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Play as an alien plant and escape from a scientific facility, full of secrets and dangerous experiments. PC/Mac/Linux/Wii U/Ouya
Play as an alien plant and escape from a scientific facility, full of secrets and dangerous experiments.
Play as an alien plant and escape from a scientific facility, full of secrets and dangerous experiments.
5,953 backers pledged $144,960 to help bring this project to life.

New boss, new areas and new logo

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Hello everyone! We are back from the update hiatus to show you how things are progressing and take on different areas of the development. We’ve had some setbacks the last months regarding the bosses since they needed a LOT more testing and fixing than we previously expected.

Our main problem with the “human” ones is that we wanted them to perform as realistic as they can (reacting to the player, activating traps, taking countermeasures on Subject W’s skills and more) so they prevented us from progressing with other parts of the game until they worked fine. Hopefully the new ones will take less time considering all the experience learned from them. In any case, let’s have a look at some of the stuff we’ve been working on.

The Simbiot

This is the boss designed by one of our top tier backers, Yannis Tanopoulos. It is an hybrid robot that combines the organic properties of a bio-engineered seed with the dangerous AI programmed by the G.E.R. specialists, resulting in a non-stoppable machine. Players will have to discover how to take it out and retrieve the shell ability generated by its core.

Click on the image to enlarge

The design process for the Simbiot took a little while, and it evolved from an animal-focused robot to a human-like prototype (an upgraded version of the cervids). We know that some of the quadrupeds look rad, but we faced two problems with their appearance: 1) this design required problematic animations and 2) the level design of the boss stage was created to match a more platform focused confrontation -the assembly line-, so we decided to go with the biped concept.

The armour idea was there from the beginning, but Yannis realized that we should give it a more organic look since the metallic plates didn’t match the shell effect created by the skill of the Simbiot core. With this in mind we decided to integrate the spikes from Subject W’s shell design, developing that peculiarity on the game’s script and giving it a narrative purpose.

 

 

 

One thing that makes it stand out is that it has 3 different animation sets. After receiving an attack the shell that protects it will broke, showing less pieces of armour with each clash until exposing its core.

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New designs for backgrounds and color grading

Areas under construction

To avoid repetition on some locations we decided to include new sprites to represent work-in-progress sectors of the facility. This designs show structural building materials such as pillars, wall plates, ladders, and cables.

Other levels have one set of wall sprites and for this area we created two: one composed of darker pieces -for the raw background- and a second one for the metallic frame and the plates without painting.

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To emphasize the isolated feeling we avoided to put lightning inside this corridors and added darker Hue/Saturation layers to give an additional somber tone to it.

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Following this concept we created more elements for abandoned elevator shafts where players need to do some platforming and find the correct path in order to advance.

 Click on the image to enlarge

Click on the image to enlarge

The lightning bulbs serve to identify the gaps on the floor connecting each height.

Cold chamber redesign and chemical area

A graphic overhaul has been made to this stages since we released the demo. We felt that the grading layer (or LUT) applied to the camera killed the tones of Subject W, the enemies, and the interactive elements, so in order to fix this we touched a little bit the color palette. Now the background pieces have a brighter/more metallic look, the strong blue lightning contrast of the friezes has been reduced and the color grading is lighter (the old one looked over-saturated on certain screens).

Click on the image to enlarge

The sprites remain practically identical with the exception of the pipes that now have a more volumetric effect accompanied by a parallel shadow effect.

They are also connected to the higher part of the wall instead the low part of the frieze (it was a little odd since this element doesn’t have depth).

The old storage wall plates have been reused for an area where the chemicals of G.E.R. are stored. For this section we can apply a stronger LUT than the one used to the cold chambers, reinforcing the visual sensation of chemical processing (plus most of the enemies of this sector are hazard-suit scientist / cervid robots which stand out more than other enemies on strong RGB LUTs, so it ended up being a win-win situation).

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Surveillance area

The corridors connecting the surveillance sector now have the same frieze design of the server/control rooms, giving more continuity to this area. A different blue-ish LUT has been applied to the camera to avoid color overlapping / desaturation of certain tones such as orange, yellow and green (maps, signals and even UI elements were affected by this).

Click on the image to enlarge

New game logo and menu

It’s been a while since our last UI / graphic design update so we wanted to show you the all new Paradise Lost: First Contact logotype.

Some time ago we abandoned the narrow font style used in multiple UI elements because they have readability issues in long paragraphs (problematic in lower resolutions or smaller screens like the Switch one) so we decided to implement a more rounded font on the logo, following the same design lign of the menus. 

Besides this, a lot of games and sci-fi movies use the same kind of aesthetic defined by a stretched height font with fixed-width between letters akin to  A L I E N   (see what I did there with the spacing? XD).

The leaf graphic used on the HUD and other menus was added to close the A / E gaps and decorate the lines of other letters, giving a more distinguishable and original look to the font.

Game menu

Click on the image to enlarge

The main menu has been redesigned too. The list of options and the new logo have been moved to the left, giving more space for the animations to stand out and allowing us to add new lines if needed. The leaf selector and the font follow the same UI design used on the Skill tree, Pictures/Bios and other options, giving more cohesion to all the game menus.

Click on the image to enlarge

Some of you might prefer the old design but the non-pixel font inside the monitor seemed out of place and everything looked too similar to the Super Metroid menu.

Animations for cutscenes

Creating a dialogue sequence

The other big obstacle to overcome as of now is the big amount of animations that need to be done for the cutscenes. On most cases the characters require multiple animation sequences with the start, loop and stop states to read a paragraph.

The first and last states are designed to move from one action to another without cuts, and this is multiplied by the number of poses needed to reflect the mood of a character while doing a scene (hesitant, angry, frightened, etc.).

Only one member of the team takes charge of this so it is taking a while to complete all of them :-/  We try to recycle as much dialogue animations as we can, but sometimes is easy to lose focus on what is needed/what doesn’t worth the time, so planning is essential before we start working on a cutscene.

Monitors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the conversations between important characters take place via videoconference. For this purpose a lot of graphics were designed to show the other person on a big screen, so players can see who the speaker is and what is doing. They are also used to show maps or other info related to the events of a scene.

Scientists

 

 

 

 

A lot of scientist appear on cutscenes so a big amount of animations have been prepared for them. Since we are still waiting for some backers to fill their bio files they are mostly bald until the final images are sent :D

Guards

 

 

 

Guards needed additional actions outside their gameplay routines like use objects, salute, run without pursuing or get frightened.

Leonard White  

 

 

 

 

White is one of the main characters of the game and the responsible of the Robotics section of G.E.R. He will be tracking us down and following our every step in order to stop us. He also works with the engineering labs, where they developed his prosthetic arm.

Fixing things up and tweaking some mechanics

Besides level design, boss development and cutscenes we’ve been upgrading some mechanics and doing an exhaustive work of testing to fix key areas of the game. Here are some of the things done in the last months:

Cervids

We worked a little more on the cervid behaviours. This enemies are able to rotate half of their body to see if Subject W is on their surroundings, causing problems in the way the body turns if we are near them and interact with their patrol. They also had problems shifting from an attack state to the uncovering action at the moment W entered a hideout, launching their electric whip instead of kicking the plant out of it. 

Another fix was related to the way multiple cervids reacted inside a room and how they electrocuted the conducts if W was inside one and suddenly exited from the same trapdoor they were using to generate the electric current (doing it too fast broke them and they didn’t attack us after pursuing the plant).

Saws

The original saws had their patrol area outside of them, which occupied the entire floor of a room. This made them extremely dangerous because when players touched the ground the saw came right after them from any point of said room. Now this area is within the saw and covers a shorter range, giving more time to maneuver.

In addition there's a new script called “first avoid” to force them to go in the opposite direction of players when they enter a room regardless of the direction (it was nerve-racking to see them coming after you while crossing the door).

Recovery time before blocking them with a decoy is a little longer too, allowing players to reach safe platforms easily.

Pushable boxes

This elements move twice the distance that they did before. Some parts of the game are based on moving boxes from one place to another and this make the mechanic less stressful.

Gas grenades with a timer

The grenades dropped on conducts by guards have a time before extinguishing, giving players time to re-enter it again from a trapdoor without the need to respawn the level.

Falling from corners

Subject W’s running and falling actions have been altered in order to properly recognize a platform's corner (running transitioned so fast from one state to another that it jumped states and showed the plant falling with the run animation instead of the slip one).

Persistence of collectibles and room swapping

Now pictures and skill point containers work on both versions of a room. In PLFC a room can change its status while maintaining its current position on the map (for example: from regular lab to lab on flames > both rooms have the same collectible to pic, independently of the state of the level). Essentially, they are different rooms that change from one to another when a trigger is activated. Now this elements detect if they are being collected in any room version in order to disappear on the rest of them (we needed to reesctructure some levels too in order to let players come back for this objects regardless of a level state due to narrative events).

Reinforcement

When the alert state goes off and the enemy has lost track of Subject W the reinforcement exits the room ignoring the “find and seek” state, making things easier for the player to escape.

We also included a new script that allow enemies to call different types of reinforcement depending on our necessities and the type of level that fits them better (cervid, guard, pyroguard...)

Prompts

The interactive prompts have been reworked to follow the player while moving near an object and the button/key graphic has a darker fill to help them stand out on any surface.

Mines

This useful traps now have lower colliders to allow players perform the double jump easier.

Backer bios

We still need some of the high-end backers data to fill their documentation on the avatar form sent to them through Kickstarter private messages and e-mails.

If you are one of them and don’t send us the proper info in a few weeks we’ll need to include you with a design and name of our own choice (the development needs to move on and the bios section/cutscenes of the game have to be closed). Don’t miss that out!

Reuploading the web

Some of you have written us about a virus that infected our web, so we are doing maintenance labors on it and moving from Wordpress to a dedicated space where we can have a better control of anything that involves the site. Sorry for the inconveniences and thanks for keeping an eye on it!

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We are still working seven days a week to have the game as early as possible this year, but sometimes unexpected things get in our way and delay the development process. Being a team of three doesn’t help much either since every member needs to do multitasking on multiple areas, but it seems that we are able to handle everything for the most part. If other setbacks appear on the way be sure that we’ll inform you about it and hope that we can dodge any bullet that comes our way!

Some fixes , more enemies and a electric fight

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Hello everyone! Here we are with some juicy things that we wanted to share with you and more details about the development process.

On a brief note, we wanted to address the frequency of our updates. We usually keep a 2-3 months gap between them because we collect most of the content created in that time frame, and getting the media together to make an update within our 10/7 infernal schedule is complicated (also, we stated multiple times that we don’t want to post a “hey we are still alive, working hard, ‘kay bye” kind of post and prefer to show a bunch of content). We know that some of you would be less concerned if we posted shorter updates, but at this stage we think that it’s out of doubt our compromise with the game, since we always strive to publish new content on a regular basis. Progress goes slowly but surely.

Last months we fixed a ton of stuff, finished the last enemies, developed bosses, and worked on unfinished puzzles. Bosses are very tricky to create, more so considering all the different outcomes that may appear once Subject W has the full set of skills (does the boss see W camouflaged if we break its equipment? Has to avoid shell attacks so players won’t finish him in 5 seconds? What happens if the spore is at Lv3 instead of Lv2? Headaches everywhere)  >_<

A bunch of enemies have been added too, but we can’t show most of them since they enter spoiler territory. In any case you can check below the rest of human/mechanical NPC’s that will appear in a relatively advanced state of the game.

So without further ado, let’s have a look at the new things we’ve been working on.

Minor Fixes

Guard pursue routine

As of late, this enemies kept their position after the plant disappeared (either by exiting their sight, entering a hideout that was far from them, or using the camouflage skill when they were actively chasing Subject W). This was made on purpose, so players won’t be able to pass through them easily and forcing players to think carefully before facing different kinds of situations. The problem with this behavior is that guards stayed in the last known position of the player, even if Subject W was a few feet away out of their vision path, which looked kinda ridiculous.

Now if the player disappears they stay in the last known position of the player for a brief time in a “tense” state before moving forward until they find the player again or reach a wall.

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The only downside about this is that you can avoid them with the camo skill almost instantly (unless there is another enemy called as backup) so we either find a path between both mechanics or keep them still for the same amount of time that the camo skill lasts at Lv1, so players can’t pass through all situations in a blink.

What do you think about this change?

State bubble color issues

We talked more than enough about the enemy’s state bubbles but we wanted to show a quick change made recently.

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Now the state icon will be represented in black, indifferently of its background. We realized that on certain spots the negative effect mixed the icon form wile descending, so we decided to tint all of them with a universal color to avoid confusion and obtain an homogeneous look.

Highlighted conducts

One thing that we noticed was that the conducts to connect rooms vertically can go unnoticed because of the dark palette and design, and probably some people will miss them.

To help players locate them from any position we added orange arrows to their design, giving them away with a simple look at the stage.

Click to enlarge

Different animations to enter/exit trapdoors

To make the gameplay more fluid and accessible, all interactive elements have an area of interaction bigger than themselves, and Subject W is moved automatically to the point where the animation/action is launched. It may be the case that a solid object is pushed near a trapdoor, so we locked trapdoors when pushable platforms stayed above them. Here comes the tricky part: the interactive area of the trapdoor is way bigger than the pushable itself, so the solid gets in the way while repositioning Subject W, getting the player stucked between both elements and locking the movement.

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To avoid this problem we needed to change the animation of W entering from the side and doing it above the trapdoor, reducing the interactive area and fitting it to the sprite so it won’t interfere with the pushable object.

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New enemies

So far, all the regular enemies of the game have been created but this is is the extent of the content we can show regarding this part of PLFC without revealing too much of the plot:

Cambots

The cambot is the mobile version of the security camera. It also has a laser pointer that is moving constantly, so staying unnoticed is more difficult inside a room with one (or more) of these. Once the sensor locates Subject W it will follow the player, revealing its position to other enemies. Cambots are able to cover larger surfaces than a regular camera and sometimes players will need to keep an eye on their routine if they need to take care of multiple enemies at the same time.

Decoys and spores will keep them busy or knocked out temporarily so the use of skills can be handy if there is no hideouts near Subject W

PS: Yeah the FX of the box is way off, it's just a placehoder.

Hazmat scientist

 

Aside their look and how they react to certain skills, this enemies can perform the tasks of a regular scientist. Their singularity is that the hazmat suit protects them from the spore and host skills (both long range) so players must find a way to distract them or directly knock them out knowing the consequences of that action if someone is on the surroundings.

Pyroguard

Following the same line of design of the previous enemy, the pyroguards are immune to darts and spores. Their weapon of use is a flamethrower that generates progressive damage when they are confronted, so you better keep the shell skill active near them.

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Lt. Shyam Ryder

Ryder (whom you probably remember from the demo) will be one of the main characters of the story. He’s one of the subordinates of Captain Ash Galloway and one of the most dangerous enemies that we’ll face inside GER. Electric traps are his specialty and the suit he wears provides him with special abilities to both evade attacks and create an energy field to keep us at bay.

The electric dash helps Ryder get away from direct hits and leaves W defenseless 

His close quarter attack produces progressive damage 

Ryder is equipped with a railgun that shoots long-range lightning bolts. It is also capable of creating an electric current across the floor, so you'd better keep an eye on his attack routines.

Like Clark, Ryder is an expert marksmanship and Subject W will have a small gap to avoid his shot 

After charging the railgun and unloading it under his feet the floor will turn into a dangerous surface

Aseprite Importer

This is not a tool that we developed, but it is worth mentioning since it’s helping us a lot and, hopefully, improve the workflow of other people that reads this post. The Aseprite Importer tool, that can be found on the Unity Asset Store, has been conceived to import animations from the Aseprite animation program to Unity without the need of creating sprite sheets. It automatically generates the texture by itself, preserves the animation speeds in the Unity timeline and even read the tags inside the .ase file, separating them into different animations. Also, when a change is made outside Unity, the data is reimported so it can really save you precious time.

Estimated Time of Arrival

We talked about the release date multiple times in both comments section and previous posts, and it’s always a sensible matter to speak about because we know how eager are you to play the full game, but we can’t compromise the quality of the product to have an earlier release. We are looking to complete all content for the first quarter of next year but if things get complicated with the rest of bosses and the development of cutscenes we could be talking of a summer release. At least all basic content, enemies and most of puzzles and stages have been done, but you must add testing to the mix, so time will tell.

The amount of animations of this game is insane so we’ll be putting extra time on holidays to make additional progress on this department in hopes to reach the coding side and try to blow milestones faster   ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ

Well, that’s all for now. We’ll continue posting new content as soon as major advances are made or, at least, try to keep you up to date in the comments and show that we stay on duty. See you!

In-game menus, new traps, shader improvements, debugging

50 likes

Long time no see! We’ve been on multitask mode the last months, balancing the gameplay with continuous testing and adding new content in form of enemies and bosses.  

A lot of time has been spent debugging one of the most challenging chapters of the game, focused entirely on puzzle solving and interaction with the player surroundings. It took us a little more than expected but the result was worth the effort since it gives a twist to the game narrative and adds a great variety of mechanics.

And in the end that is our main focus with this project, trying to develop an experience that is constantly shaping the gameplay and allows players to face situations in their own way. Now let’s take a look at some of the things that we’ve been working on.

Start Menu: skills, collectibles, tutorials and options

All game menus are coded and completely functional by now, though some of the designs like the skill set descriptions, photo locations, or tutorials are unfinished and will remain so probably until the game is completely balanced and tested -Fx need to be added too-. Here you can have a look at the structure of the START / ENTER menu and its navigation in detail.

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Skill tree

This is the interface where players will be able to see what abilities have been unlocked, their skill set and the number of skill points obtained to enhance them.

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The skill points are shown in the center of the tree and can be used to power up all the abilities that have an icon with the shape of said points below them.

These abilities can be reset to LV1 on Garden rooms -Save places-, giving the possibility to readapt the gameplay strategy for each player -some may prefer to boost the offensive skills or upgrade other stealth techniques instead-. This makes the gameplay more malleable and could help players to overcome certain situations if they have problems solving them with their current set of abilities.

Collectibles

Pictures

Della’s pictures will be scattered throughout the facility and will reveal the location of hidden skill points. Once players figure out the room revealed by a photo, an interactive prompt will appear upon the object that hides the skill point. Pressing the action button near it will drop this item.

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Bio Files

Once an important scene has been played the personal info of certain characters will appear below this submenu.

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The texts will expand the universe of the game and, also, show the Kickstarter profiles send by backers of the Replicant and above tier -don't worry, we didn't gather your bios yet. We'll let you know by private message and e-mail-.

Options

Not much to say about this. You’ll be able to change the resolution, audio, language, and other common stuff that can be found in most games. The game options submenu allows to load a game file or exit to the main menu / desktop.

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New development tools

Development tools have been created in the meantime to improve different work routines like to speed up the creation of rooms and the testing process. This is a selection of some of the most useful:

Room Version Swapper

This script allows us to change entire rooms, adding or modifying enemies, situations, and graphics inside them such as backgrounds and interactive objects -platforms, panels, etc.- while maintaining the main structure of the rooms unaltered -sorting layers, positions, and others-. This was required for different reasons like changing complete rooms for aesthetic purposes -going from a regular background to a burned one with partial parts of both rooms intact, for example- or the need to show a different color adjustment curve for a certain situation.

 

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In reality, this script only changes the room a door is pointing at, so when you cross that door the room seems different than before. The consequences of doing this, however, are much more complicated to deal with, considering that we have to update the map and the internal information about the room. Persistence of objects in both rooms becomes a bit tricky too.

Replace instances

A simple tool to replace selected game objects with other ones on the editor, useful for changing decorations on duplicated rooms or updating objects without losing old prefabs. It preserves the position of the object on the scene and the sorting layer.

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Improved climbable platforms

Since not all the platforms need to show a climbable prompt on both sides - for example, connected shelves, stacked piles of boxes, etc.- we needed to unfold each interactive platform on the project hierarchy and deactivate its properties in order to make it unclimbable.

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With this new script we can check / uncheck this option inside the script if an object needs to have an active corner to be climbable.

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Additionally, any side that’s left activated will check every frame if it’s truly climbable or has to deactivate itself in case anything is blocking the way like a pushable platform, or moving the platform itself and losing the ground.

Upgrading the World generator

The rooms are conceived as individual entities which in turn are part of another GameObject: the chapter in question stores multiple room prefabs with different components and properties so it took some time for the engine to create playable builds for testing. The larger the project was growing, the longer it took to generate those builds so we decided to make a new option on our own Level editor tool to generate specific areas of the map instead of loading the whole bunch of stages and connections between them. Now we can create test builds in no time and perform changes faster.

Gameplay updates

Removing the walk restriction for the Camo ability

As you were able to experience after unlocking the Camo skill on the playable demo, anytime you make a movement while having the invisibility on Subject W will abandon this state and left the player exposed to the enemies.

Our main goal with this ability was to give players a tool to resolve certain situations and not overshadow the rest of the skills or avoid the use of the surroundings -basically going invisible and walking by most of the enemies-. Allowing certain npcs to detect us depending on the Level of the skill helped to balance it, but on the other hand we couldn’t help but sense that penalizing players to stay quiet during its use was a little bit harsh and the cost of wasting an energy leaf if they press the skill inadvertently or need to maneuver during its use might be a little abusive.

We tuned up this mechanic and now you can move with the camo active. Enemies will still be able to detect Subject W if you move on Camo mode and they will attack until the plant stays put in another position (think of it as the Predator visual effect: quiet is untraceable but the graphic distortion generated by any movement reveals its position). A light tint effect was added to the camouflage on movement to differentiate both states.

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As you can see in the video, enemies will stay in front of the last point where they identified the plant so players won’t walk past them every time to avoid complex situations. Upgrading the skill to another level will increase the time of use to avoid enemies on alert state.

Pixel perfect animations for state bubbles

So far these bubbles -which represent if an enemy is distracted, searching, alerted, or knocked out- showed a smooth transition emptying the bubble of its color to reflect the amount of time left.

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Each bubble box has an icon inside it, and these kinds of transitions sometimes blurred the graphic and the final design wasn’t very clear so we decided to show progress pixel by pixel, blending with the pixel perfect look of the game.

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New decoy

Well, not exactly new but we made a few tweaks to it. First of all, we noticed that making the decoy appear by Subject W’s side caused different errors like getting stuck inside a box or appearing in the air near a corner before falling:

 

Now the decoy appears in front of Subject W to avoid these problems:

Also, in order to differentiate both W and the decoy we changed its color scheme and tinted its seed green like the one of Subject W to relate them aesthetically.

Graphic improvements

Door mechanisms

It is only a simple detail but now the door gap shows more detail instead of having a black mass on their inside when the door is open.

New corridor maps

These graphics have been reworked to show a more clean design of a sector and stand out the colors representing Save gardens, elevators, and others.

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Also, the squared modules are imported as individual game objects instead of full maps designed by hand outside the game engine. This helps decrease the size of the graphic atlas and allows to quickly modify them if rooms that are changed or replaced.

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LED lights for different decorations

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Animations of flickering LEDs have been added to different elements such as computers, servers, and other electronics, giving more depth and richness to the backgrounds.

Climbable surfaces for the decoy

A lot of interactive panels can -or must- be accessed by the decoy so we created larger surfaces for this elements in order to see that they both work as a panel and as a platform.

Skin shading achieved

As shown on Update #49 we were looking for a way to modify the color palette of a character while applying other effects above it, like the red alarm layer. Eventually, we ended up doing one of the first ideas we had and one which was suggested by some of you -huge thanks to those that tried to help us- so we made an uber-shader capable of processing all the color effects in place at any given point.

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A shader is created for every type of enemy that we are going to need, these shaders take a variable amount of colors -that varies on the type of character- and when the shader detects a pixel with one of these colors it changes it to another color -for every original color we have another which is going to replace it-. Apart from this, the shader is capable of tinting and blending external color effects with the character's current palette.

More enemies and traps

Machinegun

These turrets won’t allow Subject W to go through a specific way by shooting viciously in our direction if we dare to go pass their warning range.

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They can be disarmed if we deactivate their button from behind or drop a decoy without being noticed:

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Saw

Remember those annoying enemies from Megaman that run in your direction any time that you put a foot on the floor? They are back! Well, more or less…

The saws are designed to interrupt their patrol routine when either Subject W or the decoy are at surface level. The camo ability doesn’t work in this case but the decoys can stuck them temporarily.

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Development status

It could seem that we slowed down a little bit in content creation since the game required a huge amount of debugging for certain levels that were built with multiple versions, but we are developing most of the milestones much faster that months ago. Still, there’s sooo much stuff that needs to be added, especially in the bosses department. We are putting around 10 hours a day on the project -and happy to do so if we manage to give you a polished and entertaining product- but even with all that time invested in the development, we are still unable to give a closed release window as of now. We usually resolve key milestones while building levels and testing, but there’s a limit to the stuff we can do being a team of 3 with a single programmer. Luckily the core is solid and from now on most things rely on already made gameplay mechanics, but a pair of enemies and some of the bosses still require new structures and ad hoc routines that can’t be reused from other ones.

In any case, we can state for sure that 2018 will be the final year of development for Paradise Lost and we’ll -luckily- complete the final bits of the game for the first quarter of the year. With that in mind, we don’t want to rush it and have an early release with a lack of content so we’ll keep you constantly updated about any issue.

As always, thanks for your support.

Gameplay improvements and a bunch of new content

46 likes

We've been busy the last few months debugging some mechanics from the demo that needed a twist while building new stages and gameplay situations. A ton of new content has been added too so it was high time to make a new update showing the game progress.

As for development status, we could say that right now around 65% of the facilities have been built with most situations and puzzles included. We managed to work at a faster pace thanks to the improves made to the building tools, allowing us to create new sections faster. For each room added we need to follow a series of steps to have them up and running, so we'll take this opportunity to give you an in-depth look into the room assembly process.

Building game sections

To add a new stage we use our own Level Editor to create "empty rooms" inside the level grid. The room element works as a container with a coordinate value that allow us to change the position of said room on the scene with its content in place. All rooms must be connected to their section inside the project's hierarchy so we can separate the game chapters in terms of level design and structure. Thanks to this tool we can also drag any object from the project folder directly to the Unity scene once we selected an element of the room that we are working on.

The Level Editor Tool place the object automatically inside the room instance and categorize it under the interactive or decorative list

To know if we are dropping the item inside the desired room and not another one a red outline is shown when a prefab is selected on the scene. This makes the creation process faster and more intuitive since we don't have to locate the room inside the hierarchy and drop the elements there.

Cloned stages

Months ago we had some problems when we tried to duplicate entire rooms instead of creating them from scratch –prefabs of the objects lost their connection with their instances on the hierarchy, unrecognized areas after making a build, etc.- but we managed to solve them and now we are able to clone rooms and develop levels faster. A quick preview of an entire section can be made in no time after applying the necessary changes to certain elements of the duplicated stages.

The most common objects that need replacement inside cloned rooms -aside background decorations- are the conducts which vary depending on whether they need trapdoors, roadblocks or be completely closed

Connecting the level

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After the decoration process, we ought to make sure that the exits are perfectly linked and all the doors have a correct ID assigned to the next room. Sometimes a room can have entry/exit points that are not regular doors, like conducts. For this cases, we need to include a non-visible element called "abstract door" that connects with another one in the adjacent room. The facing, ID, and connections of the door are modified under the Door Script.

Room properties

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From the Unity inspector we can change the position and size of the room inside the map grid, add LUTs that attach specific color adjustments to the camera -unifying the tones of the sprites inside a room- and assign the theme of the stage or/and ambient noises.

Including enemies and designing situations

Up to this point, we follow the playable scheme previously designed with vector art -as seen on the Update #46- as faithfully as possible and make the necessary adjustments to enemy routines, platforms and decoration backgrounds. Then we add other interactive elements -such as panel buttons, elevators, etc.- according to the level design.

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Assembling each room is relatively fast, the real challenge is to test the stage multiple times checking all the connections with other rooms and making sure that the gameplay situations work as planned.

New signage

A few months ago we published an image with the graphic change made to the hallway backgrounds, specifically the signs that represent the connections between the rooms and different sectors of the facility. Many of you preferred the previous design with bigger lettering so we look back at it and realized that, in both designs, every hallway looked the same and there was no differentiation between sectors.

 First hallways

 Second hallways

Taking these things into consideration we decided to make a quick redesign that wasn't drastic and could blend well with the current hallway. The new aesthetic preserves the lettering of the latest design and adds bigger initials and numbers to specify the overall position of the stage. In addition, the signals of each area have a distinctive color, helping to differentiate them from one another.

Final hallways

Iconography and color

We've also included icons so players that have problems reading the pixel text are able to identify the kind of rooms that are connected with the current hallway.

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These are some of the icons that you will find throughout the facilities. All the corporate-wise zones such as restrooms, cargo elevators and cafeterias have the same brand color making them a recurrent graphic element.

Door Locks

The locks prevent the player to access certain areas if they don't use a skill to break them.

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Like other objects that act as roadblocks, this element is represented by a red shape on the map.

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Hideout changes

Enhanced accessibility to hideouts and trapdoors

One of the vital improvements made following your feedback is the possibility to react to interactives like hideouts and trapdoors regardless of the position of Subject W.

Now, if the player press action near those objects –either standing or crouched– the character will be automatically relocated to the necessary position before accessing it.

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This way the player doesn't have to be aware of the character's stance to hide or escape from enemy's sight, increasing the capacity of reaction in extreme situations -it also makes the control more fluid and handy-.

Middle hideouts redesign

Another change related to hideouts was the resizing of those that are separated from the rest of the elements –drawers and closets are attached to other structures–.

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These hiding objects are usually located on hallways or storage rooms and comparing them with their surroundings their measurement looked weird and a little bit unrealistic. Besides the graphic complaint, Subject W changed its stance from idle to crouched while interacting with them. This was annoying considering that it needed to stand again since the character hides from the top.

We raised their height up to 18 px following the same measure as other interactive objects like platforms and took this opportunity to add more detail and animation in some cases.

Now the trolleys contain animated boxes and tanks

The more realistic size give us the possibility to develop new objects like cleaning buckets

Moving hideouts

As we had pending the implementation of the pushable platform mechanic, we took advantage of this concept by converting some of the wheeled objects that we talked about into mobile hideouts.

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Since some enemies have the ability to detect Subject W -even if it uses the camouflage skill- these hideouts allow us to develop new strategies that help players go unnoticed.

Pushable platforms

This objects can be used to reach new places or solve puzzles by pushing them using one of the skills available to Subject W. Although at first glance they may seem simple, we've had to take a lot of things into consideration and study their viability to avoid different problems such as cornering Subject W to a wall or other solid, blocking exits or get enemies stucked among others.

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All solid boxes share the same basic design and can be differentiated according to the color of their line and the type of icon. The red boxes can not be displaced, the blue are mobile and the yellow ones derive energy.

The solid boxes of Paradise Lost won't allow players to go through them like other platforms such as tables, cardboard boxes or other structures, although they are designed to be climbable, showing the prompt on their corner when Subject W approach them. Their design allow us to create multiple situations as you can see below.

 

 

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Building pushable elements

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The building process consisted on modifying a solid static platform by the addition of a Rigidbody2D and a PLFCHealthComponent to it so we can know when it’s getting hit. When hit we apply a force and a direction depending on the amount of pixels we want to move it and the position of Subject W. When idle, these platforms are marked like kinematic objects as a failsafe in case any wrong or weird collision happens.

We designed the movement of these platforms to be as deterministic as possible, but designing a level counting the number of pixels needed for a box to get from point A to point B is a hassle, so we added magnet points to attach the platforms to, simplifying the task for the designer. This will help us develop puzzles as well, as we’ll be able to know if the platform reached a magnet point and solved the puzzle/situation of the room.

Solving gameplay issues

Giving the boxes the possibility to bounce against other solids was troublesome (Subject W needed additional animations with the shell equipped, new physic reactions, etc.), so we decided that they'll stick to other solids and stay immovable while Subject W stays in the room. If the player exits/enters again the stage the box will be either placed in its original position or "magnetized" to specific points placed by us in order to keep a situation resolved.

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With this method the boxes can be pushed blocking an exit, but it wasn't a problem since the character is able to climb solids as long as they have the standard climbable size and the door frame has enough space to let Subject W cross with the pushable platform next to it.

Energy puzzles

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The magnet areas are useful to create puzzle-like situations with a new element: the dynamos.

Dynamos can be connected to rooms without electricity, giving power to a panel after being hooked to a wall plug. Some chapters were built upon this mechanic with different variations but we'll have to stop giving more details and let players resolve them  ;-)

Energy panels show the elements that are capable of receive energy inside a room like doors, computers or conduct fans

Fans

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Now that we mention them, these components can be found inside ventilation conducts and create a temporary roadblock, damaging Subject W if it gets closer to the blades.

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In order to advance players must find a way to disconnect them from the correct side or use decoys through the floor grids.

Reduced sensibility to avoid slipping near corners

An improvement we’ve made that we think is very substantial is refining Subject W’s movement when it’s getting near a corner. Until now when Subject W stuck out of a corner by a few pixels it would slip to the floor automatically, now at least half of Subject W’s body needs to be in the air to slip out of the corner.

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This will give the player a little bit more room to maneuver on platforms and jump without falling to the floor and getting caught accidentally.

New Subtitle tools for Slate

Until now to make a cutscene with dialogues we had to run the subtitles and calculate the amount of time needed to make the speech appear at the right speed and in sync with the animation. This wasn’t exactly the best approach, so now that a lot of things got fixed, and the basics are done, we started making small improvements to this and other systems.

We calculated a default reasonable speed for the text and now the dialogue tool has the option to adapt the length of the clip to that speed, which can be changed if needed. We also simplified IDs for dialogues after improving our localization system among other minor QoL improvements.

The estimated length of each line is shown under the dialogue manager too, making it easier to coordinate different animations for a single paragraph

Ash animations

Ash is a key character of Paradise Lost and also one of Subject W's greatest foes along the adventure. You had a sneak peek of her in the demo but we wanted to show you a few animations from the boss battles.

 

 

 

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It was important for us to define her personality through the animation scheme, showing her marksmanship, reflexes and aggressive style focused on close quarter combat. 

Fullscreen working on different resolutions

We managed to include a new resolution system under the game options menu, solving the issues that some of you experienced playing the demo outside the 1080p standard. 

This was a huge setback for us since we designed the game camera to perfectly fit the 16:9 format (wide screens) and all rooms were drawn at the minimum size proportional to a full-HD res. (480 x 270 pixels). The problem appeared when the game was displayed on non-proportional resolutions, in which case it automatically jumped to the nearest proportional size, minimizing the content and making it unplayable (too small in most cases).

Since Paradise Lost can't show more scenery like other games such as Hyper Light Drifter or Retro City Rampage (larger backgrounds > the camera simply shows more or less info) we decided to readapt the size of the graphics to fit them into non-scalable resolutions. The counterpart of this method is that the image is no longer pixel-perfect on certain sizes (which are highlighted on the resolution panel of the game options). Here's a comparative of the old and new systems:

 

Click to enlarge

An example of resized pixels: the red ones are not proportional like the blue square

Development status

Most of the milestones planned are being developed at a faster pace. Our primary goal is to, at least, have the Beta for the end of the year, but the real deal will be the development of some bosses and depending on their complexity we'll have to simplify their behavior or even left them out (hopefully not). Time will tell.

As always, thanks for your patience and support.

Shaders, skill improves, menus, gamepad modes

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As you know we’ve released the updated demo last month with tons of fixes and gameplay adjustments. Most of the problems were solved for this alpha but a few of them are still on the to do list (we needed to prioritize other tasks in order to complete major milestones).

One of the bigger problems we faced is explained right below:

Color replacement troubles

 

In addition to the multiple genders + hair styles already designed for each profession of the G.E.R. staff we wanted to include an option to make all characters unique. With the use of a color replacement shader we could create cloth variety and represent racial diversity.

As cool as it sounds it’s relatively difficult to implement this shader and it’s giving us some headaches. Unity2D is based upon Unity3D, as such the Sprites used by the engine are just textures with a particular material so the engine can render them properly (each material is defined by a shader). You can change this material for another one compatible with Sprites/Default, thus applying a different shader to the texture, but you can't have more than one. This means that we need to create a shader that combines all the color corrections and light effects we want to use on a character. This is our main problem as we currently don't know if this is possible with the effects we're using right now or even how to do it.

Let’s see an example: the enemies have one material that allows an alarm to tint these characters with a vivid tint effect. Now, imagine we swap this red tint material to a change-color material so we can recolor all the enemies and give them different looks, when the alarm starts the game should change their material from the change-color one to the red one, but if we do this the red tint would be applied to the base colors of the sprite instead of the recolored ones from the change-color material.

 

 

 

 

We tried different solutions like the use of imported LUTs applied to a new camera focused exclusively on the characters layer, multiply tints... but no advances were made on this area. Our last resource is the development of the mentioned mega-shader but graphic programming is a whole new field and could take us some time to achieve it.

We have planned other solutions outside the use of shaders if we come to a dead end, like the inclusion of skin colors and different clothes to our current sets of sprites, but this will limit the variety of npc’s so we’ll exhaust all the possibilities before making this move.

Skill changes and development of new menus

Releasing the two demos helped to calibrate the game difficulty and allowed us to see the strengths and weaknesses of the game on multiple levels. One of the most complex tasks of development is the adjustment of the different elements that conform the gameplay structure. Paradise Lost is especially sensitive on this field because the enemies have numerous interactions between them or with their surroundings and also react differently depending on the skill that W is using against them.

The acquiring of new abilities will be a crucial factor to progress on the adventure so we decided to make some changes in order to simplify game mechanics and have a more enjoyable / less frustrating game experience.

Decoy skill

Originally, the decoy was meant to have different levels of progression like most of the skills, but we realized that it was difficult to improve a skill that is focused on two simple tasks: attract the attention of enemies and go through places that Subject W can’t reach.

We came up with different approaches like enhanced durability, use of multiple actions or teleport W to the decoy’s position unlocking the higher level (which causes troubles like ending in “dead zones” or giving the player the possibility to surpass entire levels in a blink) so we decided to keep it simple and change it to a skill without progression, like the double jump.

To do so we mixed the different actions devised by level and balanced them to create a unique mechanic.


 

In earlier designs the decoy was able to jump in order to reach higher surfaces, but that alerted the enemies and made its use difficult and frustrating, more so if we keep in mind that it has a time restriction. We could preserve the jump action without alerting them, but it’ll look weird to see a spider-like seed jumping near characters and these remaining impassive.

We wanted to maintain the “decoy” element without losing the platforming so certain changes needed to be made. After the inclusion of the new climbing mechanic (holding a button while walking) we decided to extrapolate this concept to the decoy skill and now it has two different actions that do not enter in conflict with each other: it can reach higher elements unnoticed with the climb button and attract enemies with a new explosion button (that can be used in conducts too), eliminating the jump from the equation. This is the result:

Also, the decoy is capable of interacting with elements (like Subject W) and move between the floor and the conducts if they have a ventilation grid. This diversifies the gameplay and allows players to create multiple strategies.

 

Shell skill

New animations have been added to the shell state (like slip and recover) in case players fall from platforms while walking.

We also simplified how the damage is perceived while enhancing the ability under the skill tree menu.

 

Instead of showing a table for each level representing the multiple types of damage (which is difficult to remember) we decided to keep it simple and reduce by half all damage when players invest skill points on it (progressive damage like gas or fire is reduced on level 2 and direct attacks on level 3).

Spore skill

The spore went through a big facelift in order to make its use more fun and its progression more challenging.

Previous version of this ability had two different functionalities related to the first levels of the skill tree, changing the way that could be used: Level 1 > the spore seed reached half of a room, Level 2 > with the skill button pressed the spore seed reached further.

This idea was a bit lame because the landing was very imprecise and overall annoying to use. Also, the gas animation needed to vary from one level to another in order to reach higher spots. This was related to the third Level that gave the spore the capacity of exploding automatically when touching the floor and avoiding elevation like the previous levels (this force-feeded the players to reach the top level in order to be mildly interesting).

 

 

Giving a twist to the spore functionality we created a new mechanic that is resemblant to the Balloon Fight game (do you remember this NES classic?) allowing Subject W to create the spore directly from its head.

New floating animation for the spore

 

Now the spore floats but it can't maintain itself on the air so the player needs to constantly press the jump button to keep it elevated and navigate through the room with the movement controls (beware! W gets exposed while controlling the spore!).

Using it is more interesting and fun because we can reach higher places and affect enemies like cameras or cambots.

In addition if a character identifies the spore it can blow it up and alert the room, giving us the tools to create more possibilities and challenges.

Host skill

With the host players are able to control scientists and press elements unreachable by Subject W or move them away. Certain characters like guards have the ability to knock out other enemies.

The earlier version of this skill used a dart to hit the enemies and trigger the skill from a safe distance, but it was redesigned to create a more clear progression.

Now, On Level 1 Subject W controls enemies if it touches them.

Level 2 gives the ability to control them at distance throwing a dart and also gives the player the option to knock them out from afar (this interrupts the skill). Level 3 has no time restrictions + gives the possibility to switch between the enemy and Subject W to avoid being seen or create more elaborate strategies.

The decoy, host and spore skills are complex mechanics in which you control different entities and the world reacts in various ways to their actions, we needed to adapt several systems to recognize and work well with more characters than Subject W. Thankfully as this was a planned feature a lot of the work was done on the first iterations of those systems and the implementation was moderately quick and clean.

Skill tree modifications

The skill menu has been modified to adopt these changes and the abilities without progression have been added too.

 

We removed the skill names and levels to have a cleaner look (these will be represented in the info box) and the shell has been relocated to the right in order to create a pyramid composition: stealthy techniques to the left / ‘offensive’ techniques to the right. Thanks to this we were able to expand the info box, gaining space for the action graphics and showing a more concise explanation of the level with a bulleted text.

 

The top tabs have been reduced and navigation buttons have been added to the bottom of all sections.

Unification of state bubbles

Now that we are unifying mechanics and concepts we decided to do the same to the state bubbles that represent any kind of damage done to an enemy. We had states of sleeping and knocked out for humans, stand by globes for robots/mechanic enemies, etc., so we realized that all of them served the same purpose: show that an enemy is unconscious. With this in mind we created a new bubble that applies to any KO state:

 

 

Gamepad modes:

After changing the climbing mechanic we thought that adding two control options to the gamepad could be a good idea. Taking the Xbox controller as reference:

  • Mode A: run with the X, climb with the Right Trigger
  • Mode B: run with Right Trigger, climb with the X

 

Most players are probably more familiarized with the old school running (ala Mario Bros) but other players seem to prefer RT running, so we’ll keep both of them selectable in the Options menu.

PS: Development forum

We are still working on the forum in order to implement it on our website (been busy with development issues) and figuring out how to send invitations for the backers, etc. As soon as we have it we’ll contact everyone and post an update announcing it.

Thanks for your support!