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1:10 PM on 04.03.2013

Developer Diary: It’s All Logical

From our very own Katie Hallahan:

Every game needs logic–and that doesn’t just mean the story and puzzles making sense! Logic, or logic scripting, is a part of the programming in the game engine that tells the game what to do. Logic is how the game knows what interactions are available to the player, and what should happen when they activate those interactions.

For Cognition, Moebius, and TSL Episode 5, we use a visual logic scripting tool in Unity that looks more or less like a flowchart. This is great for people like me, who know nothing about programming, as it’s much easier to follow, work with, and even put together. So no longer does a scripter need intimate knowledge of a programming language to help put the game together!

So, how does it all work? Let’s take an example from Episode 1. Now, as you can clearly see here….




Just kidding. :) That’s a little look at how complicated the logic can get, however, and this is tiny peek at all the things the game looks for when you walk into the FBI Main Station every time!

For real this time, let’s look at something a little simpler. :) Clicking on the image below will make it easier to read and follow along.



These are the interactions for the gate in the opening scene of Episode 1. What we first do is identify for the game what object we’re referring to–the gate–which is done in the scene itself. That purple lozenge labeled “GateDoor_InteractionMesh” is tied to the gate itself. From there, we tell the game to build an action wheel for available actions with the gate. In this case, Erica can Look at the gate, try to Open the gate, and Use her Gun on the gate. When a player clicks on one of these interactions, the game then checks for variables, also called Booleans, with the “Compare Bool” box. In this case, it’s checking whether or not Erica has already shot the padlock on the gate.

If she hasn’t shot it off, then the game gives specific reactions that are defined in the cinematic sequences. If she tries to open the gate, she struggles with the lock and has a conversation with John about it. If she looks at it, she’ll notice that the lock is still there. If she uses her gun, she’ll pull it out and fire a round into the padlock to break it. This action will change the variable, so that the game now knows the lock has been broken and the interactions change. These variables are also called “Booleans”, so “SetBool” is the logic that switches that setting.

At this point, if the player tries to open the gate, Erica will do something different–she’ll remove the chain and padlock, push the gate open, and enter the cemetery. This also changes the scene, something else that is set in the cinematic sequence.

Other actions that are defined here are the hints in Erica’s phone. After Erica tries to open the gate once, she can text her dad for a hint about how to get inside. Once she shoots the lock, that hint is removed (regardless or whether the player has looked at it or not), as she no longer needs it.

These variables are constantly being checked in a game–anytime something changes, like the topics you can talk to someone about, whether a particular location is available yet or not, whether a character is in a scene or if they walk out and leave that scene. This is the logic of the game–and like many things, without logic, it just wouldn’t work!

Gonçalo Gonçalves
Social Media Intern, Phoenix Online   read


7:52 AM on 03.27.2013

Destructoid reviewed our game!...again



Because good things come in pairs, Destructoid has now reviewed Episode 2 of Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller, giving us the wonderful score of 7.5!

It's not often an indie studio is lucky enough to be noticed and reviewed by an outlet as famous and important as Destructoid, but somehow our game got through...TWICE!

Once again we'd like to thank Fraser Brown for the wonderful review and all our fans for the support. None of this would have been possible without you :)

Now we can only hope everyone will enjoy Episode 3 even more! (It's coming soon, we swear!)

Gonçalo Gonçalves
Social Media Intern, Phoenix Online   read


10:25 AM on 03.25.2013

Developer Diary: Concept Art to Final Product

From Adrienne Elliot, Producer of our freeware game: The Silver Lining



This time we are looking at how all the wonderful models and sets are created. Creating all the models is time consuming as they go through many, many drafts before we find the one we look feels like the one the script is describing.

In Episode 5 script, there aren’t any direct words telling us how the character looks however we do have their personality based on their name as well as how they speak and what actions they take during the game itself. From this we are able to do a base sketch. Let’s look at the character Rosella.



As you can see this is a rough sketch of how we think the character should look like. Based on what we know about the character of Rosella we have dressed her elaborately for her wedding. The proportions are off but that is not important at this stage of the character design, all the artist is concerned about is getting the general vision of the character down. Once the general idea is agreed upon, the next stage of design can begin.



In this picture, Rosella has been fleshed out more. The lines are cleaner and the designs in her dress are defined to the point where they could be created to the next stage. Also included are different views of how the character would look. You have the front view, side, and back. All three views are important in a 3D game because you will be able to see the character from all angles. Each angle must be as clean as the others. The close up on her face is required because again of how the camera moves in TSL. These images need to be as detailed as they can be because after this step they go to a Character Artist who will build the character in Maya. If details are not added in at this stage, the Character Artist who works off the design will run into issues that could end up having them scrap the character they have been working on for several days, and those days would be considered lost and mile stones will not be made pushing the entire project back.

In regards to TSL, the torque engine limited how much we really could do with the character in terms of poly counts (how smooth they look). Now that we have switched engines the world of characters and sets have opened up to us greatly and our characters have gone from blocky to smooth geometry. In TSL this process takes us several weeks to complete as most of the team is part time but Noelle, Ting and Tom are able to create amazing things from a simple 2D image and create a 3D character that walks on our screen. To show you how amazing TSL is going to look, here are before and after images of Rosella, the first peek into the art of Episode 5!



Gonçalo Gonçalves
Social Media Intern, Phoenix Online Studios   read


9:52 AM on 03.18.2013

The art of loving what you do.

This is a Community Blog created by Saydmell Salazar, our Social Media director, my boss (and the best boss one could ask for I might add).

Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.

Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does.

Quote from Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?




Art must be brave, insightful, creative and bold. It should challenge what you know, what it is. An artists takes it personally. A brush is nothing but a tool, but your dreams is all you need to make your future.

Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.

The day I decided to go into business was because I knew I wanted to make a difference, the day I realized how everything I know can change someone’s day or someone’s life was the day I knew I just had to do this. Then I realized it became a personal goal to make people smile, it didn’t really matter how much I’d have to do or go through, as long as I could feel and see someone smile.

My dream is to be able to do something that matters. To make a difference.

It’s been years, a lot has happened but my heart truly belongs in the indie world. All this amazing talent, all this passion and all this strive needs some direction, needs some guidance, needs part of what I know. Therefore, I can only hope my art can fit in into my dream.

I can only hope my love is enough to measure up to my will.

I am nothing but proud to say that Phoenix Online Studios shares this dream too. Indie Support is no longer a dream now, it is a reality. We are sponsoring and supporting all these amazing talented indies that we manage to reach out in hopes to be able to help and integrate the indie world. It matters, we care and we are doing it.



We are currently sponsoring CBE Software http://www.cbe-software.com/ in their noble quest to fund J.U.L.I.A. Enhanced Edition. They had a very unfortunate situation happen to them (If you are unfamiliar with this please read so here http://www.adventuregamers.com/news/view/23982) and this is the reason why Phoenix Online Studios support is strong with our indie friends, because we know this IndieGogo will make a difference whether they stay in business or their talent disappears from the indie world.

So I would appreciate in behalf of Phoenix and CBE for you to please take 5 minutes of you day and please visit their campaign here http://igg.me/at/julia-enhanced, if all you can do is collaborate with $7 then please do so, if all you can do is just share it on your Twitter/FB then that is also very much appreciated. Anything at this point is welcome and we will be very thankful for that.

Personally, it has been a pleasure helping my dear friend Jan Kavan in this difficult time. He is one of the most talented individuals I have ever met and one of the kindest human beings there is. It’s been an honor to celebrate with him reaching out 20% milestone in less than 24hours, it is the best part of my day so far staying up with him up to 4am talking about what can we do, or just breaking that damn F5 button together (which for the record, we did crash Indiegogo last Sunday! Haha) So thank you Jan, for allowing me to be part of such important part of CBE Software history.

I guess I am very happy to be able to do my art into what I love, and therefore love what I do.



-Say

(On a personal note, working with Saydmell was the most rewarding experience I've ever had in my work life, I feel there's so much I've learned from her and at the same time, that I'm only at the tip of the iceberg, thank you Say.)

Gonçalo Gonçalves
Social Media Intern, Phoenix Online Studios   read


9:18 AM on 03.11.2013

Developer Diary: Teaming Up With Jane Jensen

Designer Katie Hallahan tells us what's it like working with industry legend Jane Jensen (Creator of the Gabriel Knight series)


A question we often get is how we ended up teaming up with Jane Jensen on Cognition. Cesar has told the story how some of the directors first met Jane and Bob when they generously invited us to visit them at their beautiful farm, but what happened between then and the announcement of the Cognition Kickstarter?


Vitek, Rich, Jane, Cesar, and Katie


When we first met with Jane in March 2011, we talked a lot about our plans for Phoenix Online’s future, and naturally the possibility of working together was part of those discussions. At the time, there wasn’t anything that fit what we were looking for, but when Cognition came up that summer, asking Jane if she was interested in working with us was one of the first thoughts we had! The timing and position of Story Consultant worked out perfectly for both her and us, and we got to work.

As Story Consultant, Jane reviews all of our design work, from feedback on the outlines to a full editing pass on the script, and her input has been helpful from day one in helping us to keep the game focused. When Cesar and I were originally outlining the game, we were considering two main plot arcs: the first was Erica’s powers, and the second was a series of killings with a Shakespearean theme. (We’ve got a habit of trying to do too much. We were once naively proud of the original full script for TSL being about 1500 pages long!) Jane’s suggestion that we stick to just one lead us to focus on Erica’s powers, the theme that we could potentially build a series on; maybe someday she’ll face that Shakespearean killer yet!


Things Erica can't do with her bare hands has become a favorite reference and joke of ours--turns out it started with Jane!


For me personally, one of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve learned from Jane is that every scene, character, and puzzle needs to support your story. Don’t waste any time — yours or the players — with things that don’t support that development.

It’s been wonderful having her help on Cognition, and we’re highly enjoying working with her in a different capacity on Moebius — but the details of that will be for a future blog from Cesar!


If you'd like to know more about Cognition, feel free to visit the Phoenix Online Studios Homepage.

Gonçalo Gonçalves
Social Media Intern, Phoenix Online Studios   read


2:37 PM on 03.09.2013

Cognition comes in Bundles now!



Yes that's right, Cognition is being featured on the Indie Royale Bundle! If you've ever wanted to get Episode 1 for cheap than this would be the perfect opportunity and you'll even get a nice shiny Desura key to boot.

On a different subject matter, yes, I know that it's been a while since we've posted a Developer's Diary, but worry not, our next blog post will be just that! :)


Gonçalo Gonçalves
Social Media Intern, Phoenix Online Studios   read


11:12 AM on 03.07.2013

Making Indie Games is easier when you have friends

Today I'm breaking norm from our regular blog entries to bring you a very personal story of an Indie Studio who's struggling, no, I'm talking about Phoenix Online (though we do have our fair share of struggles), this is the story of CBE Software, creators of J.U.L.I.A. and J.U.L.I.A. Untold.

Last January, CBE Software announced it had terminated its publishing agreement with Lace Mamba Global, citing a breach of contract relating to payments owed for the previously mentioned games, to which LMG claimed these accusations were "false statements" and "inaccurate", at first it seemed this would delve into a "he said, she said" sort of argument.


Check the back of your box, does it say Lace Mamba Global?



As it turns out, CBE isn't the only developer feeling cheated by Lace Mamba Global, as now we have Amanita Design (Botanicula, Machinarium), Daedalic Entertainment (Deponia, The Whispered World) and Colibri Games (The Tiny Bang Story) announcing they've also failed to receive payment due from Lace mamba Global.

Banding together, all of the developers have written an open letter as a cautionary tale to all those who wish to do business with Lace Mamba Global, I'm not going to copy and paste the letter, instead,I'll link it to where I first read it.




The world indie games is fraught with dangers, sometimes from those who we least suspect


If you've been reading the gaming news and media you might think this is where the story ends, but I'm afraid there's more to it, you see currently CBE software is on the verge of closing down and is currently its fans to support them through crowdfunding on Indiegogo, asking for the humble sum of $5000, to which I'm glad to see they've nearly reached 90% of the target quota.

As you might have guessed however, $5000 is the absolute bare minimum they need to stay open and every little bit helps! We here at Phoenix Online have been doing our best to spread the word and support our indie friends.


We believe that games can and should be considered art and J.U.L.I.A. is as much of the former as it is the latter and we can only hope that this isn't the last we've heard of it or the studio behind it.

Gonçalo Gonçalves
Social Media Intern, Phoenix Online Studios   read


4:39 PM on 03.06.2013

Destructoid reviewed our game!



That's right! Destructoid's very own Fraser Brown reviewed Cognition, rating it a 7.5/10.

One of the most common and prevalent problems a lot of Indie Studios have, is attracting media coverage from some of the most recognizable outlets, in that regard we like to think we're blessed as we've always had several websites and magazines review Episode 1, but Destructoid is without a doubt one of, if not the largest website that has ever graced our game with a review!

We'd also like to thank Moderator Elsa for linking users to our little corner of the Destructoid community blog in the comments section, thank you Elsa! You're awesome!

Gonçalo Gonçalves
Social Media Intern, Phoenix Online   read


9:26 AM on 03.01.2013

Developer Diary: The Inspiration for Erica Reed

From Designer Cesar Bittar, a little insight into the creation and development of Erica Reed:

I get the question a lot of who inspired me for Erica Reed. Erica ended up being a little bit more foul-mouthed than my original source of inspiration for her, but to this day, every time I see Olivia Dunham in Fringe, I tend to smile. She’s gorgeous and Anna Torv is a really gifted actress, and she makes Fringe one of my favorite shows in our current TV spectrum.


TOTAL coincidence!


Jane once told me that Erica didn’t seem much like an FBI Agent. The Erica she was seeing is the Erica that opens up the game in the cemetery. The thought stuck in my mind, and I wanted to have Erica seem more like an FBI Agent. Dana Scully from the X-Files came to mind, but she was too “formal” for our likings. Debra Morgan, from Dexter, also didn’t do it for me and she really wasn’t FBI — although Erica’s bad language certainly comes from Deb!

And then there was Olivia Dunham. I started googling for pictures of her and I came across a few. There was a particular one that really set it for me. If you spot any similarities, it’s a complete coincidence. Really. Walter Bishop is my alibi!

If you'd like to know more about Cognition, feel free to visit the Phoenix Online Studios Homepage :)

Gonçalo Gonçalves
Social Media Intern, Phoenix Online   read


9:11 AM on 02.28.2013

Cognition Episode 1 now Available on the iTunes store



One of our most popular requests has always been for an iPad version, well, we're pleased to announce that the iPad version is now on the itunes store! On sale for just $3.99 for a limited time.



What's Cognition?

In Cognition, you take on the role of Erica Reed, a Boston-based FBI Agent who uses her ability of post-cognition, which allows her to touch objects and see visions of the past, to hunt down serial killers, always hoping she'll find the one who killed her younger brother Scott three years ago but was never caught.

Episode 1: The Hangman: When Erica and her partner John, the only one who knows her secret, investigate the crime scene of a brutal hanging of an unidentified man, Erica begins finding clues specifically for someone with her ability, Who's leaving these clues? How do they know about what she can do, and what do they want from her?



One of IndieGames.com's Top 10 Adventures of 2012, Episodes 1 and 2 are already out for PC & Mac, and we're very excited that Cognition Episode 1 is now available on the iPad.

Not sure whether you'll like the game? You can always try our free demo. :)



Gonçalo Gonçalves
Social Media Intern, Phoenix Online   read


10:49 AM on 02.25.2013

Cognition won Adventure Gamers' 2012 'Aggie' Award for best Music



Cognition won both an "Aggie" and a "Reader's Choice" 2012 Aggie award for best Music!

We are extremely proud of this fact and would like to thank Adventure Gamers, our fans and everyone who voted us, thank you.

We would also like to congratulate all of the other winners and nominees and we hope next year will be an even better year for adventure game fans!

Gonçalo Gonçalves
Social Media Intern   read


9:32 AM on 02.19.2013

A Tapestry Is Worth A Thousand Words Contest

Phoenix Online Studios is holding a contest for The Silver Lining



There are 8 tapestries that need to be placed inside Episode 5: A Thousand Times Goodnight one for each King's Quest game, and yours could be one of them.

Even if you can't draw you can create detailed description and send it to us.

If you want to know more about the contest, please follow this link, we hope to see your creations and that you'll enjoy making them. :)


Gonçalo Gonçalves
Social Media Intern, Phoenix Online   read





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