December DevLog | Week #3

Development
December 20, 2019
November 18, 2021

Welcome back to another devlog on Depths of Erendorn! As the team wraps up for Christmas, new characters have been modelled, processes have been streamlined, bugs have been fixed and we’ve even got some fancy crystals and VFX to show off. Remember to keep an eye on our Instagram, Twitter and Reddit over the holidays for some festive updates!

3D Character Modelling

Carrying on with our work from the last few devlogs, this week we retopologised all of the clothes and equipment for the Human Civilian and Merchant class we’d previously modelled. While this was being done, our Character Artist actually decided to change the UV unwrapping process for the characters’ clothes and equipment. They did this for one main reason:

  • We are planning for many characters in Depths of Erendorn to be customisable in the future, meaning that players will have the option to change clothes, armour, facial features, etc.
  • To accommodate this, our Artist has created characters so that they can be broken up into modular pieces that, during the customisation process, can then be swapped out for other pieces.
  • The biggest hurdle when doing this was figuring out how to group together clothes/equipment and UVs/textures in a way that was efficient at run-time but still kept a high level of quality.

In the past, our Character Artist had tried to group together the UVs of pieces according to what ‘series’ they would be a part of. For example, the Frost Dwarf Guard equipment is all grouped together in a single UV. However, this method could cause a few issues, the most prominent being that it sacrifices efficiency at run-time. This is because, due to the customisation system we’ll be introducing, it will behave as if the player is wearing equipment from various different ‘series,’ resulting in a large number of textures that need to be called.

Another issue often found came in the form of editing existing equipment UVs and textures. Any time something has needed editing in the past, the entire outfit’s UVs would need to be carefully edited to avoid issues such as texture overlap, which would often increase the amount of time spent on making minor changes - and, when it gets to crunch-time, this is an area we’d prefer to have streamlined!

Luckily for us, our Character Artist has found that the solution to these issues is to change how UVs are approached for equipment pieces:

  • Equipment UVs will now be based on the ‘customisation slot’ rather than the specific ‘series’ that the equipment would usually be a part of.
  • This means that equipment will no longer be grouped together. Instead, only pieces that share a customisation slot will share a UV tile.
  • Once in the engine, we can resize and compile these into single UV tiles for a faster, more efficient performance.

Through all of this, we will be making the textures as modular as the meshes they are attached to. This way, we will not only have increased efficiency at run-time, but we will also have streamlined what was previously a rather awkward process - so smiles all round!

UV unwrapping process of Civilian model
This is an example of how a character's clothes and equipment are broken up and mapped.
Baked models of Civilians and Merchants from Depths of Erendorn
The Human Civilian (left) and Merchant (right) will be ready for texturing in the New Year.

Animation

This week was more of a technical one for our Animator as they continued to transfer and update the first set of animations for the Earthen Dwarf. These mainly included the basic animations that this playable character makes use of, such as walk cycles, idle animations, basic attacks and hit reactions.

Once this was done, we exported the main unique rig that all bipedal characters will use in the engine. The rig for the Human and Dwarf classes was then exported, along with a set of animations for both character races. After this, our Animator:

  • Baked each animation onto the rig.
  • Deleted unnecessary animation keys, like static and redundant keys.
  • They then finally exported everything as an FBX.

The next step is to import these characters and animations into the engine so that we can test them all out to make sure that the animations perform well with the main rig. We will eventually be doing this with all bipedal characters in the game so that they all make use of and function well with the unique rig we’ve been creating over the last few weeks.

Environment Art

This was a fantastical week for our environments as a lot of work was spent on creating a new crystal material and its necessary material functions. While we had created crystals in the past, we wanted something that was more transparent and glass-like. We also wanted our crystals to be more refractive so that they not only looked realistic, but also had an emissive quality that pushed the fantasy element of our environments.

In order to achieve all this, we created two variant crystal Blueprints, each containing light sources of their own so that there is an individuality to every crystal. More Blueprints will be made in the future so that we can diversify our crystal family and really have fun with creating a fantasy landscape. The type of lighting that the crystals lend to our environments will be essential in producing the atmosphere that we’re aiming for with our dungeons, so we’re really excited to see them taking on this new appearance.

Screenshot of glowing purple crystals in a dark UE4 test scene
We decided to revamp our crystals this week.
Screenshot of green glowing crystals in a UE4 cave dungeon scene
The lighting they create is ideal for our cave dungeon scenes.

Visual FX

Some tweaks were made to the VFX for Ice Storm this week, an ability that deals Frost Damage while impairing an enemy’s Movement for one whole turn. We loved the direction it was heading in last week, so to push it even further our VFX Artist decided to add an AOE circle around where the shards impact the ground. They also slightly changed the way the snow floats, making the particles a bit more scarce.

Effects were also worked on for a couple of generic skills:

  • Restraint: Utilised by the Knight and Twilight Elf Assassin, Restraint makes it so that any remaining Energy from the current turn is added to the player’s Energy Regeneration in the next turn. We decided to show this as a luminous ring of amber light that spreads from the centre before breaking apart and dissolving.
  • Rage: Used by the Earthen Dwarf, Rage increases a player’s Strength for one turn, as well as increasing their Maximum Energy for the rest of the dungeon they find themselves in. This is an awesome skill, so to balance it out we made it so that the Energy gained from Rage can only be obtained twice. Rage was shown as a red shockwave that bursts out and around the character, with anticipatory smoke and trailing particles to imply its power - though it’s still very much a work-in-progress at this point!

After working on a few visual effects, our Artist then had to migrate lots of VFX over to their showcase project in order to prepare for some in-action footage. They spent a while setting everything up in the other scene, as well as configuring the recording software so that we can get smooth, high-quality footage. Filming will begin in the New Year, so make sure you keep an eye out for updates!

Programming

In the lead up to the Christmas break, our Programmers wanted to make sure that any little loose ends were tied up so that they have a good jumping-off point for when they return - and also so that they can have some peace of mind over the holidays!

For this reason, a lot of bug-fixing was carried out this week:

  • Door-spawning locations were fixed.
  • We fixed a bug related to the placement of Set Pieces, which prevented them from spawning.
  • The Set Piece object structure was changed, and Set Piece objects were then recreated.
  • The outer-edge of a room that is generating is now surrounded by a wall whilst it is generating.
  • This outer-edge is also no longer changed or affected by the Cellular Automata steps.

Our Programmers also spent some time setting up core gameplay elements, like creating a system for storing and referencing character assets and associated data. Other gameplay elements added this week include the ability to spawn and pool character blueprints, as well as the introduction of class character model swapping to the character selection and character creation menus.

VFX for Ice Storm from Depths of Erendorn
We made some tweaks to Ice Storm, adding an AOE circle and altering the snow particles slightly.
VFX for Restraint from Depths of Erendorn
Restraint is commonly used by the Knight and Twilight Elf Assassin.
VFX for Rage from Depths of Erendorn
The VFX for Rage is still a work-in-progress, but we love how it's looking so far.

That’s it from us until after the holidays! We hope everyone reading this has a wonderful Christmas if they celebrate it - and if you don’t, we hope you have a wonderful week either way! We’ll be back again in the New Year with more updates from our team, so stay tuned!

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