An unexpected journey from prototype to full-time development
André Constantino, our game designer and programmer, started working on Decay of Logos back in 2014 as a personal prototype. The more he worked on its gameplay and lore the more it became apparent that this was the game that he wanted to make. Although he had limited time to work on the prototype it grew in scope rather quickly. During the early development stages, André took to the Unity Asset Store to fill any art gaps, he even dabbled in animation and modeling in order to make his own assets.
The first confirmation came when he had the chance to demo the game at ComicCon Portugal. The reception was pretty inspiring for a one-man project, the dedicated planning and optimized development certainly paid off, but it was still a solo endeavor.
André is an avid player, from old 8-bit classics to more recent games, we can say for sure that he likes a good challenge. Decay of Logos certainly is meant to be one too, and was designed as an immersive action/adventure third-person RPG influenced by European folklore and by J. R. R. Tolkien’s high fantasy. The gameplay is heavily inspired by Dark Souls and The Legend of Zelda, with focus on exploration, combat and resource management. Its unique visual style draws inspiration from movies like Princess Mononoke and games like Shadow of the Colossus.
You play as a girl on a journey with her companion, a mystical Elk. They fatefully meet after her village is destroyed by one of the King’s sons. Battered and oblivious of the culprit behind the attack, the girl will not rest until she has her revenge. During her quest she will unveil secrets about the King and his sons, slowly realizing that all is not what it seems.
A new beginning
In 2015 André joined Amplify Creations, it was immediately apparent that Decay of Logos was our kind of game. Since we could see the potential and feel his passion for the project we decided to embrace it. One problem though: given its scope, how could we make the game come to life with our limited resources? The answer was almost clear, Unity of course, our own technology and a unique art style that would allow us to produce quality assets as quickly as possible. Re-usability is key, almost everything is modular, easily tweakable, and we keep our hero pieces to a bare minimum.
We were aware that with this particular style we risked making it look like every other stylized low-poly video game, but thankfully we had a secret weapon that allowed us to go one step further whenever needed: our Virtual Texturing Plugin for Unity. The pipeline we adopted is somewhat experimental, there was a bit of trial and error until we arrived at our current look and scope; we even changed software during production but it was all for the best; our pipeline now consists exclusively of MODO, MARI, Zbrush and Blender. One of our first decisions was to move away from the pseudo-realistic look of the first prototype. Together with a new artist we made several tests using low poly meshes and low-detailed textures with high-contrast; we even considered solid and gradient filled shapes.
It was a good start, the silhouettes and colors were somewhat what we imagined they could be but we all felt that we weren't quite there yet. It looked pretty cool but it didn't feel unique to our game world. That’s when we decided to risk bringing in a talented and experienced artist with a sense of style and art direction closer to what we had in mind.
We were lucky to be able to hire Filipe Pichel, a talented artist that among other games worked on the RTS Under Siege. He showed us that tech alone could only take us so far, good art direction and passion for experimentation are essential; it’s important to let go and try new things. Around the same time we also commissioned a few tests from a talented concept artist that helped us take the first steps towards a new direction.
We felt that we were heading the right way but there were still things to sort out, like how to develop the characters we needed to create an interesting and detailed world using the style and limited resources that we had at our disposal. Together we devised a plan that would allow us to produce assets in a quasi-standard way while still being able to take advantage of Virtual Texturing and iterate almost at any time.
A good example of how we take advantage of our technology is with our terrains. Pichel starts by making highly detailed Zbrush based tileable textures, complete with Albedo, Normals or even Displacement maps. In a standard workflow we would be limited on how many of these texture we could use in Unity but not with our tech.
We create a multi-tile set of UV coordinates for our terrain piece and import it into MARI along with the new textures, regardless of the amount; we also import any necessary reference models. In MARI we can stack and paint as many textures as we need, any rotation - scale - position, any layer, always without common limitations. Thanks to the procedural and masking tools available in MARI we are able to quickly setup a base using the tileable textures and iterate at any point. Exporting the data is quite simple, we just set the desired resolution per-UDIM collection and our texturing tech handles everything on the Unity side. Regardless of the resolution or quantity the performance is stable and the texture detail is not compromised; we can also use this technique on other assets such as buildings or props making it an extremely valuable tool in our arsenal.
Early this year we had an interesting surprise, it started with a knock on our door that soon turned into the missing piece in our development team. We don’t exactly work in a hole in the ground like hobbits (not a nasty hole of course, a hobbit-hole means comfort) but we do keep a pretty low profile. It was our first walk-in candidate and he came packing, piece after piece we could immediately see how talented he was; he even offered us an awesome concept of our own game to seal the deal.
An architect turned artist with a strong passion for videogames, Ricardo Tomé joined our team as our in-house illustrator, he is also proficient in Zbrush and 3d Art; we couldn't have asked for more. By combining André, Pichel and Tomé's talent, we greatly sped up overall production times and quality.
Full steam ahead
Now that we had the right team, we were ready to enter full production. The results were pretty satisfying, we were making enormous progress but we were still missing something. Now that the 3d art was going in the the right direction the temporary animations started to seem a bit lacking and outdated. Luckily, we were able to hire a talented animator with an awesome sense of style and a passion for videogames. Iuri Monteiro joined our team a couple of months ago as our character animator and we couldn't be happier with the results.
Most of our old animations will be phased out in the next couple of months, others will be polished whenever possible. Again, the Unity Asset Store was an extremely valuable tool during the initial stages of production, we cannot praise it enough. The scene below is comprised mostly of readily available mocap animation, the final result is pretty great.
So now that we have gathered a well-rounded group of passionate developers we finally feel that we can properly finish our game without compromising the initial concept. There is still much more to explore, so keep an eye out for our posts; we’ll be focusing more on the world of Decay of Logos and its characters in future posts.
Decay of Logos is planned to be released in 2018 for Steam and Consoles. Be sure to visit our devblog, we post new content every Friday.