My attempt to tell some stories

Since I've pushed out the first prototype story I've gotten a some good feedback. The main problem with little devs is to get a lot of eyes on something. I've used Minds.com for that purpose, it's like twitter but you can boost your posts to have a guaranteed number of people see them. So until I got an audience for this, that and people I know will be the test subjects.

Story content:

Almost everyone knows about the brothers Grimm and their fairytales, but those are just 2 books out of thousands of german fairytales and fables. Over the last decade I've observed a lot of bigger adaptations of some of these stories, the grimm ones that is, yet not of others. The rest of this huge array of interesting content is not even translated. Believe me I've tried, when I started this project, to find some old german fairy tale books that were already translated.. no luck.. aaaand if I'm honest, after diving into the matter headlong, I do understand why. 

German is my native language AND I grew up living with my grandparents, so I know the language spoken over the last century well and even know some of the old script (Sütterling), yet even for me it's sometimes hard to properly translate the stories into modern german and/or english. So it's no surprise that you can't find these stories translated anywhere, which I suppose is good news for me. A "fresh" pool of material to draw from.

Public Reception: 

People liked the VO and storytelling, the graphics were on average judged to be minimal but not detracting from the experience. The interaction however did not go over too well. Since I had different interaction modes (click, compound-click, drag) and I didn't make it clear enough what a user was to do on each one it was deemed un-intuitive, buggy and hindering the experience. 

I have since changed a few things on that (clickTap is the parent class for the circular UI item ):

  • DONE make clicktap rail into a single arrow
  • DONE make the arrow start at the clicktap center
  • DONE make sure clickTap doesn't clip out of the window on y axis
  • DONE make clickTap center change color based on action type
  • DONE make clickTap snap to y-axis frame border if it's close
  • DONE make clickTap drag only follow the mouse when moving in the right direction on the requested axis
  • DONE reduce clickTap size

I've also added a new method to scroll in the narration text with timings ~= to the vocal ones. Feels so much better than just the linear stuff. 

Somewhere along the way I also ditched the boids that simulated the glowbugs for a simple system particle setup, no idea if it was cheaper but it reduced the code load and therefore potential problems when I split off the stories into asset bundles.

Asset Bundles:

Those have been a bit of a snag when I was working on a framework that would include them for each story. The idea of them is great: Mark a scene as an asset bundle and all textures and sounds that are used in it will be packed together into a little package that can be loaded from the web and into memory at runtime. Perfect, right? In theory yes. but in praxis, on this site (itch.io) I got a 403 (access forbidden) return when I tried to load the bundles that got extracted alongside my html5 application from the zip. So I hosted the bundles on my own server and fetched from there.. worked, I was certain it was not my code but itch.io permissions. Perfect;  So I got that working .. only to run into this problem, which made asset bundles completely unusable to me..  

It would have been great to package the audio narration and exclusive sprites into an asset bundle for each story and just download them as required.. would have made the initial load way faster once more stories are added but alas It was not meant to be for now. You may not think that 5megs (201 word story) are much but I have almost 100 stories on my list... and having to download all of those with all their assets when you first start the game.. that sucks. Eventually, once I get to maybe 20 or so stories, I will roll my own for that if the bundles haven't been fixed yet.

Aesthetics:

My eventual goal is still to get to a point where I can make my scenes look like backlit paper-cutouts (see 2nd image attachment). The problem with that though is getting the sprites (with proper masking) into the depth buffer(which I have managed while this post was in draft, 3rd attachment). Since you have to simulate the bounce of light from an element in the foreground onto the front facing side of one farther back. That's easy enough if you just sample around for some higher pixels nearby, if you find some, lighten up the current pixel by the amount and done. The same way you do edge detection, basically .. sans the normals of course. But getting the sprites masked properly and then into the depth for sampling.. annoying to say the least. 

Then there's the added uncertainty of Unity replacing it's image effects (screen space shaders) for a new system.. so I'm gonna wait to tackle this until the first actual batch of stories is scripted & translated. 

Addendum: Since I've made a few steps towards solving this, the new problem is to make it work with but a "few" samples. I hadn't considered how much you'd have to sample around to get a smooth indirect lighting to work... might have to rethink my approach.

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I've got a bit of a todo list to work off, but before I can do that I have to script and translate some more stories so I can get them to the VO Guy, which if you didn't know, is Nick Goroff http://nickgoroff.com. So he can do the reads as I work on the code.. time though. hard to come by but at the end of the month I should have a week to get some done.


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