Thursday, 21 March 2019

2019 Q1

Thanks to Phreak comment under the Tech Demo 2 video I reflected upon my behavior and decided to do some update regards project progress :] 

Because in the last year I didn't had too much occasions to do and D&D I will try to do it in most epic way that I can :D But first let's me check when the last Post was and what it was about because at this point of time even I forgot what I wrote about last time. 

Introduction

"December 2018 - March 2019 " dark times in history of the Little Big Adventure Remake. There is not many people who could say you what happened then. But people like that exist and they hiding among crowd ... If you don't know them don't worry I will tell you the story better than them because I was there.

But before I will move to telling this story we will do small recap of what happened so far: There was this guy, who was a dreamer and wanted to remade a game (You can also read this as: was stupid enough to do it. Choose which one you prefers). 

This was not any game ... it was "The Game". It had everything. It was Little .. and it was Big ... and had Adventure ... and there were two parts of it but well we will focus here on the first part. It was loved by crowd but with time it slowly aged, new games came and put it into the shadows of the past. But there were still this who loved it and they found their hiding at magicball.net. One of them was mentioned chosen one (or once again if you prefers: stupid enough to do it).

He starter his remake with his own engine. He done a lot of iterations which followed with even more iterations and then came conclusion that this was not what this remake should look like. Sad with this thoughts he thrown all content he done so far with goal to do it better this time. He approached stuff again and worked hard on new version of remake. It took long hours but it started looking better but it was still not what he wanted from this remake ... It was still missing the soul it should had. So he scraped content again and decided to do crazy thing and change the game he loved so much and make from it more modern version. Version that will charm people young and old. The one that already love The Game and the ones that still not love it but they may soon. 

The name of that person was: Greg.

December 2018

(Location: Secret Headquarter of Coffemonsters ... old continent)

Nine years passed from the faithful day when Remake started but there is still no game. Tech evolving rapidly but also decaying almost as fast. This is mystery how it survived so long but it is still there in mesmerizing harmony of creation and destruction... 

Greg stared on the white letters in the black windows of Visual Studio. His eyes were slowly getting tired but the thought of working on yet another complex solution to entity system was holding him awake. This was a long task that took him already good few weeks. In the end he didn't care: He knew at that point of his life that creating game of his dreams wouldn't be fast and for sure not easy. 

Tired, he stretched his arms and made the decision to take a coffee break. He stand up and went to prepare his Greater Black Mana Potion. He grind the ingredients which filled room with nice aroma ... then turn on stove to heat it up. Only thing that left was waiting....

Moment of relax made his thoughts going to fairy-tail Islands he worked on. Standing there he was seeing it right in front of his eyes almost like he could touch them. Decision was made - Time to work on some visuals of game - Thought Greg just when smell of Greater Black Mana Potion filled the room.

Time to use new instruments that were recently brought to Headquarter : Blender 2.80, Substance Designer, Substance Painter. Greg know that he sucks in usage of all of them but he also seen in his mind vision what he can achieve with it and this thoughts allowing him not to give up on trying.

Day after day passing without bigger results without any reward but with pure satisfaction of looking chaos straight into its big eyes. This was road that he chose and this is road he will follow till his goal is reached.... And then ... Christmas happened.  

This time mean one thing: closing all running processes, shutting down computer and leaving to spend time with family somewhere in the middle of beautiful Poland. "No work on the project while I'm there" - he thought ... Flight was relatively fast with small stop in Warsaw. After it came days spend with friends and family. But like with everything that is good this time came also to the end the  January 2nd.

January 2019

(Location: Somewhere in sky above old continent) 

Sitting in his plane seat Greg got lost in his thought. What waiting him ? How much longer it will take to finish Remake? And is it really worth it to spend so much time on a dream?

In this moment he felt lonely in this world. But isn't this how we all feel when we are left with ourselves ? This long moment was interrupt by flight attendant asking if he want a drink. He smiled and asked for Greater Black Mana PotionMoment later hot drink was in his hands. One sip of it brought new perspective to life: It wasn't so bad so there is no point of think about all this negative things. Lets look into the future and care about the problems when they will show.

(Location: Back in Secret Headquarter of Coffemonsters)

Tired after flight Greg entered his lair. There was no life in it for long time with all of the machinery waiting in the silence. He unpacked his luggage prepare some warm drink and pressed  magical button that brought whole place one again to life. Machine awoke from their slumber and well known "Bip" announced this to whole lair. Thanks to the SSD technology it just took a moment to get to the place where whole magic happening. Few secret signs granted Greg access to the Remake universe.

This universe was waiting in the hibernation for returning of its creator. Now when he was returned whole mesmerizing fight between creation and destruction could resume.

 Time to continue dangerous game of making dreams come true.

This was thought that spawn into head of Greg and a lot happened after that: new location were born, rendering systems evolved, profiling tools upgrade and a lot of content was created. I could talk about all of them for hours or even days and you could listen about this stories if you wanted. But we don't have time for that so I will fast forward a little bit and leave this side stories untold.


February 2019 

(Location: Secret Headquarter of Coffemonsters)

Once again we can find Greg in front of his machinery. I would like to say that everything was going smoothly but looking at his face it wasn't. Delicate balance between creation and destruction was on its limit. Last change resulted in almost destroying it. Elements of whole complex system started to dying one after another.  This is not the first time that it happened but each time bringing thoughts that this may be the last time. 

At this point Greg was at his limit. He would love to fix all the bugs that were crawling inside the game universe and its machinery but he run out of time. Big ceremony of "age field" upgrade was right ahead corner and there were some preparations to be done. He focused on this work which resulted in great banquet filled with food, drinks and good friends. What else you would like to have in a day like that ? He didn't wanted nothing more. Week past and whole machinery once again failed into slumber and universe development was halt. This time because of the vacations....

March 2019

(Location: Back in Secret Headquarter of Coffemonsters ... Again)

... When Vacation Ended. Greg entered empty headquarter filled with stuff he know so well, unpacked his luggage and watched some movie. His mind was still in the sunny place where he spend his last three weeks. Somehow returning back to reality wasn't so easy. It took a while to find strength to overcome laziness but it slowly happened ....

There is no constant in this story. Game universe changing, technology that run it evolving, there is sprout of new way of doing animations and of course there is experimenting how to make it look the best how it can be. You may not see it right now but somewhere there Greg hiding in his lair and working on the game he dreams about ... maybe you guys dream about it to who knows ?

What I know for sure it is still not a time to reveal what is done. But give him some time and you may be surprised by what you will see ...

See you then 
your Game Master

Monday, 19 November 2018

Update: September/October/November 2018


You may believe me or not but I'a writing this post for almost two months already. Previous version I wrote 27 October when I was sitting at the airport waiting for plane to return back from the Unite LA where I was presenting Memory Profiler for Unity. The post looked like that:

... another month behind us and it felt like it was taking forever.  - This is how I started writing this post more than week ago. In meantime I hadn't found enough time to finish it up. But now in meantime of sitting at the airport and waiting for returning flight I can finally do that.  
There is only one problem. When I was writing previous version I was certain that I published previous post just month ago. Sadly this are already two months and I have hard time figuring it out when this time passed :| 
Prediction from previous post became reality and I was busy most of the time. When this wasn't the case I was often trying to rest and recharge my batteries. But hey you know me and even with all of that I couldn't stop myself from working on the project. So there is some progress. 
This time theme was and still is "rendering improvement" a.k.a. "fixing my mistakes in the rendering systems”. Whole my work right now is just accumulation of all the changes inside engine architecture over the past few years. Till now I could live without this changes because I worked on relatively simple maps. This days this changing and it sadly don’t perform how I would like it to. At that point of the time I didn’t know that rendering code will be my personal Pandora Box. The best thing was that I casually planned to open it like nothing happening :] 

Introduction

In the last months I wanted to gain more data to profile how technology behind the game behave. That is why I invested some time to improve reporting and collecting data. One of the big change was increasing amount of markers I collect and adding support for scheduling jobs and tasks. Sadly in the profile results I always seen that sending data from CPU to GPU takes a lot of time (slowing down whole rendering). 

Act I

Bravely I jump into fixing my issue and I dealt with it gracefully and quickly … this were my empty wishes. In reality this was a nightmare that took hours full of debugging and frustration. At that point I still  hadn’t expected that this will evolve into big refactoring of GPU buffer management. One change leaded to another and moment later I were already fighting with  synchronization issues inside my multi threaded rendering.  
Issues that contain "multi threading" in name are almost never easy to find. It took me week of poking around and trying understand what the hell happening. But I finally had breakthrough: I found it. I could finally see result of all my hard work.  

Act II

Happiness didn’t last long: Issue that I initially tried to fix was still present. I started to digging more into the whole system and found: despair. All the changes in the rendering system I done over last years overlooked crucial aspect of it: tracing of GPU resources usage. Because this days my tech have separate threads to render and upload data: system was ending in the situation when uploading data overlapped with rendering that used this data. I suspect that this was the reason behind whole long GPU uploads.  
Yes I wrote “suspect” because I still hadn’t finished this change :/ I right now try to build in my mind way to implement it in intuitive way that fit whole system. 
TBC…
So this were for me past 2 months. I cannot really say I’m happy with progress over it but taking into account how much free time I had it isn’t bad. 
And there was continuation of this post that you never seen before.

Act III

This whole work resulted in noticeable performance boost and stability. Sadly I never really finished this changes. It is not the first time that this happen when I need to jump between tasks so whole thing was moving forward...

When I thinking about it right now, December will mark start of my 9th year of remake production. .. So much time ... So much memories ... Who could expect back then that this one small decision will  affect my life so much.. But hey you don't read this post to see me getting melancholic.

You are probably more interested into what waiting for you this year? And this is interesting dilemma for me because I have some stuff done. Yes I really have but they are not where I want them to be. I feel that if I will show them to you  right now I would spoil the whole thing :/ But on another hand you probably don't believe me when I writing this ..... ehhh. Well I may taking wrong decision  but this year I won't be showing anything and just focus on what I do right now to show you some stuff in the first half of next year.

I should also apologies because I will probably be late with the posts again. Finding time to write longer text between work, project and life proving to be relatively hard to me :/ I may try to write shorter messages but knowing life they will turn into the longer posts.

So that is all for now and till the next message whenever it will happen.

Greg

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Update: August 2018

Once again we have month break in posting. I think this will became standard from now on :D I finally need to be reasonable and accept that I won't be able to produce more while working, coding, creating art and the most important having private life. 

At this point of time whole project grown out of scale of something that is easy to handle. I'm dealing constantly with a lot of really complicated systems that depends on each other and I need to say that I handle this relatively well. But it is not like there is no hick ups. The thing that is most irritating for me personally is that it is not possible for me to do all the stuff I want :/ 

I'm greedy and would really like to progress all areas in the same time (concept art, modeling, level design and code). There is so much really cool things to do in all of them but reality is cruel and I can only work on one of it. When you add to that limited time you can probably imaging how I'm irritated by this whole situation :D ... thing is that I choosing to just let it go.

That is why you see so little stuff from me. I try to take it slowly this resulted in multiple things:

I gave up on milestones

This type of thing work when making game is your full time job. In my case there were always some interruptions: trips, hanging around with friends, playing other games or just laying and doing nothing to rest after tiring day. This leaving me often behind schedule which put pressure on me which I plan to avoid.

I work on project alone

Over the period of last 8 years I tried to join effort with multiple people and in the end non of this cooperation worked out. Some of this failures were my fault and some not. Thing that is important is that I put a lot of effort into whole process which resulted in loosing a lot of time. Now I take it easy and share what I have with people I know but not trying drag anybody into the project anymore.

Stability

I spending a lot of time doing all boring part of coding where I adding tests, fixing the one I broke and generally improving existing code base. Thing is that I deal with almost two thousands of files so there is a lot of stuff to do there and I need to do that so whole things roll. 

Being creative

Recently I got occasion to look over some stuff that I produced over the last 18 years. And I came to realization that I was always doing things in my own way. This applied to my drawings, graphics,  coding and generally my life. This is not always perfect solution because you make mistakes, sometimes you regret some of them but in the end you learning on them and improve next time.

This is kind of story with Remake that have its rises and downfalls. I'm really curious how many people just gave up on it at this point? Well in the end it is not mater because I can not do anything about them. The thing that I can do is to work on project and prove people that still believe in it that all this waiting was worth it.

Currently I going with my long term plan for project. Inside it there is no more space for moving backward because I'm already a little bit tired and if this attempt will fail I will dropping the whole project completely.... at this point I can say that this option rather move further and further away but sadly it still exist.   

With this dark theme I will move to final part of this post:

What you can expect this year ?

Not to much. I don't think there will be any big announcement or release. So far next few months looks rather busy (not related to project). This will affect development rather negatively but I can not do too much about this. In my head next year should be the exciting ones for Little Big Adventures fans :] . 

To not end this post with only text I will leave here this new concept of Sendel ;)


Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Stability

Last months were a lot into making new things. New file system, new terrain edition, new game design all of them are great tasks. Sadly in this rush for them I got somehow lost. 

Everything started few days ago in meantime of playing around with the tools. I was siting again in front of my monitors and trying to create new placeholder object for game. This days I using them a lot to have some visual representation of shape that final object will have. The fact that they don't look good doesn't matter at this point.

In my case this was this object: 



Task of creating and adding it to level was really simple and painless. I had tests done for that so I was sure that this works how it should. Thing start to go a little bit worse when I decided to add LOD meshes. I had at that point already around 10 instances of this tree. Because I don't plan to go and change properties for all of them individually I went and enabled sharing of properties between them. 

Here things start to go wrong: This feature didn't worked.

Guest what ? I didn't had tests for it :/ I fixed the issue quickly but sadly I was rather tired at that point and didn't had occasion to add test that would guaranty this feature to never be broken again. Good thing is that this task have highest priority on my to-do list and will probably happen today.

Of course this is not reason behind this post. This is just proving how testing is important when you work alone. Reason behind this post is that in meantime of this fix I discovered that I am still using old serialization system. This wouldn't be so bad if not the fact that I forgot that I had two serialization systems :/ The moment when you realize something like that you start to feel really lonely in this large code base.

I understand how I ended in this whole situation. I was jumping between tasks where something needed to be done and somehow between all of that I lost track of things I working on. This is not so weird but thought that it happened for something this big and important is still disturbing.

Well world is still spinning and project going on. I will fix the issues and continue with work. Which by the way going pretty well. To show some progress I prepared some graphics representing progress of redesigning outdoor locations in project (Thanks for people who put whole level maps to lba.wikia.com ).

Citadel Island:


Principal Island:



You may notice that right now I focusing more on Citadel Island. This is intentional. My goal is to define graphic style for whole remake and to do that I don't want to split my focus between multiple locations. So far it working great and I'm really excited about the results :) This is good sign and mean that soon I will able switch my focus and put some effort into Principal Island which funny fact is planned as at least 3x the size of Citadel Island. This will be big stress test for whole technology :) we will see how it will go.
  

Friday, 6 July 2018

Status

I need more often looks into social media. I just learn that even if you forgot about people, people don't forgot about you. That is why thanks for all the comments and sorry for delay in answering them.

Truth is that I'm pretty occupy this year. In my job I work hard with rest of the team on new Memory Profiler V2 that we announced on Unite Berlin this year.
Other than that I also traveling this year a lot more. This don't help me with finding time for working on project but this don't mean that I don't work on it at all. 

I just wrapped up changes for file system. This is important milestone for project because it finally unblocking my work in terrain system which will allow me to continue designing world. 

In the end I'm really happy that I done this changes because code now look a lot nicer, everything works a lot better and I pushed there some extra functionalities that I needed for long time. In the same time I prying that I never do it again. This was rather tiring experience which resulted in 3 months out of project time and it still require at least one cleanup pass to improve code quality. But I will do it step by step while I will be developing rest of engine. 

From other interesting changes codebase reached over 2100 unit tests. This is not a lot comparing to what is needed but already start paying off. They already catch up few regressions in code that I would introduced by my changes and otherwise would be hard to find. That is why I will be continue with adding more tests into existing code. This is not always fun task but it is needed.

So what now ? I'm returned to initial goal of fixing terrain edition. I have already some results which allow me to do some basic edition. This is still not ready for full scale production but it is enough to resume work on new design of islands (yes I will be developing both of them in the same time).  This is great news because I'm unblocking myself to create placeholder of new looks this should push whole project further into development.

In the end I will try to be more responsive for all comments and once again thanks for all of them. They helps a lot with finding motivation to do something for project when you are tired after long day.

More news with something to look on should be coming soon :) 


Saturday, 19 May 2018

Old but new

Weak ago I talked about all doubts that follow me in meantime of production.. What is interesting about the doubts. They force you to thinking. In my case this resulted in 8 years production of remake but also in changing approach to game design.

Last week I shown this new approach to astronomer house which most of you may not recognize because in original game its looked completely different (or just not remember because it was not really important place in game). 

This week I want to show you new look of place that everybody who played game should know: Citadel. But before we do it let's first look on original location :) Thanks to lba.wikia.com this is really simple:


This was my starting point and based on it I begin to draw quick sketches. Sadly non of them make me feel that this is it. Happily in game there is one more concept showing citadel. You can find it in the main menu:


For this who are curious: mobile version is cropped and no longer contain this building. 


Rediscovering this was big step for me. It didn't made my life a lot easier but it was some additional information how original creators wanted Citadel to look like. I drawn more sketches and more and somewhere there concept of this building was born:


When I finished it I knew: This how I want Citadel to look in remake. Do you have similar opinion about this ?

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Doubts ...

Little Big Adventure ... was released almost 24 years ago (October 1994). It wasn't for me love from first play. I tried it few times and in all this attempts I couldn't even get out of prison. For my defend I was still small kid who didn't know too much. In the end things worked out and for last 8 years I try to recreate first game. There are some successes and failures in this fields but thing is that after all this time I  still didn't gave up... sometimes even I'm curious why.

This days more and more people asking my why I won't use existing technology. I work for Unity Technologies and I know that if I would switch to it I could recreate all the stuff I have so far in few months and be further in development of game. This is fact that I know but still I working in my free time on technology that will be used for Little Big Adventure Remake... sometimes thinking if I should do that. 

At some point of development I noticed that simple remake won't be good enough. Original game is really cool and I cannot compete with it because a lot of people have it dear in form that it is. What I could do is creating my own interpretation: how this game could look if it was done this days. This wasn't easy decision to make. There is a lot of downsides like I needed to throw away old content and put a lot more effort into creating new one. Was it wort it ? I think it was ... but there is always doubts if this was right decision.

And here I'm. The same way how I started project: alone, deep into engine code trying to add another feature that will allow me to create another piece of high level code that will allow me to make another piece of game. When I will finish this there will be another different piece of puzzles I working on.  Good that I like what I do... but is things I do really have any point ?

As you can see my biggest problem right now is not that I failing to deliver stuff. For me each of this failure is lesson after which I become smarter. This are also not my skills that I'm lacking. This make this project interesting because I can work on improving them. The biggest enemies are doubts... they never really leave my side.

I personally envy people who can throw themselves into development without any doubts. Their life is so much easier. For me game development is one big problem which is constructed from sub problems. I see my role as developer to try and solve them all. Problem is that there are multiple solutions for the same problem and you need to choose which is the best for you. Because I still searching for my way of doing stuff I never know if my answer is good or not... it is like my developer life is doomed to be forever in doubts. 

From my experience so far I already know that some people will say that my answers are not good. Old game always will be in hears of it players and as I mention I cannot match this but always will be compared to it. I got used to this thought and now I don't think this is bad. If somebody think that I doing sh..y job I dare them to try and do better one and not just criticise.

In the end I don't plan to give up and even if I have doubts I still working on project. To give you taste of what coming I will share one of new stuff that just few people seen so far.

In the Principal Island there live Bob Vortix - astronomer under house arrest. In original game he live in small house at the city hill in remake his mansion will be a little bit more appropriate for his occupation: