[Click the title of these Dev Log titles to see the full version with images] The first test build of Exalted Seracthon Part 1 has been completed. All areas, missions, characters and dialogs are in place, and can be played through entirely. This month will consist of adding in a few non-crucial features and details that will make the experience more enjoyable, and of course, the dreaded sound studio work begins now. All actors will be given voices, and music and sound effects will be give a second pass. Dedicated playtesting will begin when this is done, so that the game can be optimized wherever needed, and any bugs fixed. During this phase I will be recording gameplay for use in advertising, so promotional videos will start appearing probably after December. The goal of releasing by March is still on track, but things will become more publicly visible a while before that. There is not much to rant about with regard to development at this point, and this log really should be converted to an Announcements page. I just wanted to make a progress update – finally approaching this gate is pretty exciting.
Work is now being completed on the final areas of Part 1, and initial testing will begin shortly. There have been no coding challenges lately, work has been primarily focused on world development; assets, scenes, lighting, sound. Following the last scene and its missions and dialog, work will shift to pre-release mode. There is still plenty to do in terms of voice acting, end to end play testing, and polishing. With 4 months to go, there is plenty of time to get this done, and if it is completed early enough, Builds of the game may be released to play testers on YouTube who are interested. If this occurs, there will be announcements and links.
[Click the title of these Dev Log titles to see the full version with images] I am currently completing the last set of missions which will finalize the first part of Exalted Seracthon. There were some issues with warp travel that had to be sorted out, and consisted mainly of scene transition timing. Work was done to further develop the navigation systems on two of the ships, to smooth out the travel experience. Once these elements are in place, the next few months will consist of the final rounds of player testing, voice acting, sound, music, and visual polish. I expect that Part 1 will release in the spring of 2022, assuming the western world hasn’t descended into chaos. I will be negotiating with GOG and possibly Steam, as these are the most widely available host platform(s) for PC games at this time. I have not (and will not) feature any images or video of this game’s High Strangeness (the horror aspect) in these deve logs because I would prefer this aspect to be a surprise. However, even if these elements were not part of ES, it would be quite a fun game. Test scenarios in space have been what I had hoped to experience in Star Citizen, which ironically was one of the reasons this project was started in the first place. Suffice to say, it doesn’t require 100 million dollars to make an enjoyable space game. The second part of ES will release later in 2022 or the next year, though I don’t want to lock that in place right now. When both parts are published, the option to purchase the entire game in one package will be available, so this is technically a type of Early Access release – the difference being that I’m not launching a ‘game framework’ and then building as I go. These will be finished products, with part 1 ending at a moment of suspense.
[Click the title of these Dev Log titles to see the full version with images] July has been extremely busy with non-dev work (moves, repairs, etc) so there is not much to report concerning the progress of the game, except to say that it will continue once things are wrapped up (should be all done this weekend). Most recently, some issues were fixed with near-lightspeed travel, and some improvements were added to make this feature feel smoother during runtime. This had to do with how scripted locations coordinate during travel events, based on distance and other factors. I find that a lot of solutions which have to be developed for this type of game rely pretty heavily on effective event-timing methods.
[Click the title of these Dev Log titles to see the full version with images] May was rather heavy for non-dev work, and because of that there has been no huge changes since the Apr 20 log in terms of what is being done. Chapters 3 an 4 continue – playtesting did reveal some things which had not been detected before, and eventually led to some improvements to collision handling, the flight model itself, and ship controls. Ships can now be exchanged for other vessels as they become available to the player. This version of the game will not likely have a modification system for adding and removing things on your ship, however if there is time to add this before release, I will set it up with the intention of adding more via DLC if it is a desired feature. As it is now, each ship has its own feature emphasis based on its intended purpose, so players will be able to select the one that suits their playstyle and preferences. For example, a built-in auto-lander may be more desirable to some than an immersive navigation room.
[Click the title of these Dev Log titles to see the full version with images] Took a couple of weeks off to attend to local work, and now back at the helm. Work continues on Chapters 3 and 4, with plenty of debugging for a playtest build. Unity has an interesting bug where compilation is cached but not completely saved. This means that when the libraries are rebuilt, changes to code revert backwards, and a build is not the same as what is seen in the editor. I have not found a report of this bug, but finding these reports and voting them up can be quite a task. I’ve just been trying to work around it, but it does result in some lost cycles. I believe this is caused by an intended or unintended lack of process for tools like VS Code (which I use), which would otherwise not be noticed by users of VS Studio. When this round of playtesting is complete, I will make another update with a look at some of the new content.
[Click the title of these Dev Logs to see the full version with images] This past month has consisted of environment work, both constructing scene assets, and then building out the framework using my plot tracking system, which manages the player’s progress, and directs other actors and events based on their plot position (and the choices the player has made). In film terms, this would be set design and scene direction. Its labor intensive. I’m focusing on 3 different environments used in Chapter’s 3 & 4 segments of the game, which are pivotal for everything that follows, so there is considerably more details here than other scenes may need. There have been no issues with the current code, the engine and tools are working well. This log entry is mainly to update viewers that progress continues, and things are going rather well. Its just a matter of time, and I’m not going to compromise the quality of the game by rushing it. I will leave you with a couple of pics from some of the environments that are being completed.
[Click the title of these Dev Logs to see the full version with images] Another round of deep testing has been completed, and with it, a huge number of fixes and improvements. Interestingly, when you optimize a game engine in Unity, you will sometimes reveal hidden bugs that cannot show themselves until the game runs at a certain speed. This is partly to due to how update methods are written, and partly because of when scripts can execute vs. the rendering and processing load, the latter being most common for me. Tutorials got an update this round, to address issues where players were unaware of how some of the mechanics worked – and it cannot be assumed that everyone will experiment, or bring past gaming experience with them. Consequently, there are now some nice slide decks with instructions. Story, dialog, and plot has been updated, and completely new intro cutscenes were created. Planets continue being built out, along with new ships, character details, and world objects. Gameplay / storyline testing has begun for the new scenes involved in chapters 3 and 4. There are a lot of moving parts to the planning process now, but I can venture to say that there is a decent production workflow now that makes it all fairly straightforward to get done. By the way, I think devs should return to the use of workflow instead of the more popular word ‘pipeline’, because workflow is actually more accurate and effective, in most cases. /rant off. One thing that consistently comes ups as an issue is managing time vs expectations. You can only have a maximum of two out of the three (universal) factors of a project: good quality, short production time, low cost. For a new studio, you generally don’t have venture capital, so low cost is already one of your items. That leaves quality or production time. Due to the nature of this game, I had to choose quality. The time this takes is just something that has to be dealt with. It can be frustrating, but at least there are dev logs, right? 🙂
[Click the title of these Dev Logs to see the full version with images] Happy belated New Years. We have survived to 2021, the year in which the story of Mad Max began, in the 80s film of the same name. Work continues full speed at the Studio. Currently, a quality and testing pass in underway, during which all content, features, and functionality will be validated and locked in before moving into the next stage. Ships, flight and landings, environments, character models, dialog and missions are the main focus, as these things are consistent throughout the gameplay. I’ve uploaded one of the upcoming videos to illustrate some of the test procedures – in this case, an environmental test [click to view] Ships and ground sites are also getting a run-through to ensure everything works properly. A game shouldn’t get its ‘polish’ until near the end, but to avoid creating downstream problems that require a lot of regressive changes and testing, there are many things that must be brought to near completion earlier on. That’s all for now. More videos will be posted soon.
[Click the title of these Dev Logs to see the full version with images] Content production has moved to large scale testing, so that environments are caught up, and can accommodate the construction of new settings. This caused a jump forward in the current methods for planet rendering, so that the GPU can be leveraged as much as possible to lighten the rendering load. Consequently, planet-wide environments are not barren unless they are intended to be, and the objects and sites of interest can be focused on. Other items advanced:-Long distance space travel has been made smoother and more resource efficient.-Cameras were reworked to eliminate some issues with layering that were causing visual interference in some situations.-Light scattering has been blended properly for inner atmosphere and from-space perspectives.-Weather systems are being developed which can spawn in random areas of a planet.-Underwater environments are visually complete, allowing for swimming/diving to be properly completed at the player perspective (animations, sounds, etc). Shadows are now stabilized and crisp, however this came at the cost of extremely long-distance shadows. This is a known limitation within Unity. Coding a solution is possible, so a nice-to-have decision will be made on this later on. Distant shadows that are crucial will be rendered, but seeing your ship’s shadow on a planet’s atmosphere 60 million miles away is not likely to happen. The game will provide enough visual effects to be enjoyable, and that is about all I can do as a one-person team.