This week’s devlog is all about stunning prop design, building houses in MAYA, and how we textured the formidable Magmarai. There’s also a spattering of visual FX, creepy crawly animations, and some UE4 programming that will pique the appetites of all you game devs out there. Before we get into it, join our Instagram, Twitter, or Reddit family to stay in the loop with our online RPG in development.

Texturing Volcanic Enemies In Substance Painter

More work continued on the game’s newest enemy this week: the powerful Magmarai, who rose from the volcanic fires of Mount Vaznar. We touched on it briefly before, but these creatures have pretty awesome anatomy: beneath their plates of jagged black rock courses white hot lava, making them the kind of enemies that you won’t wanna touch. 

To fulfil our vision of the Magmarai, our 3D Character Artist embarked on a fun texture journey:

  • For the skin, we used a lava material to create the molten rock surface. We also changed the hue of the non-glowing areas to be a bit bluer in order to reflect the idea of ash better.
  • Warmer tones were added to the body and face, including pinks, purples and reds. These help to add more life to the character and to highlight its facial features more.
  • It was also important to add these warm tones to the face in order to hint to the fact that these creatures were once Human; they’re not just cold-blooded creatures born from the volcano.
  • Rock plates were then textured to appear obsidian, which forms from excess magma cooling and hardening. This little piece of science helps to inform our model and make it more realistic.

How To Texture Obsidian 

Achieving the obsidian material was a bit of a challenge because of its dark colour: black tones often absorb a lot of lighting information, so it can be difficult to show the surface details and imperfections of volcanic rock (especially when seen from afar). After some experimentation, however, our Artist found that using a tone just above full black was a good compromise between achieving its colour and showing a good amount of surface detail when reflected.

To illustrate the glasslike properties of the obsidian plating, as well as to help tie it in with the character, our 3D Modeller added some orange tones around the edges of the emissive map to imply that the light and heat from the subsurface lava is radiating, or shining through the obsidian.

One last detail added to the obsidian material’s emissive map was a very faint overlay of the concavity map. This highlights the edges through the black tones and implies that there is some refraction of light inside the plates.

Finally, the veins of lava that run throughout the plates were added, as well as some emissivity:

  • We tried a few procedural maps to do this, but none were giving desirable results. This meant that our 3D Artist had to hand paint the lava veins on.
  • To make the veins and eyes look emissive, we used a scaling and tiling texture of the emissive that was used for the body’s skin. This ensured the colours were similar and had some variation.

Our next step is to test out some shader effects, like adding a glow and making some of the lava move around the body. We think this will push the formidable Magmarai to the next level, with the moving lava suggesting that they are part of the living volcano, not just formed from it. 

Creating Animations For Spiders & Wasps

We know we freaked you all out with the spider animation sets last week, so will it make you feel any better to know that we now have it running, too? Well, we do, and with that out of the way this low-level enemy has now had all its animations added to the engine, where blends and animation controllers were added, and materials were applied. 

Our Animator also started work on the wasp’s animations, including its idle and walk/fly cycle. We’ll have more to show you of this next week, so for now, all hail the running spider! 

Environment Design: Making A Settlement In UE4

Prop Design 

In addition to making a new stone material, some basic liquid and glass materials were created for settlement props this week. You may have seen us test these out on social media, with our assortment of potions and vials. Concoctions like these will be available to players in Depths of Erendorn, and they’ll be used for a range of things, from toxic warfare to magical incantations.

We also started working on some trims that will go on books:

  • Instead of texturing each book individually, what we’re going to do is use a leather material on the book mesh
  • We’ll then apply details to the material by putting a plane on top of the mesh, which will be detailed differently from book to book to create variation
  • Details will include things like symbols or emblems to use on the front covers, as well as some decorations for the spine

Building A Settlement In MAYA

Moving on, the planning and creation of a modular kit for the game’s settlement continued. This week was all about getting the scale and measurements of everything right. Though there were some initial challenges with getting everything to the size we wanted, we made some good improvements:

  • We created the Guard House as a start point for creating modular wall and window pieces
  • Using the concept art as a guideline, we blocked the whole building out to the scale we wanted
  • Next, we created the wheels and ladder entrance for the Guard House, both of which have been UVd 

Visual FX For Playable Characters 

More visual fx were tested and perfected in Unreal Engine 4 this week, with the playable Zentragal Illusionist receiving a fully completed set of ability effects. Our VFX Artist is now working on the Twilight Elf Assassin’s and Knight’s abilities, two more playable characters in the game who will hopefully have a finished set of visuals in the coming weeks. But for now, only the Zentragal has a completed arsenal. This character is a humanoid spider that specialises in dark, deceptive magic. We’ll be posting an in-game video soon showing the Zentragal using all its abilities, so stay tuned for that!

Programming in Unreal Engine

Our Programmers have spent this week adding ‘Turns’ to target nodes to the Action System. This means any custom step rule created can have a ‘Turn Before’ node added to them, which allows us to select who the target is, and where to select targets from, before inserting a turn.

We also added an option to the Turn Before nodes to allow them to trigger the next step before a motion is complete. This helps to avoid robotic movements and allows the steps that follow to play out smoothly.

There were many additions made to the engine this week besides all this. We:

  • Added a Turn Before node to a range of ability templates
  • Added and tested some varied character speed for some characters
  • Added the ability for players to equip and unequip items

Continuing with the quest to get items implemented into the game, our Programmers have now made it possible for players to see their inventory in the main menu. To do this, items were given a placeholder hover panel that displays stats and item information. We also did a bit of rework on the login process in the client so that it now requests a character’s inventory. As a result, the inventory screen now shows which items are equipped.

On a similar note, lobby data and character selection information now include data about equipped items so that later, we can show a preview of characters with their equipped items. Our Programmers also adjusted how the server loads character inventories, so this should now also be a lot faster.

That’s it for this week’s devlog – see you next Friday!