Console Update, Rewards and Phase 2

Hey Everyone!

It's already been a month and a half since we released on Steam! Overall our launch has gone smoothly with 24/25 positive reviews! We released two bug patches with a third on the way that will also include controller support! 

Sweet. :D
If you still haven't received a steam key or want to change to a steam key, please email us! (contact at enlightenedgames dot com)

Console : Our goal is to release both of these versions in August, we will keep you all updated!

WiiU :

This has been our biggest challenge yet - but we're making a LOT of progress! The WiiU is far less powerful than the current consoles and isn't the most friendly dev environment. But we're GOING to make this happen!

See look it's running on a WiiU! :D

PS4 : We are still waiting for our dev kits, which should be coming to us soon. After working with the WiiU, I imagine this will be a walk in the park. HAH!

Chapter Two!!

Last but not least - we have started thinking ahead. I have been working on very early planning and concepts over the last month and am ready to slowly start showing it off. We're trying to figure out what our best avenue will be to continue development, but we will know more in the coming months. 

In the coming weeks, I will be trickling out more concepts I've created - and more information of what Chapter Two IS will follow!

This also means I plan on starting to stream on a schedule (and consistently) five days a week!!! 

<3,

Eric and the rest of the EG gang

As a friendly reminder, if you want to follow our developments more closely, here is a list of resources to keep up to date. 

Facebook
Twitter
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Home Site
Twitch

Setting up physically-based materials and baked lighting in Unity 5

While we're ramping up pre-production on Chapter 2 I've actually had a chance to go in and investigate Unity's new physically-based rendered material system, as well as the baked lighting system. These features are super powerful and incredibly useful if you know how to implement them, but the task of getting them to work correctly can be... cumbersome at first. So what I'm going to be doing to shed some light (heh) on the situation is a break-down of my process.In chapter one, we decided that we only wanted to use diffuse maps for all materials that were using the Standard shader for the sake of visual simplicity and a quicker asset creation pipeline. We also only used realtime lighting because we didn't have the time to rebuild our levels with baked lighting in mind. Only after spending a year of development in Unity 5 did we realize the potential we missed out on, but by then it was too late to apply PBR materials to all the existing assets and bake the lighting in these huge levels. So we're taking this chance to start using these features in Chapter 2.

  • One thing that should be said. A visually appealing scene is a composition of all kinds of effects and assets coming together to form cohesive and pleasant imagery. You can have the most technically advanced effects in the world but if it's all taking place in a scene where the assets used are shit then your scene is going to look like a polished turd. If you're inexperienced with asset creation (modeling, sculpting, texturing, etc...) then either find someone who is or stop reading this and find some good learning resources. The programs I used for asset creation in this run-down are Photoshop CS6, 3Ds Max 2016, NDO2, and Zbrush.

INDIRECT LIGHTING and REALTIME GLOBAL ILLUMINATION 

The lighting you see in the first panel is the exact way we did everything for Chapter 1. Everything was strictly realtime lighting, and we occasionally fudged light bouncing by slapping a point light in select places. This method can only get you so far, and some really cool detail can be lost. 

The lighting you see in the first panel is the exact way we did everything for Chapter 1. Everything was strictly realtime lighting, and we occasionally fudged light bouncing by slapping a point light in select places. This method can only get you so far, and some really cool detail can be lost. 

So to start I set up a simple scene. A room made of  cubes with some basic materials applied. I threw in a brick material and a barrel prop to see how indirect lighting would play with normal maps.

  • It is important to note that any objects you want affected by indirect lighting need to be marked 'static' at the top right of the inspector tab (as stated in this useful tutorial)

I threw in a single directional light and hit 'bake'. The only way I found that the lighting showed up correctly on the normal maps was to set the the directional mode drop down box to Directional under the General GI section of the Lighting tab. After getting the hang of tweaking all of the settings for GI I thought I was ready to start filling out the scene to see what I could achieve. 

I should point out that to fully flesh out the room I put a point light in the center with no shadows applied. 

I should point out that to fully flesh out the room I put a point light in the center with no shadows applied. 

The biggest difference you may notice is that the light bounces and some subtle ambient occlusion was baked into the scene. It's certainly brighter, but I felt I could push the visuals farther. I started to experiment with PBR materials on the Standard shader. The thing about creating PBR materials is that it's not just a little check box you can tick. Creating assets that utilize this feature requres that you create a specific metalness map (as detailed in this tutorial). Like I said above, this step requires that you know how to create your own assets and materials, so make that a priority before anything else.

With PBR materials, the 'shinyness' comes from two maps now, rather than just a specular map. There's the Metalness map (which affects how 'metal' the texture appears) and the Smoothness map (which affects how 'smooth' the material is. A MUCH better explanation here, haha.

With PBR materials, the 'shinyness' comes from two maps now, rather than just a specular map. There's the Metalness map (which affects how 'metal' the texture appears) and the Smoothness map (which affects how 'smooth' the material is. A MUCH better explanation here, haha.

When using PBR materials make sure you're using reflection probes so the materials react properly to their local environment. A tutorial on how to set them up.

When using PBR materials make sure you're using reflection probes so the materials react properly to their local environment. A tutorial on how to set them up.

I'm starting to get some good results and we're almost there. But here comes my favorite part. The easy, cheap-ass part. POST-PROCESSING!!! 

So there you have it. That is my process for setting up this scene. I'm sure There are things I could do better, I'm still learning. But hopefully this is useful to you guys!

How to make your indie game look alright

One thing I’ve learned from working on So7 for the past year is that when it comes to making an environment it seldom looks the way you want on first attempt. By that I mean most games looking the way they do is thanks to iteration upon iteration upon iteration. Take Jon Blow’s The Witness for example, a game with a similar art style to ours.

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It’s not like they just hired some artist to come clean everything up in a week or so. Because games are an interactive medium that take forever to develop, mechanics and gameplay change week to week. It takes constant adjustment to create a flowing and coherent sense of visual appeal, and the addition of mechanics or aspects of the environment can potentially muddy that up if you’re not paying attention.

So what about when you do have all the mechanics in place? It still takes time to make an environment make sense. Environments in games are made up of tiny pieces that come together to form a cohesive whole. Normally I’d use some sort of puzzle analogy but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate in this case. When a puzzle isn’t finished it is very obvious that parts are missing and creating scenes is much more nebulous; when something looks off it can be difficult to pinpoint what is needed. Sure if you add a rock there or a tree here it’s no big deal and most people will never notice the difference. But it’s these changes that constantly add up over the course of development that make them a difference. I swear for the past 6 months I’ve not made more than a total of ten small, insignificant changes every time I opened up Kami Village and look at how much it’s changed in that time.

I remember one day a family member of mine was visiting and sat down to watch me work. I was placing grass and editing the terrain in the Forest scene. She said to me, “That’s it, you just paint it on there? Well I could do that!” I have no doubt that she could, once you get used to the tools in Unity they are very simple to use. You can teach someone to build an environment in a modern game engine in a day. But it takes time to train your eye to focus on what seems like insignificant detail. Here’s an example of a super insignificant change.

These rocks. I used the same exact stone models in both screens and spent 1 minute placing one set, and 5 minutes placing the other. 90% of people will never notice the difference but one is more visually appealing, if only on a subconscious level. In the bottom screenshot I just haphazardly dragged them out and slapped them into the scene, rotated them a bit, did a tiny bit of resizing, and went on my merry way. It doesn’t look terrible but it looks a little disjointed. In the top screenshot I focused on visual variety (in size and shape) while still maintaining a consistent looking aesthetic (showing the more geometric and worn down sides of each stone, making sure each one has a proportional amount of shadow on one side, and silhouette, silhouette, silhouette). Like I said, insignificant, but apply this approach to every aspect of your scene and that can make the difference between a professional or amateur look. If every single object in your shot is placed like the rocks on the bottom even people with untrained eyes are going to see that things are looking muddled.

Another big/small thing is post-FX. Eric might even be the better one to talk about this (he is the master color and effects tweaker). But he’s busy doing real work so you have to settle for me. In most of our scenes the post-FX we use are SSAO (Screen Space Ambient Occlusion), Depth of Field, Antialiasing, Color Correction, Vignetting, Amplify Color, and Bloom. After a scene is finished, these are the things that get tweaked the most, and they do vary GREATLY with each scene depending on the mood we’re going for.

So I guess the whole point to this post is that the little changes do matter and when you’re an artist it does make a difference to go a little crazy and hyper-focus on detail (sometimes, other times it's better to focus on the big picture). You can’t learn to be an environment artist in a short space of time; it requires intuition that becomes clear over years of studying what makes things look pretty. The thing is that I’m no industry vet and I’m still figuring this out too so if you disagree with anything I’ve said leave a comment and I’d be interested to hear your opinion. Thanks for getting to the bottom of this rant and I hope you guys enjoy the game when it's released on May 17th :D

 

So Close...

So we haven't updated in a while. We're nearing the end of development and things are a little crazy. We're all working our butts off to get things done and polished. The game is pretty much playable from start to finish and 95% of the art is done. Most of what we have to do is just file off the rough edges. 

Right now we're working on getting our final trailer out and we're going to make this one a home run. We're also going to be really reaching out to a lot of news outlets to try and get the word out, considering we don't exactly have a AAA marketing budget. 

I've decided to post a couple shots from Act 2 for you guys that follow us just to give you a better sneak peek at what's to come.

Needless to say this point in development is simultaneously terrifying and exciting. Worst case scenario is that some bugs slip through the cracks (as they inevitably do) and we'll be doing vigorous post launch bug fixing. Either way we're working as hard as we can to get this thing finished and into your hands.

 

Chapter One Release date!!

Finally…..Release Information! 

Hello, Enlightened Games family! Zach the production manager here. We have an incredible announcement to share with you regarding the release of The Song of Seven Chapter One: Overture, and what you can expect as a Kickstarter backer or potential purchaser. 

After months and months of testing, working, re-working…. More working, we have a date set through our Steamworks portal for May 17th, 2016. May 17th! 

You are a few short months away from enjoying the first leg of a grand journey, a journey with a main character we all find fits a piece of our personality, a story of boundless adventure amid a society rid with fear, and the start of an amazing journey on the other side of a broken fence. Our puzzles are primed, and story framework is laid out completely at this point. Expect The Song of Seven to make you laugh, challenge you with critical thinking, and inspire you through adventure and growth of a young character into adulthood. Following Kiba through the entire story, we hope to create the bond we have all felt when watching our main character become older, wiser, stronger, while painting a picture of a life we were able to watch unfold. Chapter One places you only at the beginning of this grand journey, so buckle up


With the Steam release date set, many of you may be wondering, what’s the status of the other platform releases? Well, don’t fret my friends. We are working diligently behind the scenes to secure timelines on both WIIU and PS4, as well as additional purchasing options for the non-steam PC loyalists. We don’t have any official dates as of yet for those offerings, but we promise we have not forgotten about you! Until that point, hold tight, or give the game a spin on your gaming rig. 

The entire Enlightened Games team is incredibly excited to share this amazing game with you in May after three long years of development (including our prototyping process), and hope you were able to follow the progress of an adventure sure to provide enjoyment. If you have any questions about release, or want to find out more about 

The Song of Seven, please drop us a line on Twitter @EnlightGames, on Facebook via our page, or through the site. Imanage the Twitter and Facebook account, and am more than happy to talk Enlightened Games, our game, or just games in general. Use #WakeUpKiba to best get your tweet noticed.

Zach Kruse,
PRODUCER/MARKETING MANAGER

Happy New Year!

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It's 2016!!! We've been super busy scrambling to get Act 2 completed so we haven't had a lot of time to spend on updates. A LOT has happened since our last post both in development and outside of it.  So what have we been up to specifically?

Right now we've nearly completed grayboxing and logic of Act 2 and have begun visual polish on about half of it. We decided not to post any media from Act 2 so I won't be able to share any screenshots from that section of the game. However, we're continuously getting faster and more streamlined in our process, so things are speeding up. Not to mention the visual fidelity of the game is really starting to look how we'd hoped it would by the time of release.

As you can see we've been polishing Act 1 like crazy and even have had to completely rebuild the Forest scene for optimization. Thankfully it is performing (and looking) much better and is closer to the original concepts. 

One of the more annoying issues (at least for me) in game development is constantly having to update our screenshots because I can't stand looking at my work from even a month ago! Everything you've seen so far is likely going to look much better in the final release. They say you should always have more than you show so I suppose it's a bonus.

Not only are things looking better, but our composer Jonathan Yandel is giving the score a complete overhaul.

Jenni is just about done with all the writing and our programmer, Andy Moran, has worked out how we're doing Steam achievements. So Jenni is in the process of writing those and we're super excited to see some of the fun, obscure stuff she comes up with.

All in all, everyone has just been doing their thing, working as hard as they can to get this game out in a timely manner and to the quality we aim for. The thing about working independently is that it becomes difficult to "know when to stop". You can't give a game too much polish and there are always things  you can improve. Since we're inching closer to release we have to be careful about which parts of the game we want to spend time improving so we don't slip too far from schedule. Even deciding to do that work on the forest was a difficult decision because we knew it might set us back a bit. Overall though the quality of the game is what matters most, especially since this is our first project together. 

What else has been happening? Back in November we took The Song of Seven to a beta testing event and had a good number of people publicly play a demo of the game. We got some amazing feedback (mostly positive :D) that was helpful and reassuring. This was also the first time complete strangers had a chance to play the game so we were pretty nervous. 

We also decided to take Enlightened Games to see Star Wars on release night! We had a blast and everyone loved it! It was also some much needed break time and it was night to get everyone together again. Unfortunately Zach (our producer) couldn't make it but we partied without him.

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Anyway, I think that concludes this post. We'll be trying to keep you guys updated but no promises. Just know that we're working as fast as we can to get this to you guys! Oh, and since we can't show you any screens from Act 2  we decided to share some concepts.


ACT ONE DONE (Kinda)

So a lot has happened over the last couple months. We've been working hard to get the first act of Chapter 1 completed and into Beta. I think it's safe to say that the first act has been finished and now it's just a matter of finding the last of the bugs and giving it slightly more polish. We did some playtesting recently as well and got some amazing and encouraging feedback which was a huge morale boost. 

In other news we just submitted the most recent build to IGF where it will be scrutinized meticulously. The week before the deadline was chaos! We basically had everything go wrong at once and we scrambled furiously to get a working build to the judges on time. Luckily we made it but we all agreed to take a bit of a break afterwards to minimize stress levels that were already building.

So now we get to do fun stuff again. Eric is gonna be finishing up the designs for everything in Act 2 while the rest of us continue to iron out Act 1. From there we'll be filling out Act 2 with new models, textures, animations, etc... We've all kinda gotten into the groove of working together so it should be smooth sailing relatively. 

So I don't have too many 'new' screens for this post because like I said we've been bug fixing. Enjoy the rest though!

September Update!

We recently (and finally) got version control set up. For those that don’t know what that is, it basically means the lead dev, asset creators, sound designers, and environmental artists can all work on the same project across multiple computers simultaneously without overwriting saved work. It’s a lot harder to get working correctly than you’d think, considering how vital this feature is to workflow.

So now a lot of weight has been lifted from Eric’s Unity-laden shoulders because our sound guy can change and edit things with the flick of his wrist and I can do my detail passes more frequently. This will speed things up significantly. This isn’t to say that the game is going to come out sooner, it will just be a lot less bumpy of a ride for Enlightened Games.

The prologue sequence...

The prologue sequence...

Kami's most recent iteration...

Kami's most recent iteration...

Clearing after the forest scene...

Clearing after the forest scene...

In other news, we all met up at Bit Bash in Chicago last weekend! It was the first time the (almost) entire team got together in one place! Unfortunately our writer, Jenni, was busy at the time and couldn’t make it but it was awesome nonetheless. We handed out some business cards, checked out some of the other indie games on the show floor, and had intimate discussions on Game of Thrones.

From left to right: Cody Heyer, Nathan Glynn, Jonathan Yandel (composer), Nathaniel Grove (env. artist), Eric Blomquist (lead dev), Zach Kruse (producer), and Man who appears to be a LARPer out of costume. 

From left to right: Cody Heyer, Nathan Glynn, Jonathan Yandel (composer), Nathaniel Grove (env. artist), Eric Blomquist (lead dev), Zach Kruse (producer), and Man who appears to be a LARPer out of costume. 

What is there left to do before release, you ask? We’ve almost got the first act into alpha and the second act into pre-alpha. The first act is completely playable and now it is just a matter of making it look pretty. (At least I think. We’ve still got a lot of small progression bugs to iron out.) We’re not gonna be sharing any screenshots of the second act with the public because we want to avoid spoilers and retain our alluring mystique. Once we get all the official animations into the first act we’ll begin blocking out the next.

Things are really going to be ramping up in the next couple months thanks to version control so updates may be less frequent. Anyway this whole post was basically an excuse to throw some new screenshots in your face so congrats on getting to the end.