Newborn Bard

Developer Tools

  One very important aspect of game development is utilizing the best tools for the job. When using a robust game engine like Unity, sometimes it’s easy to think you have everything you need, and forget to plan ahead for those time-consuming tasks down the line.

  But then again, while we’d all love to have the time to create our very own personalized engines tailored precisely for our game designs, you’d be killing yourself to “reinvent the wheel”. It is more prudent to ask which parts of a game’s development will benefit most from special tools. 

The answer to that question for Newborn Bard has been:

1. Scripting audio and music events. 

  As my first exercise in extending the Unity editor, I created a custom editor class for our “Jukebox Trigger”— an all-purpose trigger which can 1) Fade to a new track; 2) Trigger a 3D audio source; 3) Trigger a new oneshot clip; 4) Fade out all music. Each of these have a set of parameters such as FadeTime, Volume, AudioClip, and Delay.

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To put a little cap on October, here is a short taste of some new environments and the latest addition to the soundtrack.

The Art of Newborn Bard
Hello again all! 
After much experimentation with different visual styles we settled on remixing the work of the Hudson River School painters. The narrative of Newborn Bard centers around themes from American Transcendentalism, a literary and philosophical movement started in the mid 19th century by Ralph Waldo Emerson and a group of like-minded writers, and poets. We saw a unique oportunity to add some historical context to our narrative themes by using actual paintings from the same time period. Both Transcendentalism and the Hudson River School emphasized the power and beauty of nature, and in fact many of the Hudson River School painters were directly influenced by Emerson’s writings on nature.
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The screen shot above shows a semi-secret cliffside area from Newborn Bard. The hills in the background come from a painting by Thomas Cole titled The Oxbow. (pictured below)

Here are some other paintings we are using. See if you can spot the borrowed trees in the screen shot at the bottom.




Kindred Spirits, Asher Durand


Summer Afternoon, Asher Durand



Copyright issues (for those interested):
After a little research we determined that all of these Hudson River School paintings (dating from the mid to late 19 century) are old enough to be in the public domain, and as long as we use public domain photos of these public domain paintings we are in the clear regarding copyright. 

-Aaron

The Art of Newborn Bard

Hello again all! 

After much experimentation with different visual styles we settled on remixing the work of the Hudson River School painters. The narrative of Newborn Bard centers around themes from American Transcendentalism, a literary and philosophical movement started in the mid 19th century by Ralph Waldo Emerson and a group of like-minded writers, and poets. We saw a unique oportunity to add some historical context to our narrative themes by using actual paintings from the same time period. Both Transcendentalism and the Hudson River School emphasized the power and beauty of nature, and in fact many of the Hudson River School painters were directly influenced by Emerson’s writings on nature.

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Critter AI

Today we added some simple AI to a butterfly critter to populate our forest. These butterflies like to land on the player when he stands still long enough, but will run away from him when he chases. Each butterfly adopts a slightly randomized personality based on several variables and four AI states: Idling, Seeking, Sitting, and Fleeing. 

Reactive Music in Newborn Bard

In deciding how to approach the music of Newborn Bard I was inspired by playing games like Journey and Proteus where the music reacts to the player. Music in games has always been a tricky problem, because music is embedded in time. Yet games are not. In games the player controls the flow of time. In an attempt to better understand this problem I decided to play Journey and pick apart how the music works.

In analyzing the music of Journey I came up with a vocabulary to use when thinking about the game. Response points are what I am using to refer to the game states in which the music is changed in someway. A game with no response points would have one song that plays when you start the game up and doesn’t stop until you turn the game off. On the other end of the spectrum imagine a virtual reality game where every tiny movement of your body is being tracked and translated into sound. This would be maximizing response points. Proteus, a beautiful game where the soundtrack is dynamically generated based on what the player is looking at, lies at this end of the spectrum. Typical response points include level switches, going from a menu to a new scene, cut scenes, getting a game over etc.

The music of Journey has many more response points than your typical game. This results in many shorter pieces of music working together to change with the player in real time. The triggers are usually cutscenes or level switches (like the one right before the 1:00 mark in the video below). There are a few very creative response points. For example towards the end of the first world there is a sequence many refer to as The Slide. Anyone who has played Journey will no doubt remember the sequence. Here is a video:

Notice at 2:30 a background loop has been triggered and the way forward is made clear to continue The Slide. The next action music cue doesn’t come in until the players feet hit the ground in the next section of the world

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Character Animation

It’s week 4, and our character is starting to come alive! 

I’m using Spine, an incredible skeleton-based 2D animation software, for our main character. It’s allowed for some awesomely smooth animations to be (almost) painlessly exported for use in Unity. Spine assets also allow for some very exciting runtime capabilities, but for this project we’ll be keeping it pretty simple, with maybe some animation blending techniques later in development.

Shown first, above, and fresh out of Spine, is a “walking up” animation. This was a good milestone on the art front because it required a nearly complete skin for “facing up” (or “facing positive-Z”). These skins take a lot of time to draw up and pose, but the time investment is quickly redeemed during the animation phase. More time and more reusable textures means more animations and a more lively character.

Also above is a small glimpse of the Dopesheet in Spine. There you can edit the keyframes and timing of all aspects of the animation, from bone scales & rotations, to sprite color, to draw order. On the +Z walk you can see multiple sprites for the feet. 

-Damon

Level Design

For our third week of updates, here are the top-down layouts of the first “chapter” of Newborn Bard. Chapter One consists of five scenes, each with a puzzle taking the player one step deeper into the forest. 

The shapes above are the actual physical barriers forming the boundaries of each scene. These barriers are invisible in-game, but allow us to construct the meat of the level design and gameplay flow before adding in the pretty-looking graphical boundaries, which are themselves just layered billboards of textures.

Form & Function

Most of the Chapter 1 scenes follow the same basic structure with two main components:

  • Adventure area: These tend to be long, narrow, and horizontal—three features which intend to direct the player along with out getting too lost or distracted. These areas contain plot elements, story clues, and detailed environments to explore.
  • Puzzle area: Since the perspective-based puzzles rely on Z-depth, these areas naturally open up into the background, allowing more freedom of movement.

Additionally, there are hidden areas to discover—but no spoilers here!

Light & Color

By applying light to the “invisible” barriers and ground planes, we can take a nice look at the flow and function of the scene lighting. 

  • Green: Dense forest, adventure areas
  • Purples & blues: Puzzle zones and secret areas
  • Oranges & Pinks: Open skies, clearing, scenic environments

First Puzzle

This video demonstrates the most basic permutation of our game mechanic. We plan to have two other variations of this mechanic, which the player encounters in later worlds. All the puzzles in the first world have two basic aspects to them: the position of the draggable puzzle piece and the position of the player. We chose to introduce these elements one by one, so in this first puzzle when you drag the puzzle piece into the proper position you are already standing in the right place to solve the puzzle. In later levels you will have to drag the piece(s) then go and find where to stand so that the pieces line up.