mercoledì 29 febbraio 2012

The real sawmill

Despite the lack of a vast literature on the topic, Anna's plot is based on a collation of several accounts gathered from local folklore and legends.

That's why we decided not to use a single source: we've tried instead to recreate into the game all the most interesting features about the culture and the way of living in the D'Ayas Valley.

Wherever you are, while investigating small towns and old communities such as these, there's always some ghost story to be found!

Moreover, in the past that very sawmill was theatre of a murder: they say a jealous lumberjack slaughtered his own family, wife and sons... and now their cursed souls are still roaming into the wilds during each night storm (reference here: link).

Here are some photos of the sawmill:

The real sawmill - exterior

The real sawmill - interior

The real sawmill - exterior

The real sawmill - interior

The real sawmill - exterior

mercoledì 22 febbraio 2012

Three Anna's game screenshots

Here's some new in-game WIP screenshots taken from the sawmill interior.

We are also working on a trailer to show you the game in action. We will launch it on March 7. Stay tuned.

Click to enlarge - Screenshot WIP

Click to enlarge - Screenshot WIP

Click to enlarge - Screenshot WIP

mercoledì 15 febbraio 2012

Interacting with the world in "Anna"

Anna is primarily a point-and-click adventure, but it has some specific bells and wistles that makes it expand its genre to a broader definition.

Let's see what I'm talking about. Please, be aware that everything you see here is still strongly WIP.

The base interface is quite simple: you can move around the world with the usual "first-person shooter" controls: mouse and WASD. Nice and easy. When the crosshair goes on an object, you'll see its name on the screen. Then, pressing the left mouse button, the interface will appear.

Anna Interface has three verbs: Examine, Pick up and Use.

Moving the mouse pointer on the preferred verb and releasing the button will execute the command.

Pressing "I" you'll get in the Inventory, where you'll be able to do all the classic point-and-click operations: combine objects, use the objects with the environment and so on. Very nice and easy.

Something interesting in "Anna" is that you can pick up everything that looks like it can be picked up: you can take whatever you want, even stuff which is completely unrelated with puzzles. Using the inventory commands, you can also remove them from your inventory: the object will fall on the ground, where, if you want, you'll be able to pick it up again.

Doors, closets and drawers are opened in a natural way: when you see the "hand" icon, you can grab an object pressing the right mouse button and move it with a natural mouse movement. This has been done to increase the phisicity in the world and give a little more the sensation to be there.

Hang on because we're going to have a set of screenshots very soon! To ease the pain, here's one: 

And now some answers to your questions!

Q: Is this game related with the homicide in Cogne?
A: No, "Anna" is completely unrelated with the dreadful events in Cogne. "Anna" has been inspired by ancient legends in Val D'Ayas and its location is set between Champoluc and Periasc, which are around 100Km from Cogne.  

Q: Does the game feature real time rendering or has pre-rendered scenarios?
A: "Anna" features real time rendering with explorable environments.  

Q: What engine are you using?
A: We are using the Unity engine.  

Q: Are you going to provide Italian translation to the game?
A: Yes, we are.  

Q: Are you going to go to Steam?
A: We'd love to :)  

Q: Are you planning to port "Anna" on other platforms apart from PC?
A: Right now our main interest is to provide the best playing experience on PC, using its capabilities to provide the kind of game we want.  

Q: Is the game really only 3 hours long?
A: The game features 3 different endings, which are triggered according to your behaviour in the game. "Anna" will provide you different paths, environments and puzzles according to the path you're walking, providing you 3 different experiences, each one of around 3 hours. This means that exploring "Anna" will take you around 9 hours, or so.

mercoledì 8 febbraio 2012

Physically based rendering in “Anna”

While analyzing the rendering needs for “Anna”, I was trying to find a good solution to provide the required amount of realism and a simple tuning.

As we know, there are many approximations to light behavior: we have the Lambert model, the Phong model, the Blinn-Phong model and so on.

All these models are fine, but I needed something better to provide a distinctive look to “Anna”.

So I chose a set of physically based models. I chose the “Oren-Nayar” reflectance model for the diffuse light and the Phong model, with a Fresnel approximation made by Schlick.

Oren-Nayar reflectance model

Oren-Nayar model tries to approximate the diffuse light behavior with rough surfaces, as the Lambert model (the most used model for diffuse light) will not provide a good enough approximation. An example of rough surfaces are concrete, stone, wood and fabric.

A good example of a rough surface is the moon:

It's possible to notice that the amount of scattered light does not really decrease much from the various points on the surface, even at the border. In technical terms, there's almost no “limb darkening”.

As opposite example, limb darkening is well visible on a bowling ball:

It's clearly possible to see limb darkening on the Sun (and other stars), but that's for a completely different reason.

Most of the objects in “Anna” are made of rough stone and wood, so Oren Nayar seems to fit exactly our needs.

This model works to provide this kind of curve (Wikipedia):

It's possible to notice how Oren-Nayar model gets a lot closer to measurements (which is real life) than regular Lambert model.

It's important to say that with no roughness, Lambert model and Oren-Nayar model behaves in the same way, as smooth objects have a behavior similar to the Lambert model.

Phong model with Schlick Fresnel

Phong model is widely used. The alternative is the Blinn-Phong model, which uses a half-vector and is less expensive. For “Anna” I decided to use the Phong model, as I think it provides a nice specular.

Schlick Fresnel is an approximation of the full Fresnel calculation: it's less expensive than the full calculation, but still provides a great looking Fresnel, which is physically accurate, as it will conserve the energy.

Here's a couple example:

This image is with Oren-Nayar and Phong with Fresnel approximation: you can notice the small specular hilight (I selected a Fresnel behavior which is fine for dielectric materials) and little limb darkening. This is how that material would behave in real life.

This is with regular Lambert calculation and no Fresnel approximation:

You can see how it gets unnaturally lit.

To better understand the Fresnel approximation and the energy conservation, let's have a look from behind:

Notice how the specular hilight becomes strong: this is what would happen in real life looking an object from that angle.

Without using the fresnel approximation, the light does not behave in a Physically correct way, as a lot of energy gets lost.

This is it for this week: next week we'll provide more screenshots and some new informations about the game!
Release Date

Anna” has now a release date! Well, almost, but we're almost there: it will be released during April 2012! Get ready, then, for some psychological horror!

Dreampainters team

mercoledì 1 febbraio 2012

Anna lives!

Hiya guys/gals!

We're the Dreampainters, a group of Italian indie developers set up by Simone "Karat45" Tagliaferri (design), Davide "3David" Del Sorbo (graphics) and the Dreampainters team (programming).

The "indies4indies” team helped us by taking care of all in-game voice overs.

We're glad to introduce you to Anna, a brand new 3D adventure game based on real footage taken from the D’Ayas Valley, in Valle d’Aosta, an Alpine region in north-western Italy. The plot follows an authentic folklore tale, directly recorded by us first hand from several village elders and historical documents alike.

Anna is a short adventure game set in and around an old sawmill near Champoluc and Periasc, a real-world environment we've faithfully recreated. The game features six, highly detailed locations to explore, in which your alter ego should navigate a wide range of situations, ranging from solving puzzles to facing the eerie presences that haunt the surroundings.

Depending on the mental status of your character (which is determined by your actions), you're tasked with navigating your way through ever-changing places along with their well hidden clues, eventually leading you to one of three possible endings.

At a budget price tag, the game itself has been designed as an interactive three-hour singleplayer horror experience.

The OST was performed by the budding “Chantry” gothic band, now on their 2nd album “Crystal”.

The game is a PC exclusive, featuring state-of-the-art models and shaders that take advantage of the latest technologies available to us through the power of new developments in graphics hardware.

Here are some WIP teasers of the sawmill exterior to wet your appetite.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

click to enlarge
(English text courtesy of Paolo Giaiero)