It's good to be back here, writing this again. December was, as expected, a hectic month with most of it spent away from real work. It gave me a lot of time and space to think, especially about what I want to be doing long term. Or rather, how I want to be doing it. How sustainable is it to work alone? Should I keep putting all my life and energy into a huge project all by myself? Should I look for a work-life balance?
I have ideas, but not definite answers for these questions, and I'm slowly working them out. While I'm doing that, the small (?) break from Reverie and Rust continues on to its second month (oh and hey! Happy new year!)
I spent the first week of Jan wrapping up work on the v1.6 patch for Forgotten Fields, which is now complete and will be launched soon. Read more about it here.
I have since started working on a small side project that may or may not turn into a full game - I don't know at the moment. I intend to work on this at least throughout January, and if I feel it has legs, I'll give it another month or two to complete it and possibly launch it? We'll see!
Here's a preview:
More news to follow in the next post :)
Back again with update #3! This thing's catching some momentum, and I'm quite enjoying it tbf. Or maybe I just feel compelled and don't want to break the new habit, I don't know. Anyways, I'm back at the previously mentioned coffee shop, but I've spent 2 hours updating the Frostwood website and fixing up the mailing list sign up forms, and it's almost lunch time, so this is going to be a short one. I considered skipping the post, but then there'd be a big gap between the last one and the next (due to the previously mentioned vacations), so I decided to write one and keep it quick and short. Also, skipping would feel bad and the rest of my day would feel imbalanced. Compulsions :/
Regarding the vacations, I've been traveling! I was at the Andamans for the first week or so of December (visiting family) First time there, beautiful place:
The biggest realization I had during all this was that, my god, I do need to take big, frequent vacations. Sitting in the plane on the way there I felt more excited and inspired than I felt in a while. The change of place, schedule, scene does so much for productivity and positivity (which in turn helps productivity again) Positivity and feeling good is everything, it's a super power. So now the plan is to travel once every 3 months. I keep making these promises to myself to travel often. I never stick to them (even before the whole pandemic situation) Hopefully things work out moving forward!
In a week's time, I'll be heading home to Goa for Christmas. This is more regular home visiting stuff, less of a vacation, and I'll be working through it for the most part. Which brings me to what I've been working on:
What have I been working on?
I decided to not work on Reverie and Rust (the new horror game) while I was in the Andamans. There's new stuff that's been done since the last update, but I won't talk about it here. Instead I decided to go back and fix up and improve Forgotten Fields. The game didn't perform very well at launch, and some issues killed all the early momentum. The game has a lot of flaws (some that can't be fixed by patches), and overall the experience around it has been below satisfactory. It is something that bothers me (obviously) so with the benefit of some time and distance away from the game, I decided to go back and improve it, bring it to a level that I can at least be proud of. Read more about the upcoming changes here.
This "break" from the main game will continue for the rest of the month, and once I'm done with the patch for FF, I'll be turning my attention to a little side project. This is pretty exciting stuff, especially if you're a fan of one of my earlier games :)
To stay up to date on that, you can follow me on Twitter where I post quite regularly, or follow my newsletter:
Until next time!
It's almost exactly a month since the last post. I'd planned on being more regular but ehh, once a month isn't too bad! The good news is, the structure and productivity I'd talked about in that post hasn't abandoned, and I've been quite motivated throughout, mostly thanks to that structure.
And so, a month later, I'm back to the same cafe to gather my thoughts and look ahead. So once again, what's been up?
Notion continues to enhance my life
This may sound boring, but it's probably one of the most exciting new developments (okay, it's not, but only because the other stuff is even more exciting) Notion has taken over my planning, game design, and a bit of my life. What's excellent about it is the freedom it gives you in the way you get to organize all your info (tables, boards, calendars) and create hyperlinks to other pages. I've even been transferring my 25K word design document on to it, and it just makes things so much easier to read! I'm also using it to not only plan ahead, but also track how much time has been spent on what tasks, so that it's easier to judge and plan when I need to do similar tasks in the future (and this makes it a lot easier to write this post as well ha!) Lovely stuff:
In love with the industrial and brutal
Now as I'd already mentioned in the previous post, the game was going to be (in part) about abandoned places, but I didn't know how I was going to make this fit with the rest of the game. Just as background dressing maybe? Then in a flash of inspiration (probably, I don't really remember how I came upon it), I stumbled upon a solution. That's all I'm gonna say for now. But yeah, brutal architecture. Love it. It's gonna be in the game. Some screens:
It's all a bit dark, but I'm sure you get the idea. The greatest thing though, is a few days after working on these, I caught the movie Dune. The visuals absolutely blew me away - specifically the mix of brutal architecture and organic shapes! Some shots looked very similar to the stuff I've shared above. So of course, I went ahead and got myself the Dune art book. Good stuff:
We've got combat
One thing I really wanted to do in my previous projects was add more traditional gameplay mechanics, combat being one of them, but as a new dev, the idea intimidated me and I kept things simple. But now that I'm working on my third project and have some experience, I felt that it was time to give it a shot. I'm quite excited by how much it adds to the game!
But it's not just combat, there's also a very exciting mechanic related to dreams. That's all I can say at the moment! That's gonna be the theme for these blogs for a few months - there's just so much incomplete stuff that needs to be brought to a decent level before it can be talked about and announced!
Which brings us to the name. I've spent months going through, considering, adding and scrapping ideas for names, and through that have finally come upon one that I feel captures the atmosphere of the game, is unique, and also makes a lot of sense with the themes and the story: Reverie and Rust.
What do you think?
More work on the script
This week, I've had to return to working exclusively on the script again, adding lore, history, and filling in the big missing pieces. It's a complex plot, and the more upfront work done on the writing and the structuring, the better it'll all fit and flow together.
It's a long road
At a few points in the past week, I've felt the weight of the project. It's a big, heavy project, man! I've been tempted to take a month off, work on a smaller game or take part in a game jam. I don't know if I'll actually do that or just carry on working on this slowly and steadily. It's gonna be a long road, and looking ahead is somewhat intimidating. In a way I wish this was my first one - you just don't know what it's gonna be like and you never get tired! Either way, December is gonna be quite light work wise, there's a bit of travel and family visits planned. Think that'll be good. At the moment, I really feel like playing some Rocksmith. I'm loving learning the electric guitar through that, but I can hardly ever find the time for it. Maybe I'll do that today (or probably, I'll just get on with work)
It's also going to be a bit of a challenge maintaining finances through this project, as it's a long and (possibly) expensive one. I'll need to get a decent demo out soon and get some funding/ publishers on the project. But a decent demo requires time and money as well. Bit of a catch 22, but we'll figure it out, that's the indie dev life! Gotta keep on keeping on.
Back here with a devlog after a LONG time. It was a regular habit with Rainswept, but I totally neglected it during the development of Forgotten Fields. There's good reason to do both (to write or not to write) Does anyone really read these? (Not really) BUT, it does keep development focused, and these posts (especially newsletters) also add momentum to the overall marketing efforts. A dev can't just disappear during development and show up during release with a readymade game. In today's saturated market, you need to keep your project in the public eye throughout.
So hello! What's been up, you ask?
I started work on a horror project
After releasing Forgotten Fields in mid April, I spent two months at my parents place as I rode out the second wave here. One of those months was spent supporting the game, and all my free time and the next month was spent chilling, unwinding and catching up on video games. These were rainy months, and we were even hit by a very strong cyclone. I also finally played Silent Hill 2 (after listening to its amazing soundtrack for years) and it blew my mind. I spent every evening in the balcony after sunset, looking at the view across the horizon, while listening to the Resident Evil soundtrack. I don't remember the exact moment I decided to make a horror game but these experiences got me REALLY in the mood. Here's a video of the balcony along with some RE music and VHS effects :)
oved into a new studio apt alone, started meditating, journaling and have been having weird dreams
I'm not even kidding about that last one. The new place (moved into in June) has given me a LOT of time to sit alone and ponder and get lost in my work. It's a great place! You can even see a little bit of the beach from there. I finally started meditating as well - I've been adding it to my "to-do during vacations" lists for years now, but I guess it finally felt right to do it now thanks to the freedom that living alone brings. And my dreams have been more vivid and weirder than ever. I've also had these morning dreams that are based in my apartment (with me laying on my bed as in reality) where I see people in walking around or talking to me. In my apartment. No I'm not kidding. Yes it's kinda cool.
I've made good progress on the game, and it feels like a special one!
During the past 4 months, I've made a ton of good progress on the game. In short, it's an atmospheric, story driven horror game with themes related to morality, abandoned places, and dreams (of course) It's all set in a lonely hotel for the most part. There's a lot of more exciting details to be shared, but not yet. We don't even have a name yet! Silent Hill 2 is of course a big influence, especially when it comes to the style and cutscenes. But it's not a surface level imitation. It's also got some experimental and innovative game mechanics, and I'm pretty excited about that. I spent over a month purely working on the script, characters and overall lore. There's a ton of detail and depth to this story, as I felt that was lacking in my previous effort. I'm putting in all my time and effort to make sure this one is a really, really special one - it's gonna take time and I definitely won't be rushing it.
Until then, here are some early screenshots-
I've added some structure and balance to my life
Living and working solo as an indie dev can lead to things very quickly spiralling out of control. As we discovered during the past year, staying cooped up indoors all day without much of a structure can be difficult. During September I saw myself getting increasingly bored, feeling unmotivated and lying around getting not much work done - this despite being in love with and very excited about the new game idea. Forcing myself to be disciplined wasn't working out. But one day, chatting with a friend about a very successful game dev got me fired up - it gave me a goal to aim at, and emulate. The next day, by chance, I ended up going to a nearby cafe for a game of FIFA in the morning and had a great time. When I returned home in the afternoon, I found I felt completely energized and excited to get back to work.
It's obvious stuff and we hear about it all the time, but it's crazy how easy it is to fall into a pattern of staying cooped in, always working in the same way. Parties and night outs don't help - instead, changes to the daily work schedule and getting out and about during the day and getting back to work after can be super helpful. One easy way to do this is to make use of co working spaces, or just spend a few hours working in a cafe - and that is where I'm writing this from right now!
I've added weekly cafe working slots, possible (unrelated to work) workshops, and meetups - all of these things keep regular (non-party) life energized, and even add structure. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of days that all look the same, staying in and working. It's bound to hurt creativity.
I also got started with Notion during all this, and again, it's made work so much clearer, planned out and structured! I've always been a big fan of planning and to-do lists, but somehow fell off that as well in recent times. Structuring my plan out clearly on Notion has made me realize what a mistake that was.
For the next month or two, I will be focusing on making the first "act" of the game polished and playable, coming up with a name for the game, and getting the game in a state where it's good enough to be shared and shown around on social media etc, while also working on some of the new, exciting gameplay features I mentioned before. Mayyybe I'll also be posting (possibly shorter) updates every week from the cafe - structure, right?
I also really, really want to do something with the YouTube channel. It's gained a few subscribers, and I have thoughts I want to share! But there's only so much time, and the last time I tried recording something, it came out extremely awkward and I had to scrap it. Maybe I'll just turn these text blogs into shorter, monthly devlogs? What do you think? For now, catch this little soundtrack preview I uploaded recently:
If you want to make sure you don't miss any updates related to the new stuff, you can follow me on Twitter where I post quite regularly, or follow my newsletter:
Catch you next time!
We finally have a release date - April 14! That's less than 20 days from now!
To celebrate, here's a new teaser trailer:
The game has come a long, long way from the initial idea that began around late 2019, and a long way from what it was during the Kickstarter campaign as well. And it's all because of your support. As always, thank you!!
A very Merry Christmas and soon, - a happy new year to you guys!
It's been a long time since the last update. The good news is that this is because I was completely immersed and caught up in the development of the game, and now we're very, very close to getting it finished!
The complete story and all the puzzles, dialogs, etc have been finished, and I'm now working on the epilogue and the credits. After this, I'll move back down to the earlier scenes and finish off all the unfinished scenes - incomplete dialogs, models, and anything that's missing. Once that is done, I'll get started with polishing the game and making it prettier where possible, improve UI, etc. Finally, it'll be time for optimization and bug fixing!
Other than that, here's a glimpse at the new stuff that's been done since the last update -
First of all, I implemented Enviro - a weather and time cycle solution. This allows me to add beautiful dramatic skies to the game, and have cool weather effects! Here's a preview -
Comes in really handy for some cool closeups like this :) (the wet road itself is a different "wet" shader) I think the realistic look goes quite well with the rest of the simple aesthetic here!
Next, I worked on improving the visuals for the "storybook" sections, sticking close to an early Xbox 360 era action RPG style (lots of bloom!) inspired by games like Fable and Kingdoms of Amalur. Check it out in this gameplay video!
And here are some more gifs showing off this revised storybook art style -
A cozy fireplace,
And cold, mysterious woods-
That's all for this time! 2020 has been harder than any of us could've imagined - see you again in a (hopefully) much better 2021! :)
It's been a long while since the last devlog. True to the themes of Forgotten Fields' story, gathering momentum and and keeping work going at a steady pace can sometimes be really difficult, and - for me - if the core development work isn't flowing along at a quick pace, writing devlogs/ marketing etc becomes lower priority and falls by the wayside.
But having kept up development through this slow period, I now have a foundation of the new bits and can sprint through the remainder of the game - because there isn't much left!
We're now at the final scene - Sid's house. Sid is back home for the party that we've been moving towards since the opening. Of course, if you'd rather see the house when the game is out, then maybe skip this devlog.
The design for the house is something I've had in my mind from the beginning. It isn't something I'd planned for any specific reason, it's just the place that I saw while imagining the game's story.
So first of all, here's a stop motion video of me building the house, set to classical music, because why not?
With Sid's house (mostly) completed, the next step was to make the backdrop. While you can't really explore the neighborhood, it was important make the bits that are visible realistic and believable, in order to make the atmosphere feel cozy and lived in. I must admit, I got a bit more ambitious with this part than I'd planned. But I really loved creating the little neighborhood, and it was a great learning experience!
Here's some pictures of the neighborhood under construction. This area is of course, also inspired by the kind of places you'd see in Goa, while also maintaining some of that Ghibli flavor I've tried to have in the game from the beginning:
I've tried to add as many details as possible - wires, AC units, pavements, gutter covers, transformers, water tankers, satellite dishes - things that really make the neighborhood identifiable as set in India/ South Asia. I may add some more if possible!
After that, I went and got myself a plug in for the skies and the environmental/ ambient lighting system (Enviro Sky and Weather) which will help me change the time of the day during run time in this scene. It also pushes up the lighting quality up a notch!
Plus, it allows me to add some beautiful skies and clouds to the game. Check it out (along with some more great music by Micamic) in the video below!
Finally, having finished up the neighborhood and lit it up with some Realtime GI lights, the next step was to focus on improving the performance. Of course, the final optimization run will be done once the game is fully finished content wise, but I also don't want the game to chug during testing!
One of the steps I took was to dynamically turn off unnecessary lights in the neighborhood when the player isn't present in that spot/ when the camera can't see it. I did this by simply switching the lights on/off using triggers. So when the player is in the house, the lights in the front and back streets are turned off (and replaced by a single light to keep it lit when in the background), when the player is in the front street, the lights in the house and the backstreet are turned off, etc - you get the point.
Only, switching them on/off abruptly didn't look good, so I decided to fade the power of the lights in and out by animating the properties. This took a little time, but was totally worth it! The framerate improvement was also the same as switching the lights off. Check it out in the video below:
That's it for this time! The next devlog will probably be when the game is almost finished.
If you've got any thoughts/ feedback, I'd love to hear it - send me a mail or leave a comment! I'll see you guys in the next post :)
I've spent a lot of time working on the scene that the Forgotten Fields demo ends on - Ethan's house and the surrounding neighborhood area. A lot of that time has been spent on making this place feel atmospheric, warm and alive.
Fun backstory - the vibe of this place has been inspired by a random dead end road that my friends and I discovered after we got lost and took a wrong turn. It's a pretty basic spot, but it's also special - there are fields on one side of the road, two railway tracks that run parallel to the road on the other side, and some old houses a little distance away on the third side. This place has become one of our favorite hang out spots ever, and so of course, I decided to add it to the game.
The spot in monsoons-
The fields are golden and the rest of the foliage is brown in the drier months (which is when the game is set)
The focus of this post is on those previously mentioned trains, and how game dev is quite a bit like film making in that a lot of the things you see are actually illusions and magic. There's some weird stuff going on behind the scenes! If don't want to break immersion, maybe skip this post (or the last part of it) The trains are only set up as a part of the background to add atmosphere to the place and also as a reference to the place that has inspired this area in the game. You can't get on them!
Now first of all, The trains are set up as "NPCs" (through the plugin Adventure Creator) which basically allows me to set up their back and forth movement on the tracks using AC's "paths" system. This helps me avoid having to animate the trains. The paths system also has the option to pause at every node, which means that the trains won't be running back and forth all the time and will instead pass by at more realistic time intervals. Simple, but nifty.
The blue boxes or bogies on one of those trains are the typical sort you see in Indian passenger trains, and are immediately recognizable to anyone that has traveled by or ever seen them.
Having got the movement sorted, the next most important part to figure out was the sound of the trains passing by. This sound should only play when the train is close to the player.
To make sure that the sounds stop after the train is out of earshot, I set up these triggers (the red boxes) on either side of the playable area to recognize the train and only then turn the sound component on. The sound turns off automatically once the audio clip ends (it's about 20 seconds long only) as it is not set to loop. The triggers (also a part of AC) are set up to recognize if the sound is already playing, so that they don't launch the audio clip twice.
The sound component itself is attached to the train, twice - one at the head, near the engine, and one at the end, so that the audio plays continuously and seamlessly for the full duration of the train's passage past the player. Unity also allows you to set it up as a 3D sound with doppler effect. You can see it all in action here in this video -
I think it sounds pretty good!
Another fun little thing going on behind the scenes that amused me is that the house that you see in the picture below falls right on top of the tracks. This house is only seen once, in the shot seen below, and it had to be placed on that spot to fill up the scene and make the world seem more realistic.
Behind the scenes though, you've actually got trains running through it! But with the way the camera is set up (isometric) you'll never really see the train going into the house during gameplay. Check out the immersion breaking phenomenon below -
Thanks for reading, and see you in the next devlog! :)
A lot of progress has been made since the last devlog. I've spent the last week or so working on one of the most important exciting scenes of the game - the beach!
(Btw, I've saved the best part for the end of this post, so make sure to read till the end! BUT, skip it if you'd rather discover it yourself in the full game release :) )
One of the things I love about making games is that you get to sculpt an immersive, beautiful world, and that once you get in the flow it almost becomes a spiritual experience. Sculpting the land and laying an ocean over it felt surreal. Check it out in this timelapse video of the process -
For the water, I'm using the free, open source version of the Crest Ocean System, and the quality of this is excellent. I especially love the subsurface scattering effect that allows the waves to be illuminated by the sun, giving it that Assassin's Creed Black Flag or Sea of Thieves feel. One of the reasons why I love those games is the peaceful, beautiful atmosphere created by their oceans, so it's really exciting for me to have something of that sort.
One of the things I was disappointed about is the shoreline waves - my scene is on the beach, not the ocean, so waves on the shore are pretty important. By default, the shoreline remains pretty static in Crests, with nothing more than foam on the edges.
Not being a programmer and knowing nothing about shaders, I tried to improvise a solution - I added a GerstnerPatch (from one of the example scenes in Crests) and tweaked the settings to ramp up the waves and make them sharper only near the shoreline. Another issue is that by default the shoreline remains static - in reality on a beach, the water runs up and then back down the beach pretty prominently. To fix that I animated my ocean "plane" to move slowly up and down. Here's a video showing the process -
Now I had the beach set up and looking pretty great visually, I was pretty excited for the next bit - sound.
Back when I was lacking inspiration and unsure of what I wanted this game to be about, a visit to Goa (my home) gave me that much needed spark of inspiration, and a visit to my favorite beach was one of the most impactful moments of that trip. In that moment when I was floating in the water, I wished I could accurately share and experience how it actually feels to be floating in the ocean. And one of the most important aspect of this experience is the sound - the flappy sound that wet, bare feet make on wet sand, how the atmosphere sounds on the shore, how the waves crash when standing on the water's edge, how it changes when underwater, and how it suddenly breaks into a large, expansive sound as soon as you emerge from it.
For this I needed a more complex system than the one provided by default in Unity, as the default system only allows you to specify proximity to a sound source using spheres. The shoreline is a line, not a sphere, which meant I would have a mess of a 100 spheres everywhere denoting different zones.
To fix this, I got myself the Volumetric Audio asset - This (among other features) allows you to specify a custom shape for your audio source. Perfect!
Here's a video that shows the different audio zones as set up in the scene -
What do you think? There are 4 different zones set up playing sounds for 1) the wide, atmospheric sound of the overall ocean from a distance 2) the sound of waves crashing loudly when standing close them 3) underwater (heard in the next video) and 4) (my favorite) the wide, expansive sound you hear as soon as your ears pop when you come to the surface from underwater.
Like I promised, I've saved the best for last - first person mode. As you would've seen in the demo, the game switches to first person from time to time. Making this scene playable in first person was super important for me to create that immersion and the accurate feeling of being in the beach that I mentioned above.
With this, you're actually able to feel the movement of the water, the waves constantly crashing over your face, the constant change in sound as your head bobs under and over water, the sound of the wind on the shore, and wet feet on sand. Check it out -
Of course, some of the sounds still need a little tweaking and polishing. I think the first person video above really captures what I dreamed of creating and sharing that day on the beach, and I'm super excited about it :)
See you next time!
Welcome to the first devlog for Forgotten Fields! During the development of Rainswept, I kept quite a regular and detailed record of development through posts like these (24 of them!) and they were great not only for sharing information about my development process, but were also a great way of arranging my own thoughts about the game and feelings about the game's development. Kind of like a journal.
Development of this game has been quite different from that of Rainswept in many ways, and the lack of devlogs this time is one of them. I've just had my mind completely on making the game, and haven't had the time and energy for the other important bits like sharing progress on social media and here, through devlogs. Being only a handful of months away from release, we may not get more than a half dozen posts out, but something is better than nothing!
After wrapping up a successful Kickstarter campaign, I've hunkered down and put myself completely into making progress with the game. At the end of the demo, Sid reaches his friend Ethan's house - he's supposed to pick up some papers here, for his childhood home that's about to be sold off.
This area is much bigger than the previous two scenes, and is one where I feel like the game really shines. There's a few "quests", some interesting gameplay, and some warm, peaceful areas to explore outside Ethan's house as Sid waits for the paperwork to be finished.
But more importantly, you can pet the dog -
Apart from being a fun feature that everyone loves in games, and one that improves any game, I feel that having a pettable dog really adds to that warm, cozy and homely feeling that I'm going for with Forgotten Fields.
Another cool, fun feature that has been added to this area is a couple of NPCs playing football in the streets. If you've ever been to Goa, you'll immediately relate to the goal posts being indicated through bricks and slippers! Is this something you do in your part of the world too?
Here's a video showing the step by step process of how I went about adding details to this -
Finally, this devlog is numbered 0 because I wanted to keep this first, intro devlog short and focused on the introduction while also compiling the above (previously shared on social media) couple of clips here. I'll be posting the next post immediately after putting this one up, but I didn't want to merge the two as that would make it all too long. You can read that one here -
See you in the next one!
Hi, I'm Armaan, the creator of Rainswept and Forgotten Fields. On this blog, I post weekly updates about my games' development (or as often as possible!)