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 .

Slashware’s 2020 Rewind

And so, 2020 is over.

Another year of awesome game-dev. Here is the story.

All in all, there was a lot of work in Expedition / NovaMundi, focusing mostly on improving the procedural generation but also doing a lot of further exploration in thematic and gameplay aspects. OpenArthurianX6 also saw some important progress with two more milestones completed tho it is still not finished. Emerald Woods and Roguenet were created and are likely to see future development.

I participated in 3 game jams (7DRL, AdventureJam and js13k), gave talks at Colombia 4.0 and two local universities (Unipanamericana and ITM), had a presence in 4 virtual events (Game Developers Carnival, Tokyo Game Show Online 2020, DevCom 2020, Colombia 4.0 2020). Learned a lot more of Unity and C#.

Slashware Interactive continued operations, supporting the development of NovaMundi and focusing in our main client (Zynga).

See also rewinds for 2014201520162017, 2018 and 2019.

January

I started the year by wrapping up work in Expedition from CREA Digital, mostly working in visual tweaks and some procedural generation…. maybe? my records are not very clear but I know there was some groundwork done here for future months.

February

I completed milestone 4 of OpenArthurianX6, which involved being able to use items as well as having some foundations for the inventory system, the big work was yet to come.

For Expedition, we did some further work on rivers, now rendering them in a way that was more fitting with the new appearance of forests, and also worked on the visuals for the oceans.

March

I participated in the 2020 7DRL Challenge with Emerald Woods, a relaxed survival and crafting game where you live alone in a hut in the woods where you can roam around exploring caverns and abandoned buildings. I was pretty happy with the results and was my first cooperation with Mapedorr (as well as important contributions by friend QuietGecko). This was my XXth 7DRL entry, keeping my record of submitting an entry for every single one (with varying levels of half-bakedness). I continued working on it thru the month, producing 2 improved versions.

I also worked hard in OpenArthurianX6, managing to complete milestone 5 after a LOT of work to make the inventory system work as I wanted, with drag and drop between containers and the world.

There was also some important work in Expedition’s procedural generation, in order to generate “Coastal” maps inspired by Colombian geography (replacing the “island” generator for the maps with sea).

April

It doesn’t look like I managed to invest a lot of time in Expedition in April, but I worked on making the beaches look a bit better, and probably continued improving the visuals.

May

I teamed up again with Mapedorr and QuietGecko (and two more friends) to participate in AdventureJam 2020 with our entry, No Salem D’ La House. The end result was incomplete but looked pretty nice.

I also participated in Game Developers Carnival, a virtual event conceived, I think, as a response to the physical GDC going down because of COVID. It was pretty fun (tho I don’t think I would have been able to enjoy it if not for my super powerful gaming PC)

For Expedition, I continued working in the beaches, added different “cultures” into the game and also completed the “bartering” system.

I also did some work in Emerald Woods to add fishing, but I don’t think I released it.

June

Further work in Expedition focusing on improving the UI as well as explorations to actually create a fun game with procedural generated dialogs and cultural discoveries.

July

Following advise from Rami Ismail, I created a board game version of Expedition (and then created a videogame version of the board game). It was useful to come up with a core gameplay cycle and balance it a little bit.

I then worked on integrating that design into the game, including adding random events and a full screen scrollable map.

I also decided to rename Expedition to NovaMundi, after a long process involving many considerations and feedback, and proceeded with the launch of our Steam page as well as the creation of a new trailer.

August

Following up on the initial reception of NovaMundi, I went on to consider some aspect of its theme and focus, which took a lot of energy. In parallel I continued developing some gameplay aspects such as expiration days for the food in order to make exploring more challenging.

We also participated in Devcom 2020 (virtual) with some interesting contacts, and I also “revived” the Temple of the Roguelike forums doing some work in the theme but also in the rules and finally deciding to kick out an old time troll.

September

Thematic exploration continued for NovaMundi, while at the same time subsystems for camping, hunting, and cavern exploration were further developed.

I participated in js13k with 404 Rhythm Not Found, again teaming up with QuietGecko, Mapedorr and agar3s (thus briefly assembling back the Black Mamba team). A good entry not without its failures (but still got a good place in the scores) and pretty fun to work in.

We also participated in Tokyo Game Show 2020 (virtual), which was pretty event-less besides some streaming sessions.

October

The Roguelike Celebration (virtual) took place. It was fun, informative and inspiring for future projects.

Continued exploring different theme possibilities for NovaMundi, including a fantasy world fighting against giant bugs. (Still on the cards!)

A new project was born fueled by roguelikecel (but also something I wanted to make since a long time ago), roguenet, a social space in roguelike format. I managed to create a fully functional version of it if a bit raw, as well as a rexpaint map loader.

November

I decided to halt the development and art efforts for NovaMundi until some things regarding the theme and gameplay directions where decided. Based on consultation with many experienced friends, I planned some changes in the theme including focusing on an authentic representation of the Muisca people, focusing on historical scenarios and reviving the Children of Bachué campaign.

I was also appointed as an advisor for Marketing for the winners of the CREA Digital 2020 initiative, sharing my experiences and learning thru the journey of many talented and energized teams.

December

I gave talks at both Colombia 4.0 and Congreso Economía Creativa ITM (link).

For NovaMundi, I completed the translation to English for the first scenario of the Children of Bachué campaign, in preparation of having a demo that includes it.

I also pushed hard in procedural generation for rivers, wrapping up work from past months and shacking the foundations of my current generation process.

Some more work was done in roguenet, polishing the user experience in preparation to some initial public tests. It’s currently up and running here, tho it’s mostly empty (there are plans to include more content in 2021)

Finally, I decided to revive the 1884 Golf Over Africa project, doing a BIG push on it and releasing a new version.

1884 – Golf Over Africa – Revamped

Slashware Interactive releases free strategy mashup “1884 – Golf Over Africa” for PC, Tablets and Mobile through itch.io

Game Link: https://slash.itch.io/golf-over-africa  

Medellín, Colombia — December 31, 2020 — Colombian indie game developer Slashware Interactive wrapped up 2020 announcing the release of 1884 – Golf Over Africa, a local multiplayer game where friends challenge each other to “conquer” Africa in a golf tournament, taking the seat of an European colonial power.

The game can be described as a mix of grand strategy games like Europa Universalis, Crusader Kings, or even the board game Risk, with classic arcade golfing video games. Occupy or invade African territories by landing your golf shoots into them, the player who manages to hold 10 territories wins the game.

First conceived as part of 2018’s Ludum Dare #41 game jam, the game has been completely revamped with new art, sounds, and support for touch-screen and mouse input, to make it more accessible and visually appealing.

1884 – Golf Over Africa, is available for free on the itch.io game portal, through which the developers are accepting contributions to further develop the game to include A.I. opponents, multiplayer support, and more European powers.

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.

Colombia 4.0 2020

December 1st to 3rd 2020, Colombia 4.0 is the biggest tech event in Colombia. This year they opted-in for an online format (of course), here’s a summary of my experience on it, which, as usual, is centered on its videogames track. They also had the (BIG) animation / SIGGRAPH track, as well as Music, Fintech, and more.

The Format

As with many long-standing physical events transitioning to online, it seems one of their key concerns was how to keep a notion of it happening in a “place” populated by visitors. Instead of using a full real-time 3D rendered client (like XSolla’s Game Developers Carnival with YourWorld), they chose a more readily accessible format using prerendered 360° views with embedded videos and actionable areas, which you could access directly using any decent browser without having to download any plugin (which is great).

Not sure how I’d call this visual style, but it’s reminiscent of Second Life

There was a central hub from where you could warp to the track areas (each one with an auditorium), the business tables, or the area with the booths. The terminal areas allowed downloading PDF brochures and connecting with people via either Whatsapp or Whereby.

The online environment worked… once you had experimented a bit with it. It was definitively not suited to all audiences, since it required knowing in advance some conventions about navigating 360 views.

There was an area *inside* the world with some instructions on how to navigate, but since it was part of the world the visitor had to know at least the basic of navigation in advance, and additionally it was pretty easy to miss (especially if you were there in business to check a talk).

The conference rooms where the talks were streamed

One definitive downside to it was how hard it was to get to the talks since you had to navigate the world all the way to the auditoriums and then click on a link. A more straightforward directory with links to the streaming channels would have helped a lot with discoverability, as I think reducing the friction to get to the content should be a primary concern in this kind of event.

Some of my favorite talks included “Publishing for Indies” by Steve Escalante, “Intellectual Property” by Patrick Sweeney and “El equipo de programación ideal y otras leyendas” (The ideal programming team and other legends) by Luis Villegas. I’ll post links to them as (if?) they become available.

I also posted a commentary on my own talk about procedural generation here (Spanish only for now).

The business match-making area. Each table took you to a video conference room.

The business area was, frankly, a bit too empty. There were not many attendees with whom you could connect this year. I think however all the infrastructure that was set up worked and will hopefully be of more use for future iterations.

Some booths from the Commercial Zone

Something similar happened in the area with the booths, although it is hard to know since there was no way to know about the actual traffic happening, other than the requests you got to talk via WhatsApp or video conferencing. Which in my case and as far as I know from other attendees were not too many.

The videoconferencing back-end, powered by whereby.com / ticketcodelive

I think this may have been caused again by unneeded friction put in front of the potential visitors including:

  • A signup form which asked for a lot of information, and which had to be filled in order to visit the booths.
  • Requiring them to know how to navigate the online environment.
  • How the area was presented, with an overhead view of all the booths but no way to know what they were, and hard to keep track of the ones you had visited already (coupled with normal loading times to check each booth)
  • There was an option to see the list of exhibitors which made it much easier to find a particular booth but didn’t ease navigating thru all of them for a random visitor.

Ideas for improvement

I believe an event like col40, which is aimed at a wide range of potential visitors, should take advantage of existing, well-known conventions for Internet browsing, and strive to create an accessible “standard” online web experience, instead of forcing the visitors into a more “virtual” environment.

Direct access to the streams and past talks from the event’s agenda, as well as having a way to preview the booths sequentially, would be small changes with potentially big impact, even allowing the existing “virtual” structure to exist in parallel so that we can continue experimenting with innovation in virtual conferencing.

If you are curious, check out a video of my experience here: (it’s in Spanish)

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!