Happy Halloween!

October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween Everyone!

We've got some game footage to share! These are direct screen captures recorded from live gameplay. Enjoy!

So, I'd hoped to be releasing the game now, but development's taking longer than we expected. Trust me, that's as frustrating to us as it is to you; we definitely want to put this thing out to the world!

Nonetheless, we're making steady progress, and we're excited about the game moving forward.

We've hired a couple new modelers who are doing amazing work! Several times, these past couple weeks, my daughter's called me out for staring at my screen, grinning like a goob when i get new renders! The new stuff that's coming in looks great.

Programming

Matt's been programming the hint and taunt system, which we've modified to feel more natural during gameplay. He's working on the puzzle in Julia Hiene's room, and minor bug fixes for various puzzles and other issues that popup as progress evolves.

I'm programming the video content in the game, along with the system to manage timing and placement of fmv scenes. The "Room at the top" is particularly complex, with 5 endings and 7 or 8 different videos to trigger on different events.

Video

Peder's finishing up editing footage for Tad's storyline. Richmond's storyline is all but complete, aside from one pivotal scene in the chapel. Without spoiling anything, it's a pretty complex scene that's going to be kind of a headache, so we're doing what I tell my kids not to do with their homework, and saving it till last. ;)

Peder's got rough cuts of the film that we periodically sit down to review. Sometimes, he'll see something that could have been a little better, or some minor little cut here or there that would improve the delivery of the scene. A month or so ago, Peder caught up with a couple of the actors to redo some of that footage.

3D Modeling

James is working hard on the Room at the Top model, which has to mesh with the video fairly concisely. So far, it's looking and functioning well without too much rework. He's been going through and updating meshes throughout several rooms to improve the game's performance.

7th Guest and The 11th Hour Steam Sale

For less than a cup of coffee, you can grab the old games from Steam. (Actually, I don't drink coffee, so that may not be true. I'm guessing coffee costs more than $2.49 tho ) Gotta hurry - the sale ends November 1st! (sorry for the late notice; just heard about it today!)

http://store.steampowered.com/app/255920/The_7th_Guest/

As always, thanks for all your support, and your patience! Happy Halloween!

Video, VR and More!

June 23, 2017

Things are steadily moving along with the game; lots to update you on!

Video

One of the biggest hurdles we're faced with is compositing video in the game. While many games have video playing fullscreen or embedded in scenes, what we're doing is a bit unorthodox, considering our videos have transparent portions that show the background of the scene behind them.

Here you can see Tad in the kitchen, in the Unity3D environment. Tad's being projected on the orange outlined plane (before you ask, he moves to the maze door, hence why there's so much whitespace).

The background of the video is transparent, allowing the 3d model of the kitchen toshow through - the pantry, phone, etc. This poses a challenge, as few video codecs support alpha (transparency), and even those that do are natively encoded to Ogg Vorbis in Unity, which doesn't include an alpha layer.

Our solution? We encode our videos double height, with the upper half being the actual video, and the lower half being a mask. Then a custom shader we found and modified does the magic, mapping the matte to the video, and cutting out the transparent portions of the mask. Here's a screenshot of a frame of the video, with Tad and the matte below:

This works quite well, but has some drawbacks, there's twice as much data in the video, and it doesn't perform as well as we want it to - particularly on older machines.

Fortunately, the recently released Unity 5.6 added new tools for better video playback. However, it was a big effort for us to get this new functionality sorted out. We had to find the right codecs to support alpha, encode the video properly, figure out the audio playback, and make code changes - all of which has been revamped in Unity, and their documentation isn't quite current. Fortunately, we got it all figured out, and things are moving along well. The video in game plays smoother, faster, and at higher framerate.

Here's a sneak peek at some game video prior to compositing in game; the Woman in White at the top of the stairs:

Video Editing

Processing and preparing the video for the game is a huge effort. We're fortunate to have Peder's help; he's finishing up the remaining videos, and hopes to have them all edited and composited within a few weeks.

Programming

Matt's been attacking the VR with his Oculus Rift, and that's going really well so far. Matt had to modify some core functionality we'd had in place for quite a while to mesh with the VR. Lots of work was involved; and the results are going to be worth all the effort.

3D Modeling

Modeling is the current bottleneck with the team. We have some very talented people working on it, but there's a lot to do, and we're a bit overwhelmed.

James has been going through the Library, Kitchen, and Music rooms, optimizing them for better framerate, and potentially future mobile versions. He's now at work updating the bathroom model.

Shane is working on the Asylum, which is very nearly finished.

A new hire to the team, Brandon, is working on Burden's room, which is looking great so far.

All in all, things are going pretty well, but there's a lot of work left to do. We're still aiming for a Halloween release, but unfortunately, that's seems a bit ambitious for us to finish, debug, and promote the game at the level of quality we're looking for.

That said, we are planning to release something playable on or before Halloween - either a demo, or an early access version of the game to tide everyone over till full release.

Thanks for hanging in there with us, and as always, thanks for all of your support!

Progress on The 13th Doll! And 7th Guest Board Game news!

April 09, 2017

Hello all!

We're hard at work on the game, time for an update! But first, some news for The 7th Guest fans:

The 7th Guest Board Game by Rob Landeros

Over at Trilobyte, they're working on a board game version of The 7th Guest! They've launched a Kickstarter, and so far it's doing very well, but they could definitely use your support! I've backed it, and can't wait for my copy; hope you all do the same!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/roblanderos/the-7th-guest-board-game

Fun fact: while we're separate from Trilobyte, our very own 3d Artist, James Bateman, has done some of the work on the board for the game! It's great to see the collaboration between the groups; I'm very proud of James and all the work being done here. Looks great!

The 13th Doll Progress

Progress is good on the game. Our goal is a Halloween release, but to be honest, that is ambitious at the current pace, so I hesitate to make that official! Nonetheless, we hope to meet that date.

3D Modeling

The main bottleneck at this point is the 3d Art; lots to do on that front. To speed it up, I've started doing some 3d modeling, and we've hired two more artists, and two others potentially.

Most of the work left is optimizing models. Some of it, is fairly tedious:

The bottle on the left is made up of 2700 polygons - the replacement on the right? 164. Essentially, the fewer polygons, the faster this can be rendered onscreen. The tradeoff is the fewer polygons, the more crude the object can look. Obviously, in this example, the difference in quality is barely noticeable.

Initially when we began work on the game, everything was going to be fixed camera, rendered by our PCs, then simply played back on the players' machine, so the polygon count didn't matter. Now that it's a realtime 3d game, where you can look around the rooms in any direction, the PC has to process all of this info, at a minimum of 30 times per second! So a lot of the work we're doing now is going back and optimizing meshes as much as possible without reducing quality. The goal is for the game to run on as many machines as possible, not just the newest ones you can buy.

Filming

Peder is back to work on the film, editing, compositing, removing the green screen, etc. Lots and lots of work, but that work is slated to be finished by July!

Programming

Matt's working on virtual reality - specifically Oculus Rift, with other devices in mind. (Someone asked about Google Cardboard on the Facebook group - right now, we can't commit to it, but it sounds amazing! We don't have android in focus just yet, but it's in the back of our minds.)

Matt's also working on Classic Navigation Mode - where you click to move to new locations, rather than using the mouse and keyboard.

He's also looking at programming a new AI puzzle for the Cemetery; should be a great puzzle once complete.

Cedar Rapids Comic Con

We showed the game off at a local convention, the Cedar Rapids Comic Con! The game was received very well, and people were taken back by the visuals, then surprised even further to see live actors in the game! A few recognized the kitchen and the foyer, and the smiles on their faces made the whole event worthwhile.

One person in particular, Tommy Tallarico, saw it, and stopped in to talk to us. In an odd coincidence, it turns out he worked on The 7th Guest as a sound engineer!?! He now runs Video Games Live, a touring concert that performs music from video games, and was in town to play the show. If you hear of it coming close to you, definitely check it out, I highly recommend it.

That's all for now guys! As always, thanks for your support and your patience!

Happy New Year!

January 01, 2017

Happy New Year!

On that note, ermmm... Happy Halloween, and Merry Christmas too. (we're a little overdue on an update.)

I always like to have a grandiose update, and put off writing one until something really substantial comes across... then too long has gone by, and I panic and think I REALLY NEED to put out a great update since it's been so long... Apologies for my weirdness... Anyway, this update isn't shiny and slick, covering something like filming new scenes, or showing the game to the public, but hopefully you'll enjoy it nonetheless.

Lately we've just been hitting the usual things - adding 3d models, programming puzzles, etc. We're making steady progress.

James has gone through a number of rooms to optimize meshes so that the game runs smoother and plays better overall. He's now working on a secret machine we call Stauf's Great Work, and creating the cemetery behind the mansion.

Shane delivered the asylum model, and we're adding in videos and puzzles to it now.

Matt's finished a few puzzles, tightened up some code all around, and is now working on some assets to send to the backers who opted to design a puzzle, which should be ready very soon.

I've been working on adding video scenes in the game, finished a pretty simple puzzle, and made some concept sketches for a few different game items.

The game, right now, is a collection of puzzles and rooms, and we're working to tie them all together into a coherent game experience.

Overall, things are moving along well. We're hoping to be finished by Halloween 2017. Fingers crossed.

The Cemetery

As mentioned above, we're creating a cemetery behind the mansion. We've decided it would be nice to add a little local touch to it, and plan to add a local landmark to it (pictured above). Should be cool.

Backer Rewards

We're getting ready to honor some rewards. Anyone who pledged over $5 on the kickstarter OR via Paypal should see their name on the backer wall of our website:

http://www.the13thdoll.com/credits.php

If you want your name to be something other than your Kickstarter alias or the name on your paypal account, please send us a mail at the following address, which we've created exclusively to manage backer rewards:

the13thdollrewards@gmail.com

Be sure to give us evidence that you're a backer - give us your email address or the paypal address you used to back us. As always, thanks for your help. Couldn't have been here without you.

As always, thanks everyone for your support! Wish you a happy 2017!

~RHK

First Public Showing Of The 13th Doll!

September 13, 2016


The 13th Doll - in the eyes of the public!

A couple weeks ago, several local Iowa game developers got together and held an event to showcase our projects to the public. Being the first real public showing of The 13th Doll, and having only ever visited such an event as an attendee, I was really nervous - totally out of my element. I had no idea what to expect, and was bracing for the worst... Fortunately, everything went extraordinarily well. We didn't track it, but I'd guess at least a hundred visitors came through, probably closer to two hundred - the perfect crowd size for a first public viewing. All of the games showed very well, The 13th Doll included.

The demo we built included the foyer, the library, dining room and kitchen. Three puzzles were included, with unique musical tracks for each room and puzzle. Six FMV (video tracks) were available to see, and the puzzle/hint system played about 30 different dialogue tracks from Stauf and Dr. Richmond.

It was interesting to watch people play the game. I've playtested the puzzles so many times that i know all the solutions. It was eye opening to watch people try and find them for themselves, and nice to see that they do pose a fair amount of challenge, without being obnoxiously difficult. I saw a few opportunities to tweak things and make them a bit more user friendly, and got some good feedback from players on improvements to make in the near future. The game was received very well, and the full motion video looked great on a 32 inch monitor.

Here's some images from the show:

an attendee tries to solve the cake puzzle

A little blood doesn't phase Peder

Peder and I talking about something at the show. I'm sure it was important.

Video Review

Peder has spent a lot of time cutting and editing video. We sat down and reviewed everything he's done so far and talked about how to cut a few of the more complex scenes together.

We reviewed the video from the beginning of the game all the way to the end. The footage looks really great! There are some really good moments, really intense moments, and I can't wait for you guys to see them! Wish I could say more, but don't want to spoil anything! I'm really happy with how everything is coming together.

Reshoots!

That said, a couple scenes feel like they'd be better from a slightly different angle, or if we put a quick cut here, the scene would be perfect. So this weekend, we'll be reshooting a handful of scenes to capture anything we've missed. it'll be really nice to see some of the cast again.

Progress Update

Our goal this month is to add all of the video scenes to the game, so that the plot is playable from start to finish. It's a pretty exciting milestone to cross, and still a bit bizarre to think of all the progress we've made.

Matt's been working on the taunt/hint system for puzzles. It's working very well so far.

James is working on the Attic Room at the Top. Once that's finished, we'll go back and optimize every room in the game to make things run a little smoother and faster on older machines.

Shane continues work on the asylum models. There's a lot of different rooms there, some being legacy rooms from a plot iteration we abandoned long ago, so we sorted through them to prioritize what's needed first.

As always, thanks everyone for supporting us! We wouldn't be where we are without you! Talk to you soon!

Ryan HoltKamp

A Special Thank You From Stauf Himself!

July 27, 2016

It's been a while since our last update, though I hope the following video makes it all worth the wait! Without further ado, we bring you a special video message from a new friend of ours, thanking all of you backers, fans and friends for supporting our humble project. Enjoy!

Development Update

We've amassed quite a collection of video files for the game, and we've been working on structuring them and storing them in a format and location that the team can share constructively. It's been a bigger undertaking than expected! Now comes the work of sorting through different shots, cutting, editing, and masking out greenscreen from the video. Peder has his work cut out for him there!

Matt's been developing a system to deliver in game taunts to players. The goal is to generate them randomly with some predictability, such that you don't hear the same taunts repeatedly. Thus far we have over 200 unique lines, most read by Stauf, and some spoken by other ghostly visitors in the game.

The to do list for 3d models and 3d art continues to get smaller! Shane is still working on the asylum, which is looking great as always. James has been working on 3d models for the few remaining puzzles, as well as touching up Wonderworld Toy Store.

On a related note, I actually got to meet the one and only James Bateman at a gaming convention in Austin, Texas. Though we've worked together on The 13th Doll for years, it's always been online via Skype, and this was our first meeting in person. As expected, he's a great guy, and a good time was had by all. I still owe him a beer and hope to make arrangements to settle that debt soon.

As always, thanks again everyone for your help and support!

Ryan HoltKamp

STAUF RETURNS!

May 04, 2016


What a weekend! The cast and crew put in 42 hours over 4 days, including a couple marathon 13 and 14 hour sessions. Lot of work, but so much fun! It was such a surreal, amazing experience. The cast put in some fantastic performances, and I can't wait to put those scenes in the game.

Robert Hirschboeck flew in to reprise his role as Henry Stauf! Rob was simply amazing to work with. He's a great guy - kind, generous, and fairly humble. On first impression, it's hard to imagine him playing the villainous Henry Stauf, but once he's on the stage, he just instantly assumes the persona of old Uncle Henry. It was incredible to see and experience. Naturally, Rob put on a simply phenomenal performance that ran chills up my spine! It was great meeting him, working with him, and hanging out with him after hours, and I'm truly sad the weekend went by so fast!

We had 4 backers visiting the set, from Connecticut to Michigan, Texas and even the Netherlands. Meeting them and sharing stories about the original games was really great. I think they truly enjoyed meeting the cast and crew, seeing how scenes were filmed, and getting a little background info on the plot and characters. Hopefully we didn't spoil too much of the game for them!

The 13th Doll team is spread throughout the country - even the world. We communicate on Skype and via email or facebook - the majority of the team I've never met in person! I finally got to meet Shane Hunt, one of our 3d modelers, who flew in to help with filming. He also did some work on the asylum models while the backers looked on. Sometimes they offered suggestions for easter eggs here and there, so those should be pretty fun to see.

Shane brought some gear along that proved invaluable, including a full size IPad that we used as a teleprompter for some of the scenes with lengthy dialogue.

We filmed 20 different actors over the weekend, and made it through both Tad and Richmond's scripts completely. I don't want to spoil too much, but the pictures speak for themselves:

Props!
 

The Crew with Stauf! L to R: Jared Jewell, Ryan HoltKamp, Peder Goodman, Shane Hunt
 

Director Peder Goodman with the doctors! - Ben Rollins as Dr. Thornfield and Mathias Blake as Dr. Richmond
 

The Woman in White returns...
 

Joking around with Julia-Kaye Rohlf as she reads voiceovers for The Woman In White
 

Hunter Menken records voiceovers as Tad Gorman
 

Hunter and Julia review their lines between takes
 

Looks like someone's found some trouble...
 

Robert Hirschboeck as Henry Stauf
 

Hirschboeck with Isabel Cody rehearsing a scene with the mysterious 13th doll...
 

Stauf hovers over The Woman in White during a pivotal scene...
 

Hirschboeck signing autographs!
 

It's a wrap! Filming is complete!

The 7th Guest was a diverse game, filled with exploration, mystery, puzzles, horror, an abstract story, and a wonderful soundtrack. Of course I'm a bit biased, but I think The 13th Doll very much includes all of those and more, and I think it will really resonate with the core audience, while appealing to a new generation of gamers as well. I'm so proud of the work we've done, and I'm very grateful for everyone who helped this thing happen.

Filming, proved to be the most complex and challenging task in the development of the game - by a long shot. I truly have to thank Peder Goodman, who directed filming, cast the game, found an amazing costumer (Erica Cole) to bring the characters to life, scheduled actors and broke down the complex script into manageable filming sessions, sourced all the gear we needed, from lights to cameras to cranes and microphones and booms and recording equipment and the filming location itself. I can honestly say that without Peder's help, this project would likely have never gotten finished. It's truly been an honor working with him, and I owe him a sincere debt of gratitude for all the work he's done. His passion, perseverence, and dedication are simply incredible. Should you ever meet this man in person, please buy him a beer. ;)

Although filming is finished, there's still a long road ahead of us! We captured over 600 Gb of footage! We'll have to sort through a variety of takes, mask out the greenscreen, then add in FX and composite the scenes into the game. This is likely hundreds of hours of work.

So... a release date is still pretty far off in the horizon, but the good news is that the hard part is behind us.

I'll keep you posted on our progress, and hopefully we'll put together a teaser trailer or two so you can see some of the footage we've captured. Should be a lot of fun. As always, thank you for supporting us!

~RHK

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Filming and 7th Guest Steam Sale!

April 27, 2016

Hey everyone, just a quick update - really just wanted to let everyone know that The 7th Guest and 11th Hour bundle is available on Steam for $2.49. Again, we're not affiliated with Trilobyte, but thought you fans would want to know!

Filming!

We're hard at work filming the game, and expect to be finished, or very nearly finished by the end of Sunday. Lots of work went into planning and coordinating schedules! It's been a bit exhausting, but very, very worthwhile.

Any doubts I may have had about the cast and crew have been proven wrong - the footage looks great. The cast have put on some amazing performances, and very often I'm grinning from ear to ear during many takes. I'm very proud of the work everyone has done.

Later this afternoon, I'll be picking up Robert Hirschboeck (Stauf himself!) from the airport, and we'll be shooting his scenes all weekend. Should be an amazing experience! Until then, here's some photos from the set:
 

Peder behind the camera with Tad (Hunter Menken) and Dr. Richmond (Matthias Blake) on set.
 

The 13th Doll waits for its next scene while Tad lies unconscious....
 

Peder and Matthias discuss a scene while Hunter reviews his lines.

As always, follow us on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/the13thdoll/

And if you missed the Kickstarter, but still want in on the rewards, click to our slacker backer page!

Preorder

RHK

Filming begins!

April 22, 2016

Happy Friday everyone! Today is a great day in the history of our project... today is the official first day of filming! It's a massive milestone for us, and we're really excited! It's been a busy few weeks preparing everything:

Overall, I think we got the feel of the original 7th Guest, while adding our own twist to it. It's a good blend of drama, horror, a couple comedic moments, and just enough campiness to mesh well with the original game. Best of all, we didn't sacrifice anything from the story we planned to make when we first started this project - we stayed true to our original vision. I can't wait to see it go from the script to the stage.

We're also making props for the game, which entails a lot of spray paint, glue, and styrofoam. It's actually a lot of fun. We'd bought a toy knife online that looked like a hyper realistic murder weapon. When it arrived, it looked nothing like the photos; it's the cheapest looking plastic thing you could imagine! So we actually bought a couple knives, ground the blades dull enough to not be dangerous, and painted the blades a matte finish so it wouldn't pick up too much green reflection from the greenscreen. My friend loaned me a vintage 1930's milk bottle (as well as a real dead rabbit carcass -uhh, thanks, but no thanks!) We're mocking up a pair of glass eyes, That's about the extent of the spoilers I'll give you ;)

So, In a few days, Robert Hirschboeck, the one and only Henry Stauf, will be with us on set to film his scenes and record voice overs. A few backers will also be on set with us to meet him and watch us shoot his scenes. I'll finally meet a couple of my developers in person - thus far I've only known them via skype, facebook, and email. So, It's really an amazing time for all of us, and it's going to be a lot of fun. I can't wait!

It's been a tremendous amount of work, and I really have a lot of people to thank - All of you backers and slacker backers, Peder, Matt, James, Shane, Chris Bormend, Chris Weitzel, all of the actors, and plenty more people I'm sure I'm leaving out.

If all goes well, we'll have half the game filmed by the end of the weekend. I'll post some photos from the set early next week!

As always, you can join us on our facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/the13thdoll/

And, if you wanted to back us, but missed the kickstarter campaign, check out our slacker backer page!

Preorder

Thanks everyone!

Ryan HoltKamp

Preparations for Filming!

April 08, 2016

Hello Fans and Backers! It's been a busy, busy few weeks!

We're ramping up for filming, finalizing the script, writing taunts, insults, and hints for puzzles. The script is nearly 70 pages long, and lots of planning is required. Which scenes to shoot when, coordinating actors, costumes, stage access, etc - it's pretty time consuming to get it all together. Peder and his crew are taking it in stride though.

Last weekend, I gave a talk about the game and a brief demo at The University of Iowa. We got some great feedback on the game, and it was received very well.

Probably more relevant to you guys is the preparation for that demo.

-Peder and I had to work through some issues to get video to play with transparency. Ultimately, Peder had to render out video with a mask to omit the black background so that the 3d modeled scene shows through. I had to edit a custom shader to get it to work. The end result looks and plays great.

- I had to modify the code such that the video plays at the correct time, fixes the camera in place, and restricts player motion until it's complete. Also, the music volume had to drop while the dialogue played, then ramp back up afterward. This scene ends with Tad leaving the kitchen into the maze, so the door had to close after him.

-Matt modified and improved the code for the puzzles in these scenes and fixed some bugs. He's also improved the navigation and made that smoother.

-James, of course created and optimized the 3d models, and made them ready for our game engine.

-Chris Bormend created the music tracks for the game.

So it really was a team effort, and everything looked and sounded great. Here's a screenshot of Tad reacting to Dr. Richmond in the game:
 

So, things are going very well with the game! It's a bit surreal, and somewhat stressful too: lots has to happen in a very short time period. Nonetheless, it's a very exciting time for us. Thanks to all of you for being onboard!

- Ryan