deer in headlights and responsive environments

11/18/2018 -

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.

Weathering Weather

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:
bmunjji snow

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:

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.



Town Hall – Culture = ChimCham (1)

Town Hall – Culture = Djem’beek

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

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