Design Document – One Man’s Poison

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What happened to DIVERSE and MobleSRL? And what is OMP? An Update Going Forward Into The New Year

Let’s get straight to the points, shall we?

The big Q: What is going on with DIVERSE?

The answer to this one, is multi-stage, and significantly more complicated than the rest on this list.  The shortest version is that DIVERSE is technically a project by Helical Games and while I may post about things I work on for it here, it is not what I actually classify as a personal project oddly enough.  This may come as a rather bizarre distinction, given that many reading this who are closely familiar with me are probably now asking:

Wait, aren’t you the creator and lead of Helical Games, doesn’t that make you one and the same?

And yes, technically speaking every bit of that is true.  However I do not personally consider that to be the case, I have long pushed to create a studio to realize my dreams, but I’ve never wanted that to be my whole identity, even if said studio took off in some form of success.  Helical Games is still a great resource for me going forward, and once I can properly staff it and establish a dependable team, those larger projects will come to a fuller fruition.   DIVERSE will still happen, I’ll still work on it from time to time, and share the progress I make both here and through Helical Games and the applicable social medias, but I want my focus for now to be on smaller and more personable projects.

And speaking of “personal projects”:

Q: What became of MobileSRL?

Those that followed very closely earlier in the year, may recall I posted a few clips of a project I was working on; a racing game I planned (fittingly) for mobile devices, called MobileSRL.  The video clips I posted were essentially proofs of concept showing my progress on getting racing controls on a hoverbike-like vehicle such as the Sparrow’s in Destiny.  This was for a very specific reason, I was basing the game off of the multiplayer racing mode by the name of SRL (Sparrow Racing League) from said game.  I had intended for the release to be free as it was meant as a learning experience, I had never developed for mobile platforms before and being able to use an existing IP would progress things along nicely and much faster than if I had to create it all from scratch.  Obviously copyright was a hurdle here; though Bungie has historically been lax on the use of their IP by fans see Project Tiger (which garnered actual publicity from Bungie) I knew that this wouldn’t be a done deal.  I needed to get approval so I wouldn’t receive a Cease and Desist, or worse a lawsuit; so I did the most efficient thing I could think of, rather than spamming the Bungie site or emails and social media in a blind attempt to get someones attention, I let Reddit do it for me by posting in the games community subreddit and throwing around some (admittedly loose) interpretations of Bungies Terms of Use.  And it worked.

Community Manager for Bungie, Deej, himself reached out to me directly; and from there we exchanged a series of emails in which he informed me, as I suspected, that the wording of their ToU didn’t actually account for something like this.  He was however personally in support and agreed to pass it on to the legal team, expressing the thought that perhaps since I had no plans of monetizing and was even willing to pass on any analytics I gained to them that it could possibly garner approval.

Unfortunately, I never received an official answer either way from Bungie, and rather than continue to harass Deej and push for information, I decided it was better to let it lie.  As I suspected that at this stage, given I planned it out to be a full fledged game, I might run the chance of needed to agree to some sort of licensing contract (even if it was free to do so) and it might suck me into needing to meet development milestones I might have little control over.

The files still exist however, albeit unfinished…  If you’re a Destiny fan and this is what you’re here about, please don’t harass Deej or anyone else at Bungie for this not happening.  I chose not to push any further on the subject, so it’s cancellation is my doing and my doing alone.

And last but not least:

Q: What on earth is OMP?

OMP, tenatively titled One Man’s Poison, is a 2.5D PixelArt Horror/Suspense game I have recently begun development on.  It is now my new primary focus, a multi-platform release is currently the goal, targeting PC, Android, (Possibly iOS), and a UWP (Meaning Windows Store/Xbox One) as the primary platforms.  I’m currently in an early testing and planning phase, but with this project I intend that starting in the new year I will be releasing monthly development updates, both here and on my Patreon, with a 1 month exclusivity for Patreons for each post.  The design document, currently still a work-in-progress, will also be available to Patreon supporters at any tier, though only here on my blog due to the shear time it would take to update it across multiple locations.  The game will be purchasable via Steam and here on my own site, with more distributors to come, with Patreon contributors at the $15 and higher tiers receiving a free copy of the game on a supported platform of their choice so long as they are subscribed in the month the game is released, with all Patreon tiers being able to receive discounts across anything I release going forward.

This project’s title isn’t set in stone, it’s only a working title which I derived from the indie film of the same name that helped inspire some of its characters.  I helped work on the film, am close with the writer/director James Cotton, and will seek out his blessing when the time comes should I have failed to come up with a more appropriate title.  The film was not a horror film, and the story has little to do with this new one, so I’m not sure it will be as good of a fit when it has all come together.

 

So these are my plans going into the new year, I hope to gain serious ground on this project, and hopefully have some sort of playable state by the coming summer.  We’ll let the cards land where they may however…

 

WIP: Reconstructing/Re-Designing Aidan – Part 2 Re-working the Art Style for Diverse

So in the last post, I had completed the base mesh for the new design, and had UV Mapped the mesh for future texture work.  Now I’ll be taking that mesh into Mudbox to do detail sculpting.

The short version of what Mudbox does, is it allows a modeler to increase the polygon/vertices count of a mesh into the millions without the heavy draw on memory that usually happens in rendering software.  Upping the count into the millions will essentially make the mesh react as if it were made from clay or putty and we will be able to actually cut into it and sculpt out details.  From there those details will get baked down into an image, or texture map, that other renderers such as Maya or later a game engine like Unreal Engine 4 can simulate the appearance of these high resolution details on a much lower detailed mesh.

The even shorter version; this next section will give us the most detail in our character, while conserving the most memory going forward.

One of the big things we will need for this are anatomical references, to aid in sculpting things like wrinkles or muscles.  One of my personal favorites is this reference created by CGCookie.

I have a few more references by them, such as detailed hands, backs of legs, etc but I’d like to refrain from simply reposting all their work here.

Now we started with a mesh that was in the ~6700 polygon range, and after a few subdivisions and sculpts in Mudbox, we’re already up to around ~750000 polygons and have a little detail going already.  Now you may note that Aidan is already seeming a little excessively muscular from what we described we wanted previously, but there is actually a reason for that.

Firstly, it should be noted that the lighting in Mudbox is fairly harsh by default, and will cause these details to stick out a bit more than expected.  But more importantly, it’s always good to do a little more than we need, as later we will have precise control over just how heavily the detail shows up in the mesh.  So we can always lighten the detail later.  One thing I’ve learned from sculpting in Mudbox, is it’s always good to bulk up an area, or inflate it a bit prior to cutting in details and then just soften the results a bit.

It’s also very important to take into account how you’re character is standing when sculpting muscles.  In this case, Aidan is in a traditional T-post, so we’ll want to shape his torso muscles in a more upward direction, towards his arms.

Now, once we’ve finished sculpting the organic details, we’re going to sculpt some seams for his undergarments.  We don’t want to accidently edit some other part of the body while working however, so we’re going to freeze the rest of the mesh.

Now aside from making the character look like a slightly less unsettling Dr. Manhattan, these blue sections are frozen, meaning we can’t accidently edit them are are able to work freely.

And after a bit of sculpting and detail work, we have some undergarments.

From this finished mesh we will generate out a series of maps.

Now we’ll take the low detail base mesh we originally created, as well as these maps we’ve just generated and import them into Marmoset Toolbag to get an idea for the finished product prior to color/diffuse texturing.

The render above is being done on the lower ~6700 polyon mesh, using the maps made from the ultimately ~3 million + polygon mesh.  And you can see that with the change in lighting as well as some adjustments made in Marmoset, that the detail isn’t nearly as harsh.

In the next post I’ll be working on coloration and Diffuse texturing.

 

WIP: Reconstructing/Re-Designing Aidan – Part 1 Re-working the Art Style for Diverse

So I’ve been working on various aspects of DIVERSE for a while now,  and to this day I hadn’t been happy with the design of the main character.  Not on a basic design level you understand, Dylan Banks did a fantastic job on the original design, but on how the character had translated into a 3D mesh, which was my doing.

Aidan Concept Art

So the purpose of this, still ongoing project, has been to rework the 3D implementation of the Aidan design, as well come up with a few more costumes, and ultimately to rig and get the model UE4 ready.

There will be some steps that are either skimmed over or skipped entirely, as covering the entire project step for step would be arduous.


 

So we’ve seen the concept art above, but what has the current model looked like?

So other than banking a lot of detail on textures and the frankly awful hair mesh (and the glove, which we did redesign anyway), this one is pretty on par with the concept.  So what’s the issue?  Well aside from some optimization issues, from a purely visual perspective the main issue I had was that 1) Aidan looks much older than he should be, and 2) He’s almost too serious, sure we want a more mature narrative but he’s almost gritty in design.

I also hate how I built the outfit, as it makes giving him anything new to wear in game a difficult task going forward.

So going forward, taking inspiration from recent games like Breath of the Wild and Overwatch, I decided if we’re going to go for a semi-cartoon artstyle, then lets go for a softer and more youthful protagonist; and most importantly I need to build the mesh with an underbody to build future outfits on.  Which we will then do using a fantastic program called Marvelous Designer.

So after a cumulative day or two’s work, here is the new Aidan base mesh.

From here we have to UV map the mesh before we do a detail sculpt otherwise we cannot generate normal maps and it will also make texturing impossible until we do so.

In the event you were wondering, this is what a freshly made mesh like this looks like in the UV layout.

It’s complete jibberish, you wouldn’t be able to texture this model, and an auto-uv process would be very unclean and likely lead to a lot of artifacts.

We’ll start with an Auto-Unwrap on the entire mesh, mostly just so we can start to distinguish what the UV is before moving forward.

Now, in theory at least, you could texture off this map but the UV’s are so small that short of working at a massive resolution you wouldn’t be able to get much small detail in clearly and there are likely some sections that overlap or are improperly scaled.

So we’ll select the edges of the torso, and use UV Edge Cut to break it away from the rest of the UV Map.  At which point we’ll then cut some seams along it’s sides so that it can unfold to be flat.

The highlighted edges in the image below were where we cut the mesh to flatten it.

 We will continue doing this across the entire body, breaking it into sections and then creating seams to flatten the sections out as much as possible.  Eventually we will have something like this:

This layout isn’t perfect and may get tweaked before all is said and done, but the general idea is to get all polygons flattened out and fairly to scale.

The hands are still fairly crappily laid out, but they should texture just fine, and we won’t be detailing them blindly on the UV map like we might have in the old days.

One way you can verify the UV is layed out properly is to lay a checkerboard texture across the mesh. The squares ideally should be all around the same size, and stay fairly square in ratio and that they skew as little as possible.

There are a few skewed squares, but this layout should work alright at least in this early stages.

One thing you’ll note is that the eyes, teeth, and tongue were absent from the UV map and that is because we’ll be doing them on their own maps later to make shaders easier going forward.  For now, they’re just hauntingly untextured.

So now we have a base mesh, and a UV layout, it’s time to move forward into a higher resolution detail sculpt in Mudbox.  I’ll be covering that in the next post.

 

Why Your Fan-game isn’t Fair Use and How to Fix that. Or: Why No Mario's Sky got busted

DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer, so do not take everything said here to be without fault. Please seek legal consult before making business decisions.

So once again, Nintendo shuts down more than 500 indie/fan games that were using their IPs:
http://fireside.gamejolt.com/post/dm…games-bzc9h583

This is of course perfectly within their legal right, and really based on trademark laws is actually required of them to maintain the mark, but a lot of fans and indie developers themselves seem to always cry foul when this happens. Many are often claiming that the work is “Fair-Use” or that because they’ve released it for free that it should be perfectly legal.

The nitty gritty

There’s a lot of disinformation there unfortunately. But before we dive into that mess let’s look at one of the biggest issues in this Game Jolt situation. Free VS Profit.

Besides all being based on Nintendo IP, these 500+ games that were taken down had another thing in common, they were “free-to-play”. So then there’s no profit being had right? Well as it turns out, while it may have been that the developers of these titles may not have found a profit, the games on Game Jolt are Ad supported, as noted in the official DMCA notice.

These web pages display images of Nintendo’s video game characters in connection with unauthorized online games that copy the characters, music, and other features of Nintendo’s video games. The web site at gamejolt.com generates revenue from advertising banners displayed on the site and advertisements played while users wait for the games to load.

So Game Jolt was earning a, potentially decent profit, not intentionally off of Nintendo IP but since the revenue is enable site-wide, it definitely could be argued that the traffic brought in by Nintendo IP was a factor. It’s also worth noting that Game Jolt offers up to (I think) 30% (number may be off) of Ad revenue on a game to the developer should they choose to have it. And while it’s possible many developers were not accepting said revenue, it’s equally likely that many were.

The other big thing of note is Nintendo is about to have their new console out, and since first party IP is really all they have to their name right now they’re probably performing a brand cleansing to (hopefully) focus attention on their upcoming releases. I mean sure Nintendo have always been tight on their IP, but this was a large scale and sudden take-down.

Since many of these games were not only using the actual branding of these Nintendo properties, but in many cases assets ripped directly from the original games, it becomes hard to defend them on any legal grounds. But what about fan games in general? Is there no way aspiring developers can use their talents to share their love of their favorite franchise and still stay legal? Well….maybe, maybe not.

Here’s where shit starts getting pretty grey

Fan work is not remotely protected by any copyright or trademark law and never has been, at least not when using the actual branding and content of the IP in question. But the mechanics of game-play don’t actually have anything copyright-able to them as it comes down to how an idea is expressed that is copyright-able, a perfect example of this is the 1981 case of Atari v. Amusement World (C) [D. Md.] over their game Meteor, which was even by the courts admission an Asteroids “clone”. But it was determined there were not enough visual similarities nor any code plagiarizing to actually qualify the game as copyright infringement. But that’s the thing, for all intents and purposes these were the SAME game, but since they didn’t infringe on the assets or actual IP, the case was ultimately ruled in favor of Amusement World, stating that “Without substantial similarity of protectable[sic] expression, there can be no copyright infringement. While Amusement World based their game on Atari’s Asteroids, Amusement World only copied the idea, and not the protectable[sic] aspects of the game“.

Rulings like this one are the same reason that we now get to see all of these mobile games that are all various clones of “Candy Crush” or “Bejeweled”, that don’t get into legal scrapes y’know, till someone starts trying to trademark silly words.

Also take the recent No Mario’s Sky (the Mario meets No Man’s Sky parody). It too got hit with a DMCA from Nintendo during this wave. But the creators basically knew it would happen, and prepared new assets ahead of time to replace anything with a visual likeness to Mario (trademark infringement technically, since the visual assets were custom-made), and the music (copyrighted) or anything Nintendo and then renamed the game “No DMCA’s Sky” and put the game right back up again. In doing so, it’s still the same game they made, and wanted to make, but it doesn’t hold the brand-name and visual content that got them in trouble with Nintendo.

Why is none of this Fair-Use?

Well I think the big problem is a gross misunderstanding of what fair-use is to begin with.

(in US copyright law) Fair-Use is the doctrine that brief excerpts of copyright material may, under certain circumstances, be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.

Well the problem is, these fan games do none of those things, or at least I’ve never heard of a single one that does. Fair Use would apply instead to, for example, a game reviewer using footage or branding, etc of a title in order to inform their audience about a game.

Brace for Homages

People who want to make fan-games just need to accept that they can make homages to their favorite brands, even that have the same mechanics, but they can’t plan to ride on the brand-name or IP itself.

Perfect examples come from some of the games that have sprung up in the wake of Five Nights at Freddy’s. One such in particular (conveniently enough also on Game Jolt) is Five Nights at Candy’s. Ignoring the rather obvious name similarities, which could still potentially be a trademark issue (note: I did not investigate if Scott Cawthon owns any trademarks on his title prior to writing), this game is very much the “Meteor” to FNAF’sAsteroids“, and that’s ok. Because FNAC’s is a homage to FNAF (all these acronyms getting to you yet?).

What FNAC’s does right is take the gameplay of FNAF’s, add a few new mechanics such as night vision, and has it’s own host of original (if eeriely similar) characters. In doing this the developer has been able to share their love of the original game, but doesn’t really have too much to worry about in terms of a DMCA (presuming they haven’t ripped any content I’m not aware of).

So if you want to make a fan game, do it. But make it a homage, a clone if you will, and give it your own twist. That’s what makes it yours and shows what you can actually do after all.

And honestly, that seems fair to me.

 

MobileSRL – Game Preview Standalone – First Person Camera Test CrimsonStrife Games

The controls are still very much WIP. It handles like ass, and there are no flips/rolls or strafing available yet. So far I’m thinking this will turn out to be a pretty decent portfolio piece.

I’m also providing public viewing access to the design documentation here: https://goo.gl/BPLdVW For those not familiar it is basically a living document that sets the initial restrictions and outlines the project, and will grow from there to fit the final product. Basically it’s your window into my ideas for this.

I just want to take a moment to temper expectations. This is going to take a while, likely most of the year to get to a “playable” state, and that’s still considering that I have a full-time day job on top of this. I also don’t want to over-hype and fail to deliver on something.

This was covered in the last post I think, but for those worried about copyright on the Destiny IP. This is directly from the Bungie ToS.

You may use game footage, screenshots, and other elements of Bungie games that are owned by Bungie (“Bungie Content”) to create your own content (“Your Content”) provided that you must comply with these Terms and all of the following restrictions (the “Content Usage Rules”): You must not use Bungie Content to create any infringing, threatening, libelous, obscene, or otherwise unlawful or tortious material.

The exact rules of which can be found below that section in the ToS for those interested. That being said, Bungie is still within their rights to stop this project should they see fit.

© Bungie, Inc. All rights reserved. Destiny, the Destiny Logo, Bungie and the Bungie logo are among the trademarks of Bungie, Inc.

 

I was on a Podcast (Again) The Guardians of the Geekery Podcast

As part of their 100th Episode celebration, I along with 27 others from the roster of previous guests, joined the Guardians of the Geekery podcasters at a local bar for a bit of merriment.

In This Segment:

  • Podcast Intro with guest announcer Chris Jones
  • Monologue with Jim Ryan
  • Reading by Misty Massey
  • Reading by John Hartness
  • Song by Gamebreax with Omega Sparks and SWATS
  • Podcaster Roast with Jim Ryan, John Hartness, Darryl Mansell, Jake Feurbach and Chuck Carte
  • Diss Jockey game with Danny Seavers, Candice Carpenter, Ian Kiser, Kim Wunderlich-Cady, Patrick Barnhardt, Ryan Graham, and Wanda Harward
  • Time Warp Closer with Randall and Judy Chou

Originally recorded 08/20/2016
Guardians of the Geekery Episode 100 – Part 1

Guardians of the Geekery Episode 100 – Part 2

 

Using VaRest to Connect UE4 to WordPress An Experiment

It works! Albeit a bit buggily. Once I work out the kinks, and have tested it on a live server rather than a local XAMP installation, I’ll post a full guide.

For now, see below for some screenshots of the test, and of the JSON request blueprint.

 

Pseudo Localization An Experiment

Basically I’ve been working on a future-proofed system for getting rough localization into DIVERSE. It’s by no means very accurate, but it’s a good placeholder and it’s automatic more or less.

It’s a series of charts that basically work in one of several possible ways:

Auto Translate Translates the text you enter under main language to multiple languages. I treat these as pseudo translations only, as google translation barely takes context and grammar into consideration. Using these translations directly in game have a high chance of being frowned upon. Single word entries translate more reliably compared to larger text.
Reverse Auto Translate A side-kick sheet for shits and giggles that translates the pseudo translations from ‘Auto Translate’ sheet back to the main language. Only useful for verifying translations.
Manual Translate A completely manual formula-free sheet, which I use as the main language sheet for the game. Initially this sheet is filled from the Auto Translate sheet. An identical copy is used to fill in ‘real’ translations from native speakers/translation vendors. Towards completion, every Pseudo Translation in this sheet will be replaced by Real Translations.
Code Helper Converts the translations from ‘Manual Translate’ to code friendly variables

 

It basically picks the Internal Name from ‘Manual Translate’ sheet and assigns the language string to it.

 

Example:

 

menu\_label\_settings = “Settings” for EN, menu_label_settings = “설정” for KO etc.

It’s fairly easy to change the format to any common implementation of multiple languages.

 

HelicalGames.net site Work In Progress, 2016

Live here: HelicalGames.net

Running on a WordPress installation, influenced by bungie.net