Saturday, March 21, 2015



As you can see in the various screenshots the model is far from super realistic and even I have to admit there are some things I don’t like and mistakes that are obvious. However, all in all - especially given the fact that this model will never be seen in a cut scene and most of the time stays about 3 cm tall - I am happy with it. Yeah, I am.

It’s enough for this game and I don’t want to put too much more time into the model of this character alone. There is still a bit of geometry clean-up and optimization to do, the backpack still misses all normal maps as well as textures and I will probably also add a few more details like a wristwatch and some armbands for example.

I am also still thinking about a good color palette (btw. the colors look a bit intense on the screenshots and actually aren't that saturated when rendered in the game). Daniel shouldn't be like a Super Mario - all in primary colors - but I think I want to make his T-Shirt white at least. I am also thinking about something to put on his T-Shirt, like a logo or a nerdy text like "indie" - that could be nice. But besides that the model is basically done. Luckily I was able to (re)use and change some earlier stuff I did for this and save a bit of time in the process.

I am perfectly aware that this character won’t be awarded for “best” or “most creative” character design but actually that’s ok. He is supposed to be a regular guy you could meet on the streets. - Probably not the streets of Tokyo where everything - including fashion - is a bit different, but I think you catch the drift. There are no really unique features to this guy, except maybe his intellect and his acrobatic abilities… but seriously; following the cliché and giving him glasses or jogging pants just because of that? Character designers might also say that he is a sad and stressed character so his face should probably show some of that, or more general that “good character design has to reflect the personality”… well, you are right, but again: hardly ever is anyone going to see the face of this model during the game. I really get the "This game needs an Indiana Jones. So give him a hat and a whip"-approach but you know; no, I like the average looking guy to explore this pyramid. Maybe he will become a hero after all. And don't worry, as soon as there will be a great 2D artist working on this game, all the real personality will be reflected in the “animated” artworks that are supposed to tell the story parts instead of cut scenes later on.

Initially it was my intent to make the character look different the more you progress in the game. You probably know that Daniel will find relics that give him more abilities. For example: Imhotep’s Sandals. I originally thought it would be cool to change those parts on the model with every relic he finds/equips and to make him look like some sort of Bedouin towards the end of the game. - I still think this can be nice but on the other hand I also like to have the main character as recognizable as possible throughout the entire game… Either way creating exchangeable outfit parts for Daniel is currently in no - anyway not present - development budget. What I will definitely do however is make this character (his textures) dirtier. He is running around in a sandy and dusty pyramid for crying out loud, I think his clothes should definitely look a bit more sandy and dirty, if you ask me.

Ok. So, the backpack, a bit more polishing on this character’s textures, cleaning up and optimizing geometry and adding a few details and I am ready to go on with: Animation! Yes! I haven’t done animation for a long time but I remember this was always a lot of fun. It’s like finally giving your “dead” stuff a soul and making it alive. Needles to say that I need to brush up on tech and execution as well as first of all sort through all the tons of animations this character is supposed to have. But it will be great, I know it and I am looking forward to this. Since the character itself is a bit shallow in terms of the visual design, the animating part will become even more interesting and is supposed to make this shell really special.


Sorry to have kept you waiting a bit with this new development log. Honestly, there wasn’t too much going on lately. As I have said before, my main task during the last couple of weeks was to create or rather finish the 3D model of the main character Daniel. Well, this I did... almost. Admittedly it could have gone a bit faster, but unfortunately real life was hitting me pretty hard (again); not only was I plagued by the goddamn flu and really sick for almost two weeks (which is way longer than usually), I also basically lost all my jobs recently. One - the transfer of my company - was expected, planned and went as it was supposed to. Losing a small contracted work and my part-time job in the videogame store, which was supposed to cover at least my rent, since the company was gone, however was not and now I have a bit of a problem. Currently it is hard to stay above water and the search for perspectives seems a bit futile. Since I would love nothing more than working in the field of videogames, I am now trying to put together some sort of portfolio to maybe get some money from freelancing in some months ahead or better to get some sort of official job in this field. Honestly, making this portfolio is a little hard for me, since I see myself more as a “jack of all trades” guy instead of a highly specialized and specifically trained expert. On the other hand I know how the world spins these days and that specialization is everything, but giving up on programming completely and only go for modeling? Or give up project management or game design and concentrate on programming only? Maybe even on a specific field like shaders, for example? This tree has way too many branches and it feels like abandoning or rather cutting off parts that make it - that make me - whole. Personally I feel happy and very lucky that I know about and can do a lot of different things related to the production of a videogame. But yeah, as the industry is concerned knowing ten things at 75% is not equal - or maybe even worse than - knowing one thing for 125%.

Anyway, aside from starting to gather myself portfolio-wise, I even conceived and already prototyped a small game idea to sell for some cents after a small development time possibly on various platforms. There are some mechanics I still want to implement but if this is done and no fitting business model and the necessary support has come up until then, I might even release this game in its rather funny prototype version for PC for free or rather on a donation base. - We will see.

I don’t know yet how long my reserves will last exactly and I guess at some point I won’t have any other choice but to accept any job to get some money. So while I am currently desperately struggling with all the complications of life I have made some decisions that I wanted to tell you:

First, my work on Phi will continue no matter what. It doesn’t matter if I have to work on a portfolio, on another game or in another job. Yes, I know it is a very ambitious project and while decreasing the work on it isn’t going to help much, also the fact that I wouldn’t be able to make the complete game alone remains indisputable. Nevertheless my goal also remains to create a nice prototype, which will maybe have enough power to raise more interest and ultimately enough funding to really make this game possible. As long as PCs and consoles exist, due to its nature, this game has no expiration date for a release. This game has very clearly defined outlines and it is neither trend nor temporarily. People (above all including myself) who appreciate a game like this now will like the game in two years as well - even if by then the kids are all just about virtual reality and Oculus Pokemons anymore. Ultimately, depending on various private developments, the work on Phi might become sporadic - sometimes more, sometimes less - but rest assure something is always happening for and with it. If you like this game and idea behind it and you want to support me, you can go on the website (which will be online soon - really!), check on it from time to time or visit this blog. Hell you might even join the team or at least spread the word.

Secondly, as long as I can afford internet (and I would even go without ice tea before having to give it up) I will continue to write this blog about videogames. Similar to the work on Phi, although I want to stay as consistent as possible in that matter, updates may become subject to the flow of life. But I can’t and I won’t give it up. I’ve been doing this for quite some time now. I found so many great friends, interesting people and projects on the internet by connecting through this platform and although sometimes it feels a bit like a tilting against windmills or “maintaining a ghost town”, to quote a friend, it is something that makes me really happy. Maybe I have not one real follower who’s actually reading through this stuff, maybe it is a waste of time because I don’t get a single Euro out of it and at some point everybody needs some cash to pay the rent at least… Maybe there are already too many people doing the very same thing but with colorful videos, sound effects, intros and sexy girls as co-commentators, but at the end of the day, every time I publish something, it feels good. Maybe it's not but it always feels like a small accomplishment and I guess that is all that matters to me.

Alright, that’s it for this short development log. Thanks for reading in, for the ongoing support and the nice emails I get from time to time. This really means a lot! I am sorry I wrote too much about my current personal situation but yeah, also this helps a bit. Like I said, there are and there will be more options for you to support and help me along the way. And there will be a light at the end of my tunnel as well… nobody knows what the future will bring. I wish you all the best and I hope you’ll drop by for more from time to time.

Play more! Hope more!

Friday, March 13, 2015



White Night, created in France by Osome Studio and published by Activision as a download game for 15 bucks, although deprived of any colors, is a rather refreshing sight among the survival-horror games. But aside the black and white (noir) presentation of the game it is almost well done in terms of the actual classic horror game experience. Partly produced by former creators of the mother - as I like to call it - of all horror games: Alone in the Dark, this game not only got me very excited from the first moment I've heard about it, but ultimately didn't disappoint... although I have to admit that at least I have some problems with it.

Set in the 1930s, you - as the initially unknown protagonist - are on a journey through the past. With classic fixed camera perspectives, that make every room unique and unforgettable, you mostly explore an old house filled with ghosts and twisted conclusions. The game manages to melt dreamy motives about the moon, love and jazz into a great experience and adds spices in form of constant fear, disturbed imagery and deep layers of critical story telling. - Probably a bit too much of the latter, for my taste.

White Night is dark - black actually! And the central mechanic behind the game is light, which will make things white. You can't see without it, you can't find or touch anything without it, you can't kill ghosts without it,... and eventually you will die without it. Many of the old electrical wirings are not working or constantly being tempered with by some of the ghostly presences in the house. - Obviously some of them were electricians. But luckily you have a good stock of really enduring matches with you and somebody has left hundreds more scattered all over the place. Personally I find it fascinating how long this game can keep you busy, given its linear nature and that it takes place in a rather small house. The angel sitting on my left shoulder would now very positively give credits to the game/ level designers, but the small devil on the other would probably point out that this game is full with constant and utterly useless dying, reloading and playing the same sections countless times, thus blaming the very designers for the same effect. - I guess the truth lies in the middle and as much as the creators can be praised for thoughtful and well staged, old-school puzzles they also have to accept the accusation of messing up an otherwise great experience by giving this game - or rather its enemies - too much randomness.


I think I have written this in countless reviews already and I am about to write it again: RNG cannot be balanced! So please don't do it in every game! If - as it is often in this game - there is a room, containing three ghost, of which all of them kill you simply by touching you, it makes no sense and it can completely destroy the experience for the player if those ghosts have random spawning positions on every reload! Seriously, please answer me this question: Did you do this because you were too lazy to think of one or two save ways the player can navigate through this room and placing the ghosts according to that? Or did you do this on purpose to test the patience of the players and in the meantime to get more playtime out of it? Seriously, I don't get it. Maybe I am not supposed to and I never will, but for me the fact remains that I was - and still am - cursing this game to the abyss from time to time. Here is an example of what frequently happens in White Night: You will find an item you need to open a door two rooms away. Luckily you save again before trying to get there because now - since you have picked the item up - you have filled those two rooms with three ghosts each! - In other words: A task defined as: "Run through one room to the very end of the second and open the door with the item you just picked up", that could (and should!) be done in roughly 15 seconds, thanks to randomness, needs to be repeated 30 times and including reloading times now takes 15 minutes instead! - Sorry, I don't get behind this design choice and I don't believe that nobody didn't notice that... You don't have to make it so easy that everything can be done at the first attempt and that 90% of the players would finish the game on their first run in one hour without dying,... but making enemies that kill you instantly be subject to randomness instead of making them part of a thoughtful level design, is just one of the cheapest moves possible!

Moving on; Since I am already raging about what (en)raged me the most while playing this game, how about one more thing? Yes, it's a download game. And as the unspoken rules of download games declare - also this game (unfortunately) is a collection feast!! Don't get me wrong, I really missed a game where you are sliding along the walls of/and invisible collision boxes, constantly pressing your search button to discover something. Really! - That is something I loved to do in Alone in the Dark as well as older Resident Evil games for example. This is something I really miss in modern games where everything you can interact with automatically glows and nothing is left for imagination or trial and error. So, in a sense it is not the modus that is making me angry but the implementation: Why are there - roughly guessed - 300 collectables in this game? Why? This game is full with letters from him to her, letters from her to her, from her to him and him to him. Furthermore you have her diary, his diary, this guys diary and that guys diary, not to forget news paper articles, journal entries and a never ending photo collection. - Are you kidding me? If all this paper was real I wouldn't have to replenish my toilet paper for the next four months!

It's not that what is written is garbage, but it is just so amazingly useless and honestly adds nothing to the game. - And this you have to hear from someone who's actually pretty fond of reading! - But sorry, after the 20th-something letter in this game I stopped reading them because they simply pissed me off and destroyed the atmosphere! Maybe it is meant well, ... but seriously... it is simply too much. The only genre where I tolerate reading on such an intense level is the almost vanished master genre of RPG! Did you read 300 pages in Resident Evil? - No! There were some books, some letters,... but that's it. Imagine a Resident Evil where every new room gave you three new letters, three new diary pages, one picture (with text) a newspaper article and two journal entries to read...


Alright, no more. I am done. That's all I have to point out negatively about this game. White Night is above all an artistic game. Every scene might seem simple due to the high-contrast nature of the game, but in actuality every screen of this game is a piece of art the goes far beyond black and white. What I want to give the game the most credit for, is the fact that it - at least - tries to be played liked a classic survival-horror game, that it takes me back to a playstyle I thought to be dead and that it has a lot of potential to grow with every playthrough.

It kind of makes me sad however, how the forceful attempt to adjust it to modern conventions (300+ collectables) and/or probably a neglected level design (random monsters) take away a whole lot of the experience that would have been possible to get out of it. Like I said, I haven't finished it yet. And though I am eager to see where the story goes, I somehow feel repulsed to take the controller back into my hands just to waste another hour on aggravation because of random ghosts. I think at some point, on this blogging and reviewing journey of mine, I already said something like (subjectively speaking, of course): "If a game doesn't make me want to pick up the controller immediately again after I turned it off, something isn't right with it." Please don't get me wrong; White Night is awesome. It is absolutely worth its money and I love it! But still, something is wrong because although I want to finish it, I hesitate on turning it on and constantly postpone continuing to play it. I think - especially! - a game like this needs to be consumed instantly - in one evening, and not in daily portions over two weeks. Unfortunately I can't do it, I am unable to "consume" this game. It feels like sitting at your grandmother's table and having a full belly from eating too much candy before. You want to eat that special dinner you wished for and she cooked extra for you. You absolutely don't want to make her sad but in the end you are just shoving it in; slowly, one spoon after the other. Everything takes forever and you can't get any joy out of it. It's a shame but playing this game feels somewhat similar to that for me.

Have you played it already? What are your thoughts about this game? Wasn't this supposed to be an Xbox One Exclusive and is it true it will be launching soon (or already is) on PS4 and PC too?

Play more! Jazz more!