We’re huge fans of deer in headlights. Wait, no, we don’t hurt them. What I mean is that we think it’s cool the way deer respond to people and people things! This reactive principle extends to how we want animals to behave in LILITH. From a larger standpoint, we want the player to feel ~*nature*~.
Since LILITH is a galactic survival game, half of the game play takes place on different planets, moons, and other bodies you can beam down to. So we wanted planets in particular to have unique environments. It’s more than just looking cool. We want to create depth and immersion – you’re exploring different atmospheres with unique weather patterns. And not only that, each animal you find is guided by fundamental behaviors based on levels of aggression we give them.
We created weather patterns! Snow, rain, wind, and gas storms, as well as fog from variations of cloudiness. These are the foundational weather types/precipitation that occur on planet surfaces across the galaxy. A hot and dry planet won’t have snow or rain, while a snowy planet likely won’t experience gas storms.
Snow on B’Munji:
When You Stare Into the Animal, the Animal Stares Back
Animals make up an important aspect of how seek to immerse players in the feeling of ~*nature*~. The trick is getting them to act like… animals. We went about doing this by creating response types in animals based on, well, what kind of animal they are. Little critters are generally scaredy cats – they’ll flee faster than you can say “how cute!” Larger grazers, say an alien animal equivalent to a wild horse or buffalo, may run or charge. Their temperament is more balanced. And predators will generally chase you down and shred you alive.
Each animal has a sight radius that can allows them to “spot you.” Once they see you, they make a decision: run or charge. This is the deer in headlights effect that we are going for. The animal animation shows you that it is alerted. Staring at you for a second or two, before jumping to action. It’s these little details – the slight stall, the unpredictable stillness – that adds to a more exciting game play experience in ~*nature*~.
Running for your life:
Chasing for your life:
A poem for summer’s end:
Mugalo you came, mugalo you went…
you were definitely summer, yes, 100 percent.
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:
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.
Town Hall – Culture = ChimCham
Town Hall – Culture = Djem’beek
Town Hall – Culture = Whimpuss
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.
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.
Here’s what discovery notifications look like:
Prototype leader board (alien races have done well with this simulation!):
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):
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: