NovaMundi: Week 118 report

NovaMundi is now available on Steam Early Access! get it now or wishlist it if you like what you see.

These past two weeks we focused on improving the exploration aspect, as well as tweaking a bit of the game balancing; we produced 5 versions ending up in v0.27.0.

José Manuel standing next to the Indipayacu lagoon (“Water sun”, in Inga language), in Sibundoy valley, Putumayo. (Copyright Manuel Gomez)

Exploration

I jumped the gun and removed the “time compression” mechanics, which were creating a lot of confusion with the players. So what’s all this about?

Before this change, you saw your expedition move at a constant speed on the map, no matter how tired they were or what terrain they were traversing. Instead, the speed at which the time moved forward was affected by different factors; this was made out of convenience to avoid the player being crawling in the map which might be frustrating and boring. However, we found out it was difficult to communicate the actual speed you were walking, and instead, players sometimes felt days were too short, or battles were happening too quickly.

So now the actual speed at which the expedition moves will be affected, and players will get immediate feedback when they are moving slowly due to burden, fatigue, or rough terrain.

In addition to this, individual biomes can now affect movement speed, including rivers being very slow to cross (now serving as a natural barrier for exploration), in anticipation of a future scenario where you’ll be able to use rafts and canoes. We are also checking this now when you camp (so you can no longer camp in lakes and swamps, sadly :))

A related small but important change was making time STOP completely when the player is not moving; this was something long overdue since it’s equally important for the player to be able to stop and think anytime during exploration as they can during combat.

Finally, did some small tweaks to the terrain grass patching so it looked less sharp (it started looking weird some versions ago and it had a big visual impact).

Game Balancing

On the playthroughs I made and based on the player’s feedback, I found out the game was a bit too easy on the latest versions. The following actions were taken:

  • The number of available units in towns, both as a gift and for hire, has been greatly reduced.
  • The amount of Experiences Points acquired in combat has been greatly reduced
  • The hit points have been duplicated for ALL units.
  • Increased damage, range, and attack speed for all ranged units.
  • Increased damage for all Spanish units.
  • Fuhuta (Panche blowgunners) and Spanish (bow) hunters have been removed from military

Countering to this, the power curve was flattened so you start meeting powerful parties more gradually. This is still being balanced and I still believe the first battles should be a bit more exciting, especially since you start with a big party, battling 3 or 4 enemies is pretty unexciting.

El Gallinazo peak, near Pachavita, Boyacá (OC Antoine VX)

User Interface

The Expedition Status screen was overhauled with smaller portraits, and now displays the expedition stats for its current burden, and all items on the expedition using tabs (not only the useable ones)

The barter screen was improved visually, but more importantly, I added a command to “match” either the offer or the request, making it much quicker to set up offers. I also added a short but hopefully useful onboarding for people to understand a bit how it works. We also have new art for some items.

As for the Transfer Items screen, I made some improvements to the “Transfer All” button so that the Blessings are included, as well as partial quantities of stuff when you cannot carry all of it. The food surplus, i.e. the rations you will waste due to them expiring before time, is also now displayed both when bartering and getting loot or gifts.

Project

I created a first version of the Roadmap, following the suggestions of Kay Tila in our discord community, we need to put some love on it since it’s an important tool for people to know where we are heading (especially given we are on Early Access). We are going to be adding more detail to it, as well as concepts of what we are going to do.

I would also like to highlight the work we are doing with José Manuel Gomez, a Muisca descendant, historical-cultural researcher, and linguist from Universidad Nacional de Colombia. He and his family have their origins in a village in the town of Pachavita in the department of Boyacá, Colombia. His knowledge and experience in all aspects of the Muisca’s culture and language are critical for us to provide a proper representation inside the game and make the game serve as a tool to teach and preserve the traditions and history of these indigenous people.

José Manuel, standing next to his great-great-grandparents house in Aguaquiña, his family’s village (Copyright Manuel Gomez)

Our visual artist, David Florez, finished a new art for the project, depicting a party of Muisca explorers crossing a cold Paramo (Andes tundra). We went thru two iterations, improving the clothing of our party to better protect them from the weather’s inclemency.

We featured this new art prominently in our participation on Steam’s Open World Sale last weekend. I believe it was a good chance to increase visibility, especially because of the high number of concurrent viewers to our stream (compared to our normal audience numbers). Our E.A. numbers (for sales and wishlists) are still low, but we keep working steadily.

New Units

We are working on two new units. More info to come soon!

NovaMundi – Entrevistas y Artículos

A continuación algunas entrevistas y artículos que han surgido del lanzamiento en Early Access de NovaMundi: La Lanza de Chaquén. Si no lo has comprado, aún puedes hacerlo aquí, apoyando el proyecto por solo 22.500COP / 12.99USD!

Entrevista para W Radio

Entrevista radial en vivo realizada para “La Hora del Regreso” de Yamit Palacio. (Incluye grabación)

“[…] evidentemente Age of Empires es una inspiración […] pero [NovaMundi] tiene una perspectiva diferente en cuanto a la explotación de recursos […] más que de eso se trata de explorar y descubrir los diferentes lugares.”

Santiago Zapata

Entrevista para Caracol Radio

Entrevista radial y artículo realizado por Juan Manuel Correa para “El Noticiero de la Mañana” (Incluye grabación)

Los personajes, las ciudades y el contexto en las que se centra el juego le permite al jugador conocer de primera mano cómo era la vida Muisca en el altiplano colombiano.

Juan Manuel Correa

Entrevista para Radio Nacional de Colombia

Entrevista y artículo realizado por Eveling Rico Albañil.

El diseño de los juegos de estrategia clásicos como ‘Age of Empires’, se da mucho desde el punto de vista de la colonización, porque es sobre adquirir recursos y poner la naturaleza a la mano del jugador. Nosotros queríamos hacer algo distinto, enfocado en la exploración, con el jugador dentro de la naturaleza pero sin tener que estarla explotando sino más descubriéndola

Santiago Zapata

Entrevista para Canal Trece

Entrevista y Artículo realizado por Tomás Tello Monroy.

Lanzarlo con acceso anticipado fue una decisión difícil, pero decíamos desde hace tres o cuatro meses: necesitamos que esto salga y que más gente nos ayude a definir en qué aspectos debemos enfocarnos”

Santiago Zapata

Entrevista para el podcast “Everybody Talking at Once” (en Inglés)

[NovaMundi] is also a game steeped in Muisca culture, and as such a great way to talk about the process of research, the semiotics of art direction, and the ethics of using procedural generation in stories about real places and cultures.

Drew Messinger-Michaels

Entrevista Web para Random Access History

Con la participación de Camilo Ramirez, Juan Carlos García y David Florez, miembros del equipo de desarrollo, fuimos entrevistados por el equipo de Random Access History para la página de facebook “Historia de Colombia en Memes”

Lo que queremos nosotros es que en el mapa del juego se refleje un poco la escala de lo que era la confederacíon Muisca, incluyendo sus biomas que tratamos de mostrar de la mejor forma.

Santiago Zapata

En papel suena muy interesante tener una mapa muy grande o infinito en el cual jugar, sin embargo suele no ser muy interesante, especialmente cuando se trata con temas procedurales donde puede haber mucha repetición, creo que eso es un buen punto en el que nos estamos enfocando, en una experiencia más compacta.

Camilo Ramirez, Programador

Desde la parte de arte es muy importante para todo el tema procedimental que haya variedad para que el jugador no se aburra de ver los mismos patrones. […] Lo que podríamos esperar a futuro es mayor variedad y enriquecimiento de los ambientes mostrados en el juego

David Florez, Artista Visual Lider

Puede que no seamos Muisca, […] pero vivimos y crecimos en los Andes, al lado de las montañas, en un contexto de ciudad pero hemos podido viajar por las montañas y páramos […] algo debemos tener entre nosotros que tuvieron los Muisca en ese momento.

Juan Carlos García, Músico

Artículo en PlayGround

Mientras más se avanza en la historia de ‘NovaMundi’, los gamers se encontrarán con retos cada vez mayores. Por ejemplo, deberán enfrentar a las tribus hostiles Panche y Muzo, mientras que por otro flanco combaten con invasores españoles.

Redacción de PlayGround

Artículo por TierraGamer

Se requiere descubrir la ubicación de sus pueblos en la selva y convencer a sus miembros de que hay que unirse en contra de los invasores. Los guerreros más veteranos representan una ventaja en batalla. Pero también los nuevos reclutas. Un reto dentro de NovaMundi: La Lanza de Chaquén es que es fácil perderse. Todo debido a que los escenarios se generan de forma procedimental.

Gustavo Ángel

NovaMundi: Weeks 115 and 116

NovaMundi is now available on Steam Early Access! get it now or wishlist it if you like what you see.

These 2 weeks we focused on UI improvements and gameplay tweaks, ending in 0.25.2 (with 0.26.0 very close to release)

Gameplay

Quest towns will now give rewards as they join the alliance (including Suamox), and explorers are also now available at towns to join your party.

Normal “trade” in towns using “gold value” as currency has been removed; only barter is available now. The gold “tejuelos” (muisca coin-likes) have been added as a tangible trade good.

Consequently, the current way to add people to your expedition (“buying” them) has been replaced with a system where you have to spend “story points” to have them join your party; you earn story points in battle and also by completing quests, making discoveries or exploring the land.

User Interface

The round compass has been replaced with the compass bar at the top of the screen, and it’s now oriented to the camera to prevent confusions with mouse movement. In the place where it used to be, the “current biome” indicator has been added, in the future it will contain information about the bonuses and modifiers on exploration caused by it. The scale of the minimap has also been changed to make it actually useful.

The “Take All” button has been added to the loot screen, and the Expedition Status has been improved a bit to be able to use items quicker and with the units sorted by type.

Scenario

The “ravaged towns” mechanic was added, as days go by, towns will be ravaged by the invasion force, so you’ll no longer be able to have their inhabitants join your party or restock supplies.

With the guidance of our linguistics advisor, we added some basic muisca words in some dialogs. This will become more elaborate in the future, but we want to start introducing some elements.

We also put some work in the ending sequence to give the players some gratification (IF they manage to win!)

Combat

We added the Crossbowman unit, replacing the historically inaccurate military archers we had in place for the Spanish forces. Indigenous archers also saw their range increased so now they are more useful.

World and Procgen

Added more vegetation to wetlands, which involved big changes on how forests are grown (now using cellular automata instead of brute-force growing in random directions)

Did some tweaks for weather to be less rainy, and disabled “foam” for rivers and lakes since it was causing them to look bad some times due to the low resolution of our terrain.

Finally, we added a bit of variety to the towns with the inclusion of more types of huts (bohíos).

Game Carnival 2021

Organized by XSolla, previously known as Game Developers Carnival (probably renamed to avoid confusion/issues with GDC)?

This year they opted-in for a cloud-based solution which I think was a great idea.

The basic premise remained the same from last year, a highly detailed 3d space where you can move freely visiting booths, attending talks and chatting with people including casual meetings but also B2B organized via Meet2Match. This year they incorporated improvements such as avatar customization and improved/streamlined info on the booths.

One thing that was removed or at least is not very prominent are the mini-games. No karting, no hang-gliding, you are here in business. I actually approve of this change since the games were buggy and half-baked last year.

As I mentioned, the jump to use a cloud-based solution I think is a step on the right direction, last year it was just asking for a lot, for business people to have readily available gaming rigs and pre-install a heavy client, etc. I had some big issues with framerate drops tho, which I believe could have been alleviated by automatically degrading the quality level so that the framerate remained constant.

This year it was a single world containing all the booths which was interesting because it felt much bigger. Here is a somewhat long video of my 2021 experience (apologies in advance for the drops in microphone volume in some spots)

NovaMundi: Weeks 113 and 114

NovaMundi is now available on Steam Early Access! get it now or wishlist it if you like what you see.

Week 113

Up to v0.24.2

Localization

With the English and Spanish bundles unified, and a lot of hardcoded English text (including procedural text) bundled, we finally released the Spanish version.

The reorganization will also allow new languages to be added more easily, although there is a lot of clean-up to be done since we are carrying a lot of old text from the previous scenarios and gameplay modes.

Exploration

Some minor tweaks were done, like changing fog color to a blueish hue which overall reduced the scene temperature making it feel a bit more highland-ish. We still need to tackle this head-on with less grassy lands, more rocks, and more accurate vegetation (we are on it).

The Low-Quality modes also got some need changes with a more apt texture for the forests and fixes for the water to look ok. More optimizations are still needed to make the game playable with lower specs.

Content

We spread the “informational” townspeople through many towns instead of having them all live in Ramiriquí, which was overwhelming to some players. We are still pending marking them as “informational” for easier navigation (especially when you arrive at a new town).

User Interface

The conversation window was updated with a bigger portrait and a darker background for better contrast. Also added a notification for when party members are healing (so you know the bandages are actually doing something), and shortened the onboarding removing unnecessary, redundant, shallow, cursory parts.

We also updated the “Barter” UI to the new design.

Combat

We still need to put more love on this but at least for now we tweaked some values in the materials and adjusted the lighting of the combat scene so it looks a bit better now in conjunction with the bigger camera angle.

Week 114

Ending May 2, with 0.25.0 in the works

Combat

Added a much-needed formation in “rows”, with the stronger defense units at the front, and the ranged and non-combat units at the back, and also increased the space between the parties to allow some initial flanking strategy.

Also updated the Guecha Warrior model to get up to date with the latest units visuals, it features both an exploration (covered for the cold) and a combat mode.

Exploration

The addition of a new biome, Wetlands (Humedales de la sabana) required a big chunk of changes in the procedural generator for better handling of the biomes which also affected the placement of forests in blobs.

A biome Indicator was also added, however, it hadn’t been integrated yet, since we needed still to relayout the UI with the new upcoming horizontal compass bar. (coming out in 0.25.0)

User Interface

Display party members when trading to avoid confusion (I saw in some gameplays, and the onboarding kind of implied, that you started with an empty party and had to hire it from scratch, but that’s not really the case.

Also improved the loading screen with localized text and to make it more easily extensible with new unit types.

NovaMundi: Early Access release (Weeks 111 and 112)

NovaMundi is now available on Steam Early Access! get it now or wishlist it if you like what you see.

Week 111

Week 111 a.k.a. the last week before Early Access, ended with the (internal) release of v0.22.7. Of course, I had to prioritize what would provide the highest impact for the release.

Terrain

To provide more variety, I finished the integration of the “Páramo” biome (Andean Tundra, which is very important to our game’s setting) including its terrain and vegetation (frailejones), and removing towns from there (it’s cold out there!).

Someday ours will look like this 🙂 source
Our paramos still need to sprawl a lot and cover more terrain (as well as include lakes)

A little bit downhill from them, I added more mountain peaks to the highlands band, placing them in clumps to improve their variety. The rendering of grass terrains was also improved, tweaking the metallicness of its textures which was making them look dull, adding more variations, smaller patches, and tweaking its tiling values. I also fixed some bugs in the heightmap generation which were causing ugly spikes of terrain.

Persistence – Save/Load

Of course, I wanted this to work great in our E.A. release, judging from recent experiences some friends had. It was already working great but I had to add the following stuff to the persistence list:

  • Missions status
  • Active items effects
  • Minimap stamps (i.e. the locations of towns)
  • Mountain objects

Of course, all of these things required refactoring of some sort, but they were a must to allow the players to split their runs into sessions since a run can currently take about 2 hours.

Scenario Content

A much-needed “intro sequence” was added. I designed the script based on the overall backstory we had in mind, and we recreated it as a sequence of “stonewall paintings”. It was quite a bit of work but I think it was worth it for people to get an idea of the theme of the game (a text window is just not enough) especially since the theme may not be familiar to some.

I also integrated the portrait of Nompanim, the Iraca, and fixed some dialogs.

Exploration Experience

I added a lot more random chatter from the party members to make the walking sections a bit more interesting. This also included adding (and serializing) a control so they don’t repeat phrases, which may be super dull. This still needs a lot of work to work properly within a context, follow some character or story development, and provide some variety in the text, but I wanted to have an initial version in to see how it feels and if it makes sense to continue developing it.

To prevent a game-breaking bug I noticed in an Early Access Preview run, I had to disable the possibility to Transfer men and equipment to the camps. I’m still deciding if it makes sense to put it back, gameplay-wise.

User Interface

Visual tweaks in Expedition Status (health bars, remove unneeded stuff, highlight important) and Unit detail panel (in combat), adding HP value and stats.

Technical

Based on some reports of low performance, I added two experimental Quality Levels with “no trees” and “no shadows”. We are still investigating what parts we should focus on to improve performance, but the game should already run well in gaming machines which is our main target.

Week 112 – Before Early Access Release

Our release was scheduled for April 13 (Tuesday) at 11 AM EST, so naturally, there were some last-minute, much-needed things, the top-most top priority. E.A. release was v0.23.0 (first public release!)

User Interface

The journal entry UI was still leftover from the previous appearance of the game and was long overdue to be changed. I updated it to the latest design, improved its readability, fixed some word-wrapping issues, and added an initial entry so it doesn’t look completely empty when you start.

Balancing

Based on both my playthroughs and some others made by testers, I did some tweaks in the unit stats, nerfing the range of all ranged attack units (especially the Muisca Archers, which were extremely overpowered), and balancing the rate of appearance of the Panche Raider when compared to the blowgunner. I also added the “Panche” Archer (that is, the possibility of Muisca Archers to appear in Panche parties since they belong to the same technology group).

I also removed the random variation of stats per unit (so for example all Guardians will have the same stats, so you don’t have to go cherry-picking), and changed the damage function to be much less random (so high Attack units like the arquebusier are much more dangerous now!)

Forest size was also reduced (but not enough, as we’ll see later on!)

Week 112 – After E.A.

Besides bug fixing (many thanks to the people reporting bugs!), we produced four subsequent builds, ending up in 0.24.0

Procedural Terrain

Drastically reduced forest coverage, based on player’s feedback this was a top priority due to the terrain being almost completely covered by forest previously, leaving little room for strategy when exploring (deep forests/jungles are dangerous places where you get lost easily, the player should think twice before delving into them)

Add lakes both big lakes and at the tips of the rivers.

Also increased the size of the “Páramo” areas, although they are still too small and will require some changes in the future to spread beyond their “height bands”.

Localization

Add language selection to settings, and did all the changes required for localizable texts to be dynamic. Tested this with the incomplete Spanish localization bundle, and then decided to push a bit to see how much it would be required to complete it. I managed to advance a lot but then found out some additional work would be needed especially for the procedurally generated dialog (not that it’s super complex procgen but still…).

For the moment, I disabled it but since we are having a lot of people interested in my home country (Colombia…bia…bia!) this will come in pretty soon!

Settings

Added controls to set the volume for Music, Ambient, and Sound Effects, both from the title screen and also in-game.

Visuals

We incorporated a new title screen, in the future we want it to be rendered in real-time with animations and reacting to the time of the day; but for now, I decided to just put a pre-rendered scene due to performance concerns.

We also did a lot of tweaks in the lighting of the intro scene, added some flickering, fixed some gaps in the texture of the walls, and added the images of some unit types to the loading screen

Exploration

The appearance of the automap was revamped to fit the theme of the Muisca, it now resembles a stone wall painting, with improved, more readable labels for the town names.

I also removed the “encampment plans” flow when camping, so you no longer have to pick a spot and what tents to use, it’s much quicker now.

Combat

You can now check the info about your opponents.

Rainy Day 7DRL+++

Still same scope as original 7DRL. This version contains some UX improvements especially for laptop users.

  • Different corpses and death messages by race
  • Diagonal movement with vi’s yubn
  • Diagonal movement with home – end – page up – page down
  • Move map 1 line up
  • Longer track for Reactor music

Play online here

NovaMundi: Weeks 109 and 110

NovaMundi is coming to Steam Early Access NEXT WEEK! remember to Wishlist it if you like what you see.

Week 109

We sent the Early Announcement (April 13), this was followed up by more tweaks in visuals for the build which was now accessible to press and influencers, as well as critical fixes and visual improvements in the FTUE.

Another thing I worked on was the Caverns, which we had neglected a little bit. The idea with the caves is them serving as interesting places you can explore from the overworld, to find treasure but also meet with danger. I am planning to populate them with some entities based on Muisca lore (research in progress which, so far, seems to indicate we’ll have to fill a lot of gaps), thus departing a bit from the historical setting and into the mythological.

I enabled them back and reworked the lighting as well as made it so that you explore them with a single explorer for now. In there you will find “Blessings” you can use to improve your units in combat. This needs further development to add dangers to them as well as different rewards (or none!), but for now, you can at least explore them from the overworld, including persisting their state on save/load.

Week 110

I worked in the quests so that the game is actually winnable (including displaying a placeholder Victory screen!). This was something that was needed now that the build was out of the wild (who knows if a fierce Let’s Player decided to go all in and try to win the game 😀 ).

Back into procgen, I worked in the placement and size of the trees in the forests, making them bigger and more special as you went into the depths of them, and improving their spacing.

Finally, I started working in the more detailed biome handling for the terrain and vegetation, including the integration of the páramo (Alpine Tundra). This is still WIP but at least the map is now partitioned in biomes which will make it easier to create different themed areas (as well as integrate the upcoming Wetlands biome). In the process, I had to tackle an ugly bug that prompted me to create the procgen map visualizer tool, which will be helpful for future development (river placement looks horrible here, I know).

Tundra and snow-peaks in red and white.

NovaMundi: Weeks 106, 107, 108

I’ve neglected the blog for a bit! here’s a quick update on the work we did the past three weeks (Ending March 21). The 7DRL Challenge and its aftermath of course affected dev, but OTOH the impending Early Access release pushed things the other direction!

Anyways, here we go!

Week 106

We started work in the “villagers” looking forward to adding some life to the world, initially did some tests with a furnace and a guy doing metalworks. I was a bit afraid of doing this since it would detract from the idea of the overworld being an abstract representation of the cities (adding people into it takes it one step in the direction of it being a single scale representation, which I don’t like much). So I needed to test how it looked before digging into adding more types of villagers.

I decided it looked nice and one could think of it as an animated diorama of the village, so I greenlit the creation of new types of them to make the world feel more alive.

We integrated the new model for the Panche Raider (so far we were just using a recolor of the guecha warrior). The concept was more of a battle-worn jungle warrior wearing a wooden shield and a cudgel.

We also worked on some UI redesign, especially for the “Expedition Status” and the “Trade” modals. And updated the Muisca “compass” to mark the cardinal directions more clearly.

Finally, added a bit more control on the logic to check for encounters, to reduce its randomness (preventing full days of no battles followed by a day with 10 battles).

Week 107

Was the 7DRL Challenge week, so there wasn’t a lot of coding work. However, we created new textures for the grass to feel less plain (still pending integration) and started work on a new piece of cover art.

Week 108

There was a lot of work done here in preparation for our Early Access announcement and campaign, including integrating some of the UI redesigns and doing some priority fixes to ensure the quality of the Early Access Preview built to be sent to press and influencers.

The new cover art was finished and we even did an animation for it and integrated it into the trailer. Besides, the actual work of editing the trailer was a big chunk of work too, but it ended up great and now shares a bit of the gameplay (which is easier now that I feel more sure about it). More info about that in the next post!

Rainy Day 7DRL++ released

Play online!

Still pretty close to the original 7DRL release (so I still consider it original scope). Just some audio additions and some small but important gameplay tweaks.

Changelog

  • New Sound Effects: Pick up, Reload, Heal, No Target, No Ammo, Slash.
  • New Ambiance: House, Overworld, Base.
  • Integrate Music: Overworld.
  • End turn when using, dropping, or picking up items.
  • Reacquire target if current target out of range.
  • Display message when bumping solid tile.
  • Brew coffee and change icon for TV.
  • Display pending reactors after an explosion.
  • Reduce the number of items overall.
  • Remove Wallemite chamber in Epyona1