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.

NovaMundi: Week 99 Update

NovaMundi is coming to Steam in Early 2021, remember to Wishlist it if you like what you see. We also have a Mailing list now, so make sure to subscribe to it as well, if you want the news to reach your email directly. Now, let’s go to the news! 

We are working hard to get our demo ready for the upcoming Steam Game Festival, as well as to show it to many eager playtesters and interested parties.

Two main things to talk about this week: first and foremost I finally have a clear mind about the theme we will be focusing on exclusively to polish into a fun experience. The last time I was exploring the issue of the theme of the game (week 94) I had a lot of options circling my head… after a lot of consideration, I have decided to focus on the Spear of Chaquén scenario, in which your goal will be to unite the Muisca people to repel the Spanish invasion.

Following that, I worked a lot on the infrastructure for the procedural questline, as well as some core narrative, this is the top priority so I continue working on this.

As you explore the highlands to unite the tribes, you will meet with the ever-increasing threat of both the hostile Panche tribe (until you manage to take them to your side) and the Spanish invasion force. You 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 your veteran units alive. Discover the location of the tribes, and convince them to join the fight.


The other thing we are working on is completing the Muisca and Panche units. This week we managed to integrate the blowgunner (ranged unit with high stealth and long attack range, but weak attack and defense) as well as some fixes on the Muisca Spearman (for him to actually have a spear). On this front, we are also making it so that the heads of the unit models are exchangeable, to increase the visual variety.

In addition to working in the procedural quest system, this week’s plans include improving the models for the Muisca towns, as well as extending the Muisca portrait fragments pack.

NovaMundi: Week 98 Update

NovaMundi is coming to Steam Early 2021, remember to Wishlist it if you like what you see. We also have a Mailing list now, so make sure to subscribe to it as well, if you want the news to reach your email directly. Now, let’s go to the news! 

This weeks news go directly into two different topics. I continued working on improving the procedural generation around rivers building upon the work done for the valleys last week. First, I completed the map around the valleys creating “plateaus”, merging in a bit of the previous terrain generator. The trickiest part here was making it blend nicely.

The other thing I am working on is this new terrain generator work well with coastal maps. Most of the work with the heightmap is done, but still need some tweaks on the texturing of the riverbeds as well as making sure the ocean doesn’t conflict with the rivers.

We are also working in completing the models for the Muisca units, along with a way to customize their heads to add a bit of variety. First one was the Archer, and we are now working in the blowgunner .

NovaMundi – Week 97 Update

NovaMundi is coming to Steam Early 2021, remember to Wishlist it if you like what you see. We also have a Mailing list now, so make sure to subscribe to it as well, if you want the news to reach your email directly. Now, let’s go to the news! 

This week’s update goes straight into a single topic: Rivers.

I decided adding water bodies such as rivers and lakes is something that will be needed in order to make exploration interesting, and as such should be part of the demo and put high in the list of priorities, so I jumped back into it, resuming work from past months in order to take full advantage of all that we had done.

The biggest challenge we have had with rivers is how to make their surface remain flat in an uneven terrain. In the past, (August 2019) we have already developed infrastructure to procedurally generate strips of river surface from a polyline, make it “land” into the terrain, and render an animated water texture on them (April 2020), but placing them into the world had always been an issue.

Back then, my first efforts were to try to “carve” the bed of the river into the terrain, and then having the river mesh land on it. The issue with this is it becomes very hard to ensure the height on one side of the river bed is the same as in the other side, and with very irregular terrain the mesh becomes split into pieces when landing over different heights (especially the corners, where the river changes direction).

So the first thing I tried was to force one side of the river to be the same height as the other, due to the nature and resolution of our heightmap, this only worked for straight horizontal and vertical river sections, with no turns, which greatly diminished its usefulness.

I thought I could settle with this for the demo, and just put some forest at its tips to hide their start and end, but I just wasn’t happy enough with it, plus there was another difficulty in actually placing the rivers so that they made sense within the geography; the first efforts to detect valleys by simulating rainfall failed spectacularly, as that approach doesn’t seem to work very well without additional passes to simulate erosion.

So I decided to scrap all that, along with the foundations of our terrain generator, and instead of placing the rivers on the generated terrain, I decided to place the rivers first and then create the valleys around them. This allowed me to create “flat” rivers (including 45 degree turns) and then dig the river in a more controlled height map, and grow the mountains around.

I really like how it’s turning out, although next up I’m doing some more work to allow a wider range of angles for river turns, as well as removing some visible orthogonal patterns so that the map looks more natural.

NovaMundi – Week 96 Update

NovaMundi is coming to Steam Early 2021, remember to Wishlist it if you like what you see. We also have a Mailing list now, so make sure to subscribe to it as well, if you want the news to reach your email directly. Now, let’s go to the news! 

The Pilgrimage to Hunza

Continued work on enabling the first scenario of the Children of Bachué campaign, integrating on it a lot of what we have so it can serve as a full demo with adequate onboarding. This included removing the “roads” between locations (since they were making the entire point of exploring moot), populating the map with smaller settlements and individual huts (giving indications to nearby places), as well as animals, plants, and enemies.

The entire discoveries facet was tweaked to work with the Muisca civ, along with presentation fixes for the “journal”.

I also completed the translation to English for all its dialogs and cutscenes.

Improvements on Exploration

Did some groundwork for random chatter happening while you are exploring, as well as adding support for things you suddenly remember. The reason behind these is adding some more flavor to the long exploration sessions.

Visual Improvements

We fixed the fog so it looks good in “High” detail level. I normally don’t include bug fixes in these dev reports, but this one’s worth mentioning since it had a strong visual impact; turns out disabling “Soft Particles” in Unity makes the look super bad when interacting with other models… this was evident in the latest gameplay vids we recorded for Tokyo Game Show, but I thought they were video compression artifacts.

User Experience

The onboarding was reactivated and updated, which required yet another UI relayout as the lower left area is going to be reserved for the “floating” character (which is going to be used for other things beside the onboarding, including random chatter from other expedition members, and introspective moments from the main character).

When talking with someone, keywords are now removed when used, which makes it much cleaner. I also removed non tradeable items from the list when trading, so you cannot “sell back” people you hired (or party members), only hire new ones.

Expedition to Santa Marta

Managed to return safely to my hometown in Medellín, although got a bit sick in the days after. Captured some amazing scenery for vegetation and geography reference, and information about the Tayrona culture, which will likely make it to the game some day.