Alpha 3.

Michaël Samyn, September 26, 2012

We have (pre-)released a new test version of Bientôt l’été, just in time for IndieCade. Yes, Bientôt l’été has been selected for the festival. Which is not the same as nominated -apparently the IndieCade jury didn’t appreciate our piece- but the only difference is that we can’t win a prize. This version of Bientôt l’été will be playable at the festival. And we will give a short presentation about it at the conference.

— Press button to collect —

The biggest change in this alpha version 3 is the replacement of the unintuitive stand-still-to-fade mechanic for collecting chess pieces, by a simple button that you see when you close your eyes in the direction of an Apparition. Clicking it starts a short cut scene, showing the object, after which your avatar picks up the chess piece.

This final simplification motivated the removal of the Hints from the screen. We figure that the interaction is now so easy that Hints are not necessary any more. They are still available when you close your eyes.

— Hiccups —

Another reason for removing the Hints was performance. Remember those weird hiccups that would happen all the time in alpha 1 and 2? Most of them were caused by drawing text on the screen: Unity3D’s infamous GUI system. To further reduce the impact of this system, we replaced all OnGUI calls by a single one.

We have also transcribed the music mixer from the visual language of Antares Universe (in which the entire game logic is created) to text-based Javascript. This has greatly reduced the frequency of the hiccups that happen in the game. So now we can finally listen to Walter Hus‘s wonderful music without interruptions. Almost. Still a bit of tweaking to do.

Some new music tracks have been added, by the way, to the ambient music of Femme, the female character. Pretty surprising at times!

— End of the World —

In principle, the beach in Bientôt l’été could be endless. It stretches. And the waves and the gulls follow along with the avatar. But in response to various reactions to the previous test versions, I have added an end to the world. To symbolize that end, there is a bench: beyond that bench you will find nothing new. Your avatar can sit on that bench and enjoy the scenery. Should you walk further anyway, an invisible wall will become visible and stop you.

— Gamepad controls —

I changed the mouse controls from conventional point-and-click to “hold down to walk, release to stop”. This feels a lot nicer, I think. Plus it removes the implication that the target where you click would matter.

The major addition, however, is gamepad controls. I wasn’t going to add this until Steam announced its Big Picture feature and I realized how much I enjoy playing videogames from the couch. It was quite a nightmare to make Unity3D play nice with different game controllers on different platforms. But it was worth the effort. The gamepad has become my favorite interface to Bientôt l’été.

A direct result of the implementation of gamepad controls and the dominance of Microsoft’s XBox 360 controller is a change of the letter keys that you press to play the game with the keyboard. Instead of the first letter of the English name of the function, we’re now using the same letters as on the buttons of the controller: A, B, X and Y.

— Future cloud —

We have added functionality that will make it possible to load your collection of phrases and chess pieces into a separate client. This client will consist of only the multiplayer part of the game (the café) and I hope to release it for tablets and maybe the web. For free. So after you have walked some time on the beach, you can load your collection on your tablet to talk to another player. Only the back end of this system has been built so far. So this cannot be tested yet. Just know that if you don’t toggle off the “Cloud Name” in the Credits section, your collection will be uploaded to our database.

Private networking has been re-enabled. If you fill in a password at the bottom of the Credits screen, you will only be connected to players with the same password. So for a private session, you need to share the password with your partner in play.

— Aesthetics —

I have mostly finalized the aesthetics of the game now. Added some color correction to the exterior scene. And a shader that I’m particularly proud of. It’s a “masked blur” shader. I hate how 3D always looks so clean and sharp. But just blurring the screen doesn’t feel nice. So I made a shader that only blurs the screen in specific uneven areas defined by a texture. And then I move that texture around. It’s a nice effect. I have also added Tale of Tales’ patented light intensity fluctuation, which gives a nice feel of moving clouds.

Some of you will be happy to see the new foot prints in the sand and the little splatters when you step in the water. The avatars now have a few idle poses. And they move their fingers a bit. Sometimes their spine spirals out of control. So I still need to tweak something there.

The interior aesthetics have also been polished a bit. Some sound effects were added. And smoke! The more you smoke, the more the room fills with smoke. It looks very unhealthy! Especially now that the bot can smoke too, and drink and play music. It still doesn’t have a brain. But randomness seems to work well enough.


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