How I Came to Love Lava (and why you should too)
Lava. In games lava is most often usually done simply as a static river or pool of red liquid. Deadly to step into, but otherwise just a passive barrier to walk around.
Which is weird. Actual lava is an odd substance. It destroys pretty much anything it touches, but at the same time creates land. It is most often flowing, unpredictable, and violent. Sure, there are slow flows on the big Island of Hawaii. But as a game element, how much fun is that? It’s only good as a jump puzzle or perceived danger. So how can something like lava be used in a game world in a more interesting way?
There are two types of lava we will want to play with, basically thick and thin. Thick lava with high viscosity flows slowly and builds up on itself. This type is called A’a’, Hawaiian for stony rough lava.
A flow of A’a looks like, well, stony rough lava. It’s painfully slow but there is inevitability to it. It’s also known to throw out lava balls of up to 20 feet in diameter. Nothing like lava that throws boulders. Already this lava is more interesting than just a barrier obstacle.
Taking it further, what can you the player do to slow this down A’a if it’s making its way towards an inhabited area of the Stygian Abyss? Is there magic that can slow it down? A way to divert the flow to a different place? Rumors of some creatures that live in these types of flows that feed on the matter that the lava consumes? They might not be happy about being diverted away from some rich fertile areas of biological goodies.
The second type of lava are fast flowing rivers of death. This is called Pāhoehoe, for smooth unbroken lava. Really makes you want to live on the big island doesn’t it? This type can move very quickly; in some eruptions it has been clocked north of 120mph. Try running from that.
This type of lava can burrow directly through rock, or creating new rock overnight, such as lava tubes. What kind of new areas could this unlock for the player? Ancient ruins of civilizations from the before times? An undead graveyard? Chances are whatever it is it was buried for a reason.
We look at the ecology of the Abyss as a living thing. This includes a volcano, with the lava flows forming an almost as a living breathing entity, and one that dynamically changes the landscape of the world.
There are challenges when dealing with fluids and games. To do a fully-formed real fluid simulation is very expensive on the processor power. Good thing this is a game and we can cheat some! A simplified approach has been done pretty successfully in some other games for water flow for instance. Minecraft’s water system is cool to play with even though it is not complex. It understands basic flow, and gravity.
Will and Jeff in about a month are going to sort out how we best model lava for our game. This R&D has a bunch of other uses: water, avalanches, oozes, jellies and anything else that may need to follow fluid behavior.
Chris Siegel, Sr. Producer
Today we’ll be sending out digital keys for Ultima Underworld I & II to Backers who have pledged and paid for the Adventurer ($75) tier or higher. These keys will allow for free downloads of these two PC games from GOG. Once you have the key, you can go to http://www.gog.com/redeem to redeem it. Look for an email containing the key, and enjoy yourself some classic gaming!
A reminder that you will have needed to have filled out and submitted your backer survey to receive your key, as we are using BackerKit for distribution of rewards. Doing so also ensures we have your current email to send the key to. For those who fill out their survey in the coming days and weeks, we plan to distribute additional keys in batches every couple of weeks going forward, so it might take a week or several after you fill out your survey to receive your key.
We’ll also be setting up special forum badges today for our Backers who have pledged and paid for the Wanderer ($5) tier or higher. Your forum badges will be automatically attached to your forum account, no need for you to do anything. Now you will be able to proudly display your support of Underworld Ascendant!
Next Wednesday, April 22nd from 2pm-3pm EDT we will be twitching as we play Stalker: Clear Sky. Why Stalker: Clear Sky you ask? Well, this game has a robust faction system that we want to investigate as we develop our own factions. How does their faction system handle player chaos? How dynamic are their faction quests? What levers are there for the player to pull to change faction attitudes towards the player and towards the other factions? All questions we will be answering ourselves in the months ahead, so let's see how others have tackled these problems. Join Paul, Tim, Chris and Scott on this playful investigation, and get some insights into OtherSide's design process!
The OtherSide Team