Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dev Notes: Animations and Rigid Bodies

Wow! What a great week. I started knowing what I had to accomplish (adding character to the chess pieces via animation), but had no idea if (a) it would work and (b) how to actually do it. And then when I got (a) and (b) done, I had to worry about (c) getting it into the game!

I'm happy to report that the results are in, and measured by the "it feels good" meter, animating the chess pieces and tying that to a rigid body collision system really hits the mark.

The Pawn, for example, hops around from space to space, with a little squish and squash action on his base as he does so. And of course, he headbutts pieces he's trying to capture. Spunky little guy, isn't he? The rest of the pieces each have their own "personality" and set of animations. I can't wait to show you!


Two other great things happened this week: my good friend Corey gave me a CD of musical "sketches" of him trying to hone the dual themes of the game: the bright, clear sounds of the Light side, and the heavy, warm sounds of the Dark side. It sounds great so far. He is a gifted musician, and I'm incredibly honored he will be taking the time to help me out on this.

I also sat down with my friend Jim, a senior designer at Zynga, for the first ever playthrough! Jim gave me clear-headed, well-articulated design critiques and suggestions that are extremely valuable. But the key emotional takeaways for me were the words "I'm impressed" and "It feels good to capture pieces." Rock on! Especially since I'd only finished integrating the animation system that morning. :D


Jim also helped me figure out exactly what Chess Heroes is, in terms of genre classification. I was straddling the line between Tactics and Strategy, but it didn't really fit the definitions, and I wasn't comfortable with the "high concept" summary. But he helped me realize that, based on the scenarios I've designed, it's a "tactical puzzle" game. I've crafted each scenario with specific intentions in mind, and hopefully this will clear up any confusion from future players.

That's not to say I can't shift gears later, and offer a more strategic take in later builds or acts, such as a meta-design similar to the classic Heroes of Might and Magic. Time (and feedback!) will tell!

Market Penetration!

Ew! Really? Ok. Um.

I had to rejigger the website for Oreganik (it was pretty... boring) and make one for Chess Heroes. There's also a Facebook page, so please Like it if you'd like to get the updates and occasional funny game-related news snippets.


I'm actually writing this on Saturday, as I've shifted to a 7-day workweek schedule until the Seattle Indies Expo (SIX) is over. I was stoked to discover it will be next door to PAX, so if you're there on Sunday, please drop by and say hello!

Here's the hit list for the week. I'm considering posting the remaining list online. If I get a SINGLE E-MAIL saying that would be good idea, I'll do it. :)

  • New Business cards
  • Get info on SIX turnout, layout, etc
  • Buy set of warm gray Copic markers

  • Set up Facebook page
  • Create website ( features, summary, supported by, SIX3 blurb, launch date, Google analytics
  • update
  • Update sword in logo (VERY IMPORTANT: the first sword was clip art off the internet! now it's all 100% original)
  • Update logo in game and all websites
  • Dev Blog Update (hello!)

  • Contact Humble Store (no response! *sadface*)
  • Contact Fastspring

  • Capture intro and send to Corey for music
  • Hi-rez models of Knight, Queen, and Rook
  • UV and Ambient Occlusion pass on King, Queen, Pawn, Rook, Bishop, Knight
  • Light and Dark textures for King, Queen, Pawn, Rook, Bishop, Knight
  • Add support for Dark textures
  • Integrate animation system into game
  • Animate move and capture for King, Queen, Pawn, Rook, Bishop, Knight
  • Re-make Outline models for King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Rook, Pawn
  • Bug: Fix tutorial arrow placement on screen
  • Playthrough and notes

Monday, August 12, 2013

Dev Notes: The road to SIX

On Sunday, September 1st, Chess Heroes will make its first public appearance at SIX3, the Seattle Indie Expo. This was not part of "the plan" until it was announced, but I feel like I can have the build in presentable shape by then.

So! Thus begins the Road to SIX. And, honestly, the journey started last Monday, so we're halfway to TWO or something. I have a laundry list of stuff to do, and here's a list of what was accomplished last week.


  • Value study of the Castle (this is where I use shades of gray to "sketch out" what will eventually be color values on the model. It helps makes things cohesive when actual color gets involved)
  • Windmill Model and value study
  • New chess piece model: Pawn King
  • New chess piece model: Harbor King
  • New chess piece model: Scarecrow
  • Hi-rez King
  • Hi-rez Pawn
  • Hi-rez Bishop
  • Hi-rez version of Oreganik Logo

  • Created an in-game cinematic system for camera and actor control
  • Scripted the intro sequence.
  • Added "boss battles"
  • Integrated the Pawn King, Harbor King, and Scarecrow
  • Added Boss Ability functionality (sort of like a unique spell)
  • Created a boss ability called "Riptide" (it pulls pieces towards the boss, and they can be swept off the board)
  • Created a boss ability called "Wither" (shrinks pieces on the XZ axes and limits their movement to one space)
  • Finished the demo scenarios for Castle
  • Finished the demo scenarios for Harbor
  • Finished the demo scenarios for Granary
  • Switched demo flow a bit, changed the order you get certain spells and abilities
  • Discovered and fixed a handful of bugs
This week I'll focus on re-modeling and texturing all of the chess pieces, then animating them in game, to give them a bit of "life." (the example I give is Pixar's wonderful short "Luxo Jr.") I also need to set up business stuff so I can accept money for the game! Very important.

On an unrelated note, even though the game code framework is holding together, and I can add new features (like boss battles) fairly seamlessly, I am fighting a huge desire to go back and re-engineer the game "properly" now that I understand exactly what it is I'm making! I understand this is common...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Office Decor

I've begun adding little decorative touches to the Oreganik office (which is actually a desk in an tech incubator in Eugene). This is the old-school gamer version of high-brow art.

When I can justify the cost of buying the original Japanese boxes for these epics of the 16-bit era, well, that will just make it fancy. Pinkies up!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Dev Notes: Stage Art Update

I apologize for not posting steady updates, but things have been fairly busy at Chez Oreganik. (and it's pronounced "or-eh-gan-ik," as it's a portmanteaufromhell of Oregon and Organic with a special K at the end for technical clout)

I spent most of the day yesterday fine-tuning an algorithm to properly simulate the sea foam that's generated when ocean water pushes back and forth against pier posts. And, yes, it makes me giggle uproariously that I got to spend an entire day exploring an artistic expression of nature's mathematics. =)

If you remember the last post, things were very basic looking. It's getting better, I think. What you can't see is the motion of the ocean, which is on an exponential sine wave. It flows out, flows in, then settles for a moment before starting again. It feels like I remember the sea to be.

As for what's missing, shadows are definitely on the list, and that's going to be "free" once I get Unity pro. The look of the water is "eh." The colors are not be final, either, but then again, the board really "pops," so I'm still thinking about how to best represent the board squares (maybe as chalk outlines on the pier?) What's important is that all of the textures are hand-painted as tonal values, and I can go back and adjust in Photoshop as time permits.

The Harbor Stage of Chess Heroes (work in progress)
There are going to be three stages in the demo: a Castle, Harbor, and Granary. Today I restarted the Castle, as the old model wasn't really up to snuff. Here's today's progress:

The Castle Stage of Chess Heroes (3D Model, work in Progress)
The outer walls are very plain, but won't be seen in the game. However, most of the interior will be visible during the intro, so I spent time on the buildings to give them a bit of Mediterranean flair in the geometry. (you can't see too much of that at this angle however) The central tower is based off of the King piece, and will be featured in the intro and opening scenarios.

After I add props and get the tonal values locked down, I'll mock up the intro sequence to make sure everything looks good before investing time in textures. And after THAT comes a Windmill model for the Granary, and after THAT, well... I'll be done creating scenery for the demo!