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.

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!

NovaMundi: Week 105 – Rivers, New UI

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

Procedural Generation

I did quite a bit of work in the rivers procedural generation. Previously, our rivers were too “straight”, with only 45 degrees turns which looked extremely unnatural… the reason for this is the way I was planning to implement them first via flood-filling the geometry and advancing one tile at a time towards the sea.

That’s no longer the case (see previous posts about rivers procgen) so I changed the way they are built to instead place them segment by segment and pick an angle change within a sensible range for each new segment. This in turn allowed us to fix a bug on their geometry that was haunting me since the Steam Game Festival version (random gaps appearing, caused by the points of the polyline used to create the river surface being too close), as well as make it so we have much more control over the total river length we want in the map, and prevent them from overlapping. Of course we still need to work on their positioning and add branching so they are not that many isolated segments.

While we were at it, we decided to address a bit some visual aspects of the rivers; besides fixing how the “riverbed” was painted to take advantage of the new procgen in which the rivers are flat, we did some experiments on the color of the river texture and concluded (again) we need to modify the river shader for it to interact with the lighting conditions of the scene. I did some tests using the plugin we are using for the oceans’ water, just to evaluate how important it would be to implement some of its features in our shader (like simulating “foam” on contact with other surfaces, and having reflections with an animated normal map).

The forest are now a bit more spread out, with a dense section at their center and more sparse vegetation on its boundaries.

Save/Load

One big thing I missed during the initial work was properly saving and restoring the Terrain objects which are an important part of the game state; while of course there is always the option of storing the seed to regenerate the terrain every time, I opted to save the terrain data instead, to allow future scenarios where it can be modified in-game, as well as allow pre-generated terrains to work through evolving versions of the generator. I am also lazy and didn’t want to go through the generator ensuring all the dice rolls where made with a single pre-seeded generator.

Beside this, there were some tweaks on save/load as expected during playtests, including saving the weather and the player encampments.

User Interface

We are doing good progress in the revamped UI for the “transfer” popup (Used for trading, transferring items and units to camps, and battle loot), as well as the “inventory” popup (for which we still need to do some design work, to integrate with the “use item” flow)

More art!

Art keeps working at a quicker pace than we are able to integrate, so there’s a bunch of things we are going to be adding in the upcoming weeks including special NPC portraits, a complete new environment for the paramo (Andean Tundra), Potato and Maize farms, rocks and cave entrances, new panche raider model and some more redesigned UI.

Finally, we are experimenting with a better way to display grass in the terrain, since using geometry or billboards continues not being good options based in latest tests.

NovaMundi: Week 104 – Save/Load, Lighting Playground

NovaMundi is coming to Steam in Early 2021, remember to Wishlist it if you like what you see.

Saving and Loading games! After the events of the Early Access launch of Ultimate ADOM, which had some negative impact by the lack of being able to save your game (the dev team had some trouble with it due mainly to the complexity of the data model and the lack of proper tools for serialization in C#), I decided to jump into it and finish it. Stoneshard, for all the good reception it has had, could have even better ratings if it weren’t for similar problems.

We had worked a bit on it in the past but were always pushing its completion until the model was more defined, and now that we have a clear idea of what the game is going to be about, it was about time to finally do it. I charged into it and we now have a fully working save/load flow! it will require a lot of testing to make sure the model is preserved correctly, but the core of it is working and any changes will hopefully be small.

It was not simple, since we didn’t have the persistence model in mind since the beginning, so it required moving a lot of stuff around to make sure the logical world model was separated from the visual game objects and other static references.

Continued working with polish on the visuals, I decided to create a separate “playground” scene, mimicking and using the same lighting setup as the main one, so that the visual artist could play around there, placing objects and seeing them as they are seen in the main game including the post-processing profile settings and the scene lights. This included adding some controls to the scene to change the time of the day, emulate the exploration distance, as well as the changes in camera temperature caused by rain. We are still working on tuning the lighting and colors.

Finally, we made some changes in the units, with the Guardians now wearing a club instead of a spear, and the explorer now attacking with a knife. We also added new icons for the “blessings”, replacing the orb placeholders with some Muisca “runes”, and started the transition to the new inventory UI.

NovaMundi: Week 103 Update

NovaMundi is coming to Steam in Early 2021, remember to Wishlist it if you like what you see.

Here comes a very condensed yet huge update of the many things we did during and in the aftermath of the Steam Game Festival (Development weeks 101 to 103, leading to v0.19.1). I didn’t include fixing stuff in general, just interesting cool stuff. I will make a separate post about the Festival itself and the upcoming plans for early access.

Overall, I decided to stick to the “Spear of Chaquén” campaign/game mode. So far, I think it’s the best decision I could have taken, and it has allowed us to focus and make progress in the game as an actual game like we never had before.

Following that, we are working towards a long-overdue overhaul of the user interface. We already started with the HUD elements, not just making them more fit to the new theme but also streamlining them and removing useless clutter and redundant information.

I also brought the onboarding from the old “Children of Bachué” campaign and adapted it to the new plot as well as the many new changes in gameplay. This is an ongoing work, as I’m ensuring any new subsystem, or any change in the gameplay mechanics gets included in the onboarding.

You can now also get lost in the jungles if you are not careful… I think I managed to strike a balance between my illusion of the player being diligent enough to keep track of where he is without an auto-map, and the expectations of the modern gamer. Now if you wander around the jungle for too long, you will “lose track”, and your automap and compass will cease working momentarily until you leave the jungle and wait around for a bit. Explorers are also now required to be in your party for the navigational aids to work, so you now have one more reason to keep them safe.

Jungle movement also has the additional complication of you veering off-course randomly, making it hard to keep a course in an expected cardinal direction. This, coupled with losing track and increased chance of ambushes, accidents, and animal attacks, should make the players think twice before deciding to cross the jungle (or be ready to face the consequences!)

On the other hand, I greatly reduced the chance of units getting sick since it was a boring chore keeping them healthy.

Now, let’s talk about the changes for the units. First off, we added a new items category: “Blessings”, which can be applied to a unit to improve their stats. They are valuable and you can find them as battle loot or buy them in towns. Units also now level up to a max level of 3, based on their actions in battle or hunting, improving their stats and adding a reason for you to take care of them instead of just letting them die to be replaced. You can also now hire additional units in towns all around.

The interface to use items has also been greatly improved and integrated with the “Expedition Status” screen, so from there you see what units need what, and apply it to them.

As you explore the land, in addition to the main cities you will also find smaller towns and huts which will give you “gifts” including units, as a contribution to the cause. These are akin to finding new weapons and armor in a roguelike, or at least that’s my intent.

To start filling the towns, I migrated all the characters from Ramiriqui from the Children of Bachué campaign, doing adjustments as needed. We also decided some important characters would have their special portraits, and started with Zupanaqué, the chieftain of Ramiriquí (for whom I also created a simple initial dialog tied to the quests). We also created a new portrait fragments pack for the random NPCs and units.

Camping also got some changes, the most important being you no longer HAVE TO camp at 2 am every day, instead, the expedition will collapse based on your fatigue counter (so it’s ok to do overnight journeys, at least for now until I implement stronger penalties for exploring in the dark (unless there is a full moon of course)). The visuals were improved bringing back the Muisca tents and improving their placement, and I also did some balancing around the tents weight and the effect of high burden in movement speed, which will be more noticeable soon when we implement roaming enemies and you will wish you could move faster to escape from them.

Another important change was adding an important effect to camping besides recovering fatigue: big HP recovery for some units (which adds a reason for you to want to have more than one tent).

New exploration events include:

  • Ranged Ambush: Causes damage to random members of the Expedition before jumping into battle.
  • Deer sighting: Spawns a Deer nearby, no matter if there are no deer habitats around.
  • Ambush: Allows the player to decide if will ignore or ambush the enemy.

Ambushes now only happen in forests, and there are some additional measures to prevent overwhelming the player with them (especially at the beginning), including having a safe area around cities where you cannot be ambushed when the danger level is low and limiting the number of ambushes in day one to two max.

For combat, I added loot after battle based on the “danger level”, and there are now bigger differences in the stats between unit types giving them a more clear tactical role. Ranged units also reload much quicker now, and random events can now be head-to-head, ambushes, or “ambushed”. The terrain combat also got a bit of a cleanup, but we still need to add some procgen and variety to it.

We also started doing some sweet art for the units to make people excited about them (including ourselves)

The Sounds of NovaMundi – Livestream with QuietGecko

As part of our participation in the Steam Game Festival Winter 2021, we went on a live stream to talk about the music and audio of the project, including breaking down one of the tracks of the game.

Here’s a breakdown of the topics we discussed:

  • 2:20​ – QuietGecko introduction, and his approach to music creation.
  • 4:45​ – Considerations on the representation of Muisca culture in music and other aspects
  • 5:36​ – Description of what we plan to do in this session
  • 7:49​ – Muisca Exploration Track # 3 – “Shadows of Pacanchique”
  • 11:33​ – How the track fits with the latest redesigns of the audio design
  • 12:45​ – Inspirations for the composition of the track based on the plot of the game
  • 15:50​ – How the track fits with the latest redesigns of the game narrative
  • 19:00​ – The creative process and the references we used (Age of Empires, Northgard, Age of Mythology…)
  • 22:25​ – Exploration of the base melody and construction of the track around it
  • 25:30​ – Discussion about incorporating back the thematic progression into the game
  • 27:35​ – Using Mellow Mixes for transitions
  • 29:15​ – Including battle chants using the Muisca’s language in the combat layer
  • 33:05​ – “Fiery Struggle” – Battle Layer (Vocals)
  • 35:07​ – “Fiery Struggle” – Battle Layer (Vocals + Instrumental)
  • 36:40​ – Dynamic composition using layers
  • 40:50​ – Future plans for the audio of the game, including dynamic ambiances in procedurally generated maps.
  • 45:15​ – The importance of the moments of silence and projecting the actions and the status of the expedition in the audio, not just the terrain.
  • 46:25​ – Advantages of using middlewares for Audio
  • 48:00​ – Creating Audio Systems as the soul of game audio
  • 49:30​ – Comparison of demo and “real” instrument recordings.
  • 53:49​ – A conversation between two guitars
  • 55:55​ – Newly added guitar segment (unrevealed)
  • 57:40​ – Impressions of the new guitar recordings by the team
  • 59:10​ – Recording equipment and instruments
  • 1:01:50​ – Research on authentic historical Muisca Music and chants
  • 1:04:30​ – How our personal experiences (as non-indigenous Colombians) blend with the historical research and are projected into the game

NovaMundi Demo at Steam Game Festival Winter 2021

Slashware Interactive releases the Demo of their historical strategy game “NovaMundi – The Spear of Chaquén” for Windows, as part of the Steam Game Festival Winter Edition 2021.

Game Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1370940/NovaMundi/

Medellín, Colombia — February 3, 2021 — As part of the Steam Game Festival: Winter Edition 2021, Colombian indie game developer Slashware Interactive announced the public release of a fully playable demo for NovaMundi – The Spear of Chaquen, their expedition simulation game with real-time tactical combat set in a land of mountains and jungle inspired by the geography of South America.

In the game, the player must explore the Andean highlands in a mission to unite the Muisca people to repel the Spanish invasion. They must lead a strong, healthy, motivated group of expeditionaries and avoid getting lost in the jungle, making sure to recruit new members but also keeping their veteran units alive, to discover the location of the tribes and convince them to join the fight.

The game boasts a factor of replayability as the game maps and quests are generated procedurally for each gameplay session.

The Demo allows the players to experience an adventure of 7 days of game time, and get a taste of the larger quest-line and additional locations that will be included in the full version.

The development of NovaMundi can be traced back to 2011 with the initial version of its parent project, Expedition, which was more of a traditional European colonization simulator. A more recent iteration of development started in 2018 and after a long process of thematic exploration, which included being selected as a winner for the CREA Digital program in 2019, it shifted towards a focus on the pre-Columbian cultures of South America and their struggle against the Spanish invasion.

NovaMundi is still in development. The Demo is available for free on Steam, (Look for the Download Demo for PC) from where interested players can also add the game to their wishlist to get notified about future releases of the complete game, which is planned to be released on Early Access in the upcoming months.

NovaMundi – Week 100

For week 100 (Ending Jan 24) I went full on preparing for Steam Game Festival. I will post a big update on weeks 100 and 101 as part of the details of our work for the Demo, but here are some of the things that were worked, for the sake of posterity.

Spear of Chaquen Quest

  • Town placement in a sparse grid
  • Town gifts and battle loot based on danger level
  • Stock people in towns to replenish, barter and trade.
  • Set enemies based on day.
  • Quests to visit towns

Terrain Generation

Stretch mountains over the valleys

Visuals

  • New Muisca towns
  • New logo and title screen
  • New Muisca portraits and cleanup
  • Muisca camp and improvements on tent and firepit positioning
  • Improvement in Muisca Guardian and Explorer units.