Quests & Character Generator

For the past two weeks I’ve mostly been working on writing quests and whatnot, therefore no post last week. I’ve also made some other smaller additions of course, more details below. New art and maps aren’t such a high priority right now, as it’s mostly done. The focus forward will be on adding in all the quests and characters, which means posts will be less frequent (not every week, but definitely every two weeks). Let’s jump in.

Questlines

For the most part I’ve been working on the questlines related to the Outposts,  one of the primary factions you interact with. To begin either of them, you have to travel to the West Outpost and talk with the commander, telling him a skill you’re most sufficient in, which determines which of the outposts you are sent to (East, North, South). So far I’ve only worked on the North Outpost quests, amounting to six so far. There’ll be more as time goes on, of course.

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The North Outpost

You might wonder, what are these Outposts? They are the primary quest hubs for advancing the main story and are spread to each of the four corners of Uspya. Each of the Outposts have a commander, a smith, a trainer and some soldiers stationed there. The blacksmiths each specialize in one kind of weapon/armor that they craft better than anyone else, but will only sell their best goods to those of higher rank or after completing some tasks for them. The trainers can help you gain some free experience points by completing their training tasks.

Deeper Character Creator – Homeland and backgrounds

A few posts ago, I wrote about the redesigned Character Creator. I’ve added two more tabs to it, allowing you to set your homeland and create a background for your character. Changing your homeland affects your stats, as each of them provides a +1 bonus to a specific statistic, as well as changing dialogue from time to time. EG people from Sedresh might not like a person coming from Usmor, or they might want to be their best friend and so forth. This can also affect trading to some degree. The background generator allows you to set your parents professions, your aspiration and your previous education. These settings determine what items, stats and money you start out the game with. EG; your father being a blacksmith starts you out with a iron sword.

backgroundgen

Work in progress.

Other changes/additions

  • Added a variety of cloaks to shield the wearer from rain and keep warm in cold environments.
  • Fixed various sprites and item icons.
  • Added magical wards, placeable by the player. Wards are temporary and stationary objects that attack enemies within range.
  • New types of plants and cooking ingredients.
  • Animated banners and flags to ripple in the wind.
  • Started work on some new enemy types
  • Added transition animation when sailing by boats.

That’s all for this week, thanks for reading!

Redesigns, factions & time flow

For the past week I’ve been working on a variety of things, primarily a small faction, changes to how time and quests work as well as interface redesigns.

Time

One of the changes to time is how it progresses. When the player walks from one edge of a map to another, time is currently advanced by 15 in game minutes to give a feeling of traveling a longer distance. It may change until release. Time also plays a role in some quests, requiring you to finish them within a certain amount of days. Some may also automatically fail if you take too long before starting/finding it, the dialogue of the quest giver can be different because no one helped them within a certain time frame or they may simply have moved on to somewhere else or died.

New Journal

In order to increase consistency of interfaces, I also made changes to the Journal, where you’ll now find your current quests and custom notes under proper categories. Creating custom notes requires you to have at least 1 piece of paper. Quest categories are also in, inspired by the Inventory screen. Below is a small example using placeholder quests. It still requires a bit of work, but it’s a proof of concept at least!

questlog3

The categories are as follow: All, Main, Misc, Treasure Hunts, Bounty Hunt, Faction and Custom Notes. The categories are easily switched between either by using gamepad bumpers or clicking with the mouse.

Treasure- and Bounty Hunt are two new quest types that can be found by either reading wanted posters or finding small maps/notes leading to greater loot. Bounty Hunts usually leads to a nice chunk of gold or some unique items, based on who placed the bounty.

New faction: Stargazers

The new faction is a small one and will not be joinable by the player. This new faction is called “Stargazers” and are  a small group of astronomers and munks. Their job is to look at the night sky and try to decipher what the alignment of the starry night sky mean and turn them into blessings for the people and the land. With a little bit of exploring, they may be the first faction the player will meet after starting a new game.

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Their astronomy tower and living quarters. No lighting effects are applied in the screenshot.

As with all other shrines and sanctuaries, the player may give tribute to the altars found within to receive unique blessings by the gods or just make the faction like them more.

Camera lerping

I also added in some camera movement which can be toggled either on or off in the options menu.
cameralerp

That’s it for this week, until next week I hope to have applied the same changes as the Journal to the Factions screen as well as implementing more quests and fix at least a few bugs. Cya!

Break time is over

For the week I’ve taken a small break from gamedev, instead focusing more of my time on actually playing games and doing some other things instead of spending the usual 3-5 daily hours working on Tales of Astya. Now I’m back for full, refreshed and ready for new challenges. I’ve mostly been playing Rainbow Six Siege and some Watch Dogs 2 in between. The new map and DLC operators are really awesome! If you haven’t played Siege yet, I absolutely recommend you try it out, it’s grown so much since it’s initial launch. Watch Dogs 2 turned out to be a much more enjoyable game than I initially thought it would be judging from gameplay trailers released before the game came out. Good stuff, Ubisoft!

I started working again fully this monday, fixing various bugs that testers have sent me and adding new features to Tales. These are some of the new things;

  • Barber shop, with custom RGB hair color editing and new hair styles
  • Animal husbandry
    • Sheep that can be sheared
    • Chickens that lay eggs
    • Basic animal AI (grazing and walking around)
    • Placeholders for sounds
  • More recipes to cooking and alchemy
    • Wine and beer brewing
    • Small food dishes
    • All potions that can be purchased can now be crafted (except quest/unique ones)
  • New ingredients to go along with the new recipes
  • Made the full world map (not just the region the current game takes place in)
  • Merchant prices based on the player and merchant Cunning statistic
  • New factions that can be joined
  • More unique dialogue for NPC’s that better fit their personalities
  • Thieves and highwaymen trying to rob the player
  • Shields

And as usual, here’s some screenshots and GIF’s

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An oratory

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Small personal library

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Barber shop interface

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Chickens

sheep

Sheep

shields

Shields

 

That’s all for now, more will follow soon-ish! Cheers.

Interfaces & Mini project

For this week I’d like to write about how the interfaces have changed since the last time I posted screenshots of them. Here’s a link to that post and talk a little about a small game I made during my vacation a few weeks ago that I completely forgot to write about in the last post. More on that near the end of this post.

New interfaces

categoryselector

Inventory and store category selector to more easily find items of certain types. From left to right; ALL, WEAPON, CLOTHING, CONSUMABLE, QUEST, BOOKS, REAGENTS, KEYS and last MISC

charscreen

The character screen where you get an overview of your current stats, equipment and can distribute points in stats to improve them.

inventoryscreen

Inventory screen.

messagebox

Dialogue box with the choices laid out below.

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New character creator

questscreen

Quest interface with your current quests laid out in a list. Hovering a quest shows you the current quest description and state.

mapscreen

Map screen. The overworld is laid out in a 6×6 grid. You must have a map in your inventory to access this screen.

 

That other game – PLAY IT

Like I said in the beginning of this post, I made a small game as a distraction during my vacation this year and uploaded it on itch.io for anyone to play. The game is made in Unity and it’s an endless runner (like we don’t have enough of those already). Here’s a screenshot of it:skjermbilde-2016-09-07-00-25-19As you play you must go through an endless obstacle course, dodging the traps and reach the end. Once you reach the end, the camera pulls back and puts you back at the beginning for you to go again. The levels are also randomly generated and full of colors, with some powerups to pick up as well.

 

Stylistic experiments & change of workflow (eventually)

For the past week I’ve almost not spent any time in Unity, but GG Maker instead. Maybe it was nostalgia, or maybe it was a desire to try something new. Probably nostalgia. Either way, I downloaded and installed it Wednesday last week and have been using it for a few hours almost every day since then. This does not mean that the desert island project is cancelled or put on hold, it’s still alive. It’s just not been my focus for a few days.

However, after using GG Maker for a week, I’ve decided to split my workflow in two; Unity for smaller, more focused prototypes and using GG Maker for creating more adventure games within the same lore-universe as the desert island game. I still plan to finish it before making the final switch,  as cancelling it at this point would just be stupid considering how much time I’ve spent on it. The reason for this change is that GG Maker allows for much faster iteration for RPG’s with more or less all the systems already in place for creating branching dialogue, proper inventory management and lots of flexibility. Instead of rewriting the code I’ve made for the desert island game to work with other games in the future, I’ll use Unity for more experimental projects.

One week in the making

isometricTownIf you follow me on Twitter you may have already heard about this project. I decided to challenge myself with the style of this game by using the NES color palette, and only those colors. It has proven a bit harder than anticipated, but also a lot of fun. The project I’ve been working on has been a isometric adventure game with more focus on the dialogue and level design, encouraging the player to take different choices to reach various goals. It also uses voxels for the various objects throughout the scene, like those trees, except for the characters which are flat 2D sprites. It certainly gives the game a unique look. Below is a test scene inspired by the desert island game.

isometric

That’s all for this week, ya’ll know you’ll get a new post next week.

Mostly visual tweaks for the past week

For the past week, when not playing Black Desert Online(which is pretty damn awesome), I’ve mostly been doing various visual tweaks and not that much code. I like to change things up and do visual one week and code the next to not get completely exhausted at one thing and risking losing interest. This means that for next week, the main focus is code again. Now, let’s look through some of the changes made this week.

New Equipment Window

Last week I showed of the new item screen, which was the first preview. This week it’s almost finished, preview below.

newEquipment

When opening a chest, this window pops up, showing you your current item of the same type found in the chest. Since the player can only have one item equipped per slot and no inventory to store them in, it gives you the choice of either leaving the item or taking it with you. If you choose to take the new item, your previous one is destroyed without the possibility of getting it back. So it’s usually a good idea to not instantly take the new item, but look over the stat changes and enchants. On the task list for next week: Green text if the stat is better, and red if it’s worse. The item slots available are as follows:

  • Main Hand
    • Swords, axes, bow.
  • Shield
    • Use a shield to block damage, obviously. Can not be used with the bow.
  • Armor
    • Armor sets contain a chest piece, sometimes a helmet and new boots.
  • Lockpicks / Keys
    • Used for unlocking doors and chests.

Character texture changes

pointyHeads

Character heads made more like arrows to better show what direction they’re facing.

Characters have also received some visual tweaks, most notably in their color schemes and their heads. Previously their heads were squares, but I changed their shape slightly by making the faces pointier instead to make it more clear which way they are facing and also making them seem a bit more “natural” by scaling joints to get some curvature and different shading over the models. These changes are most notable when a character enters ragdoll-mode with arms and legs flying all over. Fun stuff.

actors

New clothing and color palettes. Also decided to remove the face textures and go with a clean look instead. More colors are in the works.

Doing animation tweaks and changing the base mesh lead to the attack animation getting screwed up, as well as the walking animation not looping properly. The running animation loops perfectly though. Weird. In the second screenshot you can also see that the player holds the sword out to the side, and trying to attack somehow inverts the animation. For some reason this has only affected the player and not other objects, despite them being the same mesh with a different texture applied to it. Aiming to have this fixed until next week.

Enterable buildings without loading

Previously if you were to enter a house, the game would load that house interior as a separate scene. I’ve been experimenting some with having the houses be actual objects in the overworld scene allowing you to enter them without any loading, just open/unlock the door and enter and the roof disappears. Preview gif below.houseRoof

Although the houses are cramped and small, this fits well with the overall design of Querden and the architectural style of the island. With most of the population being poor, having a bigger house is reserved for the elite. Not all houses are enterable, but those who are will be marked with various patterns that you should be able to recognize. Sometimes a house may be enterable, but the door is locked. If you have the key you can unlock the door, but if you don’t you should try to get your hands on some lockpicks to pick the lock.

That’s all for this week. Check back in 7 days for a new post about development.I’ll try to limit my hours with Black Desert and get some more work done this week. I might write a small review of the game if I find that I have the time for it, we’ll see.

Activities and thoughts on other engines

I am back once again to write about my game, which I still have yet to name. This time it’s about activities on the island. Sadly, the past week I’ve not been able to find much time for development for two reasons. One is Easter vacation from work which lead to dedicating my time to being with friends and family(read: partying). The other is a recent Windows update that broke a driver with the built in Intel card on my laptop, resulting in Unity’s renderer stopping to work, requiring a restart in order to function again. At least I was able to save, the only issue was that the screen would not update. Frustrated, I decided to check out Unreal Engine 4 and CryEngine for a little bit while waiting for driver updates, tinkering with them in the late hours of the night. Read more about that at the bottom of this post. I haven’t found any driver updates yet, but I found a workaround to halt the crashing; just keeping the Intel Control Panel open while using Unity. I hope this is only a project-specific error so I won’t have to deal with it in upcoming projects once this is done. But that is months away, I still have lots of objects to model, quests, dialogue, lore and code to write, optimization and overall polish. I’m feeling confident that in about a months time I’ll be ready to release a small demo, so stay tuned for that.

Activities

Because of these engine errors, most of the development have been done on paper the past few days. Here are some of the planned activities and side objectives you can partake in:

  • Barber
    • Change your hairstyle and color.
  • Fishing
    • If you’re able to acquire a fishing rod, you can cast your line in a body of water and try your luck at catching various fish and sometimes new treasure. Different water types and locations yield different rewards.
  • Treasure Hunt 
    • Find treasure maps around the island and try to decipher them to find valuable equipment.
  • Upgrading and enchanting equipment
    • By visiting the blacksmith in Querden you’ll be able to upgrade your equipment to yield and deflect more damage. If you’re able to find the Wizard Tower you can also enchant your weapons with powerful enchants giving you a edge in combat.

More activities will be included as time goes on, but for now these are the only ones planned. Once these are done though, I would really like to start working on some more, four isn’t really all that many.

Thoughts on Unreal and CryEngine

A few days before writing last weeks post, Crytek announced that CryEngine V would go into a “pay what you want” model with support for C#. I was obviously intrigued, having used CryEngine 3 when they allowed for indie developers to use it a few years ago. Even back then, it was quite hard to use, but I managed to create some simple terrains, but that was about it. And of course, my computer at the time gave me around 25 fps even on low settings. Not really optimal for development. It also required a special plugin for Maya(I use Blender) to export 3D models to their own proprietary format, and from what I understand it still does. So even there it stops for me. The layout was much more refined in V compared to 3 though, but this time I wasn’t even able to create a terrain. Because of CryEngine waiting this long to target indie developers, there is also a severe lack of documentation and community built around it to consult when getting started. This will get better as time goes on though, and I’d really like to try it out once there are some proper tutorials for learning how to use it. It’s such a powerful piece of tech, maybe a bit too powerful for the simple style I go with. But it sure can make even simple stuff look good with some amazing lighting and blurring effects. My main draw towards it was the support for C#, as this is my primary language to code in.

With Unreal on the other hand, I was able to create a level with custom models within ten minutes of clicking buttons, since importing models is super easy by just exporting as .FBX and importing them through the Content Browser. The material editor seems super powerful, and it was very easy to get a grasp of how it worked. The only thing I struggled a bit with was the Blueprints script editor, ironically, but it would obviously become easier after using it for a while. It reminded me a lot of the script editor in 001, but more intimidating at first with more complicated and sometimes strange names for the functions. The lighting effects, like in CryEngine, are quite nice, but I did struggle a little bit with static shadows becoming completely black and not looking all that nice. It would be nice to learn to use it to create mods for Unreal Tournament though, which by the way is a fantastic free shooter! You should check it out if you haven’t already.

My biggest gripe with both of the engines is that starting the launchers and loading projects take quite a while, even when there is nothing in them. They are both oozing with professionalism, that’s for sure! If I were to choose one of them however, it would probably be Unreal, since the community is much bigger and the accessibility is higher. But then again, switching game engine is no easy task, especially when you’ve been using the same for several years and gotten integrated in a different workflow. So it’s going to be Unity for me as my main tool, but maybe I’ll try to teach myself Unreal on the side whenever I feel I have the time for it. Only time will tell. This became quite a long post, I hope you enjoyed reading it. Until next time, take care!