Are you comparing Shepard with the hero of Catyph?
If yes I’m flattered lol
But you know it’s not really the same design, except for the colors. It was already the case with ASA, I had made the comparison myself.
Also, I hope that the design of the suit is not the only thing you will remember from the gameplay video
And I’m actually mostly remembering from the gameplay video how great the visuals are.
Oh, I see why you compare with Shepard, but Mass Effect was not really my source of inspiration here (but I enjoyed the Mass Effect series)
There are so many designs of sci-fi spacesuits! I tried to create my own, even if yes, I found inspiration here and there… because, honestly, I’m not a character designer!
Some of the designs that inspired me:
Thanks for the nice words about the visuals in the video!
Very good job my friend, I’m impressed with the evolution of this second game. The improvements are incredible (the water effect in the screen is incredible), the music is superb, and the animations seems more fluids and natural.
Congratulations for this evolution and I hope you can go further in your future games
Thanks Vairon, I’m very happy that you came here and saw the result. I hope you’re doing well too!
Thanks to the AG staff, the gameplay video 1 was posted here : http://www.adventuregamers.com/videos/view/26533
Please watch it if you like Myst/Rhem games.
I think I will try to post here some pics of the development more often.
As a beginning, I will talk of the design of the hero. TimovieMan compared above the spacesuit of CATYPH with the one of commander Shepard from the Mass Effect series. It is true that I enjoyed Mass Effect and the suits from this series have an incredible design. It would be a lie to say that I didn’t get any inspiration from there: the black and red colors from the N7 suit work perfectly on the hero, and I liked it. However, as you can see on the 3 pics I posted previously, there are many sources of inspiration when it is question of sci-fi.
The spacesuit in CATYPH is a simple update of the one in ASA. This is how the model of ASA was created:
Now if you look closely at this picture, you will see that, except for the helmet and the main colors, the design is basically the same :
In the end, this is the final design for the hero of Catyph (you):
As you can see, it’s not really commander Shepard! As explained before, I’m not a character designer. One of the problems when you work on an indie game on your own, is that you are not exactly skilled for every step of the development, so you have to do your best!
Anyway, don’t forget that CATYPH is a 1st person adventure game. It means that you will never see the suit of the hero, except during the CG movies!
I don’t know if you liked the explanations on the creation of the hero posted previously, but I will continue explaining the project and its development. So I will quickly conclude about the hero:
The fact that the spacesuit is an update of the one in ASA is justified. Catyph and ASA are part of the same series that I called Black Cube. Even if you can play CATYPH without knowing anything of ASA, they both share a part of the very same world.
Same planet (Terra), same people. Same possibility of contact with an alien artifect: the black cube.
You can summarize the Black Cube series like this :
Discovery of mysterious Cubes, at different times and in different places, by a different hero.
ASA took place in 2057 aboard the ARK, a mysterious spaceship. Catyph takes place in 2062 on moon Tytaah. There’s only 5 years between the events of the 2 games, and as a result the technology of the Terrans didn’t evolve that much. The main evolution is the development of a new power that they called the Blue Matter.
It is logical that the spacesuit of the hero of Catyph is a simple update of the one in ASA (speaking of design).
Some of you could ask why we never see the face of the hero. This is made on purpose, because the hero can be anyone. Catyph is a 1st person game like Myst where you see through the eyes of the hero. The hero is You. You are in the spacesuit, taking decisions, exploring the strange regions of Tytaah and more.
As you may know if you follow this forum, Catyph the game is based on a short film with the same name: Catyph the film.
You can watch it here:
Now that we have our hero modeled in 3D with his new spacesuit, we can start talking of the development of the project. That was the purpose of the above short film Catyph: starting a new part of the Terran History.
I like to start a new game project with a short film, because it’s a good way to introduce the story on Vimeo, and see what people think of it.
If you saw my first short film 2011: A Space Adventure (that introduced ASA), you discovered the Black Cube and its strange power of teleportation. The main game ASA was taking place in a small environment, the Ark, an alien spaceship.
In Catyph I wanted to keep the space exploration idea, but with another aspect: the exploration of a whole planet - planet that is quite curious for several reasons. This planet, Catyph, has a specific moon called Tytaah where the hero lands in the end of the short film. One of the reasons why Tytaah is so special is that it’s the only moon of the solar system with a deep atmosphere, and it can be compared with the one of planet Terra at its origins. Terran people think that Tytaah could evolve and welcome life in the far future. So they sent you, with your new spacesuit, at the discovery of the Catyph system. You went through strange events, a kind of teleportation through a giant Black Cube followed by a long travel in a mysterious white area. The explanations will come in time. Finally you land on Tytaah.
This is the very beginning of Catyph. I will continue later and try to add some screenshots too. Sorry for the mistakes in the english translation. The texts in the final game will be revised by people from UK and/or US.
I continue with my explanations on the development of CATYPH.
Like every game, Catyph goes through various steps before the release.
These words, particularly ‘post-production’ are more common to film-making, but this is how I understand them:
The pre-production process is the step where you think of the whole project, gather ideas, put them in the right order, make illustrations.
In the case of Catyph, most of this happened during the creation of the short film. It includes the design of the hero, the ideas about the world (planets Terra, Catyph), and the story (Blue Matter, landing on Tytaah). I personally have 2 big steps in the Pre-productin part:
The Art direction was the one of the short film Catyph. It was a really good starting point for the game, because I knew exactly where I had to go in terms of design, environments, colors, technique.
This is where I think of the level design, the main puzzles, the way you will travel through this strange world. I start to define the number of areas, what they will look like, what is their main purpose and how they will interact with the story (or vice-versa).
The Visuals of the short film have been explained in the previous threads (character design, screenshots of the film…). There would probably be more to say so just ask if you have questions.
The Ideas, and the main puzzles, are just rough drawings on a sheet of paper and not really interesting to show. Most of the time, the ideas stay in my head, and I just draw the main shapes so I don’t forget what I wish to do.
What I call the Production should probably be called Development. It is the process where the whole game is being created, and it is usually the most difficult step. The Development, in the case of a pre-rendered 3D project, includes:
1 - modeling, texturing, rigging of the characters
2 - modeling, texturing, lighting of the environments
3 - animation, cameras position
4 - rendering
5 - compositing, editing
6 - export to game engine
7 - code, development, puzzle scripting
The steps 1 to 7 will be explained one by one in the next threads.
I’m not sure how I should really name the Post-Production step. The main idea is that I check the whole game I made during the Production process, and decide of the improvements I should do.
But the Post-Production is much more than fixing bugs and adding more features. It’s also an important part where I work on localisation, text proofing, audio. In fact everything that is not related to Graphics or Development can come here.
- text proofing
- music composition
- sound effects
- visual effects
- bugs fixing
The release is an important part because it will change the way people see the game and decide or not to buy it. If the game comes on a physical support (DVD), it can look more impressive than the digital one. There are many reasons to prepare this step very early. In fact, it should be prepared as soon as possible, during the very early development of the game, because spreading the world about the project, and convincing people of its quality can prove very, very difficult.
When an indie dev can be supported by a publisher, and on top of that has the luck to make a physical release, he has much more chances to make good sales. But is he still an ‘indie’ developer?
On top of that, working with a publisher is not the promise of a physical release (not at all). There are many small publishers who just help in communication and focus on a release on Steam (digital), which is already a very good help.
For that kind of support, they usually ask, at least, 50 or 40% of your sales. This has to be thought very carefully: it’s true that 50% is huge (when you think that the indie dev made the game on his own). But on the other hand, the weight of the publisher in communication is crucial and usually justifies the share. Just keep in mind that Steam (and others) will take 30%, and the taxes (depending on your country) can reach 20% or more.
In the same way, a dev that focuses on the digital version will have much more impact if he can sell his product on Steam or GOG, instead of a smaller shop (obvious). Steam is the most famous place to purchase games online, but selling your game on your own can take an awful lot of time, efforts and motivation. My previous game ASA was greenlit almost 1,5 year after I added it on Steam Greenlight. I have to admit that I had lost all hope to see it someday on Steam. Even now that it has been greenlit, there is an additional work of preparations, including papers to fill between the US and France for a matter of taxes. It can be complicated if you have to manage this alone.
That’s all for today. Next time I’ll skip the Pre-Production part (which is for me the work I did on the Catyph short film, and already explained previously).
So I will start talking of the most important :
Production, step 1: characters - with pictures to illustrate my work.
I am really looking forward to this game, Simon. I prefer reading commentary like this after I play the game so I won’t be posting or reading this thread until I have played it. Lack of posting doesn’t mean I am not interested.
I am really looking forward to this game, Simon. I prefer reading commentary like this after I play the game so I won’t be posting or reading this thread until I have played it. Lack of posting doesn’t mean I am not interested.
Thank you very much, I understand how you feel and don’t want to spoil the game. It’s great to know that you are looking forward to play it.
I’m very happy to explain how I proceed, but you don’t have to follow it now. In fact, I had in mind to share all of this as a free bonus PDF (making of) with the final release of CATYPH. It’s just an idea, maybe I won’t have the time or the possibility, but at leat, writing the text while I work on the game is easier for me, and I think it’s a good idea to do it here on AG. There might be people interested in indie game development?
PS: The next explanations will probably come next week-end.
BTW, Catyph is on Steam Greenlight, if anyone decided to support me Thanks!
Today I’m starting serious things, and try to explain the first step of the Production process : 1 - Characters.
If you work methodically, your design for the characters is already done on paper at this point of the project. You know basically what the main characters will look like, and you probably have some sketches of them.
In order to illustrate my explanations, I will take the example of one interesting character from Catyph. I could have chosen the hero in black suit, but we already discussed of him before. So I’ll introduce the character of Germinal.
Initial sketch and ideas
Germinal is a very mysterious man who rules on the system of Catyph. He lives on Tytaah like a God and it seems that he made all kinds of experiments on this moon. From time to time, he will get in touch with you and tell you his history. It is an important part of the scenario of the game, and also in the Black Cube series.
I wanted him to live in the darkness. We don’t know exactly his feelings, his face is hidden in the shadows. Is he a bad guy or not? What’s his purpose ? And on top of that, he has these yellow glowing eyes that can be scary. This is the result of the power of the Cube on his body. I liked this idea which reminded me of the character of Cloud in Final Fantasy VII, who was said to have strange glowing eyes because of the Mako energy.
But what happened to Germinal exactly? What does he want? Does this “fire” in his eyes represent anger?
These questions (for which I have the answers), are very important during the creation process. You should have created a profile of each character during the Pre-Production.
This is the initial sketch that I had made of Germinal, during the Pre-Production process.
As explained before I’m not a character designer (you can see my sketch above…). So I had to find references to get a better idea of the final look of Germinal before I modeled him in 3D. One of the first ideas was to make him look like Cloud from Final Fantasy VII, but Germinal has a dark side and would probably be more Vincent from the same game. There are many animation series (mangas) where you find heros with yellow eyes, but none of them really made me happy. So this time, and to be honest, my main reference became the Mass Effect series.
When I looked at my sketch of Germinal and imagined him in situation, telling his story, I immediately thought of the Illusive Man. However, the similarity between Catyph and Mass Effect ends here, and I think (and I hope) that Germinal has his own personality. He has his own background story.
I cannot show the exact steps of the modeling of Germinal for 2 good reasons:
1 - A big part of the 3D model was created by Beckoning Cat, another member of The icehouse, an artists collective I belong to.
2 - I didn’t plan to write this making of, so we didn’t keep any screenshots of the modeling.
However, I can explain how it works.
For that purpose, I made a series of screens to explain the process of what is usually called Box Modeling. The main idea is, simply, to start with a Box and add details to it, until you reach the desired shape. It can be very long and complicated, depending on the level of details you want to reach, and the limit of polygons you need to keep in mind.
This series of screens was only made for an illustration purpose, not educational, and if you decided to try Box Modeling on your own, you should probably look for a good tutorial somewhere else.
As you can see, the process starts with a box. Then you cut it here and there in order to add edges, and you just extrude the faces of your choice, until the box becomes what you want. Here I made a very simple humanoid from one single box, but you usually use one box for the head and one for the body. It can go even further if you want specific cloths, hair, etc. What I show you here took, maybe, half an hour of work. But creating a whole character can easily take several days.
When you’re at steps 7 - 8 of the Box Modeling above, you continue adding a lot of details until you reach a good result. This is what we did with Beckoning Cat for Germinal:
The final model - even if Germinal is an alien - can seem a bit too grey. We need to make the glowing eyes, the skin, and add colors to the clothes. This is also a long process.
You cannot paint your 3D model in photoshop, so you need to flatten the 3D in order to paint it in 2D. We call it “unwrap”, and it means what it means. For example, an unwrap of the head can look like that:
Then simply use your favourite soft, photoshop or the gimp, and paint the details of the skin. Once finished, I imported it on the 3D model, and here is the result:
It’s almost over. I just wanted to render this 3D model of Germinal with a good lighting and finer textures:
This whole process is to be followed for each new character of the game. There are 5 in total, if you count the hero. I let you discover (or not… Spoil!) the characters of Catyph:
Last time I tried to explain basically how the characters are being created. Let’s move to the next point of the Production: 2 - Environments.
Before I start the modeling of an environment in 3D, which could lead to a waste of time if the design is not good, I have to think carefully of the puzzles. Puzzles are the most important part of the process. I usually take some time to draw some ideas on a piece of paper. One of my methods is to put these ideas on coloured papers, that I can mix until I see a good connection. As you can see below (photo at work/result in 3D):
I can’t reveal the puzzles without spoiling a part of the game, so it will be quite difficult to explain how they interfer with the regions of Tytaah, but I’ll try.
Thinking of a region
Tytaah is a moon of Catyph divided into 6 continents. These continents are huge and you won’t explore them in their entirety. Anyway it would be a nonsense, because they’re quite desertic: Tytaah doesn’t originally welcome life. So we’ll focus on small areas on these continents, which gives us 6 different Regions to visit in the game.
Each Region can be accessed only from a central place. The 6 regions are Kynan, Saad, Vysynia, Darnaha, Palak and Raju.
Let’s take the example of Kynan, which has been revealed in the first gameplay trailer. In order to design this region, I first needed a starting point and an arrival. The starting point was easy to find: it was this giant Cube in the sea of liquid methane, where the astronaut landed in the end of the original short film.
The first thing that happens in the game is, as a result, that you see the landcape from this position, through the eyes of the astronaut. And now you need a goal, which will define the reason of your presence on Tytaah, and the design of the Region of Kynan. This goal was also visible in the end of the original short film: your AI and your contact on Terra discovered unknown buildings behind your position. It’s a good opportunity to visit the place and start the quest.
That’s also how the storyline begins. You receive a new transmission from your contact on Terra, who appears to be a man named general Lantier. Because of special events, he asks you to visit the dome.
We now have 4 conditions to create the environment of Kynan:
- starting from the Cube
- going to the Dome
- making the storyline evolve
- adding puzzles at the good place
There’s a 5th one that is very important : topography. The land is created to serve the puzzles, but also, the puzzles are thought depending on the topography.
The land needs to be shaped with these ideas: beginning, ending, puzzles, topography, story. Kynan is a plain of red sand with hostile rains of liquid methane. There’s no life, the sky is greenish, everything is a bit sad, flat. You will want to progress to visit new regions. But it would be too easy to just enter the Dome, so there’s a closed gate in the middle of your path. It’s always like that, isn’t it? It implies finding a key or something to open the gate.
It also implies that an intelligent lifeform created these structures and probably wants to stop your progression. As a result, there can be other buildings. So, to this giant Dome in Kynan, I added a small building called The House of the Domekeeper. It certainly hides clues to open the gate, but unfortunately, the door is closed too. It’s up to you to use your brain, now. I don’t want to tell more, but do you see the progression in the creation process?
If I don’t have these general ideas before I start working on the design of an environment, I can’t create a logical path for the player in the game.
All the regions are created using this process. Most of the time, the answers are in the same region. Sometimes you have to read the datalog to find a tip. Generally, you simply have to be a good observer and write things on a paper. This is how I conceive the world of Catyph.
Modeling the environment in 3D uses the same technique than with characters: the “Box Modeling” technique (see before). You start from a cube that you cut, or extrude, until you obtain your final model, like an house, a lamp, a rock… So the general idea of box modeling is to use a box at the beginning, but it can be easier to start with a sphere or any other geometric shape. If you want to model an ice cream, it can be easier to start with a cone, for example.
So I created the objects of the region of Kynan. Each part of the environment needs to be modeled, from the gigantic Dome to the most insignificant thing:
The puzzles too are created in 3D with Box Modeling. However, they have to be made of several parts, in order to allow a future interaction in the game. The tops of this box have been created separately so they can be opened later when you click on them:
Finally everything is assembled. The result without textures, colors and lights, looks like this:
Now I have to place the cameras that will allow us to move from one point to another.
It concludes this part about making environments in 3D.
Let’s continue this series of articles. We’re in the Production step, part 3: animations, cameras.
In the previous part we saw how the environments are created, after thinking of the position of the future puzzles, in order to make a logical place for the player to evolve in. Now we have to place cameras and animate them.
Realtime VS Prerendered
On the contrary of a realtime 3D game where we look exactly through the eyes of the hero, here I have to create a camera “on a rail” for each path of the world. I know that many people will probably criticize this choice and would prefer a realtime 3D game. It doesn’t mean that I only want to make games in prerendered graphics (and maybe one of my future projects will use Occulus VR in a full 3D world, who knows?) but right now, my choice relies on the following ideas:
- making the game on my own implies technical restrictions
- I prefer the point and click gameplay, that you don’t have in most realtime 3D games (usually based on FPS standards—> too much frenesy for a Myst-like)
- imposing a predefined camera to the player brings a cinematographic touch, as if it was an interactive photo album.
Among these 3 ideas, the last one is the one I prefer. It’s true that we can’t really define Catyph (or ASA, Myst, Rhem…) as an interactive movie, because the game needs too much involvment from the player to be considered so. However, the idea of interactive movie is not unjustified:
- the game is in the continuity of a short film
- it tells a story, implying a few “actors” (3d characters + real voice actors)
- the “director” chose himself the position of his cameras and defines his own vision of the world.
As a result, we have a very personal game, where the author brought his personal touch into every detail.
Imagination and dreams
What I like the most, is comparing ASA or Catyph with a book. In a book, you have no picture, it’s only text. Many people don’t like reading for this very reason! Nowadays we live in a society of visuals and images. However, when a movie releases in theaters, a movie that has been inspired by a famous book, you can notice something: even if the movie was great, most of the people who enjoyed the original book will have a bit of disapointment. Why? Because they didn’t see the hero like that. Or they had another idea of a specific place. You can find many reasons why people prefered a book to a movie, but most of the time, they all rely on one thing: the power of imagination.
In Catyph and ASA, and all slideshow games before, imagination has a lot of importance. I mean, ok, the prerendered cameras are very restrictive, you can’t move everywhere or turn your head, but on the other hand, what you cannot see (outside of the field of view), can be extrapolated. Just imagine the world by yourself!
This is an important part in a game, like in any other artistical project. What makes a painting beautiful to look at, is because of imagination and feelings. You don’t care when a painting of Monet doesn’t move. I think the same with cameras in ASA and Catyph. This restriction is an opened door to dreams. That’s how I felt when I played Riven in the past. Sometimes I was frustrated not to see more of the game, but a few minutes later, I had rebuilt the missing parts in my head.
I think we are lucky, as indie game developers, to have this possibility to use “old” techniques and update them, in order to create games that are unexpected and surprising nowadays.
A bit of technique, at last
It seemed important to explain my point of view about cameras in Catyph, before starting the technical part.
When I place a camera in the 3D environment, it can be everywhere. I can move it and turn it 360° on x, y, z axis: so how can I define the right place and angle? It can be a little confusing sometimes, and some people working with 3D can have troubles to find their landmarks. You can modify different settings on a camera. The most common ones are:
- focal length and field of view
So for each view in the game, I have to think of these settings and make a choice. What do I want to show? Is it the path you have to follow? Or is it the beauty of a landcape? Or, on the contrary, is there something I don’t want to show, in order to make it more difficult for the player to find it? These are the main questions.
I made the following illustration to explain a little better, with one simple example:
Choosing a good point of view is sometimes very difficult. Here it was an easy example!
Follow the path
Also, a view has to be in the continuity of the previous one and the next one (when you click in the game). Because I chose to make video transitions (when the hero walks), a view at point B must be logical with the view at point C, but also point A before. In order to keep this continuity in the camera view, I chose to animate it along a path. I made it all in one single move:
From this camera move, it is easier to “cut” the final views for the game:
And so on! Now, the views “just” have to be imported in Visionaire Studio.
But before that, we’ll see how to make a beautiful render!
Last week-end I gave my point of view on Pre-Rendered 3D and how it can change the gameplay and immersion - and as a result, how I worked on the cameras in the game. Today we will continue with the Production stage, and focus on the next part of the list: 4 - rendering
Today I would like to talk of “How to make a nice 3D render”, because, as soon as you have placed your cameras in the scene, you usually want to see the result: is it beautiful? The word “beautiful” implys a subjective opinion but the idea here is to focus on the technique, not the art.
From now on, I will assume that you have understood what the Modeling part is about. So I have previously modeled my environment in 3D and I have the following, as a result. A grey scene, not really what you want to see in a game:
Before we even start thinking of textures and lighting, we first need to fix the number of polygons. You probably see above that everything is very sharp, with strong angles. We usually want the 3D models to be smooth, curvy, not square-shaped like on a Nintendo 64. The amount of polygons in a scene is calculated by the computer during the rendering stage. The purpose is to save memory while I work (because the more polygons in a scene, the slower the pc!). So, I work in a scene in low poly (like above), but the result after render is as follow. Do you see the difference?
Ok that’s much better already. And this is what I see in realtime in the software:
The 2 last pictures are the very same one, except that one of them is rendered, the other is not.
You probably want to get rid of the greys and add textures, however I prefer to work with lighting first. The reason is that it’s easier to see the shapes, lights and shadows on the grey models. Once you have textures in the scene, you don’t focus as much on the lighting.
Let’s add a series of 3D yellow lights for each of the lanterns in the scene. This is what we get:
I think it’s much better for the immersion now. I like how the lanterns spread their light on the trees. Well here I show you the final result, but it takes some time to try different lighting possibilities. Usually you’re not happy with the first try!
Time to add textures now! This is a long process that needs to be done carefully. For each model of the scene (grass, tree, soil, lantern) you need to take photos or use libraries of textures, and choose the ones that fit the best to your objects. I took the example of the lanterns. As you can see I used 3 different textures for this object: a golden metal for the sphere, a yellow diffuse for the bulb, and a dark grey bronze for the main body.
Proceed as is for each model, until you have textured the whole scene. I got this result:
But maybe with all the mess you don’t see anything. Let’s hide the 3D lights, the polygon edges, and add a mesh smooth on various models:
I know it’s still not convincing, but this is what I see in my 3D software when I work. This is realtime, and it is not meant to be used as is. I wanted to show you the progression between each step! Now let’s make a final render with textures:
This is raw 3D of course, and it will need a bit of improvement in compositing: hue, colors, FX, etc… I will explain this stage next time.
In order to conclude, I’d like to talk a bit of the rendering times (pure PC calculation - no human intervention). This is an important thing to take into account when you create pre-rendered 3D, because your PC will be totally dedicated to it at some time.
When you work in realtime 3D, you spend a lot of time to optimize you scene, in order to have a low number of polygons for example. You probably know that realtime 3D depends a lot on technical limitations. A game for a powerful PC will be much more beautiful than a game on Nintendo DS (technically speaking).
But using pre-rendered 3D is different. You will have the same kind of rendering on any hardware, because we’re talking of pictures (jpg, bmp…). It’s not 3D anymore.
However, there’s a moment where the computer needs time to render these pictures. The last picture displayed above was calculated in around 2 minutes (720px wide). You see, it’s not an instantaneous result. So:
- in realtime 3D: you spend time to optimize the scenes
- in pre-rendered 3D: you don’t optimize as much, but you spend time during the calculation by the PC.
In Catyph, I will probably have 200 scenes in 1080p resolution. Each of them takes around 3 minutes to render. I also have to take into account the video transitions between each scene. A video is maybe 5 seconds long, and runs in 25 frames per second.
Now let’s do a quick calculation. If, as supposed, I have 200 videos of 5 seconds, it means that the PC has to render 600 seconds in total (200videos x 3s). If, for each of these videos, you have 25 frames/s, it means that there are 15 000 frames to render (600s x 25fps). Do you follow me?
Finally, as noticed earlier, my PC needs 3 minutes (180s) to render 1 frame. It implies that, for the totality of the 200 video transitions, it needs 2 700 000 seconds, or 750 hours! It means 1 full month, dedicated to renders!