42 War… War never changes

This time not a video to start with, but some important announcements.

If you find it hard to read through the moody stuff fist: keep reading, I end on positive notes.

Ukrainian modeller

Important things first: I work together with 2 modellers. One of them comes from Ukraine.

He is safe right now and in hiding. Contact with him is difficult due to internet lines not being stable. He wasn’t used to use phone connections, and getting that to work is also not easy in a country in war.

Peek into the life of a Ukrainian game dev, confronted with the sudden outbreak of the war in his country

Its obvious he can’t work on my game right now. I completely understand this. I also wasn’t able to pay him on his last works due to things changing so fast. He said he doesn’t need the money, and if I am going to pay him eventually, he is probably going to use it to build up his country again.

With having said that, I have a problem right now. He was actively working on models and animations, and I need his work. So the consequence will be that this part of my game dev is going to slow down. And its probably going to be me filling up this gap.

Mood

If it wasn’t clear from earlier blogs, then let me state it clearly: I am a very sensitive person. Years back when the Ukraine revolt started, it already hit me hard. This time, it got even closer. And don’t even start on the pointlessness of this war, and war in general. Or that Putin threats Europe to start WWIII. Or that, with the advances of the real time media, images of the effects of war are at the tips of your finger.

The ‘war… war never changes’ quote comes from the Fallout game series, where WWIII has devastated the world in an all out nuclear war. At one moment I felt this was closer by than ever before.

But back to my game dev. I had a hard time past months getting to work on Find the Gnome 2 due to a few circumstances. This war is another things that makes it hard to get to work on my game. It is all really demoralizing for me at this point.

On the bright side: this is apparently how it works when being a solo dev, having a lot of other priorities at the same time, and having ‘life’ getting in between you and the things you love to do. Had the same mood issues when working on Find the Gnome (1) back in 2018. And its a recurring theme on Reddit, to find posts about solo game devs getting into despair or ADHD game devs getting into issues related to their weakpoints.

My solution to these issues is very simple: just demand less of myself. Postpone deadlines, relax the daily work schedules, look at what is really important.

Parallax engine

But all is not lost. I have been able to work on stuff. Past 4 weeks I have been working on my parallax cartoons. And specifically the way I create these parallax effects.

I used to have to spend 20 to 30 hours on 1 parallax scene. But I improved my tooling and have reduced this to a max of 3 hours, depending on the complexity. On top of that, I can now facilitate much more complex animation paths and camera paths.

Previously I did use the 2D camera view and sprites. Then I animated them with the Unity animator. The parallax effect was all manual, with me trying to gauge how fast each sprite needed to move. And once I liked how the sprite sketches moved, phase 1 was completed for this animation clip. Then in phase 2, when the final images arrive, I had to redo almost all this due to how the animator stores the animation links. This was all very tedious and time consuming.

Find the Gnome 2 – parallax ‘old style’ with the Unity animator

There are animation tools from Adobe that have the ability to simulate parallax effects. I didn’t want to use them, because I want to become proficient in Unity, not in some tool with some strange flow that you are not going to use if you want to create a game with a bit different of a feel (like no parallax).

But yeah, I sensed that I dreaded working on these animations so much. Something had to change.

So I looked up tutorials on how to do parallax animations in these Adobe tools and rebuild them in Unity. I used other Unity parallax tutorials to find out how the math works.

My own solution doesn’t have the same behavior as the ‘official’ parallax effects. However, I have seen a few parallax animations now and they are all a bit different in how they calculate movement, sizes, and effects in general. So I used this creative freedom to create a signature parallax behavior of my own.

Find the Gnome 2 – parallax ‘new style’ with a custom parallax engine

The side effect of this was that I immediately got more proficient in Unity editor integrations. I now know a lot more about custom inspectors.

Improved workflow

With the parallax animations working a lot better, and having seen a lot more about Unity editor integrations, I realized I had a few other area’s I dreaded to start working on. Especially the repetitive aspect of importing level models and making them scripted and animated properly is problematic right now.

So I looked at how I imported these objects into Unity, what I had to manually do each time to get objects to work properly. And then converted these actions into buttons I can push in a custom Unity window.

So now this work is just a matter of selecting something like a tree in the imported model, and then pushing the button ‘update to behave like a tree’, and then the tree is fully animated. I can then use other buttons like ‘add obfuscation spot’ to add a spot to the tree where a gnome can hide.

Find the Gnome 2 – improved Unity tooling to streamline the workflow, in this example applying the tree scripts and animations

Same for adding gnomes. Previously I had to create a script in a folder, give it a proper name so I can find it again, and then to search the object in the scene I want this gnome to hide in. Now it goes like this: select a spot a gnome can hide in, push the button ‘add gnome’, and it automatically creates a correctly named gnome and adds it to the right script on the object that is selected.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of these automations before. When I started GameFeelings I had this idea that I could use my software development knowledge to much more easily create games (than people that aren’t so much into programming). But it is until know that I finally understand what it means that a programmer has a few tricks of its own to speed up game dev.

Demo and planning

To be honest, I can’t give any estimate right now on the release date of the demo and on the release date of the final build.

But with the massive improvements to the level create flow and parallax animation flow I am now confident that a demo is close.

The only real obstacle is the following: I need to add a collectible items to the levels, and update the captain cabin (the level selection / map). My Ukrainian modeller was working on both of these. So I have to find a way of finishing up his work and/or change it into something that is good enough for the demo.

Thats all for today! Thanks for the read, and see you next time.

Published by Erik_de_Roos

Erik de Roos is a Freelance software developer.

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