This week we’ve done a bit of enemy balancing for the Windmills’ area. Some ranged enemies were placed here in order to keep things challenging, but in a way that won’t make it too frustrating. The Woodified Enemies have been completely revamped with new animations, so the feeling of the first part of the game is getting close to what we had envisioned in the beginning.
Also, the Wanderer has more proper animations, while he is interacting with the player. As stated before, he will make frequent appearances throughout your whole adventure. And, in time, the Girl will learn more about him and his motivations.
This guy can’t play.
The final part of Chapter One approaches, development-wise. We are all working on this very last scene pretty hard, and we will show plenty of it further down the road but, for now, here are two ominous teasers!
This week various changes were made in the AI department, from simple enemies to mini bosses, and their behaviors have been polished. Also, some bugs that still persisted since our last showcase at Comic Con were finally fixed. Plus, we’ve added a simple stress meter that shows up while riding so players can tell for how much longer they can mount the Elk before needing to feed it some berries.
Our animator did a lot of new animations for our enemy models and gave them the appropriate mood and feeling. He’s constantly working on custom ones to replace the old placeholder animations that we still have in the project. Additionally, different weights are now assigned to each foe as they are instantiated, so that every enemy acquires a stronger sense of individuality. Here are the various forms of transformation of this type of enemies.
Hey! I’m walking here!
We’ve also been working on an important event that takes place in the final area of Chapter One – the meeting with the Kid. The player will be able to help him escape from the cage he is trapped in, eventually learning more about his origin as the journey continues.
Once again, part of the team was working on the first Prince’s boss battle, polishing moves, balancing and adding more animations so the battle feels epic.
Although magic and elemental effects were only supposed to be introduced at a later stage of the game (once the player learns the appropriate skills from an NPC) one of the attacks of this boss required the implementation of the “paralyze” stat. We opted to use this nomenclature because it can be used in every situation in which the player temporarily loses control of the character (such as “petrify”, “woodify”, etc).
Similarly, a placeholder radial bar (around the weapon icon), indicating the current equipped weapon’s durability was added. Before, this very important info was buried in the inventory stat tab.
Paralyze and Durability bar.
That’s a big fall.
We really wanted the Rift Windmills’ area to have its own particular mood and identity, and in that regard the skybox plays a big role. With this in mind, we came up with a brand new sky with some dramatic clouds, as well as silhouetted mountains in the distance. Now the scene looks a lot more unique and consistent.
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.
Remember the concept art for the Kid we have shown a few posts ago? We have finally wrapped up the model and textures for that character, and he is ready to be brought to life by our animator!
In-game model of the Kid.
On the environment art side of things, we have started to work on a new zone of the game, which is a canyon-esque area with lots of windmills. Here is a mood and shape concept piece that is meant to guide us while we produce and put together all the various new elements that will compose the scene.
Concept art for the new canyon area.
Comic Con Portugal was a blast! Lots of feedback and people testing and enjoying the game. We will definitely be back next year. For those who did not get a chance to play, be sure to keep an eye out for future updates.
Once again, this week André was improving and fixing some stuff following the feedback we got from Lisbon Games Week. Some UI changes and rearrangement were done for a more readable inventory, for example. Two handed swords will also start to behave like one handed ones, since various testers sheathed the weapon by mistake in the middle of the combat. Also the Elk control and camera were improved, and probably a change in the controls will be made at a later stage. Since the prototype that the inspiration for the Elk control was Shadow of the Colossus, but maybe it is time to test a new control system, more similar to the Girl control. We will have the chance to test these changes at Comic Con Portugal.
We also revamped the area with the cave tunnels in order to achieve a more immersive ambiance.
Close encounters of the slime kind.
One last thing, we are having a lot of fun doing some promotion captures with the cinematic camera 😛
This week Pichel finished the first version of the Wanderer, the next version will include a cape and additional details. This is a very important NPC that will appear several times through your journey and will keep you informed about lore if you talk to him. He is also currently working on new enemy variations.
The Wanderer model next to you for scale.
André and Iuri continued their work on the treat mechanic. In order to mount the elk, players will have to gain its trust by feeding it a particular type of berries. The player can then mount it for some time, provided that there are no enemies around. The elk is not meant to be a simple mount, but more of a journey companion. Tomé did a berries prop plant that will be available in some zones (larger zones). You can pick them up and feed them to the elk at any time in order to mount it and travel through the world faster. Be very careful when approaching enemies, the elk will likely force a dismount and run away!
Revisiting a calm zone.
Raw run animation clip.
Berries Plant prop.
André also did a complete rewrite of the elk mount control code, it had a lot of prototype junk, a total revamp was due. This piece of gameplay is heavily inspired by Shadow of the Colossus control and feel. He improved the elk turn control, the object avoidance and the enemy reaction threshold system.
This week André was working with Iuri on the treat mechanic. This is a mechanic where the player needs to gain the confidence of the Elk by feeding it. Then the player can mount it for some time if no enemy is near. Since the beginning, the Elk is not meant to be a simple mount, but more of a journey companion. André also improved the deferred decals and started polishing/fixing the action of riding the Elk and its control logic with the new animations.
On the environment art side of things, we’ve been experimenting with the mood of the sprawling underground tunnels below the swamp area. They are meant to be pretty dark, filled with stalactites and stalagmites that create interesting shadows when adventuring with a torch in hand.
In some places a torch is mandatory.
Pichel has already finished the high poly model of the Wanderer (we’ve shown the concept in the previous blog entry) and is almost done with the low poly version. Similarly, Tomé wrapped up the high poly model for the Wanderer’s guitar. We’ve decided to change its design a bit so it would be reminiscent of the traditional portuguese guitar, with a fantasy touch. You can check both the character and his musical instrument below.
André was busy adding some dynamic bones for our characters, and save a lot of time in animations. Small portions of the model like pony tails or small bags now don’t need to be animated so the animation pipeline is more straightforward.
Dynamic jiggle physics, exaggerated effect.
He also added a first version of Audio Occlusion. In practice, the sound is occluded by a low pass filter and the volume is decreased when not in sight of the audio listener. This leads to a more immersive experience, since the player will be able to notice when a sound comes from inside a building or from the outside.
Iuri this week improved the main character’s RIG, imbuing her with a lot more feeling and life. Now we feel like we’re able to convey emotions more easily, which helps a lot with storytelling.
New facial animations.
Pichel is currently working on a very important character, which we will show further down the road. He recently finished up an NPC, a prisioner, and you can check below how the model looks in-game.
Also check it out our newest WIP gameplay trailer:
Last weekend we showcased the game to some developers and players and some new bugs were found as expected. Some we already knew about and others were simply created when André was doing the combat demo scene we’ve shown. First thing Andre did in the beginning of the week was to fix these bugs and tweak the combat (feedback was very important). Seeing players playing and looking at what they do with the controller is very enlightening for improving small nuances in gameplay and making things more intuitive. This is a process that we intend to repeat in ever showcase we’ll do.
Tomé worked on some props this week. One of them is a very important prop – it’s basically a resting spot where one of our mechanics takes place. When the player uses it in order to recover, an ambush can randomly occur during the night while sleeping.
The various parts of this prop can be rotated or hidden to achieve different compositions and avoid repetition.
Meanwhile, Pichel is hard at work handcrafting the mystical Elk’s textures and experimenting with fur. He already finished the maps for the saddle, as you can see in the image below.
He also finished the High Poly of one of the NPCs that can be encountered in the beginning of the game. We will talk about him and the others NPC’s soon in a dedicated devblog.