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Yesterday was Aduge’s 3rd birthday!!!

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 and happy new year!

Ok, ok, I know we already are in the third week of the year, it so happens that, as usual, we were very busy since the 10th when we returned from our brief break. After more than half our studio went to Argentina, have our headquarters at Azuri Building reordered and having reviewed the next Tsar Project milestones, it was about time to write again here!

I decided to start 2010 continuing my presentation of the Tsar Project’s character design. The last phase I’ve showed in my last post was the creation of a generic character that defined the game’s general visual aesthetics.

After this I started designing other characters using this chosen style. After drawing more guards, some adaptations were made and I started to focus on a very important aspect of Tsar Project’s character design: designing different groups of characters by their silhouettes.

The silhouette is one of the most recognizable aspect of a character and the shape can say a lot about function, abilities and even the personality of a character. I started with the guards that were categorized into different functions by the Game Design and after that this was extended to all characters of the game.

Beyond the useful function of identification these different silhouettes became an important visual feature to convey the vision that our protagonist has of the people, animals and creatures that inhabit the Moscow Kremlin.

This concept was further improved, as all things seen or heard in the game will be filtered by the subjective perception of the protagonist. When the time comes, we will speak more about it.

In a future post I will further explain the character design development. See you soon!

Hello again!
Bruno already told you in the last update, I’ve just finished the character concepts arts. I’ve done around 100 concepts since the start of the project, and I think that, having finished the entire set, it’s a good time to start telling you the making of those characterss, back from the first week of April 2009.

At that stage of the project we’re working in the Tsar Project for a month, basically developing the idea, researching and searching for plots that would express our goals. And then came the question: how to translate all this visually?

To answer this I’ve first worked in the characters graphic style. Interestingly, after those 8 months, and all the researches I’ve done along with Ingrid for our graduation project, we’ve developed a methodology of creating visual worlds focused exactly in the characters style.

Some of our first references were illustrations by Vladmir Semenov

This creative process started with the selection of a character that could be both generic enough so it won’t need many individual features and could carry as many cultural and contextual elements as possible. A soldier was a natural choice at the time: we’ll have plenty of them in the Kremlin and they seemed the more neutral characters in the cast. Upon that, Muscovy armors and arms from the period were some of our major visual references in the beginning of the project.

Set the character, a Muscovy soldier wearing a heavy armor  and wielding a spear-axe, I’ve done a set of sketches during the first two weeks of April. What I had in mind was to see all the possibilities, from realism to pure geometric abstraction, from childish cartoons to the complex frenchphonic comics. The result was the next image, that we now call the Father of all Tsar Art. He’s a hand drawn lad 2 and a half inches high, made of indian ink and markers.

The next step was choosing a direction to go and explore it deeper, testing other characters in the same style. I’ve done that with another soldier, lighter and faster, and with a nobleman. A very synthesized style turn to coherent and flexible, allowing good consistency for the characters without needing too much visual complexity, just what we’re looking for.

And how the character creation continued I’ll tell you on my next post! See you soon!

Giving sequence to the series of posts about the Tsar Project, today the subject is Level Design which is the development of the game’s setting and background from the most wide scope (location) to the most specific details (desk positioning).

The Level Design of Tsar Project was conceived after a thorough research of the Moscow Kremlin architecture circa XVI century, done mainly by our Art Director, Maperns. The continuous drive for accurate textual and pictorial information to compose our historical fiction made us reach a russian architect and historian, Julia Tarabarina. With  her kind support we managed to gather information about the building layout and structure, and architectural blueprints of that century and posterior ones.

Building from this knowledge we started the development of the Level Design properly, designing the necessary modifications to make game interesting but always trying to preserve the historical accuracy. The first step was to gather all information that we had collected by drawing blueprints of all floors of all of the Kremlin main palaces, in order to create a better understanding of the game space. These blueprints then were simplified to help the work of the game designers and programmers.

After this, we started to work on the game events, placing them on the game space. We also designed a huge mind map with all rooms and their connections, NPC placement, item placement and guard routes and routines. Both were also tested on our software prototype and Lego mock-ups. These maps also helped the development of the first background concepts which Maperns is doing directly on Paint Tool SAI, a very powerful (and cheap) japanese painting software which he will present on his next post.

I’ve been silent for a while now, but now I’m here. My name is Thiago, but you can call me Beto, and I am Aduge’s game designer. I will try to be more present on this distinct blog from now on.

Last time I spoke briefly about the Tsar Project’s themes of aloneness and patience and how they are thought to be integrated with the gameplay and other aspects of the game. Now it’s time to talk about the gameplay itself, more on general terms rather than on specific details. What it means is that I will talk about how the game will be played/experienced on a general level, trying to not spoil too much of the experience proper.

To begin with, Tsar is an infiltration mission.  The protagonist is an outsider, an invisible summoned creature inside the heavily guarded and tense Moscow Kremlin Palaces. A mission is presented, but it hardly matters, the character is where it shouldn’t be, and there are people that will attack anything that don’t belongs there. Thus, the game objective is quite clear: avoid all guards, civilians, animals (read: everyone) and reach your destination within a set time limit. Failing to elude the obstacles means a very hard time for the player, or simply failing the game itself.

And what means this character has to complete its objective? As said above, it is an invisible creature. No human can see it under normal conditions. Although particles, debris, snow, blood or and any other mundane object over this creature’s body remains visible. So it’s for the best to avoid getting dirty. And even if invisible, the character still makes sounds which can be heard by any attentive guard, so silent movements are still important. Also, the protagonist (it’s name shall remain a mystery, for now) is very athletic and agile, being capable of exploring the environment with great mobility. Now it may seems pretty easy, right? Not that much. There’s one major vulnerability in this playable character that enforces the game as a “sneaking mission”. The protagonist is fragile. Fragile to the point that any wound can mean it’s death. A direct combat situation is extremely adverse to the player and even if this character is powerful enough to kill or incapacitate most humans in one single strike, this kind of situation remains a risky gamble that should be avoided.

Another interesting aspect of the game is related to it’s time limit. The player has one in-game night to complete the mission. All characters (and I mean all of them) that inhabit the Moscow Kremlin have their routines and their stories on this particular night, as the time progresses. The player can simply watch everything or take action and see the results, whichever he wants. Guards will stand watch, workers will do their jobs, everyone will sleep, eat, or do whatever else people do. There is also a behavior system which conducts every character’s actions and reactions that will result in a very complex AI system, where enemy characters will not be as dumb as players are used to.

To sum it up, the Tsar Project is a stealth game where the player must elaborate routes and actions that are the most efficient to reach a destination without being seen or raising suspicions. Killing guards seems easy, but it’s not a very good idea most of the time (as it can cause a full scale alert, locking paths and whatnot) or going the most obvious and guarded route is not as efficient as using other sneaky and more subtle paths. When playing Tsar, remember: you are invisible, you are alone, you are deadly, but you still breath and is mere flesh and blood as any other. Better tread carefully.

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