building cultures and cultural buildings

09/03/2018 -

A poem for summer’s end:

Mugalo you came, mugalo you went…
you were definitely summer, yes, 100 percent.

Moving on…

So during our summer of dev we have been formulating ways to express alien cultures through their architecture. There are seven dominant cultures in the galaxy we are creating (alas, we will dive deeper into their nuances in further posts). So for now, we’re talking ‘tecture (architecture).

One of the biggest challenges in imagining a culture is finding how symbolic representations, from colors to ornamentation to actual building designs, express identity. [Of note to other devs, Google images is trash for inspiration.] I found it’s best to think in terms of shapes. Specifically, finding ways to emphasize a certain shape in a building’s style and see what forms take hold. If i like something I stumbled onto, I may use that as a basis for many of the other buildings within that culture. The ChimCham culture, for examples, has a heavy emphasis on the crescent as a symbol and shape because the culture pretty much fetishizes the letter C. Take a look at some smaller village houses and then some larger city buildings/businesses:

chimcham cultural buildings and businesses

Jun has already used his coding wizardry to create a Unity tool that proceduraly generates structures. What this means is that he found a way to create unique buildings by combining the base hulls, windows, doors, and details of the building parts I’ve modeled. This allows to create homogenous cultures as well as freaky combo-structures for those areas of the galaxy that lie between two or three different cultures. The ultimate goal here is to create regional immersion. When you’re near a hub of a certain culture and you land on a planet, we want it to feel different from where you just warped. Umm, let me just show you…

So, whenever I finish creating architecture for a culture — houses, complexes, businesses, etc. — I use the aspects of the style I just created to build a lovely townhall. These are MASSIVE edifices that truly emphasize what sort of look an alien culture values.

townhalls-wp-cc-p-db

townhalls-nightshot

Town Hall – Culture = ChimCham
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Town Hall – Culture = Djem’beek

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Town Hall – Culture = Whimpuss
th-wp (more…)

keeping scores in the great outdoors

07/08/2018 -

[+34 points – new post discovered!]

Scoring NOT Boring

Holy florp, look at that — you just got 34 points for discovering this post! Nice! So, here’s the gist: we’re keeping a somewhat-sophisticated point system in our open-world galaxy simulator. More and more, today’s games feature seemingly endless “missions” and “achievements.” We miss a sense of feeling done: a final score. Don’t get us wrong, we’re gonna have all those story-line and progress elements, but your choices, discoveries, and accomplishments will have point-based consequences and they’ll all be tallied. Did you wipe out the creatures on the planet B’Munji? Yeah, that’s uhh… not great (-3,254 points). Did you heal your crew members after combat? Good work (+500 points)!

So What do you get from strong final scores? You climb a leader board and gain titles, similar to the Civilization series, and earn the right to show off how skillfully (or awfully) you played this particular game.

[+14 points – section read!]

Curiosity Rewarded

We remember how awesome it felt to discover something and gain a little more than an achievement notification. You get points. And those points impact game strategy and build to something bigger. We recently finished including discovery elements into the game. You walk up to an alien creature or plant for the first time, and the simulation notifies and informs you of your discovery. Basically, you get context to that oddball animal you just saw.

What’s the point? Well, two things: 1) strategy matters and 2) we’re building a galaxy lush with alien life. In order to help players understand how to rock this game, we think it’s important to let them know how to survive, fight, and leverage all that the simulation offers. Discoveries help with approach. Of course, anyone can play and ignore scoring and enjoy the open world freedom of a galaxy. But if you want to be the top voyage leader, then curiosity and learning counts. Knowing the world means knowing how to rule it.

[+23 points – you made it past blocks of words!]

Here’s what discovery notifications look like:


Discovering Alien Life… and Shooting It – Indie DB

Prototype leader board (alien races have done well with this simulation!):

leaderboard

Braver Than EA, We Included War-Bear Wojtek Into Our Indie Game

05/27/2018 -

We were stunned to read in Ashley Oh’s article from Polygon that EA is not showing the courage to include WWII bear-soldier Wojtek into Battlefield 5 – their crazy-intense WWII shooter. After hearing the bear’s story, we knew we had do what’s right.

Wojtek will be a badass alien bear in Lilith, a sim game like Oregon trail but on an open-world, galactic scale.

His story touched our game-dev hearts. A cub abandoned at birth, Wojtek was raised and trained by Allied Polish soldiers and rose to the rank of corporal. He would lug around ammo on the battlefield, and apparently had a liking for beer and ate unlit cigarettes. Which is metal as hell.

Such a hero requires remembrance, EA! So we rendered a low-poly version of Wojtek and roughly drafted his animation. He’s got battle tusks and horns, because Wojtek ain’t nothing to fuck with. Without getting into too much detail, game features will allow players to control (and possibly ride) Wojtek.

Gloves thrown, EA. Check it:

WOJITEK JPG

putting the fear of god into simulated creatures

04/29/2018 -

Is it ethical to code fear of god into a simulated being? Nobody knows, so we made some tuna salad sandwiches and just did it. Who is god in this context? It’s us ;), we are gods, what fun!

Yes, Jun and I are working on bringing the simulated world TO LIFE. Or rather, making it feel alive by creating a responsive environment. One feature of any environment is the AI of its critters and creatures. On earth and in our reality, you enter a forest, you see a squirrel, you wave at it, and it runs away because your big hands are fearsome. We want to mimic this kind of interaction, but without your big hands.

Creating a responsive creature is a multi-step process that involves modeling an abnormal/alien creature, anticipating the details of its movements, and then giving it a fight or flight response depending on the type of creature it is – predator, prey, territorial, etc. This begins with modeling. Stylistically, we want to model animals/creatures that SEEM familiar but are indeed unearthly; remember, this game takes place in a galaxy where earth does not exist! So, for example, our little birds are bug-eyed, one-legged, and big-beaked. Strange but believable. That’s the aesthetic we’re shooting for. Ch-ch-check out some creatures we have made so far (astronaut being for scale) oh and (we are showing more of these babies off via instagram @Jun_and_pate if you’re into low-poly weirdness):

all_creatures

all_creatures_2

After creation, we move on to AI: making animals do “life-like” things. This begins with animating its movement and determining what a particular animal would look like lumbering about on the surface of its home planet. Each animal is different, some have four legs, some fly, and some walk, so their movements should jibe with their look. From there, we have to define the parameters of the paths it roams – can it swim, fly, or burrow? Does it stay close to its nests or food sources? But we’re still not done. We then have to determine how that creature will react to seeing our alien astronaut friend. A little bird would flee, but a rhino-behemoth might charge if you get too close. Wait, so now we have to find a way to show the player how an animal is perceiving them? Yep, and it has to look slick(ish) too. Enough words, let’s see some of those little buggers run. Here’s the most basic, unpolished iteration of little birds fleeing:


little birds with fear of god – Indie DB

deep dive surviving, mining, and gameplay jiving

04/22/2018 -

*Psst* Over here. No, here, in the Fizzberry shrub. Ah, there you are. Chay ho. I wanted to let you know we are in thick of it. We’re creating and connecting the game’s basic planetary survival mechanisms. This means we’re defining and detailing two big picture gameplay areas: health and harvesting.

Granola Bars Don’t Stop Bleeding

Jun and I have begun creating the “life” parameters for gameplay – the ways to measure how much energy, sanity, and fitness a character would have. There’s a little more fine-tuning we have to do, but we’re avoiding the traditional depictions of health points as a bar that goes up and down based on, well, for example, getting scratched by a Galactelope. Rather we’re shooting for a little more depth. Health will be tied to a set of “conditions” that need to be addressed, and a specific part of the character’s body will be affected. Poison in the stomach, punctured lung, etc. Each condition will have a specific level of severity. A scratch will be a minor condition, easily patched by a bandage or it will simply heal on its own. But a laser shot to thigh is serious, which causes major blood loss – too much bleeding and you’re done. This style of life management, we imagine, lends itself to a more intimate experience with the simulacra you will control. Here’s a little diddy of our prototype health monitoring info screen as we generate character names:


Health Parameters and Name Generation – Indie DB

Smacking Things for Stuff

We’re not re-inventing the wheel with harvesting. It’s your familiar progressions of approaching an object, seeing if the harvest option appears, and then smacking the object with your multitool until it yields the resources you need.

The one wrinkle we are adding is the ability to harvest gasses in the atmosphere via a nifty tool called the Chugboy. As it’s name suggests, this little sucker vacumes the “air” or liquids of a certain area, creating canisters full of the element harvested. For example, you can wander into a Nitrogen-rich patch of planet and harvest it for crafting.

All that said, we’re pretty pumped with how the game is starting to come out. It was nice speaking to your from this shub, but I really must get back to my jungle fort. Oh… I should tell you about building capabilities. Meet me back here in four moons.


Harvesting, Mining, etc – Indie DB