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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Global Game Jam 2014 and Unity Cookie Lights

Just finished the Global Game Jam 2014 today!  You can check our our game, Follow, here.  In short, its our idea of a blind person trying to find his seeing-eye-dog, who had run off.  He can only 'see' by sound, so this was our representation of the world as he might view it.

I got to play a lot in Unity, including some experimentation with HLSL/CG coding.  I ended up doing a lot of work with Unity's lighting, and animated it in-engine with the built in animation tools.  Thank goodness I did the characters from before.  I did some art direction, as well as some set dressing, and simple modeling.

We decided early on, whenever something made a sound, it gave off ripples and briefly lit the area, maybe a mix of echolocation and his mind's perception of what the area already looked like.  The problem was, we couldn't figure out how to do that in Unity.  Our solution was to just represent it with lights, and I went to work on trying to get a ramp shader so we could have some nice blown-out lights with harder edges than the quadradic point lights want to give us.  Think something like Closure's hard lighting.

On the last day, around 8 hours to the end, we found a way to pull it off: cookie lighting.  Weird name, I know.  It uses a map to put a sort of cut-out in front of the light, kind of like light shining through a grate.  I ended up using a point light with a spherical map, and I animated the light's motion.  There ended up being some weird issues with certain angles, and certain intensities, where it just acted like a point light.  I kind of wished I had used a spot light, but I didn't realize the origin of the point-light issue until we were too low on time.

I played a bit in a art directory sort of role.  I pushed the idea of the the fountain and statues in the park to be exaggerated, and had the people represented as bodies with giant lips and teeth; the idea being, a blind person can only see what they are, as he is, and he can't really feel a stranger to determine what they actually look like.  I would have liked to go even more surreal with it, but we had limited time as it was.

And finally, I have to give a shout-out to the whole team.  Our Unity Programmer god was Elio Feliciano, who saved us all when we were almost programmer-less.  Bryce Pelletier also filled in our programming team, mostly working on our AI while having never worked in Unity previously.  Rob Walker was our Lead and he filled in the all-important sounds in our game.  Angel Luis did our UI design and art, as well as writing.  Logan Blosser did a lot of design work, dialogue, and filled in all of the gaps; unfortunately, a bunch of his work never made it in-game, due to time constraints; but he was still indispensable.

And kudos to the artists for making a pretty awesome environment.  These were 4 artists who had to work together and autonomously at the same time, and I'm blown away at how well we worked.  We all played a part in modeling, and all played a part in set dressing.  Ivan Banche took the lead in building the city in Maya, as well as building most of the buildings.  Karen McCarthy sculpted most of the surreal stuff in the game.  Sean Buck modeled most of the set dressing (dumpsters, trash cans, signs, etc) as well as the cathedral and the construction site pieces.  I did a number of scattered objects (gravestones, trees, benches) and did a lot of scattered work in both the Maya file and in Unity.

Check out this beautiful little city made in just 48 hours.  Ironic that it's mostly in the dark, huh?

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