Welcome to 2021. Let’s pretend Dom wrote these notes before the attempted overthrow of our government, and that everything is fiiiiine out there. We start the year looking back at some of our favorite games from last year, and then exploring how to craft a wireframe shader.
Our notable games from 2020:
- Hades (J + D): gosh we both love it. Hades manages to bridge the gap between Dom’s love of rogue-likes, and Jeff’s equal dislike of them. Altogether, it was really the total package of gameplay, character, story and reward that hooked us both. Pop on over to session 50 to see us race to the finish line! https://youtu.be/tBLJt2pbLhg?t=4335
- Cities Skylines (Dom): more than Sim City, it really focuses on transportation and building efficient ways to move folks around in creative ways. It’s a super detailed simulation, and was a really helpful brain relaxer at the start of quarantine. Also it generates some truly gorgeous looking cities, natch.
- We’ve also enjoy donoteat01’s videos using Cities Skylines to talk about politics and urban planning, such as this one dunking on El*n M*sk’s hyper loop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dn6ZVpJLxs
- Ghost of Tsushima (J + D): It was a technical achievement, and definitely a game in the 2020s-AAA-mold. But we loved the combat, art direction and environment. The story had some flat notes, but ultimately we really enjoyed the characters and their arcs. (This is also a killer PS5 game at 60fps!)
- Division 2 (Jeff): A game about a pandemic, in a fascist dystopian future. It’s a rad looter-shooter that bears a structural resemblance to Destiny, but third-person and in a modern setting. A great sink of many, many hours exploring the future wasteland of Washington D.C. Not that far off reality in 2021, tbh.
- Astro’s Playroom (Dom): Ok, it’s basically Super Mario Odyssey with an extra fancy controller. But it’s a realllly good Mario game, with all the flair, charm and precision one expects from a top-notch 3D platformer. Add to that controller interactions that are truly novel, and it’s a memorable delight.
- Yakuza 0 / Judgment (Jeff): In an extremely well-realized alternative version of Shinjuku, Tokyo, Yakuza 0 turns out a funny story full of weird and sweet interactions. Kazuma Kiryu is, in short, a total mensch of a mobster. Judgment takes the same setting, and gives us a taste of a noir thriller with a private eye/former attorney trying to unravel a mystery. Despite some funky mechanics and bad stealth, the total package for each one really shines.
- Control / Alan Wake (Dom): Control his a sweet spot of X-Files, Twin Peaks and superheroics that really comes together to create an atmospheric and thrilling adventure with ever-escalating stakes and set pieces. This year, it paired nicely with Alan Wake - a previous project from the same studio - that ended up with a fairly deep and entwined connection to the Control universe. They come together in an esoteric and occult tapestry that’s a really unique play.
- Remnant: From the Ashes (Jeff): a “soulsborne with guns”, but we found it not-quite as difficult when playing. But it was a fun multiplayer romp that felt really, really good to play.
- Subnautica (Dom): Look, the ocean is scary, full of crab squids and leviathans. It’s a survival experience that requires patience, exploration and some serious sea legs. Dom had to play it frequently looking through his hands at someone else’s screen.
- Coffee Talk (Jeff): Become a barista in futuristic Seattle, but full of fantasy creatures. It pairs a neat drink-making mechanic with deep characters and a mysterious story.
- Spectre and Battlezone are two classic games we look at as inspiration for our art style, both of which take different approaches to rendering.
- The latest attempt to unionize at Google is the Alphabet Workers Union, and unlike previous Bay Area unions, includes tech workers and not just support staff. Wishing our comrades at Alphabet great success! https://cwa-union.org/news/releases/google-workers-launch-union-with-cwa
- Jeff’s early wireframe exploration is captured in https://github.com/jeffomatic/game-js and it’s got some sick X-Wings in it.
- We looked at 3D Studio Max’s wireframe material, which you can see in use here https://www.pluralsight.com/blog/tutorials/two-easy-methods-rendering-wireframes-3ds-max
- Another outline technique we looked at was cel-shading, traditionally accomplished by drawing the object outline with backface-culling turned off https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cel_shading#Wireframe_method
- “Partial derivatives” are a tool we’re going to be using in our shaders a lot, and there’s a pretty good explanation of how they work here http://www.aclockworkberry.com/shader-derivative-functions
- This grid-based shader is really, really cool and something we look forward to understanding in a lot more detail http://madebyevan.com/shaders/grid/