Epistory: Major Update

June 10th, 2016 by Sophie Schiaratura

After weeks of hard work, we present to you the new and shinier version of Epistory with Mod & Profiles (multiple saves) support and more... You spoke and we listened. We understand it would have been better for most of you to receive the update in chunks over the weeks but given the amount of changes it was a lot easier for us to handle one big transition to the new version instead of several small incremental versions. We even had to stop planning for a workshop beta. 
Without further ado, here’s the changelist.

As always, we welcome your feedback and bug reports. 

Epistory: New Website and Merchandising

May 2nd, 2016 by Sophie Schiaratura

Hi Fox Riders!

Last week, our website has been updated to a wonderful e-shop  where you can buy t-shirts, papermasks and more of Epistory. 

Let people know how crazy you are about Typing-RPG-Adventure games and specially Epistory  

www.epistorygame.com 

 

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Epistory is now out on Steam!

April 1st, 2016 by Sophie Schiaratura

Hi Fox Riders! Epistory is finally fully released. Can’t wait for you to discover the end of the game. Good luck with hours of game waiting for you.

Also, we’d like to thank all of you for the support and love during the early access. Don’t hesitate to share our new trailer around you.

In the coming weeks, we plan to fix the very few remaining bugs you could find in this version. We are even thinking of adding more languages.

But now let’s party!

Play the game here.

How extra budget can increase your visual quality… and put you into troubles!

March 7th, 2016 by Sophie Schiaratura

This article shows the difficulty of maintaining Art Direction consistency on a project when its scope and visual quality suddenly increase during production!

First, we’ll explain the assets creation guidelines we decided at the beginning of the project. Then we’ll see how quality problems emerged as the production budget increased, and how we dealt with them!

 

Art constraints for small budget

When we started the production of Epistory (codenamed “The heroine of no tale” in those ancient times), the sales expectations were quite low because we thought we were targeting the niche of typing games. We already wanted a unique art direction, made of unfolding environments and paper-crafted items, but the budget constraints made us humble concerning the visual quality of each asset. So we ended up with those production guidelines to create game assets :

  • Simple geometry
  • All assets using the same multi-usage shader
  • No complicated texture mapping (basic planar UVs)
  • No unique texture per asset, only generic colored patches gathered in a few textures

basic asset epistory papercraft origami

Despite our small budget, all those assets put together created a simple but pretty cool look :

epistory papercraft origami

Those constraints made us 3D artists sad but it should have allowed us to make all assets and environments in time for the game release, so we were quite happy with it! But that was before we started communicating on the game…

Change of scope

The art team was producing the first levels of the game, and we started to spread some images and videos, building the community. At that point we understood that something was happening, youtubers were talking about our game, forums and conventions gave us very positive feedbacks. Our little typing game was becoming pretty popular, people were really loving it! The first round of Early Access conforted the first impression. As thousands of people added “Epistory: Typing Chronicles” into their steam wishlist, we realized that instead of making a funny but small scoped typing game, we could scale things up. We decided to transform it into a unique story driven adventure game, with lots of dungeons, collectibles, a scenario written by a real professional writer, and even give a voice to the narrator.

As the deadlines were pushed to 2016, the art team jumped at the chance to put more visual quality into the game!

New quality standards

We wanted to make the most of this extra production time, and we put more details into the new assets, so we basically took the opposite of what we were doing until now:

  • More interesting paper-like shapes for the geometry
  • More and more complicated shaders
  • Clean unfolded texture mapping coordinates
  • Unique textures per asset (or one texture for the same group of assets)
  • A subtle but efficient vertical gradient (the base of the asset is darker than its top)
  • With unique texture coordinates, we could paint paper folds, and add details like hand painted highlights on the edges and Ambient Occlusion (darker color at the junction between surfaces)

On those two images it’s easy to spot the quality gap. You can notice the polished shapes and the greater work made into the textures, which add a lot of depth and details to the assets :

advanced asset epistory papercraft origami

advanced asset epistory papercraft origami

The production time was obviously far longer than the old technique, because for EACH game asset, we had to unfold clean texture coordinates, calculate the Ambient Occlusion pass, calculate the vertical gradient, paint the edges highlights and details into the texture,…

We also put extra time to the environments creation process by adding an “artist layout pass” to polish each dungeon, and by working more on the lighting setups and effects. And the overall visual impact was far better than before!

icemountain epistory papercraft origami

The problem was that we quickly found out that the “old” assets looked dull compared to the new ones, but we couldn’t afford redesigning all of them…

Assets wars

With each new asset being prettier than the last, we soon spotted a problem in the consistency of the art direction and assets quality !

There was too much difference between the old “flat” assets and the new “detailed” ones :

versus epistory papercraft origami

Unfortunately the budget was not so big that we could afford redoing all the former game assets to match the final style!

That unexpected constraint gave us the idea of showing a progression in the art style through the game, and we implemented a chronological progression into the overall papercraft quality of the adventure. That is to say the first part of the game is made of more basic shapes, and the quality of the papercraft technique evolves to be more and more noticeable as we progress into the game, following the steps of humanity evolution:

1- At the beginning, as the world unfolds for the first time, you will see the “basic” objects in the “nature” theme

evolution 01 epistory papercraft origami

2- Next, in the first dungeon you will be able to spot some prehistoric assets, made of archaic papercraft assets

evolution 02 epistory papercraft origami

3- As you continue your journey through human evolution, papercraft techniques evolves to show ancient civilizations

evolution 03 epistory papercraft origami

4- Later, you will travel through complex origami buildings, and much more, but we won’t spoil you the pleasure of discovering it in the game!

evolution 04 epistory papercraft origami

We managed to add a real meaning to this papercraft evolution, but still we decided to redesign several old assets to match the quality gap. We’ve done this only for the assets we could see all over the adventure. Moreover, by doing those important assets prettier, they would be easily noticeable at the beginning of the game, where the assets are simpler, and better integrated in later dungeons, where the assets are polished.

The combat, exploration and teleporter tiles redone from scratch:

reworked assets epistory papercraft origami

The conclusion of this article could be that it’s far better to know the scope/budget BEFORE beginning the production process! If the scope suddenly increases, you will have to choose between more content or more quality, but keep in mind that most of the time you will not be able to use a trick like we did, and you will end up redoing all of your assets from scratch! And as artists will always tend to increase quality if you give them extra time, do not forget to keep an eye on them!

Epistory Arrives on Windows, Mac, Linux March. 30

February 25th, 2016 by Sophie Schiaratura

Hi Fox Riders! The moment has come to announce that Epistory – Typing Chronicles will leave early access and be released on Steam on the 30th of March 2016. We are so enthousiastic and we can’t wait to read your feedback about the last chapters of the game. So, if the game isn’t yet in your Steam library, it’s you last chance to get it at the Early Access price! As a bonus, find below some screenshots of the upcoming chapters and a short teaser made with love. See you on the community hub!

 

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Creatures Status – Fishing Cactus Official Statement

January 21st, 2016 by Bruno Urbain

Update on CreaturesHello 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.

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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.

For now we are moving on, focusing our efforts on our new game Epistory (an atmospheric adventure typing game) that is already available on Steam Early Access.

Indie of the Year 2015

December 1st, 2015 by Sophie Schiaratura

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! 

Hi Folks, 

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!

Go my army. Spread the word around you! 

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Thank you very much. 

The Story Continues – Epistory Chapter Two now available

November 24th, 2015 by Sophie Schiaratura

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! 

Trick or Treat! Epistory Halloween Update

October 31st, 2015 by Sophie Schiaratura

Epistory_Pumpkin_halloweenAs 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. 

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Here’s the patch note for the new version:

New Features

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

Various improvements

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“.

Bug fix

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

Fixed: brambles were reorienting upon hit

And a lot more.

Happy Halloween to all!

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Opening Lines – Finding a Voice for Epistory

October 22nd, 2015 by Sophie Schiaratura

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.

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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.

Epistory Early Access – NOW on STEAM

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.

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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.

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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…