This update is covering a variety of things, from new distribution methods, to analytics plans, and the roadmap of things I'm working on from here.
First off... Distribution!
This has been a large focus of production for the last couple of weeks. Coming up to our Eternal Ember alpha release, I have been working on exactly how I am going to send out the game.
What I have come up with is a launcher based system using the "Coffee Auto Patcher System". This is an extremely cool asset that allows me to ship updates to you guys, and all you have to do is download the latest files, not the entire game, again and again. As of this morning, this is confirmed as working, so when I decide the time is right for Alpha Release, I can start giving out launcher keys.
Right now, the launcher and the update screen are both pretty plain. So far they are just mechanical, no need for aesthetic focus. This is going to be one of the key focii that I look at over the coming weeks.
Before distribution, I want to implement a series of Analytic mechanics to let me know how people are doing at the game. This will mean less at first Alpha Release, as there will not be much in the way of narrative or progression, simply mechanics. However, as I try to begin guiding the player through the game, information is essential. This will include factors like 'how many times did you die before level 10', 'where did you die', 'how much gold did you have when you achieved level 5'. These allow me to scale and balance the game to become challenging, but not too challenging.
Related to this, I will also be creating and implementing a system for feedback from you guys. This will consist mainly of a menu that will allow you to submit personal feedback. How you would like me to extend the game. A note on this, I will take all of the feedback on board, but I will only act on the feedback which I feel will make the game better. Even if I dont act on your feedback, it will still help me get to where the community sentiment lies.
If you have been following the production of this game, you will remember that a while ago, I spent a bunch of time on a dynamic inventory system. I am sad to say....it's gone. I deleted it. This was no thoughtless action however. I had been clinging to the inventory system due to how hard I had worked on it, and this was preventing me from seeing how much it was harming gameplay. Thus, it has been removed to give me greater control over the players experience, essentially making it better for everyone.
How does this relate to Runes?
Well, I still wanted the player to influence their style of gameplay. With an inventory system, this would have been been done using weapon and armour choice, but without this, I have implemented a rune grammar system. I will expand on this more in the future, especially as it develops further, but the simple version is:
There are 3 categories of runes; Use, Grammer, Essence.
There are multiple types of rune within each category. The main runes I use for testing are
Voll - Use - 'Death' - Damage Rune
Ra - Grammar - 'By' - Amplification Rune
Ignis - Essence - 'Fire' - ... Fire / Burning.
By combining these runes, the player creates a damaging rune that sets enemies on fire. The 'Ra' runes amplifies this effect, increasing both damage and burn time. Should 'Ignis' be replaced by 'Sliss' / 'Ice', the enemy would be frozen instead, whilst still taking damage.
Currently planned, there will be a total of 30 runes, or 10 of each category. This may increase, or decrease in the future, depending on test results. While its cool that every rune has its own effect, this means that they must all be programmed seperately, including interactions. This increases labour almost exponentially for each rune added.
Where from here?
My main focus' for production from this point are Level Design and Distribution Aesthetic. As mentioned earlier, the launcher and update windows are both pretty ugly, so im going to be working to bring those up to scratch. If some extra funds can be secured, I am going to work to source a concept artist to do some sketches for this, to help introduce the player to the feel of a game before they actually play.
Level Design is the logical next step from all of this. I have spent a lot on the mechanics area of this game, and I don't regret this. A game with cool levels and bad mechanics is a bad game. But the time has come for Level Design to become more of a focus. I will thus be refining the 'feel' of the game, and working to integrate this. This will definitely be a challenge, as I am, in essence, not an artistic person. I should be up for it though :)
Finally, I will be working to make and integrate the rest of the runes, as well as sorting systems. I am very excited to work on this, but it is intensive and wearying none the less.
Thank you all for your continued support,
CEO Dracon Interactive
Hey guys, and welcome back. For this update, im going to talk a bit about the procedural generation in Eternal Ember, and how it will affect the overall gameplay.
To summarise some previous points, Eternal Ember is a narrative survival RPG. The most important facet of design, at least at this point, is upon the combination of narrative...and survival. World generation is an important part of this.
To look at some other game worlds, lets use examples from ARK, Rust and Conan:Exiles. These are generally regarded as the 3 highest achieving survival games in terms of innovation and player base and satisfaction.
Looking at these games, we can see that they all share a single key aspect: non-procedural generation. This has allowed for certain advantages.
These advantages are not to be scoffed at, and for good reason. They have lead to the creation of wonderful, well designed game worlds. But what I intend harnesses these advantages, but allows for a more emergent set of gameplay.
The world of Eternal Ember is broken into 'Tiles'. Each of these tiles obeys certain rules as to its generation. These rules are set by me by a graph, and fed into a plugin I use called 'MapMagic'. Its excellent, I recommend it.
From this graph, the terrain in Unity changes according to my whim. We look at 5 major outputs of this.
From these, we can logically combine Trees, Objects and Grass, leaving us with 3 main components.
The height of the terrain is probably the highest priority. It controls the overall shape of the terrain. Done badly, the terrain is sharp, or flat. Confusing or featureless. Done well, and smooth hills give way into valleys and mountains. Plains are offset by lakes, and mountains by plateaus. This gives the terrain life.
This diversity of area is highlighted by the use of textures. Areas such as grass, cliffs, sand and dirt need their own textures. This is often controlled by factors such as height, slope and area. For example, a steep slope will need the cliff texture, as nothing could grow here. At the bottom of the map, we either want dirt or sand, depending on whether there is water here. And at the top of mountains we need snow.
The placement of objects is the final touch. Sprawling forests, rocks and trees. Expanding upon this, we also can place resource, and monster generators. A future plan is to have a village spawn, though this will require some work.
The final piece looks a lot like... this;
Of course, no work is ever done. This landscape will change significantly over the course of the game development.
A key reason for this will be the placement of key landmarks and story areas. Using the previously mentioned tiling system, I will be 'pinning' some tiles, while leaving others to be fully procedural. By pinning these tiles, I can ensure that they are spawned the same way every playthrough, lending me the consistency of a set world.
Ideas, thoughts or comments? Comment away! Message me even :)
Thanks for reading,
Hey everyone! First off, Happy New Year!
This is just a quick post to keep you guys up to date about our progress to date.
Dracon Interactive is still working on the same projects as it has been for the previous 6 months or so, Hero Rising, Fatal Core and Eternal Ember.
Hero Rising is still on a hiatus. It should be coming out of this within the next few months to resume development, depending on schedules.
Fatal Core has finished its first build! Check out the trailer on youtube, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWgV4Y33seY. We are all really happy with how this turned out. However, as many of you know, this was made on a university schedule to university standards. The team has unanimously decided to start work on Fatal: ReCore, the sequel to Fatal Core. This will contain many more features, that we wished we had had time to include in the original version. This project will take longer than the original Fatal Core, but will be much better designed with the original Fatal Core experience in mind.
Eternal Ember. Lots to say. Not all good. The backup corrupted, and all progress was lost when i synced the backup with the working tree. This is not to say work is ceasing on this! This is my absolute passion project, and while heart broken at the lost progress, I am once again beginning work on it. Its slow progress but its getting there. I will post some screenshots of the new work soon.
Thats about all! I am trying to get payed work now that I am out of university, which is both difficult and time-consuming, but I am still working on these projects...if only as a stress reliever!
Thank you for all of your support,
Hey guys, I know I said the last blog was ... the last, but I have a little bonus section!
In my assignment, we get bonus if we can state how to export to a game engine, as this was supposed to be a game ready asset. Funnily enough, this wasnt so much of a problem with me!
Step one is to make sure all of my materials have been made, applied and named. I will be making these steps for Unity btw.
Then, export the finished model as FBX, then import this into Unity. Looking at this in engine, you will see the model, with the materials, but they may be grey. If so, you then take the material inputs you used in MAX, (Staff_base_albedo, Staff_base_specularity, etc) and apply these to the object.
If you wanted to sell this object, or export it to someone with the inputs already attached, follow step 2 and then "Package Asset", which will take your work, and apply it and make it into a single folder.
There we go! I believe thats the entire run line. Please note, this relied on me using Quixel, and exporting to Unity. The difference this makes is that I end up with Albedo, Specularity and Normal. If you hand make your textures then you can also do metallic, gloss and emission maps. These are applied in the same way as the first three.
o Hey guys, this is the final blog for my magic staff animation! Because I've made a trend, Ima follow the same formula as the previous two.
This week has solved some major issues, and a bunch of tiny ones, making production just that much smoother.
So, the main one is the issue from last week with the Lower Cage not being nice. After migrating to 3DSMax 2017 (AutoDesk, 2016), and erasing all the files from the 2016 version, it fixed it! Now the cages are nice and pretty.
Texturing went well, with everything UV mapped, and I even got a little tutorial from Cameron Dadd (a fellow animation student, albeit in trimester 6) about modifying dynamasks. All elements are now textured, and this went even better than expected. I have discovered a new technique of exporting from Quixel (Quixel, 2016) that slots straight into Max. All I have to do is export for Unity and adjust specularity and I have niceness!
Aside from this, I have finished most of the animation. I still need to get Camera animation finished, but the main staff is done to my satisfaction now. Once I get the Camera done, it will be ready for render and submission!
The background was way too boring, so I tried to skybox it. I, however, grew up in Unity, so skyboxes are a thing, but not a transferable one :P I have tried to teach myself how to make a good skybox, but with the pressure from my major project hanging on me, its not looking good for that.
I just CANT get the lighting right. I have tried multiple omni lights of different colours, targeted and free directional lights, but no matter what combinations i use it always looks ... off. Im sure im missing something here but I cant figure out what. Unfortunately, I'm not going to have time to fix this before submission which is reallly annoying me.
What am I working on from here to submission?
Get the render done, get it looking good. Make sure the resolution is right, I got that wrong last time. 1920x1080 in 720p. For some reason the editor isnt accepting my input but im going to look into it.
I'd like to do a special last thankyou for anyone that followed this series through. It was a bit of a slog, but its done now! Ill put up more photos than normal, of course.
3DS Max (Version 2017). (2016).
Quixel (Version 1). (2016).
Hello again and welcome to the third Staff Animation Post!
This week a lot got done, and I think I'm going to follow in the same fashion as last week with the formulaic structure.
A couple of these this week. Last week, I stated that I would be working on the UV mapping of the objects this week. Well, this went much better than expected. While it started off to its usual rocky self, my teacher Tim instructed me in some techniques for UVMapping splines, which came in VERY useful for the helix mentioned last week. Not only this helix however.
After I had done the staff and the crystal, I needed some way to connect them, which would work logically. So, I came up with a sort of cage that the crystal sits in on top of the staff. The idea is that when the staff is animated, the cage opens and the crystal makes itself apparent. I will mention this more in the problems section. The success, however, was in the decoration on top of this cage. I have used to intertwining helix's that end in sharp points. It has a nice effect, especially if you spin them.
Which I do! Animation has started and the cage is one of the main areas. The top of the cage levitates from the bottom, twisting as it goes. The crystal levitates at a slower pace and hangs between the two sections. I really like the effect, and with the twining decoration on the top, it looks awesome.
THE CAGE! For some reason, it is being very annoying in its UV production, and vertex snapping is just kind of ignoring it. My teacher has no idea what is happening, but we are going to try installing 3DS Max 2017 (AutoDesk, 2016), as I am currently using the 2016 version, which may help.
The above solution has had some problems however. Quixel (Quixel, 2016) uses a plugin called Color to integrate with Max, which makes the entire process easier. This plugin does not work with Max 2017, so now my UV process becomes just that much more complicated as I need to export the Material ID's required manually. It’s not particularly hard, just time consuming.
What for next week?
Well, I'm going to be continuing with my texturing and animation, and trying to get this cage to work properly. Then, working on my camera and lighting. Not long to go!
Thanks for reading. Last week’s photos seem to have worked so enjoy some more!
3DS Max (Version 2017). (2016).
Quixel (Version 2). (2016).
Hey guys, and welcome to another Staff Animation Blog!
This week was mainly focussed on modelling, with a bit of UV mapping chucked in there. I think I'm going to go a bit formulaic this week, and separate my production into successes, problems and things I’m doing next week.
A fair few of these! With all this artwork that I’m drawing off, the staff is getting its overall shape quite quickly. There’s a large focus on a "crystal based design". I like my magic weapons to use some sort of logic, and this weapon is purposed to focus the magi's power through the crystal for amplification and direction. So, I really want that to be part of my design. I am however taking on an almost sci-fi faceted look for some parts. I have been a fan of fantasy sci-fi for a while now, so that’s just leeching off my own personal preferences.
For the other main success, I managed to get another student, by the name of James Ball, to help me with my rigging for the staff. I've been dubious about the process since the Chest I made, but he cleared the process right up, and I'm surprisingly confident with it now. I'm trying to get this done early so that when it comes to animation stages, I can just go straight in with no worries.
Problems / Setbacks.
The staff is soooooo long. I keep measuring it, comparing it to human scale etc., but it just always seems too long. Increase the width, it looks fat, so increase the height and we're back where we started. I am going for a long thin design, I just feel like it’s too much on the high side. I'm going to keep working on it, obviously.
The only other real problem is that I hit a kind of mind-block early in the modelling. The treasure chest, when all was said and done was a modified square. Now that im going for rounder shapes, and more fluid design, I found myself at a halt there for a bit while my mind tried to reorient itself to the concepts. I have mostly found my way past this though, with the use of splines. Magical things splines. I've decided to have a kind of winding gild run up the staff. Its thick at the moment, and I have to choose whether the have it flat to the staff or out a bit. This isn’t too bad though, because all i used was a helix spline of a slightly larger radius than the staff base.
What am I working on next week?
Unfortunately, next week is UV maps. I’m not a fan of the process, to be entirely honest. But it’s necessary, so it will get done.
After that I will begin texturing on Quixel (2016) after that.
Well, thanks for reading guys! I will try to post up some pictures so you can see my progress, hopefully that bug sorted itself out :P
Quixel. Quixel, 2016. Print.
Animation blog one
Hey guys, welcome to the first Magic Staff animation blog! I will be posting multiple of these as time goes on, and as I progress.
For this project, we were given pretty much entire creative license. At the start of the trimester, I thought it would be really cool to get a helmet like the one the bad guy in The Witcher 3 (CD Projekt Red, 2016), (all spiky, etc.), and animate it to become futuristic.
However, as I progressed throughout the trimester, I found myself become disillusioned about this idea. So, I went ahead, trawled google images for ideas. And google, with its wonderful advertiser ID, showed me a magic staff from RuneScape. Now, it looked pretty horrible, which is to be expected, as it came from RuneScape (Jagex, 2016), but it got me thinking. Thus, I began sourcing all sorts of photos on magic staves, from films, movies and some book covers! One thing I found, I love Dragon Age Inquisitions staff work, that is fine stuff right there.
Once I had a fair smorgasbord of pictures, I began 3D modelling, just to test the actually ‘doability’ of this. Turns out, your basic staff is pretty simple.
So far, I have the staff base (a cylinder, nothing special), a kind of gold filigree…thing (I got a helix spline, fattened it and made it fit the staff base), and a crystal on top. One thing that’s annoying me at the moment is that the crystal looks weird no matter how I size it. If I make it small, it looks puny, but if I make it large it dominates the staff and looks unrealistic. Im gonna have to experiment with this!
That’s my progress so far. Im sorry, I cant show screenshots this week, due to computer weirdness, but I promise they will arrive next week.
CD Projekt Red. (2016). The Witcher 3 [Game]. n.p.: Bandai Namco Entertainment.
Jagex. (2016). Runescape [Game]. n.p.: Jagex.
Hello again everybody!
Time for another blog J
Topics for discussion;
There has been some question as to wether these blogs would continue once the animation is done. I just want to clarify that they most definitely will be! Animation is part of the reason that these were made, but not nearly the sole reason for their existence, so expect more on the horizon!
The label for this is actually pretty misleading. You see, the first piece of news about Project Dragon Lands is that we seem to have sourced an appropriately awesome name! Eternal Ember is a name that we feel captures key areas of the story line, while also transmitting the feeling we wish to impart to the player. So for all blogs after this time, that is what it will be referred to as J
As for progress, we have quite a lot. Work has continued on the side for this project, yet it still seems to get the most done with the fewest hours incorporated! Eternal Ember now has Dragon Flight, Character Creation, rudimentary Saving, Enemy AI (Basic) and Player Combat! This is a pretty hefty set of mechanics, so we think that its about time to start sharing these with you.
Yep! Within the month, we will be hosting a build version of Eternal Ember on the website, for you to grab and play with. Once you have it, we would love to hear feedback, and constructive criticism!
Now this is where my hours are going. Fatal Core has only a few more weeks left in production! As promised, once production is finished we will be hosting a copy of the game, with all contributing artist’s references, on the website! I am very proud of how far this project has come, and can’t wait to share it with you! Keep a look out for @PlayFatalCore on twitter for more updates.
An early initiative, but one that is starting to take hold! On the Dracon Interactive home page, you can now sign up to our soon to be released email list! This will include monthly updates and exclusive offers on things like beta access and final products!
It’s true, as my university is coming to an end, I have another series of animation blogs to post. However, there was a fair bit of clutter with Dracon news and Animation blogs in the previous posts, so if you want to see these blogs, I will be constructing them in a new blog series! Keep an eye out if you’re interested, the current project is a magic staff, might end up using it (probably not, it is unbelievably low quality).
Okay, that seems to be it! Thanks for reading guys, I'll put some screenshots of progress at the end, just for you! (There may be a slight delay where only a few will appear. By the end, there will be about 5-6 :P)
Hey Guys! Time for the latest in Dracon Interactive news, and the (curiously) continued animation blog!
So, i'll address the poorly animated elephant in the room. Last blog, i forgot about the post assessment one animation blogs, so I MAY have stated that the anim blogs had ended. My bad. Total my bad. These ones are more progress based, less factual, so...enjoy?
News first though.
I have been posting fairly regularly on Twitter (@DraconInt) about Project Dragon Lands MK - III. Yes, this is a thing. MK - II is sooooo 6 months ago. But seriously, this iteration of the Dragon Lands workflow has been the most successful so far, aesthetically and functionally.
Examples? I now actually have a target aesthetic! It's kind of a Diablo-ish dark medieval awesomeness. Not descriptive, I know but I am not the man to talk to about graphical terms. I have it in my head however, and heres a screenshot of my progress on the first level 'The Docks'!.
So, that's coming along well :) Aside from the aesthetics of this, I am also working hard on making every mechanic in this game perfect, from the camera, to the animations, to the chests.
For the current time I am focussing on a central mechanic that I am keeping secret (because it's awesome and I want to show you guys a working version to totally shock you into awesomeness). However, work continues on narrative as well, as it underpins this game in a big way.
Other than this?
Work on Hero Rising has been halted for the moment. Not abandoned, we are simply reaching the crux of my trimester where I can't juggle as much. Even Dragon Lands progress will slow. If you wish to see what I am working on at university, visit @PlayFatalCore on Twitter! It's pretty cool :)
That's all for basic news!
Now, for animation.
Progress has gone awesomely. The mesh looks awesome, the UV FINALLY figured itself out and the textures have too! My main stumbling blocks here were simple barricades of ignorance. Things like, not knowing how to set up controllers, not knowing the correct viewport settings, all that kind of stuff. All, in all, however, progress has been good!
I'm going to upload the finished render to YouTube when I'm done, then put the result on a blog here, so keep an eye out. I still want to add some stuff like lighting, and scene components, as well as altering an area of the animation. I had to shrink the roof of the chest to start the "empty chest" animation, and it looks janky AF, so I will be remedying that, either by changing or deleting that part of the animation.
Okay, thats it! thanks for listening guys, have a good one!
Founder - Dracon Interactive