Jul 12, 2018

The art of TUAT #1: inspirations

10:48 PM Posted by Yvonne No comments

This post is the first of a series in which we are going to talk about the creative process behind the art of TUAT.

When we are talking about the Ancient Egypt the images that usually comes up in our mind are something like these: the pyramids, the texture of the desert, earthy colors, the waters of the Nile, the paintings in the tombs. These are, of course, the basic elements that composed our first research about Ancient Egypt art and identity.

Our initial concern was to understand which shapes, traces, colors, compositions and elements characterized the egyptian aesthetics. We had to make a deep analysis of images in order to create something that was plausible and could transport the player to that context. We wanted the player to feel that characters and the environments seems to belong to what we consider “egyptian” — but in a different style.

But how to show Ancient Egypt with a different look, without repeat the patterns, stereotypes and clichés?

So we decided to explore the death. The dark atmosphere that we attribute to death today is the second identity element that defines TUAT’s art. For this we research and appoint other artistic products that have the same characteristics. These were: the art of Coraline (LAIKA, 2009), Paranorman (LAIKA, 2012), the child book Babadook — the same from the movie — (Causeway films, 2014) and John Kenn Mortensen illustrations (write and direct television shows for kids).

 Something in common in these exemple are the mix of elements of terror with a “childish” style. The illustrations of Babadook, for exemple, have irregular lines, ink marks on black fills, and an aesthetic like it was a drawing made by a child. Despite the terror tone, it’s still a children's book.

Coraline and Paranorman have the same irregular linearts and brush strokes on blank fills. The deliberate choice of this type of finishing adds the "eccentric" tone of the narratives proposed by the two films.

John Kenn’s works show the daily life of children and adults, and this ordinary world is inhabited by strange creatures. They break up all the normality of the scenes, and that monsters gain space and cause a lot of disturbance being shown that way.

This is an interesting contrast that we wanted to put in the TUAT, this feeling of strangeness and annoyance caused by the combination of the childish style and the horror. In this first moment we wanted to bring to you the artistic references that in some way guide and impact the art of TUAT. Soon we will talk about how we technically adapted these inspirations to the style of the game. See you there!

A postagem de hoje é a primeira parte de uma série que vai falar um pouco sobre o processo criativo por trás da arte do TUAT.

A imagem mental que o Antigo Egito nos evoca é muito característica: as pirâmides, a textura do deserto, as cores terrosas, os templos e arquiteturas grandiosos, as águas do rio Nilo, as pinturas nas tumbas. Esses são os elementos básicos que compuseram nossa primeira pesquisa sobre arte e identidade egípcia antiga.

O mais importante nesse primeiro momento foi entender quais eram as formas, traços, cores, composições e os elementos que caracterizavam a estética egípcia. Só assim, através de uma análise imagética, seria possível criar algo que fosse verossímil e que pudesse transportar o jogador para aquele contexto, de modo que tanto os personagens como os ambientes parecessem pertencer de fato ao que nós normalmente consideramos “egípcio”.

Mas como mostrar o Antigo Egito de uma maneira diferente, sem repetir os padrões e estereótipos que já viraram clichê dentro desse tema?

É aí que outro elemento importantíssimo entra em jogo: a morte.

A atmosfera sombria que atribuímos à morte hoje é o segundo elemento identitário que define a arte do TUAT. Para isso, pesquisamos e elegemos outros produtos artísticos que possuem essa característica, sendo os principais deles: a arte de Coraline (LAIKA, 2009), Paranorman (LAIKA, 2012), o livro infantil Babadook, cujo o nome é o mesmo dado ao filme (Causeway Films, 2014), e as ilustrações de John Kenn Mortensen (roterista e diretor de programas de TV infantis).

Uma coisa em comum em todos esses exemplos citados é que eles misturam, de maneira primorosa, elementos de terror com um estilo “infantil”.

As ilustrações de Babadook, por exemplo, têm traçados irregulares, marcas de tinta nos preenchimentos de preto e uma estética quase como se fosse um desenho feito por uma criança. Apesar de um tom de terror, continua sendo um livro infantil.

Já Coraline e Paranoman têm em comum um mesmo tipo de traçado irregular e preenchimentos rabiscados e imprecisos. A escolha deliberada desse tipo de acabamento agrega ao tom “excêntrico” das narrativas propostas pelos dois filmes.

As ilustrações de John Kenn apresentam cotidianos de crianças de adultos com a presença de criaturas estranhas que quebram totalmente com a normalidade daquelas cenas. Aqueles monstros ganham ainda mais destaque e causam ainda mais incômodo estando apresentados dessa maneira.

Esse é um contraste interessante que queríamos colocar no TUAT, essa sensação de estranhamento e incômodo causados pela combinação do traço infantil e do horror.

Neste primeiro momento quisemos trazer a vocês as referências artísticas que de alguma maneira norteiam e impactam a arte do TUAT. Em breve falaremos sobre como nós adaptamos tecnicamente essas inspirações para o estilo do jogo. Até lá!

Jun 27, 2018

TUAT Around the World #1

6:11 PM Posted by Felipe Marques No comments

Two weeks ago we had the opportunity to set up a "booth" for TUAT at RING, a local event based in Rio de Janeiro that puts together indie devs from the whole region. A lot of players could experience our game and they gave us a lot of precious feedback. We also participated in the pitch rounds and could receive a professional commentary about our work. That was very funny and we could learn a lot! Here are some pics we took:

We also released a new trailer for the event! It is focused on the gameplay and the game mechanics. You can check it out below:

Soon we will bring more unique content about our creating process. Stay tuned and see you guys next time!

Jun 8, 2018

Creating Puzzles for TUAT

12:10 PM Posted by Lucas Izumi No comments
In today's post, I would like to show our creative process while creating puzzles for TUAT.

In TUAT, puzzles are much more than simple game elements. If they are not directly connected with the narrative, they are at least connected with cultural elements of Ancient Egypt. In order to create this connection we have to work with a few limitations, like the restricted use of mechanisms, after all, at that time there was still no variety that we know today.

Historical Limitations
A good example of this was during a discussion we had about a puzzle. It would work very well with the use of cogwheels, but by researching on it we discovered that cogwheels did not yet exist at that time. The Predynastic period of Ancient Egypt dates from around 5500 BC and the first reported use of a cogwheel was in the Antikythera mechanism, from around 200 BC.

In a later research, we then found about the defense mechanism used in the Great Pyramid of Giza. It uses a system of huge granite blocks suspended on grooves. When activated, the blocks would be released and slid to close a passage. The puzzle itself was not about closing something, but we could use the core idea of this system and adapt it to fit our puzzle settings, replacing the cogwheels entirely.

Source: Science Channel
Puzzle Design and Ancient Egypt Culture
Our puzzle creation process starts by asking ourselves a few questions:
- What's the purpose of the puzzle? Is it to teach a new mechanic? To obtain an item?
- Where will the puzzle be located?
- Based on the puzzle location, which basic elements fit that environment?
- Which cultural/mythological elements fit that environment?

By putting all these answers together we have a clear view of what to use in that specific puzzle. From here we take a look at our limitations: are all elements good to use? After doing a research and discarding or replacing some elements, we finally come up with an initial idea. This idea is documented and tested using Paper Prototypes (or simply diagrams). We discuss it and when we all find it interesting enough, we implement a prototype of it in the game itself.

The Ancient Egypt rites and the games played in those times are a great source of inspiration when designing a puzzle. Take for instance the Canopic Jars. They were used during the mummification process and each one of them holds a specific purpose. By exploring their purpose we created a puzzle that teaches the player their use and has a conceptual value that calls upon the beliefs of that era. This is something strong in TUAT. We don't want puzzles to be a mere element between the narrative. We want to use them to further dive into the Ancient Egypt culture and present it to the player in different ways.

The Canopic Jars Puzzle
I really wish I could share more about the game puzzles, but I don't want to spoil your experience! I hope you guys enjoy this post and please keep an eye out for TUAT! We shall be releasing a demo soon!

May 27, 2018

Here's our newest project: know TUAT

11:38 AM Posted by Felipe Marques No comments
In the past months we decided to work in a project different from everything we have done before. So far all the Sonera’s games focused in exploring the mechanical potential of game design. Now we just threw caution to the wind and wanted to try something new that could challenge us of every single way. Here is where we bet:

(The trailer is in Portuguese, our native language, but we hope you can feel what we are trying to do. And it is a little bit out of date, since it was done last year and doesn’t reflect the project’s nowadays. But again: try to feel it, not judge it. Btw, you can use English subtitles if you want.)

TUAT is a game about death. This is our leitmotiv. It was born of our desire to talk about death when everything we see rejects death like if we are going to live forever. We choose the Egyptian religion and society as our general theme because we saw something very precious there, a new attitude towards death, and we hope to bring it in our game.

Technically speaking, TUAT is a 2D game that focuses on exploration and storytelling. You are a boy who wakes up in a weird place and you don’t know how the hell you got there. Everything you want is go back for your daily life, but you have no memories: you don’t remember who you really are.

It is important to say that you are an Egyptian boy. We don’t want to tell a story about a North American or European explorer that comes to Egypt searching for rich treasures or magical objects. We want to go deep in the Egyptian mentality and develop a game from within this culture. That’s why I am studying hieroglyphics and Egyptian thought, so everything in the game will be as accurate as possible, trying to avoid at any cost the anachronism, this ghost that haunts all the historians.

Here are some pics of the expositions of TUAT:

Every week one of us will post some content on the blog concerning the development of TUAT. So you guys can take a look at the game from different perspectives. See you all next time!

Sep 11, 2017

Food Eater - AGBIC 2017 entry

7:36 PM Posted by Lucas Izumi , , , , , , No comments
A Game by its Cover is an annual game jam where participants pick a famicase design and turn it into a game! Last time I joined this jam was in 2015, with SHE. This year I'm going with Food Eater!

Komida-chan can't control herself during her trip to FoodIsland. Please, stop her before it's too late!

Food Eater is a casual arcade game created during "A Game By Its Cover 2017" game jam. It was based on the Food Eater famicase by Ezequiel Nietoš.

Picking a Famicase
From the famicase exhibition page, I first picked my favorites. I really really wanted to create games for all of them, but I knew I wouldn't have enough time. Each famicase has a small synopsis of the game (which the dev may or may not follow). Based on these synopsis, I created an idea for each of them.
A game of skill, strategy and wits.

Idea: The idea here was to make the Rock-Paper-Scissors game more dynamic and unforeseen. Each player would have a whole scenario at their disposal and would choose Rock, Paper or Scissors to interact with an object of that scenario. A player's interaction would trigger something that would affect the other player. For instance: Player 1 chooses Rock on a Hydant. Player 2 chooses Rock on a Manhole Cover. The hydrant fires water at Player 2, but Player 2 covers her/himself with the manhole cover, so nothing happens. Trying different combinations and guessing their results could be very fun.
Chop ‘n Click is a point and click game where you play as a detective trying to unravel a series of murders. Every crime scene shares a common element - each victim has had their pointing finger cut off. Will justice be fulfilled? Will our hero fall into the trap of madness? Play and see for yourself!

Idea: In this game I would follow its synopsis. The player would investigate crime scenes in a static screen, interacting with the objects. Between a scene and other, there would be dialogues (visual novel like). The main catch here would be that, the finger that was cut off would be pointing to the most important clue of each crime scene. By realizing this the player would be able to put everything together and solve the mistery.
Thunders, a strong wind, the storm is approaching ... Raijin and Fuujin have arrived! They are Storm Brothers! Sound the drums and ride the strong wind to get to the top of the sky!

Idea: A rhythm game. Raijin would play the drums and Fuujin would fly up to the sky. Each note you don't miss makes Fuujin go higher. Each note you miss makes Fuujin go down. If you miss enough, Fuujin would touch the ground and you would fail the song. By playing perfectly, Fuujin would reach the stars. This one, actually, was going to be my first choice. I even gathered some resources to study how to detect the beats of a music, but as I digged deep into it I realized I wouldn't be able to finish in time. I want to return to this, though, when I have more time.
Komida-chan can't control herself during his trip to FoodIsland. Please! stop her before it's too late!

Idea: My choice for this jam! I really liked the famicase and the synopsis was fun. I had trouble thinking on what to do with this one. First I thought of a platformer where you were supposed to destroy all the foods so Komida-chan woudn't eat anything, and from time to time she would try to eat you and there would be a boss fight, etc. I discarded this idea, in parts, to make it playable on mobile devices (and to try something different). I usually have trouble thinking of small arcade games, but some concepts of the earlier idea led me to this: use different tools (controlled by mouse or touch) to destroy the foods and make Komida-chan snap out of whatever is making her lose control. The idea is very simple and would lead to a very simple game, exactly what I wanted!

Designing the Game
I started designing this game by thinking of its screen. I then made a mockup of it (in MS Paint because I didn't have any paper with me atm)

In this screen I'm trying to balance the visual elements. The conveyor belts are placed at each side of the screen, Komida-chan is at the top center and the Saciety Bar (which diplays your progress towards winning or losing) is placed ate the central point of the screen - where the eyes of the player usually rest. This way the player knows, most of the time, if he/she is winning or losing. The lower area of the screen was reserved for the tools the player would use.

The next step was to define which tools I wanted in the game. I was trying to think of something kitchen-related, but decided it would be more fun if the tools were something different. I then thought of a Torch and a Fan - putting fire and blowing food off seems a good way of making someone stop eating. A hammer to 'destroy' food and a vacuum to suck it also seems pretty good.

With all the elements defined, I started designing a prettier mockup. I would use the objects on it as the backgrounds and sprites for the game later.

For each tool I chose a 'matching' food. Lettuce for the Torch, Fries for the Fan, Cake for the Hammer and a Flan for the Vacuum. By interacting with each of theses foods with the correspondent tool would make it inedible, decreasing Komida-chan's Saciety Bar.

Making the game more interesting
Managing the tools in order to destroy the food before it reaches Komida-chan was pretty fun, but it didn't have any replay element. Once the player wins once, there is absolutely no reason for them to replay the game. To try to fix this I added 2 very common elements: different dificulties and a combo system.

I divided the game into 3 different dificulties: Easy, Medium and Hard. Each of them impacts on the speed of the conveyor belt and how full the Saciety Bar starts. Since it's a reflex based game, the player can try different modes until they find one that suits them. Once that is set, they can try another mode to challenge themselves.

The combo system walks side by side with the different modes. Combos intuitively leads the player to aim for the highest possible value. If they break the combo somehow, some may be motivated to try again and keep the combo going. Mixing this with harder modes creates challenges that increase the game's replayability (like trying to beat Hard Mode with a full combo).

Porting to Winnitron
Winnitron is an open source platform for indie arcade machines and games. This year's AGBIC suggested the devs to make the games created during the jam compatible with Winnitron machines.

Food Eater was primarily designed to be played with mouse or touch controls. Porting the game to an arcade system like Winnitron was quite a challenge. The core of the game would have to change for this to work and at the same time, the changes couldn't be so dramatic to the point of making the game lose in gameplay.

The solution I found to this was to divide the gameplay mechanics in two groups:
- Choosing the tool
- Using the tool
Since Winnitron only uses 2 buttons and a stick, each mechanic has to be simple enough to fit it.

Choosing the tool
A player can choose which tool he/she wants to use at the moment by simply pressing Button 1 or Button 2. Button 1 will select the next tool on the left and Button 2 will select the next tool on the right. This will cycle through all the tools available, meaning that if you have the last tool on the right selected and press Button 2, it will return to the first tool on the left. With this system players can pick tools with more ease during the flow of the game.

Using the tool
Using the tool is the most important part of the game, since it's your winning condition: use the right tools on the right foods. To use a tool a player simply needs to press either LEFT or RIGHT in the stick. Different from the original version, in the Winnitron port you will be aiming ALWAYS at the first plate that contains food in the conveyor belt. This way, if the first plate contains a cake, when pressing the stick in that plate's direction, you will be aiming at it (you will know at all times at which plate you will be aiming because it will have a arrow above it). If a plate contains nothing or inedible food, you will aim in the next plate that contains food of that conveyor belt.

I made several tests using a keyboard, but it will never replace the feeling of playing in a arcade machine. If you end up playing Food Eater in a Winnitron, let me know how was the experience!