February DevLog | Week #4

Development
February 28, 2020
November 18, 2021

We’ve got some more updates for you in this week’s devlog on our upcoming fantasy RPG, Depths of Erendorn. The Swamp Lizard is textured and looking sickly as ever, a new environment scene has been created in Unreal Engine, and brand new sound effects have been created for a range of abilities and their visual fx. But before we show you all this, remember to join us on Twitter, Instagram or Reddit for daily updates on our PC game in development!

3D Modelling

At the beginning of this week, our 3D Modeller finished retopologising and unwrapping all of the Lizards that they’d sculpted earlier in the month - that includes the Swamp, Spiny, Thorny and Big Lizard. They then made two tiling scale textures for the Lizards’ skin, which brought them to the point where they could begin texturing these reptilian enemies - starting with the Swamp Lizard.

A few different types of scales were experimented with for the Swamp Lizard’s face, all in a variety of sizes, shapes and distributions. Our 3D Modeller actually ended up using both snakes and lizards as a reference for the head scales, which tied in nicely with this creature’s snakelike underbelly.

To achieve the pattern on the Swamp Lizard’s body, our Modeller used a greyscale tiling texture that resembles water reflections. Not only does this design match up well with the original concept, it was also a pretty forward-thinking move by our Modeller because it means that if the Swamp Lizard is ever underwater in the game, the patterns on its body would help camouflage it. In addition, the finished pattern is also reminiscent of snake skin, which ties in with and unifies all of the various design elements we’ve got going on.

Tiling texture test in ZBrush on Swamp Lizard from Depths of Erendorn
Our 3D Modeller started texturing the Swamp Lizard by doing some tiling texture testing.
Progress shot in ZBrush of head scales on Swamp Lizard from Depths of Erendorn
Various shapes, sizes and distributions of scales were tried out for the head scales.
Progress shot in ZBrush of head scales on Swamp Lizard from Depths of Erendorn
We ended up being inspired to reference both snakes and lizards for the head scales.
Pattern marking the Swamp Lizard in ZBrush
A greyscale tiling texture was used on the body in order to create a pattern that resembled water reflections.
Finished ZBrush model of a Swamp Lizard from Depths of Erendorn
This body pattern will help to camouflage the Swampy Lizard when it’s submerged.

Animation

Our Animator continued their work with generic skill animations this week, updating their rigs and making a few necessary adjustments here and there. The following skills had their animations created or tweaked this week for use with the Human Knight and Earthen Dwarf:

  • Cleave: This is a heavy hit that deals a significant amount of Physical Damage, and works with either the Knight’s sword or the Dwarf’s hammer, depending on who you play as.
  • Dodge: This animation was remade for the Knight and Dwarf so that it looks different to how it does when used with the Twilight Elf or Watertarg, which are far more agile creatures.
  • Charge: When working on this skill, the old animation was adjusted and split into two parts: travel (i.e. a running loop) and then hit (which happens at the end of the running loop).
  • Rush: Used only by the Knight, this skill is similar to Charge in concept and nature. For that reason, our Animator created an end animation that made it distinctive from Charge.

After working on all of these skills for that last few months, our Animator has finally got a change of pace as they've begun updating enemy rigs. Starting with the Zombies and Skeletons, these rigs have to be updated so that they match another unique rig in the engine, which will also be used with all other bipedal enemies.

Environment Art

After all of our Environment Artist’s hard work creating set pieces, the finished stalagmite and flowstone models have now been implemented into Unreal Engine where they have been used to create the glamorously named Environment Set Piece 01, which has now been completely built and lit.

Set pieces are unique, custom-built environment pieces which will be scattered throughout our procedurally generated dungeons. In the scene we have recently created, we have tested the stalagmite and flowstone set pieces alongside glowing crystal groups and Undead Zombies in order to see how well they integrate - and we’re really stoked about the results.

Environment set piece scene in Unreal Engine
This is the Environment Set Piece 01 scene in Unreal Engine.
Environment set piece scene in Unreal Engine
Our set pieces, like the flowstones and stalagmites, will be scattered throughout our procedurally generated dungeons.

Visual FX

Our VFX Artist kicked off the week by making a few tweaks to some previously-made visual effects, like Starblast, which had some extra stars added. These will appear room-wide during Starblast in order to make this ability a little more awe-inspiring.

There were also some new visual fx created this week for a range of spells used by the Parakaw Astromancer, Forest Druid and Zentragal:

  • Displacement: A generic spell used by all three of the above playable characters, this allows the player to teleport a low level enemy up to three spaces away from them.
  • Haste: Another generic spell used by the same characters, this allows the player to choose a team member to grant increased Movement to for a number of turns (or you can choose yourself instead!).
  • Stand Alone: This is a spell that the players can cast on themselves in order to increase their Strength for three turns. It can only be used when playing as either the Forest Druid or Zentragal.
  • Bolster: This allows the player to choose a team member to restore Health and a small amount of Resilience to. It can be used by the Forest Druid and Parakaw.

With all of the work that’s been carried out on VFX creation over the last few months, the Parakaw Astromancer should now have a draft for each of its listed abilities - and trust us, that’s a lot! The Forest Druid is getting close to the same point, with only a few abilities missing.

Tweaks were also made to the ability Fireball in order to create the effect for Mass Fireball, which hits four targets instead of one. This was the same case with the Frostbolt VFX, which was edited and made into Frost Missiles. While Frostbolt only hits one enemy, Frost Missiles fires out three bolts on random enemies, hitting one on every turn for three turns.

The final bit of work our VFX Artist carried out this week was quickly adding the cloud back onto the effect for Tempest, a Parakaw ability that deals Lightning Damage. While this had already been created, we somehow lost the cloud at some point and it’s been gone ever since - so we were happy to get it back!

WIP vfx for Starblast from Depths of Erendorn
More stars were added to the 'Starblast' VFX to give it greater impact.
WIP vfx for Haste from Depths of Erendorn
'Haste' allows the player to increase their own, or another team member's Movement.
WIP vfx for Tempest from Depths of Erendorn
The cloud was added back to 'Tempest' after being lost for a few weeks!
WIP vfx for Displacement from Depths of Erendorn
'Displacement' allows you to teleport an enemy up to three spaces away.
WIP vfx for Bolster from Depths of Erendorn
'Bolster' allows you to increase the Health and Resilience of another player.
WIP vfx for Stand Alone from Depths of Erendorn
'Stand Alone' can be used to increase your own Strength for 3 turns.
WIP vfx for Mass Fireball from Depths of Erendorn
Unlike Fireball, Mass Fireball hits 4 targets instead of 1.
WIP vfx for Frost Missiles from Depths of Erendorn
The Frost Bolt VFX was edited to create these Frost Missiles, which hit 3 enemies over 3 turns.

Sound Design

More sounds were worked on for our low level beasts this week, bringing them to life with grisly effects. Our Sound Artist has also been creating a lot of new sound effects for skills, spells and abilities this week, whilst keeping all of their respective VFX in mind so that the sounds and visuals have some coherency. They started with Relentless, a generic skill used for Energy Regeneration. Since the visual effect for this will encircle a player’s feet, our Sound Artist wanted to create the feeling of being encompassed by sounds:

  • The subtle cracking and popping sounds have been added in multiple left/right locations, so it has a slightly more present stereo field.
  • The Relentless VFX also looks like it is unstable and hard to control, and this feeling of intense power was mirrored in the sound effects starting and stopping very quickly. This almost hints to the idea that if the spell was cast for any longer, the player themselves would lose control.

Several sound effects were also created for the Forest Druid, including Draining Seed, Replenishment, Hunting Spear and Nature Bolt. When creating the sounds for these abilities, our Sound Artist wanted to stay true to the character backstory - a magical being from the High Forest who is in tune with the rhythms of nature.

To tie this element in, various sounds of foliage have been included in each of the effects for the Forest Druid’s abilities. A generic weapon swing, for example, might sound like a simple ‘whoosh,’ and would hypothetically be recorded by swinging a stick through the air. When used with the Forest Druid, however, this generic sound wouldn’t be interesting enough - so, instead of a stick, we would opt to use a section of a bush for recording, or layer on top of a few different ‘whooshes’ from leaves, twigs, branches, etc. Paying attention to these kinds of details is what makes the sound effects feel like they are really rooted in and evocative of the natural world.

The sound effect for Hunting Spear is interesting, too, because of something our 3D Modeller actually pointed out:

  • The original impact sound for this ability was an over-the-top ‘splat’ sound, which made the ability feel extremely comical.
  • While it was a fun sound effect, it breaks the realism and immersion of the game, which would be distracting for players.
  • In the second version, then, the impact sounds far more like the spear is piercing someone, and even pinning them to a wall (which this ability can do, by the way).

This entire process not only shows how important it is to think of how sound effects impact player immersion, it also shows how important it is to constantly seek peer review, since there are clearly huge benefits to having a second set of ears. This is especially true if, in the case of our Sound Artist, you’ve been listening to gory beast sounds for two hours, making it difficult to not get lost in going over-the-top. Having a fresh ear to listen to something for the first time can, therefore, really ground the more eccentric sound effects we sometimes slip into!

https://doe.horus.ninja/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Hunting-Spear-Draft-Sound-with-Video2.mp4

The sound effect for Hunting Spear was made to sound more piercing.

https://doe.horus.ninja/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Relentless-Draft-Sound-With-video-2.mp4

The crackling sounds of Relentless were added to multiple left/right locations to add more depth to the stereo field.

https://doe.horus.ninja/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Nature-Bolt-Draft-Sound-with-Video.mp4

All of the Forest Druid's abilities included various foliage sounds, like in Nature Bolt.

Programming

A lot of Programming work this week has been mostly spent on adding new features and fixing niggling bugs that have been causing the game to crash at seemingly random intervals. The delegates on the Status Effects Manager, for example, were crashing the game a lot so these were one of the first fixes our Programmers made.

One of the new features added to the engine this week includes Health bars:

  • Overhead Health bars were given to both players and enemies.
  • These Health bars were then attached to update events so that they respond to stat changes.
  • A custom material was also created in order to display a colour-changing bar that helps to visually represent the Health.

Our Programmers also experienced some issues with server messages, some of which were very long if you joined a game in-progress. While this will be reduced in later versions once it’s been worked on more, for now our Programmers added the ability for the server to detect a very long message so that it can send it in chunks to the client. The client then takes these chunks and stitches them back together before processing the update as one.

This week has also been focussed on improving the turns, ability controllers and entity deaths. With Turn Orders, for example, dead characters are now removed from the turn display. The ‘End Turn’ button also shows and validates correctly, while the ‘Start Game’ button can now only be used when the local player has spawned.

When it came to the Ability Controller, a few updates and additions were made:

  • We updated the way that abilities are stored and referenced in order to prevent lost data in delegates.
  • We validated the method for swapping/removing active ability controllers.
  • We added branching for different ability target types.
  • We added the ability to cast multi target (entity only) abilities.
  • We updated how abilities are selected via the ability bar.

Then, in the Entity Manager, the team ID was fixed, since it was previously mismatching on turn updates. The final bit of work carried out by our Programmers involved the Turn Manager, Entity Manager, Ability Bar and Turn Display. Delegate lock variables were added to all of these in order to prevent double binding on intentionally singular events.

https://doe.horus.ninja/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Replenishment-Draft-With-video-2.mp4

This is the sound effect for the Forest Druid's ability 'Replenishment.'

https://doe.horus.ninja/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Draining-Seed-Draft-with-Video.mp4

This is the sound effect for the Forest Druid's ability, 'Draining Seed.'

Thanks for joining us for another devlog! We’ll be back next week with some more updates on Depths of Erendorn. Until then, keep an eye on our socials for daily updates - we love reading all your comments and suggestions!

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