Saturday, July 14, 2012


As your Russian U-boats may have picked up, we're making another demo movie. Another? How about making the game itself, fool! Don't worry, unlike that Radar, the stuff inside the demo is actual game-content. Which also means it will be focused a bit more towards horror then. Don't expect a character running around with a weapon and doing complex interactions, we're not that far yet... Which is also pretty much the reason to make another demo; finding more people. At this pace, Tower22 will never be finished, or limited to a 4 store high retirement home.

Problem with T22 is that the intentions fall a bit between a full commercial game, and the relative simple/small Indy platform fun game. We're trying to accomplish a high quality horror game with good graphics, professional sound, and rich, lengthy gameplay. That goes far beyond the average Indy game that usually bets on just a few small sized, but addictive gameplay elements. Like… launching pigs as far as possible. Programming a 3D engine is obviously more work than a 2D (platform) engine. But also making the contents takes a lot more time. If someone mails me a sword made of 6 polygons with a blurry 128x128 texture, I'll send it back and tell him to shove that thing in his virtual ass. All assets need to look good, detailed, including specific dataMaps for all the shaders we have.

You don't have to be a genius to figure that will cost a lot of time, and filters out a lot of help-offers from artists that either have limited time, or not enough experience. That’s where the ridiculous budgets for nowadays commercial games come from. But here we expect magic to happen for free. Or as we would say in Holland “Voor een dubbeltje op de eerste rang willen zitten" (= not willing to pay more than a dime to sit on a first row seat)... Wouldn't it be smarter to adjust the requirements a bit? Accepting we're not a professional studio that can work 40+ hours per week on a game, having money for Freelancers and professionals? Tuning down the graphics a bit to get rooms and other contents faster done, having a wider choice of people who like to help? Making T22 less tall so it can be realized in a reasonable amount of time? Yeah folks, probably that would be a wise choice. But will I do it? Nah. Of course not.
Improved the glossy reflections a bit with higher-res sampling and blurry blurs. The small picture shows the actual reflection buffer. In the end-result, most of it dissapeared because materials such as wallpaper aren't really that reflective. Quite a lot effort for a stupid green dot below a litten wall.

About 20 to 30 hours are spend on T22 each week. Probably it would double if I would still live with my parents in a stinky bedroom + computer. It pretty much means that if I'm not sleeping, working, doing something with the family, drinking beer with friends, or sporting trying to burn that beer, pretty much ALL free time is reserved for T22. No TV, no early bed, no videogames, no daydreaming with a fishing rod somewhere, no reading books, no time for other hobbies. But I won't complain, because I love working on this project. Too bad other helpers don't spend that much time on T22, but I can't blame them as this project is not a lifework for them. Hopefully it will be one day :) Anyhow, the point is, if T22 wouldn't be the way it is now, I wouldn't spend that much time on it either. If it would be reduced to a simplified “budget” game, I simply wouldn't be motivated probably. And I wonder if the other artists would really like spend too much energy on simple stuff they can do with their eyes closed. Modeling a cardboard box instead of a dumptruck. Composing a monotome 8-bit background tune instead of an orchestra. All of us want to learn and to improve.

Sure, it certainly can be a relief to make something simple, with short-term results. It's like mcDonalds. No waiting, no bullshit, just stuff that hamburger, be happy, and feel like a ho 10 minutes later. But don't be fooled, also a 2D Indy game involves more work than you think. At least, if it's a GOOD one. Quickly setting up a playable framework might be possible in weeks or even days. But making the core elements work really well still requires attractive art, tasty sound and very well tuned programming work. I did quite a lot of smaller games before T22. But usually after a few months, I would get bored. So much effort, for such a small game that doesn't really, REALLY interest me anyway. Tower22 is a much more difficult/impossible task, but I know I will like the results, even if it's only demo movies for now. And that makes it worth to keep going.

Yet, we got to be a bit realistic. All cool and the Gang, but without an end-product or soon-to-be-realized goals, you still have nothing in your hands but dreams. And letting both the team and you (the gamer) believe in those dreams is difficult with such far-away targets. Why would one spend a lot of effort in something that is likely not going to be finished anyway? The irony is that if they all would forget that argument and just start and do a lot, such a goal would be suddenly a whole lot more realistic. But ok, that’s not how motivation works. I always tell the team it requires momentum to get things done. There is a big rusty iron ball laying in the dirt. If you start pushing all alone, you'll break your back. Instead, all of us have to push, at the same time. But once rolling, it's easier to give it an extra push to keep it rolling. Makes sense, but to get them pushing, I still need to explain them why they should push. Preferably I’ll provide sub-targets that are worth doing, even if T22 as an end-product would fail. Learning something new, making a monster you really like. And making a demo movie is also one of those things. It's always nice to show your friends or future work a little "portfolio" movie, right?

As for the longer-term, there are plans as well. But don't tell anybody, these are classified of course:
1.- If the next demo movie is good enough, I'll poke it to a popular games-magazine as well. Hopefully that will generate attention to a wider audience, which hopefully gives us more artists with talent + time on their hands. Because that is what we really, really need right now.

2.- Eventually even more demo's are made if needed. To use as testcases for certain programming tasks, to get more attention, and to please ourselves of course.

3.- Although the game is complex, it does not contain full CG movies, super advanced animations, tons of enemies, complete orchestras, dialogs requiring professional voice-actors and lip-syncing techniques, or ground breaking techniques. Just making the environment & a working engine is the biggest part.

4.- We won't make the full game right away. The plan is to create about one-third of the game (the easier sections first), and release it as an Indy, or even free, game. If received well, it creates possibilities for the second part. If people are wildly enthusiast, getting more (professional) help and a budget should be easier. And if not, a man has got to know when to stop.

5.- You can't buy luck, but money certainly makes things easier. If the progress on the first "episode" is finally going well, meaning we made a substantial part and I’m able to plan forward, I might open the doors for donations (via Kickstarter or something). That's probably not enough to drive cars and feed the family, but if I can pay a few bucks per asset, it certainly helps the artists to reserve some extra time for it.

That's pretty much the Battleplan in a nutshell. But before we get that far, we need to create some game content and that third demo movie first of course. Hey... any new pics from that Demo? I'd love to share everything, but there is a reason why game companies always keep mysterious: reveal too much and it won't be a surprise anymore. Then again, if you show nothing at all, you'll miss the audience as well. People won't wait forever!

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