This week’s devlog update on Depths of Erendorn will introduce you to fire-breathing Salamanders and show you the new, epic environment that surrounds our settlement in UE4. We’ve also got a ton of new sound fx for ambience and dark magic, as well as a new in-game animation test and some awesome ability VFX. As always, join us on Twitter, Instagram or Reddit for daily updates on our online RPG in development – now let’s get into it!

3D Modelling

Sculpting the Fire Salamander in ZBrush

After finishing off the Guard series in our last devlog, this week our 3D Character Artist turned their attention towards a less humanoid character: the Fire Salamander. These are mid-level enemies in Depths of Erendorn who are native to volcanic regions and can breathe furious fire. 

The musculature of the Fire Salamander is currently being defined in ZBrush, along with other tertiary details like its horns, claws, underbelly, and its impressive set of gnashers. Check out the concept art for this creature below, as well as how the ZBrush sculpt is currently looking:

Animation Testing

This week, Animation was all about fine-tuning everything we’ve got in the engine so that it’s all performing correctly. That said, our Animator: 

  • Identified animations that needed some timing adjustments
  • Added weapons to the rest of the characters that needed them
  • Updated a few more BPAs and Animation Controllers after noticing that animations weren’t triggering for some abilities
  • Updated animation blends for the Earthen Dwarf and Knight so that they can use the two-handed weapon idle

All of these changes were then tested out in-game – the clip below, for example, is a test of the Earthen Dwarf’s new two-handed weapon capability! This playable character is very physically strong and can wield heavy hammers and axes – so getting it performing with the two-handed weapon idle was really important:

Environment Design

Set-Dressing Trading Tents

Now that we have trading tents set up around the UE4 settlement, our Environment Artists could begin set-dressing them for future markets! They also set-dressed some of the smaller tents that will be inhabited by travelling NPCs and placed around campfires. Trading tents, on the other hand, will be where you can find merchants for exchanging loot. 

The tents will look a lot more furnished once we have extra assets to place inside, like more weapons and armour pieces. These areas also still need to be properly lit, but nevertheless we’re pretty blown away by how these tents are starting to come together:

Reworking the Settlement Map

Moving on, with the game’s first settlement reaching near completion, we decided it was time to completely overhaul its map and rework the terrain material a little. With this work, we added:

  • Rivers and hills
  • Terracing to the terrain
  • Placeholder mountains

The result of all this was some truly epic vistas that you’ll be able to gaze upon from the settlement – the watchtowers, in particular, will be good vantage points for the mountains! Take a look for yourself:

Visual FX for the Dwarves

Three of the Earthen Dwarf’s talent abilities were brought to life with some visuals this week, including:

  • Earthly Strike, which has an impact so powerful that you’re able to strike through an enemy on an adjacent tile, causing a perilous tremor that then injures the target behind them as well
  • Quelling Wave, which reduces the Strength stat for all adjacent enemies, as well as reducing their Critical Chance to 0 for an entire turn
  • Stone Form, which grants you extra Resilience for two turns. Your Movement stat will be reduced when this is active to balance everything out 

Sound Design

Creating Sound FX for Dark Magic

Using a combination of Weaponiser, Tonsturm’s ‘Whoosh’, and Reformer Pro, our Sound Artist finished off all the sound fx for the Zentragal Illusionist’s set of talents. Here’s a quick glimpse at how their workflow usually goes:

  • Our Sound Artist used Weaponiser alongside Tonsturm’s ‘Whoosh’ sound design instrument to create SFX that matched the visuals really well
  • This audio was then ran through Reformer, where our Artist could replace it with new sounds whilst keeping the same wave shape
  • This meant that our Sound Designer was able to create some really dark magic effects, which fits the bill of our Zentragal’s illusionary and sinister character

While our Sound Artist was playing around with Tonsturm’s ‘Whoosh’ instrument, they also decided to test out a new technique for creating monster vocals. They did this by programming a midi controller in Tonsturm and manually controlling the audio wave – hopefully we’ll be able to try these out on some monsters from the game soon!

Sound fx and VFX for ‘Shadow Beam’
Sound fx and VFX for ‘Empowered Obscurity’

Using iZotope Rx8 De-Noise to Remove Hiss

Aside from sound fx for the playable Zentragal, new ambient sounds were also created for the game’s settlement, as well as for some general woodland and grassland spaces. We took advantage of iZotope’s early Black Friday sale and used this software to try out some draft sounds. 

iZotope is an awesome software for audio repair/cleaning because it can reduce a large amount of unwanted noise. These are useful for cleaning up nature ambiences, which we had to do for our mountain recordings since there was a lot of background noise, like wind and motorbikes. To get rid of this, our Sound Artist used the iZotope Rx8 de-noise plugin which, after using a particular technique, can remove any hiss generated from the pre-amp:

  • The mic was plugged into a recording device, and both of these have pre-amp that produces a hiss when recording
  • The mic was then unplugged so that the recorder didn’t detect any input or sound – only the hiss from the pre-amp was recorded
  • Our Sound Artist then placed this recording at the start of ambient tracks, captured a noise profile of the hiss, and was thus able to completely remove it from the ambience 

Here’s how our ambient sounds for the settlement are coming along:

General ambient sound fx for the settlement: iteration 1
General ambient sound fx for settlement: iteration 2
General ambient sound fx for settlement: iteration 3
General ambient sound fx for settlement: iteration 4

Programming

UI Features For In-Game Hotbars

Programming this week has been mainly focused on improving and implementing additional features to the UI for the in-game hotbars. New features include:

  • Save System

The method for saving and loading preferences has been looked at for improvements. Previously, we were using Unreal Engine’s built in ‘Save to Slot’ method for generating save data. However, as the new preferences for rebinding hotbar hotkeys was causing crashes in builds, we’ll have to devise a different method for storing user information. 

Developing a new saving method has been shelved until other features that require it have been implemented. This is because the new features will need to be integrated with other UI elements and preference systems, all of which will be coming over the next couple of weeks. 

  • Hotbar Asset Implementation

A number of non-placeholder UI assets have been implemented for the hotbar, including empty/active/unusable slots, hotkey text, and a new typeface.

  • Hotbar Function

We’ve updated the existing events and functions to behave according to what’s set out in the planning stage. As a result, hovered/selected and hotkeyed slots now dynamically update based on the target a player has selected. We also added a name field for the hotbar to make it clearer to the player which chatacter they currently have selected.

Setting Up Multi-User Editing

When they weren’t working on the UI, our Programmers were boxing off a few other necessary tasks, one of which was assisting in the set up of multi-user editing for devs on the team. 

This will massively streamline everyone’s workflow: multi-user editing allows multiple people to work on the same level at the same time, which will be fantastic for when we begin making zones for the game! 

Sound fx and VFX for ‘Cursed Ground’

Server Reworks 

Many updates and changes have been made this week in order to facilitate a complete rework of the server. As a bit of background in case you’re new here, we’re going to be re-creating the server code in a new language that’ll be much more performant, so at the moment we’re laying down the foundations that will make this possible.

This week, our work on this involved testing database access on the new server, as well as implementing:

  • Character selection commands
  • Ability and active effect structures
  • Stat controllers and stat managers  

With these implemented, the new server is now able to build these entities from data in the database, bringing us a step closer to a complete rework. We also renamed ‘Status Effects’ to ‘Active Effects’ in the code because previously, Status Effects kept getting confused with States on entities. The difference between a Status Effect and a State is that:

  • A Status Effect is any ongoing effect or buff/debuff that is triggered at a specific point. These can be very varied in what they do and each one depends on its own variables for information
  • Entity States, on the other hand, are more static in what they do – for example, when a character becomes rooted, stunned or silence, this is a State

There’s still a lot of server work to do before we can replace what we currently have, but all the changes made so far have been very encouraging, so we’re looking forward to the challenge! (Sort of…)