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Game Design Challenges: Why don’t you just add…??

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 11:30 am
by loboLoco
Here’s a sneak peek at the waterfall that gives our upcoming new episode its name: Tower Fall!

[youtube]XZ8aA5E98p8[/youtube]

Video link:

We’ve been getting a lot of questions and suggestions for both Tower Fall and the game in general. Sometimes we can respond to those directly, and sometimes we’re a bit cagey. Why? Sometimes we want to save that news for some later date, but in some cases we just don’t know the answer yet. We’ve got a pretty detailed design document, but some features are lower priority and may get cut or delayed if the main features take longer than anticipated. As well, game development is really just an unending series of problem-solving, and we often don’t know exactly how we’re going to solve a problem until we’re deep into it.

For example:

Many players have suggested that we switch from four static times of day to a continuous model where time passes continuously (albeit at a faster rate than reality). In fact, nobody would like this more than me. We’ve made several games with this feature and it adds so much to the feeling of immersion.

So what’s stopping us? Technical complications. While it’s very easy to drop in a day-night cycle (as a player once told us, “I could do that in five minutes in Unity”), it’s then much harder to make everything look as good and run as well as it did before. Specifically:

* Distant views: Currently we use skyboxes which show distant scenery, such as the Lamar Valley from the ridgeline in Amethyst Mountain. These skyboxes are static renderings, one for each time of day, so we can’t use this method if the sun is always moving across the sky. Instead, we’d need actual 3D models of that surrounding environment, which is doable but obviously takes some work. It’ll also put an additional load on rendering time during gameplay and thus have a performance impact.

* Shadows: Currently we “bake” shadowmaps for each time of day. On lower quality levels, everything that doesn’t move (that is, everything except animals) uses these baked shadows. On higher quality levels, we use realtime shadows for all nearby objects and baked shadows for objects further away. This offers a great balance between visual quality and fast performance, since you still see shadows cast by distant trees and buildings, which makes the environment look so much better. But if the sun is always moving across the sky, we can’t use baked shadows — all shadows must be realtime, which means that trees and buildings more than 50-200 meters away won’t have any shadows at all (partly so the game doesn’t run too slowly, and partly for some other technical reasons).

Games often are able to minimize both issues through landscape design (e.g., limiting broad vistas in their landscapes), but alas, we are stuck with actual Yellowstone topography, which is pretty much nothing but broad vistas. Nevertheless, we are trying to solve the problem. What makes it especially hard is the fact that WolfQuest is a very cross-platform game, with people playing it on everything from powerful gaming rigs and cheap mobile phones.

We’re currently experimenting with several technical solutions, hoping that one will strike a good balance between performance and visual quality. But since we have to experiment on a lot of platforms, and because there are other related elements that are also currently in flux, it’s slow going, and so we don’t even know yet if we CAN do it satisfactorily.

tl;dr: Sometimes we don’t reply to a question because the answer is long and complicated and yet still unsatisfying. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Re: Game Design Challenges: Why don’t you just add…??

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 11:54 am
by Wolvencall
Oh My gosh the howl animation is looking so much better!! I'm in love *o*

Re: Game Design Challenges: Why don’t you just add…??

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 11:57 am
by paperpaws
loboLoco wrote:tl;dr: Sometimes we don’t reply to a question because the answer is long and complicated and yet still unsatisfying. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
...hahahaha

I love the preview of the waterfall! I bet I'm going to spend quite some time just sitting there, listening to the sound.

It is also admirable how communicative and honest you are towards your playerbase. I can't even begin to understand the difficulties and frustrations that likely come with making something as functional as it is satisfying on this scale... so, as always, thank you for all the hard work!

Re: Game Design Challenges: Why don’t you just add…??

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 12:12 pm
by Sunset-Light
I-its... so beautiful... :O

Also, I gotta agree with Wolven that the howling animation looks a lot smoother as well!

Re: Game Design Challenges: Why don’t you just add…??

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 12:40 pm
by Isela
Thank you for filling us in on the process with the day-night cycles! I admire how much hard work you and the rest of the team put into the game. It's gotta be a tedious task at times, so thank you so much for all you do!

The waterfall looks fantastic! I have a soft spot for waterfalls, and Tower Fall is a beautiful one. Looking forward to the next installment! :D

Re: Game Design Challenges: Why don’t you just add…??

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 1:28 pm
by Weylenn
Will there be higher anti-aliasing settings? I noticed quite a few jaggies (unless this is just super preliminary ;p)

Re: Game Design Challenges: Why don’t you just add…??

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 1:41 pm
by Phasoli
I'm just awed at the fact that so much work and dedication is being put into the game to satisfy the player's desires. I salute the team for this, because fulfilling every request is neither easy, nor always realistic or workable. Tower Fall looks beautiful so far, and the fact that such beauty is being delivered to us at such a little cost--I couldn't ask for a better deal.

So Dave and the team, I want to personally thank you for your perseverance. <3

Re: Game Design Challenges: Why don’t you just add…??

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 1:48 pm
by DerpBacon
What I love best about the WQ team is that they put the players first and are constantly hard at work to create new episodes and tweak the existing two. It just shows how much they care about the fanbase - kudos to them.

Tower Fall looks (and sounds!) awesome, and I adore the new howling animation.

Re: Game Design Challenges: Why don’t you just add…??

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 3:50 pm
by PearlyReborn
Gorgeous! It's sad you can't do a day-night cycle just yet, but I hope it will happen eventually when you have more time to focus on something like that than, say, making an entire new episode.

Re: Game Design Challenges: Why don’t you just add…??

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 4:31 pm
by howl-ite
The waterfall looks beautiful, I can't wait.

Re: Game Design Challenges: Why don’t you just add…??

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 5:41 pm
by SolitaryHowl
Looks really great so far. I didn't notice the wolf until it howled - that camouflage! Great new howling animation, too!

(I enjoy getting a new update every Friday, by the way!)

Re: Game Design Challenges: Why don’t you just add…??

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 6:02 pm
by Sunfrost23
That waterfall. I want it. I need it.

A little sad we won't get the dynamic day-night cycle (not yet anyway) but in the end it's a minor detail and I would be perfectly fine if it's never added. The game is awesome, the people who work on it are awesome, and it/they will never stop being awesome.

Re: Game Design Challenges: Why don’t you just add…??

Posted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 10:33 pm
by Nor-easter Forecast
My jaw dropped when I saw the waterfall clip. There are so many graphical improvements, I love it! Great job team: the textures, animation and new models all look fantastic.

This was a extremely comprehensive explanation of the dynamic time dilemma, thanks for sharing it with the community. I agree that it is a very complex system, and I wish you all the best of luck with finding a compromise that suits all sides.

Re: Game Design Challenges: Why don’t you just add…??

Posted: Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:28 am
by Timber-Wolf-at-Dusk
I love the new howl animation :wolf:

Re: Game Design Challenges: Why don’t you just add…??

Posted: Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:54 am
by Shiverdam
The howl animation looks so much better! Better than the previous "yelling into the sky" look, lol