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We’ve talked with the guys at Jinxsoft about the production of their new amazing game called Jinx: Womb of Cosmos. It’s a small indie project, which has some very good production design and great visuals. The developers were kind enough to talk about the way they are building this game with Unity 5.
Michael Raftopoulos, Project Manager & Game Designer: Jinxsoft was founded back in 2011 by Vasilis Vogkas, our Managing Director and me. Our HQ is located in London, United Kingdom but we have the luxury of working with people from all around the world.
During our first two years, we worked on various trivia/puzzle games for mobile platforms, in order to get familiar with iOS and Android technologies.
Vasilis Vogkas, Managing & Financial Director: In 2013 we were given the great opportunity of working on an experimental project of the Canadian McMaster University. We have been developing a visual novel-adventure game for teenagers who have psychosis. Being able to work on that game is a great ethical fulfillment for us and admittedly it brings us unimaginable joy and pride.
Thanos Chatzisavvas, Game Designer: It all started with an idea for a setting. A world, the laws that govern it, the people that inhabit it, and a few important events that define it. This setting has been the backbone of our story, although the means and process through which we would come to relay this story have changed a lot since its conception. The genre that was first considered was a story-based platformer, and it went through a few iterations and continuous discussion before, eventually, it settled to its current RPG form – there was just too much lore that had accumulated during those times to decide on anything but. And it works well, in retrospect; with a nod of nostalgia to games we grew up with, modern visuals and a mix of old and new mechanics, we’re very proud of how it’s been shaping up.
Speaking of mechanics, we have a lot of experience with different kinds of systems – of RPGs or other genres. Our current set is a collection and refinement of ideas gathered from those experiences, made into a comprehensive system that we, as a team, would be satisfied to play with.
Michael Raftopoulos: We had a great variety of concept art ranging from cute fluffy critters that became the Flooflees to grotesque and nightmarish beings like the Beast Eater and although at first we considered keeping a balance between the two styles, it was more than evident that the later was more appropriate for our endeavor.
After our initial research we had concluded on a theme and we are able to give our concept artists a more focused direction.
Thanos Chatzisavvas: Our main design principles formed steadily by a long, arduous process, including a lot of brainstorming and trial-and-error, but eventually concluded to a more streamlined approach, that for brevity’s sake can be summed up as taking Tim Burton’s environmental darkness and adding some of Clive Barker’s horror.
Nick Kasolos, Level Designer: Unity is mostly considered an engine targeted for mobile games. Still, through the years, they have given us many options that with the correct planning and tweaking, you can pull out decent graphics.
Currently, we use a combination of Baked and Realtime GI, together with a few custom image effects in order to achieve the atmospheric result we desire.
Stamatis Sofos, Lead Programmer: Unity is a great tool and the asset store expands the capabilities of the engine by a huge amount. But when you try to build an RPG with that many unique components any solution must be custom. The overhead for any of the main systems is not worth the performance cost that a generic asset will bring.
On the other hand scripting in unity with .NET is really powerful and at no point we thought that the engine was limiting us. All of this brings a lot of additional work but it is worth it.
Tips regarding coding and the editor in Unity
The unity editor can get really slow if you are casually adding things from the store. Get to know the packages you install.
If you find that you are using the inspector a lot for a complex MonoBehaviour script consider building an editor. It’s easier than you think and can save substantial time from your team.
Nick Kasolos: We have acquired a few particle packages from the Asset Store and also created many particles from scratch.
All the effects we use are build on the default Particle System that Unity provides. Our main goal is to make the most out of these modules, while trying to keep the performance cost to a minimum.
Nick Kasolos: Exploration is the main thing we have in mind when building “The Valley of Hearts”, the place of the world that Jinx Womb of Cosmos is taking place.
With that in mind, and even though the game is considered Top Down, we use level design principles that are more shouted to an FPS game.
The individual maps vary in size. We avoid linearity as much as possible, with open areas, multiple paths and verticality.
Many Points of Interest are scattered in each map, ranging from Ancient Artifacts to spots taken over by monsters and many many more.
And since many of them are not even tied to the main storyline, you need to explore every nook and cranny of this world in order to learn its secrets.
- Think a lot regarding the lighting in your scene. Runs tests before hand in dummy scenes just to be sure that the path you are following will work with your setup. Also, extra make sure that Shadows are casted only from necessary objects.
- Store Art Assets like props or characters, are rarely ready to use. Chances are that the need modification, and most times, optimization to properly fit your project.
- Don’t be afraid to place a lot of Trees and Details with Unity Terrain. As long as you have proper culling values to your camera and “optimized” terrain settings, the Visual Result will worth the small performance cost.
David Lobo, 3D Artist: Character modeling for Jinx is done first in a program called Zbrush, I sculpt the character on something similar to clay. Then I use PBR calibrated textures to present them accurately when lit. There are a lot of designs already done by the talented concept artists working in the game.
I am more of a creature designer, and I have been working on one creature concept design for Jinx. I am pretty certain you’ll see it on later date.
As part of the art team we take into consideration the initial description of any character or creature needed and then we adapt to make it look unique in its own magnificence. We do a thorough research of previous trying not to stray far from each other’s vision.
When you texture your characters make sure to always light them properly and according to the lighting conditions in its environment because thats the best way to accurately recreate any material and make sure that it doesn’t look different once you have it in game
Vasilis Vogkas: As we have announced, we aim on releasing the first phase of our early access on December 2016. We do know that the road ahead may be steep but we are optimistic that in the end, we will deliver a very solid game.
Michael Raftopoulos: Sadly most of the studios that fail to deliver after Early Access. This happens for one or more of the following reasons. Lack of funds, lack of commitment, unrealistic scope and goal.
We have already invested around 60k $ which is a rather large sum for an indie game, which shows how serious we are about developing Jinx: Womb of Cosmos.