While I recently barely can find some free time after fulfilling my personal obligations, I took a decision, to not miss Ludum Dare this time, been couple of jams I try to enter, but always get busy and never deliver the game, and archive to the folder of death (a folder full of dead projects). And in order to do that, and to start giving myself a sense of a “MUST” take it to the end, I started to vote to the theme as I used to do for the past 10 years, but this time publicly by sharing my vote on twitter.
Ironically, the final jam theme, came one of my choice =D When I done the voting, I pick the ones i feel they are unique and vote for them +1, the ones that might be good or soso, i give them 0, and for the ones that i don’t like or repeated, i give them 0 as well instead of -1, as I hate giving negative review to the topics…Or to anything!!!
I spent almost all the first day with my family and trying to get the idea, while i should have got an idea within few minutes from the fact I’ve voted +1 to that theme..But that was not the case!
I’ve drafted on paper near 10 ideas or more, and few more came from my wife, and eventually didn’t like any..Day 1 is done, so I had to go to bed, so I can think freshly next day 😀
And while trying to sleep with the feel of guilt for wasting the entire day, I got the idea of the candle burning, it makes perfect sense, you play as a candle, you burn and melt, which means you dying or losing your life, and that is the currency for someone else, could be the person you light for. And while 1 day was already lost, and I’ve only one more day for the jam (yes, jam is 3 days, but my free time is limited this time, as I’ve to go to work on Sunday) I decided to think more about the idea, and about making it, but in smaller scope, and there it came the idea of the candle standing, you watching it dying, and you reading a punch of text on the screen. Later before submission, and after making the build, I decided to remove the text part, and let you (the player) to make your own text/story when you watch it reflecting some of your stories or memories.
Next day, I started right away to work on the game, I’ve made a ton before, and I know my process, so make the character, rig it, animate it & sculpt some details. And while I knew i’ll be using Unreal since the voting process, I wanted to try Unity’s new features, nothing better than learning new things while in rush! So I started moving my assets to make the game in Unity3d to try out the new HDRP and Shader graph, and that was a huge disappointment, don’t get me wrong, Unity is doing good job by adding all those new stuff, but as after 3 hours, I didn’t get any satisfying results, I can’t rely on Unity for this jam. This could be from the fact that all those features were in the preview section, and not ready yet for every scenario. So I decided to hump unreal and just proceed on my initial plan.
When I did show the game to my friends, some of them asked about the animation, if it is simulated or cached. The answer is no, it is a a mix of 3 layers or techniques, a rig made of ~5 bones + Blendshapes + VertexShader animations. All the 3 of them working together in bringing that final result without having issues in a method dominating or fighting to own the vertices (there are trivial issues indeed though, but this is due to the limited time).
One important element for me, is the visual story telling, at the end of the day the only gameplay you do in that game, is pressing the “Quit” button at the end ^_^ apart from that, all happens mentally, you watch, observe, feel, and your brain will be building a story within your head, and all that will happen at the right empty space, where text used to be! This is not necessarily to happen, but this was what I tried to force the game to do to you! And in order to do that, light, color, camera & music never been enough, and this is the no.1 reason I decided to sculpt the face to go through phases while melting. which are in order:
Normal, Surprised, Sad, Smiley while reaching the end of life. A life ends with a tiny glimpse of a smile is essential!
Another last thing, I want to highlight in that project, is the visual quality, the reason I didn’t built the game in Unity was not about the broken tools, I can accept them and deal with them, but was the lacking of ability to achieve real wax at real-time, with real life light scattering around. But in Unreal, results can speak for themselves!
Have the chance to carve and create a very high quality of sub-surface scattering that works perfectly and respond realistically to the flames light, that is a thing!