Expedition – Children of Bachue: 3 Months of Dev

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

Overworld Visuals

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

guadalupe

Combat

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

templeCombat

Nueva Esperanza mode

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

missions

Transfer Items

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

landing

Content

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

Music and Audio

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

Procgen

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

settlement

Forests

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

Rivers

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

rivers

Ocean and beaches

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

beaches

Expedition: January 20 Update

It’s been almost three months since the last update. And many things have happened!

We finished the CREA Digital project and managed to push the game forward greatly. Then we continued working looking forward to having a public release this year. Below is a gameplay video showing what we have so far.

Doing a full changelog would probably be huge. Instead, I’ll share some pics of the more visible changes, noting that there are also great advancements in the music and sound effects.

We continue pursuing the best way to display the “overworld”; we did some changes in the perspective and added back the followers to the player (we are planning to add more variety to these units so instead of the same battle units you’ll have carts, people carrying stuff, etc). They also behave more organically now, following the player in a less rigid way.

The overworld is also now more rich with models for the different sizes of European Settlements, Mining camps, gold veins, and temples to explore. Native cities also are now displayed using different unique models for each in the history mode.

overworld

We added a separate procedural terrain generator for highlands, canyons, and deserts. It uses pure Perlin noise instead of the random midpoint displacement used for the island generator. This generator was incorporated into the history campaigns too, increasing their replay value; in order to do that, we had to make a hybrid out of it, to add predesigned content (or rather locate it at general positions in the map). Another big chunk of work was for the grass terrain, painting patches of grass to make it look less homogeneous.

canyon

One of the most visible changes from the last update is the appearance of forests, still a work in progress but it seems at long last we’ve found a way to represent them adequately and performing well. I decided to use full detail models instead of low poly shapes and made some tweaks to make sure it performed decently. We still need to do some work to cover more ground while keeping the FPSs up. Besides the forests, we also did a lot of changes in the lighting of the scene, as well as the post-processing effects.

In addition to the changes in how they are rendered, there were also changes in how forests are generated, placing clumps of trees of the same type together, and selecting them based on the type of tree. We also added a first iteration of drawing roads between locations on the map and having simple “conversations” along the way. The paths are broken down into segments, and the terrain along these segments is set to dirt. Next iteration will feature meshes instead for them to be much more clearly defined, for now, they also include some huts along the way, for a little variety.

For the island generator, beside a LOT of internal changes, we also changed the way beachlines are rendered, to make them contrast more vs the grass. “Snowy” mountains were also removed, giving these maps a more tropical look.

island

After exposing our working alpha to player testing, we discovered we needed to do a lot of work in player onboarding; we added a helper character that guides you through the first mission, we still gotta have him help you during your first battle.

The entire conversation window was reworked, dialog options are now added dynamically based on the options that are selected, and are capable of launching the Barter interaction or, completing mission objectives. This was complemented by changes in the town popup, to group characters inside buildings and then allowing the player to choose who to talk with.

conversation

Speaking of Barter, we revamped the Trade screen and after many iterations, we implemented the foundations of a bartering mechanism where you can trade goods with people in villages that don’t have a currency.

barter

The minimap now displays the direction the expedition is heading, as well as the towns that have been discovered, the roads between locations, and the previously known places and areas at the beginning of each game. The sea is now also displayed more clearly, and the town markers are built based on the size of the location.

minimap

Of course, there was a lot of work involved in actually getting the “Children of Bachue” campaign ready in time for the CREA Digital deadline. This included finalizing the design and setting the generator for the first four missions, integrating the cutscenes art and voiceover for them, loading all conversations and characters data from design, and integrating the models for units in combat and overworld.

cutscene

For the history campaign mode, we added a “narrative mode” disabling discoveries, temples, gold veins, building, camping, etc. and providing more direct control over combat. All this so that the player could focus on unveiling the story and the world.

In order to support some of the missions designed for the campaign, the Discoveries facet was improved by adding items to the player’s inventory on discovery, and adding quests related to bringing these items to a given location.

Similarly, a simple “tracking” mechanic was added where the player can find traces or general directions to the places he needs to find as part of his mission.

Some other smaller changes in the UI include testing a new, more readable font, animations to the compass needle so it looks more organic, and a mission briefing window shown at the beginning of each mission.

Expedition – November 7 / 2019 Update

It’s been almost three months since the last update. And many things have happened!

We are progressing thru the CREA Digital project (ending this month). We’ve been working for the last 10 weeks.

Doing a full changelog would probably be huge. Instead, I’ll share some pics of the more visible changes, noting that there are also great advancements in the music and sound effects.

Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 10.14.10 PM

As part of the work in the new UI, we have rearranged the transfer items dialog and implemented some visual enhancements on it and the other dialogs of the game.

Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 10.18.55 PM

One of the most visible changes from the last update is the appearance of forests, still a work in progress but it seems at long last we’ve found a way to represent them adequately and performing well. It’s no longer a flat texture and it still conveys the sense of scale that I’ve wanted to portray in this overworld view.

Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 10.21.39 PM

This is far from the definitive look we want. We are still working on the lighting of the scene, the colors, contrast, and other graphical tweaks. As well as creating more models for the overworld locations.

Landing and boarding, as well as linking the party units model and the inventory model, so that the units you have in combat actually match the ones in your inventory.

Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 11.19.09 PM

Another aspect that was worked on heavily was the UI, including the HUD elements, the appearance of dialogs, and the size of texts and elements. We also added new indicators for the day and night cycle, the weather, and made the minimap show the immediate surroundings (instead of a scaled version of the entire map)

The idea to use a vignette to simulate LOS has been discarded for now. Zoom levels are now fixed too, so we are not emulating LOS at all. I believe this was an unneeded level of complexity.

Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 10.23.14 PM

Speaking about the map, a lot of work was put into redesigning its look. Not all of it has been implemented inside the game already (only minor parts of it).

map_concept.png

Below we can also see the helper character, our initial effort to enhance the onboarding for new players with a “soft” tutorial. We have also been working at updating the portraits system with a new style and new sets for the native people.

Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 10.16.22 PM

There has also been some progress in the illustrations for the campaign cutscenes, although we are reworking it with a different style.

Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 10.17.58 PM

Combat has mostly stayed the same. However, we are doing a lot of work in redesigning the units, modeling them and creating new animations. We are in the process of integrating them into the game so hopefully, this huge chunk of work will be more visible next update.

Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 10.56.13 PM

models

Now, for some work that is less visible:

  • We have designed the entire layout for the Children of Bachué campaign, including defining 6 missions with different feelings and objectives, creating locations and populating them with over 50 NPCs with their dialogs and appearance. A lot of research and design work has gone into this.
  • As noted above, creating music, sound effects, and integrating them into the game, has been quite a bit of work. I’ll post a gameplay video soon so this can be heard.
  • Planning and casting for the voice over for the cutscenes
  • Refactors in the engine to support multiple food consumers
  • Support for the cutscenes with fading images and text, with automatic playback.
  • Creating mining camps
  • Returning to Spain sequence
  • Discovering towns.
  • Use procedural terrain for Children of Bachue missions.

Expedition – August 20, 2019 update

It’s been 44 days since the last update so let’s go!

CREA Digital winners

ganadores

We were selected as winners for “Crea Digital”, a program from the Ministries of Culture and Information Technologies of Colombia, with “Expedición: Los Hijos de Bachué”. This will be a scenario based on the Muisca legend of Pacanchique, and the last years of the Muisca Confederation in the central Andes highlands.  We expect to make good use of these funds to enhance production, art and UX aspects of the game while producing quality content to be distributed across the country, inspiring children to become game developers in the future and teaching people about their history.

Changes in Exploration

After a lot of experimentation with the forests, including tests with 3d meshes, I decided to tackle the forest issue with a change of perspective. Of course, this isn’t a magical solution but I believe it’s closer to the sense of scale I want to portray.

screen1

For the “New Expedition” mode, the player now starts on land in the southeastern-most part of the map, using an adequate sea vessel based on the selected culture.

Regarding field of view, our first approach was to use zoom levels for this so that if for some reason your field of view was restricted, the game would zoom in so that what you could see would fit all screen. I found out this to be a bit confusing and troublesome from the art part, so we are now using a “vignette” effect instead.

screen2

We are also now detecting if the expedition is transversing a forest, in which case it moves slower and the field of view is also limited.

Procedural terrain

Worked further in procedural generation, adding controls to ensure a percentage of the map is above the sea, and smoothing out the mountain peaks to make them look more natural.

proc1b

Hometown and Transfer Items

For the “New Expedition” mode, the player adventure will start at his “hometown”, where he must stock his Expedition to the unknown. He may come back to town to trade and restock.

The UI is still very early but finally settled on a design for this multipurpose interaction, which will also be used to trade with native towns, and to transfer things between the expedition and locations such as ships and outposts.

screen4

Voyage mode

The current approach for the long voyages in the open sea. It will be a separate mode in which events will be simulated and things will be handled at a higher level. Will probably add some navigation and weather aspects, as well as events with the crew.

screen3

Combat – Pathfinding

We implemented pathfinding in combat using the A* Pathfinding Project, it’s looking much better now.

Expedition0727d

UI Tweaks

Added a permanent minimap on the lower-right corner of the HUD, and compressed lots of UI info into the status panel in the lower-left corner. Also increased the size of the Town and Conversation dialogs and relocated them.

Expedition0727b

Also, after lots of research and experimentation, we were able to add “markers” for the command destinations, painting them over the terrain using “projectors”.

Rivers

After evaluating different alternatives we settled on handling rivers as meshes generated from polylines (sequences of points), in order to provide more flexibility for their procedural generation. We also added animation to their flow. Their appearance is still work in progress.

Expedition0727c

Sound effects tests

We introduced speech effects for “commands” as well as random “expressions” from the expedition members during exploring, as well as new sounds playing when the units are injured or die. This is all still in test.

 

Expedition: July 7, 2019 Update

It’s been about three weeks since the last update so let’s go!

Don’t forget to check out the forums and discuss there, as well as follow the blog!

Cartography – Automap

We had made progress on this some months ago, but with all the changes in the design and now that we have procedural terrain, we practically had to remake it from scratch.

Discovering

We are now generating the base map from the generated (or loaded) terrain, taking into account the heightmap to draw the shoreline as well as icons for the mountains and forests, and then displaying it as the player explores, including the position of the player and adding the discoveries he has made (see below).

Automap

I must say that it looks pretty cool.

Discoveries and Findings

This facet of the game is meant to provide the players with a motivation to explore the map. As you walk around you will find things such as animal or plant species, ruins or new cultures. When you find a new one you will have a chance to name it and will earn “stars” based on its rarity. You can always check your discoveries in your journal.

Discovery Journal

This facet is still very early in progress, it will be heavily based on procedural generation for the description and (2D) appearance of the findings you are making.

Procedural Generation

We invested a serious amount of dev on terrain generation, we are now generating islands using midpoint displacement fractal with preseeded key points and a lot of tweaking to make them look nice, be more controllable, and play well with the base procedural generation we had in place which was 100% Perlin noise.

Islands

We are also affecting the base heightmap so that plains look plainer and mountains look more dramatic, by scaling specific portions of the heightmap.

Dramatic Mountains

Combat

Combat now takes place on a separate “scene”, so when for any reason the player engages in combat (right now there are just random ambushes) he transitions to a separate area with a higher level of detail

Combat

Exploration

Small tweaks on how things are portrayed in the overworld, to give a better sense of scale now that the combat has been moved to a separate scene.

Also, further additions to mouse movement so you can now move in the ocean and enter towns.

Title Screen

Working in the flows for both the Campaign mode and the New Expedition mode, you can now select the campaign (but there’s a single one, the Pacanchique one), or select the “civ” you are going to use for the procedural mode.

 

Expedition: June 17 update

Procedural Generation

expJun17

  • Make individual features of towns “land” into irregular terrain when placing them.
  • Allow setting the tiling sizes of the terrain layer’s textures.
  • Paint terrain with rock texture based on its slopeness.
  • Place towns in grass band.
  • Prevent trees from being placed in steep slopes.
  • Select between premade or procedural terrain based on the selected game mode.
  • Paint “dirt” below trees and towns placed in the map with a semitransparent texture mask.

Combat

expJun17-3

  • Release camera lock on the main unit when entering combat mode.
  • Add visible arrows as projectiles for archers.
  • Transition to Game Over scene when the main unit dies

Exploration

expJun17-2

  • Mouse movement in Exploration mode

Expedition: June 8 Update

Procedural Terrain

procgen

  • Created heightmap using Perlin noise, and apply to Unity Terrain object
  • Add the first layer of textures to the terrain based on height boundaries (ocean floor, grassland, and mountain).
  • Make the boundaries between terrain types fuzzier by fading, dithering and adding noise to the height thresholds.
  • Add forests by seeding with trees on the grassland band, and then growing them.
  • Add support to load towns into the terrain

Music / SFX

  • Added battle overlay so when you go to Combat mode it transitions smoothly into a more active track.
  • Added ambiance background noise for land exploration.

Graphics

  • Better textures for the Muisca towns, more responsive to changes on lighting

Fatigue System

  • Changed sleeping hours prompt to use a slider
  • Check time for the “sunny” modifier (only add during the day)
  • Add notifications when finished resting.
  • Added a “resting” label to the HUD shown while the expedition is resting.

Camera

  • Use scrollwheel or +- to change the zoom level
  • Remove automatic battle zoom