Devlog

Random Screenshot #2

Turns out adding copious amounts of fog not only makes things look more realistic, it also helps keep the render times down! Who’d have thunk?

Poor Peanut... all alone somewhere out there :'-(

And here’s a wireframe of the shot in all its glory:

Needs more fog.

Random Screenshot #1

Testing out some character animation, dialogue and the interaction system. Need to come up with some good animation for when the character speaks.

Note how the character casts shadows on the pre-rendered background.

Devlog #3 - Better Late Than Never

Oh dear… it’s been quite a while since my last post, hasn’t it? A lot has happened since then, though I am happy to report that I am in fact still working on this project.

For one, the story has been rewritten from scratch. Along with the story the title has also changed: What was “Fatal Attractions” is now “The Webmaster”.
With the changed title of course comes a new website under a new URL: http://www.thewebmastergame.com. This explains why you might find some out of date links here and there. Bear with me.

A spooky night in the neighborhood.
The setting in mid-90s American suburbia remains, as do the characters for the most part.

Aside from rewriting the story and rendering out what feels like a gazillion backgrounds, I’ve been hard at work ironing out the kinks of the game’s engine. I’m still using Unity in combination with Adventure Creator. While it certainly gets the job done, I always felt its visual, mouse-based workflow was never really ideal for me.
So I ended up developing a custom integration for the narrative scripting language Ink. This allows me to write the story interactions in a more coder friendly way. For example:

= tv_examine
- Steve: That's my TV.

= tv_use
- Steve: It won't turn on. The power is out!

More about that later. Anyway, here’s a few more screenshots showing the latest progress:

Play some video games...
...or go camping out in the woods?
Gesundheit?!
Looks like somebody's got some cleaning up to do.

And finally my new year’s resolution: Keeping the damn devlog up to date!

Devlog #2 - Introduction

For the past couple years I’ve been working on and off on this adventure game now called The Webmaster.
In fact this isn’t the first time I’m blogging about this project but the story and development has pivoted so hard (multiple times!) that a fresh start with a new name is justified.

The game takes inspiration from ’80s horror movies as well as classic 2D adventure games, two of my favorite pastimes.

Story

The Webmaster is set in the good ol’ days of the mid ’90s in small town American suburbia. We follow a couple teenage friends as they stumble across a curious MacGuffin. Their investigation leads them to mysterious places and encounters with interesting and, frankly, weird people. The boys make a frightening discovery…

That’s it for now – don’t want to give too much away!

A beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Gameplay

The game plays very much like the classic adventure games from LucasArts and Sierra Online: You point the mouse cursor at objects on the screen, choose an interaction verb and wait to see what happens. Throughout the game you get to explore mystic places, meet strange folk and solve puzzles along the way.

While the game does include a good amount of puzzles, the gameplay is mostly story- and dialogue-driven. In that sense The Webmaster might be closer to Visual Novels than most classic point-and-clicks.

Oh, and you can’t die – although we do try to hide that fact to make the game more exciting.

Graphics

Originally I’d planned to make The Webmaster look a lot more like the games that inspired it: Big, beautiful pixel art with a limited VGA palette. Alas, it turned out I’m absolutely rubbish at this art style. Also, it wasn’t really jibing with the mood I had in mind for the game.

Our hero's bedroom

Luckily, thanks to my background in feature film animation I happen to know a thing or two about rendering in 3D.
And so, after a lot of trial and error, I eventually settled on the style you see here. It’s still low-res VGA but with a more filmic approach. Not to mention I take some liberties when it comes to the number of colors on screen at once.

The pre-rendered 3D art offers lots of artistic freedom to capture a nostalgic look reminiscent of inspirational movies such as Salem’s Lot, The Goonies or Fright Night. Moreover, the ridiculously low resolution means the amount of time and effort it takes to create and render the background assets stays fairly reasonable.

Regarding animation, I’m going for the absolute minimum I can get away with – mostly just transitions, really. The characters will walk around on screen, but I’m not going to create large numbers of custom animations for different situations.

You sure you want to go in there...?

Technical Info

The Webmaster is built in Unity with a little help from the excellent Adventure Creator and Ink extensions. Plus of course tons of custom code in C# and Lua to make everything work exactly how I envision it.

For now it’s aimed at desktop platforms (Windows, macOS, Linux), though technically there’s no reason it shouldn’t run on mobile, too.

Creepy things are afoot

The 3D rendering is all done inside Cinema 4D.

Current Status

At this point I have a working prototype of the game running:

  • Rooms can be defined and loaded
  • Interactions with objects are scripted using a custom extension to the Ink language
  • 3D path finding works for the most part
  • A good portion of the rooms have been rendered

I have a pretty good idea of how the story will unfold. For me that’s really the tricky part.

Devlog #1 - First Post

Hello and welcome (back?) to my little development log. On these pages I’ll be talking about the continued and ongoing development of my adventure game, The Webmaster. I’ll discuss game development ideas, techniques, various issues I run into and will talk you through the progress as the project comes along.

Third time’s the charm

And this time for real, too! Must be the third or fourth time I’ve relaunched this blog over the years. And every time it would fall into neglect shortly after.
How is this one different, I hear you scoffing? For one (I hope!) I’ve finally come up with a style for the game that’s, well, “sustainable” for lack of a better word. You see, in previous iterations I had too lofty goals for this project; inevitably they’d come crashing down on me sooner or later. They were simply out of reach for a sole developer like myself who’s working on a game in what little spare time he has.

This time is different. I’m going for something with a more forgiving style. Something I can actually see myself completing in a reasonable timeframe. No more forever-projects. No more custom engine development… no more perfectionism… I need something to show for all the time I’ve invested into this game. And by God it’s been a lot! Too much!

Welcome aboard. And wish me luck.

brb, got some 1337 hacking to do.