"Folk Tale" - comedy fantasy RTS
Posted 14 November 2011 - 08:37 AM
We're a small indie collaboration studio working on our PC/Mac title "Folk Tale". This is our first post as a new community member, and we wanted to share some of the initial progress with fellow indie lovers.
Here's the description taken from our website:
Dive into the comedy-fantasy world of Folk Tale and lead your illiterate subjects to greatness, in spite of their moronic efforts to undermine you. Build a thriving economy, harvest resources, construct buildings and amass vast wealth, before losing it all on a doomed adventure through frozen wastes, volcanoes, and stinking swamps.
We're still working towards a single-level playable demo ready to pitch to publishers and investors. But before we do all that, we would love to start listening to some feedback and thoughts on how to improve Folk Tale.
Dev Update Video 2
Every month or so, we publish a dev update video on the Games Foundry YouTube Channel. If you've got time, we'd love it if you could swing by to check it out and share your thoughts.
If you would like to follow our progress, we've just started to become active on the usual suspects:
We hope you like what we've achieved so far, and any constructive criticism you could offer is most welcome.
Posted 24 August 2012 - 10:10 AM
WIP Update 5 can be found over on our YouTube Channel.
Beta Registration Now Open
Closed beta registration is now open over at www.gamesfoundry.com/beta.aspx if you fancy checking out the game before everyone else, and hopefully helping us out with your feedback.
Rich ( Technical Artist ) has done a grand job of remodelling the original buildings that were hacked together by myself ( Simon, Project Lead ) to form part of the creative brief, creating a new hand-painted 4096x4096 texture atlas shared by human village assets to reduce draw calls. As the artist responsible for the human characters, it was only logical to have Rich make the buildings for visual consistency.
Keen-eyed followers may spot we've replaced Unity's Water4 with Tasharen Water. It's got really nice specular, and dual-colour water depth colours produces some nice blending. Okay, so it's missing a few features and had some initial hiccups with deferred rendering which Aren the author promptly fixed, but we don't miss Gerstner displacement all that much. There's an occasional frame flicker we're noticing which I haven't yet reported because I haven't confirmed it's a water issue.
With the remodelling of the buildings, we've taken the opportunity to add interiors and animations to buildings such as the Smelt and Woodcutter Lodge. Several player interactions will happen inside buildings, including the hiring of heroes at the Tavern. In the Monastery interior above, the monks heal fallen comrades back to health. We didn't want to have perma-death for heroes, so we're implementing a time penalty after which they can be rehired.
Tom ( Technical Artist ) has been working diligently cleaning up and adding to a long list of animations. Farming animations are now fixed, so no more moonwalking. Responding to feedback, we've broken the process in two, requiring time for the wheat to grow before it can be harvested. Miners now smelt iron ore before working it at an anvil and dunking it into water. Okay, so this may not be how iron bars were actually made, so we've played the "creative license" card. If you say "blacksmithing" the first mental image that forms is usually a hot fire and an anvil, so we've added those as visual hints to the smelt's function.
The new human Monk and Militia classes were a joint effort. Tom kicked off the modelling as he likes his edge flow a certain way so his animations deform nicely. Then it's over to Rich for UV and texture painting while Tom works on any new animations. Rich drops the low poly model into ZBrush for some additional sculpting and then does an AO bake to use as the values base for hand-painting the diffuse texture. Having generic rigs for humans and goblins means we can use any animation on any character. We're really looking forward to getting our hands on Mechanim in the upcoming Unity 4 as it should save Tom a fair chunk of time.
As a distraction from programming, Simon has re-sculpted a lot of the map. The layout of the Goblin Village in the swamp has been completely ripped out and redone to address performance and gameplay issues. Slavemaster Urzal - the end of level boss - has had his crib pimped to be more impressive thanks to the reusable environmental props Tom made some time ago.
The Snow Zone has been populated with evil monks and the main story quest item McDongle's Gem Of Rebooting. We had to replace the VLight volumetric lights system because it was allocating a ridiculous amount per frame, feeding the antiquated garbage collector in Mono 2.6. The gem shader and new volumetric light cones are courtesy of Advanced Surface Shaders which perform infinitely better.
Over in the Lava Zone, Ben ( Environment Artist ) has been finishing up work on the battlements and crumbled walls. We felt the zone was a little unpopulated with the player facing little challenge in progressing the main story quest, so we've brought a couple of dwarves out of retirement from a previous project to feature as ghosts, the idea being that the golem went crazy and killed them all. Being of similar proportion to the goblins, Tom skinned them onto our existing goblin rig and migrated the human blacksmithing animations across. The original texture map style didn't fit Folk Tale, but the recolouring and ghost shader mean that's not an issue.
Now we're getting close to the completing the originally planned content, we've got more time to focus on expanding gameplay. Work on our Trap Manager is finished, with spike and poison cloud traps added. Currently the wizard can sense something is not right and cast the Detect Traps spell ( seen casting above ), and time permitting we'd like to add a rogue hero hanging out in the Tavern.
As a precursor to more aggressive enemy AI, we've added faction ownership to resources. Before being able to extract resources including wood, stone and iron ore, the player must first send units to capture the faction flag. The design plan is to have each resource flag defended to present more of a challenge.
This WIP provides a first glimpse at the new user interface, which is still very much work in progress and being refined with each iteration. I'm personally bored of stereotypical fantasy UI, so we're drawing from application UI design and giving the UI a hint of business app feel. Through the UI players will be able to exert greater control over their villagers through class-specific action buttons for tasks such as spellcasting and taunts, locate and cycle through their entire population, and get detailed stats on each character. The next step is to extend the UI to include action targetting to unleash area spells such as Freeze.
Quite literally the day before WIP recording commenced, Aleksey Fedetov launched his hardware cursor plugin. We had been waiting for the HW cursor project from Unity's NinjaCamp VII but there was no telling when or indeed if that would ever happen. I can only say we are very happy with it.
A personal thanks to Aron Granberg, developer of A*Pathfinding Project who I've had the pleasure of working closely with in the last four weeks. As well as fixing a few bugs, Aron has been adding a polygon system for modifying pathfinding node penalties. I'd previously been doing this with a texture reference, but that was cumbersome. The new tools work incredibly well, and as a result we can now exert much finer control over where characters can and cannot walk, and where they prefer to walk. Probably the biggest piece of code has been the action queue whereby characters now queue up a string of attacks and smoothly blend between them. Allowing players to break into a queue with prioritised commands was pretty straight forward, and apart from a few animation glitches, the system seems to have worked out very nicely.
Trees needed a fresh approach. The previous trees used billboard leaves that looked great, but weren't visible in water reflections which was obvious as a bug. So we've gone with static mesh trees, and an animated UV shader that shifts the leaves gently using sin functions helping give them a little life.
One of the more advanced features is the camera tracking system. Rather than opt for a simple camera tracker, I wanted a more dynamic feel that avoided obstacles and didn't just go through them. My approach was to determine a destination camera angle that would not only frame the final shot in the best way, but also solve any awkard terrain such as being up against a steep cliff. There's still a few glitches to iron out, but overall I'm very pleased.
There's quite a lot of background manager code gone in that will never be seen or heard. For example the voice over manager prevents the in-game advisor, player characters and cut-scene dialogue playing over each other, and handles streaming from asset bundles.
We've been lucky enough to have Roland helping us out over the last six months between freelancing jobs improving the sound effects. Alas, our time together has drawn to a close as his visa just got approved so he could join the audio guys over at Valve. I'd like to give him my sincere thanks, and look forward to giving him the beta.
And on that note, that's it for this update. It's heads down for the final push then hopefully we can began closed beta. Yay!
Posted 24 August 2012 - 11:41 AM
Posted 31 October 2012 - 11:52 PM
What a difference a few months make. Let's kick off with some great news that thanks to an awesome community, Folk Tale made the second round of Steam Greenlight selections and was officially greenlit on October 15th. Folk Tale received over 160,000 unique visitors and was added to over 5,000 favourites. The whole experience has been wonderfully engrossing for the team and we look forward to working with Valve over the next year.
Throughout September we received a number of comments regarding the use of a single actor for all the voice roles in WIP Update 5. With the message heard loud and clear we responded by auditioning 22 voice actors, selecting 11 kind and talented individuals to work with on a collaboration basis. The voice script at the time covered cut scenes and tutorials, and each character needed expanding to include all the in-game commentary. Some of the one-liners that came back could well become memorable catchphrases.
Administering, editing, mastering, slicing, importing and integrating all those phrases nearly drove me insane, but what it adds to Folk Tale makes it all worth while.
We welcomed Hayden from Australia to the team who is diligently producing the low-detail geometry versions of the human buildings, trailing Rich who has now finished modelling and texturing all the detailed human buildings required for demo. By far my favourite is the Tavern, featuring the new female Innkeeper character who fetches the mead brewed by the monks from the warehouse, bar tends and cleans tables.
Also making a first appearance are the Advisor and the Stonecutter, completing the list of human characters required for demo, and an updated Werewolf with rigging for facial animation and variations including monk habits. When we first started developing Folk Tale, lip sync was descoped, so the early stage characters weren't rigged for it. That's an ongoing process that won't be completed until after demo. Some characters will have it, others won't.
You can check out the werewolf in action at the very end of the video.
Tom has been hard at work moving the cut scene animations forward. We knew for a small indie team including cut scenes was a huge ask which is why you usually don't see cut scenes in small indie titles, and to no surprise it is incredibly time consuming. Once the demo is released, chances are we'll de-prioritize them and focus exclusively on game play elements such as multiplayer, returning to cut scenes towards the end of development. Ben completed the Dwarven forge around the lava zone, which we finished with a couple of Dwarven ghosts, massacred by a crazed Golem that whirs around the area channeling arcs of electrical energy from its fists.
Ben has now moved on to cleaning up the snow monastery. Having finished the human assets, Rich has joined him and hopefully next update we should have a finished zone to share.
Fog Of War
Fog Of War is finally in. We still need to fog over the minimap, but the visual effect in the game world is complete and blends nicely as the player moves through the different ambient lighting zones. We achieved the look through desaturation and color tinting, with the tint driven by the Ambience Zone Manager.
Programming and Optimization
For eighteen months we've been using a single large terrain with something like 28 textures for level featured in the demo. Unfortunately every 4 textures requires the entire terrain to be drawn once, plus a shadow pass. Given the terrain often fills the entire screen, that's the entire screen needlessly drawn 7 times just for textures. The solution is of course to break it into smaller chunks using 8 textures per chunk. This will have a huge impact on fill rate which we started to be bound by. Provisional tests identified a 150% frame rate improvement on older GPUs. We've also introduced lighting quality which at lower levels prevents point lights from lighting the terrain, further reducing the burden. Real-time shadows on point lights are reserved only for those with super-fast gaming PCs. We continue to stick to our design goal of making Folk Tale run on lower spec machines, while giving those at the higher end a visually awesome experience.
We took a peak at the Unity 4.0 beta to run a test migration from our 3.5.6 project. A few minor code tweaks and we were up and running, so hopefully we'll soon be able to add internal Linux builds. The inclusion of the Hardware Cursor project from NinjaCamp is a welcome inclusion. I hope the api provides the option to clamp the cursor to stay within the window; important for dual-monitor setups when playing on just one screen.
As for actual coding, many areas of the code have been rewritten including the audio manager to better manage streaming and voice acting. Essential game play elements such as combat continue to receive a lot of attention because the shear complexity results in more bugs. A global compendium and taxonomy has introduced shared enum classification across all game objects improving code quality, and the class pool manager picks up where the scope of the object pool ends to work around the annoyingly crap garbage collection in Mono 2.6 that in our opinion continues to be Unity's Achilles Heel. That said, Unity has a huge list of positives which is why we continue to use it.
In WIP Update 5 we revealed an early prototype of the heavier UI. That wasn't the big hit we had hoped for, so being the responsive indie team that we are, that's booted out, and we're working on a lightweight UI. UI continues to be boring gray placeholders for testing layout. At some point it will receive a paint job.
Thanks to an introduction from our previous sound designer Roland, we've welcomed Joe to the fold. Joe has been hard at work visiting local gyms and junk yards with his microphone sourcing weapon impact sounds. The first batch of impacts were delivered shortly before the video was made, but you can hear a number in action during the combat scenes.
Oskari has started work on the tavern and human monastery ambient music tracks. Early versions of both are used in the video, and give Folk Tale a touch of the medieval.
In The Next Update...
Predominantly game play features. Artwork wise, we'll have the snow monastery reveal, and we've also got out eyes on flow maps for another leap forward in water quality. The list of outstanding assets is rapidly decreasing in size, bringing closed beta ever closer. The other eye is on Kickstarter which launches in the UK today. Although Americans make up half the truly international Folk Tale team, Games Foundry remains a UK-registered company and as such we've been waiting for KS to launch over the pond. We didn't want to launch our campaign today, instead opting to step back and watch if the US audience will be prepared to support UK projects. We'd also like to explore private investment before heading for crowd funding.
Posted 01 November 2012 - 08:19 AM
i wish i could launch rage.
Posted 01 November 2012 - 01:40 PM
Just a curious question - is garbage collection really that bad (I mean for games, in some applications working with SQL databases I haven't found garbage collection problematic)? (Not that I've never worked in C#, but I haven't done any game project in it, because i stick more to good ol' C/C++).
If you don't know how to speed up application, go "roarrrrrr!", hit the compiler with the club and use -O3 :D
Posted 01 November 2012 - 05:21 PM
Posted 15 November 2012 - 02:07 PM
Posted 30 December 2012 - 06:54 AM
Monastery Of The Mangy Wolf
Our latest update is a mini-feature revealing the overhauled Monastery Of the Mangy Wolf. Home to Rufus Pu and his hairy Were-fu practising minions, the snow peaks of this winter tundra are one of the key locations you will be able to explore in the upcoming demo.
Drawing inspiration from the magnificent Buddhist temples and palaces found across Asia, comparisons will inevitably be made with Mists of Pandaria. The location was written into the Folk Tale script 18 months ago, and rather than remove it we decided to press ahead and include it as an example of the varied and detailed environments you can expect in the final release. It's the final environmental zone to be included in the demo, joining the rolling green hills of the village hamlet, arid desert of the ogre mines, the volcanic old forge, and the goblin swamp.
To pack so many environments into a single level, we've broken the single large terrain into 25 separate chunks, and the total per-chunk texture count reduced from 27 to just 8 to reduce draw calls and ease fill rate issues we started noticing on older GPUs. While this sounds like a step backwards, it's actually allowed us to add more terrain textures than previously. The only downside was that all the chunks needed a complete and time-consuming repaint.
To further push the amount of texture detail, we've added a vertex color blend shader for the Monastery courtyard. This enables us to blend from snow to cobblestone/snow in the grooves, and finally into cobble without having to include the cobble textures in the terrain. It's an old-school technique we'll be using increasingly throughout development.
Looking skywards, the previous static photo skymap has been replaced by a dynamic sky dome system that grants us control over colour gradients as well as moving clouds. Overall the effect is far more consistent with the hand-painted art style.
Tom has been pressing ahead with cut scenes and is now celebrating not only Christmas, but the completion of all the draft versions which marks a significant internal milestone. For a small indie team, the inclusion of voice acted cut scenes is a major undertaking, but essential for story-telling. We just don't like the moving 2D approach that a number of recent AAA titles have taken. It's unlikely we'll include footage from the cut scenes in WIP videos as we don't want to spoil the enjoyment you will hopefully get from the demo.
There's lot more been happening beyond what we've listed here. We've added flow mapping as part of a test to improve the look of liquids such as lava. Hayden is near completion on modelling and painting the kobolds that feature early game as combat practice. In programming, a lot of feasibility work has been done on multi-player including adding a chat server which we're considering leaving in the demo to allow gamers to chat with the dev team. We've also been extending the code for loot attributes which impacts combat and crafting. By adventuring out beyond the relative safety of your village, you'll be able to find magic items that your villagers can equip to better perform their occupations, or transmute into crafting resources to make your own items as you find recipes.
Heading into the New Year, our focus will shift to UI and modelling loot, unlocking a lot of the games written but inaccessible functionality. And then its into testing, launch our Kickstarter campaign, and release the demo. We'd like to thank everyone that has signed up for beta for their continued patience. Things are taking longer than we'd hoped, but Folk Tale really is shaping up very nicely, and hopefully you'll think it's worth the wait.
Posted 31 December 2012 - 03:27 PM
Posted 14 February 2013 - 02:47 AM
In the last six weeks we've completed the assets for all the playable zones in the demo map and in doing so reached the point at which momentum begins to grow exponentially. The final tasks on the to do list can now be started, all of which run in parallel. So from here on in, it's the big push before testing.
An early version of the swamp featured in screenshots some 18 months ago as the first exploration zone to be built outside of the human village. As the months progressed, the Art Team worked their way around the entire map, modelling and hand-painting five more zones. Welcoming in 2013 having completed the enormous task of designing 7 zones for demo, we arrived full circle back with the swamp, which now looked dated and artistically inconsistent. We could have left it for demo, but that didn't feel right, so we made the decision to completely rebuild it:
The swamp is the final zone in the mini-campaign designed specifically for the demo, where Slavemaster Urzal and his bodyguards hold your villagers captive in the ruins of an ancient civilization. The goblin nation is developing along a path that will see them become an AI-driven enemy nation, with the eventual goal to make them a playable race, most probably as DLC. As such, we've expanded the goblin character roster beyond the military, and introduced occupational characters to help bring the zone to life.
With the completion of the swamp art assets, we've ticked off the largest task on the project, and the Art Team are now polishing and optimizing what we have. For example, in a push to improve the visual quality of the cut scenes, the goblins featuring in close-ups are having their now quite old textures over-painted and at a higher resolution. We are also stripping cutout alpha from the character shader, so previously transparent areas such as the tips of feathers need to be painted out. The cut scene animations have been complete for a few months now waiting on the swamp zone and Slavemaster Urzal's base in the Temple Ruins to be finished before going through their next iteration of refinement.
Throughout development we've been doing all the cut scenes in the engine. Now we're into the polishing phase, we're adding a number of post-effects including color correction and depth of field. The downside is that to achieve some of these enhanced visuals at a smooth frame rate in 1080p requires a decent gaming PC, turning them off on slower machines. So we're considering recording out the cut scenes using a top end gaming PC on ultra graphics settings, enabling everyone to enjoy the cut scenes looking their best. It's unlikely, but it is an option we are exploring.
Community Translation Tool
Looking ahead to when we release the demo, we want to reach as many Gamers worldwide as possible, and to do that we need to translate the game into multiple languages. Being a small indie development team, we are frugal with the little budget we have and outsourcing localization to a professional agency isn't an option right now, so we're turning to the Folk Tale community for help. To maximise our chances of getting the very best translations, we've designed a simple to use vote-based system whereby the highest quality translations will rise to the top. The web app is open to all who have opted in to receive the monthly newsletter when signing up to beta, and we hope all multilingual followers will take a look and considering helping us improve Folk Tale.
For those of you visiting for the first time, applications for closed beta are now open. Please don't forget to opt in if you wish to receive the email newsletter.
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