Monday, October 24, 2016

Quick Update + Mixed Reality Photos!

Hi everyone!

Koriel here. Just a quick update since we have a lot we are trying to get done right now!


John has been off in music land these past few days (working on a bunch of sweet tracks for the game). The new music pouring in is getting us all pretty excited. :D

James is working on integration for VR platforms. There are still a lot of adjustments to be made to get everything feeling right on the Rift, the Vive and PSVR.

I've been mostly working on getting into better shape, improving and creating some art assets, and finishing up some in-game text.

Mixed Reality Photos

Some of you may have seen our fun Mixed Reality photo posts over the past weeks, so I thought it would be nice to put them all together in a post. In these photomanipulations, using both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, we try to capture the wonder and thrill of playing XING: The Land Beyond in Virtual Reality.

We still have more to come, but here are the newest two, plus all the other posted so far!

Be sure to follow us on Facebook or Twitter to see the new releases each week :)


Photo 11: "Sakura"

Photo 12: "No Sunscreen Required"

The Rest:

Photo 1: " Lost in the Jungle"

Photo 2: " The Flaming Durian"

Photo 3: "Crouching Lilypad, Hidden Rainforest"

Photo 4: "Virtually Snowing"

Photo 5: "Tablet on the Beach"

Photo 6: "A Flurry of Petals"

Photo 7: "Moon Path"

Photo 8: "The Hungry Tadpole"

Photo 9: "Pinecone Pickup"

Photo 10: "Desert(ed) Towers"

More to come!

Thanks for reading, and as always, have a lovely week!


Monday, October 17, 2016

Music and Game Development

Welcome back to another XING Development experience. John here - it's been a while since I wrote on the blog, so I figure I'd update everyone on some of the work I've been up to. We are returning from a few XING related events this past week, namely the annual IndieCade (this year at USC) and the biennial Steam Dev Days in Seattle, so I'll give a quick recap of our travels as well.

Steam Dev Days

Going to events like Steam Dev Days feels like one of the most effective ways to refresh our development and keep us looking at the big picture. Despite our best efforts, we are still a relatively isolated company and can sometimes find ourselves working in a vacuum, so getting out and socializing with a ton of developers, seeing talks about gamedev, and having in-depth meetings with our partners can really help revitalize development.

Arriving in Seattle
Keynote about to start!
The Main Session Room
Lunch Day 1
After Party/Mixer hosted at the Convention Center by Valve
Staying until the very end. We made some friends :)
Unreal Slackers group photo!

IndieCade and PlayStation VR

Sony graciously hosted XING: The Land Beyond at IndieCade this year, and alongside their usual IndieCade setup they crafted an excellent PS VR demo station for us in the Steven Spielberg Building. This help was especially useful for us this year given the nearly overlapping dates between IndieCade and Dev Days this year! This was the first time we've shown XING on PS VR to the general public. Maintaining feature parity along all of our platforms has been a huge priority for all of us, so seeing people lining up to play our game on PS VR hopefully is a good sign for XING and the platform in general. Shout outs to the other PS VR games: GNOG, Psychonauts: In the Rhombus of Ruin and Headmaster for joining us this year!

And of course, happy PlayStation VR launch!

Koriel goes to IndieCade
People playing XING: The Land Beyond on the PS VR
More lovely games in the PS VR room :)


Last week we were able to make great strides on a number of important elements for the game. As Kori mentioned two posts ago, we have a "full" build of the game - meaning all of the levels are present in a single executable. What we don't have, and what we've been working on, are the transitional elements between content; things like a cohesive way to introduce new players to the game and letting them understand some of the core objectives they will want to accomplish during their stay. Some of this work is strictly polish, like refining level design, but much of it has to be treated like new content. We've added a new introduction sequence and area into our latest internal build, and will be looking for feedback this week.

Checking things in and out of  Perforce Source Control
Personally I always have 50+ tasks I could be doing at any moment, so I like to use some time at the beginning of each week to set some goals for production. Sometimes I'll need to prioritize tasks based on events, like getting the PS VR build prepared for IndieCade, but usually I'll try to group my work together based on what discipline it lies in. I tend to get into a "mode" of working on a particular type of task; last week it was mostly post-process and shader work, and before that was systemic programming. This week I'll be focusing on music.


Making music for a game I also need to be actively developing has proven to be a challenging mix, no pun intended. It's a catch 22 - on one hand, I need to make the game function before I can write the music; on the other hand, the game needs music to function. I often tell people I feel like I'm not spending enough time writing music for the game, but in reality it's going to take as long as anything else - we won't release until it all works.

My Library
I think structurally XING's soundtrack it shaping up to be a somewhat unique experience. In an era of ambient, moody soundtracks that expertly combine descriptive soundscapes and lush atmosphere, I've decided to look to the past and tackle the soundtrack with a more thematic approach. Locations have their own recurring motifs and instrumentation, with persistent melodies tying the tracks together.

Deciding on the fidelity of the music was also an interesting choice. While there are obvious economic reasons why taking a 100% live audio approach may not be the most appropriate option, I'd argue that a MIDI centered soundtrack actually grounds the project closer to it's nostalgic first-person adventure roots. That's not so say that the entire soundtrack is programmed MIDI - many of the tracks feature a live instrument or two, or a live preformed midi instrument (for example a piano). Ultimately I would say I'm targeting a fidelity level similar to Donkey Kong Country Returns, Fire Emblem Awaking, and A Link Between Worlds - all do a great job feeling modern with their production while still retaining the "retro" vibe of their predecessors.

Making Music

As we get closer to release we'll start revealing more of the soundtrack, but for now you can listen to some of my work for the game in our various trailers and gameplay videos.

Until next time!


Monday, October 10, 2016

Thoughts on OC3 and Heading to IndieCade

James here for our weekly development post! This last week I was fortunate to attend Oculus Connect 3 at the San Jose Convention Center in the center of Silicon Valley. Having grown up in Santa Clara, a mere 15 minute drive from San Jose, I felt very much at home attending this conference. This meant that I knew to head to a Philz coffee before heading to the conference.

They must use magic beans to make coffee that good!

VR Software is Leading the Way

The underlying theme of the event seemed to be proving that great software experiences are eminently important to helping VR go mainstream. The hardware across many VR platforms is stupendous, and now it is up to us developers to make experiences which sing on those platforms. While improvements and optimizations on the computational and SDK side are going to allow developers to push more impressive graphics over time, we have only scratched the surface of what kinds of experiences are possible on existing hardware. 

In between talks and meetings I was able to try out some of the latest and greatest VR titles. Especially memorable was the multiplayer mode of Lone Echo, which I’ll describe as a cross between the epic zero-g combat of Ender’s Game combined with the Quidditch-esque goal of scoring by throwing a disc into a hoop. Another wonderful multiplayer experience I got to try was Eagle’s Flight, in which players warg into the perspective of the titular eagle and fly over Paris while playing capture the flag against other soaring eagles. 
Classic "VR face"
Most impressive to me were the improvements brought to Oculus Medium, a sculpting tool which demonstrates that 3D modeling can be accessible and fun with the right tools. The three founding members of White Lotus Interactive, myself included, first learned how to use 3D tools while attending Chapman University in Southern California. One of the skills that must be learned to make 3D art is how to move around and inspect your model or scene. So far, the tools typically used to do so include a mouse, keyboard, and a 2-dimensional monitor. Students must become adept at keyboard shortcuts and operations to even look at or edit their model. This is not the case in Oculus Medium. What VR headsets and hand controllers allow for is direct and lifelike inspection of a 3D model. Instead of rotating your viewport 180 degrees to look at the backside of your model, you just....move your head and look at the backside of your model! It’s seriously magical.

I made this dragon in just a couple minutes!
How does our game XING: The Land Beyond fit into the picture? By fully supporting motion controllers, offering multiple locomotion options, and supporting seated or room-scale play we are prepared to give players an excellent VR experience. We implemented these things so that players are comfortable in VR and hopefully able to forget about the hardware, and just become engrossed in the experience. Having now finished making most of the tough decisions on designing for VR, what remains is shipping a quality game that speaks for itself. 

Presenting at IndieCade on PSVR

This coming Friday gamers will be able to play XING: The Land Beyond at IndieCade in Culver City, which lasts October 14-16. Although XING can be played using a tracked DualShock controller on PlayStation VR, at IndieCade players will be able to use the Move controllers to engage with the world directly. 

Koriel will be heading to IndieCade on Saturday, so make sure to stop by and say hello if you’re attending! 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Starting a Weekly Check-In Post!

Hi All!

So for those who have been following us, you may have noticed our dev blog update posts have become fewer and more far-between over the past year. This is partly because we were working so hard on development and trying to finish the game that we aren't scheduling time to make posts, and partly because as we get closer, we were worried about spoiling any parts of the game trying to look for things to post.

A New Calendar for Posting Online

However, we recently hired a great guy to help us out with PR and Marketing named Alex Payne. He laid out a posting schedule and plan for us for the coming months to follow, so that we can be more transparent with our followers, and connect more with everyone who is interested in the game! He's given us a lot of suggestions about things that we can post that will be mainly spoiler-free: things like cool in-game assets we have made to display and showcase, holiday-themed posts, sharing images and technical achievements on Twitter, and a weekly blog update that will come out every Monday (starting today!).

Marketing an indie game is pretty tough, and we've read a lot of post-mortems on what other indie devs have tried. Some were successful, others were not. We hope to be in the "successful" list as we inch closer to our release. That means spending more time on engaging with you guys, our readers, while also maintaining a constant flow of energy and work on the actual game itself.


In the spirit of being transparent, here are some things we just want to say:

1. A Full Build!

    • We have recently made a full build of the game, which we have had close friends and family members play from beginning to end. This means that pretty soon (probably within the next 2 months) we will be going into our Private Beta phase, where we will have our Kickstarter backers who backed for the beta get to play the game and give us their feedback.
    • This is an exciting and scary time, since we will be allowing people we don't know at all, and can't watch over have access to the game in the state it is in. As a developer, it's a tough thing to trust in other people to not share your work on YouTube or anything else like that before it is completed, since there is always that risk, even with NDAs. We haven't spent all this time trying to make it amazing to then have it be shared before it's ready. However, the exciting part will be gaining new perspectives on the overall feel and structure of the game that are not friends or family, or people at conventions who we can meet and watch play. 

2. Polish

    • While having a full build of the game is super exciting, it doesn't at all mean that it's done. We have 4 sections of levels that still need quite a bit of work, including the final level, along with a bunch of polish work that needs to be done. 
    • This polish work includes things like making sure the materials on objects are seamless (so that unsightly seams don't break the immersion), adding sound effects for everything, general bug fixes, testing all of the collision, vertex painting models all over the levels to mask repetition in textures, adding particle effects to EVERYTHING BECAUSE THEY ARE AWESOME, and making sure that the story flows and makes sense now that the pieces are in place.


3. The Game Maker's Path

    • For us, making this game was never a perfectly set path with steps to follow to completion. 
    • We've learned and grown a ton as we've made more and more advancements in overall game design, as well as both visual and written narrative. Everything we do is basically learned from what we can find online - tutorials, picking apart how other people made things, and making our own tools to aid in development. 

4. Visual Look and Style

    • Our style has changed bit by bit over the past 3 years of development. I made a graphic showcasing this change about a year and a half  ago, and now I'll show you where we are today. 
August 2014
October 2016
    • This change has a lot to do with the new technologies for rendering things that are being made on a daily basis, as well as our own growth and knowledge. John is our main Tech Art guy, among many other things, and he is always trying to make sure the visual quality of the game is where we want it. Sometimes it's tough to keep up with the times, since the longer it has taken us to make this game, the better graphics have become. Our goal is to have XING be a beautiful, immersive and modern-looking game the day it comes out.

5. Company Face

    • Every company has a face that it shows to the world, and ours has been no different. Some people might be annoyed at the PR and Marketing agenda that lies behind the face of all these companies, because very few companies show "who" they really are. Of course, it makes sense not to give away everything you are doing at your company, as a lot of things are under contract not to talk about. However, we want to be different. 
    • The three of us - John, James and I - all want the world to know who we are and what we really think. The three of us make up White Lotus Interactive, and so far I don't think we've done the best job at showing our true characters. That's why each of us will take turns writing these dev blogs, in the hopes that you will see the different "faces" of us, and how we work together.

    • How do we work together? On Google Hangouts, 6 days a week. 11am to 11pm Pacific time. Some days with bigger deadlines run longer, of course, but we mainly stick to that schedule.
    • We try to examine all the possibilities and solutions to issues, especially when we don't all agree. Sometimes we have to just sit down and discuss what we each think are the most important things to be working on, and how we each think any part of the game feels at any given time. Since we are all equals in making this game, nothing big really gets decided on until the 3 of us can come to an agreement on it. This differentiates us from most studios, with a set structure for leaders. 
    • For us, we are all 3 leaders, and all 3 followers. In the hopes of making a better, more well-rounded game, we will hold discussions on issues ranging from color choice (mostly my area) to how we should best integrate Virtual Reality for motion controllers or locomotion. Yeah, that's been a big one. (We were glad our solutions we presented in our last post [link] pleased almost everyone who commented. That took a WHILE to decide on.)

6. Us

    • Since starting the game in college, the 3 of us have worked our butts off making this game. We pour our heart and souls into making it everything we envision.
    • We each still live at home with our parents, while most of our friends have already moved out and taken jobs at larger companies. Our situation has added some strain on our families. I'm currently 25 years old, and it's both wonderful and frustrating to be still living at home. Wonderful because my parents still take care of me, while I pay a small rent with my bills each month; frustrating because I really want to be out my own, with my own place, my own food and my own curfew ><. 
    • Money has been a challenge for us, but fortunately we were able to get 2 company loans earlier this year that are making it possible for us to continue working as we do. 

7. The Future After XING

    • It's hard to talk about the future, when we aren't sure what it will hold for us. Whether XING: The Land Beyond is successful or not is obviously a large factor for the 3 of us. And by "successful", I mean allows each of us some mobility after launch. We want to touch as many people as we can with our game, but I would also like to move out of my parent’s house and maybe even have an actual office instead of my bedroom. That would be nice. So while we plan to offer support in the form of patches and bug fixes post-launch, we can’t speak too much about our plans after XING releases.
    • If people end up liking, or even loving what we've done, and we can make a living on continuing to make games, that will be success. 
Hopefully, posting more often and being more transparent will help us connect to you guys better. More news to come. Feel free to leave us comments!