[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 Youtube channel to showcase some of the recent progress with space combat/AI. https://youtu.be/xi-06nc31Uw
[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.
[Click the title of these Dev Logs to see the full version with images] The new region discussed last time was completed and tested. Since then I have done another layer of testing from game start through to chapter 2, fixing bugs, adding content and cutscenes, and improving the gameplay. A lot of this is art and sound studio work, but there are still things that pop up which need coding or adjustments, such as smoother handling of followers, saving and loading with different conditions, and different actors, tweaks to AI, combat, and dialog. One of these items was engaging entry points as a group: I don’t recall playing a game where followers could smoothly get in or out of an elevator with me, and it not just be a cutscene. I made a way to this in realtime, and it feels better. When a game is overly-reliant on cutscenes, I start to wonder if they actually wanted to make a movie instead of a game, or perhaps just didn’t want to write the necessary code. At any rate, I want Exalted Seracthon to feel as immersive as possible at release, and that requires some extra work to get it as close as I can. There is only so much one person can do, but it is sometimes the details that matter.
[Click the title of these Dev Logs to see the full version with images]Work continues continuously on Exalted Seracthon. Currently, I’m focused on plotline details, story, and mental challenges the player will face. The goal is to have these fleshed out and fully tested so that a play through of both initial chapters of the game can happen seamlessly. Technical issues remain minor – things are developed as needed, but the majority of work continues to be content – art and sound, models, textures, level design, and testing. All the things a programmer doesn’t have to do, unless they are the only person working on the game LOL. I had the good fortune to speak with a AAA industry veteran recently, and developers with skills in multiple areas are now highly desired, as their ability to cover multiple project threads and general value across the board has proven to be greater than the specialization of prior decades. So I guess one shouldn’t complain about a heavy and diverse workload. I would announce another video, but I have refrained from publishing any this month, and have generally not shown a lot of what is in this game so that I don’t give away its unique aspects. Suffice to say, there is a lot to show, but it will have to wait until that kind of public exposure will benefit the game’s release process.
Uploaded a new YouTube video showing an energy shield test https://youtu.be/WTzu1lUkjmc . Features like these are being tested and refined, and new areas and scenes are being created for Chapter 2. More to come.
Social media has been scaled back to allocate more time to complete the content for Exalted Seracthon. With the onset of the global pandemic, and the decay of crowdfunding in general, creating a new audience at this stage has been rather difficult. To prepare for an early access release, the focus has turned from social media to completing the first two chapters of the game. The engine was completed in February of this year, and a number of further developments were made to improve performance, and streamline the building of areas and levels, cut-scenes, and dialog. Sound, music, and voice acting are currently the biggest task at hand, as they require considerable time, and of course, availability of voice actors. We are extremely fortunate to be able to feature some of the ambient music of Iron Cthulhu Apocalypse. A great deal of his work was composed with the same range of concepts that Exalted Seracthon portrays, and will constitute the majority of the music heard within the game. An example of this can be heard in the ‘Transitions Test 2‘ video on our YouTube channel.
Exalted Seracthon is the first PC game produced by Ravenheim Studio. The game engine was developed between Feb 2017 and Feb 2020, and it has been tailored for the story it was intended for. When the initial chapters are completed, it will launched as an early access game, while the rest of the content is produced.