Hapax OT: Magnificent Desolation

Started by Legend, Dec 21, 2020, 03:29 PM

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i looked at the main page before on my phone.  seemed fine to me.

just looked at it for the first time on PC today.   when i first showed up and scrolled down (using the wheel on my mouse) it was very,..  juttery?  so like it scrolled down by 2 units and then jumped back up by 1 unit and then scrolled down by 2 units and back up by 1 unit.   something like that.

it was juttery for the first 3 times i scrolled up and down and then it became smooth again.   so like,.. a loading issue?

Featured Artist: Vanessa Hudgens


Q: Why is Hapax taking so long?
A: I'm trying to build a AA game as a single developer.

Q: Why would you do that?
A: I'm not that smart.


Hapax is a game, just thought I should clarify that.


Some people finish The Witness in 13 hours, others in 76: How long is The Witness? | HowLongToBeat

Hapax will probably be even more varied. There are a ton of ways to learn new information/solve puzzles and some people will just happen to learn things incredibly fast. I was one of those players in Outer Wild's dlc. I just happened to randomly solve one of the games biggest mysteries within minutes of starting.


Lots of work to go and lots of self doubt, but I'm really really happy tonight. The ship redesign is finally in a semi playable state so I got to mess around in it and really get a feel of what I've spent so long building.

The alien nature of the ship's structure is incredible. Walls bend and bulge in a way that is very unique yet somewhat natural feeling. Final textures/assets will influence this a lot, but right now the floor almost feels like a river as it perpetually flows around corners and ever deeper into lower rooms. The ship doesn't feel organic since it has a lot of sharp edges yet it absolutely does not feel like a human built structure.

Maybe I'll bungle it up as I finish things but I'm just a bit surprised how well things are coming together. Redoing the ship has taken far longer than I wanted so it's nice that the early results are promising.

Also it takes ~6 hours to sprint through the ship. A free fall from the top takes ~15 seconds though so speedruns should be pretty fun   ::)




I just got thoroughly lost while exploring. Took a wrong turn in some small back rooms and lost my bearing.

Will be less common once rooms don't all repeat the same textures, but it's actually a good thing on rare occasion. There is a sudden dread when you don't recognize the path behind you. The environment itself can feel hostile.

I'm pretty nervous about how big Hapax is since it's antithetical to The Witness and a lot of my favorite games, so it's cool having these small moments of reassurance. Also just incredibly nice to have something to share again. I spent so long working on technical stuff that barely changed from one week to another.


Weekly updates are fun again, yay!

It was very daunting looking at my bland empty rooms and realizing just how much detail needs to go into small spaces. A large atrium can easily get by with one asset per 2 meters, yet a "bedroom" with no assets besides a single "bed" would look incredibly empty and wrong.

The approach I planned to use was built off a ~2 meter grid, oops.

Got a new system mostly working. I'm a week behind schedule now but it was definitely worth it. This approach supports arbitrarily high asset density and gives me more direct control over the results.

It's also kinda awkward talking about procedural tools since procedural generation has such a bad reputation. I love it since all the tech is really cool and it'd be a waste of time manually placing 50,000 power outlets for example, but I really don't want players to get the wrong impression and think of Hapax as a meaningless random world. Good thing no one reads the forum!


In this week's update I'm talking about the game's end. Environments still need a lot of work but now that they are at least explorable I'm zooming out and making sure I have a clear path towards launch.

Hapax's endings are being tweaked. I previously had a simple/direct ending for casual players and then more advanced endings for dedicated players, just like The Witness. This had a few problems in practice though since only the simple/direct ending felt like a true ending. The others involve solving massive puzzles and making amazing discoveries but after the credits roll the player is likely to immediately hop back in to search for more things.

I'm removing the "endings" from the other endings and just treating them as major events within the game. Then the simple/direct ending becomes the only ending and a way for all players to say "ok I think I've solved enough, I'm ready to be done now." It's closer in structure to Her Story, Return of the Obra Dinn, or Outer Wilds with DLC. If a player accidentally triggers it early like I did in Obra Dinn, then it's immediately obvious that the player should go back and return when they're ready. The ending is dynamic and reflects what the player has accomplished.

I might still have a couple true endings since sometimes it works best, but the important thing is just disassociating game progression from triggering credits.


Reworded the beginning of the game and sorted out a few things. I'm only an ok writer so it's really hard to fit the concepts I want into only a couple sentences without it sounding too stupid.

"The dream of humans on Europa inspired me to become an astronaut. I worked hard and hoped to be the first but getting the jump seat on a later cargo mission was almost as good. The destination is what matters."

Right now it sounds maybe a bit too positive but it's better than the super negative version I had before. Games with amnesiac player characters are so lucky. In Hapax I really quickly need to catch the player up to speed while also putting them into a specific headspace. Less than 60 seconds to make them care about themselves at least a little bit.

I hope I'm just overthinking things but there's a lot of pressure on this. After the first minute the player is completely on their own and I have nothing I can force, only a few things I can suggest.

This is a super old screenshot of the player's phone. It's one of the additional ways I try to give context/direction, but I can't just make it an info dump. I'm reworking the celestial tracker to be a full orrery map. The current one just spits out your position as a number. It's a very very big number but outside of that no one outside of astronomy would care.

As part of this I double checked the math and I'm pretty sure I have the game's year locked in placed, 2053. Also set in December so I can claim it's a Christmas game. I know the exact second too since the smartphone clock functions but that's not really interesting to most people...

Additionally, I reworked the controls and menus. I'm removing the old inventory bar and now storing everything on the physical player body. You look down and can see your items on your belt. Just grab them as if they were on a shelf and put them back the same way. Curser snaps to inventory slots so it functions like a traditional inventory screen but is way more immersive.

Deleted "inner thoughts" too. I had planned to show text at various points that would give the player character a way to share her insights (I'm overselling it, just thing of witcher senses or the horizon ping). Wasn't that necessary in practice. Also I already had a cursor icon that changes depending on what the interact button will do. e.g. if you can grab the object it shows an open hand and if you can press a button it shows a hand extending a finger, wow. Both systems had some overlap so it was good to just focus on one.

I still have button prompts early in the game to help ease players in, but after that the game is 100% immersive with no UI (if you count a floating dismembered hand immersive). Really great change because I struggle with UIs and this saves a lot of time. Also is just one more thing to make the game immersive in the way I want.

That's it for what I want to share this week. Bye!


Oct 02, 2023, 11:17 PM Last Edit: Oct 03, 2023, 01:40 PM by Legend
Took September off but I really like these weekly updates even if no one reads them. Helps break my work down into 7 day blocks.

I spent some time evaluating Unreal Engine. Didn't really make sense to switch but I wanted to check if the grass really was greener on the other side.

It's not. Unreal Engine has a lot of issues and quirks that I would have to work around, just like in Unity. Lumen for example is the feature I'm most envious of yet it doesn't work with deformed meshes. Hapax is 90% deformed meshes  :P

I haven't ruled out the engine completely since I can always hack in my own changes/improvements but at this time I'm progressing with Unity. Maybe I'll get to implement my own custom global illumination system that I've fiddled with for years, or maybe I'll just scale back the graphics.

Actual game progress wise I had to redo a lot of the technical details behind my asset placement system. Windows and doors were hacked in which I thought would be fine but the code just kept getting messier and messier. New system breaks walls up into chunks where both the front and the back sides cleanly match. For example the outside wall of a tall building would be broken into a separate chunk for each floor. That was easy but sorting out the logic of placing stuff onto walls/chunks was pretty complex. The same code that places a giant arch is also used to place an apple in a bowl on a kitchen counter.

I didn't plan to go so small with the details but it works better for this system to handle them. As the artist I can just set up a "place fruit" function and it can handle that for an entire room without awkward duplicates.

*human fruit is not actually in the game


Nice post you got there.

Would be a shame if someone read it.  8)


Nice post you got there.

Would be a shame if someone read it.  8)
Yet you didn't call me out for saying October instead of September. Curious.


Yet you didn't call me out for saying October instead of September. Curious.
That would have been quite rude.

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