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Whew. It’s been months since the last update. Last time I made our regular round of updates, we were returning from our holiday breaks and in the middle of our pre-production pretty much.

Well, here we are, at May’s doorsteps, and now we are finally entering the full production stage. So, where are we? We are finishing a gameplay mock-up on Game Maker to test some last ideas and the general feel of the game and finishing up the final touches of preparation for production. The mock-up has pretty much all game mechanics in a simplified, leaner way. It’s working for us to test some gameplay dynamics and adjust certain aspects of level design and the level of difficulty. It will be more vital in the future when we will be working on the full functionalities of the final software, the mock-up will be a testing fallback for game design to address gameplay problems and to find solutions in a simpler environment.

While the mock-up code is being done by myself, the graphics were quickly drafted by Ingrid and Pirin and sound effects quickly assembled by Marcel and Beto. They are now working the kinks with how visual and aural assets will be produced, both technically and creatively. Vermonde is currently in Berlin studying Marketing and drinking quality beer. However, he is also in charge of testing our new engine and tackling some of the more difficult technical stuff that will be used in the game. Namely, dynamic 2D lighting and shadows (using normal mapping and simple geometrical math to do the trick), dynamic sounds (without the use of expensive middlewares, it is a little tricky) and solving algorithms to satisfy our robust AI requirements (the troublemaker of the lot).

Well. There will be more updates and posts following up soon! See ya.

After 11 months working on Tsar Project we are finally “ending” the pre-production stage. The pre-production was all about a discovery process, mostly the first opening of a double diamond process,  that in a way validates the early concept stages.

What must mark the beginning of production is a stage where we do not have any kind of uncertainties or doubts and can work on a “final” version of the software, without getting around different ways of doing things and without any big scope or feature changes.

The Production Planning we discussed the answers to questions that our testing and experimenting didn’t solve 100% and even the ones that testing and experimenting themselves had raised. The end result of our planning was excellent. More details… on the next chapters!

By the way, the one posting is Marcel Pace, executive producer of Tsar Project. (I rarely post here… You know, sound, music, project managing and process managing… kinda busy here, hehe! ;) )

Hello again! We are back from our break for awhile now and our first fortnight of the year has already ended. But before the usual round of updates on the Tsar Project I’d like to speak about a interesting article I read at Gamasutra last week. It’s about the Brazilian game industry environment and perspectives written by James Portnow. I will just say that the article was very well informed and precise, covering much of the problems that plagues our infant industry, and it’s a well worth read for everyone interested.

Now back to our update. These two weeks were used to regain our rhythm and to review certain aspects of our project. The most important update this time is that we are re-designing the game pacing, episodic/plot structure and level design to better accommodate our initial design goals. This is being accomplished through a change of approach to our development process by first structuring episodic and thematic arches to the game and building everything from there. A classic “do the Mario” approach I might add, but when something works, it works.

We pretty much finished the main revamp and the new structure is much more solid and coherent than the older one. The map was seriously redesigned. Before we used only the palace and it’s immediate surroundings. Now the area covered is much bigger but with the same scope, exploring new regions of the Moscow Kremlin that were neglected by the old level design without actually enlarging the game or making it more complex than it was.

As for the other departments, Visual Arts made a new background concept art, a wine cellar, Programming is finishing the core AI for the NPCs and Sound Design advanced with the conceptual soundscape, creating the abstract layer of the soundsteps (don’t ask).

So, yeah, we are back and warming up for the Global Game Jam 2010, which has a confirmed Jam Site in Curitiba. See you all soon.

Here I am again, as promised. This week we worked full time at the studio, morning and afternoon, so it was the same amount of work as a regular fortnight. The updates doesn’t seem much compared to our last two montlhy updates but bear with me:

The prototype is advancing at a fast pace. Me and Vermonde finally worked out one of the most tricky aspects of the game logic which is the way the game will control the NPCs routines. We are now implementing our solution onto the actual code.

Sound design finished the blizzard concept sound effect (which will probably be the actual asset used in the game) and made a lot of new conceptual definitions. This time it was about the abstract layer of the voice overs and more specific details about soundsteps.

Visual arts this week worked on tests regarding how the game will handle the different light sources (or lack thereof) upon the sprites and background. Besides this, the Yard concept art was thoroughly improved with new different layers of snow and snowfalls.

Finally, our screenwriter continued her work with the characters, finishing the full characterization of our protagonist, our “antagonist” and some secondary characters. They are finally fully fleshed out and whole, which will be a big help on the development of the game’s script.

And that’s it, pretty much. This update actually is more of an announcement as this was the last week of 2009 for Aduge Studio. As we approach the end of 2009 and, consequently, the holidays, Aduge will finally get a much deserved break from work. We return January 11th and before that there will be no new Tsar Updates though I can promise there will be other posts around the corner. So, in the name of the entire studio, I wish you all readers happy holidays and a successful and great 2010.

So it’s already December and we haven’t posted any news? Well, these last 4 weeks were the most busy weeks of the year for we Adugans, hands down. Last fortnight I was at São Paulo attending the first Interection South America, where I’ve published together with Beto a paper about Game Design. This paper is the result of our early studies on Game Design for our graduation project of which Beto will write about in the near future. There were also finals at university and all around end-of-the-year-craziness for everyone. Excuses, excuses, but what about the project? Well, let’s do our usual round up:

Game Design finished the core of the GDD and, even if we are a small team, the GDD is very important for this project. Now it is just polishing and revisions (and extensive testing of course!).

Protothumb

Vermonde at the programming dept. is working hard on finally turning the prototype into a prototype (the screenshot above may seem a little silly in it’s crudeness, but the function is what it is important at this early stage). Now we have a controllable character, guards, multiple levels, so things are finally taking a true shape. Probably me and Beto will drop the Legos and go work with the real deal very soon.

Sound Design is steaming up work on making the last sound assets for the conceptual soundscape. They also made an comprehensive conceptual work dealing with the nature of the abstraction layer of some sounds (specially soundsteps related to the guards and other NPCs) which seems complicated (and actually is pretty intricate) and I hope Marcel will write about it in the near future.

Ingrid, after finishing the core script, took a step back and started to really develop and deepen our main character’s… well, character. The whole deal: backstory, internal psyche, external behavior, etc. This was necessary to address some issues we are having with plot development. She finished this step and now is extending this work at a less detailed level to all the other characters found in the game.

Speaking of which, Visual Arts finally finished the characters concept arts. Endless color and texture testing resulted into a complete package of more than 70 characters, being 30 basic archetypes, plus 30 special individuals, plus a bunch of bonus characters, now resumed into a beautiful crowd concept. Some of which Pirin will present to you very soon.

That’s it for now. Expect a new Update next week, since it will be a productive one.

The Kitchen

Oops! We passed a fortnight without an update. It was a busy fortnight, you see, so we had to abandon the blog for a while and for that we apologize. The last month was a very productive one, obviously more for some areas in the studio than for others, but everyone got relevant stuff done, either way.

Starting from the borderline between project work and administrative work we, me as the Director and Marcel as the Producer, worked on a risk management plan for the project, in which a lot of issues were addressed and contingency actions were planned. For the most part, this kind of work is barely noticeable on the finished product but it’s just as critical as developing good assets or game design to the success of this particular project (and future ones too).

On the Game Design front the level design and the game’s structural pace were thoughtfully laid out (which resulted on our most recent posts, as you can see) and all of the game dynamics were explained on the game design document (GDD) for further programming reference. We also made a very complete revision of all of the GDD chapters and sections correcting a lot of out of date information and other minor errors. I can say that we are at the 0.7 version of the document.

Ingrid, our screenwriter, reached an important milestone last week: the structure of the core script is done! And what does it means? Basically, that the game’s endings, introductory dialogues, main tutorials and important events which covers the core of the game’s screenplay were written, drafted and their vocabulary and characterization revised and polished. Right now she is hard at work on secondary events and side scripts.

Sound Design is now working on the conceptual soundscape, but the entire fortnight was used to detail the components and descriptions of the sound assets that will be produced, overcome conceptual aesthetic issues about realism and abstraction and also the preparation of professional sound production hardware and software.  Now they finally are past all this and are working on the assets themselves. Hopefully before this fortnight ends we will be hearing blizzards, bells, footsteps and the cracking of fireplaces.

Visual Arts started working on the background concept arts, to achieve a better understanding of the tilesets and the overall game tone as you can see on the image. Four concepts of different areas (outsides, the prison, a palace hall and a kitchen, of which a w.i.p. is shown here) are being made as this fortnight approaches its end. Color tests for the characters were also made, starting with guards and civilians.

And last, but definitely not the least, our lone (at the moment) programmer worked on implementing a batch of features into the game’s prototype, the documentation of past milestones and, of course, the compulsory bug fixing and code efficiency improvements. The generic class for all of the game’s characters was created and now the process of creating new characters and enemy classes is getting progressively easier and finally we have a playable character in the prototype.

We also came across pretty interesting new information while doing some more historic researches, but the update is beginning to become a wall of text. So we leave these interesting findings for another opportunity.

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