Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sisters Huge Update - Storyline, new download links and Week of Horror!

It's been some time since the last update. I've been pretty busy on personal stuff and couldn't find time to write new posts. Although the released version is still the same, the project is far ahead and I'm almost finishing one of the game endings, yes, one of them.
That being said, there are some huge updates I need to talk about, most of them regarding the game story (thanks Andy!). I'm trying to get Sisters to participate the Week of Horror event, so I wrote this small document and divided in small sections to keep it organized and easy to read.

Also, I finally found a better way to upload my game versions. I created a profile on GameJolt for Sisters, I'll be uploading the game there and linking the download page here. Now it's completely secure and I no longer need to keep heavy files sitting at my Dropbox account. The link will be at the end of the post, as usual.

Hope you enjoy it, if you have any ideas just contact me.

Sisters is a mix of successful horror concepts all into a singular horror game. It has a strong storyline/backstory, full game immersion characteristics, randomness factor to surprise the players, high replay value(multiple endings), puzzle solving and of course, jump scares.

The game is designed to be short, you can beat it in less than one hour. To make a fair tradeoff to this factor, a couple of endings are possible, so the game has more than one way to be completed. The story will change accordingly to the player's decisions and actions.

Sisters - They are watching you.

There are some information regarding the current version of the game, it's a pre-alpha prototype to test immersion, environment, enemy AI and some small features. All the notes, licenses and known bugs are included on the game download (README.txt and the Licenses folder).
Keep in mind that most of the information given below is not fully implemented yet, since the game is on a early stage of development.

In Sisters you play a man that calls himself “Father”. In the first cutscene he explains why he is there and what are his reasons and objectives.

He mastered the ritual of exorcism long time ago and developed a strong sense of evil presence. The place caught his attention because it exuded negativity, he felt attracted to it, a strong urge to cleanse the area. He is devoting his life in this mission and he won't stop until the evil entities that haunt the place are gone, back to the hell they spawned from.

Mid-game and play through
At start, your only item is a flashlight. Use that to explore the areas and find the other items you will need in order to complete the game. There are several items spread around the map, most of them are items used in the exorcism ritual (cross, bible, etc), well, most of them. You will also find some notes explaining some of the story and giving 'hints'.

While exploring you need to be careful, or they will find you. The girls are always looking for you..

The premise of the game is that the spirits are immortal unless bound to a physical object, their vessel on the real world. Spirits will only attach themselves to objects that once they considered important or special. Once they are bound to an object, you can successfully perform the ritual and finally banish them.
The end of the story depends on your play through. But don't expect happy outcomes to this particular story.


The game version is the same as the last post. (working hard on the next release, soon enough)
Link to download the lastest playable version of the game:
GameJolt - Sisters  - just hit the download button, it will automatically detect and download the game for your operational system.
Keep in mind that the game is still under development, so there will be bugs. Read 'readme.txt' file before playing for more info.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

First gameplay video + Mac version

As I promised earlier this week, I made a short YouTube video showing some new features and gameplay content about Sisters. Hope you guys enjoy it.

In the footage you can see some of the features already working on the game, areas to explore, structures, 3D models, the flashlight, riddles, also a bonus of one of the girls. I cut the long walking parts to make it simpler, focused on the important stuff.
For some reason the audio didn't take. I don't feel like it's interesting to show some features without the audio, so I removed the part where I show the insanity effects (heartbeats) and some places where audio is necessary to keep the tense atmosphere.

It's my first uploaded video and I've never done recording nor editing before, I hope it's enough to make a good impression of the game that I have so far. The quality is a bit off and my editing is not perfect, but it's better than I thought it would be. I appreciate if you give me any feedback so I can keep improving the game and the content I create about it.

Also, I'd like to share a link to the Mac version of the game, since most of the viewers are Mac users, I must add this version to the options. Now it's available for every system.

I don't have any website to host my game, so my only option is to upload it on my dropbox, I guarantee it's completely safe to download but I will find a better host as soon as I can.
Link to download the latest playable version of the game:
Keep in mind that the game is still under development, so there will be bugs. Read 'readme.txt' file before playing for more info.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Blog's statistics & content review

Now that the blog is running for almost a month, I can start improving the blog based on viewer's statistics and some feedback given by a few people who contacted me.

My pageviews by operating systems are 62% Macs, 26% Windows, 1% Linux and some amount % of Mobile OS. Those numbers made me realize that I didn't even released a version of Sisters for Mac users, my main viewer's OS. I'll fix this on the next post and add some gameplay content as well. 

Pageviews by Operating Systems infograph - 14/10/2014

It's been pointed out that my blog explains the progression and changes I make to the game Sisters, but most of that is just theory and thoughts. There is no actually mention about the gameplay. I'll work on that on my next post, I'll try to record a video, show some features, explain areas, etc. From now on I'll balance the post's content about game theory/progression and gameplay material.

I still need to figure out how to record and edit videos, make something decent and will upload it as soon as I can.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Projects - Sisters #2

It's been only a week since my last post and it's crazy how so much have happened in a so short period of time. This week I dedicated most of my free time discussing ideas and trying to implement and make them work on Sisters.

It all began with a gameplay video Hamenopi made of Sisters. I couldn't imagine how awesome and helpful it would be for me to watch a video of someone playing my game. It helped me A LOT to realize things that I would never figure out by myself.
I test the game countless times a day, but it's nothing compared to someone who's not familiarized with your code and doesn't even know the game map. Every time I play the game, I go strictly to the point I want to test and do the exact correct action expected. I made a secret door, of course I know where it is and how I activate it, but... is the trigger on a good spot? How do I expect players to know why is that door opening? From what I experienced, you can just smash the buttons searching for the switch and if you are lucky enough you will find it. The same can be applied for the puzzles and riddles, if I make a puzzle that can be solved based on luck, how would the player know he solved it?
So I spent some time reworking trigger ranges, doors colliders, general objects positioning, basically everything I wanted to be easy to find and easy to interact with.
Those were some of the points made regarding the game design after watching the gameplay video and talking to some friends. I'll talk of each major change individually, to explain in detail what's going on.

An important topic to talk about is the change of the player's only tool to light the way, the torch. I don't know why it took me so long to realize the torch wasn't a good element inside the game, I was carrying this burden and didn't even know why.
Firstly, the torch was using 1/3 of the screen to nonstop render a flame animation right in front of the main camera. This is terrible for performance, screen visualization, lighting, damn.. so many bad things I can think of.
Secondly, I don't need to work on the wooden grip animation anymore, I tried improving that, but the transitions between idle and sprint animations were really bad. Also, that torch had a magic switch where you could light it up from nothing, so realistic..
Thirdly, why would someone use a torch when there is a lamp post pretty much anywhere? A flashlight makes much more sense. The torch would've been a good thing if there were no electricity, or if the game were medieval, I mean, some specific cases where there is no other option.
The fourthly and last reason, the flashlight helps a lot on the jump scare factor. The vision angle is almost half than before, you can only see the center of the screen, your sideways are very dark and mysterious. The sight distance is much higher, good for map exploring and gameplay in general. Both of them combined are perfect to build a suspense atmosphere.
I think I can go on with this forever, but I'm done talking about it, goodbye old torch.

Flashlight effects - Sister's in-game screenshot

I've made some updates on the Sister's AI too, always increasing the random factor. I want to get to a point where even I, the creator of them, get unexpectedly caught and scared. I must admit it happened few times already.
It was a calm and warm night, I was casually play-testing something and totally forgot about the Sisters, then, the inevitable happens, "Hm... maybe I should move this door a bit to the riOMFG!!!".....Out of nowhere she appeared, I don't know how I didn't see that one coming. 
"I'm not touching your code tonight" Yes, I grounded them for the night.

Anyway, back to updates. I started working on some puzzles and riddles, developing some ideas that will make the game more interesting, especially when talking about replay value.
My game is considerably short, therefore I want to make something you can replay and still have fun. To do such, I will be working on several puzzles solutions, their results can be combined in order to generate an alternative ending or path.

THeRe Is no Good way - can you solve this mini riddle ?

I consider events that get triggered considering your past decisions a very good technique to make a game not linear, 'replayable'. People can play the same game over and over again just to see what happens if he chooses another way, especially when talking about a short game. If I really decide to go down this road, I'll need a lot of inspiration and storytelling skills. Soon enough I'll be on vacation and have plenty of time to study and develop this idea. 

I'm working on a friend's suggestion on sanity regeneration. After some discussions on the matter, I decided to try and implement it. The main idea is to create a sanity source. While the player is close to it, he regenerates sanity faster. The source would be located on a corner of the map, away from the game dangers.. The end-game areas are far away from the source, therefore, less affected by the sanity regeneration multiplier, making it progressively harder as you explore and progress.
The visual representation of the sanity source can be anything that reminds the player of something good, currently I'm starting to build a lighthouse, but it's not definitive yet.

There are also some minor changes that I won't get into much detail. The in-game menu is improved, game pauses when it is opened and some options are now available, like mouse sensitivity and sound volume. The remaining changes are all inside the game code, some tweaks and little adjustments.
I also started working on a game opening scene and a splash screen with my logo, unfortunately my insane Photoshop & Blender skills makes me very limited on this subject.

Cup of coffee for the splash screen - made on Blender

The original idea was to make a hot cup of coffee, which represents the Java language and of course, coffee. The cup holder forms the letter 'P', my initial. I have some ideas to make it better, but my lack of skills and knowledge won't let me, at least for now.

I'd like to sincerely thank those who are helping me and contributing in some way. This keeps me motivated and hopefully I won't disappoint you.

If you have any feedback, please contact me.

I don't have any website to host my game, so my only option is to upload it on my dropbox, I guarantee it's completely safe to download but I will find a better way as soon as I can.
Link to download the latest playable version of the game:
Keep in mind that the game is still under development, so there will be bugs. Read 'readme.txt' file before playing for more info.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Projects - Sisters #1

I was planning on making posts on a chronological order, but then I thought of something. It's interesting that before making posts about my old projects, I write this one about my current project. The reason is that everything is still fresh in my head and I can document easier. I'm having some trouble trying to remind the problems I ran into on my old projects since it's been some time and they are on stand-by now. I'll need to do some digging on old codes and specially more time to write those posts. Maybe it's better if I go reverse and talk about recent stuff before the old ones.  
That being said, I have a couple of projects I'm working on right now, the main one is the game Sisters.

Sisters is a psychological horror game where you play a defenceless character haunted by two sisters, as the name sugests. The place where it happens is an abandoned area containing a house and a small cemetery with a chapel, I still have 3/4 left of the map to do, but this is what I have so far.
The game storyline still a mystery, I have some ideas but there is no mention of story inside the game yet. I will work on an opening scene explaining the beginning, then as the player progress through the game the story will start making sense and the pieces of puzzles will fit together. 
The game doesn't have an objective yet, it will come along with the story, but I decided to go with puzzle solving kind of goal.

Main menu - Sisters

I've been reading a lot of articles and forums about horror games, I learnt a lot on some of those articles and decided to make some changes on my project. I'm adding some components that I find crucial for game immersion and connection between player and character, some of them are listed below.

The User Interface(UI) - on a previous version of the game, there was a stamina and sanity bar on the screen, the user could always check his stats by looking at the bars. This is not interesting on a horror game, it breaks the virtual reality immersion. So I removed those and instead of vision representation I might add sound response (heartbeats acceleration, breath change, vision blur, camera shake, etc). I realized that if the player only needs to pay attention to the game scene, I will need to work hard on the environment and graphics stuff, to make up for the lack of UI.

You go first.. - in-game screenshot

Another factor that I consider important is the intuitive and easy control commands of the character, so the player doesn't have to think of which button to press. From the moment that the player looks at his keyboard to interact with something, the connection is instantly broken, he gets out of the game atmosphere and back to real life, also not acceptable on a horror game. 

Finally, and the one I'm struggling most to learn, is the frequency which scary events happen. By scary events I mean jump scares, loud sounds and surprise events in general. I was reading this article and came across a quote:
"There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it." - Alfred Hitchcock
I realized this is the core of psychological horror, the main idea is build a tense atmosphere where the player's attention is raised at it's maximum level until you finally scare him. That's why is so important to dose correctly the frequency jump scares happen, if the player sees a sister too often, he will eventually get used to it and won't scare him anymore. However, if he doesn't see her at all, he will get comfortable with the suspense atmosphere, neither can happen. It needs to be balanced, so what's coming will always be unexpected.

I believe that if I follow the concepts mentioned above and dose the elements correctly, I can make a good horror game in the end.    

Link to download the latest playable version of the game:
Keep in mind that is still under development, so there will be lots of bugs. Read 'readme.txt' file for more info.