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October 21st, 2018

October Penguin DT update

Yay! We're still alive!

In case you've wondered why I haven't blogged in a while, sadly some stuff in my personal life has slowed production down quite a bit. It doesn't affect me directly, but let's just say there's been some health problems in the close family, which has eaten my attention and time. Obviously.

Even worse, there are major rumblings going in my dayjob and the results of that could be utterly devastating to Penguin DT and TAGAP. There's no point on articulating this any further right now, as there is a marginal chance that things will turn out OK, but things are beyond stressful right now.

But all this crap doesn't mean I've stopped working on Penguin DT stuff, just that when it comes to Penguin DT and TAGAP, I've had to prioritise on actual game development over website stuff (like blogs). But time to rectify this lack of updates, eh?

What am I working on right now?

Right now I'm focusing on wrapping up the basic building blocks – default enemies, main textures and environmental objects, items and the remaining core mechanics. Once all these are in place, I can start the production proper via building levels. But, until then, asset and character creation it is for me.

Most recently I've been re-creating the basic sprite rendering routines of the TAGAP Engine. So much has changed in the very way we splash stuff on screen that behind the scenes things have gotten messy. So, in an effort to clean, streamline and optimize the rendering pipeline, everything was re-coded.

As an example of what I mean by 'things have changed', the new engine now supports per-texture reflection maps. In layman's terms, this means the reflection mapping can be rendered using a separate image to define the 'glossiness' of the texture or a sprite, pixel by pixel. This means that every texture and sprite can now be rendered without reflections, with TAGAP 3 styled full multitextured reflections OR the new masked reflections.

So, obviously we need to streamline the renderer to smoothly pick the rendering method on the fly. And this has affected everything, all the way from image loading to the new shaders. Because the texture structure is at the very core of the engine, this affects absolutely everything. It's loads of work, but it pays off.

So, it's slow progress all round, but slow progress is still progress. And if everything goes well here on out, around the first anniversary of TAGAP 3 I can finally start the production proper. And as soon as we have a meaningful slice of gameplay to showcase, we'll show what we've been cookin' since last year!

Playlist

Playlist is a regular feature in our Penguin DT blog; A chance to highlight cool games both old and new that I've been playing. As always, I believe that in order to make games, you need to play them, preferably with a broad scope when it comes to genres, so each day I dedicate at least an hour to actually playing games. The rest of the free time? There is no such thing, it all belongs to TAGAP!

No matter what's going on in my life, I still dedicate a slice of it to actually playing games – and that's been the case now. It's been quite a while since the last update of this kind, so there have been quite a few games between then and now. These game include:

  • Vampyr
  • Ruiner
  • Mothergunship
  • FarCry 4
  • Resident Evil Revelations 1+2

And right now I'm replaying Darksiders in preparation of the impending sequel. With so many games, let's focus on three of those.

Then there was Vampyr, Dontnod's early-20th-century vampire drama where you have to balance the afterlife as vampire-doctor. It's one of the most immersive adventure-RPGs I've played in a while, leaving you with plenty of latitude on how you approach situations. Heal people and be a good doctor, or do it the easy way by drinking all the blood you can? Both ways work, but have weighty consequences; As a good guy you can't evolve as a vampire, making the game tougher – but if you go the vampire route, you risk plunging the plague-ravaged London into nightmarish chaos. Good stuff.

Then there was Ruiner – an energetic blast of a game. I've previously described it as a love child between Diablo and the new DOOM – a child that is REALLY into cyberpunk. The game plays like dream, is brutal as hell, has a clever setting and looks absolutely stunning. Almost every scene reminded me of the background artwork from classic cyberpunk Anime like Akira, only with higher contrast lighting. I can't recommend this bad boy enough and it definitely one of my GOTY candidates.

And finally, there was Mothergunship by Bad Posture Games. This is a brand new, fast and tough first person shooter – that is also a rogue-lite – and one that let's you design and craft your own, multi-barrelled weapons. It sounds like a lot, but it works. The gameplay is very much in the vein of classic shooters, with randomly populated rooms with randomly generated secrets to discover. The weapon crafting system is simple, fast and can lead into wild designs – and never becomes a slog. Top it all off with an amusing, tongue-in-cheek sci-fi story with colourful characters – all told via radio communication in style of Borderlands – and you get yourself one meaty frag-a-thon of robot carnage.

In closing, I mentioned Resident Evil Revelations titles. Long-time blog visitors might remember that last year I played through all the main-line Resident Evil titles available on PS4 before jumping to the new Resident Evil 7. The only games left out of the bunch were the Revelations games – second one of which I've never played before. And I really like them – so much so that I'd rank them among the best titles in the franchise, right after 1, 2 and 7. Yes, I'm a heretic, I prefer Revelations over RE4.

What's next?

For the in-development game, more asset creation. We have a select few base characters I've yet to create art and sound assets for, so working on those is next – with additional texture and ambient sound work sprinkled between.

And in games? Soon one of my most anticipated games, Call of Cthulhu, will be released – and in the meantime, Lego DC Super Villains was just unleashed and I can't wait to get my flippers on that.

Until next time,

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin

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