Hi everyone, Greg (artist/modeler/musician) from 2nd Door Studios. Here on the last day of LD35, our team thought it would be nice and hopefully useful to recap the many things that went both right and wrong with our ambitious little game:
“Hart of the Forest” (Click that link there if you’re curious to try it!)
From the start, our group found the “Shapeshifting” theme pretty challenging, and it took us well into Saturday morning to find a concept that we all liked. Our final idea was challenging, but interesting to us — putting you into the role of protector of a mystical forest, a Druid, charged with gathering your lost villagers and shepherding them back to safety, while trying to both use and also hide your powerful shapeshifting curse.
There were a lot of things we hoped to do with this, and two things proved themselves fairly quickly: 1) that the full scope of our idea was probably bigger than a game jam would allow, but 2) that we were all eager to see just how close we could come in spite of that, and how much of it we could make by the deadline.
I wanted to go through the workflow and notes from my own section of the work, which included the 3D sculptures, models, animation, and eventually the music of our game.
First and foremost, our team uses the free/mighty/wonderful Blender for all of the 3D work you’ll see here, as I’d happily encourage anyone to do. The start of our concepts was to get our core characters sculpted, giving our team the chance to look at them all and get a better feel for the tone and the visual style of our game. Here are a few glimpses of those pieces:
These sculptures gave us our starting point, leading to the retopology process of simplifying them until they were ready for what would ultimately be a Unity WebGL game. This is where our largest challenge, and still our biggest technical hurdle stole the show…
From the very beginning, our plan was to try to make use of Blender’s “Shape Keys” (“BlendShapes” in Unity parlance), to let these shapeshifts be as organic as possible. Like the story of our game, this ended up being kind of a blessing and a curse, within the timeframe of the game jam. While, after great effort, I did get this all working (see/click the gif above), Unity didn’t love the idea. There were a hundred other technical considerations to factor into this process, including needing to morph the animated rig inside this mesh as well (no small task, rigging-wise), and a war between Mecanim’s Animator and the BlendShapes themselves. Put simply, this is something our team (as in, I) still fully intend to implement into the future of this game, but scoping this into the jam proved a little over-ambitious. For now, our Druid hides his shapeshifting in a puff of magical particle effects as a (literal, I guess) smokescreen, simply swapping out the models.
Finally, we weren’t going to be saving anyone without some models of villagers to save, so I did my best to economize here, using a single sculpture that we could later adapt into both the male and female villager models, letting me reuse both the bulk of the sculpting time, and the rig itself. That part ended up being a great idea, and a big time saver overall. One walk and one run cycle, along with some idle animations, ended up getting us both our villagers and our Druid in one animation pass — and Mecanim made it easy to retarget those animations between the three models.
(And, while our enemies aren’t exactly implemented quite yet, the idea even from the beginning was that the enemies would be corrupted versions of your villagers — so these two, plus some dark and spooky textures, even gave us the stand-ins for our future villains.)
The world itself was an ambitious step all in its own, including a lot of props (more than we thought we’d need originally, even) to bring a passable forest to life in only a weekend. I ended up sculpting 2 different trees, treetop models, several stones, a fallen log, and mystical standing stones, all of which needed their own retopology and texture work. See those below:
The result, thanks to some inspired texture work and really cool materials/shader work on our other team members’ parts (I’ll let them talk about that!), was something we were pretty happy with by the end of the jam:
The good news was: we got the basic idea implemented in time to start pulling everything together by late Monday evening.
The bad news was: I had been hoping I could also tackle the music for this jam, with at least a day or so’s worth of time to dedicate… Yeah, that wasn’t happening.
So, switching gears with (I kid thee not, sadly) one hour left before the deadline, I plugged in my keyboard and did my best to drum/play out the song that I’d been trying to compose in my head for the three days leading up to that point. In other words: I had about 45 minutes to write the game’s soundtrack (yikes!), starting from truly nothing. That was a stressful moment, I’ll admit — but something about it seemed pretty fun as well. (Sort of in the spirit of a game jam, too.)
So, while it’s far from the amount (or quality) of music I was hoping to make, I did get the chance to make at least this, our “Main Theme”:
I’m proud to say that we’re still hard at work on this game now, even three weeks later, and still hoping to turn this into something that matches the scale of our original vision. For now, I’ll leave off with a teaser/preview image of what this has become in the meantime.
Lastly — we also all wanted to say thank you all so much for your extremely kind (and very understanding!) feedback on our submission. It ended up being only a quirky little prototype of what will hopefully someday be a pretty cool little game, but your feedback was really inspiring and has kept us going in the weeks since!
Thanks for reading, and we’d love to hear from you with thoughts, questions, or especially any last minute reviews! Cheers!