Hi again. This is another weekly article, and it will continue with the topic of the previous one. But first, we'd like to ask your help :
3:00am Dead Time needs your help to succeed!
Six months have passed since we started with this game, and the development has been full of obstacles and problems. Some were tiny and easily resolved, but others were unavoidable.
As you know, we are using the Free version of the Unity engine, because it is the only engine we can afford at the moment that has full support for the main modeling tool we use (Blender).
The other engines we checked before the development started (UDK, NeoAxis,C4, Shiva, etc) had a broken import pipeline for Blender, and the workarounds were so complicated and time consuming, that it was worthless to make the game with them.
Since then, Unity became our main tool. But sadly, we have not enough money to buy the Pro version, which has some very important features that the game is currently missing, even if they are already developed. They simple cannot be integrated with the Free version.
This limits have made us to redesign some parts of the game, limit some features, and even cancel some of the content we have developed. So far, we had severe limitations regarding :
- Lighting and proper rendering of cloth and hair simulations. In Unity free, this kind of simulations can't work with the lights, which means that any kind of physical behavior applied to cloths or hair makes them go pitch black in the Free version, unless there is a directional (sun-like) light. Obviously, this means it is impossible to have them rendered properly with soptlights (aka flashlights) in the Free version. Thus, the cloth and hair simulations are currently cancelled, until we can have access to the Pro version of Unity.
- Render to texture effects. In our game, the viewports must be rendered to the different screens (a cell phone screen, monitors, the video editor preview window), and this is impossible with Unity Free. Some of these features have been limited, the positions of the elements in the screen, the gameplay and HUD elements have been redesigned to supply some of these features, as well as the mirror reflections, but the method we used, while effective, has many issues and might cause bugs and glitches.
- Shadow effects. While other games don't need real-time shadows, in our initial tests the shadows were used as another scare element, very effective and complex. The shadows were completely removed from the actual version of the game due to the limitations of the engine.
- Post-process effects. These effects can improve the quality of the game a lot. In our tests with the Pro trial, we applied some filters to the game, most of them related with the gameplay, such as the loss of focus in the cameras, as a consequence of the paranormal phenomena. We added also some color correction filters, and lighting effects, which added a lot of depth and even more realism to the scenes. Also, this effects could be added on top of the user captured evidence, and add more options to the video editor that we are developing.
- Occlusion Culling, batching, and other Performance related features. These are obviously not so important, because we are currently optimizing the game with our own methods. However, this takes a lot of time, because each scene has to be fixed, improved,and tested over and over. This is, actually, the main reason behind the long time we are taking to finish Beta 0.2.
In short, several features of the game are on hold until we can afford Unity Pro, some others are limited, but most of them are already implemented, just without the real quality we could offer with the proper tools.
And there is where you can help. We are asking to all the gamer community to help us raise funds, the 1500 USD we need for a Unity Pro license. This means we just need at least 150 persons to contribute to our game. All of our funders will receive access to all the betas of the game, and also to the development tests we make. Help us to make the game you deserve, so 3:00am Dead Time can be released as great as it was planned, with all the incredible features that will make it a unique horror experience.
The game will be fully released, this is for sure. We are working faster and better to improve the game in all the ways possible, but you need to be patient, because we are developing all the core of the game, which is the hardest and longest part of any game development.
We are confident that with your help, we can make the best horror game for a PC.
But let's start with the main topic of the article. The last article we talked about Ambient Occlusion, and this article will continue with that topic. Read, and enjoy :
Static Ambient Occlusion Part 2.
These days, we were testing some advanced rendering features using Pixel Shader 3.0 versions of our old shaders. This new versions let us use some really nice rendering features that improve incredibly the overall quality of the game.
Most of today's gamers have heard about Ambient Occlusion, and relate it with the SSAO (Screen Space Ambient Occlusion) used in most modern games. However, that effect is just an approximation with some errors, and in many cases, it is very, very subtle. Almost invisible.
We are talking about real ambient occlusion, applied as an static component to the models using a shader. It is static because it is not calculated nor approximated in real-time, and thus, it is not so expensive.
Also, unlike SSAO, our use of static AO can be noticed immediatly, and improves greatly the quality of the game.
It is very useful for most elements in a scene, creating a smooth, life-like light, with correct shadows and shading in the object.
The overall looks of the decorations is now really great, with the extensive use of Pixel Shader 3.0 features we are making. This doesn't represent any performance impact, except for a 15 FPS loss in the highest quality. However, as these features made the shaders too long for a PS 2.0 videocard, they are not compatible with older hardware. Anyway, the older shaders are still in place, so PS 2.0 videocards will (most likely) be enough to run the game , but with low graphics quality.
The Cold Kiss Statue with AO applied :
To finish this long topic about Static Ambient Occlusion, we would like to share with you some examples in 3D, so you can test this amazing feature right in your browser.
You will need to install the Unity Web Plugin (the links above will redirect you to the download page if you don't have the plugin installed) and a videocard with Pixel Shader 3.0 support. Use the mouse to rotate around the objects, and "N" to change the rendering method (with and without Static AO).
But there are more news to share with you :
3:00am Dead Time redesigned Website.
Our website went trough a lot of changes this week, and it is now a lot better than before. We have our own forum right in our website, where you can post anything related with our game, and receive support in case of any issue. Also, as you saw with this article, we are going to publish the news and development diaries on our website first, and some hours later they will be posted on IndieDB. In our website you can comment without registration, so now sharing your thoughts about the game will be really easy. Just go there and comment, no account needed.
Our galleries are also growing, and soon we will post more 3d interactive demos for all of you, and a few development test, to check on some features. The fund page was also redesigned, to be more attractive, and explain better what you will receive with your funds.
Remember to spread the word about the game, or fund it if you haven't. It will help us a lot with the development obstacles we are facing, and will help to make the game a lot better, and finish it a lot faster.
Thanks for reading and supporting our game, and stay tunned for more updates in the next days!
The Irreverent Software Team.