April DevLog | Week #3

Development
April 17, 2020
November 18, 2021

Welcome back! We’ve got more updates about our turn-based fantasy RPG, Depths of Erendorn, that we’d like to share with you all this week! Whether you’re a 3D Modeller, an Animator in training, or just someone who’s curious to see how it’s all done, we’ve got a little something for everyone in this devlog. Head over to our Instagram, Twitter or Reddit if you want to see more about our game in development!

3D Modelling

This week brought an end to our work on the Fen Elf Scout model that we’ve been creating for the past couple of weeks. After we’d finished off the texturing work we showed you in last week’s devlog, our 3D Artist placed a number of camo vine planes on the model in order to finish it off completely. They then used Marmoset to review the placement of these camo planes because it shows a similar result to the in-engine model, and so gives a more accurate representation.

With the Fen Elf Scout completed, we began working on another low-level Lizard from the game: the Silver Iguana.

Clothes texture for the Fen Elf Scout from Depths of Erendorn
A number of camo vines were placed on the model to finish off the Fen Elf Scout's clothes.
Three models of Fen Elf Scouts from Depths of Erendorn
This is the full series of Fen Elf Scouts, which appear as enemies in the game.

Our 3D Character Artist focussed on sculpting the Silver Iguana's body first so that the additional pieces, like the shoulder spikes, wouldn’t alter or influence the body shape too much. Once the body was sculpted:

  • We created a sculpt layer with a mouth that was posed to be closed.
  • This was then used throughout the sculpting process to ensure that the mouth would close properly later on.
  • While body scales will be added during the texturing phase, the scales for the face were actually sculpted individually.
  • This is so that we can have more control over their placement and size distribution, since there is more variation on the face than the body.

Our 3D Modeller then went on to block out the remaining pieces of the Silver Iguana. When it came to the feet, we actually decided to make these separately so that they could be easily duplicated and reused for the front set of feet. Our 3D Character Artist is currently sculpting some details for all of the pieces, and once this has been done, we will pretty much be ready for texturing - so we’ll show you the updates of that next week!

ZBrush sculpt of a Silver Iguana
We started by blocking out the Silver Iguana's body in ZBrush.
ZBrush sculpt of Silver Iguana's head, one with mouth open, one with mouth closed
We then created a sculpt layer where the mouth was kept closed.
ZBrush sculpt of Silver Iguana's head, one with mouth open, one with mouth closed
Next were the face scales, which had a lot of variation in their placement and size.
ZBrush sculpt of a Silver Iguana
Scales will be added to the body during texturing because they are more uniform, and so it will save us some time.
Zbrush sculpt of Silver Iguana feet set
The feet were sculpted separately so that they could be easily duplicated for the front set.
ZBrush sculpt of a Silver Iguana
We then blocked out the rest of the body, and added a few sculpt details in as well.

Animation

After creating a new walk cycle and idle animation for the Jaguar last week, our Animator continued working on this low-level enemy by creating its hit reaction, attack, and death animations. We’re now at a stage where the Jaguar and its animations can perform well with the unique rig that was set up for quadrupedal beasts. Similar changes had to then be made to the Lion, which will share the same rig as the Jaguar:

  • We first updated the Lion’s rig following some small changes that were made to it.
  • We then painted the skin weights, since some of these had been affected by the rig update.
  • We finally transferred the Jaguar’s animations onto the Lion to keep consistency between these big cats’ movements.

The Boar was also worked on this week, another quadruped that will share the unique beast rig with the Jaguar, Lion and many other creatures. As with the others, the rig was set up for the Boar, followed by its skin weights getting painted. Our Animator is currently in the middle of creating its animation set, so we’ll have an update for that soon.

https://doe.horus.ninja/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Bigcatswalk-1.m4v

This is the walk cycle animation for the Jaguar and Lion,

Environment Art

Work continued on the new portal asset we began sculpting last week, starting with the breaking down of the portal into multiple pieces so that we could continue UVing everything. Our Environment Artist could then begin arranging the UVs to work with generic tiling materials in UE4 for modularity. Once this was done, our Environment Artist:

  • Started to sculpt unique bits of damage, like small cracks or fissures, onto several components of the portal, including the gargoyles and the swords.
  • They also began sculpting celtic knot patterns onto the wings of the gargoyles as well as the blade of the swords.

Rounding off the week, our Environment Artist has now begun planning a trim sheet for the base of the portal. A trim sheet is basically a material that contains several tileable bits of ‘trim’ that can be used on objects and structures. An example of a particular ‘trim’ on a trim sheet would be a specific type of brick, or a Mayan pattern that extends along the length of a wall. We’ll have more to show you on this next week, so stay tuned!

We had to break the portal down into multiple pieces so that we could continue UVing.
ZBrush sculpt of a stone gargoyle with celtic knot pattern on its wings
All of the pieces were then textured with a rough stone material.
ZBrush sculpt of a stone gargoyle with celtic knot pattern on its wings
We also created some celtic knot patterns for the gargoyles' wings.
ZBrush sculpt of a stone sword with a celtic knot on its blade
A similar celtic knot pattern was added to the blades of the swords.

Visual FX

This week, our VFX Artist started developing the visuals for some of the Zentragal’s abilities. Zentragals are humanoid spiders that are known for their illusionary magic, destructive powers and merciless treatment of victims. While these creatures are dangerous enemies to face, the Zentragal Illusionist is actually a playable character that players with an appreciation for darkness will enjoy.

After spending some time figuring out the colours and shapes of the Zentragal’s visual FX, something that helps us keep consistency among them, our VFX Artist started working on effects for the following abilities:

  • Web Blast: This allows the Zentragal to fire a web at an opponent, so our Visual FX Artist had to create a nice webbed effect for this. Web Blast can either stun a 1-tile enemy for two turns, or a 2-tile enemy for one turn.
  • Corrupt: This is an example of one of the Zentragal’s destructive, rather than illusionary abilities. With Corrupt, the Zentragal can deal Void Damage to an enemy whilst also reducing their Movement.
  • Mass Agility: At the beginning of the next turn, after this ability has been activated, all fellow team members will receive a 50% chance to use a passive dodge against all normal enemy attacks. The visual effects for this will actually be changed later as we’re currently working on a new texture for it.

Other than abilities for the Zentragal, our Visual Effects Artist also created some visuals for rainy weather, as well as for some magical spore effects that will eventually float around glowing mushrooms and other bits of flora. VFX like these will help to bring some atmosphere and depth to our game.

GIF of rainy weather effects in UE4 text scene
These are the WIP rainy weather effects that we created.
Magical spore effects floating round an object in Unreal Engine
This is how we envision the magical spores to float around mushrooms and flora in the game.
WIP visual fx for Web Blast from Depths of Erendorn
These are the WIP visual fx for Web Blast.
WIP visual fx for Mass Agility from Depths of Erendorn
these are the WIP visual fx for Mass Agility.
WIP visual fx for Corrupt from Depths of Erendorn
These are the WIP visual fx for Corrupt.

Sound Design

This has been a big week of research and recording sessions for our Sound Artist as they’ve begun researching and testing the best methods for audio implementation in the game. So far, this has mostly involved them practicing and getting used to Unreal Engine’s software, specifically things like:

  • Node implementation with blueprints.
  • Setting parameters with static objects.
  • Using both blueprints and animation timelines for footstep implementation.

When they weren’t doing this, our Sound Artist was working on the sound effects for the Desert Adder, a low-level enemy from the game. So far, the draft sound of the snake’s movement is made by rustling a tape measure through some foliage - but we may replace this at a later date, so don’t get too attached!

Our Sound Artist also worked on the sound effects for the Parakaw Astromancer’s ability Arcane Rain, which had VFX created for it last week. This ability deals Physical Damage to any enemy in a 6x6 tile radius. We really wanted to accentuate the visual effects for this, which show sharp shards falling downwards and slicing through the ground. To really emphasise this, clean, almost metallic sounds were used, which we think helps in making the visuals appear deadlier by giving them a razor-edged quality.

https://doe.horus.ninja/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Snake-Desert-Adder-Movement-01.wav

These are the draft sounds for the Desert Adder's movement.

https://doe.horus.ninja/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Snake-Desert-Adder-Idle-02.wav

These are the draft sounds for the Desert Adder's idle.

Website Redesign

This week’s focus for the game site’s redesign was on setting up the website’s skeleton, which includes things like button placement, blocks of text and images. After this was done, we:

  • Created UI components for image, audio and video posts.
  • This was done for high and low priority content on the homepage.
  • More UI components were also created for the Devlog and Race Profile pages.
  • We then implemented page routing, and linked GraphQL queries with those components.

We had to fix a few problems that cropped up along the way, one of which involved us resolving a DB issue with post content and its relation with categories, tags and featured media. There are a few more things left to do before we can start focussing on designing the visuals for the game site, but we’ll be able to start paying attention to these next week.

Programming

More work was carried out on the game loop this week. This work required our Programmers to test and fix a number of issues regarding leaving and joining new games in the same play session. Our Programmers also continued with their work with the development and design of the Action System they were looking into last week.

In a nutshell, the Action System is a way of combining game logs into sequences of actions:

  • Anything that happens in-game is communicated via logs, and each log does a specific thing.
  • When an ability is cast, for example, the server sends a series of logs that represent the steps of this action, including a ‘stat change’ log, a ‘damage’ log, an ‘entity died’ log, etc.
  • By creating the Action System, we are able to detect when one of these greater actions is taking place. We can then collect its logs and modify how and when they are executed.
  • Once the logs are collected, we can add in Animations, VFX and Sound to the steps we want to trigger them on, before executing them for players to see.

Since the Action System serves to allow us to visually determine what happens when actions play out, our Programmers had to think not only from a gameplay perspective, but also from a development team perspective. This is also because one of the main reasons for implementing the Action System was to make it easier for other team members to implement and modify their content.

With this in mind, we’re eventually going to make template assets that represent each individual action. These templates will then make use of custom blueprint nodes in order to allow our Animator, VFX Artist and Sound Designer to work hands-on in the engine when it comes to building, modifying and polishing up the effects of actions.

https://doe.horus.ninja/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Arcane-Rain-draft-with-Video.mp4

These are the WIP sound and visual effects for Arcane Rain.

That's it from us this week! We hope you're all staying safe out there, and making the best of the situation. We'll see you next week for another game update!

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