Hi everyone, we are a small indie game studio located in Brazil called Ludic Studios:
Joel Hamon: Producer, PR and Programmer.
Artur Fernandes: Artist.
Lui Gama: Game Designer and Programmer.
Hello, I’m Lui Gama and now we’re going to talk a little about the techniques we’ve utilized to set up the scenario and a little bit about the project itself.
It’s been a while since we’ve been building a concept for a samurai game. The initial idea was of a game set in the samurai age, then we thought about robot samurais in a post-apocalyptic world, but in the end we chose the idea of a cyberpunk samurai theme, along a heavily inspired visual in Blade Runner and classical samurai movies.
It was at Ludum Dare 39 that we saw the opportunity to implement this idea and developed the game “Don’t ask me to stop being an outdated junkrobot: Saigo’s Ultimate Battle” a.k.a. “Saigo’s Ultimate Battle”.
The game had a good acceptance and we decided to create a new game based on the same mechanics, but a bit more complete and elaborated. So “AKANE” came up: a game where you control a ronin in a futuristic Tokyo, where your aim is to kill the biggest number possible of members from the japanese mafia before they kill you. The idea is to experience the same as we see in the movies, where the hero alone fights dozens of enemies at the same time.
When we found out about Neon Challenge, we realized that our project fit the theme and decided to set up a scenario as elaborated and polished as possible, dedicating most of the time exclusively to that end.
Inspirations and references:
Some inspirations for the character’s concepts were Akira Kurosawa’s movies like The seven Samurais and Yojimbo, Kill Bill, Akira, Naruto, Samurai X, Samurai Champloo, Samurai Jack and The Clone Wars 2D from Tartakovsky. Every scene where there are dozens of enemies against a main character.
We researched a bit about the Yakuza culture, the tattoos and their meanings, to develop the concept of the enemies and the game's story background. The game has a “Samurai Cyberpunk” visual from the suburb of a futuristic Tokyo. It’s a sword fight game with lots of blood, violence and samurai movies cliches, all of this intertwined to luminous colors and futuristic suburban enviroments with a Samurai Cyberpunk style.
2. Variety of enemies and animations
As there are a lot of enemies in the scene, they have to be different from each other to be more realistic. Because of that we made variations for each kind of enemy. The death animations are very dramatic and frames were not spared for them. Everything with the intent to compose very organic scenes. We worked hard on the enemies’ intelligence, so they behaved in a fluid way and disbanded while chasing a player, as if they were trying to surround the player and not appear as a pile of robots following the main character.
All lights are dynamic; to maintain a better quality we chose not to use baked lights.
For the shadows, we used the shader Bumped Diffuse with Shadows by WrongTarget in most of the game’s objects, including the characters and enemies.
In the neon signboards, beside the dynamic lights from Unity, our artist also drew lights in the sprites themselves to create a synergy and make better use of the pixel art with the 3D environment.
We created several spotlights on movement to achieve an effect similar to that of Blade Runner.
Using Unity we put some effects in the lights, changing their intensity for an effect make the signboard worn out, since the environment is suburban. For that, we used animations and particle system.
4. Volumetric Light
Since the game is 2d and we use an orthographic camera with forward renderization, we had to use the Volumetric Light Beam from the asset store since the assets from the volumetric light, in their majority, only work with deferred renderization.
We abused a lot from that assets, to the point where we used it in a “creative” way to create fog effects in the neon sighboards.
5. 3D Environment for lightning and shadows
The scene is conceptually and apparently 2D, but the entire environment was built in 3D, so it was possible to better use the lightning and shadows with the sprites.
We based on the techniques passed by Sébastien Dubois in his amazing presentation in the Unite 2014, explaining about the techniques used in “Dungeon of Edless”.
After we assembled the scenario, we configured the orthographic camera in 60 degrees, so it was possible to see the shadows cast by the sprites. All objects positioned in stand up position we multiplied their Y-scale by 2 , because (Y * 1/cos(60)) = 2, and the assets laying down we multiplied them by 1.1555, because (Z * 1/sin(60)) = 1.1555. That way the sizes were correct with the camera angled at 60 degrees.
6. Normal Maps
All the objects in the scenario, such as buildings, walls, metro, etc are straight planes positioned in standing position. To create volume and cool light effects in them, we used normal maps.
Since the textures are in pixel art, we needed to do a more precise work, and for that we used the Sprite Illuminator. That way we could select a surface and choose the correct angle for the lightning.
For the ground we created a version in grayscale to use as normal map.
We used a system of particles to make some of the smoke effects in the game, sparks in the signboards, papers flying everywhere and also a few small visual effects.
8. Trail render
For the shooting, we created an Empty Object and added the simple Trail Renderer. We also used the TrailRender for the cigarete trail from Akane when she moves fast and when she uses the Dragon Slash.
9. Low Res
We used two cameras in the game, one for moving, capturing whatever happens in play and send to a Render Texture with low resolution (640x360), and another (Main Camera) in normal resolution to capture this Render Texture.
We utilized low resolution because it fits better the pixel art style and we still gain some performance.
For Input Management ends, we mounted the camera from render texture to the game’s camera and we ended up in this craziness we dearly call “Creative Solution”.
10. Post Processing Stack
In the game’s camera, in low res, we applied the post processing Behavior with: Bloom and Color Grading.
In the Render Texture’s camera, we used Vignette and Grain.
11. Some scenery details
Train: In the train’s rails we put some material to make it very metallic. The normal map helps to make that lightning.
We made the train move through the Animation, altering its position.
People: To the people walking in the street we made an algorithm to change their appearances and position every time they left the screen.
Cloths: To the tent’s fabrics and various clothing hanging in the clothes line we added the Cloth Component from Unity.
12. Cinemachine and timeline
The video has not been edited, all the cuts have been made using timeline and cinemachine.
We didn’t want to create a random scenario, we wanted to tell a story, and for that, instead of words we utilized the scenario itself. It’s up to the player to read what’s happening here.