Set Controls for the Heart of the Sun
Today we will first focus on a part of the game which we have not discussed in detail before, namely the Adventure Mode. Secondly we have had several requests to do a “meet the team” feature and we are kicking this off today. Actually, we decided to split it in two and the first part will focus on the art service branch while the second part will introduce the other service branches.
Before we begin, a quick word about our backer design pledge tiers and sign-off dates to purchase these. We originally set 31st of March as the deadline but we have received several requests from existing backers to postpone this deadline. So we will push the deadline to correspond with the next Kickstarter update which should be out on 16th of April. This is the final deadline so if you have been on the fence about upgrading then you should make a decision soon.
Instructions for how to upgrade via PayPal are provided at the end of KS Update #47. Pledge tier templates are available HERE. When your pledge upgrade has been confirmed you can post and receive feedback from other backers on the pledge sub-forum (which is invisible unless you login on the community site). Only backers at the same pledge tier as yourself are allowed to post feedback directly (everybody can send a private message with feedback, however). If you forgot your community site password then click HERE to reset your password. All backers now have an account in BackerKit and this is where we will later distribute your game keys. If you need to check BackerKit then click HERE to request an invitation.
Anyway - back on topic: Adventure Mode. As you may recall, the Adventure Mode is featured quite prominently in the game flow sketches in update #47. So what exactly is the Adventure Mode? Well, its the main gameplay screen in the game where players will spend the most of their time.
The Adventure Mode allows you to view and interact with your sandbox, move your fleet, interact with other factions, as well as build and upgrade your logistics, production and training capabilities. Whenever you are not doing space combat and/or boarding combat you will be in Adventure Mode.
From a design perspective the major goals with the Adventure Mode are as follows:
- Background story - a rich history that helps make the sandbox an interesting place to explore. Player choices during character creation will affect starting conditions and generate certain future events. The player will evolve the story through his or her actions such that it is unique for each player.
- Sandbox gameplay - a living world where events take place and factions work towards their agendas even if the player does not participate.
- Longevity & replayability - the Adventure Mode itself must have sufficient depth to support hours and hours of gameplay. Scripted chains of events should be avoided. Player choices made during space battle and boarding operations must be echoed in the Adventure Mode.
- Tactile - All objects in space (planets, stars, asteroids etc) should serve a purpose and interacting with them will yield a corresponding and logical gameplay effect that is internally consistent in the game world. As the player gains more knowledge about the underlying game mechanics, more optimal usage of these objects should be possible.
On the design side what we are doing right now is prototyping our sandbox generator. The player sandbox will contain stellar objects like planets, stars, asteroids, gas giants, moons etc that you can interact with (ref “Tactile” above). We are planning how this interaction will happen and what the impact will be in early, mid and late game stages.
These stellar objects are logically grouped into star systems and of course each star system will have one (possibly two) stars at its center with the other stellar objects in orbit around. Zooming out, adjacent star systems are grouped into what we call clusters. Together the clusters form the player sandbox / game world. Each cluster, star system and stellar object will have a naming convention according to which faction is in control at the start of the game.
As part of the process we have used official data from NASA as well as other sources as a starting point to see the type of star systems we can generate as well as what type of diversity is possible. One key finding is that a “full real life simulation” would be boring as star systems would either be empty or have a lot of similar stellar objects. So we have already made several changes to the weighting and probability of generating certain types of star systems as well as the chance to generate specific types of stellar objects.
On the programming side we are working on having the Adventure Mode, Space Combat and Boarding Combat all running in parallel with the ability for the player to seamlessly switch between each of these three modes. If you remember update #45 from before Christmas we gave a brief description of the custom object entity model. Well, here it comes into play and is starting to pay off.
In terms of design and programming it is not that easy to visualize our progress right now. On the art side this is naturally a lot easier. One of our new artists, Chris, has been working in Substance Designer to create procedural textures for habitable planets, rocky planets, gas giants and stars.
Just for fun we tried to see how flexible the procedural textures are and whether we can recreate some of the more well-known gas giants and planets inside our own solar system. Original images above and our procedural versions below.
We also built a test star system to check how these objects look when placed together. Keep in mind that planet orbit and rotation speed is not finalized and for testing purposes only. This test star system spurred the discussion about how to handle asteroid belts as well as whether we want to visualize the solar wind. Chris, Garret and Vegard put together the video below to give you a glimpse of how a star system can look inside Adventure Mode.
As you can see the procedural textures are very powerful and allow us to create a wide variety of interesting looking stellar objects to populate the sandbox with. Of course we will continue to tweak and refine these further in the coming months but already we have a lot of parameters that we can randomize like cloud layers for planets or storms for gas giants.
That’s it for the Adventure Mode for now and we look forward to reading your comments and suggestions both here on Kickstarter and over on the backer community site.
Now it’s time for the “meet the team” feature. During the last few months we have been staffing up quite aggressively and the art team has grown from 4 to 13. The breakdown is as follows:
- 1x art director and 1x technical art director
- 6x environment artists (including 1x lead artist)
- 1x animator
- 1x character artist
- 2x concept artists
- 1x VFX/particles artist
Most of February and the first half of March was spent getting everybody up to speed on the project. There is a lot of documentation to read and the procedural texture pipeline was quite new for most of our artists. The influx of new blood and the quality of the artwork that is being produced is already very inspiring. We thought it would be a good idea to let each of the artists introduce themselves and after that we will show some of the recent work that has been completed.
The art team is organized into two teams; one interior team and one exterior team. The interior team focuses on the rooms, consoles, corridors, characters and animations needed for boarding combat and planetary missions.
For the crew we plan to have four uniforms per faction: a duty suit (vac suit or jump suit if you will), a light armour, medium armour and finally heavy armour. Each uniform is split into four parts: lower body, upper body, arms and head. Below you can see some of the Grand Fleet faction uniforms. The heavy armour is still a work in progress. Note that the duty suit is currently equipped with the light armour helmet since the side cap is not completed. Since the textures are fully procedural we can change the material type as well as the armour into whatever we want.
The exterior team focuses on starships and starbases for space combat. We already revealed the concept for the Arkwright heavy cruiser earlier. Below we have a “family photo” without textures that shows off all the 9 ship sections (3 front, 3 middle and 3 back). This allows us to create 27 types of Arkwright heavy cruisers before doing texture modifications.
Below you can also see the Osmani heavy cruiser with some of its upgrade sections. The first image is the initial concept art that sets the art direction while the second image is an actual 3D model with textures.
That concludes the first segment of “meet the team”. The focus of the next couple of updates will be lore and backstory. This should prove helpful when designing backer content for inclusion with the game. If our lead writer’s task list is any indication, we suspect you will all be doing quite a bit of reading in the next couple of months:
Your friends at Perihelion Interactive