NovaMundi – Week 83 Dev Update

Since I intend to recover the rhythm of weekly updates, I tried to get a measure of how many weeks we’ve been working on the project. I’m using November 5, 2018, as the start date of the project on its current incarnation, and removing about 8 weeks to account for times when we were not fully working in the project (because we had to switch to client work, mainly). The project has changed so much all this time… it’s been a huge labor of exploration on different themes and gameplay mechanics.

So, welcome to the development update for week #83. Here we go!

Overworld visuals

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Quite a bit of work here including the addition of the first wildlife (butterflies, fireflies, and parrots) as well as palm trees (planted both at the beach and in palm forests in the coast) and three new types of trees for the jungles, bigger than the other and with a different, more isolated placement. We also tweaked the beach textures for them to not reflect as much light.

Also, we added a new model for the European “explorer” unit, adapting the design we had to the more “bulky” style of the other units.

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We also created models for progressive constructions of outpost buildings, although these are pending integration.

Scenarios

I laid out some foundation design for three scenarios, each one placed on a different era of the land (“First men of the Land”, “Great Highland Nations” and “Visitors from beyond”). I want to highlight that The Land is the protagonist of the game, and each scenario will provide a different core mechanic around it. More info to come soon, but for now want to confirm that the scenarios with European-inspired explorers will not include settling into the land, just exploring around and completing specific missions.

On a related note, I also removed ambushes by indigenous populators, so now there is no possible combat between Europe-inspired cultures and established nations of the land in the “Visitors from beyond” scenario.

We created logos for 6 different sponsors for two of these scenarios, each one will provide different starting conditions and quests.

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User Interface

The biggest change here was the addition of tooltips with detailed descriptions for commands and status area, which really helps with onboarding. We also integrated the icons for the movement mode change and the clear climate indicator for the night, and tweaked the description of some quests.

Exploration & Discoveries

We tweaked Field of View bonuses and integrated the exploration range for mapping and main camera, and also added a new discovery image (Eagle).

Character Interaction

Some visual fixes in the eye direction on character portraits (so they stare each other) and in the composition where we had some issues with overlapping facial hair.

NovaMundi – July 2020 Dev Report

Alright.

It’s been three months since the last update. And many things have happened… but before delving into the dev update, some general announcements.

First off, the name of the game is now NovaMundi. Expedition is now the underlying engine (players will likely never know about it). We did some heavy branding work for it, as you can see on the new website.

We are also now in Steam, where players can now wishlist us! we created a brand new trailer to launch there (Soundworks by QuietGecko and voice by Nash Makado), as well as a pretty detailed gameplay video (which went quite well for not having any script, except there was no combat).

It’s hard to make an interesting 3 months changelog, so I’ll focus on the more visible aspects (but of course there was a lot more work in tweaking and fixing stuff under the hood).

Overworld Visuals

We improved the display of shorelines with a better transition to grass and undersea terrain.

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After many iterations, we are back to displaying the full party in the overworld, which I think looks great! You can also now rotate the camera by dragging with the mouse, making full mouse control much better.

We added back the fog effect with some special controls so that it’s only triggered up in the mountains and doesn’t conflict with the sea.

As usual, lots of work with lights and postprocessing, including some important fixes with the rotating Sun and Moon’ lights to prevent objects from being lit from below, and more tweaks to make nights look good (not too dark, blue instead).

Another big thing we restored was the dynamic zoom for the field of view, getting rid of the vignette effect in favor of this to avoid wasting a lot of screen space. This will come with challenges to make sure things look good at different zoom levels but we are up for it.

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We also worked on trying to add more variety to the terrain including some efforts to add grass objects (so far no good results and we had to pull them back, mainly because billboards not working well with our tilted perspective) as well as adding color variations to the trees (but we ran into some issues to make it work with our current tree models)

Interaction with the Natives

Native towns are now populated with a chieftain, who shares info about the culture of the settlement, as well as nearby animal species, plants, and tribes. You can also initiate barter with the chieftain, whose inventory stocks daily based on the production values of the town.  Offers are now evaluated based on the perceived value of the items and an expected trade margin.

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We also redesigned the “dialog” interface, it’s no longer a floating popup but it’s anchored to the bottom of the screen, and the portraits are bigger. More “fragments” for native populators were integrated and we fixed them so they would look to the front.

Camping

The camping visuals were improved for both the dialog and the actual display of the expedition camping (instead of the full fade to black). Forced camping was also removed so it’s up to you if you’ll drag around your tired companions for days and nights.

Combat

AI was improved to attack back when attacked (instead of just standing there), and we fixed pathfinding, making battles flow much better.

UI was also improved by showing a panel with the summary of units when multiple units are selected and allowing selecting all units of the same type by double-clicking.

We also created a visual effect for the arquebusier firing and integrated the corresponding sound effect.

Mounts

You can now mount horses (need one for each expedition member), increasing your movement speed in plains. We are still working on the visual model for it (using a placeholder for now).

Cartographer

The map is now shown full screen and you can zoom and pan it. We also did a complete redesign of it, changing how forests, mountains, settlements, land and sea are portrayed. This also including drawing a border around the discovered area instead of relying on color contrast.

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Mining

Added back gold veins and the ability to create mining camps, adapting them to the latest changes in settlements (so you can transfer people and food into them). They now generate gold based on the number of workers until they deplete.

Outposts

Outposts now consume and produce food, and heal units stationed on them. Also added a new visual model for the outpost.

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Transfer Items

The “Transfer Items” window was completely revamped on its appearance. We also added buttons to transfer all items from one side to the other, and only display the categories for which there are items,

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We also now display the reason why you cannot close the window some times.

Discoveries

The appearance of the Discovery Journal was also overhauled, we even made an animated 3D model for it but decided not to integrate it yet.

We added discoveries when entering a native town or the temple ruins, and started adding their definitive visual representations. So far we have 3 different animal species and 2 places.

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Discoveries are now integrated into the “Events” flow too, so you can discover animals from events such as attacks in the jungle.

We also added quests with rewards for discovering part of the map or reaching a number of discovery stars.

Saving and Loading

We did one first big push for game persistence, including starting a cleanup of our objects’ structure to make them serializable and allowing saving and restoring their state.

World Generation

Settlements and natural resources are now placed in a more smart way; valued stuff is now more likely to be placed high in the mountains (away from the landing point) so that there’s more incentive for the player to explore. Likewise, dangerous stuff is put in the middle so that you are not killed immediately as you make landfall.

We also added three new kinds of native settlements into the world: Advanced cultures with stone buildings, Nomads with round tents, and Farming people with wooden houses. This included adding a “capital” type of town as well as a smaller town for each.

Exploration

We changed how the “Temple Ruins” work, removing the battle (for now) and streamlining the menu-based exploration, and integrating its music track.

Exploration radius is based on the explorers you have in your party (however we are still working on tying everything together so that it also applies to the main map window (maybe))

We added random events when exploring (Sickness, Accident and Animal Attack), and also are experimenting on when to show them.

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Items and Units

Naval units such as Sailors, Officers, and Ship Captains have been removed for now, since we need to improve the sailing facet for them to have a reason to exists. We also added Mules that you can use as pack animals and balanced the cost and weight of the trade goods.

We expanded the source of names and last names for Spanish units, using this as a reference.

Onboarding

Reactivated the helper character in the home town, extending it so that it provides tips and information about the different units and items

 

Game Developers Carnival 2020

May 11 and 12 2020, a virtual event organized by XSolla and MeetToMatch in the aftermath of GDC 2020’s cancellation due to covid19, using “YourWorld“, a multi-user environment powered by Unreal Engine, as the main platform. I uploaded my experience in a couple of videos here and here if you are curious about it.

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Participating in the event was free (with an optional donation). Visitors downloaded the event client (Windows only, around 7GB) and used it to log into the world. A pretty good machine was needed for the client to perform well (even my GeForce RTX 2080 didn’t have it easy!).

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MeetToMatch provided matchmaking using their regular platform but providing meeting points inside the virtual worlds. Of all my meetings, around 50% of them were rescheduled to more traditional video conferencing tools such as Google Meet and Skype, due to the participants being unable to log into the client (because they were on MacOS, or didn’t have a powerful computer or internet connection).

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Besides meeting with people in the virtual world, you could visit booths, where you could see a video and imagery provided by each exhibitor, as well as chat with them if they were present. Conversations happened instantly, with you just getting close to whoever you wanted to speak to (it seems a headset was required). Your avatar (which was picked randomly based on your provided gender) would start talking, doing some conversational gestures, and lip-syncing with your voice.

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There were 6 worlds labeled A to F, all of them had an identical layout and activities, but different booths. They also had a big central circus arena where it seemed some talks or special content would be shared, but as far as I could see, they were just sharing the video from an exhibitor.

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Recreational activities included hang-gliding, kart racing, and the “Scream Tower”, with the first two keeping track of the high scores on a per-world basis. The games were simple but fun and challenging.

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In general, the game world worked well although there were some evident rough edges and buggy behavior. The platform is still under development and I believe it is promising; still, I think future events should also consider more accessible technologies like lightweight multiplatform environments that can be loaded from the browser even if they provide a less immersive experience (maybe in parallel with a full environment like this one). Making the event easy for people to access should be a top priority (I think most business people don’t have a gaming level windows PC with them, and some indie devs don’t need that either).

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Some ideas for improvement:

  • Avatar customization (and persistence to your profile) including uploading a picture of you.
  • More control over conversations including clicking on a person to start a conversation with them, setting yourself as available for conversation, being able to mute your mic.
  • Show more info in the booths beside the video and the pictures there. Maybe being able to download a flier and keep it in a virtual bag.
  • Being able to share documents with the person you are talking to (so you can show your company’s catalog or your project’s deck).
  • Coop games or activities you can do with someone while talking (instead of competitive single-player activities).
  • Improving environmental sound detection, which seems to use the camera instead of the character’s position.

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Final Fantasy IV Trailer Sound Remake

Years ago, SquareEnix created an awesome CGI video for their FFIV remake for the Nintendo DS.

The intro video is great, and in the background, it has remasters of the legendary Theme of Love, as well as a more upbeat theme (I believe it’s an overworld exploration theme). However… there are no sound effects!

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I think the video would be much better with sound effects and some voice acting, but I searched for a version that included that and couldn’t find it (please let me know if you know about it!).

Just for fun, I did some audio spotting that could be useful for a project to include these; I’m not sure I would ever get into it, but I’m posting it here in case someone would find it useful or would be interested in collaborating.

Check it out here

Expedition – Children of Bachue: 3 Months of Dev

The last update was from January 20. Development intensity has varied thru these months but we haven’t stopped and we keep getting closer to a playable version. Here are some of the things we have done.

Overworld Visuals

  • Changes in lighting and color grading.
  • Add mist effect controlled by time of day and scenario.
  • Add new model for explorer.
  • Tween ambient light based on hour of day
  • Activate town labels, fix scale and colliders.

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Combat

  • Tactical pause.
  • Improved selected unit display
  • Battle onboarding (First version)
  • Pixel perfect unit selection in battle.
  • Add Temple battle scene (and add support for multiple battle scenes)
  • Support for both “party members” and “bulk” units.
  • Limit camera movement to the combat area
  • Separate combat scene and overworld lighting.
  • Add shader to see units through obstacles.
  • Add support for “ambush” and “faceoff” combat placements

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Nueva Esperanza mode

  • Restore access to hometown to supply expedition
  • Display background image for hometown instead of 3D scene.
  • Add some initial inventories to hometown
  • Add quests to establish settlements with gold prizes on return
  • Cash trade goods on return to hometown
  • Preserve map between voyages.
  • New settlement popup.
  • New UI for Temple exploration.
  • Reactivate camping with new UI.

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Transfer Items

  • Add icon and info for the location
  • Highlight items that are being transferred
  • Add icons for units
  • Batch transferring for some items.

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Content

  • Start work localizing the Children of Bachue campaign to English (some infrastructure, still pending the bulk of translation work)

Music and Audio

  • Integrate “Spanish” music to exploration and towns
  • Remove “sailing” music (unified exploration theme)
  • Add Sea Ambience

Procgen

  • Place stones as rubbish in grassland
  • Place mountain models in terrain.
  • Refactors in generators.
  • Add Coast type map
  • Fix additive texture painting
  • Place native towns (WIP)

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Forests

  • Tweaks on forest placement and growth
  • Visual improvements in trees
  • Tests with low-poly forest blobs (discarded for now)
  • Disable shadows for trees (huge performance cost)

Rivers

  • River shaders with animated texture and offset “flow” animation, as well as semitransparent blending
  • Carve valley for river
  • Add test river to generated terrain

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Ocean and beaches

  • Improved settings to allow translucency
  • Improved seabed
  • Tweak colors
  • Limit ocean area instead of it expanding infinitely.
  • Paint rocky beaches based on slope

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OpenArthurianX6 0.8 released

Check out the full info and online demo at the OpenArthurianX6 blog.

I set myself to finish the project, and I’ve been streaming 1 hour of dev daily almost continuously for the past 22 days (!).

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Milestone 5 took much more work than I anticipated; building a complete mouse-based inventory system was a lot of work (even when I started from the work that Exodus Destiny had done already). But it’s working great and we are closer to the finish line now.

Emerald Woods 0.1.0 released

Still focused on UI improvements, but incorporating some major changes in the world model, procgen and some crafting.

You can play it online here or here. Your suggestions for improvements and content are also welcome in the community.

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Changelog Summary

Visuals

  • Add tree variations
  • Add intro screen

Gameplay

  • Sleep comfortably in bed and bedroll.
  • Don’t faint when fully fatigued, but unable to work.
  • Add food that recovers fatigue and health
  • Remove “safe to sleep” places (for now)
  • Multiply stamina consumption when hungry
  • Allow chopping down world objects (doors, walls)
  • Prevent dropping items in solid tiles.
  • Add jumpable world objects, walkable only for the player. Apply for Wooden Gate.
  • Remove PEX for now until the economy is implemented.

Audio

  • Add error beep
  • Created crossfade for normal time of day change. (gecko)

Farming

  • Position newborn animals correctly.
  • Make newborns immortal.

Procedural Generation

  • Prevent adding trees to flooring tiles and solid places.
  • Add prizes to stations including Bedroll.
  • Prevent animals from being generated inside fenced areas.
    • It works but is not very optimal. It will be reworked next version.
  • Add map border (unbreakable mountain)

User Interface – Display

  • Display the item icon on the list.

User Interface – Input

  • Restore explicit farming mode and shift to turn.
  • Remove auto-mine.
  • Auto-equip tool when bumping into stone or tree.
  • Confirm prompts with Ctrl, Space or Enter.
  • Remove vi keys movement.
  • Execute all actions on key up instead of keydown (only movement on keydown)
  • Remap keys to enable clean WADXpad movement

World Model

  • Add flooring layer to level
  • Model doors as transformable items instead of cells.

Crafting

  • Bridges that you can cross.
  • Wooden floor, Wood walkway, Stone road
  • Wooden wall

Technical

  • Add pathfinding infrastructure
    • Still not used for AI.
  • Craft “flooring” instead of map cells.

Emerald Woods 0.0.1 released!

This version, of course, will be the closest thing to the original 7DRL Challenge entry, without any major content additions but rather focused on adding a Save/Load function and some important UX improvements. You can play it online here or here.

Your suggestions for improvements and content are also welcome in the community.

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Here’s the full changelog:

New Features

  • Save and Load games.

Fixes

  • Prevent overflowing of messages in the top text box.

UI Improvements

  • Change facing automatically. (Except if Shift is pressed).
  • Select and use Axe or Pickax automatically when bumping into trees or rocks.
  • Unify contextual actual with Pickup command.
  • Improve nap/sleep prompt.
  • Display response to prompt.
  • Confirm craft with Ctrl or Space.
  • Display “fatigue” instead of stamina.
  • Don’t remember location of animals.
  • Preserve wild animals as long as they are close to the player.

Audio (by Quietgecko)

  • Added new melodies
  • Adjust the timing of the melodies system
  • Fixed some action SFXs not playing.

Gameplay changes

  • Don’t faint at 2am, instead become sleepy and spend more stamina on night.
  • Decrease more fatigue when taking a nap.
  • Get more wood pieces per tree.
  • Ensure at least 1 stone or wood are produced.

Content

  • Add “wooden gate” to crafting recipes.

Other

  • Big internal refactors to pave the way for future developments

Games are saved using my circular-functions library, along with lz-string to compress its output.

 

Emerald Woods – 2020 7DRL Challenge

I managed to finish another game for the 7DRL Challenge! you can play online here or here.

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Emerald Woods is the farming and exploration roguelike I always wanted to make. It’s inspired by games like Harvest Moon / Stardew Valley, however with some big differences:

  • You are alone: there is no town to buy things from, there are no other humans for you to buy with gifts.
  • You can die off hunger and sickness, so you gotta be careful and plan.
  • The map is procedural, you can roam the world and expand your horizons.
  • Watering crops and “taking care” of animals is removed. I don’t want the game to feel like a chore.
  • Related to it, the game doesn’t incentivize making a huge farm and getting a lot of money. It’s meant to be relaxing in certain way (even if you can die).
  • There is no combat of any kind. If it ever gets implemented (I’m still not sure) it will be just hunting, no evil monsters trying to kill you.
  • The setting of the game, or rather your character’s backstory, is up to you to decide.
  • Crafting is freeform, you place tiles in the world using resources.
  • …and of course, it uses a character-based display, a core design choice that supports most of the points above.

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The 7DRL Challenge entry is already a complete game, even enjoyable for a bit. But I’m planning to continue development. I managed to invest around 40 hours of development (struggling with real life, as usual 🙂 ) and posted my daily devlog at this thread on itch.io. (Also archived here).

Highlights of the development included:

  • The procedural generator, based on Cellular Automata, with “hollow” mountains to explore.
  • Dynamic field of view (both radius and “color”) which looks especially good when entering caverns.

I had contributions from mapedorr and quietgecko on the art side of things. They did an amazing work with the environment music and sound effects, as well as some visual aspects such as the palette and characters to use.

Stay tuned for more news about the game! also if you want to send your ideas or bug reports, please use the community feature.

 

Final Fantasy VII Demo

Midgar’s Sector 1 Mako Reactor is now non-operational.

The demo was pretty awesome… as an old school gamer I had issues with the camera control, and I’m still getting the hang of the battle system (I used the “Normal” one, a bit too frantic for my taste but still good, was even defeated once by the Scorpion tank :P).

The little that is shown of Midgar looks fantastic and the music is amazing. I’m definitively going to be ordering this, and any subsequent episodes.

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