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!):


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):



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

lasers, combat and a cowboy hat

03/04/2018 -

Chay ho, lilith-heads. What a momentous day, for we may now glimpse into shooting and destroying — which challenges us with some existential questions.

So yeah, here we have a creature firing lasers from its mouth and destroying a communications tower. Pretty casual stuff, I get it. Now, the importance here is that we have started implementing ideas for laser damage, range, sound and combat strategy. These baby steps allow us to visualize and determine the parameters to game play combat. What objects are indestructible? Should ducking help? How can players use barriers to their advantage? We’ve got much to answer.

Furthermore, lasers let us see “death”! Woo death! What this means is we can visualize what it means to kill or be killed in the game — a crucial detail that informs the larger narrative of the simulation. For example, when something is destroyed — living or otherwise — it crumbles, disorganizes. It is made irreparable. We must understand that in this simulation the detail you see is the same detail seen by all the other beings, and those beings have rationalized their world. So this challenges us to consider how dying is talked about among the inhabitants of this galaxy. “Ya gonna crumble, Governor Jorgo!” “Prepare to be disorganized.” “I’ll cube you, and I’ll like it, Mayor Neena.” But enough words, here is vid:

Destructible Environment Objects – Indie DB

printing stuff and smashing into it

02/25/2018 -

Jun and I frequently like to imagine that every teen in our game universe has had this conversation:

Teen: Dad, I printed the car and smashed it into a chayoha tree.

Dad: Alright, just don’t print another car between 1 and 3 this afternoon, I need the item-printer for a new set of khaki pants.

Teen: Whatever. Do we have star-paste in the fridge?

Dad: Yes. Of course.

Such a natural conversation is made possible by the ability to print items at will. That’s right. We have created an all-purpose printer meant for creating/materializing survival items of all kinds. This printer (and the resources that go into it) are crucial to getting by. Ingredients go in, items pop out. Check out the first draft of our item menu:


And here we see an iteration of what items would like once printed into existence:

printed some items

Tangentially related: we tackled the development of ground-based collisions. Development, you ask? What is so hard about coding collisions? It’s like, just stopping something you nitwits. Ok listen, we’re doing our best. But basically the code has to do quite a bit: communicate that an object is not passable, remember that the desired direction was not possible, and have all this working on a curved surface (unlike most games out there — think skyrim, pubg, etc.). We couldn’t exactly use pre-made physics engines for that reason — the collision has to recognize that objects exist on a sphere, that gravity is pulled towards a center of mass as opposed to “downwards”, like on a flat surface. So the code had to be relatively original. And here’s the kicker, collisions have to appear fluid — no glitchy skipping and the like. Well, Here’s a screenplop of objects that were identified as impassible:


Until next time, mugalo folks (and space fathers, stay strong, teen angst is just a phase). Coming up later, we got some strange creatures to show off, as well as a peek into *gasp* combat!