Slashware’s 2019 Rewind

And so, 2019 is over.

Another year of awesome game-dev. Here is the story… stay tuned for the 2020 plans, coming soon!

OpenArthurianX6 saw its second and third milestones completed although not nearly enough dev time was invested into it as planned, Expedition was worked hard through all year, both a first phase following the original design (inspired by Seven Cities of Gold but without a clear focus) and a second phase, Children of Bachue, a campaign (or stand-alone game?) using the theme of the Muisca people (Colombian native tribes).

I participated in 2 game jams (7DRL and js13k 2019), gave a talk at JSConf Colombia, was interviewed for a podcast, went to 2 events away from home (GDC 2019 at San Francisco, and Bucaramanga GameQuest). Learned a lot of Unity, C# and TypeScript.

Slashware Interactive continued operations, supporting the development of Expedition but also doing work for 4 different clients.

Also, since I’m now working full-time in Slashware, doing these posts gets a bit more complicated… I don’t know what level of detail to use! Some months this year I had a lot of people working in Expedition, for instance, and it gets hard to summarize the things that were done.

See also rewinds for 201420152016, 2017, and 2018.

January

I started 2019 working with Camilo Ramirez in a small fun project, a recreation of Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch game. It went nowhere, but it was fun.

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Afterward, 2019’s development of Expedition started (also with Camilo Ramirez), we added support to navigate the full world map into the game (a huge, boring, plain world), including the system to load batches of terrain on runtime. We also worked in the weather system, different approaches for storms, and the cutscenes for the James Cook campaign, hoping to have a playable thing instead of just an engine.

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February

Work continued in Expedition, doing some experiment with clouds, as well as triggers inside the campaigns, further pushing the James Cook campaign, which ended up not being very exciting to play so we went back to think how to provide a fun experience there. We developed the hunger and morale systems a bit, as well as a simple interaction to supply the Expedition, looking forward to add some interesting elements to the mix.

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March

As usual every year, I participated in the 7DRL Challenge. In my entry, Heroes of Noresskia, I tried to generate “overworld” adventures with parties of adventurers following the track of a villain from town to town. It was not a very traditional roguelike, but I was rather trying to go after the intent of creating an automated dungeon master as the original motivation of the developers of Rogue. It’s also not very fun.

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I went to GDC 2019 in San Francisco, talked with many people about Expedition and got very valuable feedback. Also, I organized the roguelike developers’ meeting, went to the parties (including POWx9) and explored a little bit of the bay area.

All along GDC and Afterwards, work in Expedition continued of course. We sought to improve the visual quality of the game, one of the main pieces of feedback we got. This also included doing additional experiments on forest rendering. I also briefly worked the idea of adding procedural storylines to the game.

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April

Some work was done in Age of Golf (an evolution of my Ludum Dare entry, Golf Over Africa), mostly in the visual department as well as adapting it to mobile controls. I planned to add some animations, however, that never happened and the project got stuck.

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Work in Open Arthurian briefly resumed, adding the initial support to define Doors and Keys opening these doors.

And of course, we continued working in Expedition, doing tweaks on scene lighting, camera position, camping, and fatigue systems, as well as doing some general changes in UI to increase its resolution. More info here and here.

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May

Visited Bucaramanga, Colombia, for the BGA GameQuest. It was fun and useful. Posted a complete report about it here.

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Some smaller developments included Tweet of the day, a small module for my projects’ page to select a project randomly every day and present it in a tweet format, and fixing the web renderer for the Stygian Abyss level generator, to display tiles correctly.

Morgaelin, the Ultima 8 – like Java engine powered by libgdx, was also open-sourced. No developments happened on it throughout the year.

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For Expedition, work continued on improving visuals and UX, with more experiments for the display of forest as well as adding more detailed combat commands similar to a RTS.

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However, most of the efforts were centered on building an alpha for our submission to the CREA Digital government program, in the shape of the “Children of Bachué” campaign, themed in the Muisca culture and legends.

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Along with the dev work, there was a lot of documentation to do, mostly boring but useful including a simplified version of the Game Design Document. David Florez and Juan García joined the team as visual and sound artists respectively, in order to publish something convincingly good (it worked great). More info about the work in Expedition can be found here, here and here.

June

While waiting for the response from CREA Digital, we continued worked in Expedition. I did my first big actual code contributions with some work in procedural terrain. We also implemented battle music, worked a lot in combat and mouse movement. More info here and here.

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Another batch of work in OpenArthurian was made to get out of the way a big block of stuff, by adding support for saving and loading games.

July

Work in Expedition continued with more elaborate procedural generation, added support for discoveries, and moving combat to a separate scene. We also added the first version of the automap.  Posted some info about it here.

Dramatic MountainsIslandsDiscovery Journal

August

Finally, a BIG batch of work for OpenArthurianX6, adding many things including Line of Sight, packing as a native App, support for reading books, using inventory items, levers, multiple floors, solo mode, pathfinding, and a lot of foundational AI work. Milestones 2 and 3 were completed!

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For Expedition, we worked in defining the scale for the overworld, as well as an implementation of field of view using camera vignette, and a first approach of adding rivers to the map.

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Additional work was done in the procedural generation module to distort the scale of mountains to provide a more dramatic appearance.

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We also added a first version of the “hometown” screen (used to stock the expedition) and the “voyage mode” (representing the long transatlantic voyage, added pathfinding for combat, and did a lot of UI tweaks.

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We also got the news that we were selected as winners for CREA Digital. So we started organizing work with the team and planning the three months-long project. Posted some more details about all this here.

September

Most of the Children of Bachue team started working this month; we did a lot of concept artwork, trying out some ideas for a new representation for the overworld, as well as the mood to project in the UI and its art style. There was a lot of debate and examining different references for both things.

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We went beyond the concepts and created the first 3D art for the overworld. This didn’t work well at first due to performance issues with the number of trees we were trying to render, so we hard to circle around it and consider other ideas.

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We also conceptualized the Spanish characters.

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Likewise, we documented the references for audio and music, started working on them and did some initial casting for the voice-overs for the cutscenes.  We created the infrastructure for the voiceovers (which we changed afterward) and integrated the inventory model with the “units” model.

I also participated for the 3rd year in a row in the js13k jam, creating a simple monster hunter game called “Backpack monsters“. I almost didn’t participate due to lack of time, but I’m glad I was able to scrap some hours to work on it. It was great fun.

October

I gave a talk about Procedural Content Generation at JSConf Colombia. I also posted a summary about it here.

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Continued work in Expedition / Children of Bachue: Given the performance issues that we hit with the forests, and also keeping in mind our production budget, we decided to aim for a more “comic” look for Expedition, similar to Northgard. As a result, we came up with a different way to represent forests.

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This also impacted the unit design, we also felt this way it could work better for gameplay purposes (given the issues that games like AoE 3 had, with all units looking the same and being hard to distinguish in combat)

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There was also a lot of work in UI integration, with a more finalized minimap design, and the windows of the game using the newly designed appearance.

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We also worked in the landing flow, the first time user experience, the definitive appearance for the cutscenes, the style for the character portraits, and all along a lot of work in the music tracks and SFX. Some of the work we did was detailed here.

November

Was interviewed for Spazcosoft Podcast, talked about gamedev in general, roguelikes and Expedition.

This was the last month for the CREA Digital “boost” for Expedition, so we did the best we could, creating models for the different types of European towns, integrating the unit models and their animations into the game, illustrating as many cutscenes as we could.

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I decided to make the maps in the history campaigns procedural as well, and created a procedural generator for highlands, and polished it to use different types of terrain textures.

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I’m probably missing a lot of other things we did, but it was hectic!

December

While most of the team assembled for the CREA Digital project was disbanded here, work in Expedition continued beyond the initial deadline. I took a chance to integrate everything we had done, run tests with players, perform content fixes and additions.

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I also took some last-minute decisions, like discarding the low poly forests and replacing them with the trees we had made originally, but with a much more closed-up camera angle so having fewer trees to render at the same time.  Also did lots of tweaks in the procedural generator, and integrated the conversations for all the characters we had designed. This all happened before the CREA Digital deadline.

Afterward, with a more relaxed pace, I improved the minimap rendering the roads between towns.

I also posted about candle based procedural terrain generation, just for fun.

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