Behind the Scenes - Making a level work!
During the previous campaign I posted a couple of behind the scenes videos to show the process of how Tala gets created. I figured that I'd continue that trend here and write up a post on making a level actually playable.
For those who missed it, there are the initial two videos, one on taking the original photo and turning it into a world, and the other showcases my animation process.
Tala is created using the game engine Unity, and a plugin for it called Adventure Creator; a set of tools specifically for creating adventure games. I've found it to be pretty accessible, and without it Tala absolutely wouldn't exist.
Once I have Unity loaded up, I'll create a new scene and the very first thing I'll do is drag in the main background layer. I'll just sit bespoke in the void of the engine while I set up things like the camera and setting up a navmesh - basically a shape on the ground that dictates where characters can walk.
It's hard to make out, but that little blue arrow on the right side of the image is the Player Start. There is where Tala will spawn once the area is loaded.
Then I'll put in an Adventure Creator camera. This'll give me a bunch of options that lets the game follow Tala around as she walks around, as well as defining where the edges of the world are so it never breaks the illusion that it's not just a graphic floating in a void.
Speaking of making sure that things aren't floating around in a void, adding the background is super important. Once that's placed in I'll set it up so it moves slightly when the camera shifts with an effect called Parallax.
This soft movement in the background helps sell the idea that the world has a little bit of depth. It's subtle enough that it's not distracting, but there's enough of it there that your brain recognises the movement and it doesn't feel like just panning along a photo.
Another little trick I like to do is cut out various areas and overlay them so it looks like the characters in the world walk behind the photo realistic areas of the game. It helps ground the game world and makes it feel more like a real place rather than just a photo.
Logic in Adventure Creator is largely driven by Hotspots. An area of the screen that you click that will run a script.
The chimney is actually just a separate object plonked into the scene and placed onto of the mushroom. It's set up with an animation called ChimAnim that plays this series of animated frames.
Adventure Creator's bread and butter is its visual scripting engine. If you're familiar with something like UE4's Blueprints you'll be right at home here. And if that sentence means nothing to do, then visual scripting is a collection of nodes that takes a programming language and sets it up in an easy to digest way.
The culmination of all of that creates something like this!
The vast majority of Tala is put together using these techniques, and you can see that once you have all the assets to go; getting it all working in-engine happens pretty rapidly once you know what you're doing!