Out Of Bounds Games

Out Of Bounds Studios is a small game studio led by Alexander Birke. I aim to create games with novel mechanics that bring players into new exciting unexplored worlds.

Filtering by Tag: Tilt Brush

Games I enjoyed in 2016

It has become popular to list your favorite games of the year as the last days of the year are numbered. I wanted to give it a go as well even though I didn’t get to play as many games as I wanted this year due to the release of Laser Disco Defenders. However, as a game designer and a sight impaired gamer I thought I have an interesting perspective I can add to this discussion as the year draws to a close. Here my picks are in no particular order.

Tilt Brush

Tilt Brush.png

Is it a game? Well if Rock Paper Shotgun can put it on their list so can I! This VR painting program does certainly have a playfulness to it, I haven’t found in other painting apps for my Vive. A huge reason for that is Tilt Brush is very polished. Each brush produces its own sound when drawn, which makes it feel a lot more tactile to put digital paint strokes in the open air than would seem possible. Tilt Brush is also on the list because I think it heralds how VR will be an important medium for creating games in the future.

Firewatch

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The most interesting game with a premade narrative I played this year. I found it refreshing that you got to roleplay a more average guy and how he dealt with his wife suffering from dementia. Initially I didn’t like the ending, since I expected the Chekhov’s gun it set up to pay off, but thematically and tonally it worked really well. Some solid voice acting and very pretty visuals also helped make this game feel special.

Overwatch

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Much praise has already been bestowed on Blizzard’s new shooter. It was by far the game I spent the most time playing this year thanks to its great game feel, and the lure of playing the multiplayer with friends. As a gamer with a sight impairment, it is also one of the few shooters out there where strong silhouettes, clear UI and color choices make the action easy to read. On top of that the diverse cast makes this one of the most inclusive games I have ever seen.

Redout

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I played a lot of WipeOut Fusion on my old PlayStation 2 so I was very hooked when this popped up on my radar. I wasn’t disappointed. The game feels super fast, and using the second analog stick to control the orientation of the ship to avoid scraping against the track when it curved up or down feels great. It adds a new dimension to the zero G racing genre. The ingame UI could be a bit larger so it would be easier to read, but the track layout is clear and easy to figure out.

Rimworld

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I have always found Dwarf Fortress fascinating, but impenetrable in terms of all the complexity you have to understand before you can start playing it. When I heard of Rimworld that takes inspiration from the former, but focuses on making it more approachable with clearer graphics, better UI and a built in tutorial I had to give it a go. I choose to start with the shipwrecked starting condition, and made the fatal mistake of naming the crew after friends. I was therefore super keen on getting my small bundles of random stats and hand picked names to escape the planet they had marooned on. This of course ended in horribly death to everyone caused by marauding manslaughtering elephants. If you like player generated narrative this one is for you.

Also I want to give out some honourable mentions to Event[0], Doom, Super Hot, INSIDE, and Steamworld: Heist which I really enjoyed this year as well

Making an entire game in Tilt Brush

Since the start of the current VR revolution I have been more interested in how the technology could be used for creating games rather than just playing them. It should come as no surprise then, that one of my favorite VR apps are Tilt Brush, the 3D painting program that allows for a completely new way of drawing that gives depth to your doodles.

I finally got my own Vive a couple of weeks ago. Since Ludum Dare was around the corner, I decided to make a game where all the art was drawn in Tilt Brush. I thought it would give the game a unique look, and also be a fast way to create 3D content, an important aspect when doing a game jam. You can find the game called The Trans-Interdimensional Laboursaving Transportation Service on Ludum Dare’s website, as well as on Game Jolt and Itch.io. I couldn’t find anyone else who had tried to use Tilt Brush this way, so I decided to write this post on how I did it and my takeaways from the process.

 
I feel like I’m being watched...

I feel like I’m being watched...

 

The setup

Turns out the pipeline to get Tilt Brush sketches into Unity, which is the engine I use, was very straight forward. From inside Tilt Brush you can export an FBX of your sketch. I thought I would have to write my own shaders, but it turned out the Tilt Brush devs already provide a set of basic shaders as well! You still have to manually assign this shader to the imported models in Unity so I ended up writing a small AssetPostProcessor script that would automatically handle this when the FBX file was copied into the project folder which made it easier to adjust the look of the game since all brush strokes of the same type would share the same material. This would sometimes still break when Unity had to split up the imported mesh because of it’s 65k vertex limit per mesh but it still saved some time. Here is the source if you want to check it out yourself.

Terrain, some flowers, and sleepy blobs painted in Tilt Brush and rendered in Unity

Terrain, some flowers, and sleepy blobs painted in Tilt Brush and rendered in Unity

What worked well

The game ended up with the unique look I was after. You can clearly see it’s been drawn by a person which I think gives it it’s own charm. So aesthetically I’m very pleased with the result. Since you can’t really animate a Tilt Brush sketch other than its rotation, scale and location I choose to make a game, where you see a lot of different static environments which worked well.

Earth, so boring

Earth, so boring

Pocket Dimension #321754-B, so weird!

Pocket Dimension #321754-B, so weird!

If you want people to play your jam game it’s a very good idea to make a build that can be played on the web. I was really surprised how compact the WebGL build was. I haven’t gotten any complaints about the game relying on beefy GPUs to run either which was a nice surprise as well.
Lastly my assumption that it would be a quick method for making art turned out to be mostly correct. Drawing the art inside Tilt Brush was quick, but there was a lot of hurdles getting it into Unity as explained in the next section.

What didn’t work so well

The shaders provided by the Tilt Brush devs only cover the most basic brushes. All the more VFXish of them such as fire, lighting and disco are not supported.  You don’t get normal maps either, so some brushes such as Ink and Oil look flat when imported into Unity. There’s also no shader to to get the non lit strokes of the Marker brush to show up correctly. I know It’s a simple shader to write, but at the end of the jam I was too sleep deprived to sort it out ,so I ended up just using the premade shaders and calling it a day.

Pattern in Tilt Brush

Pattern in Tilt Brush

Same Pattern in Unity

Same Pattern in Unity

As you can see the shape of tapered strokes also didn’t match how they look inside Tilt Brush. It’s controlled in the shaders with alpha cutoff, but there wasn’t a value that made them have exactly the same shape as inside Tilt Brush.

There’s some positive news in the horizon though! The team behind Tilt Brush are going to release a set of resources that should make it a lot easier to import your sketches into Unity in the near future so really looking forward to give that a go.

The other main hurdle is that Tilt Brush is really more geared for sketching than for actual content creation. It’s designed to be approachable and playful to interact with. As a result it doesn’t have many of the features you would expect from a program appealing more to professional users. For example you can’t group your sketch into layers making it tricky to delete strokes. The biggest issue though was not being able to set a custom pivot point for exported drawings as shown on the picture below.

Tell me of the pivots of your homeworld Usul

Tell me of the pivots of your homeworld Usul

I compensated for this the standard way with using a GameObject parent as the pivot in Unity, but it was something that I had to spend more time on than I would have liked. Other

features I could also have used, was to just export a part of a sketch and overwrite existing sketches from inside Tilt Brush. Tilt Brush has never crashed on me but I didn’t want to take any chances so I saved fairly often which filled up the gallery really quickly.

Where Tilt Brush also excels is really in creating organic shapes with free hand brush strokes. My concept relied on creating a bunch of objects with harder edges which proved to be fairly time consuming. There is an option to use a straight edge tool, but it took a lot of trial and error to get the stroke orientation correct.

I spent way too much time on drawing the hard edges of the box the player is placed inside while playing the game.

I spent way too much time on drawing the hard edges of the box the player is placed inside while playing the game.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed making the art for my game with Tilt Brush. Even though getting the sketches into Unity isn’t a perfect process yet it was already a very powerful and quick way to create 3D content. With the new tool chain promised by the Tilt Brush devs on the horizon it will only get better. Next time I’m doing a 3D entry for a game jam I’ll likely use this approach again.

PS!
I’m planning to organize an online game jam for making games with Tilt Brush around February next year after the new tool chain has shipped. If you think that would be awesome to participate in follow me on
Twitter or Facebook to stay tuned!

 
 

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