This week we’ve got a look at the writing overhauls we’ve been working on and we’re taking a look at character skinning.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been trying to catch up on all the writing changes that have needed to happen following playtests.
Most of our narrative is distributed amongst 4 main investigative threads. Each thread in turn ends with its final mystery or puzzle. As we continue to run playtests, we’ve been getting a sense of which threads work better than others. We’ve found that some are too easy or some are too obscure, then use that knowledge to update the dialogue, Nomai text, recordings, or computers.
For a time, we were unsure about how some of the content of one of the thread should be distributed. Luckily, after some extensive meetings, we have finally decided what arrangement would be the most intriguing. Our writer, Kelsey, has been crunching through many of these changes recently, but the game will run much smoother once we’ve completed our overhaul.
A few updates ago we mentioned our animation pipeline. This time we wanted to bring you a brief look at one aspect of the pipeline: Skinning.
We talked with artist, Nicholas Kim, who has taken the lead on character skinning.
What is Skinning?
Generally it’s taking a character model and creating influences on that model to be able to animate it. Imagine skinning more like the muscles for a body whereas bones are for Rigging a model.
How/Why did you learn Skinning?
Basically I learned how to skin through trial and error with a combination of video tutorials and feedback on how joints should bend. A lot of the process comes from finding patterns in how certain parts of a model bend, and repeating that over and over again.
As to why I learned skinning would be to expand my tool set for everything that is 3D art. We also have a relatively small art team so sometimes we need to take on extra tasks. Most of the environment work takes some time to finish and in most cases for me I’m either working on smaller parts or polishing. This gives me more time to work on anything else still in our backlog for the game just like a generalist.
How has the learning process been?
The learning process takes time, but skinning a variety of characters has given me a better handling on how things should look and repeat. It's not so different from moving vertices for better topology, but in this case you’re giving influence to verts for a better flow for the animation.
How was teaching someone else to skin? Do you feel you have a firm grasp of skinning now?
Teaching someone else to skin wasn’t hard. It was mostly just explaining and watching over to see how they understood the concept. And having someone else to skin with me makes my job much easier and manageable, so I have time to work on other things in addition to skinning. The hard part tends to be when you skin there might be random areas that go completely insane due to maya assigning things randomly. Luckily I've found a tool now to help with organizing and minimizing mistakes.
Until Next Time
That’s all for this update. We’ll have more news soon, so look out for the next update in two weeks!
It’s time for another update!
It’s been awhile since we’ve taken an in depth look into our playtests, so we would like to share some of the new insights we’ve gathered through our recent playtests.
Last update we revealed the new detective board style ship computer that was meant to help players figure out what they should do next if they’re stuck.
These past few weeks were the first playtests involving the new computer and we’re happy to say it’s been a success! Without changing the core experience for our fans, it provides new players with a better sense of what Outer Wilds is about and allows them to have a more visual guide into the Solar System investigations.
Moving from there, our main objective is to improve feedback given to the player to make the experience smoother. While we’re satisfied with how often players die at the moment, we want to improve player’s comprehension of how they died. This requires a holistic approach through better visual effects, audio, UI and design.
Speaking of design, we’ve been focusing on two things: polishing the level design and providing more visual storytelling.
Level design has been an ongoing process to polish some of the areas that are causing too much frustration. But what we’re really excited about now is the addition of more visual guides, holograms, and Nomai Petroglyphs. We hope to use these to further ingrain our players into the lore and get them familiarized with visual cues that will further their journey.
Finally, we are doing a huge final push with the writing!
Earlier we had been working on finishing the narrative and saw a lot of dialogue and text being implemented at a fast rate. Thanks to that we’ve been able to get a good sense of what works and what doesn’t through the playtests. Check back in two weeks for a closer look into what we’ve been doing to streamline the writing changes and more!
And that’s the end of this update. We hope everyone was a great weekend!
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