Hello to the Creatures community. Many of you have heard or read that the development on Creatures Online was halted. We wanted to make an official statement as things haven’t been communicated very clearly as far as we know and we have been receiving a lot of messages from the community on our channels (FB, Twitter and such…).
So while it saddens us a lot, the development of Creatures has effectively been put on hold since September last year due to many reasons we can’t legally talk about. At the moment we stopped the development, we can say that the game was close to Alpha with all races, toys, environments, crafting system, AI, genes, ecosystem and recycling machine in place, we were really close to be ready for a softlaunch. To achieve that stage, the team pulled out tremendous efforts over the past 3 years and the last moments of development were a pretty difficult period for the team. As the publisher and legal owner of the IP, Big Ben made the call to pause the development of the project. Regardless of our implication with the game and its loyal community, we are not in a situation that allows us to change this decision.
We are very sorry that the old time Creatures community is left in the dark, we truly feel this is a waste of great, positive energy and good will from all of you and we wish the situation could be different. Pausing the development so close to release is still something we are recovering from, it is now in Bigben Interactive’s hands to keep you informed on what will happen next. Throughout the development of the game, with its ups and downs, we tried to have a very transparent communication on the development as we know you are such a great community, with great expectations too. We hope you appreciated this approach as much as we did.
We also received several complaints about the status of the official Creatures forums being spammed and invaded by bots, please note that Fishing Cactus has no control over those channels anymore (including forums and websites). This work was originally handled with great care by Sophie who was doing the community management and curation, Lucas and Andrea who were providing updates and posts to keep you updated on the progress of the game.
As far as Fishing Cactus is concerned, the future of Creatures Online now lies fully into Big Ben Interactive’s hands. Despite what angry people might say, we have poured really a lot of efforts, energy and love in the Creatures game and we wish it will see the light of day, someday, somehow.
Update: We didn’t make it but we’d like to thanks all the people who voted for Epistory. Next year you’ll do it!
It’s the 6th Annual Indie of the Year Awards, a celebration of this year finest indie games chosen by indies fans. If you could give us a hand and vote for Epistory on IndieDB it would be great. The top 100 will be announced on the 11th of December. Let’s do our best!
After fighting an insectile corruption and embracing the power of fire, we left our heroine and her companion at the edge of the Forgotten Forest. Along the treacherous, twisting paths of her adventure, she began to uncover the secret pieces of her story. Now she must fight not to drown under the crushing weight of uncertainty and fight with dignity to restore her inner peace.
Discover new enemies, learn new magic and explore two brand new dungeons full of mystery. Be brave; for there is no turning back on the way to the truth.
After a bug in our save system was found, we cannot guarantee compatibility between the update and the current (Halloween) version. Depending on where you last left the game it will work, or not. Regardless of the state of the save, we recommend a new game because of the work that has been done in the first two dungeons.
Please be aware that this update marks the end of our early bird pricing. Epistory now be fixed at $12.99 due to the major updates that have been done since launching on Early Access.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us on this adventure so far. We hope you will enjoy this new chapter and we can’t wait to hear your feedback!
As promised, Epistory – Typing Chronicles is now available on Linux and Mac! If you encounter any bugs please give us a heads up and we’ll fix them as soon as possible.
The challengers amongst you will be pleased to find the new “Arena” mode in the main menu. It’s a special place where the world will finally recognize the value of your typing skills. We’re still working on the leaderboard that should come soon. It’s also a bit rough around the edges.
Note that Spanish language has been added to the game. More languages to come during the Early Access.
Here’s the patch note for the new version:
Added: Infinite Battle “Arena” mode, where you’ll soon be able to challenge yourself and get your name at the top of the leaderboard.
Added: Linux version
Added: Mac version
Added: Spanish version
And plenty of stuff behind the scene for the upcoming Chapter 2…
Removed magic effect on enemies’ last word.
Special characters are displayed when the required magic is locked.
Reworked “Burning Hollow” level design.
Reworked story in “Forgotten Forest“.
Fixed: typing the word while it moves result in some letters not colored properly.
Fixed: avatar moving using the last letter of a word typed if the typing mode auto switch is triggered.
Fixed: auto typing mode switch was not happening if an untypeable (fire) word was displayed
Epistory needs to establish a subtle, layered narrative voice within its opening moments. Join the game’s writer in a deep exploration of why this story is harder to begin than most.
Wether you’re writing a game, or a movie, or a novel: it’s always difficult to start a story. There’s just so much riding on those opening moments. This difficulty is basically the premise for Epistory’s plot, in which a struggling writer is trying to start a novel. The player assumes the role of the muse, helping the story come to life.
Epistory adds an additional complication: as well as attracting the player’s interest immediately, it must also establish the narrative voice. In this article, I’ll be explaining more about what this means and how I’ve tried to solve the problem.
What’s In A Voice? By ‘narrative voice’, I simply mean the voice of the narrator: who is telling the story? Why? And in what context? Are they speaking to the audience directly? Are they writing a letter? Is the audience an active party in the story, or are it given a camera’s eye view into someone else’s world? Ultimately, narrative voice defines the relationship between the storyteller and the audience.
Most narrative voice is established by its medium and a few quickly-gleaned implications. When a written story starts with a line like “Call me Ishmael” (a laMoby Dick), we instantly understand that there is a person telling the story to the reader. We understand that the narrator has their old world view, and agenda, and feelings. But when we watch a film and a camera sweeps across the Earth – like no human can do – we understand that a picture of the world is being presented to us impartially. We are invited to watch through a window.
Whose Voice Is It Anyway? In Epistory, the narrative voice comes from a writer who we never see. All the words of narration – from the introductory sequence to the writing stretched over the levels – are the words this writer has written in their novel. The player’s goal is to help the writer create the story: typing words and discovering things to encourage the author’s inspiration. This is a very hard thing to explain in-game: not least because we don’t meet the writer. We have to inferher presence. Originally, the game’s script did this the obvious way: it begins with a writer saying “I hate writer’s block! How am I ever going to write this story?”, and quickly settles down into the story itself, “She looked like a lost little girl”. This establishes the narration as the writer’s voice and ensures it makes sense within the context of the game. This works – but it’s messy because it creates two distinct narrative voices. The author’s (“I hate writer’s block!”) and the story’s (“She looked like a lost little girl”). Because we don’t really know which is which, we have to infer every time – and so there’s a constant dissonance. It’s hard to know who is telling the story. Also, writers tend not to ask themselves questions in their own prose, so the voice may not sound authentic to player.
A New Voice I wanted to try and do something a bit more subtle and seamless: using a single voice that represents all the narration. I’ve tried to do this by presenting the story as a work-in-progress and showing the writer’s edits. The theory runs like this: The game begins on a black, foggy screen. A blank canvas. Then some text appears: “Once upon a time”. This is how all fairy stories start, right? The player knows that a story is beginning. But the text is quickly erased character-by-character. The story has changed, the writer’s hand is revealed by implication. The writer tries again, and this time she writes: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. This is how Charles Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities - the best-selling novel of all time – begins. Even if the player doesn’t follow the reference (and most won’t!), they should understand that the story has been restarted. But this beginning is rejected too, and so it is also erased. The pattern has been established now: the author doesn’t know how to start the story. So, third time lucky, the narrative begins in earnest: “There was a girl. And she rode on the back of a great fox.”. And hey presto – the fog clears to reveal the player-character.
Voice of Reason Because there is only one narrative voice, the player can trust that it represents the words of a story being written around their actions. We build on this start by adding more interactions which make the player aware of the author – and vice versa – by changing text as the player interacts with the world. It’s a subtle idea, and maybe not everyone will get it. I expect most people won’t be able to articulate it. But subconsciously, I believe people will understand that a story is being written around them by an unseen author.
Successful execution relies on two things: using recognisable (or cliched) opening lines, so that the player understands what the writer is trying to achieve (ie, the beginning of a story); and a character deletion effect, so that the player is aware that the writer is deliberately erasing and rewriting text. Sound effects can help reinforce the idea of writing and erasing, too.
This, however, is not the whole story. While we work hard to establish and contextualise the narrator’s voice early in the game – we later sow in a few seeds of dissonance. Because in Epistory, not all is what it seems…
All of Epistory’s levels start as an isometric RPG in Tiled (as explained in this prior article). This is a great foundation to build on – but it brings some technical limitations which we have to deal with. For example, we have to respect the TiledToUnity plugin rule that each tile must be a square of equal size. It doesn’t help that any tile rotation must be done as a duplicate tile instead of a random effect.
As a result of this, the tiles use to build each level stand out too clearly. We can see the seams, the joins, the patterns. The effect is fatal to immersion within the game world.
This old screenshot illustrates the problem nicely. Each tile is the same as the previous one, creating a very obvious pattern. This is just a small example – sometimes the whole screen will have the same tile, interrupted only by the occasional prop or decoration.
In this article, I will guide you through the steps we used to break this ugly pattern and improve the overall look of the ground tiles, which currently look like the screenshot below. It’s unlikely that we will change the tile’s look again – but you never know.
Start at the Start
If it sounds obvious, it’s probably because it is! Rotating each tile will help make it look different and vary the seams created where they join.
We started by rotating our tiles randomly with an editor script. Since our goal in art direction was to create a hand-made paper world, we decided early on that a tile would be considered an independent square of paper. Based on this fact, we agreed that imperfect tiling between two tiles was acceptable: meaning that rotation gives us variation. The result was better but still a bit jarring.
Lean Towards the Abnormal
Because each tile is supposed to be a piece of paper, it’s hard (not to mention expensive) to make each one visually unique. We aimed to solve this by dynamically changing the normal map on each individual tile.
A normal map is a 2D image used to replace or modify the normals of a 3D surface. Because our tile models are mostly flat, we use normal maps and lighting to give them some paper-looking wrinkles.
Here’s how we modified our ground shader in Shader Forge:
a parameter which allow us to tweak how much a change in world position affects the overall look.
frac. It takes only the fractional part of the input. Effectively producing a value from 0 to 1, based on the world position.
append allows us to create a vector 2 (UV in our case).
normal map sampling.
normal blending. You cannot blend normals the same way you blend colors so we use a custom formula.
The effect of this is that instead of having one normal map per tile and limited to its bounds, we have two normals, whose UVs will depend on their world position. This effectively spans (and repeats across) the whole level. If you look carefully you can see that one of them will have U & V depending on the positions X & Z while the other will map U & V to Z & X. This “crisscross” allows us to have very different looking tiles each time, instead of having the pattern being simply repeated less often.
If you want a more visual way of understanding this, you can see it in the editor view. We created a gif but it was too heavy to be posted inline. You can find it here.
You can see that when I move the tiles, the normal on top of it doesn’t move. The apparent seam on the normal is a result of the tile rotation around Y.
As a bonus, we also added a detail texture. It’s a common technique so I won’t explain it here – but here’s the shader forge screenshot:
This was the first time I did major shader work and it turned out quite well in my opinion. With the current art direction we had to improvise a bit – but we successfully fixed the tiling problem with no rework on the assets. This results in a seamless, believable game world.
For the next few days we will focuson ironing out the bugs and quirks that were reported. Most notably any save bug that you or we encounter. The game is currently playable in several settings but the save is sometimes a bit dodgy so that is our top priority.
Then, in the coming weeks, we will continue to produce the next chapter of the game. We should be able to deliver it in a month. A month and a half, maximum.
We will of course do minor content release in between chapters with stuff like improved UI and feedback, bug fixes & general polish. We want to avoid players going through a new chapter while it’s only half done because it will ruin part of the joy of discovery.
We are also going to create an unstable branch for the game so you can try our latest advancements before we make it available for everyone. We may also add a separate branch for people wanting to try the new areas before they are finished if you ask for it.
Hi folks! We are so glad to announce the release of Epistory on Early Access. See you the 30thofSeptember on Steam. Meanwhile, you can visit the Steam page of Epistory and put it in your wish list: http://store.steampowered.com/app/398850
Most games can be reduced to a series of actions and reactions. Today I would like to share with you a way to facilitate iteration and expansion of these interactions. It will sound obvious to a lot of people but I would have loved to see this kind of example 6 months ago. When I was not yet used to component based mechanics.
It all started with a simple request a few months ago, we had just designed & implemented the scoring system and we needed items in the game world to be able to give points when activated. Easy, I wrote a small script which would be attached to objects that had to add points when activated. Controlled by our item’s base class, it would be called automatically.
As time went on, that simple “points giver” script was updated to include various behaviors like prefab spawning, door unlocking and so on. It worked well but it was not very flexible. So I changed the structure to include a parent class to have a common entry point and place each behavior in a child class.
It’s not standard notation but you can see the rewards and the items have a base class, and only these base classes interact with each other. The same kind of effect could be achieved with interfaces but I prefer to have a default implementation.
The true power of this structure lies in the modularity. Every trigger or actionable item in the game works with any reward and you can place any number of reward in a game object. The most basic action/reaction you can do is simply “collider – trigger – reward”. The player walks in the scene and something happens (tutorial message, cinematic, …).The possibilities are exponential and a new reward behavior is very easy to add.
Polish & additional features
Over time, features were added. Like the possibility to set a delay between the action and the reward. Camera travelling firing rewards at event points… What started as a joke -“reward” as in skinner boxes- is becoming a running gag: we’ll call this one “reward_kill_player”.
I recently did the same kind of structure for visual effects. A few key points (creation, destruction, hit, …) are exposed via a base class. You just have to derive from it and you get all the hooks that an artist would need to handle animations or particle effects.
The system is currently powerful enough to allow our designer to create our whole in-game introduction & tutorial with only the reward system. Looking back my only regret is that this system was not put in place earlier to have more of the game relying on it. Also, calling it “reward” when it’s in fact a “reaction” was a bit shortsighted.
I can share some sample code if some of you are interested. I leave you with one of the more complex interaction that we can produce.
P.S.: As a very tangible reward after a long wait between news here’s a few free gifs. Both features were added this week:
- One of the first iteration. Nothing special…
- One of the last iteration. Circular pattern, grows from the middle and not all of them at once.
- Black mist that will block your path (first iteration, polish will come later)