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.

NovaMundi – Week 95 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! 

It has been about three weeks since the last update. I keep working towards the demo. As of now, the plan is for it to contain:

  • The first scenario of the Children of Bachué Campaign: “The Pilgrimage to Hunza”
    • This includes a lot of work we did for the FTUE which is something we need for the Demo.
    • Also, this campaign is the one that more directly serves to share the culture of the Muisca to the world, a goal we are actively seeking (and we will strive to iterate to make it better every time.)
  • The “1500 – Quyca Chihisaba” Muisca scenario of discovery.
    • Much less narrative-driven, included in the demo to showcase scenarios that are heavier on gameplay elements (exploration and progression in an open world) while keeping the setting of the Muisca culture.
  • A post-1750 European scenario of exploration from the coast to some frozen peaks.
    • To make use of our developments for Sailing, as well as the procedural generator for Coastal regions, as well as broadening the scope of cultures to be represented.
    • Still designing this one, thinking of modeling it after 1802’s Humboldt’s climb to Chimborazo, or earlier explorations of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
  • Spanish and English
    • Except for the audio of the Children of Bachué campaign cutscenes, which will be Spanish only for cost reasons (at least initially).

Fixes for Muisca Culture depiction

Following up on our previous post, we decided to aim for an accurate depiction of the Muisca culture and the highlands environment. We removed animals and items that were out of place and added support for “historical” cultures (vs procedurally generated).

We have also contacted some people both with Muisca heritage (or contacts with cultural organizations) and academic knowledge, and are organizing a first round of testing with them to get their feedback about the way we are depicting them.

The Pilgrimage to Hunza

At the end of the CREA Digital project, last year, we had a working version of this scenario (and three others), for which we decided to activate a “narrative mode” in which the player had to take less care about his expedition and could focus more on the story that was unfolding. I decided to disable it now for these campaigns to have more interesting elements. You now have to engage with the random events system and have to buy supplies and take care of your expedition members

Also, after almost a year of focusing the development on the other scenarios, reactivating this campaign required some big internal changes to get up to date with the new structure for the scenarios data, unifying loading routines, adapting to the new title screen flow, and providing active support for both types of character portraits.

I’m doing some good progress on it, it requires translating a lot of dialogs, and will also do further tweaks for gameplay reasons, removing the roads, and adding more random combat and perils.

Quyca Chihisaba

Progress on this scenario has required blending aspects of both the historical content-heavy campaign and the completely procedurally generated scenarios we had. This included adding a hybrid mode for town population, with premade characters but also procedural ones that can give directions to nearby map features.

Another related thing that was added was the possibility of having animal population and discoveries as part of the data for the different scenarios instead of having it integrated into the terrain generation.

I’m also working on the player flow, giving him a way to get started with the exploration instead of walking around randomly. Ultimately this will involve having a smarter placement of the towns, but for now, at least they will have a safe starting town and a known nearby town from where they can start exploring further.

Finally, I also added back the possibility to trade for goods in towns (as opposed to bartering), which could only be down at the hometown previously.

User Experience

There were also some minor but important fixes for the UI, especially with the status panel which now integrates the command buttons (so the HUD is less busy), and is more readable with bigger text and a change in the direction for the “hunger bar” (now it empties as you require food, instead of filling up)

The trade modal was also improved now displaying the person you are trading with, instead of a generic town icon.

Expedition to Santa Marta

In order to collect information for the historical campaigns, I decided to embark on an expedition to the beaches of Santa Marta; I’m departing Medellín next Thursday with a party of just two other explorers. I will report back my findings on the next update.

That’s it for this week-ish update! I hope to resume with a more fixed weekly rhythm now that there’s a more clear roadmap. Remember to wishlist the game if you haven’t, and let me know any ideas on Twitter or the game forums on Steam!

NovaMundi – Week 94 not-your-usual 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! 

All work on the coding and art side has been halted as I come up with a clear idea of the direction we are taking the project from here regarding the theme. This has been a consistent topic through all the history of the project (nothing new!), but as we get closer to the first public versions it’s about time to have certainty about some things.

This is a delicate topic, and I debated whether or not I should discuss details about it publicly, but in the end, I decided it made sense to do it as the history of this project has always been transparent, and I’m interested in your feedback as an early supporter. I may regret this later.

In its current incarnation, the game still suffers from some issues in spite of (maybe even caused by) our efforts to avoid it being perceived as a glorification of the Spanish Conquest of the Americas, a complex period of history.

What we have right now

  • A mixed setting with the (mostly historical) Spanish exploring a jungle inhabited by a fictional group of people known as the Tqnda.
  • The exploration of this land is portrayed as a mostly peaceful journey without any kind of hostile interaction with the indigenous people.
    • Combat only happens versus wild animals or the group you are sent to capture in some of the scenarios.
    • You cannot establish settlements in the land.
    • You can only do small scale trade for survival (not for profit)
  • The way we are portraying the Tqnda physically is based on the Muisca culture, and for their settlements, we are using a mix of different styles inspired by historical Muisca, Aztec, Mongolian, and Indonesian architecture. (This is probably the biggest pain point currently)
  • You can play as both the Spanish and the Tqnda, in scenarios with similar objectives but different themes.
  • We have a campaign centered on the Muisca, but it needs to be completed (we currently have 4 out of 6 missions), fleshed out with better gameplay, and translated to English (including voice-overs).

Many ideas

After lots of discussion with friends and contacts specialized in the topic, I have considered many options including:

  • Retreating to the safe ground of (Medieval?) Fantasy
    • This would probably be an instant ticket out but would feel like betraying the original vision of the game and missing an opportunity of educating about history (as well as a distinctive marketing point).
    • We already have a distinctive visual style (I think) which may not be 100% compatible with medieval fantasy. We’d have to redo the towns and discard lots of work we’ve done for the indigenous population.
    • Besides, aren’t there too many games already using this setting? It would be harder to stand out.
  • Basing the game on alternate reality (Historical Fiction)
    • Kind of what we have now, but it comes with the dangers of “white-washing” history if we portray these Spanish expeditions as simply curious people interested in knowing more about the land.
    • Also comes with potential issues depending on how the native populators are portrayed; if they are fictional tribes we run into the problem of erasing the identity of the real historical indigenous people, and if they are “historical” then they may be misrepresented as they are affected by the creative liberties of this alternate reality.
  • Adopting an “archeological explorer” fantasy theme
    • Very similar to above, but replacing the nationality of the explorer with some fantasy nation.
    • Can add giant bugs, which are a very effective enemy.
    • Would be a bit more unique than standard medieval fantasy, but would still carry a lot of the issues of Historical Fiction.
    • To counter this, I considered setting it as some kind of “Atlantis” continent, populated with Greek-descendant people. But it looked weird and would require a lot of work to create them and give them narrative strength.
  • Setting the game on a different type period (away from Spanish Conquest), say 200 years after.
    • The problem with this is again how to portray the populators of the land (since the indigenous populators would mostly be gone by now, and their cities replaced with colonies), as well as keep the sense of “unexplored territory”. Both are core gameplay elements.
    • In the end, it would only be partially successful to address the question of colonial exploration and their motivation.
  • Center the game on the Indigenous people instead of the Spanish
    • Is a pretty good choice, and I’m giving this a lot of weight in my current solution.
    • May make it harder for the non-indigenous players to feel connected with the exploring party (but that’d have to be proven).

What I’m thinking

My current stand on this is a mix of a lot of the ingredients above:

  • Stay as a historical game with geography inspired by current-day Colombia, populated based on the inhabitants recorded by history for the period being represented. (Spanning from 1100CE to 1800CE)
  • Continue allowing the player to represent both Indigenous and European expeditions based on the protagonists of the different scenarios (see below).
  • Include some fiction scenarios, separated clearly from the non-fictional ones.
  • Revive and finish the development of the Muisca campaign, “Children of Bachué”, which is inspired by both the myths of the Muisca and the known history of their conquest by the Spanish.
  • Strengthen both our historical research and our collaboration with indigenous people groups to polish our historical scenarios, and provide a summary of the history that inspired each scenario and the creative liberties that were taken.

The Planned Scenarios

The following scenarios would complement the 6 ones from the Children of Bachué campaign, there will be a mixture of mostly historical but also openly fictional.

Also, these are just drafts based on initial research. More research will be done to give a proper background to each, as well as proper descriptions and themes.

  • 1100 – The Salt People: Seeking a place to settle, a group of explorers arrives at a fertile cold plateau, bringing with them the knowledge of Bochica. Your mission is to share this knowledge and look for resources that will allow the Muisca civilization to flourish. (This is the scenario that will require the most research.)
  • 1469 – Rise of the Guecha: The Zipa of Bacatá, Saguanmachica, is determined to bring an end to the Panche assaults on his southern border towns, and expand his domains there. He sends a group to survey the dangerous area in preparation for a massive assault.
  • 1500 – Quyca Chihisaba (fictional): The Iraca, Sugamuxi, has sent you to journey all around the land looking for 10 sacred animals. Find them and return to Suamox, keeping an eye out for the Muzo and Panche raiders.
  • 1536 – To the last man: A heavily armed Spanish expedition has left the outpost of Santa Marta, marching inland through the jungle in hopes of finding a route to the riches of the Inca. You set yourself and your men to stop their progress at all costs and prevent more villages from being sacked.
  • 1537 – Fate of the highlands: Upon knowing of the progress of the Spanish invasion forces in his territory, the Zipa of Bacatá, Tisquesusa, sends you with a small group to the town of Suesuca, where the advancing army is currently stationed, to gather information on the army strength and prepare for their inevitable strike.
  • 1537 – The Spear of Chaquén (Fictional): Travel the Andes highlands to unite the people of the Muisca Confederation against the Spanish invaders, and push them back into the sea, before it’s too late.
  • 1680 – Quyca Cuhumin Sospqua (Fictional): A plague of deadly giant insects is spreading through the land, you must find a way to stop them.
  • 1783 – The envoy of Mutis: Your expedition departs Santa Fe de Bogotá into the deep Andes, with the mission of extending the botanical catalog of the kingdom.
  • 1800 – The little apothecary: The Bourbon Monarchy has authorized your self-funded scientific expedition into the Spanish America territories, enabling you to spend your fortune to explore the settlements and nature of the Viceroyalty of New Granada and beyond.

All scenarios will provide a set of objectives as well as parameters for the procedural generation and population of the land. Of course, we won’t be able to build all of these from the start, but they provide a roadmap for us to work on.

Next Steps

I am going to use this as a base to do an initial set of changes and produce the playable demo we are eager to put into the hands of our closest contributors and potential publishers.

Stay tuned for updates!

NovaMundi – Week 93 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 biggest change this week is the tests with new themes. There was an idea floating around the dev team for a bit, about leaning a bit more into the fantasy side as a way to address certain culturalization issues. We are doing some tests including giant insects as enemies, and so far I believe it feels pretty good gameplay-wise. We are still deciding what to do about this and the topic is far from decided, as we have reached out (yet again!) to our friends and contacts with experience in the subject to get their ideas. Expect more info about this in future updates.

There was a lot of work in preparation for the semi-public demo, the most interesting part of it was the addition of more complete dialogs for the intro characters, including a big deal of information on how to play the game, and tips for each one of the scenarios. I also disabled the scenarios which are not yet playable and streamlined the introduction tooltips.

On the character portraits side, a new “starter pack” was added for the female European characters, and we also included more variations for the Tqnda (male and female). I’m also figuring out a better way to handle the skin color variations, and for now, decided to disable the “dark” skin variants we had for the European male characters.