A lot of changes are happening in this week’s game development update. A character customisation system has been investigated, our GUI is looking better than ever and some new animations have been created for a playable character. Most of all, though, we’ve welcomed a new VFX Artist to the team – so make sure to follow us on Reddit, Twitter and Instagram so that you don’t miss out on any new updates! 

3D Character Modelling

After finishing off our Lionman character series in the last game development update, we spent part of this week completing the Wolvajin series as well. We already modelled and textured the generic Wolvajin sculpt back in May, so all we had left to do this week was to create the rest of the meshes for the stronger character variants. This involved inflating areas of the body in order to make them appear bigger, bulkier and more muscular. 

We also:

  • Re-exported a number of characters’ textures to be compatible with our current material shaders.
  • Started pre-production work for the Daggerclaw Harpies, the next set of characters we will be modelling.
  • Investigated the best way to create the Harpies’ wings and feathers, some of the most distinct features of these characters.

However, the majority of this week was actually spent researching possible systems for character customisation in the game. We want a system that will allow players to customise their character’s proportions, facial features and clothing/armour. While there are no pay-to-win features in Depths of Erendorn, there will be endless possibilities for character customisation – so we want to make sure that we approach it in the best way by researching different systems and what they entail.

From our research, we’ve found that the best approach for our game would be a modular pawn approach:

  • A modular pawn approach involves splitting up the base mesh of a character into various parts, such as the head, torso, arms, legs, etc.
  • It should then allow us to swap out parts of the base mesh for the respective clothing mesh, enabling players to modify their characters however they like.

As for the customisation of body proportions, the best approach we have found so far would be to use bone scaling because this would then also influence the size of the clothing and armour. This means that if a player chooses to make their character more muscular, for example, the clothing would size up so that it fits the new proportions. 

Meanwhile:

  • We will be using blend shapes and morph targets for the customisation of a character’s facial features.
  • Blend shapes and morph targets are essentially stored pieces of information on the location of vertices.
  • They also allow for interpolation between the values of the default and of the morph target, meaning that players will be able to adjust the size of facial features.
  • If we made a morph target where the nose is very big, for example, we could make a slider that allows players to adjust the nose between the default size and the big size.

In order to get this character customisation system working in the game, we have decided to try using a Unity plugin called UMA (Unity Multipurpose Avatar). This should provide the framework we need for the customisation system as well as the additional features we will be using. We’ve now made preparations to test this customisation system – and, as long as this works how we need it to during the test, we can then start speaking to the programmers about implementing it into Depths of Erendorn. 

We’re hoping that this works or, if not, that we are able to find another plugin, because otherwise the programmers are going to have A LOT of work to do! Once the customisation system is all working, it will just be a matter of updating the already made pieces of clothing for various characters so that they can be used for customisation in the game.

Animation

Three new animations have been made for the Watertarg Excursionist, a playable character that already had some new animations created for it in our last game development update. This week, the Watertarg is now able to:

  • Leap, which allows the Watertarg to jump from 4 tiles away. VFX will also be added to this animation whilst the Watertarg is in the air.
  • Carry out a one-handed basic attack. The test animation shows how the Watertarg will use a weapon, like a sword, to attack opponents.

The Watertarg is also now able to shuffle left and right. After creating all these animations, they were exported to Unity and added to the game. Here, they will be tested with other characters in various scenes to make sure the animations work as they’re intended. It will also give us the chance to add some awesome VFX to them now that we have a new artist, so we’ll keep you posted on how they’re looking!

GUI Design

A lot of discussions about the design of the GUI have taken place this week. Everyone on the team is pretty gung-ho about this new endeavour, especially our Environment Artist who has carried out a lot of work on it over the past few days. What we’ve done on the GUI so far can be outlined in four phases:

  • GUI Phase 1: For research, we collated inspiring references that we liked from other popular games and applications, taking into consideration how players would interact with the UI and attempting to solve any theoretical User Experience (UX) problems.
  • GUI Phase 2: After getting some inspiration and making some plans, we added more elements to our GUI blockout to satisfy aspects like the character details and stats sheets, the abilities bar and the targeting methods.
  • GUI Phase 3: We then considered the design of character frames and how best to display all of the necessary information a player would need, while being visually concise in order to avoid cluttering the screen.
  • GUI Phase 4: This final phase involved the inception of the layout for the inspector panel, the XP Bar placement and the available Movements indicator.

Having a visually-sound and user-friendly GUI is incredibly important when developing a game as it will directly impact a player’s experience of and relationship with the game. But we couldn’t focus on this all week! We’ve also been looking into utilising flow maps to increase the visual quality of bodies of water and lava in the world of Erendorn. Flow maps give directional information to textures, which would be useful when creating a running river or lava stream because the overall realism will be enhanced.

Server & Game Client

This week has been the first of two in a sprint focussed on making improvements to the game client’s level generation. One way we have done this is with the implementation of the Addressables system. This allows large assets to be compressed into separate ‘Asset Bundles’ and loaded when needed, which massively reduces the game’s memory footprint. Therefore, we will be using the Addressables system in conjunction with the prefabs that are used to build rooms categorised by biome and tile type.

Another way we have improved the game client’s level generation is by simplifying the room builder’s generation. This was achieved by adding a series of asset slots for all walls, floors and prop prefabs. We also added an option to generate a map from a specified biome, which will only affect the client that has it selected.

When our programmers weren’t improving the game client’s level generation or helping out in GUI discussions, they were busy making a lot of tweaks and fixes. The item generation speed, for example, was increased and several bugs that were affecting generation were also fixed. These bugs were previously causing an array of issues:

  • Not all possible stat combinations were being calculated
  • Item Slot to Stat Percentage wasn’t being taken into account when generating items
  • Changes to items’ Rarity levels were causing a lot of items to be discarded
  • There was incorrect looping occurring through secondary stats

With all of these issues resolved, we went onto rebalancing stat values twice as well as rebalancing item slot values twice again. It’s important to constantly do work like this in order to ensure the game is properly balanced and functioning smoothly.

Screenshot from Depths of Erendorn showing the GUI mockup
We have spent a lot of time this week discussing how the GUI should be designed and how the information should be displayed.

But the biggest change that has happened this week is the introduction of a new team member! We’ve mentioned it already, but we have welcomed a new VFX Artist to our budding team here at Project Gamechanger, and we can’t wait to show off the amazing they work do inside Depths of Erendorn!