Remote Shepherd is the capstone project for Long Shot Games, a group of five graduate students in RIT's Game Design and Development masters program. The game allows the player to step into the shoes of a group of vigilantes who have decided to put their skills gained as Marine Scout Snipers to use in cleaning their city of criminal organizations. This blog will track both the ongoing design and development of the project.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Market Sniper Nest Concepts

Below are two concept drawings of what players will see from two of the three sniper nests in the Market mission. The first is from a billboard on the roof of a building a few blocks away from the market square. This sniper nest gives the player a view of the north side of the market that is obstructed from the other two nests' field of view. However this sniper nest is limited to only having a clear shot of this section of the market square.

Billboard Sniper Nest

The next sniper nest is situated on the top of the stairway access to a building’s rooftop. This sniper nest has a clear view of most of the market square; it's almost the opposite of the billboard sniper nest. However this nest has a poor shot on the section of the market square directly below it due to the magnification by the sniper scope.

Rooftop Sniper Nest

Sound Types and Categories

In Remote Shepherd's Sound Engine, we have two types of sound. They are 2D sound and 3D sound. 2D sound does not depend on any sound emitter or sound listener. When we play 2D sound, its volume will always be the same all the time. However, for 3D sound, the attributes of the sound emitter and sound listener will affect how the 3D sound being played. When the attributes of the sound emitter or listener change, the volume of the sound may increase or decrease and the sound may pan left or right.

When/Where to use 2D sound?
  • Main Menu
  • In-game Menu
  • Pause Menu

When/Where to use 3D sound?
  • In game's missions or levels

In the sound engine, the sounds are divided into four categories: Music, Ambient, Effect and Voice. We divided the sounds into these categories so that it will be easier to manage.

  • any music coming from radio, stores, buildings or background music for the main menu or in-game menu
  • any sound that comes from the environment or the atmosphere. e.g. wind, machines, generator, city
  • any short sound or non-looping sound effects. e.g. rifle shot
  • any looping or non-looping audio for the characters in the game

Friday, February 18, 2011

Weird circle issuses

During the process of designing the HUD for the game we discovered an interesting optical illusion. Our first version of the scope reticule was made of a cross with three circles. The circles were placed to help the player to be able to judge distance of objects that did not line up with the mil dot cross. When we placed this into the game and looked at the world we discovered that our circles did not look like circles. This is a similar illusion to Hering Illusion where lines appear to bend when lines cross them. The following image illustrates what we saw and if you look in the areas between the crosses you can see where the lines seem to bend.

First Version
After discovering this we had to sit down and redesign how we could give the player the same capability without having any optical illusions. In the process we also discovered that circles were displaying the wrong information with circles. This lead to the new design with corner lines showing the mil dots in 4 unit increments. This broke up with circles and let the player properly measure mil dots in the reigns away from the cross. The following image illustrates how we fixed the optical illusion with using square corner pieces.

Current Version

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Remote Shepherd's Sound Engine

The sound engine in this game is constructed using FMOD Ex which is a low-level audio engine. FMOD Ex is one of FMOD products. It is created by Firelight Technologies. Currently, FMOD Ex supports 12 platforms. It supports Microsoft Windows, Linux, Macintosh OS X, PS2, PS3, PSP, XBOX 360 and many more. A wide range of audio formats such as AIFF, FLAC, MP3, OGG, RAW, VAG, WAV, WMA, XMA and XWMA can be used with FMOD. There are many high profile commercial games like Guitar Hero III, LittleBigPlanet, Second Life and Tomb Raider: Underworld used FMOD.

  • It supports multiple platforms and variety audio file formats.
  • It can be used with C++ and Visual Studio.
  • It is FREE to use for a non-commercial product.

For more information on FMOD, check out http://www.fmod.org/

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Best Sniper Locations Ever

Throughout the design of the levels we have brainstormed interesting places for the snipers’ vantage points. Some of these we have put into our game and others that could be used in other missions if we designed the entire game. However with brainstorming come ideas that could never work but are just too funny not to mention. So I decided I would post some of my favorite ones so far.
  1.  In a ball pit with baby dolls attached to the ghillie suit
  2.  On the second level of a double decker bus
  3.  Inside of a hotdog stand
  4.  On top of a flag pole
  5.  Under a manhole cover

Friday, February 4, 2011

Player Affect: Character

As mentioned earlier we want the player’s actions to have a meaningful affect on the game. This past week we discussed how the vigilantes' personalities could be affected by the player’s actions.

During the first mission the dialogue between the vigilantes during the mission briefing and the mission itself will be impersonal, cold and professional. As the game progresses the dialogue will become more personal as the vigilantes reveal more of their personality, which will be based on the player's actions.

Our current idea for someone that only completes each mission through non-lethal means is that the vigilantes will become sad as they see no end in sight for their campaign. On the other hand someone that only uses lethal means will become angry, as they let their rage from what led them to become vigilantes consume themselves. For someone that uses a mixture of the two their personality will become psychotic or unbalanced as they are unable to reconcile their feelings about their actions one way or the other.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Animations: Part 1

So far, basic animations now work within the engine. We have accomplished this by using the Havok physics and animation engine along with its exporting tools for Maya. Our modelers and animators create the skinned skeletal rig along with any partial or full body animations we need and export them out as .hkx files. These contain either all of the information for a single animator's character, or simply a single skin, skeletal rig, or animation. As we will want a variety of animations to help in behavioral profiling within the game, the later approach will most likely be the main version used.

Each of these individual items, i.e. the skin, skeleton, and animation are all loaded in separately through Havok's pipeline and assigned to an animated mesh object. For the most part these are stored 1-to-1 within the animated mesh. However since we use our own rendering system, we need to convert the mesh provided by Havok into our own form for rendering.

After getting all of the items needed for animation, updated matrices based on the skin bindings and modified by the rig and animation are passed over to a shader to handle hardware skinning. Cel-shading and other effects are also performed to get the desired style we need for the game.

What still needs to be done or made:
  • Blending of animations so that a character can wave to someone, spray paint a building, or flail their arms all with the same walk cycle
  • Allowing for quick ease of animation swapping within a mesh
  • A manager to handle storage of all this data so as to not flood memory with multiple objects of the same animation.