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Twisted Jenius's blog

3:36 PM on 09.22.2015

Repetition: A Brilliant Insanity

One aspect of game development that I haven't seen discussed very much is the simple fact that a big part of it involves performing many of the same tasks over and over again. It has been said that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. It has also been said that the distance between genius and madness can only be measured by success, and furthermore, that success often requires persistence (which is defined as, oddly enough, "an obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty").


Twisty is brutally brilliantly insane (image)

But logical and philosophical loops aside; the nuts-and-bolts reality of game development is that it tends to involve a lot of repetition. Whether we're talking about art, programming or even marketing, if you're an indie dev, chances are you're going to be doing a lot of the same or similar things over and over again, over the course of creating your game. This includes tasks like copying and pasting code to multiple places, placing the same art assets in various places around the game and repeatedly tweaking or modifying that same code or those art assets multiple times so that they do specifically what they're supposed to do in every instance you use them. In fact I would argue that this overall sort of activity makes up the majority of game development, in my experience. Of course there's plenty of fun creative stuff, as well as the challenging, problem-solving type of stuff to do too; but there's also definitely a lot of repetition.

This isn't meant to be presented as a good or bad thing, but simply the reality of it. In fact, if you think about it, it's sort of the reality of actual reality as well. Let's consider the subject of video game art for a moment (mostly because that's my department). Quite often, you will see many of the same art assets used multiple times within a game.

Initially you might argue that the tendency to populate game environments with the same types of reoccurring features and props is just a sign of laziness on the part of the developers. And when taken too far or not implemented correctly, that can certainly be true. But on the other hand, can we really say that nature is much better? If you've ever found yourself lost in a real forest, you'll notice that the general settings can look even less distinctive than what you might see depicted in a staged forest environment of a movie or game. And while you can assure yourself that every one of the real trees that you see in the real forest are unique individual organisms, that's probably little comfort when you start to hear something howling or hissing at you from somewhere and you can't get your bearings because it all looks like the same freak'n tree in every direction. It would seem that nature has its own version of a copy and paste function.

Of course this applies to the manmade aspects of the real world as well. We live in a society where most things are manufactured and that means that you tend to see a lot of repetition in day to day life (not to mention that the manufacturing process itself is the very pinnacle of repetition). For anyone who's ever been in any kind of school or classroom before, I'm sure you are familiar with how certain environments can contain multiple copies of very similar objects. For my specific purposes, Twisty's Asylum Escapades is similarly meant to be a very institutional environment and so it's only realistic if you see many of the same art assets used multiple times (though the asylum in the game has to be more interesting looking than it's real world equivalent; if you've ever looked around a real hospital facility, the aesthetics are often incredibly boring and repetitious).

This correlation between real world repetition and games can also be applied to programming. Although video game AI is considered notably less complex than real human intelligence, if you sit and look at a busy urban environment in the real world there's a good chance that 90% of those people will be indistinguishable from wandering NPCs. And anyone who has a "regular 9 to 5" job is almost by definition going to be repeatedly maintaining the same schedule much of the week. A large portion of human behavior is very repetitious.

And in regards to other aspects of game programming, the real world equivalent of game physics is pretty consistent. If you jump off a building you probably can't expect to be miraculously released from the earth's gravitational pull and float to safety. Take a dive off a five story building in any city in the world and the same physics apply. So it's not a stretch when developing a game, to use the same physics code on one level of the game as you do on another.

The fact that repetition is a reality for developers has both its advantages and drawbacks. In many cases it can make things easier, but it also often makes the work more tedious as well. And in some odd cases, the fact that you need some consistency to replicate the repetitious nature of the real world can actually create more work when you can't simply copy and paste something and for some reason you have to redo it or have to heavily modify it in order to get it to work and look or act like everything else; just to make it consistent with the rest of the game.

But whether or not it is an advantage or drawback in any given situation, repetitious tasks are simply a reality in game development, and indeed a lot of the jobs in computer heavy fields. Strangely enough, this is often considered a major strength of computers on a basic level. They're really good at performing certain repetitions tasks over and over and at a very quick pace. But we often have to work in unison with them on this. They are our tools and to a certain extent, we have to adapt and conform to how they operate and play to their strengths and work around their limitations in order to get the best work out of them.


(image) A looping image of the asylum hallways; part of the theme of crazy repetition or just a lucky coincidence? You decide!

So you've probably already figured this out, but this week I've been doing a lot of fairly mundane but essential work on the game. It's not the kind of showy or interesting stuff that's usually worth blogging about. But after thinking about it, I decided that maybe I should address this in some way. After all, it's a major aspect of game development that seems largely neglected when dev blogging. But that's the real message; embrace the repetition, the persistence and the "craziness" that may go along with it. It's all part of the nature of the beast known as game development, as well as the nature of...well, nature. Creating your own little world is in a sense an attempt to mimic certain parts of reality and nature; and so some repetition is expected. Nature goes through cycles and although reality can be extremely diverse and bizarrely original, it also does a lot of the same stuff over and over again. Why should creating a virtual world be any different?

I hope that you will persist in continuing to follow along with this insane dev blog chronicling the remastering of Twisty's Asylum Escapades the game about the crazy brain who refuses to give up, no matter how many enemies he must eviscerate, over and over again.


11:44 AM on 09.15.2015

Texturing: Faking True Grit

Yep, it takes a rare breed to be a game developer. Not everyone has the unbreakable intellectual fortitude, the raw creative nerve to just sit there and try to create their own worlds. The stern determination to push through all obstacles and see their dreams through to the finish. Game devs may not be able to actually forge physical stone and metal surfaces simply by manipulating pixels and polygons; but just like a pampered A-list celebrity playing a rugged 1800s gunslinger, we can sure try to fake it!


That's what I've been up to this week, creating some new textures for the environments in our demented little horror/comedy game Twisty's Asylum Escapades, which we are now remastering for its upcoming release on Steam. Creating textures can be a bit tricky and there are several things you have to consider. It's good to have them detailed, but too much detail, or having too many textures at too high a resolution can begin to adversely impact the game's performance.


Another concern that I personally have to contend with, being the sole artist on this game, is that spending too much time on any one texture can end up being a waste of time and drag out the development process too long. Gamers will notice if a texture is bad, but at the same time, they're not likely to spend too much time really examining most of the textures in the game (keep in mind there are hundreds of different textures in these environments). So part of my job is to figure out and gauge the importance of each texture, how prominent it is and how often people are going to see it and even how well they're likely to see it; and then determine how much time to spend on each one (art can be improved infinitely, after all).


Twisty's Asylum Escapades also has quite a lot of interior hallways with different wall textures. These come with some of their own challenges such as finding a balance between repeating the textures and yet still keeping them interesting. It's technologically unreasonable to make a long hallway wall all one texture and so by necessity, these kinds of textures in video games often have to repeat. But we don't want them to look like they're repeating. So we try to find a way to make them look interesting, but at the same time to make them look all the same enough so that you can't see the same distinctive part of the texture repeating again and again on the wall.


Normal mapping (or similarly, bump mapping) is also very important for creating more realistic textures in games. And, whether players are aware of the mechanisms behind these things or not, this type of texture mapping has become part of the standards that players expect from a 3D game's graphics. In the image above, you can see a comparison of the white painted brick wall of one of the asylum hallways with the normal mapping turned on and then turned off.


You'll notice that simply having the texture without the normal mapping, which creates the 3D shadowy and rough textured effects, makes the white brick texture look very bland and flat on its own. Normal mapping is very handy for adding the appearance of small 3D textures like bumps and cracks and creases and other uneven elements to surfaces like that. The kinds of things that many objects have on them but would be impractical (takes too much time to model or would require too much processing power to render) to try to create as part of the actual 3D model itself.


Of course many textures in the game need to be similarly redone for this upcoming release of Twisty's Asylum Escapades and so I will continue to work on updating various textures in the game, in the weeks to come (but I probably won't blog about those specifically). I should also have some other cool things to show you as well.


I hope you've enjoyed this small look at the tough, rugged and unforgiving landscape of indie game development. I'm certainly no John Waynesque hero, in fact quite the opposite. But I hope that you will continue to follow along with this developer log as we twirl our mustaches, laugh maniacally and continuously try to tie the maiden of failure to the railroad tracks while moving forward with our sinister plot to unleash our strangely compelling indiegame onto the unsuspecting public.


10:25 AM on 09.08.2015

Boiler Room: Plumbing the Dark Depths of Plumbing

This week I've been working on the boiler room for the remastered edition of Twisty's Asylum Escapades. The boiler room is the largest room in the basement level of the asylum and was loosely inspired by the character Freddy Krueger's favorite hang out/lair in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies.


In addition to being one of the first rooms that the player encounters in the game, it also serves the notable function of being the setting for the human sacrifice, which summons the ghosts into the asylum and sets off some of the events and chaos which helps Twisty to escape. Obviously the ghosts are important as this is a horror spoof game and since this occurs in an asylum, as with all asylum based horror games, you must have the obligatory supernatural element crammed in there along with the standard murderous psychopaths (because just having a giant killer brain roaming around on his own isn't good enough and so you also need the place to be haunted too).


Though one notable difference that Twisty's Asylum Escapades has when compared to other asylum based horror games is that the player is actually the one who deliberately unlocks the supernatural forces that wreak havoc on the place. But that's just the kind of quality pro-evil perspective that you can expect from Twisted Jenius.




The boiler room also features several large tanks, eerie red lighting, a 5 pointed star drawn in blood, a seemingly pointless catwalk that literally goes nowhere and lots and lots of pipes. Because we're remastering the game, part of my job is to improve the various environments, and so that pretty much means I need to add more pipes. It's a relatively easy way to insert more "detail" into the environment and since most gamers seem to associate complexity and detail with "good graphics", adding pipes is a simple way of doing that. It's true that the room already has many pipes, but I think we can fit more pipes in there. And thus by copying and pasting a whole lot of pipes, the room will be "improved". I'll probably also do some stuff with the textures and lighting as well.


Be sure to tune in next time and follow along with this development blog, as we continue our journey deep into the brain of darkness known as Twisty's Asylum Escapades.


5:42 PM on 09.01.2015

Let there be light!

Let there be light!


God's lucky, all he had to do is wave his tentacled arm to magically create light. We game developers have to go through our levels, methodically placing light sources and tweak numerous settings in order to light the world's that we create.

Of course I could just do it "god's way" and just stick a single sun/light source there to light the entire game, but that would make the whole thing look very flat lit and dull; the kind of thing that most gamers and critics would consider "bad looking". The standards of modern 3D video games are higher than that and, as has been pointed out before, what works for real-life doesn't always make for good game content. In fact, games are often expected to look more interesting than real life; that's arguably part of their appeal. And this especially applies to a heavily stylized game like Twisty's Asylum Escapades


One of the big reasons why we're remastering Twisty's Asylum Escapades is to improve the game's graphics, and lighting is a major part of this. And so this is what I've been working on lately. There are two basic kinds of lighting being used to light the levels and create the general eerie atmosphere in TAE. The first type and probably the easiest to understand are the point lights. These act more or less like a standard real-life light source. They provide light to a given area of the game ( I'm able to change the size of the area that they affect around them), and the light radiates from a single, easily recognizable source the way that it does from a light bulb in the real world.

Normally we use point lights in the game to represent the light emitting from objects in the game that are obviously supposed to have light coming from them (such as things like a lamps or the common light sconces on the walls of the basement and things like that). But keep in mind that game lights don't always act exactly like lights in the real world. They're virtual, and therefore have some advantages and disadvantages when compared to real world lighting.

So for example, the lighting that you see in the game isn't actually being created by the wall sconces that may appear to be emitting the light. The light is actually coming from a separate, virtual object that will be invisible to the player in the final game, and that light is brightly reflecting off the sconce right next to it in order to make it look like it's the sconce itself that is emitting the light. When playing the game, the lights themselves are invisible and players can only see the effects of the light; the other objects that the lights are hitting. For my purposes as the developer, I can view the game in developer mode and see these virtual light objects which are represented as yellow light bulb icons, which is what allows me to move them around and tweak their settings.

As the artist and creative designer for the game, it's my job to place all of the lighting around and that means that for every light you see in the game, I had to put one of those virtual lights there and modified its settings so that it looks good. I'm able to change a lot of things about that such as the color of the light, the brightness or intensity of it, as well as the radius or distance of what will be affected by the light. Because the lighting is such an important part of the game, I make it a point to go through and customize each one of these things in order to try to create the best overall effect possible.

The second kind of a lighting that we have in the game is the overall ambient lighting created by a virtual "sun" (but unlike the real sun it can affect everything, even indoors). Basically this kind of lighting lights everything evenly, and all objects in the level or area get the same treatment. This comes in handy for filling in the gaps between point lights so that everything isn't completely pitch black in areas where those lights aren't present. However, if you only rely on this kind of light then it tends to make the level look very flat and bland, and this is why it's important to use the two types of a lighting intelligently and with each other. Like the point lights, this type of ambient lighting also has a variety of settings, including color and intensity and we can set it to effect different general areas of the game differently.

But since Twisty's Asylum Escapades is a horror parody kind of game, darkness is just as important as lighting and having a creepy atmosphere, plenty of shadows and dark areas is very important to the overall feel of the game. This is why it's such a priority to light the game properly. It has to have the right atmosphere, hopefully look cool and aesthetically interesting, but also still be light enough for players to be able to see and thus allow the game be playable. This is something I take very seriously and I redid the lighting in the game several times in the last version of TAE. And so you can be sure that I'm putting at least as much care into trying to make this remastered version look as good as it possibly can.

I hope this developer blog chronicling the remastering Twisty's Asylum Escapades has been illuminating. Please follow the along as we continue to spotlight different aspects of the game's development with our radiant insights and blinding enthusiasm about this shadowy little project.


12:23 AM on 08.26.2015

There's More Twisty to Come

For the last couple of months we've been working on remastering our first indie game, Twisty's Asylum Escapades. This is a fairly sizable update, as we are remaking and improving large portions of the game, including almost all of the graphics. The reason that we're doing this is because the game was greenlit on Steam, and we'd like to make a good impression when releasing our first game on that extremely popular platform.

Twisty is very excited to be coming to Steam Twisty is very excited

Truth be told, we had actually considered Twisty's Asylum Escapades a completed project, and had moved on to developing our second game, Reptile Zoo: The Sinister Mutation, when TAE was approved to be put up on Steam. Happily, it was only a short time later that Reptile Zoo was also greenlit, and so we will be continuing development on that title right after we release the remastered version of TAE.

 I have to say, despite pushing back our overall development schedule, I am very pleased that Twisty's Asylum Escapades is getting this second chance to be seen and played by what is probably a much larger audience than it was previously exposed to. This crazy little game with a man-eating brain deserves a bit more attention than it got and as the first game that we ever developed (and one that prominently features our company mascot no less), we here at Twisted Jenius are quite proud of our bizarre creation and hope that you will check it out when this improved version is released. Until then, I will try to keep everyone updated about our development.


5:56 PM on 01.19.2015

New Reptile Zoo Trailer!

Here is the new video game trailer for our upcoming horror game Reptile Zoo: The Sinister Mutation that we have been developing. Just the trailer itself took a lot of work and I'm very happy with how it came out, but instead of describing it, I'll just let it speak for itself. Later I might do a "behind the scenes" blog to go detailing some of the more interesting aspects of how it was made.

(Best viewed in full screen)

Below, I'm also including a number of new screen shots from the game. I'd also like to mention that Reptile Zoo is also currently on Steam Greenlight, so I'd certainly appreciate any support that you could give the game by heading over there and voting "Yes" to getting it on Steam. Thanks!


And as always, all feedback is welcome on any of the content that I've posted here.


2:18 PM on 12.08.2014

Behind the Scenes with: The Turtle!

There will be a number of creepy critters featured in the upcoming horror game Reptile Zoo: The Sinister Mutation, that we are now developing. Today I'd like to introduce you to one of the residents of Reptile Zoo; The Turtle! And we will go behind the scenes with him to see various stages of his creation.

I didn't do any concept art for him, as originally I was going to just have him be a normal alligator snapping turtle, but as I was doing the initial modeling for him I decided to make him a bit more interesting. The first image (A) shows the basic, primitive snapping turtle shape that I'm beginning with. When modeling something like this, it's usually best to start with basic forms and add specific details as you go. By the second image (B), we can see that he has a lot more detail and his overall shape is closer to his final form.

"This isn't even my final form!" -The Turtle

In the period of creation between these first 2 images, I decided to try to make him more unique and menacing looking. The two most disturbing looking types of turtles that I know of are the alligator snapping turtle, and the mata mata, a South American flat headed turtle. Both of these species are fairly prehistoric looking and are fresh water ambush predators who stand still for long periods of time. Basically I decided to create a mutant hybrid of these two distinctive types of reptile. I'm not sure if this mutated turtle is an adolescent, but we can probably assume that he would be a skilled and fearsome martial artist. Though in all likelihood he would snap up and consume any rodent mentor that would get too close to him; because he's a bad ass like that.

In the next image (C), we can see that he now has even greater detail as well as a basic colored texture on him (the texture has to be created in a separate 2D art program and then applied to the 3D model). He's now beginning to look thoroughly creepy. Now, in image D, he has been placed into his tank within the game environment (specifically the reptile house portion of the game) and he also has a bump map applied to him, which makes him look even more textured than before. However the whole scene still looks a bit flat, partially because I still need to do some things with the environment but also because he needs proper lighting.

Finally, in the last image (E) we find the turtle close up and at what will be the player's eye level, in his murky water filled tank, dimly lit and ready to shock and terrify anyone who should pass by him. I still need to do some things with the scene, including improve the lighting and the shadows even more, but this will give you some idea of what's going on with one of our creatures and what goes into creating them.

Although we can assume that the turtle is thoroughly dangerous and menacing, in this game he is behind glass and therefore not much of a threat to the player. His particular role is to serve as sort of a "set piece", establishing the scene and letting the player know what type of place this is (the type of place that would house a disturbing mutated turtle that looks like it could rip your face off!). One of the cool things about referencing real animals when designing a creature like this is that no matter how weird or frightening what you design might be, chances are that nature has already beaten you by coming up with something even worse. Needless to say, I consulted a lot of reference photos when designing the turtle.

But even though the turtle himself may not do much, I can assure you that there are other, even more terrifying critters in the game that will do whatever they can to hunt you down and devour you. When the game is complete, I hope that you will come visit The Turtle along with the rest of the dark menagerie of Reptile Zoo. They'll be waiting for you!


10:58 PM on 10.16.2014

Reptile Zoo Lore

Here's a bit of semi-official back story or "lore" for the video game that we are currently developing, Reptile Zoo: The Sinister Mutation. The text below should be read as sort of a parody of a brochure or website or other piece of promotional material for the fictional "Reptile Zoo" that is featured in the game. The game itself will be straight horror, but I decided to make this text somewhat darkly humorous as well as disturbing, because I enjoy that kind of writing and it's in keeping with Twisted Jenius's style to inject a bit of fun into these things. I'm also including a couple of new screen shots below, in order to keep you updated on our progress. Let us know what you think!

 Welcome to Reptile Zoo!

Come let your blood run cold at Reptile Zoo, recently voted Texas' 183rd must-see attraction by an unspecified Internet publication!

 Our history-

What would become Reptile Zoo originally began in 1933 when traveling showman W.C. "Bill" Bevan arrived in town and began displaying recently caught rattlesnakes to the general public, thrilling old and young alike with his family attraction of venomous serpents housed in a quickly constructed and ultimately unstable structure made of wood planks, barbed wire, and old sheet metal. Many children were killed.

Seeking to create a better established place of business, Bevan petitioned the city for financial help in creating his visionary idea for a permanent "Reptile Farm". The Reptile Farm proposal was quickly dismissed by city officials, but was later approved under the new name of "The Reptile Garden and Research Bureau". The city donated an abandoned rock quarry to the project, which had been permanently evacuated years earlier due to mass mercury contamination. The substance can still be found on the site to this day.

Prison labor was used to construct the stone structures and paddocks out of the natural building materials left behind from the quarry, and many of these original buildings and walls still grace the grounds of Reptile Zoo. Mayor Brackenridge hailed the Reptile Garden to be an astounding success. Cited as being the first such facility in the United States, within a week it had paid for itself in attendance revenue, having made back the $15 investment, along with the free convict labor and free materials that the city had put into it. The Garden single-handedly sustained the entire region through tourist dollars, until the end of the Depression.

In 1938, Joe "Butcher of Elmendorf" Ball was accused of killing over twenty people and feeding their remains to the alligators that he kept in a pit behind his saloon. When the sheriff's deputies came to his business to question him, he shot himself in the head and therefore was unavailable for comment. However, his man-eating alligators were eventually shipped off to the next county and lived out the rest of their lives as residents of the Reptile Zoo. The descendants of Ball's hungry pets can still be seen in our exhibits.

After the war, the zoo got an even greater influx of new animals including turtles and exotic lizards. Many were donated from various organizations and law enforcement agencies who didn't know what else to do with them. Among these were a group of rabid iguanas carrying a new strain of the Kothoga virus, which were confiscated after being illegally smuggled in a banana crate from South America.

In the early 1970s, newly formed DARPA was engaged in genetically modifying jungle vipers to sniff out and attack enemy guerrillas hiding in tropical environments. The snakes proved too unpredictable and too lethal to use in any sort of practical military situation and so the remaining batches of these deadly "ultra-snakes" were remanded to Reptile Zoo, where they became a permanent part of the collection. It was also around this time that the park officially changed its name to Reptile Zoo.

In 1981, then owner George Kimbrell retired and sold the facility to a shadowy investment firm who would prefer to remain anonymous. It was four years later, in 1985, that the latest renovations to some of the buildings in the park were completed.


We are proud to say that Reptile Zoo currently houses one of the most unique collections of creatures in the world, thanks in no small part to various genetic experiments, generations of inbreeding and dubious levels of mercury in the water. Not only do our animals defy the laws of god and nature, but also several state and federal ones as well.

We continue to confidently move forward, always working to uphold our animal collection's founding motto- "if it dies, just buy a new one", as we precariously straddle the line between reputable zoological organization and roadside carnival freak show. And while much of the facility may have fallen into disrepair during the last several decades, we are still "technically" open for business and our small, underpaid but committed staff of "professionals" work diligently to ensure the public's safety by keeping all of the various monstrosities from leaving the grounds and running amok on an unsuspecting world. But they could sure use your help. So why not reward their efforts by stopping by and perhaps even donating a little bit or buying a souvenir t-shirt; thus keeping the doors open and the lights on for another day.

It's educational fun for the whole family and we're conveniently located on an undisclosed back road of the Lone Star State. So come on down to Reptile Zoo and see what all the screamin's about!


12:21 AM on 09.23.2014

End of Steam Greenlight?

It has been over a year since Gabe Newell, the founder of Valve, first began expressing his desire to phase out the Steam Greenlight system, and now it might be happening.

At the time of this writing, the latest batch of games to be Greenlit was on August 1; 53 days ago, and only consisted of a total of 50 games. This is in contrast to several consecutive batches of 75 games which had been being Greenlit, a few times a month.

At least 100 games where Greenlit during each month, from December 2013 to June 2014. And yet since July 12, only those 50 games have been allowed through Greenlight. This sharp decline in games being allowed through that system could imply that the Greenlight method of allowing games onto the Steam distribution service, may finally be over.

This seems to be even more likely as today Steam launched its Discovery Update, providing new features for the service that would seem to be designed to help users to better navigate its large numbers of game titles. The reason that this would seem to indicate the death of the Greenlight system, is that the replacement for Greenlight (which essentially lets users vote on which games they would like to see on the Steam platform) might very well be no significant barriers to entry to Steam at all.

Based on things that Newell and others have said previously, it would seem that Valve has been leaning increasingly towards opening up access to Steam to as many games as possible. But with such an influx of new games and no real "gatekeeper", there will predictably be a massive sea of inferior products flooding Steam. And so we can surmise that many of the changes introduced in this latest Discovery Update are being implemented in order to help the cream rise to the surface, and to assist users in finding the types of games that they want.

Without such measures, users of the Steam service would be completely overwhelmed by the massive influx of games of all varying types of quality that would inevitably end up on the site. But the question is will these measures actually work and will these changes be sufficient enough to allow users to effectively navigate the massive swell of new games on the platform? Steam users already complained earlier this year about the increased number of games being Greenlit, and so it will be interesting to see what happens if Valve completely opens the floodgates to any and all games that might want to be on the platform.

While these recent events, and their possible outcomes should be of definite concern to Steam users, as an indie developer, I have some concerns of my own. Steam is by far the largest distribution platform for PC games and that's much of its value. But what happens to the value of getting on Steam if it becomes completely saturated with so many different titles that users cannot properly navigate it to find the quality games that they're looking for? The more games that get on the platform, the more difficult it is to be successful on it and at a certain point of mass saturation, the platform itself becomes increasingly worthless to an indie dev. As it is, Steam has become much more competitive than it once was and it is more difficult to make money on there than it was a year ago.

But more problematic is the fact that there is no real alternative. Although just getting on Steam is no guarantee of success, being on Steam is still almost necessary for any type of success; there really is no substitute for it. And if the value of being on that platform decreases, there really isn't another good alternative. As someone who is planning on releasing their next game within the next year (that would be Reptile Zoo: The Sinister Mutation), this is something that I'm personally concerned about.

Of course despite the fact that nothing has been Greenlit in over a month, Greenlight has not been officially discontinued yet and therefore much of this is just speculation. Both users and developers will still have to wait and see what Valve has planned, exactly. But it is apparent that something is in the works.

With the new "Curators" feature included with this latest update, it is hard to predict exactly what will happen. It will be interesting to see how this will affect things and which collections will gain popularity. I suspect that the Curators feature may even give rise to some new stars in this sphere of gaming popularity. Whether that and other features which were introduced in this new Discovery Update will sufficiently help users to filter through the platform's extensive list of games, has yet to be seen. Much of this would seem to be somewhat experimental.

All I can say is that both from a user and developer standpoint, I sincerely hope that Valve knows what they're doing.


4:42 PM on 08.26.2014

Odds and Ends and Moving Plants

The game that we are in the process of developing, Reptile Zoo: The Sinister Mutation, contains quite a few art assets. This is an entire environment that must be populated with scenery, terrains, objects, foliage, buildings and wildlife. To make a 3D game like this requires a whole succession of various props to occupy the space in this virtual world, and most of those objects are pretty mundane.
As the person who is responsible for all of the art in the game, it's my job to design and create everything that will go into it. However, as you can imagine most of it is not really worth showing off. If you really think about it, most of the props that go into populating a world like this are not going to be particularly interesting to look at on their own. This is one of the reasons why I don't often show off a lot of the work that I do in these blogs. Basically I don't want to bore you with the latest ground/dirt texture that I just made. And so you can assume that that is the kind of thing that I'm up to when I'm not showing off some cooler stuff.
However, I do find these kinds of details to be very important. As you can see from some of the concept art that I've posted in some of the previous blogs, there's a very distinctive "feel" and look that I want for the game, and as with any video game, it's only going to be as good as the sum of its parts. If I want to capture a specific kind of aesthetic, it's important that all of the individual elements work together and that is why I like to try and put special care into everything and make sure that it all works well together stylistically.
 Fortunately, I do have a couple of slightly more interesting things that I've done that I can show off now. The first is a somewhat weathered looking wooden bridge that will appear in the game.  It is still in its modeling program and still needs some details added to it before it is truly complete.  The second image is of a stone wall with a rusted iron fence which has been set in the larger game environment.  It also doesn't have its complete texture mapping yet, and is therefore still a work in progress, but it gives you an idea of what we're up to ( this blog is here to let you follow along with the game's development, after all). 

Interactive Foliage
Speaking of which, the second person working on the game, its programmer, has also been making some steady progress on his end.  Lately he's been working on a system that will allow the plant life to move and react to the player (or the AI monster) whenever a bush or similar object is bumped into.  Basically we want the plants in the game to "rustle" whenever something bumps into them or brushes by them, the way that they would in real life. 
This is a bit more complicated than you might initially think.  This system has to be programmed to factor in things like the speed and force of the collision with the plant, as well as the direction of the collision relative to the plant, and of course how the plant will "react" to those things.  And the system has to work with all of the different types of plants in the game. Many different factors and testing have to be put into this system in order for it to function correctly and look right. 
Of course we're not just doing this because it looks cool; there is also a more serious gameplay element to this.  If you recall, Reptile Zoo has a lot of stealth gameplay.  The player must try to avoid the predatory creature and survive this frightening experience. Much of the game is going to occur in a series of large outdoor exhibits filled with plant-life. The plants will serve as a "giveaway" for both the player and the hunter.  One wrong move will alert the creature to where the player is, and in turn the player will have a better idea of where the monster is, by seeing and hearing its movement among the foliage.
The plants will be able to work as cover to hide behind, but if you run into them they will also make noise and move, thus potentially giving away your position.  The physical movement of the plants will be linked to the sound effects system, and it will all have to work in unison to create a realistic effect of the plants reacting as you move through them.  Combine this with the additional programming of the A. I. having to respond to this sound and movement in an intelligent and realistic way, that's also fair to the player, and you have a whole lot of fairly complex, custom game programming going on here.  I'm really hoping that you guys will enjoy the results (or at least be terrified by them, in the good way!).   read

5:46 PM on 07.25.2014

Prominent Structures

Our upcoming horror game Reptile Zoo: The Sinister Mutation relies very heavily on its environment to provide the necessary creepy and disturbing feeling that we're going for. There are going to be a few distinctive "showpiece" areas within the game and these will feature some of the more prominent structures and props that you will find in this game world. These are what I've been working on recently.
With this post, I'm including a couple of work-in-progress shots of two of these kinds of structures. The first is the gazebo, which has been placed in the larger game environment. The second is the bridge, which is still in the modeling program. Neither of these objects have the correct lighting, and some of the details and texture mapping that you will see on them in the final game is missing. They still need a bit more work but I just wanted to share what I've done with them so far. For reference, I'm also including the piece of concept art that I did for the bridge area, to give you an idea of what it should look like in the final game.

You can see that both objects feature a certain kind of stone work texture, which is something that you will see frequently in the environment of Reptile Zoo. I will actually be using multiple different types of stone textures and patterns for different parts of the game, but hopefully this will create a feeling of realistic continuity among the different objects and structures, so that it is clear that this is all the same facility. The inspiration for some of this stonework came from real places, which I will address in another blog.

The goal of the basic look of the structures is to create a creepy and unsettling atmosphere for the player to move around in, while at the same time allowing it to resemble what could easily be a real place, with these types of real objects. We want the game to feel scary, but at the same time we want it to also resemble the grounds of a real aging zoological facility. Ideally, the environments should be frightening but also eerily familiar, like a slightly skewed version of a real zoo that you might see in a dream (or nightmare). Feel free to give me any feedback and let me know how you think I'm doing on this.   read

5:57 AM on 07.09.2014

Update & First Screen Shots

Lately we've been focusing a bit more on the environments of our upcoming game Reptile Zoo: The Sinister Mutation. We've made a lot of progress in creating various textures for some of the environments, as well as doing a few preliminary mockups and tests for some of the areas that will be in the game.
Included in this post, we have some examples of this. Two of these images are from one of the outdoor paddock areas and one is from an indoor section of the main reptile house building.

None of these areas are complete yet and what we have so far is mainly for testing purposes. But they should give you some idea of the direction that we're going in and allow you to follow along and see how things progress and develop.   read

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