Tales of NovaMundi – Week 136

NovaMundi is available on Steam Early Access! GET IT NOW (or wishlist it) if you like what you see!

There was not a lot of work these two weeks due to personal issues and work in Roguenet and OpenArthurianX6, however, we continue improving the visuals and variety of the units.

Variations on hair styles and clothing were added for the Muisca units, and a first version of the updated European units was also integrated into the game, they continue evolving both visually, and in their role in the story. More to be revealed soon.

On the audio front, we added effects for the animals including solitary eagles, king vultures, pumas, deers, bears, and parrots. We also incorporated some fixes in the volume sliders to use a logarithmic scale and added a Master volume slider.

Tales of NovaMundi – Week 134

NovaMundi is available on Steam Early Access! GET IT NOW (or wishlist it) if you like what you see!

We have been working hard on adding the definitive content. A new version, v0.34.0, was published.

Fauna

King vultures (Gallinazo Rey) now fly on the lowland forests and wetlands. Large and predominantly white, the king vulture has gray to black ruff, flight, and tail feathers. The head and neck are bald, with the skin color varying, including yellow, orange, blue, purple, and red. The king vulture has a very noticeable orange fleshy caruncle on its beak. This vulture is a scavenger and it often makes the initial cut into a fresh carcass.

Characters and Quests

We added a complete set of 16 new characters including their dialogs for both Spanish and English. These include the leaders of 6 Muisca territories, and several characters sharing the trades and traditions of the Muisca.

This also included the implementation of a more defined set of quests to unite the Muisca territories, designed based on our research on potential sources of conflict between the Muisca territories, as well as their beliefs and needs. The Quest controller used internally had to be updated to support the new conditions to complete the tasks, as well as to improve its support for chained quests.

New trade and quest items were added, and the caverns system was also reenabled so that these quests could be completed. The Dialog Controller was also improved to support dialog fragment variations based on flags so that the conversations can be a little bit more dynamic and contextual.

Visuals

We took the first step to display the Muisca population center including more huts and a palisade since these are essential elements for their architecture. We still need to work on the definitive unique elements for each town.

Streaming

On October 12, most of the devteam assembled to chat (in Spanish) about the state of the project and our approach to the topic of the European Invasion of these territories which started in October 12, 1492, including how the topic has evolved in the game to its current shape where we focus on the player combating the divisions between the Muisca first and foremost, portraying a scenario where it would be harder for small bands of explorers to gain political advantage in the territory.

We also talked about our plans to transition out of Early Access, and some things we wish we could have time and resources to add into the game. Click here to see the VOD.

I also participated in IndieCade’s IndieXchange 2021, in their panel “Finding Business & Funding Success Around the World” sharing a bit of the story of NovaMundi’s funding and some ideas for fellow game developers.

Tales of NovaMundi – Week 132

NovaMundi is available on Steam Early Access! GET IT NOW (or wishlist it) if you like what you see!

It has been five weeks since the last update. A new version, v0.33.0, was published.

Audio

Gecko continues working on improving the audio of the game; the UI effects are almost completely covered, and we began experimenting with spot ambiences with the towns.

New Unit models

We decided to take the leap and remake the appearance of all the units; we are looking forward to abandon the previous “bulky” anatomies replacing them with more anatomically correct bodies with more details and higher texture quality.

We still need to add more variety to them, and we are still working in the Spanish units as well as the integration of these new units into the game (as well as improving the workflow to integrate new fragments and variations more easily)

The DevTeam at DevCom 2021

We participated in DevCom 2021 (pitching a separate game we are planning for 2022). However, we also did a devteam stream, talking about the (updated) history of NovaMundi.

Some of the topics we discussed included:

  • The many shifts on theme for the project and their effect on the ongoing development.
  • The current work in many facets of the game, as we approach the end of Early Access.
  • The feedback we have received from the Early Access phase from streamers such as Nookrium and their communities, and how we have integrated it into the game. (including the work we have done to make the game feel more alive)
  • Classifying NovaMundi as part of a genre. RTS? Survival? Strategy RPG? Roguelike?
  • WarTales – we noticed it.
  • Playing the current version of the game, some tips from the experts!
  • New roles for upcoming non-combat units.
  • Recent changes in exploration and navigation such as time compression.

Tales of NovaMundi – Week 130

NovaMundi is available on Steam Early Access! GET IT NOW (or wishlist it) if you like what you see!

For the past two weeks, we produced version v0.32.4 and there’s a lot of ongoing visual, audio, and content work.

Wandering expeditions

We are now spawning packs of Puma in the overworld (instead of a single one). This involved creating a sort of “hivemind” coordinated AI for the individual actors.

We went ahead and decouple this from the “wildlife” controller to make it useable in other parts of the game, including the long-awaited enemy expeditions replacing the random combat on the map. This is available on the public version, and we are looking forward to seeing how the experiment works (so far it seems good).

New Visuals for units (WIP)

We are working on revamping the visuals for the characters and unit models. This will take some time as we generate enough content to replace the current one, but I believe we are on the right track to make our units fit more with the visual style of the rest of the game.

Conversations (WIP)

We are also working on expanding the content of the towns in the game with more and higher-quality characters. We are populating these towns with at least an authority with which you have to negotiate to join the alliance, some of them based on historical accounts of Muisca leaders from around the time of the Spanish incursion. These will be added to the game soon.

New Audio (WIP)

We are working in the environment audio for the páramo (Andes high-mountain tundra) and wetlands, as well as the sound effects for the cavalry units and improvements in the UI feedback.

Interviews

I was interviewed for “Congreso y Sociedad”, a TV show for “Canal del Congreso” (the official TV station of the Congress of the Republic of Colombia), where I talked about NovaMundi’s history, its dynamics with the academy, and non-traditional media as a way to preserve the indigenous cultures, Gamification, VideoGame development in Colombia and Latin America and the role of the state in the growth of the VideoGames sector. It’s still not available but I’ll put a link here when it’s up.

Tales of NovaMundi – Week 128

NovaMundi is available on Steam Early Access! GET IT NOW (or wishlist it) if you like what you see!

For the past two weeks, we produced two versions, v0.32.1 and v0.32.2

Characters and Dialogs

The characters on the towns have been renamed to more accurate Muisca names, and the Spanish dialogs for four of them have been improved greatly including embedded Muisca language words. One of them has been translated to English too. I still need to integrate and translate the remaining redesigned dialogs.

Fauna

The “Spectacled Bear” now dwells in the cold Andes highlands.

Also added the “Solitary Eagle”, although it’s not a very common sight in this area of the Andes, and tweaked the logic to spawn all existing fauna (reduced chances and spawn ranges, prevent spawning while expedition resting).

Combat / Misc

  • 3X attack bonus on the first attack to “Charging” units (puma, spectacled bear and Spanish cavalry)
  • Tweak grass appearance
  • New visuals for clubs for Guardians

Community

I was interviewed by Diego Celis for Divulgark, a group dedicated to research, conservation and diffusion of the archeological patrimony of Colombia. It was a pretty good interview and we got to show the game to a lot of people. You can see it here in Spanish: LINK.

This led to a conversation with Jorge Gamboa, coordinator of the “History Group” of the ICANH (Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History). He brought some interesting points about the historical context of the game, which served to strengthen my ideas about the mission of the player inside the game: uniting the Muisca territory as a nation. The biggest threat the player faces is not the Spanish invaders, but rather the deep divisions between the Muisca.

Tales of NovaMundi – Week 126 of Development

NovaMundi is available on Steam Early Access! GET IT NOW (or wishlist it) if you like what you see!

For the past two weeks, we produced two versions, v0.31 and v0.32.

Wandering mobs

At long last, I started tackling one big thing that is going to change the player experience greatly: groups of people (or animals) moving around on the map and interacting with the player. We are going to add this to make the world feel more alive as well as to add a factor of seeking / evading targets on the map replacing the current random encounters. See below for the first type of mob to be included.

Fauna

These cats employ a blend of stealth and power, stalking their prey until an opportunity arrives to pounce, then going for the back of the neck with a fatal bite. They will hide large carcasses and feed on them for several days.

National Geographic website (link)

The puma now roam the land! they will wander around until you get close to them, then they may flee or assault the expedition.

The puma is spawned around forests and will disappear after a while if you lose sight of it. The White-Tailed Deer were also added back, and will.

You can also now ask for directions to the habitats of animals in the towns.

Combat

I zoomed back in the camera into combat so that it’s easier to select the units, and also because we were not really making good use of the entire space for combat (which normally happens in 1 to 3 clusters, with short-range units, and under 30 units). We still need to implement the combat areas by biome, procedural, and with relevant obstacle and height bonuses.

Audio

We put some big effort into the audio, including continued tweaks on UI sounds and in general audio responsiveness to in-game events (for example combat start/end), as well as tweaks and fixes for some animal sounds (parrots and condors).

We made some initial work on balancing the volume of the effects, but are still pending completing a mix for all the audio in the project. One big change is we are now properly using an Audio Mixer object to control the volume for the different tracks (music/ambient/sound effects) instead of manually tracking the volume of the Audio Clips. This will facilitate the process in the future to continue building a high-quality audio experience; there’s also a slider bar for the ambient sounds (separate from music)

User Interface

I implemented another relayout in the HUD, moving the command buttons to the upper-right corner, making the compass bar smaller, and making the status area more compact including a background for readability.

Procedural Generation

I did a lot of tweaks, lowering the generation time by about two-thirds (!), some routines to place vegetation still relied on my slow Cellular Automata implementation and were replaced by the much quicker one based on queues. Some ultra-heavy things, like the routine to remove trees from the river paths, were no longer needed for our new water-bodies-based generator, and the process to create clearings in the forest for towns was also changed to prevent placing trees there in the first place.

I also disabled the caves, until we can invest a good deal of work on them to make them more interesting.

Dialogs

We are in the process of remaking and fixing the dialogs for the characters you find in the town, to make them feel more alive and integrated into the environment; in the process, we also included the means to display words in Muyscubun (Muisca language), along with their Spanish or English translation, visible when hovering the native word.

For now, we have a single character implementing the new dialogs and translations (and only in Spanish), but we’ll have a bigger coverage in the next weeks.

Media

Two big hits this week, the first one is a ~30 mins playthrough by Nookrium, always a great way for people to get to know about the game (as well as for us to find some spots to focus on). I’m happy to see the game is enjoyable already, and we’ll continue working for it to be more fun and interesting. (Click below to watch the gameplay)

I was also interviewed for Revista Semana (in Spanish), one of the biggest publications in Colombia. I talked about the history of the project, some of the challenges we have met, and our goals with it. (Click below to read the interview)

The NovaMundi Series

We participated in virtual GDC 2021, pitching the next game in the NovaMundi series of open-world exploration roguelikes. This one will not be set in a historical context like Spear of Chaquén. More info to come soon!

Tales of NovaMundi – Week 124 of Development

NovaMundi is available on Steam Early Access! GET IT NOW (or wishlist it) if you like what you see!

For the past two weeks, we worked on the historical aspects of the game, as well as the fauna along with some improvements in combat and UI. We produced a single version, v0.30.1.

Historical Content

Based on the research done by Manuel (our Muisca history/culture/linguistics advisor), we integrated a list of 221 historical names that would likely have been used by the historical Muisca, obtained from documental sources. We used these to replace the ones we had in place which were generated using Markov chains based on Muisca-like place names (a poor source in the first place).

The component that selects names for units was improved to reduce the number of collisions by rotating through the full list and falling back through the different categories (male/female/unqualified genre) as needed.

I also did a first approach at improving the names of the territories; we’ll eventually have a proper reflection of the hierarchy of cacicazgos the Muisca had, but for now, I’m at least assigning names of large historical Muisca territories to the “quest” towns, instead of just using random names.

Combat

We still need to work on a big iteration for the combat aspect. That was the plan for these two weeks but things went in a different direction. At least we worked some small improvements for usability, making it easier to select units by increasing the size of their click mask, and increasing the zoom overall of the combat scene since we weren’t making full use of the screen real state anyways (our battles are small skirmishes, max 15 vs 15 units and commonly stuck together real close, so we were wasting a lot of space.) Maybe we should allow the player to zoom in and out in this scene since the zoom level is untied to the exploration range (unlike in the normal overworld mode)

Mysterious New Unit

We finished the visuals (model, animations and icon) for a new upcoming unit type, which I won’t unveil until its gameplay effects are implemented (hopefully soon!).

Fauna

Andean condors are massive birds, among the largest in the world that are able to fly. Because they are so heavy (up to 33 pounds), even their enormous 10-foot wingspan needs some help to keep them aloft. For that reason, these birds prefer to live in windy areas where they can glide on air currents with little effort

National Geographic website (link)

The imponent Andean Condor is a national symbol of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuelan Andes states. It is distinctive of the Muisca territory so we were long overdue to add it!

We are also in the process of adding the Puma, and some other animals species to make the world feel more alive.

In a semi-related change, I remove “European” food from the loot you can get from enemies, considering it is too early in the time period for it to be available in these lands.

User Interface

We are experimenting with a new layout for the action buttons (in order to implement it I ended up doing a big internal refactor, organizing the way we had laid out the UI components which had grown out of control). However, I believe we are going to change this again to a more “minimalistic”, more accessible design, with the buttons placed in a row at the top right corner instead.

I also configured the new set of portrait parts to the female and elder male types.

We are also working on adding sounds to the UI so that it feels more responsive.

Community

We were interviewed (in Spanish) by Outline, a creative community from Mexico. The interview is pretty informative and includes gameplay as well, so please give it a look and share!

Tales of NovaMundi – Week 122 of Development

NovaMundi is available on Steam Early Access! GET IT NOW (or wishlist it) if you like what you see!

For the past two weeks, we continued working on terrain generation and visuals. We produced 3 versions ending up in v0.29.0.

Exploration

The biggest change is the addition of the “Compress time” command; now if you press Shift while exploring, time will happen at 2x so you will move faster. I believe this is a need to prevent long travels from becoming super boring but I am still experimenting with this (may add some +/- commands to lock the time compression rate).

Units

New appearance for the Conquistador Cavalry, more similar to the concept. Kept the old one as “mounted pikeman”, may use it sometime.

Added some more variation to portraits, disabled the wooden clubs from the guardian’s portraits since they were looking a bit cartoonish cavemen to me; we will replace them with narrower staffs probably. The next version will feature some more variations still. Also, we reset the “framing” of the portraits in order to display more of the face even if we miss some details of the equipped weapons.

We are also working on a new non-military unit, we should be ready to unveil it on next update!

Terrain visuals

Implemented some visual fixes in the grass objects, and added a new texture for the rocks so they blend better with the grassy terrain. Rocks are also populated more sparsely.

The paramo (Andes tundra) biome also saw some work with the placement of the mountains there and the removal of the snow peak biome pending yet another planned overhaul of the biome placement that allows us to have more control over bigger areas of terrain instead of relying on the heightmap.

For grass texturing, we discarded some of the textures we were using and tweaked the tiling and normal scale values of some others.

A new particle system for rain was developed, although it hasn’t been integrated yet into the main game scene.

Combat

This iteration was meant to focus on combat but art integration and needed tweaks in the exploration just haven’t let me charge into it. However, I did some small high-impact changes, like increasing the size of the initial enemy sizes so they are less of a joke.

We also did some work in the audio aspect with Mr. QuietGecko, doing a pass over the attack sound effects to make sure all of them were covered, and tweaking the volume for the different combat actions.

Project and Community

We participated in the Steam Summer Sale (along with our other game, Ananias Roguelike).

We were also interviewed for our state’s TV news, and a couple other podcasts (more info here)

Kay and Xenia

This week I’d like to shout out to Kay Tila, a member of our discord community which has been helping a lot with playtesting. My story with Kay goes back a loong time including the original “Expedition” project and probably more stuff I’ve done along all these years. Thank you for all your valuable feedback!

(Español) NovaMundi – Entrevistas y Artículos Parte 2

Entrevista en Retrus Gamer

Link – Los amigos de RetrusGamer, una gran comunidad de juegos retro de México, me invitaron a conversar acerca de roguelikes, diseño de videojuegos y por supuesto NovaMundi.

Entre algunos temas hablamos de:

  • Diseño de videojuegos
    • La historia de los micropagos incluyendo el rol de Raph Koster de Ultima Online como parte de Electronic Arts, y sus efectos negativos en la experiencia del juego.
    • Elementos de diseño roguelike como la “procedimentalidad”, la alta dificultad, la estrategia por turnos, la muerte permanente y la no meta-progresión.
    • Qué es un juego retro, algunos juegos retro que me gustan y el diseño de juegos retro más allá de su fecha de salida.
    • Balance entre historia y jugabilidad en el diseño de juegos.
    • Diseño de juegos para móviles, cómo funciona actualmente, publicidad engañosa y destrucción de la experiencia del usuario con publicidad dentro del juego.
    • Diferentes tipos de MMORPG y Battle Royale y mecanismos que usan para enganchar a los jugadores.
  • Slashware y nuestros proyectos
    • Historia de Slashware, Slashie, Ananias Roguelike y NovaMundi, incluyendo de dónde viene el nombre “Slash”.
    • El contexto histórico y cultural de NovaMundi, los retos que hemos encontrado al momento de desarrollarlo.
    • Relación costo/valor de NovaMundi y Ananias, posibilidad de ports a consolas a futuro para NovaMundi y la decisión de sacarlo primero en PC para poder iterar más fácilmente en el diseño.
  • Otros temas importantes
    • Anime con batallas con demasiado diálogo.
    • Forma adecuada de preparar y presentar la birria (tatemada o en caldo).

Entrevista en Noticias Teleantioquia

Link – El noticiero local Teleantioquia hizo una nota sobre NovaMundi para su edición de las 7PM del 24 de Junio de 2021, hablando acerca del proyecto, de qué se trata y algunos aspectos de su desarrollo.

Entrevista en GamesTravelers

Link – Fuimos invitados a una entrevista en conjunto con Mauricio Betancourt, para hablar acerca de NovaMundi y de la escena de desarrollo de videojuegos de Medellín, los retos y oportunidades que se tienen.

Algunos de los temas tratados

  • Qué es NovaMundi, algunas diferencias con juegos de estrategia tradicionales.
  • Transformaciones temáticas de NovaMundi a lo largo de su historia.
  • Razones para sacar un juego en “Acceso Anticipado”
  • Razones para incluir elementos de historia local en los juegos.
  • Estado de la industria de desarrollo de videojuegos en Medellín y Colombia.
  • Diferentes formas de aproximarse al desarrollo de videojuegos, construcción de empresa vs. desarrollo indie a más baja escala.
  • Tips para las personas que quieren realizar videojuegos.
  • Programas gubernamentales para incentivar el desarrollo de videojuegos y algunas ideas para que fueran más efectivas.
  • Impacto del mercado local de Colombia.

Gameplay con Simernio

Link – El artista líder del proyecto, Simernio, nos visitó desde la lejana ciudad de Envigado para jugar NovaMundi y comentar un poco acerca de cómo llegó al proyecto, los retos de crear ambientes procedimentales y los planes que tenemos a futuro.

Nota en “La Nota Positiva”

Link – “El juego se parece en sus características a otros comerciales y conocidos como ‘Age of Empires’ e inicia con un contexto histórico en el que se desarrollará la trama; después el jugador conoce su equipo de indígenas Muiscas con diferentes características y habilidades”

Tales of NovaMundi, Week 120

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 terrain generation and visuals; we produced 4 versions ending up in v0.28.2.

Procedural Vegetation Placement

Spent quite a bit of time in improving the “plains” biome, placing grass and rock objects on them. That may sound simple, but it required a lot of trial and error tweaking the quantity of objects (to obtain an adequate performance) and their placement (to look organic and nice).

While it already looks much better, we still need to do some work in the terrain texturing; we did some tweaks already in the strength of the normals, and changing the textures we were using, but it is still too random and patchy. We need to have it match more with the placed vegetation and the surrounding features.

Looking for a way to place the new vegetation, as well as to cover the forest biomes with trees (something that was left on a weird state after previous weeks’ changes on the biome placement), led me to make a big refactor on how vegetation was placed in the map. There were two different algorithms being used; the first one (“brute-force”) seeded the map randomly with trees and then “grew” in almost random directions from the seeded trees, and required a control structure to prevent placing too many trees clumped together (these collisions were expected due to the lack of control on the growth). It provided good, organic results, but there was too little control which caused issues when trying to match it with another features (like the biomes map), and overall I hate brute-force approaches personally.

The other, more recent algorithm, used cellular automata to simulate the growth. It had more control but its performance was far too slow because of the overall size of the map and the resolution of the vegetation grid. I could have made it work by subdividing the map but that would probably have brought additional complexities in the intersections.

So, I decided to replicate an algorithm I was already using for the heightmap generation, making it a bit more generic. It’s a mix of the two previously described, with objects being seeded into the vegetation grid, but instead of having a C.A. run thru all the matrix (expensive!), the seeded objects are added to a queue, which is processed checking each object for growth into the adjacent cells (with a % chance). When a cell grows, it gets added to a new queue, repeating the process a number of times. This, together with making the final location of the objects a bit fuzzy so that they don’t look like they are aligned in a grid, seemed to bring the best of both worlds together.

I used this not only for vegetation but also for rock objects; I’m not completely happy with how they currently look though… we still need to do some work in their visuals for them to blend together with the terrain.

Yet another third big refactor was needed to make it easier to add new types of vegetation to the generator without having to duplicate boilerplate code to load the new prefabs correctly; all these refactors also allowed fixing these cases where a single tree stood in the middle of the map, and acted as if it was a forest, since now the check is made versus the map of biomes.

Terrain Visuals – Vegetation

In addition to the placement of the objects in the map, a lot of time was invested to make these objects look nice in our overhead perspective and dynamic lighting conditions. This involved a lot of experimentation with the different assets our artist had created, selecting which ones worked and tweaking the shaders to be used and their parameters (balancing their level of detail with our camera distance).

Another small but important change that was made, was tweaking the material of the existing forest trees, for them to be much less reflective and thus appear darker and greener for most situations. We probably changed them as part of the many iterations of visual tweaks and didn’t notice how bright they looked. So now they make the entire landscape look closer to the are we are referencing (the high Andes)

New Enemy Unit! Conquistador Cavalry

The Conquistador Cavalry is a quick unit with high attack that shows up in the later stages of the invasion and will test the skills of the player. On their current shape they are already formidable enemies, but we will be adding a special attack for it in upcoming versions, making even more dangerous as it charges thru your ranks giving you little chance to strike back.

Performance improvements

While wrestling with the addition of more objects for the plains, I noticed a small tiny thing that was causing a tremendous performance overhead; the clipping plane of our camera was set way too deep, much more than we needed! just by changing it a little bit we are culling the rendered objects by about 80%. We still need to do a lot to improve the performance (including optimizing the shadowcasters, but this should help a lot already especially in lower spec machines.

Also, since the addition of the detailed grass means more object are being rendered, I restricted it to the High and Ultra graphic levels.

Unit portraits

We are experimenting with adding weapons to the portraits of the units; this may allow the player to more quickly differentiate them when seeing them on a list, and also increases variety, however I’m still evaluating how clumped they may make the lists look versus just having an item for the unit type.

Finally, I changed the portrait composer so that Guecha Warriors are generated with short or shaved hair, based on historical resources.

Upcoming mysteries!

  • We continue working on an additional unit, still being designed and conceptualized, hopefully we’ll be able to reveal more in the next update.
  • We are also already ideating the next scenario on the NovaMundi series and are pretty excited about it. We will release more info about it when it starts taking shape.