J'ai vu le Soleil (I saw the Sun) J'ai vu le Soleil is a first person puzzle and labyrinth game, with a strong anti-consumerism message and a very dark disposition.
From poem to movie, to game
This game was not a game at first, it was a poem. (translation to come)
This at first led to the idea of a short film, with a shadow as a hero, in a metaphorical city, with a fishing boat in the middle of the street... and from there, the idea started to evolve so much, it became a notion, not a story, not a medium, but a feeling of loneliness and abandonment that had to be told.
A game is a game is a game
The moment I started trying to make a game, I tried to create J'ai vu le Soleil. The game, then, was very different, it was only an infinite street, that played with time a little (may be, this will be in the final game, who knows), but it was something far too complex for a first game.
It became a vague idea of a supermarket about a year later, and then, after starting development on the Beta of Cutie, this is starting to take form, shape, and a structure for an actual game... possibly a good one.
The fire crying to know me standing
There are a few events that coincided with my envy for doing this, both as some sort of blog/wiki thing, to help me remember all the ideas, the good, the bad, the ugly; but also, to jump start the process of thinking about actually making this game. Right now, I'm wrapping up coding on Cutie, and the game itself lacks levels but is otherwise mostly good to go. So, as every indy who's ever lived, I'm thinking about totally something else instead of finishing the first game.
The gameplay is heavily influenced by Amnesia - A Machine for Pigs. I liked the puzzles as well as the mood of the game. I'd like J'ai vu le Soleil to be set in a more modern setting, to be creepy, but with everyday life occurrences and contexts.
There is a good part coming from Everybody's gone to the Rapture especially once you're outside the mall. Its open world carefully crafted for you to follow a specific path.
It's also influence by The Stanley Parable in this that it is a simple gameplay. There is no tedious task to accomplish.
There are a lots of mini-games and possibilities, achievements. All of them end up in a game over, telling you that this is not that kind of game. If you game over in all the possible games, you get an alternative ending where you get scolded for having waisted so much of your time on the game.
The Witness does a very interesting thing with the story, making it untold, just shown, makes a compelling argument for building a feeling through images, like moods, more than actual narrative.
Undertale has a great narrative story. Takes the counterpart of what's usually expected of the gamer.
- Olafur Arnalds
These are names for the shops, they are from various sources, but all link back to the theme of capitalism and illusion.
- Shell Beach (Dark City)
- John Galt airline (Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand)
- Screwtape hardware store (C.S. Lewis)
- Ellsworth Grove and Toohey Lane (The Fountain Head - Ayn Rand)
The dev dilemma
Right... so... There's a dilemma here. I love coding. But this time, I'd like to make a game, not just to code for fun, which I have to admit, I have been doing for a while.
So there is two very VERY distinct component to game design, the way I see it, that have both to be addressed in the following order:
- the gaming experience:
- what are the game mechanics?
- How is the player suppose to understand them?
- the politic story of the game:
- what does it all mean?
- how does it conveys the message, and is it open to interpretation?
I think that to deliver on this particular game, I have to give up on the notion of replayability. I could make the game procedural, which - let's be honest - would take a lot longer, and require exhaustive testing, but I want to finish this game. It's not a developer's challenge, it's an artistic one. I'm trying to see this game as a work of art and I want it to be completed someday so that people experience it.
So, it will be this way. Some AI, very little. I might even procedurally generate some part of it, just for the hell of fucking with the player, but not in the hope that playing it again would yield a different experience.
Although, I have to say, I am BORED with games that are making me solve endless dull puzzles, the one after the other. I want puzzle that don't feel like problems. Some that feel like the game is broken somehow. Others, that feel like you have found a way I didn't think about, and you'll always be rewarded for it.
But most of all, it's the different styles of playing this game I want to implement. You can be a zombie killer and hunt the little ones. You can be a violent person and try to smash through the labyrinth, the wall, etc. Or you can be gentle. Afraid. Nice. Zen, and play the game just as a visitor. Never touching anything. You should also be able to see riddles where you want some, and try to solve them.
The game should have a lot of valid ways to be played, and the player should feel like what he is doing IS the one true way of playing this game... All the way until game over.
The game mechanics
There are for now 3 different mechanics at play.
First person killer mode
The game takes place more or less in France, so there will NOT EVER be fire arms in this game.
You can try to see the children in the maze and in the mall. But you'll have a hard time catching them.
To do so, would require some planning, to find what they are attracted to (could be sweets, or music, or even video games) and stock piling it somewhere.
You will make them scream until they pass out of fear... and you'll then start to feel something, either empowering or dragging you down, but this will change the controls of the character.
Walking simulator mode
You can play the game without interacting with anything.
You can just walk the hallways, move through the sets, find nothing to do, and pretty much finish the game Dear Esther style.
There, you will be scold because the end of times is your fault, for not acting, not even trying.
The Puzzle solving mode
There will be puzzles throughout the game. Some will be the classic "get this key to open this door" type, others will be more ethereal. Some will rely on your culture, knowing some places, their meaning and they will open secrets.
Some will be minigames, quests. The classic thing... but always with results that impact the game... mostly the end of game, calling you out for spending so much time on this shit.
The lack of tutorial
Tutorials are for idiots. Developers should know better. Players should learn the hard way that games are calling them stupid when they offer one.
So how will the player understand what he/she is suppose to do?
Collection of greed
The closed doors paradigm
The game in itself
First, I'd like to make a game that I would love to play. Me, not being a gamer, I come to this game designing business a bit of a nooby-know-it-all; and truth be told, that's often were I find my own creativity.
A moral game
As a rule, I try never to make a game about killing. To me, games, like movies, are a good place to offer the opportunity for introspection and for a-priories bashing.
J'ai vu le Soleil should not be an exception to the rule. It will not feature zombies, but shall feel like it does. It shall feel like you're walking on your own grave, and ask the difficult questions of consumerism, modernism; the questions about the future (I heard David Wong say once, that we, as a people who watches to many post-apocalyptic movies, have turn into people who do not believe in a positive future at all), of course, matters of ecology both environmental and internal.
I would like this game to fuck with your mind so hard, it will make you change not the way you see games, but the way you live. It will make you question truths, politics, authority and mainly yourself.
One of the core ideas of this game as always been and shall remain the question: "Are you playing the game, or is it playing you?"
There be dragons
The space of the game is important. By that I mean, there is a physical space of the game.
It starts in the supermarket, when the doors close, at night, and you're trapped there and it turns into a maze. It might feel like the whole game is happening in this supermarket, but once you're done with the maze, you discover the mall.
The rules that have led you here, do not apply any longer. You are now in another space, with other rules. You are for all intent and purposes in an other game. There are different shops, with various purposes, they interact with you and you interact with them. Even the toilets are the place for a lesson and will make you think. The mall is a surrealistic place (see below).
Then, when you have found the exit, you are in the industrial zone. That a whole other game again. Open wide space. Shops every where. Neons off. Night time in the worst place humanity as come up with. It feels an looks at times like the ruins of a concentration camp. It's surrounded by barbedwire, fences and a giant hole in the ground, mostly telling you (or making you feel) that the end is nigh.
There is, a tower, a transmission tower, looking like a water tower from the seventies. Looking like it's going to fall apart. And the tower, is the last space, the first one going up, and up and up, with stairs like a stairway to heaven. The small room there is a panorama. You can see the valley, the city, the power plan. It's a world beyond the glass.
Path of least resistance
Going from place A to place B in the game has pretty much always two paths, the one is easy, requires brute force, going straight on, burning and pillaging.
The other one, necessitates the use of moral, careful planning, and attention to detail.
Some places in the game are best travelled by not moving and not doing anything.
Sometimes, the game strong cuts to something else. You don't play through the boring parts, something else happens, like in a dream.
The first person gig
The NPC in the game have a life of their own. The game being a procedural generation, NPCs have to be generally able to do things by themselves.
They will not really give you any context, just do their thing, and react to your presence.
The little ones
Some kids are lost in the supermarket level.
They will fear you. They will try to find you when they hear you coming, then get scared and run away.
When a scared kid meets another one, they stick together but are scared of you. You'll be able to hear them, rarely to see them.
The robot vacuum cleaner
There is an automated vaccum cleaner, small and looking a bit like R2D2.
It attracts the little ones, they like to play with it.
It also navigate the maze, so... following it will probably get you out... But back to its docking station.
The mind puzzles
In this game, I'm looking for a principal space, the space of the mall, to be a starting point, an anchor to the real.
But behind some doors, down some escalators, you will find the unexpected, the unexpectable: Fields of grass and lumber with a shed-house in the middle, in which the mall leaves, landfills of perfectly functional products, polluted tropical beaches.
Some playable video-games in the game store, will impact the actual space of the game.
Even the maze will change shape when you're not watching.
Playing with time
The moment you enter the game, your character enters the supermarket. Then out of nowhere, Lightning strikes.
The language used inside the supermarket is one of opulence, of wealth. The wording is precise:
- Generous Formats
- Family pack
- Healthy Brands
- Tasty treats
- #1 selling
- 25% Free
- Fat Free
And although the wording is precise, the things to which it applies makes not fucking sens.
A bottle cannot 25% Free. It's a bottle, you cannot get only the 25% free part of the liquid in it.
A pizza cannot be generous. A format cannot be generous for that matter. Generosity is a character trait.
Brands are not Healthy and treats are tasty is just saying, they have a taste which... is not aiming that far.
When the lights comes back-on, after a little while, you realize that the layout changed.
The supermarket has become a labyrinth.
You can see the exit sign and if you get there, you realise that there is no exit there. The doors are padlocked. And there is just no way you'll find a key. There are keys, somewhere, behind a counter, but they won't help... If you do go back for the keys and successfully come back to the exit, on the door, you'll find written "no key will open that door. There is no escaping mercantile capitalistic society."
The Food Section
The Culture Section
The Toys Section
The Actual Exit
The mall is a vast network of shops and corridors.
It has only one level, but through some openings in the celling, you can see the night sky, the darkness and cold of the night.
Most shops are turned off, or empty, giving the place a feel of an empty ruin.
The loop home
in one hallway, there is a escalator going down to some kind of underground parking lot... except, the entrance of the parking lot is full of grass.
The moment you get into the parking lot, you realise that you can see the sky above you, you are in a field.
Up ahead is a cabin. Inside the cabin, is an escalator... that leads to the entrance of the field. The same exact escalator.
If you try riding the escalator up again, you get back to the cabin.
Behind the cabin, some ways away, you'll find a dump. The dump is filled of the objects found in the supermarket. All of the junk is brand-new.
After a few winding alleys, you'll find a door that opens in the mall corridor. A bathroom door.
The broken forest of your dark thoughts
There is a shop, that sells mirrors. The further in you get, the more you realize, it has no end.
It is utterly meaningless but, you'll find a way to make it make sense to you.
The Cyber Church
There place, in the middle of an opening, that looks like a chapel from the outside.
Inside though, the glass-work is replaced by CRTs, on the altar stands a old Mac. Cables fall from the aisle and fly through the nave.
The Organ is a giant Dvorak keyboard. The whole is covered with facebook quotes, Wikipedia pages, animated gif looping on CRTs. It's quite dark. A commentary on the new kind of worship.
The Sinking fishing boat
The Parking Lot
The Parking lot is abandoned. Nature has taken back its right over concrete and asphalt alike. It's still night.
You are alone here. All the shops around are lit with flickering, broken down neon signs. They look as appealing as a closed asylum. There is nothing in them but vast, empty shelves. Some of them are opened, other are cardboarded or closed. It feels like this has had it's glory days and now, it's barely surviving.
There is a fast food chain of some sort. It's the one thing that seems not opened because it's too late, but still functional. You can buy something from its vending machines.
A little way off the parking lot, there is a fence, preventing anyone from going out. The fence, doesn't circle around though.
There are places where you can pass through, push a little further, through a small part of wilderness, punctuated by empty bottles, plastic bags, old caddies...
And passed that, you see the truth. A giant hole in the ground that feels bottomless. Like an old open-mine. You can hear the darkness. There is no escape. If you jump you will fall, eternally and vanish into oblivion.
In the far distance, you can see the unnatural lit clouds emanating from some factory you cannot yet see. In the night, it feels like you have lost your purpose by going so far out.
There are around, a few dead end roads that lead to the hole on the one side, and to the fence on the other. Here and there, you can find a hole in there to get back in.
The only light you see from here anymore, comes from The Relay Tower.
There is a relay tower, form the 70's atop a hill, you are drown there. It's an horrible piece of architecture, you wonder how it can still stand. The fence is open and you can climb in it. The stairs are endless and there is graffiti on the walls, spelling out a story. The story of a giant who ate it all and then died of starvation.
At the very top, a room filled with antiquated machinery. Almost like an old space station. Through the window, you can see the nuclear power-plant, spewing its vapours into the night. If you won, you can now see it just shut down, and all the lights of the distant city go dark... after a moment, you will find the beauty of the night sky will be the only thing left and you can still play the game, go down the tower, walk the parking lot, while the end credits are playing and the music is telling you that may be, humanity can survive now.
But if you lost, you'll be the witness to the explosion of the nuclear plant. You'll now be able to walk the everything while the end credits are playing, but this time, under an nuclear winter snow. The music will be more dramatic.
A voice over, simple, quite dark appears through the sky, like the voice of a God.
"We have been expecting an apocalypse so long that we have been doing nothing while fifteen of them came. "We have been trapped in a self fulfilling prophecy of cataclysms and inactions. "We are disappearing into the night for having worshipped false idols like the economy and the entertainment industry. "We are being slaughtered for loosing sight of the purpose of simple morals and virtues. "We are now lost because we could not believe in a future that is good, beautiful, plentiful and just. "We are the victim of greed and sarcasm."
In the Flashes
No, but seriously, writing
Well, turns out, I have discovered something - and I'll just glance over the End of Eva episode of Folding Ideas channel, or even playing The Witness - but I have understood that I was doing it again. The way I'm always doing it. I thought "this is a video game" and forgot about the thing:
The message IS NOT the STORY
So I have an anti-consumerist message... and... well, I've read Ayn Rand, Henry Thoreau and C.S. Lewis (which I'm having the hardest time reconciling with one another), but that's not the story of the game, and I still HAVE to figure out what it is the fuck I am writing.
So you are this character, and given how I'm considering the game now, you are who ever you want to be. The game is going to be a systemic one, with open problems, open paths. Barely guided options that lead to absolutely nothing... remember, one of the moral considerations of this game is that games are a major type of procrastination, wasting your life away.
Anywho. You're that character. You are in a supermarket because you need food and whatnots.
And then, the mystical thunder strike and you are locked in the supermarket.
The more you explore, the more the game feels like Urbex inside my twisted mind.
The Children and the Dragon
The Vanishing of the Saint
The electrical grid breakdown
Turning on the lights
Cellphone as UI
I was thinking that the economy of attention should be exploited in the game through the cellphone.
At the beginning, you should receive a text message telling you what to buy.
QT codes on the shop will give you informations in the form of coupons.
I'm still torn in two. Will I get a map that is useless (just showing the outside contour of the mall) ? or something like AR ?... that rarely actually work.
Not for selfies, but you should be able to take photographs of the environment. You could use some fire exit maps in conjunction with your GPS map and go from one to the other to get an idea of where you are.
The first level turns into a labyrinth.
There are a few consideration to take into account there:
- Shall it be a procedural labyrinth, making it infinitely replayable and also, possibly, fucking with the player by changing it on the fly
- 2D labyrinth generation is a well-known solved problem. Turning a metaphorical 2D representation into a 3D space might not be too challenging, but it remains to be seen.
- The placement of indications and loot
There should be in the best of cases two types of mazes.
- The supermarket should get you almost lost. The supermarket is a simple maze, with cells and walls (shelves). It is special in this:
- it has an in and an out point
- some shelves can loop around an inaccessible cell
- The mall is a smaller scale maze, because it has areas of interest, circulation flows and shops along the paths. It's closer to a traditional dungeon.
The supermarket maze is a binary tree:
- Each cell is a node of the tree
- Each branch is a path with a boolean:
- True is Open
- False is Closed
Generating the Maze
- evaluate which is the longest possible path (visiting cells only once)
- if we now close the shorter paths, we get a simple, walkthrough.
- Labrynth with rooms : http://weblog.jamisbuck.org/2015/1/15/better-recursive-division-algorithm.html
The Children A.I. is my first try at a fake sentient procedural behaviour. What I mean by that is the agent is driven by two entirely separate decision trees :
- The Emotional State Machine (ESM)
- The Rational State Machine (RSM)
Then, a Fuzzy Logic Mixer (FLM) will define how each independent state controls the locomotion system. And that is it.
From this should emerge a rather unpredictable chaos. The purpose here, is to build a general purpose AI that simulates behaviour even when the player is not around.
Navigation should be kept strictly minimal:
- Input should be a vector for final position or a general direction
- Output should be position at CurrentTime (update)
Emotional State Machine
ESM should get as input:
- the emotional environment effectors:
- Sounds (in heighten emotional state, all sounds will become more scary)
- Other Entities Line of Sight
- Light Level in line of sight (Will have a "subconscious" tendency to flock to higher visibility areas)
- the internal emotional levels:
- a comfort to fear index: negative is fear / positive is comfort
- This will help compile an index variance both as a central part of the output vector
- a comfort to fear index: negative is fear / positive is comfort
- A priority vector: that defines a position in priority space
- A direction vector if the priority vector is fear-based -- TBD by fuzzy Logic
- A position vector if the priority vector is need-based -- TBD by fuzzy Logic
Rational State Machine
RSM simply maintains a list of goals Inputs :
- Goals in line of sight with vector of importance
- Curiosities in line of hearing with vector of importance
- a distance based priority vector never with a magnitude bigger than 1 safe for vital emergencies and extremely close goals
- a position vector for the closest goal
Fuzzy Logic Mixer
The cerebelum of decision making is the fuzzy logic mixer.
Takes inputs : several pairs of
- Priority vectors
- positions or directions
and outputs for this time, the goal position or general direction that feeds into navigation
At some point, it appeared that for a procedurally generated supermarket (and mall), I'd probably need an AI to label all the produce, brands and shops.
Natural language generation
- The Economy of attention https://youtu.be/50R21mblLb0
- The poison of subjectivism https://youtu.be/Lgcd6jvsCFs
- This is Water - David Foster Wallace : https://youtu.be/8CrOL-ydFMI
- UNITE 2016 - Game Design with Gigi https://youtu.be/aC3c_pcWwIQ
- GDC 2017 - Using design tools expressively https://youtu.be/UwZz-GtCq1Y
- GDC 2015 - Interior Design and Environment Art : https://youtu.be/WWXsmnlmADc
Math & Code
- Maze Generation - Recursive Bactracker https://youtu.be/elMXlO28Q1U
- Point in poly algorithm http://faculty.ucmerced.edu/kmitchell/Theses/jpetkerthesis.pdf
- Scriptable GameObjects https://youtu.be/6vmRwLYWNRo
- Unite Europe 2016 - Lights, Cameras, Effects: Unlocking the Power of the Unity Renderer https://youtu.be/m-ZLiJmCyGU
- Turning It Up To Eleven: Making Unity 5 Look AWESOME - Unite Europe 2015 : https://youtu.be/CkrdZqYW36s
- Reading pictures : https://youtu.be/5RzziXSwSsg
- Point-line distance : http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Point-LineDistance3-Dimensional.html