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May 28th, 2013

May '13 update

What I'm working on right now?

I've also spent a couple of work-days worth of time creating more sound assets, namely two specific sound groups; Gore and nanoglass. The first of the two is self explanatory – it's blood spurts. We originally planned to record everything related to this by ourselves, but I needed some mud-related sounds for something completely different (spoilers!) and bought a really comprehensive library of mud fx from The Recordist. It was so comprehensive a library, in fact, that it turned out to be a great source for gooey splattering as well. Granted, the sounds had to be twisted and mangled beyond recognition in order to fit the visuals – TAGAP 3 isn't a splatter bloodbath, after all.

TAGAP 3 Screenshot 3The other sound group, nanoglass, was one of the toughest audio design challenges I've faced to date, if not THE toughest. Nanoglass is basically an alloy, solid or transparent, formed entirely of self-replicating, self-maintaining nanites. So it's basically indestructible glass that can be programmed to take any shape and can be toggled in and out of existence. Think classic sci-fi force walls, except they are made of solid matter instead of energy an field. And on Pluto, this stuff is everywhere, from space helmets to exterior windows and beyond! In fact, you've already seen it in the screenshots (i.e. the exterior window in the shot shown here).

The question was, however, what the heck does this material – that doesn't exist in our world, mind you – actually sound like? It looks like glass, but isn't. It's entirely synthetic, is maintained by a visibly pulsing electric current and it can be toggled on/off. Dozens of experiments, vocoder tests and mix-mash-ups later, I came up with the final 'material identity', which is an interesting mix of reinforced security glass, ice, electricity and a simple synth sound thrown through a vocoder. This may sound weird, but it really works and sounds exactly as it looks.

Finally, I'm also working on a completely new level, which ties in nicely with our next topic.

TAGAP 3 debut teaser is coming!

Yes, as I revealed in an answer to a question that came in through Facebook, TAGAP 3 debut teaser is on the way and right now in the planning stage. You might have wondered why has it taken this long. The answer is simple; Despite us having several levels ready to go and the engine being pretty much done, one level in particular I wanted to showcase in didn't go into production until, well, last week!

For me this particular level is essential to show in our debut, as it represents one crucial fourth of the design themes appearing in TAGAP 3. The levels we've made so far represent two of the four main styles, but these two motifs are something you'd expect to see in space-station-bound sci-fi adventure. You know; The practical, semi-industrial metal structures and highly polished and sterile rooms of plastic and ceramics.

TAGAP 3 Screenshot 3What is this level, then? Well, you've already seen the art-asset prototype of it, in our very first screen shot. Yes, it's the cybernetic forest! And fear not; While the environment in the shot is basically a mock-up and not the actual level, the assets are the same. This isn't the case of Aliens: Colonial Marines, on the very contrary – given how much the engine has evolved since the first screenshot, the end result will sweep the floor with the original work-in-progress shot.

So, now it's a mad dash trying to finish at least a portion of the level so we can debut the game the way we wanted from the very start. If everything goes as planned the debut teaser trailer of TAGAP 3 will hit the Interwebs on TAGAP Day, July 31st 2013.

Next Gen thoughts

It's no secret – despite the fact I develop games for PC, I'm a console gamer first, PC gamer second. This is simply because I work my dayjob in front of a computer and when I get home, I spend majority of my 'free' time working on TAGAP. When it finally comes to taking a break and spending some time playing games, I'd prefer to do it sitting on sofa with a controller in my hands as opposed to, you know, spend the entire day staring at my PC monitor. Don't get me wrong, I do game on my PC, but mainly smaller scale indie games (go-go indies!) and LAN-party titles. When it comes to modern mainstream releases, I simply prefer to play them on my entertainment setup, even if it costs me some graphical fidelity.

So, in that light, it's no surprise I've been keenly anticipating the next generation of game consoles. And oh boy, I have never been so disappointed at anything in my entire life. I'm a pessimist by nature, expecting the worst from everything, but even that didn't prepare me for the disaster that is the console trio of the future.

I could go on a ranting rampage, picking each of the consoles apart, but I don't want to hammer any more nails to their respective coffins. And what there is to say that you haven't already heard? The only one I see any positives in is WiiU with its refreshing focus on (gasp!) games and if folks started making games for the system, it would become one mighty contender. However, the emphasis is on the word 'if', which makes one doubt if WiiU would be any good as a primary game platform.

Do you want to know how dire the future console scene looks? I've seriously thought about giving up videogames altogether. While I'm sure it won't come to that, the fact that I, a serious hardcore gamer and semi-pro game developer, actually consider it as a viable next-gen option, it's pretty clear to me there's something wrong with the mainstream side of the industry. But what the heck do I know about these things, I share my games for free and only loose money in the process, so perhaps all this built-in BS in these devices is actually necessary for the companies to survive. I really don't know.

But hey, even if next generation of mainstream blockbuster games becomes utterly distilled grey produce, at least we still have those indie games to look forward to. Speaking of...

Kickstarter happenings

As a huge supporter of Kickstarter movement, I've received a couple of casual questions of my personal experiences with the platform so far. Simply put; No complaints what-so-ever so far. From the projects I've backed, four have arrived and right on schedule. Three have been delayed but for good and/or positive reasons (i.e. the famous DoubleFine project got so much money that the game expanded in scope, beyond the original schedule) and the rest weren't even planned to be out yet.

The only project that I've backed, got funded yet ended up in limbo is Kaiju Combat. The project isn't dead, on the contrary, but thanks to the gargantuan ass-hats of Wizards of the Coast, it is now pulled from Kickstarter and has a law-suit going against it. You see, WotC released, aeons ago, a random game called "Kaijudo" and this led to them somehow thinking they own the trademark for Kaiju. For those not in the know, Kaiju is basically Japanese for monster and is universally used to describe Godzilla-style giant monsters. The word was coined to popular culture by Toho, the studio behind Godzilla flicks, so if anyone should be suing someone, Toho should be slam-dunking Wizards of the Coast. Anyway, while I have plenty of anger building up related to this project, none of it is directed at the game or the studio, Sunstone Games, but purely against WotC. The project is still happening, but likely won't be called Kaiju Combat.

So, yeah; I'm still on board with the Kickstarter movement. Perhaps more than before now that several projects have successfully done (like Hangboy: World War Too, Kim Boekbinder's The Sky is Calling and Zircon's Identity Sequence, all absolutely brilliant, by the way).

And oh boy, there plenty of interesting projects both seeking funding right now and arriving later, like Harbinger Down, a creature-feature homage to 'The Thing' from the folks behind special effects for Alien-films (some of the work they did under Stan Winston's effect shop). On game front the project getting my attention is Satellite Reign, the rumoured spiritual successor Syndicate Wars that has been teased to be Kickstarted in near future. And then there's the return of Deus Ex Machina, the very first fully interactive multimedia rock-opera – the sequel may lack Jon 'The Third Doctor' Pertwee heard in the original, but it has Christopher Lee instead, so I'm not complaining.

But that's it for now, back to planting cyber-trees!

Until next time,

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin