Something out of left field

posted in: Observatory, Office Pie, Unity | 0

Ahoy there!

We’ve been working on Observatory for over a year now, and hoo-boy, this project has got a very long mid-section.  To alleviate the dreariness of the mid-project doldrums, we’re making a quick side-project.  We’re only a few days in, but I think there’s already some amount of fun/cute/derpy stuff to see.

It’s called Office Pie, and it’s an game set in a corporate workspace.  “Office pie” is the kind of pie that you eat in an office.  Don’t worry; you won’t actually do much work here.  You will have a checklist, though.  A playthrough will probably take about 20-30 minutes to complete, once it’s all finished.

It’s been super fun to work with voxel art so far – it’s insanely fast to produce assets compared to a “full-on” modeling process.  We’ve been using MagicaVoxel, which isn’t perfect (particularly, it’s missing a “drag selection” feature), but it’s free and has worked very comfortably for me so far.  Plus it has this goofy button for exporting isometric pixel art from your voxels…which is kind of hilarious, but could maybe serve as a base for a pixel artist to add detail to?

The robots are taking all of our jobs so they can do them with less pizzazz

If a pixel artist was good at their art, maybe it’d be faster for them to just do it in 2D the first time.  I dunno.  Whatever.  It has an automagic pixel-art button, and that makes me laugh.

A neat side-effect of using voxel art is that we can very easily switch between an “isometric view” and a “3/4 view” by rotating the camera in 45 degree increments:

It’s tough to talk about the plans for Office Pie without spoiling the fun, so instead we’re just going to be sharing some early builds – up until the point when we reach spoiler territory.

We plan to release the game on for a few dollars, and then possibly take it to Steam later.

In this first build, you’re controlling three characters with the same input.  This isn’t how the actual game will work, but we’re testing some animation retargeting features with different skeletons, and I haven’t implemented any AI for NPCs yet.

Some info about our animation:

– There’s one walk animation; two steps straight forward
– Feet plant to the ground during this animation by remembering all contact points and using IK for the legs
– Couch and vending machine animations are entirely based on IK mixed with the idle animation:  there’s no imported animation clip, and instead the motion is described in the inspector

This is the animation data for interacting with the vending machine (the “Marker” objects are empty gameObjects, marking target positions and sometimes orientations):

What do you call the opposite of a dopesheet...and how do I make it sound like a good thing?

WASD to move, spacebar to interact (right now this only works on the couches and the two vending machines – more over time), Q+E to rotate the camera, and hold the 1 key to play a little tester “squatting” animation.  Press tab to toggle slo-mo, if you want to see the character movement in detail (or if you have “Still D.R.E.” playing in another tab).

Still a tech demo for now, but:
Click here to play the WebGL build

There are some silly bugs if you make somebody run into somebody else while they’re interacting with an object.

More news for both this and Observatory soon! We just got a connection with another headset manufacturer, so the pack is gonna be supporting a new platform in the near future.

Antibody Sound Design #1 (tableguitar, spaceguitar)

posted in: Observatory, Sound Design, VR | 0

Hey everyone. David here! I’ve been making games with Eli back since The Company of Myself but this is my first blog post! I wanted to show everyone some weird instruments I’ve been making for Antibody, one of the 3 games included in Observatory: A VR Variety Pack. Before we jump right into the instruments, first we need to start with why I’m even doing this in the first place.

First, the setting

In Antibody, you are a microscopic scout ship in enemy territory. It’s dark. It’s gloomy. It’s claustrophobic. The enemies are spooky and overpowering, so you need to be sneaky and light on your feet.

With any game, when I’m figuring out the approach it starts with “how do we want the player to feel?” With Hamster-Slide it’s a pure fun, ‘summer vacation at the theme park’ vibe from end to end. With Antibody, it’s the exact opposite. You should feel confused, out of place, anxious and generally uncomfortable. You are in hostile territory and no one really knows what’s going on, we want there to be a feeling of dread going on. We want Antibody to feel like a horror game without relying on choreographed jump-scares. One of the ways we’re going to accomplish that is by having false-positives: shadows that look like enemies, sounds in the ambiance that sound like bad guys creeping up on you.

Another important distinction is this is being made for virtual reality! There will be exceptions, but generally I want every sound to be coming from somewhere in the game space. This means instead of a flat ambiance layer, sounds will be coming from all around you. This is super vital to a good VR experience. Immersion is the name of the game and audio spacialization is more important than ever.

Yeah but… why?

Ok, less design philosophy, let’s talk sounds. To make sound effects you’ve basically got three ways of going. Synthesis (sounds come from nothing but programming), sample libraries (stuff myself and other people have recorded in the past), and recording fresh material (“foley”). In most cases, all three methods are used together (and edited heavily), but I’ve been trying to become much less dependent on using other sample libraries and to get as close to the source as possible so I have more control. A huge thing in game audio to overcome is repetition, and by having the physical instrument that makes the sounds, even if you try to play it exactly the same you’ll get a different recording. This allows me to get way more variation with way less work. Just as importantly, I’m having a lot of fun doing it, and learning new things which is a fundamental part of how we do things over here. Finally, it’s super cheap. I’m a bit of a packrat and I’ve never thrown away anything related to a musical instrument so there are plenty of parts to frankenstein together.

Tableguitar (Left) Spaceguitar (Right)
So far I’ve started two instruments that will be modified and ‘finished’ over time. They need better names, but for now I’m calling them Tableguitar (left), and Spaceguitar (right). If you missed the video at the top, here they are in action!


My first attempt was Spaceguitar, which is a bass of sorts. It’s made of a 2×4 I found in the basement, 1/4 of a broken picture frame, and parts from an old disassembled bass guitar I never got around to rebuilding. When making this I knew I wanted a weird atonal bass to use for some creature sounds and some background ambiance of uneasy rumbling for the enemy cells, but I hadn’t considered how ‘woody’ it would end up sounding from the 2×4.

I was really worried about how to make tuning pegs, but a quick google search showed a bunch of super cheap methods. First, I tried using a dowel rod where I’d just twist the string around it, which worked when I was using a violin string but not for the bass strings. I needed a stronger option and found it with a quick trip to the hardware store to grab washers, bolts, nuts, and some small support braces.

Instead of a fixed bridge, I used a hanger piece so it can be wobbled on a pivot for changing pitch. The ends of the hanger can latch onto the edge of the wood body to lock the bridge in place, which is really handy.

Pickup + Contact Mic Dry (I removed the ground hum from the noisy pickup.)

Run through a guitar amp/reverbs/delays. Still some work to be done here.


TABLEGUITARRRR! I’m lovin this thing. I went to Goodwill looking for another large body to use the rest of these bass strings on and found this metal table with the top missing. It’s made of three big metal piece bolted together, the middle of them being a hollow metal resonating chamber which is a perfect analogue for the player being stuck in this tiny steel ship. For these recordings I used a contact mic at the bottom of the table so the sound would have to vibrate through the whole thing before getting to microphone, which kind of gives it a distant ghostly character.

I’ve got a feeling this will turn into some kind of spiderweb of strings and dangly bits by the time it’s finished. Right now it’s a bass string winding around the outside with two bridges attached, one of which can be shifted with a lever. If I swing the arm around it can grab the string and be used for more dramatic changes. My small power drill won’t be able to cut through this, so I’m thinking about taking it to a shop to get a hole drilled into it so I can get a mic inside.

A technique I’ve been having success with is not only just bowing/plucking the string, but bowing the bridge directly, or ‘plucking’ the bolts sticking out of the table.

Next up is sampling these as they are, and modifying them to make new sounds! Sometimes these have a game specific purpose, like when a scarydude roars when you aggro it, but a majority of this process will just be collecting samples for general use later on when I get more into the computer workflow and start layering things. If you’re interested in getting your hands on some of these raw sounds just hit me up on twitter (@thedavidcarney) and I’ll let you know when I have everything all recorded and edited.

Have a nice day!


posted in: Observatory, Unity, VR | 1

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

First off, I want to say that this blog post is the first of a slightly different variety than the ones before it. Up until now, has been my personal website to show development progress – but “2DArray” isn’t just my online alias anymore. It’s also a company, although admittedly that company is only two people (myself and David Carney – he’s still doing the music and sound for the games, but now he’s also doing other stuff, like designing this rad new website), plus some art contractors.

As a result, the focus will be shifting toward the team as a whole. We’re still fans of posts with technical info about how stuff gets made, so we’ll still be doing those as the meat of the blog (and doing them more often, to end the recent radio-silence on the site) – but now instead of just me writing them, we can also include posts from David and as many art contractors as we can wrangle into blogging about their work.

So with that aside, we’re proud to announce that we just put something onto Early Access. This is our first release since Not the Robots – over two years ago!

Before we get into that – what the shit were we DOING over all that time? Well, basically, picking a project is tough. And we had a hard time with it. Out of fear of not-finishing-anything, we spent too long working on what ultimately felt like a bad game.

It did have this weird scene in it, though.

For some reason, I thought that a physics-fluid-based puzzle game would be an appropriate place for scenes of unexpected violence. We’ll probably end up releasing this as secret content somewhere, with a heavy disclaimer about why we didn’t finish it (spoiler: the whole game was needless angst).

I made some other prototypes that were kinda cool, but they weren’t quite “clicking” in the ways I was hoping for.

An AI truck-friend for a sandbox car game:

Faction-based top-down shooter where you capture rooms to spawn allies, with local co-op (only shown in single player here):

Turns out, VR was the spark we needed – while on vacation to my hometown in Virginia, an old friend showed me his new GearVR, and I took an afternoon to slap together a Unity demo game for it. I could immediately tell that VR would be a great format for us to work on: It was brand new and nobody knew what the hell to do with it yet, meaning there was a ton of fresh space to explore, and it also introduced some strong-but-still-ambiguous new constraints. It might be counter-intuitive, but those types of constraints are actually wonderful for designers because they stop you from feeling overwhelmed about how “this product could be literally anything” and instead, they can guide you around while you make decisions.

SO – what have we made?

It’s called “Observatory: A VR Variety Pack,” it contains three games and a music video, and here’s our Steam page.

(It’s $10, because we’ve spent a year on it so far, which was the same as Not the Robots when it released). The game is currently available on Early Access, and it works with an Oculus, a Vive, or a standard monitor. Currently, the default branch gives you access to the completed music video and a functional-and-polished-but-incomplete version of the Hamster Slide (it has asyncrhonous online multiplayer, but no metagame yet). We’ll be adding the remaining two games as they become more polished and substantial. You can use a gamepad or a keyboard+mouse, and we’re adding Vive-wand support in our first patch (later this week, ideally).

Something pretty

posted in: VR | 0

We’ve been working with some art people lately.  Here’s a work-in-progress test scene for style/rendering in one of our upcoming VR games.

Hamster Sliiiiide...


I put the moss in today – it’s an important thing because along with some more carefully-planned layouting, this game is also going to involve spawning lots of art assets and jamming them together (most commonly, rock and island formations).  Thomas, the art guy, noticed that the intersections between the models were looking kinda janky, so we’re adding some moss to the creases to help hide the seams.

Coverage is calculated and stored in vertex data (like an AO bake) when the scene loads, after everything has finished spawning.  I haven’t optimized it yet, but baking coverage for this test scene takes less than one second on my laptop, so hopefully that’s an indication that it’ll scale nicely when dealing with larger scenes (because this game has by far the biggest play areas of anything I’ve made so far).  The moss is rendered onto extruded shells of the original meshes, which display slices of worldspace simplex noise.

…It’s pretty!

Once again, twitter is generally going to be a better way to keep up-to-date this stuff.

Quick notes

posted in: Freelance Chemist, Unity | 1

Hey hey – as usual, it’s been a little while.

Right to business: Freelance Chemist is in a weird spot.  I like the game, but the types of puzzles it contains are definitely not for everyone, and the storyline seems like a mega-super bummer to me because I made most of it when I was in a real shit-bag of a mood.  I don’t want to cancel it because we already had to do that with Titanium Frontier, so I’m still trying to figure out what to do with it.  It’s possible that it’ll still end up on Steam.  It also might end up being a free web game, like the good old days.  I’m not sure yet, but it’ll be something eventually.

I also wanted to mention that I’ve been using my Twitter account somewhat regularly lately, so that’s probably a better place to get development progress reports than over here.

Also I got an Oculus Rift, so I’ve been getting used to working with VR stuff.

It’s a giant slide for a person-sized hamster ball
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One Response

  1. Nice idea with the musical instruments, that’s suuuuuuper important for learning something completely. Like you’re going to know about different materials and how sound works, thats cool. I learned about how meat dries, and now I have an idea of how things dry. Also, for the cell game, (maybe) making it more realistic, by like making it kinda like a 3d osmosis jones will make it more visceral and real. maybe. Yea but it’s gonna take you a while to make anything, just like my cousin who’s an artist, each mosaic takes like a month, depending how big it is. A big project, like on the side of a building took him like 8 months, but his work is…. rigorous and detailed and very thoughtful and carefully crafted. His works are good, old museum art good, like roman vases good. Anyway, yea it’s good that you are making your own instruments because i’m doing the same thing, but with economics. It really helps you understand precisely how the physical world works. It’s nice.

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