Category Archives: Lost Hours

Dev logs and updates for Lost Hours. Password-protected pages can be unlocked via my Ko-fi page!

Graphic Redesign & Other Updates

BIG updates since I last posted. Its been a long time since the last post and I HAVE been working on this project some, just not updating things so much because I had so many things to change. But I am finally done with the major changes so now here I am again!

The first major change is something that’s both sort of exciting but also, in a way, a tad disappointing because it’s not exactly what I wanted. But it’ll make things easier on me (which is why I did it) and it also brings it back to how I originally imagined the game, just with a different camera angle. This major change is…

3D models instead of sprites. Yes, I had to scrap the sprite idea, despite actually getting everything to work properly with them, but its a time constraint thing. While I don’t have a deadline, as I began to work on the sprites it occurred to me just how long this would take. As much as I love traditional 2D animation, and don’t really enjoy 3D animation as much, with everything else I’m doing, and now somewhat getting back into the costume commissions scene, I just don’t feel I have the time to spend making all the sprites I would want, mirrored or not. To keep the style, though, I will be doing the same thing as with my static 3D models used in the environment: handpainting line art on the 3D models, and apply the toon shader to them to make them appear 2D (think something like Borderlands, or The Walking Dead Telltale series).

Here’s a preview of what the game now looks like, using the Game Creator basic models (they don’t have lineart on their skins directly but I have the shader properly set up so the outline is there. The lighting is also flat shaded on the models.

Making the 3D models, rigging them, and animating them will of course still take a while, but the upside of them is that once I make the model, I don’t have to do any extra work like I would with the sprites, drawing them from different camera angles and such. So the tradeoff is, it’ll take me a while in the beginning to get everything set up properly, but in the end it will save me a lot of time once I complete that work. I will still, however, be implementing 2D animation with the cutscenes, and likely with the character portraits themselves, because like I mentioned before, I love traditional 2D animation and wanted to use it for this project in some way.

The other major reason I did this was because of the tools I’m using. If I haven’t mentioned this in previous entries, I’ll explain that Game Creator comes with modules to extend its usability for different types of games, and while I owned both the Melee and Shooter modules, I was unable to use them, because they only work with 3D models and animations. I did actually find a solution for combat with sprites using the very customizable Ability & Combat Toolkit (ABC) by Dicelock Studio, which worked great, but now I can stick primarily with GC assets, which is a tad smoother (though ABC does have integration with GC, its just a bit more complex than using all GC modules). So now it will be much quicker for me to set up combat and interactions without having to deal with sprites.

So that’s that! Big graphics redesign, again a little disappointed I don’t get to work with sprites but when I think about how much time it would have cost me, that’s okay. I was naive to think I could do something like that with all the projects I have to do. If this were my primary project, it would have been fine, but I just can’t afford it (getting the camera angles right was also frustrating, so I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that anymore). I also still have the trouble of sometimes not being able to sketch as nicely as I want to at the time, and that was really hitting me hard with making sprites, because I just couldn’t get stuff done when I needed to.

So to finish up this section, I’ll be using Blender to make 3D models, and of course will upload progress I make with them here and in my available galleries. Hopefully I haven’t terribly disappointed anyone with this news, but if it makes you feel any better, the project will now be done much quicker than before! It’ll still take a while since I’m so damn busy, but at least it will be smoother sailing for me to actually get things done ๐Ÿ™‚

Inventory Redesign and Additions

Another thing I’d like to add to this post is my redesign of the Inventory (its actually visually more simple now) and things I’ve added to it in terms of functionality.

I got rid of the item sorting by type, because the inventory is limited and it just seemed like an unnecessary thing to have since you can see all your items right in front of you and there isn’t a need even for scrolling. So no more top bar for item type selection. There’s also no longer an equipment area present. Whatever you have equipped simply is highlighted on the item itself in your inventory. There is no longer any left hand or right hand designation because that ended up seeing like a gratuitous mechanic that was mostly unnecessary and would likely just get in the way, so that idea has been scrapped and items are either 1-handed or 2-handed and you cannot switch between the two for any weapons, which is what I originally had in mind.

I also added new buttons to the context menu that includes weapon info! This panel shows you things like how much base damage the weapon does, what type of damage it deals, any effects it may have, ways you can use it to interact within the world, and its durability (durability has not yet been set up in the below screenshot but it will be later).

I’ll add more on weapon stats and durability later when everything is set up!

Backend Redesign

One last thing I’ll mention that doesn’t have much to do with anything other than backend stuff, so you won’t see it in the game but other developers may like to know is, I cleaned up the way certain mechanics worked via Ninjutsu’s State Machine module, so the mechanics behind using Key Items in specific areas and interacting with things in the world have been entirely rebuilt and will be much quicker to set up now, which is more good news for development.

That’s about it for this entry I think, everything else I’ve done in my time since last post was mostly practice and cleaning stuff up, so there we have it! Thanks for following this project and if you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below!

Graphical Effects (Roof/Walls/Outlines)

Separated roof tiles

I’ve done some graphical updates for these videos, so it’s more visually appealing to play, better fits the style of the game, and to help the player view things with less obstruction.

The Environment: Ugly motel carpeting! I didn’t make this, it was a free texture from ๐Ÿ˜› I will probably replace it with my own in the future….but I do really like it haha! I also added a shader to the environment models so they have a “line art” effect to keep in context with the comic book-esque/cartoon feel. If you notice the corkboard on the wall in the lobby: that’s my first skinned and hand-made object I’ve done with ProBuilder! I modeled it out, skinned it, exported and painted the skin in Clip Studio Paint (my standard art program) and imported the result back into Unity. The papers on there will be updated eventually to have actual content but I wanted to get some UV editing practice in. It’s pretty fun actually!

The Roof: I sliced the roof up into multiple pieces, so there is a segment of roof for each room. These now react dynamically depending on where player is; they disappear and reappear on room entry/exit. I liked this A LOT better than a single roof piece, so you can’t see what’s inside other rooms before you get there. Again, I could have used a darkness mask but I like the detail and potential of the roofing system better.

Obstacle Outliner and transparent walls

My apologies for how jumpy/laggy this video seems to be; every now and then Streamlabs does not like recording Unity and it makes the game look like it runs terribly but it’s only the recording.

The Outlines: For this little effect I grabbed the Easy Performant Outline asset, which is super easy to set up and gives wonderful results! I added this for a few reasons, one being that I don’t like when you can’t tell your main player is behind something or can’t see them at all. Since I have a rotating camera this wasn’t a TERRIBLE deal, except for things like overhangs. So I wanted to remedy that. I also wanted to add it to help with the Perception abilities; at a certain level, I felt you should be able to use Perception to, for a short time, outline some enemies or items (I had already experimented with this before, if you remember). I had a system to outline item models but sprites were a bit of a different story so I’m not sure it would have worked for enemies. EPO, however, supports sprites so it works out well with the characters, as you can see!

The Walls: Along the lines of the same issue, some rooms were REALLY hard to see into despite the camera rotation, and while you could see your player fine with the outline, it was really hard to investigate the rooms in any detail. So I made a partially transparent material to apply only to the outside wall, and upon entry of the room, the standard opaque material changes to the transparent one, allowing you to see inside the room! You should notice also that from the inside of the room, the wall is still opaque, so you can’t use the transparent wall trick to see the full environment outside.

The roof update video was recorded on January 24, 2021, and the outline/transparent wall update was recorded on April 24, 2021.

Exploration Gameplay Basics (3 Videos)

Gameplay progression #1

I’ve added a lot to this from the last time we’ve seen progress! And I’ve included 2 more videos to show subsequent updates without spamming posts on my website. I’m also now adding bold titles to each paragraph to help people see the updates I’ve made in each post and keep it all looking nice and clean.

The HUD: The video above (progression #1) features a slightly updated HUD, but still non-functional attributes. But it’s one step closer to be hooked up and working.

The Flashlight: Has officially been updated to a more realistic lighting effect via the Volumetric Light Beam asset, which allows for dynamic occluders like walls and other object. I’m still having a couple issues with the light clipping through certain areas when the player gets too close to an object, but I will continue to work on this. I also managed to get the “look around” function working with the flashlight, which is triggered by holding the right mouse button and moving the mouse around. This rotates the character, effectively allowing you to look around with the flashlight with or without moving.

The Inventory UI: Thanks to another amazing tutorial by MiTschMr, whom I will also reference later (and provide a link to), I managed to get a “description window” working for the Inventory system, which was a little more complicated than I thought it would be, but with his help I managed to get it working with some script additions. This just shows the description added for the item in the Inventory panel (in Unity, not the game) in an area of the Inventory background instead of on hover or click.

BGM/SFX: I’ve added BGM and extra sound effects to the ambiance. Nothing super special about this, just some added looping files with randomized SFX again like I spoke about before.

Interaction Notifications: I added interaction notifications to the HUD above the players avatar to show what you are able to interact with when you press E. This was made by creating a separate canvas for text/icon objects that are set active/inactive by entering certain areas around the map (in front of doors, etc). I was able to extend this to displaying multiple interactions at once by creating a vertical alignment group and ensuring all the objects sat in this content container. The result was something akin to what you would see when you can interact with multiple objects at once in games like Genshin Impact. This is NOT illustrated in any of the videos, however. This is a function that has been removed in newer versions and is in the process of being replaced with a better and less intrusive HUD system.

Perception Ability: I made a [lazy] sonar system for use with the Perception stat and subsequent “Investigate” skill. It basically produces a “radar” around the character (distance is determined by skill level) that highlights interactable objects. The visuals for this are just a placeholder; gladly, considering how ugly it is. But it works! Will of course be updated in the near future.

Key Item Usage: This is actually my SECOND attempt at a “key items” system in this game. That is, items you need to do something, usually to progress within an area, like a specific key to open a door. I wanted to design this like Silent Hill and Resident Evil had, but I had no idea how to make any sort of “context menu” for using items within the inventory. So for the first version, I simply allowed for the player to find an item, pick it up, and then the character would automatically use it from their inventory when pressing E at the appropriate door. Kinda boring, huh? I thought so too. And far too easy. Thankfully, a kind developer known online as MiTschMR created a context menu extension for Game Creator, which was the first major step in achieving what I wanted. By following the tutorials on his website as well as some one-on-one discussion, I managed to tweak a lot of elements of the default Inventory system to my needs, including an “Examine” function which is not functioning yet in this first video but is listed; implemented in video #2). The first video here doesn’t show a “use” option just yet, either, but I do manage to integrate that a short time later (video #3).

Roofs: You’ll also notice there are no roofs on the buildings and you can see inside them. Also no fun, and no spook value at all. When you can see what’s on the other side of the wall, it’s certainly not as scary. At least not usually. I also took care of this issue in the future as well. I could have simply made a “darkness mask” like I plan on doing to the environments later, but a more realistic solution came to mind and it ended up working well, as you’ll see in the last video.

Gameplay progression #2

Not much has changed here but some visual things:

The Examine function: Finally working as of now. Thanks to MiTshMRs tutorials, I was able to add my own custom listing to Game Creators Inventory system and a new button to the context menu to trigger a reading of that listing. Has a simple visual effect for now but it’s working which is great!

The Doors: Not the band ๐Ÿ˜› I replaced the door models with models of my own; my first time using ProBuilder for something somewhat detailed. I make a more detailed version of these doors for the motel in the future. As of this video the doors are not rigged or animated so they do not open. It always feels nice to replace prototype models with your own, though!

Gameplay progression #3

This is the 3rd and most recent iteration of this gameplay. Still incomplete, of course, but at this point a lot of basic (and some less basic) functions have been completed.

The Environment: I added windows to the mart building as well as, yes, a roof! With a fun dissolve effect upon entry. I thought this would be more visually interesting and realistic than simply adding the darkness mask I mentioned earlier. It allows me to add things possibly viewable on rooftops like clues, creatures, signs, etc.

The Perception Ability: I replaced the original “perception radar” with another more fluid looking version, courtesy of a wonderful little asset called Simple Sonar Shader!

The “Use” Function: Yes, I finally did it! It was more of a pain in the ass than you would think, because the way I had to set it up (I will be looking at alternatives in the future just to keep things clean under the hood) was using a Global Variable, which I will basically have to make for each “key” use area. Basically what happens is when you press “use” the game checks whether or not you’re in the right trigger zone. If you aren’t, the character will say “I can’t use that here”. But if you are, the item activates (usually deleting the item from your inventory) and the area becomes unlocked. I will be continuing to play with this idea in the future and am hoping on making a tutorial of it at some point!

The first video was recorded on January 4 2021, the second on January 10 2021 and the third on January 18 2021.

Basic Inventory System (Flashlight)

Basic inventory/container system

I made a few minor adjustments to the HUD here, but nothing is functional yet; it wasn’t my main focus.

I made a custom skin (still a very much a WIP) for Game Creator’s Inventory system (had not made one for “containers” as of yet) and managed to get the flashlight object I had made as a working equippable. This was actually quite a complicated little thing to do.
The flashlight I created was saved as a prefab, and was not yet instantiated into the game at the beginning. Once you equip the flashlight, it instantiates the flashlight prefab as a child of the player object (so it will move with the player). This took some really specific placement modifications too for the instantiated object to be facing the right direction, especially when the player was facing a direction other than toward the camera. When they weren’t, the flashlight would instantiate at a weird rotation, so it wouldn’t necessarily be in front of the player. I remedied this by zeroing out the Flashlight prefabs rotations to 0, and putting the actions in this order:

  • 1. Instantiate the Flashlight and store it in a Global Variable (“EquippedFlashlight”)
  • 2. Change Parent of Global Variable “EquippedFlashlight” to Global Variable “CurrentPlayer”
  • 3. Change Position (aka Move) of Global Variable “EquippedFlashlight” to [my specified coordinates for X,Y, and Z; these coordinates will change in the future when I have actual sprites but for now the tweaks to this position make it look like it’s in their right hand)

So, for now at least, the basic Flashlight functions were taken care of. As I noted above, this situation will more than likely change when I start using actual sprites, but for testing, it’s all good!

You’ll also see that I added organization tabs for the inventory at the top of the menu (which will also be changed in the future, but practice practice practice).

Also in the future, the Flashlight will be a left-handed item, as left-hand items will be supporting items and right-hand will be weapons. This will play a part in the mechanics, and makes the sprites a little more fluid and “realistic” (usually you can “mirror” sprites but that swaps things around and makes the imagery inconsistent, so I’m making sure to keep things organized).

This video was recorded on December 26, 2020.

Cutscene Practice

The first (practice) cutscene

This was an exciting one: cutscenes! I initially had literally no idea how to do this, and it took a good while to figure it out and get a lot right. I had to learn Unity Timelines, and I grabbed the free asset Cinemachine to handle the cameras (which I do have a few issues with; you’ll see the jump at the end of the cutscene when it transfers to gameplay). That jump was mostly remedied later on, but it’s very difficult to fix, and so I will be looking for other ways, possibly just Game Creator cameras, to construct these cutscenes.

Timeline, however, is a cool little tool built into Unity, and I also learned some animation using this as well! The door, for example, was something I quickly modeled with ProBuilder and animated in timeline to open and close (and timed the sound effects). I also got to animate the lights which was fun, but it was a little challenging to get the sound effects to line up just right.

This was also the first time I was able to use the Dialogue system from Game Creator, which I will make a video of at some point as I had to set it up very specifically to get it to do what I wanted using the character avatars. It’s not very apparent here but it will be when I start showing two characters interacting (which I have practiced with but not made anything official for yet).

I upgraded the background sound effects with randomized extra sound effects that occur at certain random intervals, just to make things seem a little more natural.

You’ll also notice that Allison is finally the main character! It was around this point I decided to scrap the idea for a separate demo and started constructing this how I wanted the game to start canonically. Of course the story and dialogue needs so work but it’s early yet ;D

This video was recorded on December 22, 2020.

Main Menu Testing (2 Videos)

Early main menu (before fade effects)

I took a break at this point from the main game to mess around with making a main menu so I could get in some other UI work beyond the journal system. This worked great but it felt really….simple? Of course, I’m just starting out here, but it just felt too basic even for beginner standards.

So I did something really simple: fading effects. It’s amazing how much that added to it, right?
Bonus: you get a bit of a game start at the end of this video! Not working, of course, but we’ll get there ๐Ÿ˜‰

Added fading effects for menus

The original main menu video was taken on December 12, 2020 while the updated version was taken on December 13, 2020.

Journal Added (and SFX!)

It took me quite a while to get this tab thing right, and I might actually change it in the future. But either way, I’m glad I managed to figure it out and set it all up cleanly!

The way I set this up was fluid and worked nicely, but later on I realized it was not as nice as it could be, so in the future I will share the new setup for this (actually showing the Unity interface this time so you can see the way it’s constructed).

I also added some nighttime sound effects to the background of the level, and page flipping noises to the journal.

Note: the journal image is a placeholder, I did not make it!

This video was taken on December 11, 2020