Lights, Camera, Action!
What’s New at Hero-U?
The University is preparing to open its doors for the Fall Semester! But first we need to have the Campus Visit (Alpha Testing), Entry Examinations (Targeted Beta Testing), and Orientation (Final Testing). It takes serious preparation to get the most value from a Hero-U education.
We added a couple of steps to the project over the last two months to dramatically improve the game’s visuals and reliability. First, with the guidance of two programmers with serious Unity credits, we upgraded the development system from Unity 4.7 to version 5.5.
We knew that would cause some disruption and extra work, but the change lets us take advantage of the latest Unity features and support. The biggest upgrade has been in our ability to effectively light scenes.
In the above image (just after porting to Unity 5.5), the contrast is low except on Shawn, who appears to have a spotlight on him. Everything looks a little muddy and indistinct. It's fully playable, but not as good as it should be.
The improved lighting highlights some of the detail and sets the mood. Shawn looks more natural.
Let there be Light!
When we started building a castle to house Hero-U, it felt a little empty. Sure, there were classrooms and corridors, the dining hall and the great hall, the vestibule and the recreation center, the garden and the courtyard. But you know how it is with a castle - all that stonework can get pretty cold in the Winter.
That’s when we brought in portraits and tapestries for insulation and warmth. They also help us tell the story and the history of the University and some of our notable alumni. Tapestries are also pretty good at concealing secret doors and hiding places. You didn’t read that here.
At that point, we naively thought we were done decorating the castle. Then our artists stepped in and turned on the lights. And the lights shone throughout the castle, and it is good. Man is it good! Maybe a few “before and after” pictures will help you see how important lighting is to establishing the drama and mood in each scene.
Meanwhile, we continue adding new vignettes, closeups, and custom animation to bring more of the game to life.
This nighttime Courtyard view got the "dark" right, but feels "2D" and loses much of the beauty of the scene. Unity 5.5 let us keep the feel of the scene while bringing it to life with better lighting.
Here's the same courtyard re-lit. It's still obviously nighttime, but now the lights work and some details come to life. Shawn has also been toned down. (By default, Unity 5.5 lighting is about twice as bright as in Unity 4.7.)
We've had to make these changes to every scene in the game - over 60 of them - so our artists had a busy February and March. But the difference is "night and day" in bringing out the details and quality of the artwork.
Getting Ready to Graduate
After over four years of work and more than twice the original Kickstarter budget, we can finally see the graduation stage not too far in the distance. The extra lights probably helped. Here’s our current schedule for the initial testing phase:
- 1 May 2017 - Feature complete - all “adventure” dialogue and interactions
- 1 June - Castle Alpha Test - All team members and Insider Backers
- 1 July - Castle Targeted Beta - Test specific areas in the Castle
- 1 July - Wine Cellar opens to Insider Backers for Combat Alpha Testing
- Etc. Specific dates will depend on early testing progress.
For this targeted Beta, we will need a few dedicated volunteers to test the game. There’s nothing like game testing to spoil all the fun of playing the game. If you are sort of person who likes to continually throw rocks to build up your throwing skills to the max (not that we’d ever want to make you do that sort of thing in a game) or who pulls back curtains to look for the man running things behind them, or who uses a magnifying glass to reveal every last detail, we could use your detection skills to make Hero-U better.
I will set up a web page and database for alpha and beta testers, then issue invitations to volunteer backers next month. We’ll be trying something new - assigning each beta tester to a particular area or game day so that we can make sure every event is tested throughout the game.
Beta testing is much more than playing the game - you’ll need to keep a critical eye on everything you see, and play through the same sequence multiple times with small variations to identify bugs that only show up after a certain sequence of actions.
If you’ve ever wondered why commercial games could possibly ship with “glaring errors”, it’s because many of those errors only show up after a specific set of moves or in a particular case of random numbers. This will be a real challenge for everyone who volunteers. That’s why we don’t have a fixed shipment schedule - we’ll ship when the game is done - and fun!
Please keep your email and address current at https://hero-u-adventure-role-playing-game.backerkit.com
Participate in the Hero-U forum at http://www.hero-u.net/forum/
Our FaceBook page is https://www.facebook.com/TheSchoolForHeroes/.