Lacuna Passage - Devlog #53 - Adjusting for Rendering Differences, Updating the Datapad, and Ludum Dare 33

Rendering Differences Between Color Modes

In our last few devlogs we have featured some updates to our art pipeline that have come with the transition to Unity 5's Standard Shader. In making this transition we have changed Unity's color mode from Gamma to Linear. This is a fairly technical aspect of rendering in a game engine, but I'll do my best to walk through our process (and problem solving). You can see the difference between the different color modes below.

Gamma Mode

Gamma Mode

Linear Mode

Linear Mode

You will notice that Linear color mode has much tighter highlights and generally makes metal materials look much more natural. The math behind it is all quite complex, but thankfully Unity takes care of it for us with a simple checkbox setting. We demonstrated how this new rendering mode looks a few weeks ago with our new Bridge environment assets.

Looks great, right? Well, unfortunately we were soon met with a few complications while trying to incorporate this new Linear color mode into our full project. Let's look at one specific example. Below you will see how this new color mode affected our fog blending with the skybox. (You can click to enlarge all images).

Our Mars time-of-day system was originally designed with Unity Gamma color mode. This is the exact start moment of "Dawn" in our old system where no color lerping (blending/gradation) is happening.

In this example we have switched to Linear color mode. You can see that the fog color is still blended properly with the background skybox, but that is to be expected since no lerping is happening at this moment.

Back in Gamma mode our time-of-day progresses from "Dawn" to "Midday" smoothing with a color lerp that is precise to match the blended skybox in the background. Looking good!

Now we can start to see the issue in Linear mode (you may need to click the image to enlarge it). The color lerp for the fog is no longer matched perfectly to the background skybox (notice the hard line at the horizon). Nothing else has changed from the previous screenshot other than the color mode. You can see problems with the sun shafts and lens flare as well; however, those are less of an issue because they can be tuned appropriately to compensate. The fog color lerp cannot be compensated. The start and end colors of the lerp are correct (see the Dawn example), but the colors in between are incorrect.

This simple problem caused us a huge headache. The beginning and ending points of our time-of-day transitions still matched the skybox perfectly, but every point in between was too dark and made our horizon line stick out like a sore thumb. So what was going on in Linear mode that was different from Gamma mode?

We had no idea. After scouring the web I came up empty handed. So I ended up resorting to posting for help on the /r/Unity3D subreddit. Lo and behold we were presented with a potential solution in less than an afternoon. And surprisingly, the solution came from real-world light physics and not from a Unity-specific error. As it turns out, Linear mode in Unity does not properly calculate the blending of two colors, but we can do that ourselves if we apply math! The video below led us to our final equation.

Mathf.Sqrt( Mathf.Pow(color1.r, 2) * (1.0f - t) + Mathf.Pow(color2.r, 2) * t )

This equation can be applied to our fog instead of using a Lerp. This transitions from color1 to color2 where t is the decimal percent of transition (just like t in a normal Lerp). We have to do this for each channel (r, g, b, and a) and use those values to build a new Color that reflects the proper values in Linear mode.

Now our fog blends perfectly with our skybox once again. There were a few other issues that we had to overcome in the transition to Linear mode, but we have finally gotten to a point where we are happy with the result. Due to the improvements with the Standard Shader in Linear mode, we think the game looks better than ever.

Updating the Datapad

We have also been working on updating the Datapad with the new Unity GUI features. Before we were using a plugin called NGUI, but this was becoming difficult to manage and we wanted to transition to using as many built-in Unity features as possible. One of the benefits of this new system is that it can automatically map the navigations between buttons.

You can see that we are making some general design changes to the Datapad as well, but we will have more details about that in a later devlog. Beyond that, we have made improvements to the shader for the Datapad screen so that colors appear more accurate to what you would see on an LCD screen. Before, the entire screen was illuminated equally, which led to blown out bright colors and washed out dark colors (shown below).

Old Datapad screen shader

Now we have a new shader for the screen that illuminates the brighter colors with more vibrancy while still preserving the dark colors.

New Datapad screen shader

Ludum Dare 33 - "The Monster Inside"

It was a pretty busy month, but our artist Spencer did manage to break away for a four day weekend vacation. So during that weekend I decided to participate in another Ludum Dare game jam without him. This time the theme was "You Are The Monster". The result was a collaboration with our composer, Clark Aboud, and a new contributing artist named Doug Auerbach.

We created a short audio-visual novella called "The Monster Inside". It is a text based game that explores a fantasy-infused film noir world. It covers some adult themes, so player-be-warned, but you can play it directly in your browser or download it from our Itch.io page below. Check it out and let us know what you think!

Thanks for following our devlog and we will be back soon with more art updates in a couple weeks!

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #41 - Prologue for Mac, Photo Contest, TIMEframe on Steam...

December was a crazy month for Random Seed Games. Demo releases, holidays, Ludum Dare, Greenlight campaigns, and more. So let’s dive right in.

Lacuna Passage Prologue on Mac

First off, some of you may have noticed already if you tried to access your Lacuna Passage download pages in the last couple days, but we have just added a Mac version of the Prologue demo. If you still haven’t claimed your download page then follow our directions found here. The Mac version is not nearly as well tested on our end as the PC version, so if you find any bugs please report them here. Some of you have contacted us about testing a Linux version eventually. We are compiling a list of Linux testers so email us at contact@randomseedgames.com if you haven’t yet.

Photo Contest

So, now that 95% of our backers have access to the Prologue demo, we would like to announce a small contest. Between now and January 31st at 11:59PM CST we will be accepting submissions of photos you have taken in the demo with the photography mechanic (photos you take during the demo can be found in the “Lacuna Passage Prologue_Data” folder under “Screenshots”).

Pro Tip: Use crouch, jump, or zoom to get more interesting photo angles

Please send your photo submission to info@lacunapassage.com via the email address that is associated with your Humble download page. Only one photo will be accepted per entry. Emails received with more than one photo attached will be disqualified. Our top 3 favorite photos will receive a free “upgrade” to the $75 Kickstarter backer level (if you are already a $75 level backer you will get another Collector’s Edition and poster to give to a friend or family member).

Show us your Mars photography skills!

Song Seed

I feel like we have been saying this for a couple months now, but we are getting closer to a beta test for our dynamic music plugin for Unity. If you are interested in helping us test Song Seed please email us at contact@randomseedgames.com.

TIMEframe on Steam

Recently we reached out to our fans for their support in voting for our side project, TIMEframe, on Steam Greenlight. Well, after less than 2 weeks we have officially been accepted onto Steam! This has really taken us by surprise. We were not expecting to get through this quickly, if at all. We want to thank all of you who voted for us.

As we mentioned in our previous call-to-action, we will be putting a priority on releasing TIMEframe. Our goal is to have it completed and on Steam sometime in early February. We will still be working on Lacuna Passage in the mean time, but just not as much as we are right now. When TIMEframe is released we will hopefully have some extra revenue to help finance the remaining development of Lacuna Passage, which we will return to full-time. And as we mentioned previously, all of our backers will also be receiving a free copy of TIMEframe when it is released! We are very excited for the upcoming releases of both TIMEframe and Song Seed and what they mean for our young studio.

Ludum Dare 31

Earlier this month we took part in 31st Ludum Dare weekend game jam competition. This being our third entry after the original TIMEframe (in Ludum Dare 27) and Dodgy Ball (Ludum Dare 28). The theme this time was “Entire game on one screen” and our entry was SUPER FUN FAMILY PRIMETIME TELEVISION SIMULATOR. The results are in and we placed #41 in the Humor category, #74 in innovation, and #98 in Theme out of 1,270 jam entries. We placed in the 200s and 300s in all other categories. We are very happy with these results for such a bizarre game. If you would like to read more about the game you can check out a post-mortem here and you can play the game in your browser here.

Thanks for following our blog and we will be back with another art progress post on the 15th.

Oh, and Happy New Year!

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #39 - Happy Holidays from Random Seed!

The holiday season is here, which means a hectic development period for Random Seed and some fun announcements. Kickstarter backers, make sure to read all the way through ;)

First is a quick heads up that we will once again be participating in the upcoming Ludum Dare game jam competition on December 5th through the 8th (this coming weekend).

We've participated in previous Ludum Dares and had a ton of fun creating entries like TIMEframe and Dodgy Ball. This time around we are hoping for a competition theme that will be a good fit for us to utilize our Unity music plugin, Song Seed. We would love to be able to produce a game that demonstrates the flexibility and quality of the system and then release the plugin on the Unity Asset Store soon after.

In other news, we are also planning on attending PAX East 2015 in Boston on March 6th through the 8th. However, much of our presence there is dependent on whether or not we are accepted into the Indie Megabooth. If you are unfamiliar, PAX is a huge convention for gamers and the Indie Megabooth is a space on the show floor where notable indie games can get exposure amongst the ranks of AAA developers and publishers.

In preparation for our Indie Megabooth submission we revamped the Prologue content that was originally built for GDC 2014. The Prologue has been our main testing ground for introducing new features over the last several months and a lot has notably improved since its original incarnation. To get a small taste of what has changed you can check out our updated "trailer" video of the Prologue content.

There is some stiff competition to get a spot in the Megabooth, but we are hopeful. If we do not get in then it is uncertain if we will have any other option to demo the Lacuna Passage Prologue for attendees, but we will worry about that if it happens.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

Thankfully, even if we don't get into the Megabooth, all of our Kickstarter backers will soon get to play the Prologue demo right at home. That's right, we will be releasing a build of the demo exclusively to backers and pre-orderers before Christmas! We know it can't make up for the lack of a finished game, but we want all of our supporters to get an early taste of what is to come and hopefully we will get some great feedback in the process.

We announced a while back that Random Seed is teaming up with the Humble Bundle folks to get all of our digital backer rewards distributed, and now that will start with the Prologue demo. Another update will go out to everyone when we are ready to link your Humble accounts with the email you used to back Lacuna Passage on Kickstarter.

We will also be opening up requests for access to the Prologue demo from journalists and Youtubers, so if you are not a backer but would like to feature Lacuna Passage on your site or channel just contact us via our form and include links to your credentials. Not all requests will be honored, but don't hesitate to ask.

Thanks for your support and enjoy your holiday season!

That's it for this month's dev update, but check back for our next art update on the 15th!