‘He’s dead, Jim’

Well, I think I’m finally coming to the conclusion that it was my RX 480 that was causing my woes lately. Numerous times I’d try to update drivers only to get a bluescreen caused by ‘Atimdag.sys’ – or they’d install and my Vive would suddenly take over as the main monitor. Or they’d install and I would get nothing but black screen upon reboot. I got a really helpful chap on reddit, who sorted out a whole bunch of issues and for a bit everything seemed to work – until EVERYTHING started strobing like I was in a 70’s disco – then a (thought this was a bit of made up fluff, until I saw it) real life Snow Crash.

Nothing I did could get the darn thing to stop flashing (even on boot up, so it wasn’t a driver issue) so I yanked it and pulled out my old R9 280 from the wifeys computer – and ye gods I thought I’d never have to wrestle with THAT beast ever again – and GUESS WHAT?? It just works. Drivers picked it right up, its a little slow in VR and some programs like Oculus Medium show some banding / artifacting, but its working just fine.

R9 280 compared to previous cards

Now that THAT is dealt with – time to get back to work AND go shopping for a new card, one that has at least 2 HDMI ports and not so many Displayports.

One thing I’ve been tinkering with: Post Processing Stack – particularly the Depth of Field. Done right, it really gives the level a tilt-shit photography look, ie: everything looks small. I really feel it adds a ‘look’ that compliments the game, since its based on a child and their perspective, I know that kids have a narrower field of focus, which is why when you are scrambling to get their shoes on because you’re running late for school drop off – THEY are focused solely on THAT ONE TOY WHO CAN’T BE LEFT BEHIND.

I’ll eventually get the proper focus, right now its very shallow and I’d like more distant objects to be blurred out. But I’m also focused on a new NPC / prop – THE TANK:

ready to wreak havoc!

I made it on a whim, just to test my Inkscape / Blender skills and it worked out quite nicely. The turret rotates to face the player and I can slap one of my moster / bee AI routines that I made in Playmaker for movement / attacking the player. The wife did express some concerns regarding the violence and shooting parts – which, I’m also concerned about. What message do I want to convey in a ‘kids’ game?

The answer came from the hivemind: I posted the screenshot on Facebook and my dear friend Angela from NYC said:

Because it typically represents violence?
If so, have it shoot rainbows, chocolate kisses, happy emojis, or paint.

Looks like I have more work to do.

Taking in what I heard

Since GDEX, I’ve been trying to implement some of the suggestions that people gave me during the course of their play sessions. One of the ones that had stuck was people mentioning the style of the terrain didn’t quite match that art style of the props and characters. Since my son  drew most everything in crayon, it seemed natural to make the terrain look like it was colored in crayon as well.

The trick is how to make it look that way.

I tried a number of Photoshop and Krita filters and combinations of filters and layers to try and approximate a crayon look. Which looked pretty lame, in the end. Most of them had a very fake, algorithm digital plastic feel. Trying to do it by hand with crayon or pastel brushes in Photoshop would take a long time. Almost wish I could unwrap the mesh and have the kids color it.

Then I realized I could.

UV’s from the hilly part of the level

I realized that if I exported the UV’s from Blender, opened it in Photoshop, used the wand tool to select the empty area around the UV islands, expand the selection, invert and clear – I had a pretty good outline that I could color with Prismacolor pencils, sharpened to a fine point and scanned back in, would look like crayon.

The above video gives a pretty good idea of where this is going – after asking folk online, it seems the crayon concept agrees with a lot of people. When I started adding effects from the Post Processing Stack (vignette and Depth of Field) its starting to give the whole game a brand new look and feel – more on that in the future.


So, I’m back from an amazing experience. And waaay too much to do and get caught up on.

So, after a frantic 2 weeks of polishing and planning, getting promo materials printed, cleaning up my PC so its ‘show worthy’ and with a ton of help from the wife, who helped with details I wouldn’t have even thought of – I hit the road, mind ablaze with plans, possibilities, and hopes. Its only about 40 minutes into the 2 hour trip that I realize I left without a friggin’ monitor.

So, quick call to the wife to confirm I left it – yup, I did. And the amazing woman she is, grabs kiddo, monitor and hops in the car to meet me on the road and get the screen safely in my hands – and me back on the road. Whew. Dodged that one. Until I get there. My GPS is insisting I go down the ONE road that is closed for repairs and cannot find an alternate route to the loading dock so I can get my stuff into the convention center. I end up on a frantic phone call with Keith, the CLE Game Co-op leader, who with the help of the convention center staff help confirm that GPS and Apple maps cannot find the alley we need to get me to the docks. After a few back and forths, we finally get me in, set up and I slouch my way to the bro-in-laws, tired, embarrassed and hoping this isn’t a sign of how the weekend will turn out.

I could not have asked for a better weekend. The drive in was quick, easy and my GPS let me to the parking garage with zero hassle. As I’m coming in off the escalator, I’m greeted by a string trio softly playing ‘The Imperial March’ (Darth Vader’s Theme) if that ain’t a good sign, I dunno what is.  I proudly put on my exhibitor badge and wander over to my booth, and am surprised to see someone looking intently at my poster. I see that he’s a fellow dev and I introduce myself. His name is Leonard and he’s at a nearby booth and likes the look of my character – I explain that its the work of my son, which he really enjoys. So I fire up the Rift and give him my elevator pitch and he’s off and running; my 1st ‘customer’!

And I am off and running. The rest of the day is a complete blur – I’m seeing a ton of people and getting a lot of good feedback – smart gamers are trying to break my demo and I have just about 90% of them covered – except for some reason Unity still considers the quest complete upon level reload. I’ll have to quit the demo and restart it each time. I also notice I get a lot more traffic when the headset is active and people can see movement on the screen, so I leave the demo on the loading screen and rig up small box & piece of paper to keep the Rift sensor active and people can see my lil’ guy ready to go.

This guy liked my game so much he had to come back and play it again!

Day Two

I’m go grateful the organizer of the booth got this shot – this kid was my biggest fan. His dad is a dev at Bitmen Workshop and he had gotten a taste of my game the day before and brought his son over to give it a spin. The kid had a lot of feedback and ideas, guess it helps have a dad in the business. After the day got started, he surprised me by coming back and having another go at my game before he had to leave. To say the least, I was touched, especially since he’s the same age as my little guy – whose birthday I had missed the day before to come do this show.

Being my 1st show, I obviously had a lot to soak in- but I did have the forethought to bring a notebook and record ideas as they came to me: here are a random sampling.

  • The booths next to me used coat hangers with pants clips to hold up banner signs.
  • Having an ‘attract mode’ on my monitor brought people in more quickly
  • Business card went quicker than the pins I had as giveaways
  • Watching the booth across from me (a multiplayer game) they did a ‘mini-tournament’ winner from 5 round-robin got a small trophy, but it did generate a huge crowd
  • Even though it was noisy – speakers are a must, I had to explain to onlookers that the game had sound effects done by the kids

All in all- it was a fantastic experience, everyone was supercool, had a lot of encouraging advice, and suggestions. I’m hoping to involve the whole family next year and get them day passes to explore while I try and push this a little further, and having my kids come by every so often and play will probably garner more attention. Out of the whole experience, I walked away with one thing that I thought I would never have to do:

I have to sign up for Twitter.