This week, we’ve got some character art and a few new animations to show you guys. It’s vacation time for the members of the team, but we made sure to schedule everything so that there’s always at least one of us working on the game. This way, the development is never really halted.
As part of our current objective of adding more enemy variety and flexibility to the project, we designed a new creature that will pester the player in any area of the game. Just like the monster that hides in a barrel, which we showed last time, this new enemy is not “chapter specific”, and that allows us to use it freely while building the world.
Hi! Anyone seen my toothpick?
Basically, this little fellow hides beneath the ground with only its leaves sticking out to blend with the surrounding vegetation. Once the player gets close, it will pounce!
Why hello there! ( Jump Across animation )
Take that! ( Sweep Kick animation )
Oops sorry! I was just kid-ding! ( Being Hit by Player animation )
On the animation department, the masked youths are rocking a couple of new moves. While fighting, they react to the player’s actions by chaining attacks or dodges. For example, if their low kick does not connect, a quick dagger slash will follow. As you might have guessed, facing this opponent will prove to be a very different challenge from the ones in previous chapters.
Have a nice weekend!
This week we continued working on the current chapter’s end boss, nearly all of its move-sets are complete, while the AI polish and behavior are currently in the works. This boss has a lot of extra moving parts and we experienced some problems managing several of its animations simultaneously, but we’ve solved this in the end.
A fully functional jetpack!
We also finished populating the environment of this chapter while also adding the logic to support it, now it’s time for testing and to finish balancing! Here are some combat encounter screenshots:
Two’s a company…
…three’s a crowd!
Unity 2017 released an awesome new tool for cinematics, so we’ll have to port our existing ones and create the future ones with it for a more cinematic and professional feeling.
Regarding the next chapter, players will mostly be facing a new threat, the masked youths that dwell in the depths of the Rift! Their visual concept was inspired by a Portuguese tradition, the “caretos”, as well as Princess Mononoke’s battle costume. Their motives for attacking the girl on sight will have to remain a mystery, for now…
One of the dynamics of the area we are currently developing is the constant surprise of combat. While walking among the corpses of soldiers who have fallen on this battlefield, the player will never know which might turn out to be a threat. This mechanic has a threshold, so hopefully the player will never feel overwhelmed by the amount of enemies at any given time.
Careful where you step.
This week we have captured some gameplay footage to pinpoint some collision problems, add additional particles and polish some combat behaviors. We tested this approach so that the gameplay wouldn’t be filtered by the usual editing workflow, allowing us to really observe how things are coming together. We also added new stylized particles, but this is an ongoing process and it’s still not ready to be shown.
Art-wise, the creation of the new boss character we’ve mentioned before is progressing nicely. The concept phase is basically over and production has already started. We want the design to remain a surprise for now, but we decided to show a small teaser – the concept of the boss’ weapon. The team is committed to making this battle a pretty epic moment, so the weapon just had to be somewhat over the top!
Boss’ weapon concept.
We’re also doing some water tests like we said some time ago. There’ll be no ocean in this game, but small lakes or big puddles. Paulo (working on Amplify Shader Editor) has been lending the DoL team a hand by doing some ripple effect experiments. These will be used in some specific zones throughout the game.
During this week, we’ve done some tests with stylized water and interactions, like splash particles and spume. Once it is more eye-catching we will show it off. The inspirations for it are Windwaker and the upcoming Rime. In this area and the next area, there will be some small lake zones so a proper, simple and fast water shader is in the works.
We also prepared a “fake interior” for the house we’ve shown in a previous update. In the “central village hub” there will be more similar houses and as the player progresses in the game, people who used to live there will return to their abandoned homes. By then, the player will be able to knock on the doors and talk with the people inside, adding another layer to the story lore.
Always knock on the house doors.
In the new area we are working on, the player can find a great Ancestor ruin, a Water Temple, that shows signs of having been repurposed… Now it functions as a steam powerhouse, but who is harnessing all this energy?
The water temple concept.
This week we continued the work of replacing old animations with the new ones which add a lot more personality to the game. Walking on quicksand and the visual feedback of that action, for example, was something we needed to improve, in terms of animation and also in shader work. We’re currently working on that, but it isn’t finished yet. In the meantime, we are also doing some experiments with stylized water shaders to use in small lakes or shallow streams, for example.
On a different note, the cutscene system was fine tuned, and now there is an option to skip forward those events.
Knock,Knock, who’s there?
The new areas are developing smoothly, and although there are many assets to create, concepts like the one below help us to establish the mood we’re trying to achieve in advance. In this case, the image depicts the stage of a bloody battle.
Previously, we’ve shown the concept for an armor used by a new kind of enemy the player will be facing. The “game ready” model of this equipment is already finished:
In-game soldier with full armorset.
The new environments for Chapter 2 are evolving smoothly, and the art team has been hard at work producing all the required content to really develop unique locations for the players to explore. One of the current challenges has been to come up with a different kind of architecture to contrast with the stern Ancestor-built ruins of the previous areas. This time we went for a more “rural look”, loosely based on the Portuguese Traditional/Popular construction.
Using the Amplify Shader Editor and Vertex Painting, we’re able to quickly put together houses like the one shown below, while making them feel different from each other by making texture variations.
House in the woods.
Meanwhile, our master puppeteer has improved upon the existing running animation by tweaking the position of the arms and spine of the Girl while she is equipped with any type of weapon available. This way, the particular weights of both short and long swords, as well as maces, hammers or bows, really come through as the animation contextually adapts.
Upper torso bow base animation – blended with walking and running animations in real-time.
Run cycle variation.
Once again, we are working hard on polishing a lot of aspects of the gameplay and fixing bugs. The camera collision was improved when in small spaces, mounting and unmounting was also tuned and the transitions are much more fluid. Like we’ve shown in the previous post, our animator is replacing all the placeholder animations, and this week it was time to replace the ladder climbing animations.
We are also working on a Lore driven collectible which we are calling “Echoes”. They basically consist of recorded memories of certain characters. As the player finds them throughout the world, these Echoes will be made available in a specific tab within the inventory.
The cursed soldier model is “game-ready”, and this is the version you can see in case the enemy has no armor equipped. Like in the first chapter, we have a dynamic armor placement which makes the enemies feel different in every encounter. This time around we will also add a destroyable armor mechanic – each piece will be destroyed as the player keeps striking.
Cursed soldier In-Game model (No armor).
Here is the concept of the fully armored cursed soldier. This armor set can be looted from the enemies and equipped by the Girl.
The full armor version of the cursed soldier.
Climbing ladders new animations.
This week a lot of small tweaks, balancing and gameplay polishing was done: the stamina behavior was improved (now it takes a while before the stamina is regained after it was completely drained), the parry detection is more efficient, as well as the hit detection on enemies. Changing targets when locked is now more intuitive and the player can choose easily what target they want to attack.
Since it was clear that being immediately expelled from the Elk’s back while near enemies was frustrating for the players, a small change was made in the Elk’s stress behavior so that now the stress simply increases much faster instead, making the experience of riding more manageable.
Direct swap items on the Elk’s inventory is now possible, so there’s no need for the poor design decision of dropping the item and then picking it up again.
In the art department, the work on the new enemy is advancing smoothly. Here is HighPoly model:
Cursed soldier Highpoly.
We are also coming up with a new foe for the Girl to fight with, a big armored Ancestor that will require careful planning in order to be brought down.
Meanwhile, we also continue to replace old animations with fresh ones, such as this:
Pushing unlocked doors.
Since PAX East, our art team has been working on the new chapter. Hopefully, just by looking at the first enemy concept you can tell it’s going to be very different from the previous one. A more medieval approach, with epic battles and battlefields. We already have this area blocked out for quite some time, but both the look and feel of the enemies are still in the works. Also, some level design refinement will be done. As previously mentioned, the story and mood will get darker as the adventure progresses, and the upcoming environments will reflect that change.
Cursed soldier – Under-armor concept.
We are working hard polishing some aspects pointed out by some players during PAX (thank you for playing and giving us honest feedback!). A lot has been done in combat fine-tuning and camera behavior. Parries now work much better and are fun to use, and defending with shields now works properly, taking into consideration the direction of the attack (this applies to the player and the enemies alike). We also added some more visual feedback when an attack lands on bigger enemies (for example, if you hit their legs, they react to it subtly by twitching).
Like we’ve mentioned in previous updates, every time the player gets killed in the game, the Girl will awaken from a “nightmare” in the last checkpoint. That specific animation has already been implemented, as you can see below.
Waking up from a nightmare.
This week we were working on the intro scene of the game, where we explain how the Girl and the Elk start their journey. It’s a small new area with short cutscenes and playable zones where the player and the companion meet for the first time.
Some AI balancing and behavior was also done, and the Elk now has two types of control (changeable in options). One is the first version, heavily inspired by the Shadow of the Colossus’ control scheme, and the other is more similar to how The Witcher or Dragon Age handle mounting and steering. We feel that adding gameplay options like this turns out to be appealing for various types of players.
Running from the swamp slugs.
The art team is making progress in the new Canyon-esque area, populating the scene with a few new stone and vegetation props. Developing the surrounding landscape is the current challenge we’re facing, blending 3d elements with 2d planes in order to produce a convincing and immersive atmosphere.
In-game view of the Canyon area, still work in progress.
The boss battle and arena is on the works too.