A Rat Betwixt Blog Post #6 – The Final Post and Additional Insight

This final post will be a long one, so Buckle Up!

So, it finally came. The end of what took up the complete majority of the last 2 months of my life. The initial release of the vertical slice of the game design studies game project – A Rat Betwixt.

So for this final blog post I will talk about the project and my final insights on the project as a whole and my involvment in it.

If you want to see the trailer, then you can find it here V

 

Adapting work to the need of a project

So when it comes to the final parts of working on a project pretty much all work has to be adapted to what is needed above all to achieve the results you want to present in the end.

Throughout an entire project such as this there is a constant discussion about what is wanted in the project compared to what can realistically be achieved. Grandiose thoughts and ideas about what we can achieve is fine and all, However, is it realistically possible to achieve, and will it be for the best of the project?

What to prioritize

From what I have learned throughout the various projects I have been part of over the last 2 year of my game design studies is that you should value quality over quantity. Meaning that it is a lot better to have fewer things that all work exceptionally well together rather than to have a ton of things all of which are subpar.

To create as good an experience as possible you have to make sure that what you have at hand all seem to fit in well in tandem. This is because people take greater notice of what is wrong rather than what is good. It is because bad aspects are more easy to take note of and explain rather than figuring out why something is good. The fewer things to complain about, the better a perception people will have for a project as a whole. It is quite easy for people to say “everything is good, except for A, B, C etc.”. If you ask me what I would describe games as, the best word I can use is to refer them as experiences. Be that positive or negative, you should focus to make the game into the sort of experience you want the player to have whilst playing your game.

Final workload

For the final parts of a project it is important to know what you have achieved up until that point and what you still need to do before the final deadline to make the best experience from it all. All the things you have discussed and thought about throughout the project, it is now up to you to decide what of it to do and if you can finish those things in time or not.

The best example of this comes from a goal we have had since the beginning of the project. The idea was that the project is going to have multiple different playable characters for the players to choose from. All with their own unique character designs and abilities.

The game originally had planned for:

  • 4 Playable Characters
  • 1 Modular enemy character (Meaning that you can use the same model for multiple characters with some alternations)
  • 1 Boss Character

We decided early on in the project that in the worst case scenario that we at least would have 2 different playable characters and 1 enemy character.

Near the end of development we have finished two out of these characters that you can see in 3D form in my earlier posts. Those being the Troll Boss Enemy in A Rat Betwixt Blog Post #1 and #4 as well as the “Dyrkare” in Blog Post #3. This was with only 1 week left of development! You couldn’t possibly create the rest of the characters in 1 week, right?

wrongkiddoorigin.jpg  – Meme by dajo42 on Tumblr

Optimization for sake of saving time

If you recall me talking about modular design where you can use the same model for multiple purposes. That’s exactly what we did to get the 3 missing playable character models into the game on time.

Meet the “Female Standard Mesh”

Female Standard Mesh.png – Model made by another member on the team

We figured that we did not have much time left but that we could squeeze in the rest of the characters if we are efficient and clever enough. Not all the characters are female, but thanks to the way the characters are designed we thought that we could for the most part hide the more feminine aspects if we wanted the character to be male.

A Rat Betwixt Characters.png

3 Different characters all based on one single mesh.

Alright, so the main character 3D artist figured that we could do this for the models of the characters. But what about the other parts, those being UV Mapping, Rigging, Skinning and Animating? Those parts still needs to be done from scratch, right?

Well, not necessarily. As the base mesh for all these characters is the same, all of them could use the same rig. One size fits all. As for UV Mapping, the character artist took care of that. Animations were made rough by the animator, so the animations were not the best due to time constraints but they worked well enough. Same rig also meant that certain animations could be used by multiple characters for the time being.

When it comes to skinning, that was most likely my biggest breakthrough for the final part of the project. I was told by the lead design that I had to suck it up and reskin everything from scratch. But since skinning is by far the most boring part of 3D characters in my opinion and takes way too much time for what you get out of it, I would have none of it.

After some digging online I found what would enable us to have all these last minute characters be acceptably skinned on time without driving me absolutely insane. I found out about SkinUtilities. This nifty tool would allow me to transfer skinning between characters using the same base. So then all I had to do was fill in the new stuff on the characters into the skinning such as the pieces of armor and different head gear. I saved at least 10 hours of character skinning for each variation of the characters doing this!

The more I work with 3D the more I realize that I still have so much left to learn. I’ve only barely just begun!

End of a chapter

So yeah, our 2 months of work on this project is now over. We presented our game at the Gotland Game Conference, people liked the game but we were not awarded any prizes nor nominations. Also no one in the group seems all that keen on continuing this project any further. It was a nice experiment, but we all have different goals to strive for and different things that we all want to do.

But I’m still happy, I do not regret this time I’ve spent. I feel like I got a ton of work done over this period and I feel like I’ve gotten better and more efficient at 3D. I had a good group of fun people who were all more than willing to work to get the job done.

We had good use of our game design knowledge and previous experiences when it comes to time management during a game project. We knew when we got over our heads and we knew how to fix the problems we faced with the time that we had. This is a huge change from earlier projects I have been on.

Signing off

With all the newfound knowledge as well as all the experience I have gathered, I am now ready to tackle new challenges. I will do my best to continue my studies and I will work hard over the summer trying to improve myself in any way that I can. Just gotta keep working my way towards the top!

This “additional artist” will now become hidden once more.

Until next time, I hope you have a great summer!

 

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A Rat Betwixt Blog Post #4 – Additional In-Game Content

Hello, everyone!

So yes, in my last Blog Post I promised that I would show off some actual 3D coming from me! This is not me saying that rigging and skinning characters or drawing 2D turnarounds for characters isn’t 3D. In 3D projects where characters and animations are important, those things are just as necessary as making the 3D models.

However, skinning and rigging are not really the most interesting topics when it comes to 3D. In fact, they are amongst the most hated parts of working with 3D! They are slow, boring, tedious and not really all that difficult either. It’s just slow pased, drawn out and rarely appreciated by those outside the development team. They are like a clean and tidy room. No one will mention it if it’s clean, but everyone will point it out as a bad thing if it’s not.

That being said, let’s get to something more interesting! 3D modeling!

Importance and use of props

Props.png

A prop is something that can be found inside the game’s world. Everything from items to pick up such as potions and weapons, or furniture and other items to interact with or fill a room with etc.

Props are important when it comes to giving life to any given game world. Imagine a room with  nothing inside it. Quite boring, isn’t it? Now, add in a chair into the room. Still not that much, but it’s something. Now add a table next to the chair, and you have somewhere to sit. Depending on what you put on the table, your interpretation of the room and situation changes. Putting a computer there could mean that it’s a work space whilst putting some plates and silverware on it gives more of a dining room feeling. Each individual part you add can tell its own story depending on how you use it and what you pair it with. Like if you put the table, chair and whatever was on it on its side, then you will probably get a more dire feeling from it. Like something is off about this room. Maybe there had been a fight or something?

UV Mapping

Of course, this being a HiddenMaxDesign, I have to show you some boring but important stuff! Can’t go without that, now could we?

UV Mapping is something you do when you want to texture an 3D object. Which is basically painting stuff onto them. To be able to do that, we have to let the program know what can be textures and how it should apply to a certain object. Each object is unique and require its own UV map to apply textures to.  You do this by extracting the surface information from the object by opening its UV map, rearrange it and open them up to get a flat surface, a sort of canvas you could say, to paint on.

UV Maps.png

Hey, remember our old friend, The Troll?

This is the results of proper UV Mapping. In the top picture the textures are all stretched out and weird as well as impossible to paint textures onto. Whilst the lower one is a lot cleaner and has some clear flat surfaces to paint on top of.

Rounding things up

Phew, quite a lot of work for a single thing to be created in 3D, isn’t there? It’s not just make the 3D model, paint it and get it animated as one might first think. You can bet a ton of love and care has been put into a 3D anything if it ends up looking good in the long run. There’s no room for slacking if you want things done properly!

For my next post I will go more in depth with how someone’s work process can be affected by outside forces. Oh boy, the next post will be a doozy.

Well, anyway, thanks for reading and take care!

A Rat Betwixt Blog Post #3 – Additional 3D Work

Hello, everyone!

So, for those of you who have just now stumbled upon this blog of mine. I have been giving insight into our second year Game Design Studies finals game project, some backstory and what I have worked on for it.

So far most of my work has had a lot of do with character design and doing 2D art. Which may seem a bit off for when the project itself is for a 3D game. Well, that is just how it is for the earlier stages of 3D games. You put together ideas and create art to further develop into 3D stuff.

HiddenMaxDesign on 3D

So you might be thinking: “Does this guy even know anything about 3D?”. As a matter of fact, I do. Would be kinda dumb to go into a 3D project without any prior knowledge on the subject, now wouldn’t it? A ton of unnecessary stress and time put into things that are not the game itself if you do that.

As part of our second year of studies in Game Design and Art we have been taught how to create things in 3D in the sense of how a game designer makes them to make it fit for different type of games. It was during this period where one of the characters that you can play as was created – The so called “Dyrkare” which is a combination of the two Swedish words Dykare (Diver) and someone who “Dyrkar” something (Worshipping something)

diver_templar_actionpose2 (1).png

I myself did not have a hand in the creation of this character. Those honors go to my three fellow teammates. I did a different character who in no way has anything to do with A Rat Betwixt.

Then why am I mentioning it? Well, to give some background with my experience in 3D. Also to move on to the first 3D work I did for this project.

Skinning Characters

I was given the task of “Skinning” this character since they found some issues with the earlier version. Skinning is the process of making sure that the 3D model correctly follows the character’s “skeleton”. Just like how our bodies are being held up by a skeleton, the same goes for 3D characters. To be able to correctly control and animate a character, it first needs to be skinned onto the skeleton’s bones.

Let me give you an example:

DyrkareWTF.png

To the left you can see a version which is correctly skinned. If you move the arm, then only the right parts of the arms will follow etc. However, to the right you can see the model with incorrect skinning. The forearm is pulling on the upper arm, the legs are all messed up, everything’s just wrong.

It becomes like this because you have to tell the skeleton what parts of the model to pull from when you bend let’s say the arm. Some parts can be skinned directly onto the firearm, such as the part between the hand and the elbow. But let’s say the skin in between your forearm and upper arm is affected by both parts when opening and closing your arms. Those parts needs a lot of finetuning to become right and it is just a ton of trial and error until you get it right.

What I’ve learned

It has been some time since I skinned my character during our 3D studies, so I had a bit of catching up to do. Doing this again I have become a lot more efficient when it comes to skinning 3D models to create good models to animate without the visuals acting up and destroying themselves.

Doing this is also helping me get a better understanding what makes a good 3D model good and what makes it work correctly when preparing for animations. Even if the model looks good it does not mean that it will be good when animated. If you do not have enough information on the model to skin onto the bones, there will be problems that you can not fix with skinning. If the model is done poorly, it will clearly show in the long run.

I feel like it is difficult to really show off just using images, and this model did not have any of those issues. So I can’t really show the problems off! I’m so sorry! Just imagine certain parts not bending properly because it did not have any good parts on the model to bend around and attach to.

Signing off

Well, hopefully this blog post isn’t too much of a bust! Hopefully I’ve been able to give you enough information to see what is going on!

Next Blog Post I will make sure to show you some more interesting 3D stuff coming from me. Skinning is kind of the most boring part of working with 3D by far! Well, other than finding stuff like this V

 

Kristalldyrkare Blog.png

Until next time, take care!

A Rat Betwixt Blog Post #2 – Additional Characters

Hello again!

It’s been quite some time, but now I’m back to further give you the story of how I was involved in the creation of the game “A Rat Betwixt”!

In the last post I told you about how I first got introduced with the project, me getting accepted into the group and the work I was first assigned going into it all. In this post I will give further details on my work as well as other things going on in the background.

What I’ve done

So, after I provided the group with the design for the game’s main big enemy – The Troll – I also got assigned the job of designing the game’s minor enemy. Which in development has been called “The Mole People”.

This is the image I was given to start my work V

Moleman.png

What I was told about the character before doing the design was that these “Mole People” are ones who have inhabited the game’s bunkers for quite some time. So they have gathered stuff they found in the bunker such as old army clothing and weapons as well as equipping themselves with different things they seemed useful.

They can carry weapons, have lamps attatched to their helmets or carried around with them. I was also told that they really wanted to have a typewriter thrown in there somewhere.

As for the gender of the enemy. One big part of the game’s characters at this stage was that they need to be androgynous – not clearly male or female.

The Results

Here’s the basic design for how these enemy characters will look V

Rat Betwixt FIende Turnarounds.png

One of my first ideas when creating the design for the enemies was “How can I fit the typewriter into their design?”

I had different ideas such as them having parts of typewriters added onto their clothing or them carrying one around on their back.

Then it hit me. How could I have the typewriter in the design and further make the enemy look androgynous? Cover up the chest area. With this in mind and them carrying around typewriters on their backs I switched it around. I’d have them carry them on ther chest instead! But why stop at typewriters? With this new hanging contraption they could hang whatever they want up front! Such as typewriters, filing cabinets, work tables, you name it. This design decision opened up for a more modular approach – meaning that we can use the same design multiple times but change some minor things around in order to make each of them seem different. In turn also giving them different roles in the bunkers depending how high ranks they have as an example.

Summary

With this new enemy design as well as the modular approach I feel like I managed to give them I have now created a new set of characters that can be used in many different ways to further develop the world of A Rat Betwixt. With multiple different ideas and figuring out how to use them in multiple different ways you can make a lot of variety with minimal efforts put into it. Which is perfect for a short 10 week game project such as ours!

Hope this has been insightful, take care! 😀

Group 4 – Final Mermaid River Blog Post

For the last time, hi everyone!

So this is the final week for the Mermaid River project, and as it stands this week has mostly been about polishing already existing stuff.

Or at least that is what I would have said if I was not pretty much finished with everything I had been assigned to make as all the polish needed were done last week.

But does that mean that I have nothing to talk about? Of course not, a game project is never fully done, it just meets the end date and then has to be released.

So what does one do at a time like this? Near the end of a game project the team always runs the risk of not having what they create be included into the final game. Either it is deemed unfinished, unneeded or the team runs out of time to implement the element. It is the sad truth, but that is the way things can go sometimes. But enough about that. So, what have I been doing?

Sometimes there are things that needs to be changed overall. One this is that I finished the design for the Super Harpoon item that I talked about last week, and it ended up like this:

Yes, it is a combination of design 5 and 15 (I did the design and lineart, not the coloring).
The result come forth as we sat and discussed as a team the designs I had made to which one would be used. The results were varied as everyone liked different designs. So what I did was I took different elements from the designs that got the most votes, which resulted in three different designs.

The team all liked the tentacle themed design and a majority of the votes fell on design 3, 9 and 16. So I decided to combine the two and see how it turned out. Everyone was for the idea, so we went along and finished it. Perhaps we should have shown the designs to other people and let them vote for the design, but now the things are the way they are and I personally feel that it works out well in the long run 🙂

Another thing besides the Super Harpoon that needed updating was the Fishfood item. The Skogaholmslimpan just was not fitting enough to some people (how dare you guys).

So, now onto some actual design insight, who would have thought?
There were discussions of some different kinds of foods. Everything from worms to fish flakes were discussed (mostly quick ideas being thrown around). As we were dealing with crazed and probably meat and flesh eating fish (the Pirateanhas especially) and the fact that you are killing fish by more or less ripping them open using a sharp harpoon I thought that fish meat chum would fit pretty well.

(Once again, I only did the design and lineart, not the coloring (I am not one to steal credit from others :P))
Well, design might be an over-exaggeration, but when it comes to implementing something from the real world into an interprative piece of art such as video games one has to take some liberties and decide upon certain things.
I wanted the chum to looks as slimy and non specific as possible, but still grainy and in chunky pieces of fish. To make it like this I got a bit more freehanded with my line strokes. By mixing up thick and thin lines in a more or less random way in not so straigh lines you too can create something look mushy and non-desirable.
As a finishing touch to add to the grossness and fishy-ness of the chum I added in a fish bone that as the chum gets spread out in the water the bones slowly goes down along the chunks that it is attatched to.

Well then, sorry that this last post of mine was not that interesting or special for a final weeks and final thoughts (kinda) one, but the most interesting thing that I did this week is being kept a secret to everybody. So I hope that you like what you see at the end of our game, if you can get there that is 😉
We are not really meant to write a blog post next week, but I just might anyway to give some insight into why and how I along with my team created the final art asset for the game.

Well then, to each and everyone out there, best of luck with finishing your projects and I am more than looking forward to seeing everything in action tomorrow! Happy crunching! 😀

Group 4 – Mermaid River Blog Post #5

 

Good evening!

So, after a successful beta earlier during the week we are now closing in on the final release date on friday the 18th! (Not as catchy as Friday the 13th)

So now that we have gotten as far as we have, we pretty much have everything that is needed for a fully playable game. So for the last part we are mostly polishing and updating whatever we already have in that could be expanded upon or given an extra designer’s touch to make every thing as good as possible.

So what have I been doing? I have been in the process of looking over some of my old animations as well as taking an extra look on how my graphics partners have finalized them.

But it is not only simple polish that we are doing, there are also some things that were used only as placeholders or that needs an upgrade overall. One of the major things that needed an overhaul are the power up items. They did not stick out and seem powerful enough, like with our special all enemy piercing harpoon powerup (imagine the harpoon in the bottom right labeled 0 but with a little bit of fire and a golden texture on it)

Sure, the change is fine, but we have noted as well as it being pointed out by some who have seen our beta version that it could really use some improvements to make it look as special as it feels firing it.

So this week I will go over some design process steps and how things might look in production before it is set to be implemented, animated or whatever.

When designing anything at all, the design is not always as obvious as it first might seem. “How can I make this look like a harpoon but make it look interesting and powerful” is the first thing I asked myself. So I and the graphics team discussed some things. First it was set in stone that the end of the harpoon will be basically the same as the original harpoon, so that we can attatch the same rope to it. Another thing was how we feel that an harpoon with extra hooks on it looks more or less like a mace. So that is where my first design elements were put, as seen in the first sketch and in a few of the others afterwards.

“It looks pretty good” I thought to myself, but whenever designing something the first thing that pops up in your mind might not always be the right choise. Remember this and hopefully your future designs will turn out the best they possibly could. A ton of ideas will come to you during the design process, as more focus put on the task at hand more thoughts and ideas will be born from it.

So continuing on I got multiple different ideas, all with different results. Some as stated continued with the mace design, whilst others were inspired by different elements. Like #2 was based on shark fins for hooks, #3 is based on a trident and so on.

I have done more stuff this week, but I feel like none of the things will go over anything especially new that you can not find in my earlier blog posts. That is how things go when it is mostly cleanup duty.

Well, there is one thing that I hope I can work on for next week, as soon as my team will allow me to work on it. Here is a preview of things hopefully to come:

Well then, as always I wish you all the best of luck with your projects and I am soo looking forward to seeing them all next friday! See you there! 😀

Group 4 – Mermaid River Blog Post #4

Hoowee! Back up in the saddle I go because this week I am getting stuff done again!

The last two weeks I feel like I have not made much progress due to sickness, personal reasons and a forced trip to Berlin to celebrate my dad’s 51th birthday (yeah, poor me, right) To make up for this I’ve turned up my working capacity to 11. I’ve managed to finish all school work we have so far as well as finializing the design of our Pirateahna enemy that was roughed out by the others, planned and created 5 animations and even tried clean lining one of them!

So in preperation for the beta we needed a few new enemies to give the player some more challenges, because right now just having an enemy that goes mostly forward is pretty easy to avoid, especially as you only have to stay at the top of the screen to basically avoid all enemies as well as keeping your health at maximum. Sure, the player have to go down if they want to collect points, but if the main point is seen as just getting to the end of the level, just avoiding everything would be the optimal strategy, and that’s no fun.

So what enemies did we choose and why? In the original document there were perticular enemies that were quite different from the Swordfish enemy, and those are the pirate pirahna “Pirateahna” and the pirate jellyfish “Jelly Roger”. So to mix up the challenges a bit more those enemies seemed to be the perfect candidates. However the jellyfish was basically a mindless floaty version of the pirahna, so we changed it to a projectile based one that shoots as Skip, making it one of the more differing challenges in the game.

So now more on the animations, this week I have included multiple parts of the animation process. So we have the enemy designs given to me, my first drawings of said enemy, shape animations, sketched animations, some clean lined animations as well as some animations in action!

First off we have the design for the pirahna rough design that was sent to me.

So with this rough design I could create a design more akin to the rest of the game. I went over the notes that were given to me by the others, what parts of the designs were most important as well as a final decision for how the enemy would work. It goes up and down in a mindless manner trying to bite everything that’s in front of it. Going off of this I knew that the most important aspect of the design had to be the face and jaw.

So here we see some sketches made for a more finalized version of the pirahna enemy. The original sketches that I made have not been scanned however, but these ones basically reflect those. A lot of the designs I feel looked more like the faces of crocodiles or aligators rather than a pirahna, thanks to the shifting teeth as well as the fact that I made the face a bit too long with the jaw being a bit too small. With these sketches you can also see more of some rough planning for the animations. Some things were deemed not necessary when it actually came to the animation, but that’s par for the course little buddy, par for the course.

Next up we have the shape animation planning for the animation alongside the sketched out versions ready to be linearted.

As I have talked about in earlier blog posts these shape animations that I make really allows you to quickly check if the animation will look like it is going to work or not. To really make the jaw stand out and to make it look big and sturdy I drew it as a big block that connects to the body. It is the one shape that is different from the rest of the design, whereas it is mostly made up of triangles. The face, the eyes to extent, the body and fin all share the triangular shapes. As soon as the shape animations were done and looked good all I had to do was sketch out the lines more exact on top of them so that it corresponds to the design, which also goes a lot faster due to the shapes showing most of what is there. I added some shadows to when the fin goes away from the screen to quickly and easily show more depth.

Lastly, as I have not been able to finish all of them, here we have the first frame of the swimming animation linearted.

I decided to put some color in to hide the face that some of the lines go through one another between the upper jaw area with the lower jaw area as well as the “brow” and the pirate hat 😛 This will also make it easy for the color artist to get some of the local colors down as you only have to choose the colored layer and then fill with the wanted color. If you have problems with filling with the bucket tool what I do is that istead of drawing the outline for the fill with a brush I draw it with a pen instead which leaves no dirty pixels around the edges.

The animated version is the featured image of this post, so just look at that one to see what this boils down to.

Hopefully I can keep the pace up in the future, I am learning so much and I hope that the rest of you do as well! Take care you guys, best of luck, have fun and I’m looking forward to seeing your betas! 😀

Group 4 – Mermaid River Blog Post #2

Hello again!

So moving along from last week’s post, have an updated Skip Swimming Animation!

Here’s some additional images for this week’s post:

 

Following the standard that we have set up for ourselves, as expected we are making sure that every thing looks like it belongs with the others!

As I was working with the animations the others were creating some other stuff in the meantime and as soon as I was done with an animation the others could pick it up, give it some line art and then finally color it. As I was working with the first animations the others were working on some other things in the meantime, such as some basic backgrounds and line art for the things in the game that does not require an animation. So ever since the start we have all had work to do to make sure that everyone can be productive at all times!

So since last time I have finished all of the major animations that are needed for an alpha showcase, but that does not mean that don’t have work to do! There is still a ton of work that can be done, such as other smaller things needed for the alpha as well as some animations that are needed for the beta.

One of the things I have made kind of goes outside of the work that we have planned for each of us. And that thing is the game’s first major power up, the mystical Squid Merman King Dave Scone’s (name pending) Magical Coin of Mystical Power (name also pending). The thing is that I am the one responsible for the animation as well as line art and coloring. I believe that this works out because there is currently no other item in the game that has an gold or metal texture in the game, which opens up a lof of design space. I could still follow the basic style made by the others to keep this in line with everything else.
This coin is also the first instance of where a secondary animation has been made. Meaning that an animation is made solely to enhance a certain aspect of another major animation. In this case it is a shimmering light that will appear around the coin to give it an illusion of shinyness and value, like expected of something golden. This also makes it so that it attracts the player’s attention so that they hopefully want to inspect it closer to see what it does. The player needs to figure out that this is something good and not an enemy in disguise or something out to hurt you!

To finish off I will give some insight on how I make the sprite sheets and why they look like they do. To make it as easy as possible for the programmers the sprites need to be the same distance from each other and stay within the same size grid to make sure that it animates properly when put into the game’s engine and sprite handler. At first I just put all of the sprites next to one another in a long row and tried by eye to put them with the same distance to each. This proved to be a long and tedious process that was not very accurate (who would have thought). So what I do now is that I put all the sprites each in its own layer and then stack all of them on top of one another. This is to make sure that they go along nicely when divided. This also gives the size needed for the grid to have each sprite in their correct placements. Hopefully that explanation was not too complicated or weird!

Good luck to you on your own projects! 😀