Welcome back, friends, it’s great to see you again for another installment of a Depths of Erendorn devlog! It’s been a bit of a technical week, with character customisation systems getting researched, the Houdini rockifer getting refined, and the whole team getting introduced to our Programmers’ new Action System. As well as that, we’ve also got some brand new visual FX, sound effects and animations to show off, so stick around for those!
This week, our 3D Artist took a break from modelling our playable characters and fearsome enemies, and instead began outlining the various components required for a future character customisation system. This is a system that will allow players to customise the clothing, equipment, facial features and even body proportions of their chosen character.
There will be endless possibilities for character customisation in Depths of Erendorn; and, because we will have zero pay-to-win features in the game, these will all be purely aesthetic, and will have no impact on how well you do in the game.
After discussing the system and detailing its various features, our 3D Artist is now in the process of researching how to best create all of its various components. We’ll have more updates for you next week after we’ve made some progress with it.
A basic attack animation was created for the Unproven Lionman this week. This animation shows the Lionman wielding a two-handed axe, a popular weapon of choice for this enemy. Our Animator is currently working on another attack animation for this character, as well as their special ability titled ‘Frightening Roar’:
- When the Unproven Lionman uses this ability, it causes any adjacent opponent to lose Strength.
- A precursor to this ability will be a mighty roar, which our Sound Artist worked on a few weeks ago.
- Since Lionmen are enemies in the game, you could find yourself on the receiving end of this attack, so keep an ear out!
When they weren’t working on this, our Animator was busy creating an Animation Controller for the Watertarg Excursionist. This was following our Programmers introducing our Animator to the new Action System that was implemented a few weeks ago. This is a development structure that will essentially make it easier for all of the team to work with their content in UE4.
In order to familiarise everyone with this new system, our Programmers spent some time introducing all of our devs to the new workflow. In the case of our Animator, they were shown how to create Animation Controllers, mainly for bipedal characters since these controllers will be able to be transferred to quadrupeds as well. An Animation Controller essentially allows us to easily handle a set of animation clips and their respective transitions.
A new slope-based material was created this week to work within our cave dungeons. This material can now automatically texture a surface based on its slope angle. This means, for example, that flat areas in the caves will appear rocky and stony, while steep edges will be textured differently so that they appear as cliffs.
Meanwhile, we continued our work on creating a Rockifier in Houdini, which we spoke about in last week’s devlog. Our Environment Artist focussed their research this week on VDBs, VOPs and rock generation. While they’re still familiarising themself with this massive tool, excellent progress has been made with rock generation through Volume VOPs – so we’re optimistic!
After working on the Watertarg Excursionist’s visual FX for a few weeks now, our VFX Artist moved on to visualising some of the Earthen Dwarf’s abilities this week. These characters are mighty, fearless and, despite their size, very powerful:
- Earthquake: This ability deals a good amount of Earth Damage to all enemies within a three-tile radius. Also, if it hits three targets or less, the cooldown is reduced, which is pretty helpful.
- Magnetic Blood: This allows the Earthen Dwarf to disarm any enemy that’s in the same room. It also heals the player a little, so this ability is very useful in the midst of battle.
- Earthen Rage: When this is used, the player gains a bit of Strength for every 10% of Maximum Health that the Dwarf is missing. It’s a great way to get a boost when the going gets tough.
- Thorn’s Aura: For every normal attack dealt to the team, this ability causes all adventurers to reflect a significant amount of Physical Damage back to the enemy, and it lasts for two whole turns.
Earthen Dwarves are underground dwellers in Depths of Erendorn, preferring the rocky caves of their subterranean tunnels to being above ground. For this reason, our VFX Artist decided to use a lot of earthen imagery in their visual effects, from organic rocks to deep cracks in the ground. Also, since these characters are a race of miners, a lot of orange particle effects were used when creating their visuals in order to reflect the friction sparks that occur during mining.
Our VFX Artist also spent some time this week getting used to the new Action System we mentioned earlier. One reason they are familiarising themself with the Action System early is so that they are prepared for ability implementation, which will be happening in the next sprint.
Our Sound Artist revisited the Zombie sounds this week. Previously, we felt that their sound design was a little too much like a stereotypical Zombie from a horror film. So, to make them more unique and monstrous, some gargling noises were added, and we felt that this also matched their gorey aesthetic. The sounds of the Zombie’s attacks were also changed this week:
- Originally, the Zombie’s attacks were represented by a biting sound.
- However, the attack animations showed the Zombie swiping at, not biting its opponent.
- We thus had to change the impact sound of the Zombie’s attack to better suit the animation.
- A wet, almost blood-splattering sound was used instead, making the Zombie’s swiping hands feel more harmful and gruesome.
Following on from the sound effects for the Watertarg’s abilities that were created last week, our Sound Artist worked on the last two spells for this playable character: Rock Barrage and Ancient Invocation. A few tweaks will still need to be made to the latter ability, which gives the player a choice to either deal Arcane Damage to a chosen enemy, or to heal a team member:
- The first sound effect you hear, which matches to the leftmost visual fx, represents the healing of a caster.
- We decided to use a mystical echo for this side of the ability in order to add a sense of fantasy to this ancient spell.
- The second sound effect, matched to the rightmost visual fx, represents when Damage is done to an enemy.
- We want to make the second sound effect a little longer by adding in the sound of falling water, which will also echo the Watertarg’s amphibious lifestyle a little better.
- This will make the healing effect a little shorter, thus emphasising the hidden power and impact of Ancient Invocation.
Moving on, our Sound Artist did some research this week into the cave systems used in the game. Seaking with our VFX Artist and our Environment Artist, they determined what visual cues could be added to the cave environments, as well as what sounds could then be added to these cues. This will really help to bring the atmosphere in Erendorn’s caves to life, making them feel more realistic by including atmospheric sounds all around the players.
Finally, just like our VFX Artist and Animator, our Sound Designer also began familiarising themselves with the new Action System this week. To do this, they went over the event logs and implementation system with one of our Programmers, and implemented the first two sounds into the engine – so that was exciting! While it took a little bit of time, and our Sound Artist’s brain is now pretty fried from it, we’re definitely getting there, and it’s great to see how efficiently the team is able to use this new system.
Getting to Grips with the Action System
Since we’re on the topic of the Action System, we’ll start the Programming section off there. As you’ve probably already gathered, this week has been focussed on getting the team familiarised and comfortable with the Action System. This is so that they are ready to implement ability templates that will be used with this new structure, including relevant assets in the engine:
- A workflow and documentation were put together for the creation of Animation Controllers, specifically for bipedal characters, though they will be transferable to quadrupeds, too.
- After our Animator was talked through the entire process, we’re now ready to have any animated characters come to life. We also have hooks we can now make use of with the Action System.
- Documentation was also created for our Visual FX and Sound FX Artists, and we also added an option to spawn VFX and Sounds on specific animation events in the Custom Animation Stepper.
- This now means that trail Visual FX and Sound Effects can be switched on and off mid-animation, while allowing the Action System to execute in the correct order.
Now that the team is somewhat familiar with the Action System, we’ve been able to plan and begin the implementation of ‘Sound Profiles,’ which will allow us to slot class-specific audio clips as shared SFX for each, and this includes things like hit reactions, basic attacks and idles.
Floors & Walls in the Dungeons
When they weren’t working on the Action System, a lot of our Programmers’ work was related to the floors and walls of the dungeons in the game. Regarding the floors, they implemented a floor generator that was based on a Runtime Mesh Component, a UE4 plugin:
- This generator works by taking a grid from the server and using it to detect where to build the floor in a given dungeon.
- It then calculates the required number of vertices and triangles before passing this information on to the plugin for the final mesh.
- After this, the floor generator was then implemented into the room builder logic, which is used for building and removing rooms.
- This is only the first version of floor generation. We will revisit this method once we have added features like bottomless pits, water, ceilings and rivers.
Moving on to the walls, our Programmers have started adding some variety to the dungeons by working on the internal walls, i.e. the parts of walls that don’t make up the exterior. With this in mind, internal walls will now be replaced with LoS (Line of Sight) blocking meshes. These will make the dungeons more visually interesting by replacing the plain imagery of a wall with more interesting visuals – areas of dense stalagmite formations, for example, will be the first variety for replacement before more variation is added.
We’ll end the week with some of the fixes that were made in the engine. Most of these fixes were related to the camera – the movement camera lerp, for example, was made to be slower. We then fixed the camera lerp function after we realised that it wasn’t always triggering.
Our Programmers also fixed the movement log logic so that it would also work with teleport-style movement. Previously, this stopped many features from working, an issue we no longer have to deal with now that it has been resolved!
That’s it for this week! Remember to follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Reddit for daily updates on our fantasy RPG – we’ve got a special render scene planned for this weekend, so make sure you don’t miss it!