Branding: The Icing on the Cake

Howdy Folks!

We here at Two Hat Games have touched on the idea of creating a coherent style amongst all our artists. This was back in November when we were finalizing our “Art Bible”, however, by this point not much of our game had anywhere close to finished models, much less textures. The work that we’ve done to focus on a pipeline for every one of our assets, whether it be a one off prop or a repeatable room has now begun to finally pay off.

Without reiterating whats been said before, I want to move beyond art within the game and move to the art and design that we will be creating outside of Building 37. We have not covered much to do with the Graphic Design and branding that has gone into the production of our game up to this point.

bui

Graphic Design is a bit of a passion of mine. Though it is not my focus, I have taken numerous classes and amassed a small portfolio. The design, branding, and marketing of games is the icing on the cake that helps grab and audiences attention. Unfortunately, right after deciding what game we were going to be developing (and maybe even before), I reached straight for that icing before we had really even decided on a style. Luckily, fellow teammates and our producer were able to reel me in and convince that this dessert needed to be saved. I was still able to create a small identity for the game that helped inform decisions later on. The current identity is simple, yet reinforces the idea of redaction and mystery.

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 5.09.17 PM

It’s interesting to look back at some of these early, unreleased promotional images and even our first teaser. They may share a similar tone to what we have now, but our aesthetic has changed dramatically.

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 5.05.09 PM

Our website launched just after the announcement of Building 37, and despite sporting a striped down aesthetic and color scheme, significant thought was given to all parts of the interaction.

The website beginnings with a large feature image that moves into a description of the game. However, so much is communicated to the user in just this first section. The user now knows the name of the game, the setting (Seattle based on the Space Needle in the skyline), and the parallax movement downward mimics Ellis’ slow downward descent in the game. Other small pieces include Polaroid gallery with red string to mimic our twineboard as well as the extensive use of the redaction motif. We wanted to ensure that many of the ideas and mechanics that the player would discover while playing our game would be introduced in our website experience.

As we come closer our launch day, stress levels are high and moral is always barely fluctuating. Luckily, the last month of our scheduled timeline calls on our artist to change hats to bug testers. Due to this, most of the art will be completed before then. So, along with testing, I will hopefully be furthering some of these early branding ideas that we developed in to a full-fledged identity for marketing.

PS. I also did the very early and very rough identity for our studio, Two Hat Games. I don’t think that we have talked about the origin of 0ur name here before. We had reached a point early in our time together that we needed some moniker to rally under. We threw around names like “Uncle Bison” and even the now defunct “THQ”.

iconLong

At some point while deciding positions and duties, someone proclaimed “Looks like we’ll all be wearing two hats”. From then on, the name stuck.

 

So long,

Adam Toth

Lead Artist

Advertisements

Repeatable Game Assets

When creating a game like Building 37 that is architectural in nature, the creation of repeatable assets and general prop models help lend a sense of realism and authenticity for the player.  They help make a game seem “lived-in” and can act as kind of a visual code to inform the player as to the environment they are in.  When you actually sit down and start to list all the objects that are associated with and found in a government facility, or any big business type facility for that matter, the list of stuff can get pretty long.

However, creating only a handful of general assets that you can just duplicate in Unity and change the placement of each throughout the game, saves time, effort, and is more efficient for development.

Therefore, we have been gradually creating objects within our environment that can be used repeatably throughout each level of our game.  Things like trash cans, doorways/frames, desk chairs, office telephone, general office desks, you get the point.  Once the object is modeled, we have also been creating various differences in the textures we apply to them. We apply these different textures to the same objects in order to add to the variation throughout the game.

We are now at the point in development of our game where everything aesthetically is starting to come life.  As we begin to increase are asset creation and implement them into the game, Building 37 is starting to look like an actual lived-in facility.

The images below are only a handful of the repeatable asset we have created for use in Building 37 as general prop models which can be used throughout the game.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

– Douglas Heinkel

Art by the Bible: an Update

Hey there!

In the last post I made talked about the absolute importance of having written standards for all things Art and Programming in documents regarded as Art/Programming Bibles, respectively. Now that the team has had some time to put these Bibles to use, I’m coming to you with an update of how they’ve (sometimes) saved us a lot of headaches.

Texture work has gone swimmingly ever since we agreed upon a color palette, shown below.

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 11.53.02 AM

With the color palette as a sturdy base, we are able to maintain similar room and object styles throughout the game, no matter what artist creates the texture. Shown below are 3 examples of textures created by 3 different artists.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Now, if you look closely, you can see the color variance and each artist’s interpretation of the color palette. We all have different styles but the Art Bible directs us closer towards one resolved style. Thick outlines and lines to designate texture are big players in making our art look united. I struggled early on with using black lines to imply texture instead of creating the texture with color and detail, but with practice I’ve been able to replicate the style and nearly match the art of my teammates.

We recently ran into one major issue with programming; programmers, comment your code! There’s nothing worse than, on build day, your script breaking the game but you’re unavailable to come in and work so your teammates have to decipher your franken-code and try to solve the issue. Commenting increases readability for anyone who needs to take a quick glance at your code, and it can be a quick refresher of what your code means when you look back at it in 4 months. It’s a quick summary that can save you a lot of time in the long run.

Overall, our Bibles have been invaluable. I’ve personally gone back time and time again if I ever had a question on a naming convention/UV layouts. Without a dedicated color palette our art would look entirely different. The Art and Programming Bibles are the glue that holds our project together. Coherence is created in our game with both of these documents.

Thanks for listening, and I hoped you’re as excited to see the textures in-game as we are here at Two Hat Games!

Ronnie Smith

Part artist, part programmer

The Journal & Menus

Menus are a huge part of a game even though they may not be seen as significant as gameplay or mechanics. A game without menus well… would not be very functional! Menus allow the player to pause, restart, end, or make vital changes to the game, such as screen resolution or sound volume.

Last sprint Adam Toth, lead artist, designed the journal menu. This menu stores all the evidence that the player collects while playing the game. The player has access to important evidence that they may need to revisit later, either solely out of interest or to grasp a better understanding of the story. The journal also contains a dynamic map that reveals itself once areas are explored. Without a map a player could easily get lost in the game, not knowing where they are. However, since this is a noir game we wanted to add mystery to the locations that the player has not yet explored. Unexplored areas on the map are represented by question marks, as seen in the image below. The map was designed by Will Falk, design lead. The room that the player is currently in highlights.

journal_map.PNG

Once the level is fully explored it will reveal all the room names.

IF_All_Rooms_Explored.png

The player can also click on the journal tabs to access other features within the journal. The tab to the right of the map is the objectives. This menu displays the current objective on the bottom left hand side and completed objectives on the right page. The image below is a prototype of the objectives page.

journal_objectives.PNG

The left most tab contains the evidence that I mentioned above. It currently looks like the image below and will soon be populated with evidence documents for the player to examine.

evidence_page.png

Below is a rough prototype that Adam designed. When a document is clicked on, it will pop up and the player can read at it. After the player is done reading the document it can be minimized and will return to the evidence tab of the journal. The story tab, which is the rightmost, will function similar to the evidence tab.

wireframe_A_2.png

The pause menu is separate from the journal and can be accessed by pressing “esc” on the keyboard. The player can save the game or load a previous save. Game settings can be changed and currently include sound volume and mouse sensitivity. More options might be added in the future. The player can also go back to the main menu or exit the game through the pause menu.

pausemenu.PNG

The last menu in Building 37 is the main menu! But, I will leave that as a surprise for when you experience the game.

 

Thanks for reading!

-Ally Schultz

 

 

New Lead in the Mix

Hey everyone, you may remember me from a while back when I posted my concept art (https://twohatgames.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/paranormal-objects/#comments). A lot has changed since then, Building 37 has expanded from a narrative focused game to include more action/puzzle mechanics. The game’s demographic is now for two types of players; those looking for a good narrative and uncover the mystery hiding in the depth of the facility and those who want to explore and solve puzzles. Because the game is expanding our producer Dave Beck elected me to become Lead of Game Design. Our previous lead game designer, Jeremy, has taken the role of managing narrative, a role he has been playing all along anyway.

 

Last semester I proved myself based on my concept work, being a primary teammate in the Mechanics focused group and seen as hard worker among my teammates. I am excited and honored to be a lead on this project. It is my goal and a promise to always keep the player in mind. Since this is the second semester of the project a lot of the pre-production decision have already been made so the remaining time will be spent finalizing and polishing.

 

As first step as Game Design Lead I created a small group that would focus on getting game design specific items in the game. We started by concepting player centric mechanics such as the hud and menu system. The team looked for inspiration from other games and decided what would be best for Building 37. We are looking forward to the end of the sprint to see how this goes over with player feedback.

12620375_1010295612365413_2047169487_o

Menu UI

 

The biggest challenge the Game Design team will face is redesigning one the games main puzzle systems: The twine boards on each level that allow you to gain enough knowledge to unlock and use items such as the Lektrax. The player collects redacted documents throughout the game and must connect these documents to un-redact the information. The team looked at the feedback from our playtests. We are feeling out possibilities as to why people didn’t enjoy this feature or why they may have become confused and frustrated. The new prototype system is about to be put into the build and we hope to see if people will enjoy it.

 

12637346_1010295425698765_1741944895_o

Current Twine board

The Game Design team is also in charge of making the builds at the end of each sprint. Luckily our producer has changed things up a bit and sprints are now 3 weeks instead of 2 weeks. This will give us more time for polish and get everything that people created in the game. The artists will focus on creating game design specific assets first. These things will be due in the middle of the sprint so that the programmers can implement them into the build. These assets include objects that need some love from the programmers and images that will be going in the Ai. Programmers will be focused on taking what we concepted mechanics meetings and bringing a prototype of it to the game. For now the game design team is making sure these new mechanics will available earlier in the build and expand to the other levels of the game once we get feedback.

 

Again I’m excited to be a lead on this project and look forward to seeing what we accomplish on the game as a whole. I have high expectations and I know we can reach them.

 

Game Design Lead

William Falk

We are back from “Break”

As you may have noticed, the Two Hat blog has been a bit empty the past few weeks. As we transitioned from semester one to semester two we found it necessary to give ourselves a bit of a break to spend the holidays with our friends and family. We hope you had a good holiday season and hope your year has been off to a great start as ours has. With the first day of class and production ramping up to full speed tomorrow we are more excited than ever. We are now just over the half way point in the development of Building 37 and now things are really going to get exciting.

As you may have noticed the word break in the title is in quotations. That is because even though our dedicated artists and programmers were not it the lab, they still continued to work as they came out of their holiday food comas. After having a mid-mortem discussion on the progress we made on creating an alpha of Building 37, it quickly became apparent that if we want to produce a quality deliverable game that we are all proud to stand behind we must have a smaller sub-sprint over winterm. So for the past two weeks our artists have been working to further geometry on existing rooms and objects as well as laying out UV maps so that we can start to incorporate textures and really breathe life into our underground warehouse of mystery. Our programmers started to clean up and make their code more efficient as well as fix bugs in the existing mechanics. Our goal over break was to set ourselves up for success once the semester starts up so that we may hit the ground running.

Building37

So what’s next you ask? In the following weeks you can look forward to seeing finalized art and clips of gameplay. Much of semester was spent laying the ground work and putting things in place so to speak. This semester will be spent polishing and revisiting things so that they are as visually pleasing and as engaging as we can make them.

Cheers,

Alex Dvorak Environment Artist

Setting The Sound

There comes a time in every games’ life when you need to add sound else it does not feel as complete as you would like.  My goal as of late has been to make the game feel more complete.

Our game involves quite a lot of story in it, which means that we are going to need a bunch of narration.  We have recorded placeholder narration, which allowed me to get it into the game and make sure that it all flows together properly.

Sound effects are another key focus for the audio in this game.  We want you to immerse yourself into the game and a small but important part of that is attributed to sound effects.  Having a properly placed sound effect can make a certain action feel complete or feel completely broken.  Currently the sound effects that are in the game are either placeholder or sound assets created by myself for this game.  For creating sounds I use whatever random materials that I have that makes the right sound for what we need.

With sound effects, I feel that having a slightly different sound effect for different states of an object is a must, because you want to be able to differentiate between the different states.  A good example that is currently implemented in the game, is that when you open a door it makes a little clicking noise when you open the door, however when you close the door it makes a longer squeak.

Sound Engineering can be a challenging but rewarding field to take up.  It is challenging in the fact that it can be very time consuming, along with having to mix a bunch of different tracks so that you get it just right.  However on the other end of the spectrum, Sound Engineering can be extremely rewarding.  The feeling that I get when I perfect a track so that it blends seamlessly and just performs phenomenally, is so joyful.

To reiterate, sound can make a game what it is, and even if you may think you do not need sound or sound effects, just imagine what the players that may play your game will think if they do not know what they are doing because either there are no instructions or no sound cues.  Your users will thank you 🙂

Ben Buckli

Sound Engineer / User Interface