Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Production report = The boring post

Production report!
To all those of you out there waiting on more art and animation (or even code... argh) today is a sad day. Well for most of you anyway, there is always that one person that loves to hear production reports. So this post... is for you... with all our love (xoxo)


Weekly meetings = Boring stuff

One of the most important things we do every week is the weekly meeting.
We gather all the team in one place and discuss the work that was done last week, and the work we will be doing on the next. Kind of like a cult, except we make videogames instead of killing ourselves.

These meetings usually start at 10am and can stretch for an hour or two. Not everyone stays until the end. Normally it starts with everyone discussing general problems and then smaller and smaller groups to discuss specific problems related to code, design, art etc.
Usually whenever we start discussing code, somebody falls asleep. We can't blame them, really.
Code is boring. That's why everyone leaves and goes back to work.

A typical meeting at Nerd Monkey's office. In the photo, Diogo and Francisco discuss design.

Also, at the start of each month, the entire team plays the latest build and gives feedback on everything. Even if everyone has played the build lately, it is always important to voice everyone's opinion as most of the times, some new idea or solution pops up from the most unexpected team member.
Except for Diogo. Nobody likes ideas from Diogo.


Organizing production = More boring stuff


The start of the week also signals the start of a sprint. We do weekly sprints and keep everything tied to these tiny focused loops of work. For keeping track of current and upcoming sprints, tasks, objectives, milestones and everything else we use Altassian Jira.

Old Jira promotional screenshot. What? You thought we would take a screenshot of our own work?

Up until recently we were using Gitlab on our own server. But due to the growing team and the need for a more dedicated tracking, we decided to jump to Jira. The IT guy wanted to kill us when Filipe told him we were done with Gitlab and all that work implementing it in our server would be thrown out. Oh well. We hope he learned his lesson. Also, our budget just increased! Cool.
Yeah, he should have studied something else. Back to school with you, boy!

Jira is an interesting piece of software. It can be used online or downloaded to be placed on our server (we won't be doing that, now. Obviously). Currently there is a free version with a 10 person limit which is perfect for most indie teams. It allows for connection and sharing with other tools like Slack, Google Drive, Confluence, Trello, and many others.
NO, it does not connect with Microsoft Messenger, MOM. Jesus!

We are also currently placing all our bugs there, but when we get to Beta we will probably move that to a more dedicated platform for bug reporting.

We continue to use Gitlab for many other things including our own dedicated Wiki.
And our wiki contains a big outline of... Out of Line... hehehe. Yes.


Files and online meetings = Even more boring stuff

We are always all online in Hangouts. Even though the entire team works in a physical office, this way if someone was out for one day of work or decided to stay home to work from there, can keep track of any important announcements. Also: memes.

For overall trips, vacations, days off or any other events, we use Google Calendar. This tool is very useful as it can be easily implemented on your phone (Android or iPhone but not Windows Phone) and synced to notify you of upcoming events. We can also all see at a glance the most important milestones without having to login to Jira or Gitlab.

Alongside the company Google Suite (nerdmonkeys.pt) we also make extensive use of Google Drive, mainly Sheets, Docs and Slides for all our documentation. We usually write in English to make sure that anyone on the team can read them. They are also usually very useful for pitches, presentations and any other occasions.


Yeap, another promotional screenshot. Easy to tell by the Cortana search still on in the lower left corner.

Production Repor-BOOOORRRRRRIIIIINNNNGGGG!

Finally the production report. Every month an email is written where a breakdown of the production with all its achievements, decisions and on-going production is det-BOORRRIIIINNNNGG!

ARGH! - sigh - Well, that's it, I can't take much more of this anymore.

We are done here.

Hope that one person that we love so much actually liked reading this blog post. Next time we will be going back into the things that matter like art, animation, music and such... except for code.

Catch us on Twitter!
Don't panic, flight mechanic!

Monday, 3 February 2020

Animating San

The animation of San.

In the last blog post we talked about how San was redesigned.
In this one we are picking up the new design and showing how animations evolved.

On the Left, the new San running animation. On the Right, the old one.

As you can see, the new San is much more upbeat, happy and overall more energetic. With the old design, even if we wanted to give him more energy it would be harder to show.

Also, we now have multiple versions of the same animation. So whenever you are running, we will play a slightly different version making everything look way more natural.

What about walking? I hate running around everywhere, can't we just... walk?
Yeap, sure you can,"San".

On the Left, the new San walking animation. On the Right, the old one.

Again, when redesigning, we took the opportunity to think about the look and feel of the character.
Also, just look at that belly on the old version. What is THAT? Is that a beer belly? We will never know.

We kept the same pipeline, and just like before, animations are being done in Esoteric's Spine software. Thank you, Esoteric! The team loves you and if you can read this, send us extra free stuff.

San's bones, instead of white, are colored. A major problem for hospital's X-ray machines.
Originally, animations were done by Francisco, but as the project grew we needed a dedicated animator to join the team. We printed a world map and hung in on the wall. Then we grabbed a dart and threw it with our eyes closed...
Anyway, Barna Nemes came all the way from Hungary and he took the mantle of rigging and animating San with amazing results.

You can follow Barna on Instagram here.
You can buy maps to print here.
Professional darts here.

Currently San has MANY more animations. Those include things like "idle", "throwing spear", "jumping", "falling" etc. We also have more characters with their own rigs, animations and so on.

Out of Line is getting bigger and bigger by the day and it is wonderful to finally see this project coming to fruition.

See you guys next time!
Que te pasa, calabasa?

Thursday, 23 January 2020

New San, new life

Out with the old and in with the new!
San has a new design!

Yeap, we changed how he looks, how he animates and even how he interacts with the environment and his spear. After an exhausting design and review process we ended up with a cool new version of our main character.

New San on the LEFT and old San on the RIGHT


A Photoshop mockup. Actual size of the final character in-game is slightly different.

Of course the change wasn't done just like THAT. There were tons of studies done, TONS!

So, the focus for the new designs was to try and find a more likable and relatable character while also improving upon the original design. We also needed to give more emphasis in to the character movements and the way he can express himself so we started heading towards a slightly taller character, testing new forms, colors and other options for his eyes.

You can still ear the sad voices of all these characters saying "pick me... pick me... pick me..."

A chord was struck, the design started to lean more towards the taller characters. Also... COLORS!

Some final attempts to try something completely different and opposite. Note: one of these is not like the others.

We were all a bit worried when trying to change the character into something new as everyone in the team got attached to the "old" San. But the future is here... or there... it's somewhere, I guess. So there... or here?

That's it! We are really happy with the new design and the team is happily working on a lot of other things that we can't wait to show you. Mainly how the new San is animated! We will show it on our next blog post.

Don't forget to follow Out of Line on Twitter on take a bigger leap of faith and follow some of the team's personal Twitter accounts (we are not responsible for what you find there).

The Official account - Out of Line @outofline_game
The Visionary - Francisco Santos @FranciscoMSart
The Programmer - João Genebra @genebruhh
The Producer - Diogo Vasconcelos @diogostuart
The Co-Producer - Filipe Duarte Pina @FilipeDPina
The Designer -  Wilson Almeida @foolean_logic


Get the point, double joint?

Monday, 13 January 2020

After Holidays!

So the holidays are now in the past and the new decade is here.
The team took some time to get ready for 2020 and also to shift gears into maximum warp as we start this new year at full throttle (yeap, lot's of car parts metaphors in this one, also, a Start Trek one).

So to keep the holidays spirit intact and bring the joy and happiness that only exists when you spend time with your family (or not), here are some photos and quotes from all our Out of Line team members.

Having said that, you may notice that we are getting bigger! Some new (and old) team members have join (or rejoined) the team. Also, a few of them never actually left and kind of hang around backing the team and waiting for the right moment to step in. But this is a story for another post... maybe.

Francisco Santos - Designer, Artist of All-Things, Pro-Biker


Francisco in Dublin wearing a fence

Francisco says:
"I went in to the cold of Dublin to spend my year's end.
And, in the middle of all that Guinness, I took the opportunity to visit an interactive museum about the vikings and Dublin's medieval era. There I could try out replicas of gear worn in those days.
It's funny to think that swimming caps have evolved so much!"


You think you are so clever and funny, Francis. But you aren't. At least now we can smash you with a pipe in the head and you won't feel a thing. GET BACK TO WORK!


João Genebra - Programmer, Unity Master, Mechanics Tinkerer

João fake photo of him riding a horse


João says:
"It was a good holiday break.
Between spending time with family and friends for Christmas and new year I also went to West Elizabeth to work for a few days on a family ranch.
This is me on a break after feeding the chickens and going for a horse ride."

Our programmer thinks he can trick us by doing some Photoshop magic and bashing a real photo with a photo of his head. BUT HE CAN'T. We can totally see this is fake! Nice try though. NOW, GET BACK TO WORK!


Diogo Vasconcelos - Producer, Boss, Late

Diogo was yet again late at sending his photo and comment so...


Mafalda Claro - Associate Producer, Diogo's Life-line, Woman

Somebody else's dog. Photo probably stolen from Facebook

Mafalda says:
"This year the holidays were a time to enjoy family, relax and plan the new year (and the new projects ahead).  
I had a great family Christmas, full with cheese, ham, good regional wine and that typical "too much food" Portuguese table, but it was particularly special because it was our puppy's first Christmas: behold Tyr, The Lawgiver!"


Mafalda sent us a photo of her dog in a bed wearing fake antlers. Not only is the photo in a vertical super slim fashion (causing terrible design anxiety to everyone) but is she really expecting us to believe that she would own such a cute pup? I don't think so. Stealing photos from other people is horrible and you should know better! NOW, GET BACK TO WORK!

Filipe Duarte Pina - Co-Producer, Project Manager, Ex-Boss

The worst sleepers you could wear

Filipe says:
"Got a lot of really cool presents, but these sleepers that my wife gave me are really something else. I love Rick and Morty and actually owning such a silly thing as these oversized things just warms my heart, and my feet! Hahahaha!

This is horrible! You are happy because you got presents? Your family is not that important, huh? Also you are wearing sleepers shaped like the heads of two characters, does this mean your feet are constantly inside their bodies? ARGH! YUCK! ...GET BACK TO WORK!


Wilson Almeida - Designer, Breaker-of-things, Joke Master

Thank you Wilson, we totally won't have nightmares now

Wilson says:
"Squeeeeeeeak! Squeak..."

 Another team member who thinks we can't spot the terrible Photoshop mash-up. Listen, WE KNOW YOU ARE NOT A MOUSE. Now, stop this nonsense and go do your job... 
...wait
...that's not right.
...AH! GET BACK TO WORK!

Barna Nemes - Animator, Intern, magyar

Yeap, a Christmas tree. How original.


Barna says:

Tessék itt egy kép az idei rohadt nagy fánkról, ami alig fért be a nappaliba. De azért nagyon szép volt. Köszi a családomnak a sok finom kaját :D Puszi mindenkinek!

Really? How nice of you, Barna.
If you don't mind, would you please continue your work related affairs?
Thank you.


Happy holidays from the team!
Don't forget to follow us on Twitter!
Make it snappy, Pappy.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Events, events, EVENTS!

oHHHHhhh yes.
We have been uper busy being at events. Also super tired.
We were at Games LX Week... wait, or was that XL Games Lisboa? XXL Games Weekend? Mannn, it's complicated, OK!? These things can suck the life out of anybody, if they are not careful.


XL Games World

So, this one event takes place BEFORE Lisboa Games Week* and it's sponsored by some mobile carrier brand that we will not mention here. It ran from 14 to the 17th of November in Pavilhão Atlântico** and it hosted the cool Indie XL for indie gamers! Which also includes the PlayStation Talents section where Out of Line and Nerd Monkeys were included.

We got to hang out with other talented indie developers and play their games as well.
Meanwhile, our latest build was shown and attendees got to playtest our current build.

A PlayStation branded stage greets this simple man and complex woman

"Dad, can we try other games, now?" - "Shut up and play Out of Line, son."

The Indie XL area. All full of Out of Line fans.

The best game in the show.

At some point, Francisco was called on stage to talk about Out of Line by PlayStation Portugal, which was super cool! He was on stage with Marco and some other 2 random cool guys.

Marco from KEO talked about how Out of Line and San changed his life.

*Yeap, it's Lisboa and not Lisbon even though they like to use the fancy English names. Go figure.
** As if we were also going to write that ugly name that they use to call Pavilhão Atlântico


Lisboa Games Week

So, this one took place AFTER XL Games World* but at least it is not sponsored by some silly brand. Still a bit strange that it has the Portuguese word for Lisbon in it's fancy English name... oh well.
Again, Out of Line was present in the indie section called "Loading Zone" in this event that took place inside FIL (Feira Internacional de Lisboa) and ran from the 21st to the 24th.

We got to hang out with even MORE indie developers and were thrilled to get even more people to play our latest build!

Yes, that's a stand on the left with some other game from Nerd Monkeys. Nobody cares.

Another event! Weeeeeeeee!

*XL? Not LX as in Lisbon? Does it mean it's an Extra Large event? What does THAT even mean?


Anyway

Everyone was tired by the end of it!
Both events lasted each 4 grueling days and they tended to finish around 10pm!!! WAT!


Diogo pretending to be tired, HAHAHA, HE IS ALWAYS TIRED!

At the end of the events Diogo and Genebra broke the chairs with "cheer boredom".

Going to events is important and... well... are they? ...we are SOOOO tired... see you next post...
Bla bla bla zzzzzz....

Monday, 11 November 2019

It's the little things

Here's a secret,
Inside the world of Out of Line, there are little bugs that roam around the factory. These bugs live their own happy lives doing the things they like to do more, like eat, sleep and play.
But when San comes along, they see in him someone who they can play with, someone they can have fun and maybe even help.


Bugs in Spine, from Esoteric Software

 "And there they were, in a pack of three, strutting along the grass and moss that grew over the years on top of all the machinery. As San watched them move out of the cave in the ground they were hiding in, they stopped and watched back. Silence. Both the creatures and San stood still for a moment, like two cats trying to predict each others movements. San took the first step and they did the same, even if was not just one step as their tiny feet and legs needed to take 4 or 5 steps to match him. A few more steps and some more mimicking and, after a while, San and the little things were hoping and moving about as if they had been friends for a very long time.
For a moment, San forgot where he was and the danger he was in and happiness filled the air."

Simulating AI and cooperative gameplay

For the bugs to work properly, it was first necessary to design around them. Artificial Intelligence is still a long way to become what people think it will become, so every videogame uses just a rudimentary form of AI for basic actions, functions or sometime just even simple scripts that make it look like the character has real life.

A section of one of Out of Line's level

The little bugs following San around

In Out of Line our AI is just that, chained scripts that perform counter to what the player does. They wait for triggers, delays, changes and other small things that the player does and then react accordingly. This allows us to design some cool and interesting puzzles based around the "intelligent" bugs that help out San.

Until next time,
Snug as a bug in a rug with a mug!

Monday, 21 October 2019

Production, bugs and inspiration

Hey there, "Out of Liners"!
Just like the title says, this blog post brings you an update on production, bugs and inspiration!
"Ahhhhh! Inspiration!" says the artist, "I thrive on seeing the work of other artists..."
"Ohhhhh! Money!" says the producer, "I thrive on smelling money..."
"Ehhhhh! 000101001!" says the programmer, "0101011101010101110010100101..."

Production

Getting money is obviously important to get a game released with a minimum degree of quality. Even if you are an indie developer working from home or have a fixed means of support, it comes a time when some outsourcing is needed, like translation, quality assurance, music rights, etc. etc.

Our Nerd Monkeys, producer, Diogo Vasconcelos, has been for the last year and a half trying to get a nice flow of cash so that we can establish a fixed road map for launching Out of Line with the quality it deserves.
It hasn't been easy, Diogo has talked with investors, publishers, platform holders and many other people trying to assess the interest, opportunities and getting much needed feedback from fellow studios and developers about what we need to get a to an excellent launch.
But we think he is almost there. We have some very interesting propositions that will fund our little game just enough so we can make it the best it can be. We can't obviously talk about it here, but keep your digital fingers cross, we are definitely almost there.

Diogo answers 2 phones while listening to music and pointing to pie charts

 

Bugs

Programming is the art of creating bugs, some would say. The more you code, the more potential bugs will arise. It's part of the job to write code and bring life to a videogame and then to go back and re-write that same code so it doesn't turn the CPU into a supernova.

João Genebra is constantly going back and forth with everything that he creates for Out of Line. But to help him out with bug hunting and code cleaning, he only uses the classic tools like MS Visual Studio, his trusty debugger and a notebook to keep track of all the bugs.

Genebra code from Out of Line

 

Inspiration

We talked before in the old blog about Francisco's inspiration for Out of Line, but has kept him moving lately? Is it some weird Dragon Crown's furry fanart or does he get high on Picasso's cubism?


This is what Francisco had to say more than 2 years ago in an old blog post:
"I always try to find inspiration outside the media of vídeo games. In movies, short-films, music, or even classical or modern art, and taking all that into consideration I try to converge it to one single product.
For San, the main character of Out of Line, I found a lot of inspiration in Hayao Miyazaki animation movies. In movies like, My Neighbor Totoro, Grave of the Fireflies or Spirit Away where you can find as a main character, a young kid - in contrast with American animation movies, but that can stay for another topic). And I think that has a lot of power as a narrative component or even as an icon for the audience to relate to. "

Here is what he has to say now:
"I ́m always looking for inspiration to Out of Line, either with styles of animation, color palettes, character personalities, environment moods, etc.

Right now I'm looking at a lot of different stuff:

Genndy Tartakovsky style of animation. He is one of the gurus of animation and I really like his animation style, and I wonder how could it work in a 2D game animation without breaking up the gameplay too much.

In the game Gris, I really love the tone of the narrative and the way the story is shown to the player. That kind of subtle emotion storytelling is something I wanted for Out of Line since the beginning of the project, and it is really cool to see a game pull that off, as well as Gris did.

The Knights and Bikes loose and extravagant feel, gives the player a really interesting main characters. They manage to capture very well the childish personalities of these kids.

The Legend of Hei, it's a Chinese animated movie that has a really compelling main character. A strong but curious kid as a main protagonist that has a journey full of challenges to complete. And really inspiring to see how different stories work so well with a younger protagonist.

Le College Noir by Ulysse Malassagne, it's a comic book where - you guessed it right - the main characters are also adventurous young children that fight monsters and explore cool stuff.

And there are a lot more stuff that I could talk about, but I leave that for another awesome post.

The Legend of Hei


That's it for today!
Keep it in the tub, Bub.