7. May 2013 § Leave a Comment
just to give you a little update what we’re working on at the moment: Right now, we create the second Chapter of CLARK. Eventhough there have been first sketches almost since the very beginning, we are now refining and testing everything that has been built during the previous weeks. Chapter 2 will be shorter than the first one but feature a lot of new visual elements on Mars’ surface. Here are a few sketches for objects that will be added soon:
Once we are done fixing the outdoor lighting, we’ll show you a few first in-game shots!
30. April 2013 § 1 Comment
THE BEGINNING: When we started to design this game, we had a fairly simple robots-in-a-maze-fight-each-other (PvP) idea, so the very first attempts at designing the characters were much less peacful than the little guy Clark eventually turned out to be.
INSPIRATION: Pretty quickly we figured out that our first dip into the waters of game design shouldn’t be yet another shooter, but rather a puzzle game. We came up with a clumsy robotic lead character, fond of boxes. Believe us or not, we didn’t think of WALL·E. Not yet. First, we searched for photos of old construction site machinery. A little bit of forklift from the 60s here, some steam-punky pistons there, and the first designs of Clark’s upper half already started to look promising.
GAMEPLAY CONSTRAINTS: The lower part, which is connected by a vertical pivot to allow turning of the upper body independently from the base, was much trickier. To simplify CLARK’s controls and keep the gameplay straightforward, it was extremely important for us to stick to our original grid-based framework. For our avatar this had one huge implication: To give the player the necessary degree of mobility, he had to be able to move straight or sideways without an intermediate turning-motion, aswell as turning in a crane-like fashion while holding an object. These constraints left little room for any wheel-based designs. Hovercraft solutions were also quickly tossed into the bin. Therefore we reinvestigated the old symmetrical four-legged base design still left over from the machine gun robot. Now with the legs he had all the maneuverability needed, but the insectoid look seemed slightly problematic, especially because there wasn’t really anything loveable to Clark, yet.
GETTING HIM CUTER: At that time, his head alone sent arachnophobics screaming and hiding behind pizza boxes in our office (I’m exaggerating, we rarely ate pizza. Also, back then “the office” was just my living room.) So we realized we not only had to make the legs more robotic, but also to do some serious redesign of the upper half of Clark.
He should be cute and catch the player’s heart, without needing a lot of moving features such as eyebrows, lids or lips. I turned the whole orientation of his neck around and slapped on some oversized, slightly sad-looking eyes. The head was given a triangular shape to fit into the scheme of childlike characteristics. Finally I added a bolt for an abstract mouth. The huge “eyes” not only gave the character an emotional believeability, but also served to explain the tractor beam Clark is emitting when lifting objects. As a general rule, we wanted to have all faces on our game characters to have mechanical, robotic features, abstractly resembling human characteristics, without merely rebuilding eyelashes mouths ect.
MODELING, TEXTURING AND RIGGING: The next step was to build a low-poly model which was quite a challenge for I had until then worked only on highres architectural visualizations which had serveral hours time to calculate. Getting my renderings to finish in 1/60 of a second for realtime on a mobile device was a whole new task for me.
After I managed building it (the final version has a little more than 400 vertices) I layed out the UVs on a 512×512 map and gave it it way too many details that all got lost in the later filtering of the texture (argh!). Rigging the character was again something I didn’t have the faintest clue about. Intimidating at first, it turned out to be less scary than expected and with the help of a few mechanical rigging tutorials, I found my way through the process rather quickly. Eventhough Cinema 4D is never used for any feature film character animation, it does have a lot of useful rigging and animation tools which came in pretty handy and made it easy jump right into it. After the first walkcycle attempts, I took the time to produce a first little clip featuring Clark and a red ball. Man, I felt like Pixar.
IMPORT: Since Unity obviously doesn’t support Cinema’s constraint system, let alone any custom script (hell, yeah: I wrote one!) it couldn’t just directly open the .c4d-file which would have been like the most convenient thing in the world. Instead, I had to bake every frame of the animated Clark character, which at first didn’t work at all. Fortunately I found a good and cheap plugin (Nitrobake) to take care of the issue, so in the end the huge baked file was being imported into Unity and we saw Clark walk in-game for the first time.
If you have any questions about the process, feel free to ask. C&C is always welcome.
23. April 2013 § Leave a Comment
Now, after having sent out the first playable build of CLARK to the world of journalists and game bloggers, we are still not relaxing nor enjoying sun. Firstly there’s just no sunshine to enjoy, secondly there are still two chapters waiting for us to be finished. We are discussing new puzzles and concepts for the leveldesign of the second chapter which will be the first that takes place outdoors, i.e on the surface of Mars!CLARK is divided into three chapters, the first one contains 10 levels and we have now released 9 of them in order to let journalists have a look at our game and to give them the opportunity to play CLARK and get to know our little robot and his chaotic world. We’ve already got some awesome reviews on our first press release of CLARK. Pixabyte did a review via youtube, you can watch HERE. And Indiestatik wrote a comprehensive article: ”(…) If we’re to base the strength of a puzzle game on its ability to present ideas to the player, and to then have them implement them in order to chase progression, CLARK scores high marks on my scale. There’s nothing that feels obtuse or out of place, and there’s a complexity that’s gradually built up upon when combining each component of its puzzle design together. I’m not sure whether it was the game’s accompanying narration or balanced gameplay (probably both) that kept me going, but at no point did I ever feel like I outstayed my welcome in any of the game’s areas, and I still felt like the game was testing me enough to ensure it felt like I was earning my way forward (…).” (Chris Priestman, indiestatik.com) Read MORE.
We now have to finish level 10, the last level of chapter one. It serves as an interface between the first and the second chapter. Clark will fail to rescue his girlfriend Clara, a nuclear missile, which is transported to a trash cannon and shot to the wasteland. Clark needs to escape the evil guardians and has to follow her. This is the beginning of chapter 2.Working on the second chapter is not like inventing a whole new game but still it somehow feels like starting over new. We will introduce some new characters and reveal more of the plot. New game elements (additional box types, moving laser beams, transportation systems) will add new twists to our puzzles and new enemies will appear on the scene. To sum it up.. we are not even close to the final version of CLARK but we’re really happy being able to share this process with you.
20. April 2013 § Leave a Comment
It took us a while until we finally discovered who he actually is and how he looks like. When Matthias and Felix came up with the idea of Father the first time, they compared him to Morla, the old tortoise from “The Neverending Story”, sitting in some kind of nest located at the heart of the factory. But we didn’t have a real clue, how this would work out, until Hernan (one of our new graphics guys) did a quick sketch which he then polished. Maria finally did the 3D game model and brought this new character to life. She redesigned and animated the head and drew some really nice textures.
9. November 2012 § Leave a Comment
New testing devices arrived! We have finally managed to get our hands on some new testing devices and Unity Pro licenses for iOS and Android. CLARK just looks gorgeous on Apples Retina Display. We managed to optimize the performance so we can push the full resolution pixels while staying at 60 fps. The controls however work best on Googles Nexus7. This smaller 7″-tablet really feels like a game pad and still has a hd-screen big enough to show all the details of CLARK. We are also very much looking forward for the OUYA independent game console. CLARKs controls could easily be optimized for a real game pad and the graphics will still look cool on a tv set.
9. November 2012 § Leave a Comment
9. November 2012 § 1 Comment
All new level design! During the last two months we have developed a new puzzle flow for our first five introduction levels. This change was motivated by the results of our last testing session and the wish to implement more narrative elements. The new levels now have distinct atmospheric sub-themes and contain event scenarios that are used to give more details about Clark’s motivation and the background of his world.
- Level_01 Tutorial Move Controls & Basic Box Interaction: As Clark messed up his daily work he is now forced to do a nightshift. An overseer-bot commands him to search the basement for some machine parts and bring them back to the central conveyer room. The puzzles allow the player to learn the basic movement controls and to complete some simple tasks by putting heavy boxes on switches.
- Level_02 Tutorial Energy Flow: The second part of the nightshift tutorial explains the factorys basic energy system. The player (hopefully) will understand how switches power susequent factory elements. Each puzzle is based on the major goal to connect the energy wires in order to activate the interactive elements of the next puzzle. Clarks actions power up the factory. The glowing energy wires serve as a guiding system and core game mechanic.
- Level_03 Junkyard-Bar: As dawn approaches Clark enters the main production facility and receives his daily task. He is asked to visit the junkyard-bar where a drunken (broken) drone needs to be picked up. Unfortunately the way to the bar proves to be rather dangerous as the whole factory suffers from the carelessness of the partying worker-bots. Clark has to avoid all kinds of industrial accidents: hot laser beams, exploding drones …
- Level_04 Drone Repair: The broken drone now has to be carried to the drone repair station. This makes passing through the dangers of the chaotic factory even more dangerous: Avoiding oscillating laser beams and solving spacial puzzles becomes more difficult as Clark not only has to protect himself but also the drone. Thanks god that this liddle bugger is broken and does not run around headlessly.
- Level_05 Drone On Rails: Did I say, the drone does not run around? Well as it is now repaired it does … and the unfortunate Clark has to escort her to the drone socket room. The only way to achieve this task is to put the drone to an automatic guide system. As long as the drone has the right program it will stick to the rails and walk on a fixed path. However this path is not save either. Clark needs to remove certain dangers in time in order to allow the drone to pass.
SHUTDOWN: When Clark finally arrive at the socket chamber, he witnesses the arrival of evil cleansing-bots. The Main-CPU has desided to make an end to the chaotic and inefficient production facility. All lazy drones and worker-bots will be exterminated and replaced. Wait, what about Clark?
28. June 2012 § Leave a Comment
Long time no see!
We’ve been incredibly busy introducing new members to the team, writing guidelines and developing organisation tools. The project is more alive than ever, it’s just harder to tell from the outside. So apart from all this under the hood stuff, we’ve pushed CLARK’s game design further and filled in a lot of blank spaces on the map.
These images show mood sketches for the wasteland theme I did while the others weren’t watching (since I need to build about a ton of game relevant assets at the moment, doing scribbles like this was almost procrastination …)
Tell me what you think!
8. May 2012 § Leave a Comment
Just wanted to share how we do it:
2. May 2012 § Leave a Comment
While exploring the gameplay we continously changed the position of our game camera. We noticed that in order to develop complex spacial puzzles we needed the player to see as much of his surroundings at a glance as possible. That’s why we dumped the more immersive third-person perspective close to Clark’s “shoulder” for an more or less isometric overview. We are now thinking to add some dynamic camera movement shifting close to Clark’s own field of view from time to time. This would be used for cut scenes or just moments of tense action. It might become quite a task to get the performance right though; at the moment we completely do without any occlusion culling, but that might become necessary in the future.
(It’s really funny to look at these old images again. This whole endeavour feels like quite a journey already …)