learning that Unity’s terrain system was too much of a rendering problem on the iPad, I opted to making the terrain in Max. I created three versions, one with everything centred, a larger path, and a smaller path. I textured mapped them to see the different heights of the terrain, since at certain angles, the plane looks flat.

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Texture Mapping

I spent a whole day texture mapping stones on the shrine. Since it was my first time painting textures, I was very particular about the details on the shrine. At this time, Parth explained the use of baking lighting onto objects and how to use Ambient Occlusion. We rendered out a few light maps and i cropped out parts of the shrine texture to place within the shrine objects’ UV Mapping.

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Unity

When it was time for me to work with Unity, we encountered a number of problems our app was experiencing. For example, it takes a lot of tries to launch the app on the iPad. For some reason, our app stops running properly at startup, but it would be perfectly fine when it successfully runs. Another problem was that we couldn’t use Unity’s terrain, grass, trees, and bushes assets, as it would slow down the iPad immensely. The work around for the terrain was to use a low-poly version from 3DS Max. The trees and bushes were resolved with the placeholder assets I’ve created. The grass, however, took the most time to figure out.

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A small patch of 30 x 30 grass would take up a lot of power from both the Macbook and iPad, and cause Unity to crash when it was unable to run. To fix that, we avoided using the terrain grass in the game, and only detailed a small section with it in the intro scene.

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After all of that was settled, I spent some time playing with the colour correction, particles, and shaders to get a colour palette that would satisfy what we were trying to convey. However, due to the lack of time left over, and the amount of trouble we had, we were only able to polish the title scene, chapters scene, and the intro scene. I laid out several scenes with different maps into Unity throughout the last couple of weeks, and worked towards getting a more linear narrative for players. In the last few nights, we focused on polishing what we had, and redid the glyphs after user testing 2 to ensure that they would be more responsive.

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(Narrow path + detailed trees in background)

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Since we were curious why our game was getting slower and slower, and why we couldn’t use the iPad Air that we borrowed from AV Loans, we decided to check a few numbers on XCode and Unity to see what was taking up power. We established that our camera was the culprit, but with the time we had, we were unable to optimize the game.

Sounds

For sound effects, I was able to obtain many small clips of free sound effects to use for the game. Due to us having to polish the game in the very last nights before user-testing 2 and the DF Open Show, we were unable to implement them in the game.

Narrative

While trying to write the text in the intro and ending scene of our game, I was requested to make the narrative short, non-direct and abstract, but understandable to users. This came to be very difficult for me as writing was not my strongest suit. In the end, a few users found that the text was disconnected line by line, and needed to be more direct to explain the backstory of the game. I intend to fix the narrative once again with a clearer narration of what the backstory game is.

User Testing and DF Open show

Before the DF open show, Parth and I managed to user test around eight people, with four being from our program, and the other four being from graphics, advertising, drawing and painting, and industrial design. From testing, we established that many people were not able to feel what the game was trying to convey, but they were able to understand the concept and feelings. This lead us to question if people were sympathetic or empathetic to the game, or any source of media presented to them. While most were feeling neutral, they were still motivated to play the game as they were curious to what will happen next. This allowed me to make a few conclusions in my thesis document.

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