[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.
[Click the title of these Dev Logs to see the full version with images] ‘Holiday’ update. Work on creatures, ships, and planets continues. Too much to discuss in detail, but suffice to say that November has been insanely busy. Environment creation and design has to move ahead of script due to the volume of work, and some technical issues that could potentially affect project-wide decisions about cameras and lighting, which must accommodate all visual effects. Thanks to years of experience with troubleshooting and analysis, these issues were resolved, and content creation continues. Next video footage will likely be ship testing in one of the new planetary environments.
[Click the title of these Dev Logs to see the full version with images] Development has been in Content Mode for the past month. New ships, new creatures, new planets – all these require extensive work making and rigging 3d models, and then setting them up with textures, animations, sounds, shaders, and particle effects. This will all come together when the new environments are filled with these things, and I record new videos in that chapter of the game, and I’ll post that here when its time.
[Click the title of these Dev Logs to see the full version with images] Space combat and AI development has gotten to a ‘comfortable place’ more or less, pending player testing of course. Creating content for the new chapters has been the primary focus lately, as the wearing of hats goes in rotation: write/sketch/plan -> create 2D/3D assets -> build scene/level -> write code -> test -> music/sounds/FX Its literally these 6 hats, though there is a lot more under the lid of each one than the title suggests. At any rate, we’re back to creating 2D/3D assets, building out areas, and working on new ships. Presently, there will be 3 ships a player can acquire, each one having very different form and functional strengths. Ship building is a pretty intensive process, as this type of game asset is the equivalent of a major character. Once the main story-line and all areas are complete, there may be more resources put into this part of the game. Exalted Seracthon won’t be going down the path of Star Citizen in terms of becoming a virtual car dealership, but I suspect that there will be considerable interest in the non-story mechanics of this game, and some of its extended-play value will be provided by these space faring features. I don’t have much else to report, though I have uploaded a video to the Odysee channel to showcase some of the recent progress with space combat/AI: https://odysee.com/@ravenheim_studio:0/Ship-combat_AI-stress-test:d
[Click the title of these Dev Logs to see the full version with images] This is somewhat of an update to last week’s post – functional templates for large (capital) ships are nearing completion, and combat AI and movement scenarios are being tested. The decision-sets for large ships vs small ships will depend on their weaponry, but destruction is very easy to dish out, and very accurate, so things like acrobatic maneuvers will be of limited use. The existence of precision technology is mostly ignored or even deleted from sci-fi worlds in which energy weapons are shown to move slower than wooden arrows, and are easy to dodge with physical reflexes. There are robotic aiming systems even today which can strike targets faster than they can physically evade; it makes sense that this would only become more refined in the future. When confronted by a shielded and well armored vessel which has many banks of long range, highly destructive weapons, combat pilots would have realized very quickly that no ship has the ability to physically dodge faster than the speed of light. In the slightly more realistic vision of sci-fi future that is presented in Exalted Seracthon, other measures are used in space to deal with these kinds of threats. This is not to say that battle between ships doesn’t happen – it certainly does. But if and when your enemy outclasses you by many orders of magnitude, there will be no lucky shots or fancy dodges that will save you. You’ll have to use your head, and be smarter about it 🙂
[Click the title of these Dev Logs to see the full version with images] Player testing is underway for Chapters 1 and 2, and I’m currently working on the AI for space combat. Shield, hull, and weapon management for enemy vessels is working, as well as smart turrets. Turrets are horrendously dangerous in groups, and capital ships will be something to fear. These weapons won’t be slow trash cans rotating around throwing bullets into empty space; they will hit what they see, and cut through shields and armor as they do in the Harlock universe. Once the model for this engagement is working, it will be available in a simulator in the game world itself, so the player can practice flying different classes of ships – regardless of whether or not they put themselves in a position to actually fly or own them. You can choose how involved you want to be with physical space or non-physical space, and deal with the perks and dangers each of them comes with. The decision was made not to release in Early-Access format, and instead release a trailer an playable demo when the game is 2/3 to 3/4 complete. Because this game isn’t a sandbox, it doesn’t make sense to throw content out early, and a shorter wait time between its public appearance and release day is preferable from a player’s perspective.
[Click the title of these Dev Logs to see the full version with images] August has been consumed primarily with content creation and testing. The last parts of Chapter 2 have been developed and tested, and I will be making a playable build today for others (besides me) to test. Getting a game to the point that it must be player tested is a longer step than it should be, but the consequence of that (hopefully) is very few bugs for players to find. I lost a few days testing more recent versions of Unity, with the hopes of being able to implement HDRP (high definition rendering pipeline), but as of 2019.4.x, it is still not optimized or flexible enough for a game like this one. I’m sure its fine for a game that takes place in a house on a street somewhere, or even for a team making short films, but it does not hold up in a space environment. Some additional in-game features were created for situations that will arise again later, and these types of things take a bit of time to test, but other than that, the only real challenge at this point will be getting voice actors. With real dialog, the game could be played and tested publicly, so I will be grappling with that after the first round of player (technical) tests are done. There is still no solid decision yet as to whether the game will launch as an early access, or just publish demo footage, and continue to advertise it as it gets finished.