It’s been a big week at Project Gamechanger, not only because a lot of progress has been made, but also because we’ve welcomed an incredibly talented Environment Artist to the team! Stick around to see what kind of stuff they’re creating at the moment – and remember to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Reddit for regular updates on Depths of Erendorn!

3D Modelling

After a few weeks of work, we’ve got to a good point with the character customisation system that we’re creating for the game. The modular pawn system, used for customising clothing and armour, is working really well now, and our 3D Artist has mastered the use of the scales and sliders that change the size of body proportions. The only component left to create will be for the customisation of a character’s facial expressions – but for now, we’re putting a pause on things. 

To revamp their brain a little, our 3D Artist started modelling the Human Soldiers. These are fairly low-level enemies in Depths of Erendorn, but can also be seen wandering about as friendly NPCs. So far, we’ve blocked out their clothes in ZBrush on top of the existing human base mesh. Next will be to add some sculpt details, which we’ll be cracking on with next week. 

This is the sculpt of the Human Soldier in ZBrush.

Animation

This was another week that had our Animator busy in the engine. This time, they were creating blueprint templates for abilities and spells, before assigning each one to their respective ID. This was done for all players’ spells and abilities, as well as their generic and specific skills. 

Our Animator also did some work on blend transitions in Unreal this week. They wanted to improve the blend transitions from a character’s idle to their walk cycle, and used a test subject to figure out exactly how to do that. In the end, our Animator realised that making the walk cycle start on a different frame is a simple way to create a cleaner transition to and from the idle. 

With that success, our Animator is now planning on making these transition updates to all characters in the engine in order to improve animation blendings as a whole. This will lead to a more realistic and satisfying gameplay experience as the animations will feel smoother and more natural.

Environment Art

As we mentioned at the beginning, this was an exciting week for Project Gamechanger as we welcomed a brand new Environment Artist to the team! They’ve already started creating some Altar assets for our dungeons and, spoiler alert, they look pretty awesome. 

The first Altar they created was jagged and menacing, with a blood material used for the water inside. This was a great way for them to become familiarised with the style we want for Depths of Erendorn, and they were quickly able to move on to the second Altar. So, without further ado, this is what our new Environment Artist got up to this week:

  • In ZBrush, they sculpted a second Altar that will appear in our dungeons.
  • To save time, the basin mesh from the first Altar was reused for the sculpting process.
  • The high poly mesh was then decimated using the Decimation Master tool to get the low poly. 

Our Environment Artist actually ran into a little problem during the decimation process by forgetting to split the meshes into separate groups, so this had to be redone so that the meshes wouldn’t merge together. If the meshes are merged together in this way, it makes them much harder to unwrap and prepare for texturing, or to move each individual piece. 

They then moved into 3DSMax to fix the decimated mesh:

  • Decimation can cause some broken geometry, and we had to manually fix this by filling in the gaps in the mesh and deleting floating vertices that weren’t being used. 
  • The high poly was then baked onto the low poly using Marmoset Toolbag 3. When doing this, our Artist made sure to invert the Y (green) channel so that the normal map worked properly within UE4. 
  • Texturing work was then carried out on the Altar in Substance Painter. A material similar to sandstone was used for this because it had quite a rugged, organic look to it. 

Once the Altar had been fully textured, our Artist brought it into UE4 and placed it next to the previous Altar that they made. This was so that they could see the contrast of them side-by-side. 

While the original Altar has a darker energy to it, looking as though it has just been used for a cult sacrifice, the newest Altar is a much more ethereal piece. Our Artist even decided to add a blue light above the water to really emphasise the ‘pure’ aspect to this Altar when compared to its ominous neighbour.

The last bits of work made to the Altars was duplicating the rocks in order to fill them out, and tweaking the blood material so that it looked more like water. We think the final results look awesome, and think it’s pretty safe to say that our new Environment Artist has killed their first week with us! 

Whilst the Altars were being made, our veteran Environment Artist continued with their work on rock generation in Houdini. Most notable were the adjustments made to the noise generation, which will now produce a more appropriate asset for our cave dungeons. 

In addition to this, they also set up triplanar texturing for large assets like cave rocks, cliffs and walls. Finally, a mock ceiling was created in an Unreal test scene so that we could showcase the dungeons with ceilings. Before this, we hadn’t really used any ceilings in our dungeon scenes, so it was interesting to see how much more claustrophobic and intimidating it made them appear. 

Visual FX

This week, our VFX Artist has been adding some of the visuals for the Zentragal’s and Forest Druid’s abilities onto the Ability System in the engine. The rest of the week was mostly spent testing these abilities in the game to see how they performed with animations.

A couple of the Zentragal’s abilities were actually tweaked after seeing them in the game. This is because many of them weren’t as visible as originally intended. But after our VFX Artist increased them a little in size and brightness, they were good to go. 

On top of all this, a lot of issues that were occurring around ability vfx have now been ironed out, and there are less and less bugs every day. Our artist says they’re keeping their fingers crossed that it’ll all come together soon enough so that they can restart their work on creating new visual effects. 

Sound Design 

Sound effects for the Earthen Dwarf’s last two abilities were created this week. This includes Juggernaut, which uses a faintly metallic rushing noise, and One With The Earth, which is more evocative of the tinkering sound of mining tools. Our Sound Artist then went on to create some generic hoof-steps for Centaurs – but what they really had fun with this week was carrying on with their weapon work and making some hits and swipes for the game’s two-handed swords:

  • The weapon sounds are basically a lot of layers put together. 
  • Our Sound Artist made these sound layers deeper than the original.
  • They also put a bigger metal scrape and whoosh effect before the sword’s actual impact.
  • Doing this gives the impression of a much bigger, heavier weapon that is being swung around.

These sound fx help distinguish the two-handed sword from the one-handed sword as a much larger, heavier weapon; and use of the whoosh similarly makes it seem as though a lot of effort is required to move it through the air. However, even though the one-handed sword sounds less intimidating, both weapons are much more impressive than the weapon sounds used in characters’ sound sets for basic attacks. This is because these two weapons will be used by playable characters, so we wanted them to sound more interesting. 

These are the draft sounds for the two-handed sword.
These are the draft sounds for Centaurian hoof-steps.

Speaking of attacks, some placeholder vocals were created for three characters’ basic attacks, and we will be able to use these while testing:

  • The Forest Druid was made to sound a little calmer during their attacks, since this character lives harmoniously with the earth and so wouldn’t sound quite so brutish, even in combat.
  • The Earthen Dwarf was given a very deep, more impactful vocal to underpin his hits. These sound effects were used to help get across the fact that these characters have a lot of strength.
  • The Human Bandits are a nefarious, unruly set of enemies in the game, so the vocals for their attacks were given a wild edge, as though they are out of control and self-trained.
These are the draft vocals for the Forest Druid’s basic attacks.
These are the draft vocals for the Earthen Dwarve’s basic attacks.
These are the draft vocals for the Human Bandit’s basic attacks.
These are the draft sounds for the Earthen Dwarf’s ability ‘Juggernaut.’

Programming

This week has been a bit mixed inside the Programming department. Internal walls are now at a point where the system just needs assets to bring them to life. So that we can start implementing these assets once they’re done, our Programmer added the ability to detect and place different shaped assets into a wall. While currently only 2×2 shapes have a placeholder placement rule, larger shapes will eventually be accommodated for. 

In addition to this, a system currently dubbed the ‘Grid Node System’ has been started:

  • This will allow us to attach values that can be baked into the vertex data of the floor. We will then be able to read the information in materials and make the floor react to data that we can set. 
  • The first use of this will be to control a height offset based on this data. The best thing about this is it will allow different room builder functions to interact with it as well as set data values.
  • These values can be set on specific areas of the map and can be given strength values that fade over distance from the given point.  
  • When retrieving values, the system will ‘lerp’ between nearby nodes to give back a value which will soften hard edges between values.

The rest of the week was split between making fixes and improvements to the Action System, and fixing issues regarding the gameplay loop. In regards to the Action System, we continued to test created templates for blindspots that our devs may experience in the creation process. 

Our Programmers also added a couple of abilities to the Action System this week:

  • The ability to duplicate VFX on a single Custom Stepper was created so that visual fx work with multiple character sockets. This means we can now add a single rule that can apply multiples of the same VFX to a character at selected positions on their body.
  • Speaking of Custom Steppers, our Programmers added another ability that triggers these Steppers on specific stat changes. This will cut down on the need to distinguish when a relevant stat change has occurred in ability templates.

Finally, a number of keybinds were added for activating specific character abilities. This will improve the gameplay as players will be able to use their skills and spells much more quickly. We also did a bit of bug-fixing by adding case logic for attempting to process invalid game updates that were leading to build crashes.

These are the draft sounds for the Earthen Dwarf’s ability ‘One With the Earth.’

That’s it for this week! We hope you enjoyed seeing all our new updates. Have a greet weekend everyone – we’ll see you next week!