Friday, March 11, 2016

We're moving!

Hey all!

I've made the decision to make the IndieDB page the main site for the game for the time being. This is just a shift in where the content is posted, the game is still moving forward on schedule. The overall framework of content sharing as well as being the primary host for the game build made it a pretty easy choice to move though. It will also eliminate some duplicate busy work when it came to posting content so hopefully that will give me more time to work on the game and make the shared content that much better.
Please let me know if you are bothered by this decision and I will do my best to alleviate any issues.
Thanks everyone! - CJ
IndieDB Page

Friday, March 4, 2016

Beginning of March Sprint

Happy Friday!

March is definitely going to be a busy month, I'm flying to San Francisco to go to GDC and taking care of a bunch of other things. That being said I still loaded up the schedule as much as I felt comfortable with for this sprint.

The emphasis this month is on getting more content in and hooked up, to put the systems and mechanics to the test and really flesh out the game. Paired with that are some possible work flow improvements, more on that below.

I decided to forgo a build release today, I'm hoping to get a bit more of the work from last months sprint properly integrated into the flow of the game, rather than just working in a test scenario. To give a bit of insight into the construction of the game and keep releases varied and fun, I recorded a short tutorial video. It covers the use of variation "seeds" in the game to produce predictable procedural content. This was largely inspired by No Man's Sky which uses this idea to grow full planets, my hope is to use it to randomize locations and missions. Ideally when you start the game, maps with have their encampments and other such things randomized, so each play through is fresh and interesting, but you can learn the lay of the land in each run of the game. Let me know what you think and if there are any topics you would like to see in future videos.

As I am trying to flesh out more content for this sprint, I have started developing the shoreline map beyond just a placeholder space so it can continue to develop in parallel to the main wilderness map. In order to give future maps a jump start I have started trying out using World Machine to generate new layouts. From world machine I can easily shift large landmass around and try out many options quickly, generating all of the height maps to sculpt and paint the landscape. I don't intend to push this all the way to completion, just to get a loose sense of the space and layout. It will also make it easier to generate similar maps that are meant to share the same biome. I have yet to try the Open World tools developed for the UE4 Kite demo but am hoping I can use those as the next stage to "grow" various foliage around the map. Hopefully these tools together will allow me to get new maps up and running faster so I can focus on the local gameplay and storytelling.
Shoreline map, with loose red circles to indicate possible encampment locations
 Next on the agenda is character art! One of the large missing components of the current pipeline is character art and animation. So I'm trying to rectify that by starting to model the main character and look into rigging options. The render below is the VERY early hi-poly model, which has most of the larger elements blocked out but little to no detail and still missing a lot of the connecting pieces. The most developed elements are the cloth torso and arms, I altered a base model and draped it using Marvelous Designer, pulling it back into Zbrush for cleanup. Still a long way to go on it but happy with it as a start.
WIP "Medical Frame"
Have a great weekend everyone! - CJ

Friday, February 26, 2016

Sprint Report - Hacking and Base Economy

Hey all!

This weekend marks the end of this month's sprint which has been quite successful in my opinion. The focus of the month was gameplay, focusing on two of the main pillars of the game. Hacking gameplay was one, trying to clarify and make interesting opportunities for the player to leverage during combat. Two, was starting to build the foundation of the base management and player upgrades.

So the changes were, in no particular order:

  • Basic Management Economy - Foundation of the management system, more info below.
  • Flash Shield - Augmentation to the dodge ability, gives the player a temporary damage reduction for a moment or two. Will most likely be split into two different effects, a small reduction while dodging, a larger reduction if used standing still.
  • Performance Diagnostics - Figured out some of the larger taxation on performance and either removed or improved.
  • Hacking Feedback - Better visual player feedback for hacking with color state changes in all hack-able items.
  • Settings and Adjustments - Implemented a simple settings menu bought from the marketplace that allows for adjustment of video and audio settings. Currently the only fully working options are the video resolution options and the various audio sliders, but more gameplay options and other settings will be implemented as the project progresses.
  • Menu and Framework - Dynamic menu framework created and implemented for most menus. Allows for better menu functionality and much more easy to maintain on the back end.
  • Balancing Improvements - Retooled all enemy blueprints to pull vital statistics from central data table, allowing for easier balancing.
  • Munitions Overload - Explosive "barrels" now will trigger a timed detonation after taking a certain amount of damage, or after the player has hacked them to cause the overload.
  • Turret Charming - Reworked turrets to accept multiple target types instead of being hard-coded to the player. Hacking turrets now makes them fire on the enemy as expected rather than the previous temporary version of simply blowing up.
  • Blueprint Cleanup - Maintenance and cleanup of blueprints to make them easier to work with and accessible should the project ever have more of a team than just myself.
A quick note on the management economy, I really didn't want a complex system at all, only to afford the player opportunity for some engaging and meaningful decisions. As an extension of that, I'm hoping that it will also give a ground for the NPC's to "play" in, adding life and variety to themselves and the base.

Running the base, you have three main concerns:
  1. Energy - To run the machines
  2. Food - To feed the dwellers working in the base
  3. Defense - To protect your base and its denizens from outside forces
Everyday, any dwellers assigned will produce a certain amount of their associated good. Any costs will be subtracted, dwellers working to produce energy will need food, and vice versa for food producers. Excess will be converted into a smaller amount of the shelf stable version, food to supplies, energy to fuel. That way any day that doesn't have enough produce to meet its demands can use the base's stores but is an incentive to plan ahead as it isn't as efficient. Defense simply produces the primary value used to decide what happens in an external event, enemy or otherwise. Fuel and Supply are the primary ingredients in trade and upgrades so the player needs to balance their needs against that of the base.
For the broader economy, fictionally speaking there is no money to speak of on this planet that is meaningful to the main populace, so the only currency is influence. The more goods and services you provide to the local populace, the more they trust and are willing to work with you. With some influence you can ask for help in the form of dwellers, intelligence, other goods, and they will happily provide you with it to a point before your influence degrades. This may be a money with a direct 1 to 1 transaction, or a more organic threshold, I'm not sure yet.

I hope the above breakdown of the economy makes sense and is interesting, I put a lot of thought into it and hope that it will support a lot of nuanced player choice and expression while avoiding unnecessary complexity. Any thoughts or comments are of course welcome!

Over the next few days I will be blocking out work for the upcoming month's sprint. I have a working list of ideas but I think the focus will simply be fleshing out more content in the game, using the systems and gameplay that is already implemented and really putting it to work. Off the top of my head, the highest priority there will be the main wilderness map, trying to push each encounter so they are as engaging as possible. Secondary to that would probably be a working layout of the shoreline map, seeing if the gameplay transitions well to a completely different biome and if there any opportunities to vary the gameplay even more on an environment scale. This could be thick fog that sometimes obscure the enemy, poison water, subterranean enemies that pop out of the sand, who knows!

Thanks very much for your time, if you haven't already tried downloading last week's build please do so and leave me some feedback, and have a great weekend! - CJ

Monday, February 15, 2016

Quick post Valentine's update!

Hey all!

Sorry for missing the Friday update, honestly I was sick and just didn't have the energy to do it. However I'm feeling much better now and made a good amount of progress last week.

Like I mentioned in the sprint summary, I have blocked out all of this month's work in HacknPlan (which I love btw). As part of the gameplay focus of the month I worked on and completed:

  • Hacking Readability - Most of the hacking was already working but didn't have very good visual feedback of the state change. All hackable objects now have a visible change, whether it is a glowing orb changing colors or immediately catching fire :)
  • Turret hacking - Reworked turret "AI" so it would be flexible enough to support different targets. Hacking the turrets now switch them over to your side, firing on your enemies.
  • Munitions overload - The game's version of exploding barrels are munitions containers, which are lightly armored but will catch fire and explode after enough damage. Hacking can bypass that and trigger their fuses immediately. 
  • Menu and Upgrade framework - The game now has dynamic menu's which means that as more of the management and base building framework is built and played with, it will update automatically. The map selection screen has updated accordingly.
I've also been working on the paper version of the management and though I'm getting to be pretty happy with some of the higher level concepts, they need a touch more time to stew before they are prototyped. Hopefully they will make it in soon as they are the last real large chunk of framework missing from the game.

Have a great week all! - CJ

Friday, February 5, 2016

Build Release and Sprint summaries

Hey all!

There is a new build available for download and though not wildly different from the last one in terms of content it should be much more solid and stable. This last week marked the end of the game’s first real sprint and I have to say I’m quite happy with way it turned out. The sprints highlights were:
  • Complete greyblock meshes made for both Base and Wilderness maps. (A rough estimate of about 60-80 meshes)
  • Shoreline map proxied in for multidestination travel and future gameplay testing.
  • Complete refactoring of character resources and other attributes to make the data more accessible and less prone to loss.
  • Loose optimization pass to maintain reasonable playability
  • UI and other player experience work.
So moving forward I will try to maintain this kind of month long sprint schedule to keep pushing development forward as aggressively as possible and keep myself accountable for the work I have allotted. For this upcoming sprint I will be focusing almost entirely on gameplay and other design systems, either planning them on paper or implementing prototype versions to test directly in game. The main thrust of the work will be focused on improving implementation of the game’s “hacking” as it is a central pillar, and fleshing out the design of the base management.

I’ve already blocked out all the work so we will see how I do against my timing estimates. I’m also hoping to squeeze some less glamorous but still desired work like implementing game options and video settings to continue to make the game more and more accessible by all.

So as always, please play the build and leave me feedback, and have a fantastic weekend! - CJ

Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Wrapup! Sprint finish Edition

Hey all!

Its been quite a successful month of progress on the game, lots of work has been added and exciting progress made (at least for me.) The dev diaries have also been going quite well and I've enjoyed making them. Especially as work progresses I will most likely dive into specifics on some, doing tutorials or other content to break things up to keep things fun and interesting.
This week marks the end of the sprint as I mentioned. I tried to get any larger changes done early in the week so I can focus on play testing and fixing any problems with the build to get a nice solid release ready for next week. Work this week included:

  • More complete decoration pass on Wilderness map
  • Rebuilt resource gathering blueprint functionality to work based on game instance, allows for better persistence and access (previously based in character).
  • Initial work on getting controller support for UMG menus (currently only works on main menu, will expand to others once I can better package it up and make it easy to maintain)
  • Main map UI and workbench accurately track resources
  • Started testing of dynamic menus
The testing of dynamic menus ties into my goals for the next sprint. My high level goals are to focus on the gameplay by A. creating a paper test of the design layer of the game and B. developing the UI framework needed to support the design layer. By focusing on these goals I should be able to get a more complete representation of the intended game as a whole and be able to develop it much more evenly.

Have a great weekend!  - CJ

Start of more "high desert" areas.

Small lighting and decorative revisions

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday Wrapup! Sweet Cactus Edition

Happy Friday!

I uploaded a new build to IndieDB earlier today and just finished uploading one to Mega (links in "The Game" tab). I'm thinking that I may simply switch over to posting one just on IndieDB as uploading two sets each release is pretty cumbersome. Alternatively I may switch from Mega to another platform that IndieDB supports transfers from, alleviating the uploading that way.

Dev Diary #2 is online and linked below, take a look and leave comments. I'm always open to suggestions and would love to hear about if there is anything particular you all would like to see in these moving forward.

This week was a little on the slow side due to moving but I'm still pretty happy with the progress I've made. Doing well working towards the monthly goals I've set so I'm feeling good about the sprint tasks I've set.

What I did manage to get done this week was some player feedback loop improvements and quick optimizations. For the player feedback I implemented some more UI checks so whether you are interacting with consoles in the base or heading out on missions, you know what is going to happen when you press the button instead of blind triggers.

Optimization is never a glorious thing to talk about but is definitely necessary and can be quite satisfying. I learned a bit about some of the lighting and post process systems, pulling both back pretty significantly which helped performance quite a bit. I probably won't focus on this for a while, just picking where I can but have a few ideas I haven't tried yet that should speed things up significantly. As a related question, do you prefer 32-bit or 64-bit builds? I've been distributing 32-bit as not to alienate anyone but 64-bit would definitely be better for performance. Let me know what you think about that in the comments.

I'll leave you to your weekends with this small model addition, inspired by very cool cactus trees. Thanks! - CJ