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Hidden Folks - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

The wonderful Where’s Wally ’em up Hidden Folks [official site] has added three new areas in a free update today. The centrepiece is a sprawling factory with moving production lines and some big numbers: “19,475 sprites, 3400 interactive objects, 921 characters, 540 sounds, and 28 targets,” I’m told. This is a lovely game and now there is more of it and that is great. Huzzah!

… [visit site to read more]

Hidden Folks - Adriaan


Sylvain and I (Adriaan) are SUPER proud to announce that the Factory Update is available right now!! This update comes with 3 new areas: one small area to get the hang of the new theme, one MASSIVE area - the Factory itself - and one puzzle area to finish the game (for now!).

Also: new Factory Update trailer!!! *click on thing below here*

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZ5GcDePU8A
beep beep boop boop rktkrktkrktkrktkrktkrktktkrktkrkrktkrktkrkt hey! bbbrrrdddbbbppp brrr bbppp brrrrdrrr!

With 19,475 sprites, 3400 interactive objects, 921 characters, 540 sounds, and 28 targets, the Factory is by far the most complicated area we've ever made. You probably saw our making-of posts of the Factory over the last three days, but in case you missed them, check 'em out here!



Also in this update:
  • 8 new languages: Arabic, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Czech, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.
  • Many small iterations to targets and clues of previous areas.
  • Improved a lot of the sound mixing throughout the game.
  • Massive performance optimisations!
  • ... and more! Check out the changelog on the forums.
This update wouldn't have happened without the support of many of you: the translators, the beta testers, all the players leaving heart-warming reviews on our store page, all the players giving suggestions or commenting on our forums, the streamers, let's play-ers, and video makers, and all the other players who reached out to us, liked or retweeted our posts, or just lurked our feeds for all those juicy GIFs! A big THANK YOU to all of you!!!!

As you guys and girls keep refuelling our motivation to continue working on Hidden Folks, this is what we plan to do next:
  1. Android.
  2. Secret feature.
  3. New areas.
  4. ?????.
But for now: HAVE FUN with the new Factory!!!!

- Adriaan de Jongh & Sylvain Tegroeg
Hidden Folks - Adriaan
In this third post of Hidden Folks’ Factory announcement series, I (Adriaan) talk about the targets, their clues, playtesting, community translation... and I announce the targets of the Factory!

In our day 1 and day 2 posts, you read how we put together the stories and graphics of each area and how we added interactions, systems, and sounds to each scene. It is after all that stuff that we start thinking about the targets, the things you’ll have to find in the area. Both Sylvain and I make suggestions for targets based on the stories and the interactions in the game. We then go through our suggestions and cherrypick the targets based on a lot of parameters: whether the player has used the interaction required to find it before, whether there are other targets nearby, whether a target would have an interesting story to tell, how many interactions would be required to find a target, how difficult it is to see the target, etc.

(I almost put a map of Factory's potential targets here. Would have been a MASSIVE spoiler.)

So, we pick a bunch of targets and then reshape parts of the map to really make the targets fit in with their environment. We then ask my good friend Bram van Dijk to help us come up with the clues for the targets.



I’ll try to make sure a clue retains it’s “clue value”, the information that actually tells you anything at all about the whereabouts of the target, while Bram tries to make something funny out of it. Not the laughing-out-loud kind of funny, but the haha-omg-what-a-silly-joke kind of funny. A kind of 'funny' that, once you get it, you're like "pffffff alright I get it...". Yeah. Anyway - after coming up with a bunch of clues we're satisfied with, Sylvain and I reshape the area again if we feel that's needed to clarify the clue, but most importantly: we playtest the area.



We tell people to head over to a beta branch of Hidden Folks here on Steam and ask playtesters to record their session with the game. I watch every minute of every playtest to get a grip on people’s experiences. In general, those playtests lead to todo lists with hundreds of small and big things to be fixed. There are always a lot of sorting issues, and the specific wording of a hint will often distract players in ways we don’t intend to. So we reshape parts of the map again, rewrite a lot of the hints, fix all the bugs, and then ask the awesome community surrounding Hidden Folks to help us translate all the clues. Here's an unreadable snippet of the much, much larger shared Google Sheet the translators do their thing in:



The cool thing about Google Sheets is not just that it is super simple for people to use, but also that its API allow the translators to download their translation into a special version of the game (another beta branch on Steam) and see their text in the game, right after they translated it, without my intervention! Which is toooootally rad. Phew, technology these days.

However.... it turns out translating a game isn't as easy as just putting a bunch of words in a text field. We write all clues and jokes in English, which has two big downsides: a saying or rhyme that works in English will probably not work in any other language, and English doesn't have gendered words. This kept annoying the community (ughh so sorry folks) but their efforts and creativity is what really saved us there: translators kept talking among themselves about the meaning of the clues, tested their translations in-game to see if the clues fitted a target's context, and worked with me revising the clues when things were too unclear or just plain bad.



I wanted to mention that having such a wonderful and active group of people around me (see the in-game credits) was ultimately the reason to put that extra bit of care into the game, mostly because it was so nice to talk to people who obviously cared about what Sylvain and I were making for such a long time already. As a game developer, it's easy to forget sometimes that you're making a game for real people and that every minute of effort you put in it could translate to the enjoyment of others. With Hidden Folks, the community made that enjoyment - the result of our efforts - really tangible for me. So... thanks fam <3

When all hints are translated by the awesome community and all known bugs are fixed, we go through the game a couple more times to try to spot layering issues, sound-related issues, and other tiny bugs. Then, finally, I can compile a release candidate! (And then I test some more, and do QA... but I won't go into that today.)



When there's a Windows, Mac, and Linux build of the game on Steam and an iOS and tvOS build up for review on the Apple App Store, Sylvain and I then fully switch our attention over to finding ways to tell people about the update and sharing our excitement about it with you all! And this marks the end of the development process of the areas in Hidden Folks! If you are still reading this: awesome; definitely let me know in the comments if there was something that really surprised you in our three behind-the-scenes posts. Also let me know in the comments if there's something you'd like to see or hear more about in the future!

Now, as a final announcement before the Factory update releases tomorrow, here are the 28 targets of the new Factory scene:

Not only intern Ivo’s motivation is far below zero: so is he.

In this jungle of boxes, forklift spotter Sally found a particularly rare species. Look at that power! What a beauty!

Muhammad had a whole different idea of a boxing ring.

Yoko has the memory of a goldfish. Set her rollercoaster in motion and every lap will be a new and thrilling ride to her!

1. Heat the pan with no oil. 2. Throw your sausage in the pan. 3. Wait. 4. Wait some more. 5. Add some freezing foam topping. 6. Your perfect burned sausage is ready!

Nemo thinks he's safe behind glass, but he's an easy catch in open water...

Jasmin is so attached to her car, she will never leave it! Ever! Never ever! Never, never ever!

Are you serious, Toyoti? You need to be pulled out of a car again?!

Robby - whooping back and forth. Forever.

Bling-bling in da lock-r! yo yo yo yo

Daan will be dry in a second.

When this plant saw the end was near it decided to end the ride itself.

Garden fork. Garden. Fork. Get it?

How much Bruno is left in storage?

The high security warden is a key figure in this hiding scheme.

Sigge likes watching them sweat. So energetic! Power from the people!

What looks like an ordinary glass ball is, as a matter of fact, worth a hundred thousand Follars. It won't come as a surprise to you to know they safely locked it away.

From mechanic Melisa's point of view, it's pretty clear the chassis is broken.

To find Kiki, just follow the trail of a specific kind of fruit.

Conductor Stokowski rehearses with his orchestra. The horns are doing great tonight!

Mermaid Arial is chillin' hard underwater. Blub is a way of life.

"One more minute!" Huy yells, even though he has been clean for hours.

Nicotine isn't strong enough for Hot Hira; she needs something else to light her up.

Tammie is so TIREd of counting.

Toma was surprised her tire was delivered so quickly! But seriously; the assembly line needs optimization.

Armless Ayaz has to get out at the next stop! Let's just hope someone presses the stop button for him...

Train inspector Mark double checked the numbers and is certain this barrel train needs exactly one more barrel before it can depart.

Trainspotter Tara spotted a spot-on spot to spot some trains!

Trash pusher Page - someone's gotta do it, y'know, push the trash back and forth.



Your search for these folks and objects starts tomorrow!!
Hidden Folks - Adriaan
In yesterday’s announcement, Sylvain and I (Adriaan) announced that the Factory update will release on June 15th (HYPE) and we talked about the process of putting together the graphics and stories in the world. Today, I’ll try to explain in a non-technical way how we continue to add interactions and systems to those graphics, and sound designer Martin Kvale will step in to show you what sounds do with the Hidden Folks areas.

Making the interactions in Hidden Folks starts with Sylvain placing the pulled-apart objects in an ‘Interaction scene’. I then go through this scene and slowly put things together while writing code for new functionality if necessary. As an example, most interactions in Factory consist of only a few interactive scripts: rotators, sliders, and buttons. Here are a few GIFs that should give you a vague idea of the kind of technology behind it:



In the image above, you can see that the handle has a slider script that 'talks' to every part of the robotic arm individually. When you put the stuff together, it looks way more complicated - but also more coherent - than it actually is.



The crane has various different kinds of components: slider scripts for the pokes, a script to move and a script to stretch the crane's line, a script for the magnet to follow the end of the line, and scripts on the magnet to be able to pick up things.



In this image, the button on the top left creates a crate and assigns it to the conveyor belt, who then moves the crate to the button that determines which conveyor belt to send the crate to next.



In the example above, you can see that the vault wheel changes the water level of the basin, it makes the air pockets stretch up and down, and it makes the water levels in the canisters go up and down. What you see here is 6 different systems talking to each other. Pretty cool, I think! Without spoiling it too much, here is a GIF highlighting different parts of a system in the small area you'll get to play before the big Factory, a system of which you've already seen all components individually in previous GIFs:



I can already hear some of you asking: "So where's that Steam Workshop integration so we can put shit together outselves?!" Well.... my component-based system built in Unity has three relevant drawbacks:
  1. If I want things slightly different, I need to add functionality to a script by actually coding stuff. What's relevant to say here is that I need to add functionality without breaking any of the 1000 other systems that use it. This is... tricky, to say the least. If I wasn't a programmer, this would have constrained my creativity a lot!
  2. In order to get the results you want, you'll really have to know all the in's and out's of all scripts and know how to combine them. It's really hard for me not to get too technical here, but some scripts like the conveyor belt scripts pass objects to each other ("Here's a box! Do with it whatever you want!"), while others just pass numbers to each other ("The player dragged this slider to the max!"), and many don't even pass on input at all but just do whatever they want ("I'm just rotating here, don't mind me"). In other words: my code is a mess and only I (Adriaan) really know how its components can work together. This is the reason I put all interactions together and Sylvain keeps his distance from it, and it's also the biggest reason you won't see Steam Workshop support for Hidden Folks. There's just waaaaay too many implicit rules that would take me months to write down.
  3. Finally, and this is a very technical thing, the components I wrote make use of Unity's event system all the time throughout the project, which constraints making areas in Hidden Folks to use the Unity game engine, which would force a potential Steam Workshop feature to happen inside the Unity engine, basically asking players to make the game from scratch like we do. This would be ridiculous.
So anyway... Everything you find in Hidden Folks that moves or responds was put together or touched by me. The new Factory has exactly 3800 interactive objects that were each carefully put together and placed within their own system. Here's a few highlights:











You'll figure out how these and all the other interactions in the Factory work once you get your hands on them June 15th! :D

Another thing that we put a lot of effort into are the sounds. Even though Sylvain and I recorded every sound you can hear in the game, we asked sound designer Martin Kvale to do the mixing. I'm handing the mic over to Martin to tell you all about sounds in Hidden Folks! Martin?

----

AGGHUM, yes, hi, I'm Martin! Adriaan and Sylvain asked me to take good care of the audio in the game. They had already done heaps of great sounds effects, but needed someone like me to make the areas really come alive in terms of sound. I've primarily been placing sound in the areas, as well as balancing the sound volumes throughout the game. I also designed a system to manage the volume and reverb of ambient sounds throughout the game.

From the very start of my collaboration with Adriaan and Sylvain, they made it clear they wanted all sounds to be mouth made, unedited, and all made by Adriaan and Sylvain. This separates it from games like Eggggg and Burly Men at Sea who use human voices but modify it somewhat, as well as having music playing in the background.

The process of recording was done in batches, usually over Skype, with me on one end of the call listening (with my microphone muted) to the sounds Adriaan and Sylvain made, giving them suggestions on what to try next. Here's an example of me editing Adriaan making vulture sounds:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poz0wVPJNbA
After our recording sessions, I would cut the sounds out of the recorded track, pick the best ones, and either add them to objects in the game or add them as ambient sounds to an area. For the pleasure of your ears, here's some really good sheep sounds you hear in the farm area of Hidden Folks:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gwihFZ-QSo
(Fun fact: Adriaan once won an audio award during the Global Game Jam for these sheep sounds.)

Since we used only sounds made with human voice and did not heavily process those sounds, our concern was that crucial sound effects would get lost or obstructed when a myriad of other sound effects would continuously play as well. If you, for instance, find the chicken in the chicken coop, there's a corresponding 'found it + pling' sound that for the satisfaction of finding something is important to hear - but if there are 20 other sounds playing at that same time, you wouldn't hear a single thing! On top of that: I was concerned about listening fatigue as mosts sounds are in a similar frequency range, which could potentially wear out people's interests in the sounds entirely.

In the video below, I show our solution to these two problems. In short, we differentiate areas by grouping together certain ambient sounds depending on their location on the map. As a result, some places sound busy, some sound sparse, some sound hectic, and some sound calm. So when you play, you won't just be bombarded with exciting sound effects all the time, but you'll also get some rest here and there.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOAwtmh3tIg
In addition to having the ambience change when you scroll around on the map, we added an effect to zooming in and out to reflect you moving closer or further away from the action. Not that zooming only affects the ambient sounds, not the sound effects that happen when you click and interact with something. Here's an example of the zooming in City:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPn6zDWXyI0
All in all, these videos show the principles and methods we've used to craft the living world of Hidden Folks. I could probably keep talking about the sounds for much longer, but this should suffice for now :)

I hope you will have a lovely time seeking out funny sounds in the new Factory!! Back to you, Adriaan!

---

Thanks Martin Kvale! This wraps up the second post in preparation for the Factory update on Thursday, June 15th. Read the next post here.
Hidden Folks - Adriaan
Yooooooo!

Sylvain and I (Adriaan) are SUPER proud to announce that this Thursday, June 15th, we will release the free Factory Update on Steam (and iOS) that adds the most complicated area to Hidden Folks we’ve ever made. The Factory has almost 30 targets, dozens of new interactions, hundreds of new sounds, and thousands of tiny stories.

In the three days leading up to the update, Sylvain and I have prepared three graphic-heavy posts, one per day, in which we show and talk about what makes us so excited for it. In today's post: Sylvain’s drawings and the hundreds of stories he puts together.



Like everything in Hidden Folks, the Factory started on paper. Sylvain uses a fineliner to draw every single element we’ll eventually want to place in the game. Sylvain and I brainstorm on the theme and possible sub-themes that could work well with interactions, after which Sylvain enters The Zone™ and just draws whatever comes to mind. After drawing a bunch of things, Sylvain scans them and (manually) places them in a sprite sheet.



Every theme in Hidden Folks has somewhere between 3 and 8 of these sprite sheets, and every area and every story you see is in the game is made up of the elements in those images.

Funny side-track: when Sylvain and I started working on Hidden Folks about three years ago, he decided to buy a somewhat medium-quality / cost-efficient scanner for the project. When that scanner broke down recently, he used a better scanner for a while only to discover that his digital drawings suddenly looked very different, and so we bought that same low-budget scanner just to make sure all Hidden Folks drawings look consistent.

Anyway - once we have those sprite sheets, we give everything a name, drag the elements into the area and sort them, one by one, so that they appear where you’d expect them to appear:



Oh my god I literally discovered today how awesome these putting-stuff-together GIFs are!! Here's two more for fun:





Drag stuff in the scene 19,475 times and you have the Factory:



(btw, this is not a joke: 19,475 is the actual amount of sprites in Factory!)

The image above might be a little unreadable, but we are getting ahead of ourselves here anyway. Because when we start working on a new area in the game, we first make an ‘interaction scene’ where Sylvain puts together all the interactions of a theme in one scene. One small section of this scene:



With this scene, I can start working on the technical side of the interactions while Sylvain can focus on putting together a rough layout with our ideas for sub-themes spread across the map. With a rough layout indicating how certain sub-themes make up sub-areas, Sylvain starts filling in the map, organically growing each sub-area bit by bit, while I add scripts to certain visuals to make them interactive - to give each sub-area not only a distinctive look, but also a distinctive feel.



As you can see in the GIF above, we revise the area quite a lot! Halfway through the process, we might decide to scrape half of the level as we did for the train yard in the Factory. During this process of filling up an area, Sylvain and I will continuously talk about the stuff we make and inspire each other for more elements and interactions. Even though it’s a lot of work, this is where all the fun and magic happens. Some of the things that happen in this phase:
  • we try to make sure that the sub-areas are as distinct as possible so that when we add targets to them, the clues those targets get can point at those sub-areas as a way of indication an area as opposed to a single point or scenario.
  • we try to spread the density of the interactions so that not everything happens only at specific parts of the map.
  • together with sound designer Martin Kvale, we think about how the areas will sound and how that may influence the layout.
  • we add and remove sub-areas based on their flow on the map or based on the interactions.
  • we add characters and 'character randomizers', which decide the visuals and animations of the characters all around the scene.
  • a thousand other things... ??
At this point in the process, most of the stuff we do really comes together visually. The following images are a couple of highlights of the stuff you will find in the new Factory area as a result of this step in the process:

















Now that there is a whole map filled with stories and scenarios and cool looking places, I take over to put together the systems and interactions in scene that make it more lively. Think about cars, trains, conveyor belts, many small interactions, and sounds (although at this point Martin probably adds more sounds to objects than we do). This is what the next article is all about!
Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (RPS)

2017 has already been an extraordinary year for PC games, from both big-name AAA successes to no-name surprise indie smashes. Keeping up with so much that’s worth playing is a tough job, but we’ve got your back. Here is a collection of the games that have rocked the RPS Treehouse so far this year.

We’ve all picked our favourites, and present them here in alphabetical order so as not to start any fights. You’re bound to have a game you’d have wanted to see on the list, so please do add it to the comments below. … [visit site to read more]

Hidden Folks - Adriaan
Exactly one month ago, Sylvain and I (Adriaan) released Hidden Folks. It's all been a little overwhelming for us; the bugs (I'm working on it!), the questions, the requests... but honestly; it's really been freaking amazing and it warms our hearts to see nearly all of you enjoy the game so much and longing for more!!

Thank you. We are truly grateful!!!!!

What blows my mind most is this:



Overwhelmingly Positive!!! Whhhoooaaaa! To be honest: I wasn't quite expecting the Steam audience (you) to find us here, with so many amazing titles made by huge teams with bigger production values and massive marketing teams to make sure you heard about the game. But here we are, having been in the Top Sellers list for almost a month! And not only did a lot of you find and buy the game, many of you have also finished it or getting close to it.



One more thing I wanted to mention is our forum moderators: palex00, scallysche, mindbokeh - you three are the best!! A few other members on the forums also helped translating Chinese posts, which was both awesome and absolutely necessary, for which I am super grateful as well! (I'm still looking for someone to help me moderate those in the future because frankly I don't speak Chinese!) You're all the best community really. <3

Sooooo.... I guess it's time for the new areas, right? Well, they're getting there; let me update you on our current status:

Sylvain and I have been cooling down last week, recovering from the very intense weeks around the release and my trip to the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco (where I gave two talks and talked business with businessmen and -woman. hrhrhrhr.). This Monday I started working on fixes for some of the harder bugs that were reported, and I've sent various bug reports by you guys and girls over to Unity (the game engine we used to build Hidden Folks). In the mean time, Sylvain has started drawing and implementing more Factory theme interactions. We already explored the theme a year ago but threw it out before the release because we needed it to be better and more interactive. A little under-development sneak preview:



On our schedule right now (in this order):
- bugfixes (touchscreens should work SOON)
- three new areas
- secret new feature
- optimisations to bring the game to Android
- more areas?
- suggestions?

I don't have any dates for you yet. You'll hear it here first when we've got something to announce!

And then..... there is the fan music:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCa8AEMtmkI

Awesome, right? :P
Hidden Folks - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

John has already reviewed Hidden Folks [official site], an exquisitely illustrated game that is like an animated Where’s Wally? book. He used the term “Wimmelbilderbuch” in the review and I like looking at those letters in that order, and I like trying to say the word even more. As a game Hidden Folks is a lot like that word – just poking at it and looking at the screen makes me happier, and I hope I can enjoy its company forever.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (John Walker)

Perhaps the most important thing about Hidden Folks [official site] is how it manages to contain so much unabashed happiness. Taking the Where’s Wally concept and making it far more complex, despite being in black and white, these intricate wimmelbilderbuch art drawings (got to use it again!) burst with silly life. Click on anything and something will happen, whether it’s birds squawking and taking off, monkeys falling out of trees, boats sailing further down a river, hay bales rolling across a field, or doors opening to reveal people sitting on the toilet, each is accompanied by a man-made sound effect. Which is both daft and wonderful, which are the two words that best describe Hidden Folks. … [visit site to read more]

...

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