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!

Style

For this week, I thought I’d do a small write-up of the style in the game. As you have probably seen from the screenshots in the previous post, the game features a low poly style with sharp edges. Different this week from last though is that I decided to go with minimal texture detail on detail objects and instead go with flat colors, leaving only characters and the terrain with proper texturing, and giving houses a colored area near the ground. They now look like this, giving more variety to towns and settlements. marillaNew.pngThis also makes it very fast to create new color schemes for buildings, since their UV maps are set up by projecting the UV map from one side, placing all the edges on top of each other, making a nice looping texture wrap.houseUVCreating new color templates simply consists of replacing the red bottom of the UV with another color, as shown here:houseColors

For the environment however, I don’t use any textures except for the trees. Even then, they only consist of two colors; the bark and the leaves. These textures are made in the same way as the textures for the houses, but with some re positioning of the UVs to make everything fit and to prevent bleeding colors. Objects such as rocks, cacti and grass is just a single color defined in their material properties along with some shininess.

twins

The twins, two large mountains

mines

Querden Mine, one of the dungeons

As I mentioned, characters also have textures on them. Instead of making unique meshes for every character, I’m instead just going with applying premade skins to them and giving them armor meshes on top of their default body if necessary. I draw the textures in Blender, import them to Unity and then set their filtering mode to Point to reduce edge blurring and give that sharp look I’m going for.

actorTextureBlue

Since the actors are made up of only 41 faces, making new textures is a pretty fast process that I still haven’t gotten fully around to doing yet. Oh well, with time we’ll get there.

Another aspect of the color design I’m working on is to give each area it’s own unique palette to make it easier to know what area you’re currently in. I also plan to extend this to the character textures, so if you meet a person you can tell from their clothing their social status or where they come from.

Next week I plan to write about player interaction with the world and some of the activities you’ll be able to partake in.

Here we go

Hi, thanks for checking out my blog! Here I’d like to share my thoughts on game design, development and my thoughts on various released games. And of course, writing about the games I make myself.

I’ve been making games as a hobby for several years, starting with Engine001 (now known as GG Maker) in 2008, learning the basics of game development by doing scripting and art, until I made the switch over to Unity in 2010, making the switch from 2D to 3D.

With my first post, I’d like to kick the whole thing off with my current project which currently has no name. We’ll get there, eventually. The game takes place on an island named Ceth, home of heat and sand. The main city, Querden, is plagued by drug usage and corruption. You as a player control a courier, living in Querden. The story is not finished yet, but I’ll write more posts about this in the future.

Here’s some screenshots:

The gameplay loop consists of exploring dungeons, fighting enemies, avoiding death by thirst and picking the locks of doors. Weapons can be enchanted with abilities like dazing and poison and killing your enemies by triggering traps. Planned features include vendors to buy new/upgrade weapons and armor, more varied architecture, perk system and probably lots more as time goes on.

That’s it for this introductory post. My plan is to write update entries once a week, preferably on Tuesdays, starting this week. Prepare for more in-depth articles about the various gameplay elements, code and the art. Cya