Funded! This project was successfully funded on July 28, 2013.

Update #44

Dev Diary #06

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Greetings Agents!

Our latest update is now live! It's brief, but hopefully you'll enjoy your first very-early-pre-alpha-nothing-is-finished sneak-peak at Satellite Reign!

Check out Dev Diary #06 here or head on over to our backer only forums to discuss it!

- 5 Lives Team


Update #43

Dev Diary #05

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Greetings Agents!

Dev Diary #05 is now live! More concepts, chats on the forums and a new office toy! ;) 

Head on over to the site and check out Dev Diary #05 or just jump straight into the backer only forums!

 - 5 Lives Team 


Update #42

Dev Diary #04

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Greetings agents!
One last mission update before we have a little break for Christmas. In this update, we have a couple of big announcements… 

Firstly, we hit our next stretch goal!! HOORAY! 

That means we now have to fight off not only one big corporation, but three big corporations! On top of that, we now get to battle them in two new locations. AND we get Russell Zimmerman onboard to help with the writing for the game! It is a big stretch goal to hit and we are super excited about it. So, a big thank you goes out to all our backers who helped us get this far and especially those of you who have just joined us, or have upped their pledge to help get this stretch goal! 

Secondly, the backer only forums are up. This is a special little place where only backers can go to give your input and vote on the direction of the game. Just head to the forums section of the site and sign in! 

District : Industrial 

The Industrial District is the supply-hub of the city. Any equipment or supplies coming in or out of city have to go through the docks in the Industrial District. Large piers protrude out above the city levels below where vehicles fly in to dock and unload their cargo. It’s not only a lifeline of the city’s resource, it’s also where you’ll find vast storage warehouses, plants and factories which produce energy and process raw materials to be distributed out to the SciTech District. (We will have more on the new “Grid” District a little later in the project… so stay tuned!)

One of the big things about having funded Satellite Reign through Kickstarter is that we have the opportunity to hear your great ideas and include them in the game! As backers, we want you to help shape our two newest enemy organisations. We want you all to jump on the backer only forums and give us your ideas for the history of these organisations, ideas for important figures in the company, company logos, company names, company mottos. 

Below are some rough starting points for the factions, so have a read and give us your ideas! (Keep in mind that nothing is set in stone yet so things may change) 

Faction: Red Star 

The origin of Red Star is a checkered and bloody one, beginning as a collection of criminal families in Russia. 

Each family fought for control over business, land and power for generations. Ever increasing violence threatened to destroy them all, until an enterprising member of one of these families rose to power. 

Evgeni Vorsek, head of the Vorsek family, had grown tired of the bloodshed, and in a bold and ultimately decisive move, he gathered the leaders of the other families to set about righting centuries of bad blood. 

He presented his goal, to unify the houses and create a dynasty to rival empires of old. While not without its detractors, his vision appealed to the tired and beaten heads of the families, and over the next few years, he began to bring them together under one banner. 

As well as uniting the families, he also slowly turned Red Star’s shady transactions into legitimate business opportunities. Their illegal dealings are now behind them, and the families no longer fight amongst themselves, however they are well known for defending their interests if threatened, with the fierceness only a family can possess. 

These days, the Red Star (Feel free to suggest alternative names!) have a monopoly over the industrial production of armor and mechs. They also control the transportation and shipping of goods throughout the city and the neighbouring reigns. From canned food to super weapons, if it needs to be moved somewhere, you can be sure the Red Star will be involved. 

(Have your say on the backer forums!)

Faction: The Eternals 

The beginnings of The Eternals are linked with the rise of Steven Dengler’s company, Dracogenics, specifically when he created the Resurrection technology (we need a cool name for this!). This technology allowed a person to transfer consciousness from one body to another, allowing any who could afford the new procedure to effectively live forever. 

Their core belief is in the superiority of augmentations over the frailty of flesh, our physical being a mere husk for the ultimate evolution of mankind. As such, they seek to move all of humanity towards a new enlightened digital era. 

They are not so much a company as a movement, or an ideal (some would say a cult), however the sheer volume of followers and the goal of the movement has shaped them into the leading organisation in the field of augmentation research and development. 

They revere Dengler as the ultimate goal for humanity; a being who had successfully broken free from the shackles of mortality, replacing flesh with superior augmentations. Though the vast majority of the followers of this newly developed movement could not afford access to the mind transfer technology, they still have the means to strip away their fragile flesh, replacing it with longer lasting metal and wires, bringing them one step closer to eternal life at Dengler’s side. 

The Eternals have become a money-making juggernaut, and are the key driving force behind much of the latest advancements in augmentation technology in the world. Story Thanks to your generous contributions via PayPal, we’re able to welcome Russell Zimmerman on-board to bring life to the story, in-game dialog and text. He’s already got some great ideas for the backer reward novella, so we’re really excited to see him bring his ideas and talents into the main game narrative. 

(Have your say on the backer forums!)

In other news

A big congratulations to our friends over at Defiant who have been successful with their Kickstarter for Hand of Fate. Looking forward to playing that in the coming weeks!

Also, Mitch’s friends from fellow Brisbane developer Commotion Games are about to release their awesome looking game Recruits on Steam Early Access! 

 Also, King Art Games, who graciously mentioned us during our Kickstarter Campaign, have released their game Battle World: Kronos. To celebrate, they’ve released a great video showing why crowdfunding games is important, and thanking their own backers for their support. So check out the video and Battle World: Kronos on Steam 

And we have to give a big thank you to our backer, Blair N, who stumbled across our secret lair and dropped off some chocolates for us… they didn’t last long ;) 

We hope everyone has a happy holiday and we will see you all again next year! :D

- 5 Lives Team


Update #41

Dev Diary #03

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Greetings Agents!

We have been making leaps and bounds over the last few months. With the studio all set up, we dived straight into making the game! The first step is pre-production. In pre-production, we develop tools and pipelines to make the game (you have all seen a little slice of this with Mitch's last update). We have always believed in having a long pre-production cycle, which means we get plenty of time to figure out exactly how we are doing things, which is essential when you have such a small team like ours. 

Having said that, pre-production does NOT mean no progress: 

Chris and Dean have been working together on a character system that will let us produce an entire city worth of varied civilians with a small amount of base assets . Dean has full control over what types of citizens get what outfits, which outfits go with which hairstyles and what colors work with what combinations. (Dean will go through his pipeline at some point in the future, so stay tuned for that!) 

 Here is an early taste of what Dean has been able to create with only a small number of different models, a couple of textures, and some color palette swaps. 

On the environment side, we have had our amazing concept artist Jeremy Love work on a few quick sketches of buildings and environment pieces, and Brent has working on building up a library of modular pieces to build an entire city out of. 

As for design and code... Mike and Chris have been getting lots of systems up and running in the game: We now have different weapons with ammo upgrades up and running, and an ability system to give the agents abilities like Health regeneration and damage boosts. We also have corporate soldiers patrolling in groups who react to you pulling out your weapon in front of them or hearing guns being fired nearby. Lots of the pieces we need have been built now and the next step is get those pieces all together in a level and let the mayhem begin! 

[MikeD, Just to add a bit more detail on the code side. Enemies now use cover, as does the player. Cover can be a left or right-hand edge of a wall, or a low piece of scenery to duck behind, Enemies now have the concept of squads and can provide covering fire as other members of the squad move from cover to cover. There’s a combination of behaviour system and stack based State Machine running the AI, and the agents also run through this AI system, but following orders issued by the player. Character locomotion and steering is driven by the animation system, code takes direction information from the nav system and feeds it to a couple of parameters for a big Mecanim state tree that can blend in a lean for small direction changes while moving, or can cause the animation system to do a 180/90 or other big changes of direction.] 

Mitch has been working on the weapon anims, this is made more complicated by having 3 different weapon types one handed, two handed and heavy. Mitch and Mike have been fighting with Unity’s lack of independent root motion animation, making it tricky to move AIs in and out of cover fluidly, but after several dead ends, we have a semi-workaround until Unity allows Root Motion to be manually animated. We’ve had not only direct email correspondence with the Unity team, but they even came to our studio for a visit recently, eager to listen to all of our comments and questions to help improve Unity to fit our needs. 

We can also announce that as of now, we have add ons available through PayPal on our web site (just log on and head to the pledge page!) We also have backer only wallpapers available for download on our site! (Again, simply head to the media page and log on)

In other news: Jeremy has launched his own Kickstarter campaign with a few friends we used to work with, Teen Zombie High Squad! Not only is it going to be an awesome comic with some amazing art, you will also get to see our very own Chris as one of the shambling undead and Dean as a survivor. Start placing your bets as to whether Dean kills Chris or Chris kills Dean!

Teen High Zombie Squad

On top of that, friends and local Brisbane devs over at Defiant have launched their own Kickstarter for Hands of Fate, an action RPG mixed with a tabletop card game that allow you to customize your gameplay experience via the cards you choose and earn cards to build your deck. 

Hand of Fate

Lastly, we are only a few hundred dollars off our next stretch goal!!!! o_O wha???? This goal brings Russell Zimmerman on board to write the game’s story, and also introduces 2 new organizations into the battle; the Red Star and the Eternals. It also allows us to build 2 new areas in the game; the Industrial district and the “The Grid” district! ... amazeballs! Lets make it happen!

 - 5 Lives Team



Update #40

Dev Diary #02

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Greetings Agents!

Pre-production is moving along nicely and we are creeping up on that next stretch goal! We’re nutting out the basic building blocks of the world at the moment, trying to create a solid foundation on top of which we can build the actual game. This is an incredibly important part of production, and is often cut short in many project schedules, which always causes issues further down the line. It’s great to finally have the chance to have a really solid pre-production period without having publishers breathing down our necks. We will show a bit of what we are doing in our next dev diary (it will be a much shorter wait this time), but for today, we’ve got something a little more on the technical/informative side for you all. Mitch has put together a run-down on his animation workflow for Satellite Reign. Check out the video, and if you’re still keen for a little bit more detail, there’s a write-up accompanying it too.

Animation Pipeline

Hi everyone, Mitch here, the one responsible for all things animation at 5 Lives. Something we’ve seen raised a number of times around the internet is the fact that our game is fairly ambitious for a small team, which is a fair point. Essentially, what this means is we each have to be as efficient as possible in order to achieve our goals. The five of us are currently in pre-production, figuring out our individual pipelines, which basically means we’re working out how we each go about getting our ideas out of our heads and into the game, minimising headaches further down the line. Today, I’m going to give a rundown on how I’ll be approaching the animation aspect of Satellite Reign.

Animating an entire city population is no small task, especially when your entire animation team consists of one person. So, in order to get through the amount of work in front of me, I need a method to quickly create large volumes of animation. Animation is an incredibly time-consuming task, so animation-heavy games often have reasonably large animation teams. We’re on a very limited budget, so that isn’t really an option for us. This is what made me start looking at motion capture.

For anyone who isn’t familiar, motion capture (also referred to as ‘mocap’) is a process in which animation data is captured from real-life actors. You may have previously seen images or videos of people in funny looking lycra suits covered in dots, like this:

This is Andy Serkis performing in The Lord of the Rings as Gollum. The little dots all over his suit reflect infrared light, which are recorded and isolated by an array of cameras (numbering in the dozens) surrounding the entire stage. With this data, a software package can track the dots from all of the cameras in 3D space, which in turn is used to control a 3D character, sort of like a puppet.  

The great thing about motion capture is you can get huge amounts of incredibly realistic movement as quickly as it can be acted out. It’s never quite perfect, as the actor’s proportions usually differ from the that of the 3D actor, but an animator can fairly easily make the necessary adjustments much quicker than creating the animations from scratch. 

But of course, this sort of setup doesn’t come cheaply. Not only does it require a lot of expensive specialised equipment and software, but you also need a fairly generous amount of room, which is another limitation we have. But, there’s an alternative.

Back when the five of us were throwing around our first ideas for the Kickstarter, I starting looking into what was being done with the Xbox 360 Kinect sensor. Some very clever people had managed to get their PCs to take the depth-data from the Kinect, and use it with standard 3D animation packages to produce homebrew mocap software, without the need for big stages or silly lycra suits.

And so, I jumped on my bike and set off to Dean’s house to borrow his Kinect. I took it home, blew the dust off, plugged it into my PC, pointed it out my bedroom door, and walked down the hallway. The software showed a 3D depth recording of my motion, which it was able to analyse and use to drive a character skeleton. Below is an example of a capture I did at a friend’s place (his house had a little bit more room to move than mine).

I was fairly impressed. The motion of me walking was viewable in 3D on my PC in a matter of minutes. However, there was a noticeable lack in quality compared to a professional mocap package. The feet were sliding around on the ground, and anything the Kinect couldn’t see (e.g. my far arm when turning side on) would flip out and go crazy.

But, the software I used (called iPi Mocap Studio) has the capability of using two Kinect sensors at the same time, meaning I could have a second one offset by about 90 degrees to the first, so there would always be line-of-sight to all of my limbs. Brent loaned me his Kinect to give it a go.

Unfortunately, calibrating the two Kinects to work together wasn’t as reliable as expected, and the final results weren’t much better. Performing actions on-the-spot were fine, but as soon as I wanted to take a few steps, the Kinects would quickly lose sight of my feet and head, due to a combination of the limited range of the depth sensor, narrow field of view, and me being rather tall (I’m 196cm). It was enough for me to get away with for the Kickstarter video, along with a free-for-use mocap library from the internet, but it wasn’t going to cut it for actual production.

Fast-forward to post-Kickstarter, once we’d finally moved into our office. There was another option I had been planning to investigate. iPi Mocap Studio also allows for the use of standard webcams, from which it can analyse regular old video from multiple cameras to extract 3D motion data. It sounded iffy, since the whole reason the Kinect is able to track motion is due to its depth sensor. Regular cameras have no way of knowing how far away anything is from the lens, so how could it possibly produce 3D animation?

Regardless, I decided to give it a try. As it turns out, PlayStation Eye cameras are not only cheap (I got them for about $18 AUD each), but they’re actually significantly better than your standard webcam. They have great light-sensitivity, they record at up to 60 frames per second (many webcams are capable of less than half that), and they’ve got a nice wide (and adjustable) field of view.

Calibration isn’t quite so easy as with a single Kinect (which was pretty much entirely unnecessary), but it still turned out to be fairly straight-forward. Once I placed the four cameras around the office in a semi-circle arrangement, calibration was as simple as moving a bright light around the capture area. The software can easily pick the light out from the rest of the video, and by analysing its movement, it can determine each camera’s position relative to one another in 3D.

The green trail is the final result of the calibration process. It’s a 3D representation of the path the flashlight took around the capture area. The lowest points are so the software can determine the location of the ground relative to the cameras. Below, the grey 3D film-cameras represent the locations of the PlayStation Eye cameras.

And from there, it’s ready to go. The actor (myself, in this case) then performs whatever motions are required, and the video streams are processed by iPi Mocap Studio. It wasn’t all clear-sailing, however.

The lack of depth information means the PlayStation Eyes are much more sensitive to environmental factors. The actor needs to contrast obviously from the environment, which proved doubly difficult for us, since our carpet is dark blue (like jeans), and our walls are white. The actor needs to wear clothes which contrast obviously from both. Either that, or you make the floors and walls the same colour. That was easy enough to achieve by buying some cheap white sheets to lay across the ground. Below, you can see one of my earlier tests. The floor and walls are light, and my clothes are dark, allowing me to contrast well from the environment.

The pink lines over me are called a skeleton. When 3D characters are animated, whether it’s for games or movies, what’s actually being animated is this skeleton, which the polygonal character model is attached to. The bones in the skeleton are placed in more or less the same places as in a real skeleton. As you can see, the software had no issues positioning the skeleton correctly, which it will then do for every frame of video, until you have a complete animation. However, the white-sheets brought on another issue. Sheets on carpet lack friction…

The sheets worked well as long as I didn’t have to do any big, fast movements. But big, fast movements are what we want, so some more experimentation was required. That’s where my “Christmas clothes” came into it.

While the pants aren’t quite as “contrasty” against the floor as I’d like, they get the job done, and with this, there’s no need for the white sheets on the floor. The socks still aren’t ideal, but it still gives enough traction to move around. And with that, I’ve got data to transfer onto our placeholder in-game agent.

 With some minor adjustment here and there, the animations are ready for export into the game. This is where animation begins to move from the creative end of the spectrum towards the more technical side of things.

As of release 4.0, Unity has a cool new animation system which they’ve named “Mecanim.” Basically, it gives animators complete control over how and when their animations play in game, rather than a programmer having to manually trigger every animation via a script. Now, Chris and Mike simply just tell the animation system basic bits of information about the character, like current speed, direction, health, currently equipped weapon, etc. I take that information and use it to control animation playback.

So, when the agents spawn, they start in their default “idle” state, which is just an animation of them standing there, looking around. From there, I can transition to various other states, based on the previously mentioned values (speed, direction, etc.) Here’s a basic example:

  • Once the “speed” value goes above zero, the agent will start walking.
  • If the speed value continues to rise, they’ll transition into a “run” animation.
  • If their direction changes while running, they’ll blend into a “turning run” animation.
  • If their speed suddenly goes back to zero, they’ll play a “stop running” animation, which then transitions back to their default “idle” animation.

Above, you can see what the Mecanim editor looks like. The boxes represent animation states, and the arrows between them are where I control the transition conditions. This is all handled by me, without Mike or Chris ever having to worry about the animation system. It also means that as they update the way the agent movement is handled, the animations will automatically adapt to their new changes. It takes a significant amount of work off of the programmer’s plates, while simultaneously allowing for much more fluid animation playback. It’s a win-win!

I hope this has been an interesting insight into the animation pipeline, and helps give an idea about some of the things going on here at 5 Lives. The other guys will give a run-down of their processes in the over the course of Satellite Reign’s production, and you’ll likely start to see where our disciplines overlap.

Take care!

- Mitch and the 5 Lives Team


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    USD $7800* - CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER ============================== Associate Producer Credit + Meet with the Developers (Transportation and lodging not provided) + A "Tetraptych" of 4x Satellite Reign Oil Paintings by Duncan Mattocks (Replaces the single oil painting) ============================== Design and Name a Weapon + Signed Hard Cover Book + Your Name and Likeness as a VIP NPC + Hoodie or Polo Shirt + Weapon Skin and Agent Skins + Alpha Access + T-Shirt + 2 copies of the Game + In Game Support team + Access to Beta + Downloadable Soundtrack + Digital Art Book + Access to BACKER-ONLY Forum + Exclusive BACKER Wallpaper

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    USD $7801* - THE BIG BOSS ============================== Your Name and Likeness as the Evil Corporate CEO! (Replaces Your Name and Likeness as a VIP NPC) ============================== + Associate Producer Credit + Meet the Developers + 4x Satellite Reign Oil Paintings by Duncan Mattocks + Design and Name a Weapon + Signed Hard Cover Book + Hoodie or Polo Shirt + Weapon Skin and Agent Skins + Alpha Access + T-Shirt + 2 copies of the Game + In Game Support team + Special thanks in the credits + Access to Beta + Downloadable Soundtrack + Digital Art Book + Access to BACKER-ONLY Forum + Exclusive BACKER Wallpaper

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Funding period

- (30 days)