July DevLog | Week #5 | No. 89

Development
July 31, 2020
December 20, 2021

This week’s game devlog is talking about texturing deadly plants, how we’re using a texture atlas for assets, and the new simultaneous turn-based combat system we’ve introduced. Check us out on Twitter, Instagram or Reddit so that you never miss an update on our online RPG - now let’s get into it.

3D Modelling

This week, we unwrapped all of the Deadly Plants that we’ve been working on recently. We then finalised their meshes and baked their maps so that we could move onto our favourite part: texturing!

  • Starting with the Hydra Plant, we moved the sculpt into Substance Painter
  • The Hydra Plant has very tropical, vibrant colours that make it look almost alien
  • The mottled texture around the head was also emphasised with the use of colour
  • The grass at the base of the Hydra was also reused from our environments
  • This will ensure that the plant looks cohesive in the world of Erendorn

While texturing the Hydra Plant, our 3D Modeller made sure to continually preview it in the engine to maintain a consistent art style. In UE4, we were checking how well the Hydra Plant blended in with the foliage and the overall environment.

After tweaking the colours a little, we did some further engine testing, this time using character models in the scene to further proof the colours and art style of the Hydra Plant. We’re not gonna lie, this process involved a lot of back and forth, and a lot of tweaking - but we got there in the end! We’re now in the middle of texturing the Thrasher Plant, so we’ll keep you posted on how that turns out.

These are all the plant meshes lined up with their baked maps applied.
These are the Deadly Plants with their wireframes showing.
This is the first time the Hydra Plant was imported before its colours were tweaked.
We then made some adjustments and tested it again, this time with characters.
Once we felt that it looked cohesive, we did a final render of the Hydra Plant.

Animation

The unique skeleton used by both the turtle and crocodile was added to the engine this week. With this in place, the turtle and crocodile skeletal meshes were also brought into the engine so that these low-level enemies can start using their animations:

  • Animations were transferred and adjusted on the turtle’s new rig
  • Unfortunately, these didn’t transfer well, and will need some polishing up in the engine
  • The turtle’s animations were cleaned up a little before being imported into Unreal
  • Animation blends and controllers were then created for this character
  • Draft animations are being worked on for the crocodile so that it can join the turtle in the engine

Our Animator also helped our 3D Modeller in testing out the finished sculpts of the Deadly Plants. Creating temporary rigs for them, our Animator posed these enemies in various positions to ensure that their anatomy was functioning correctly and could be animated without a hitch.

Environment Art

More variations of generic assets were created for what will be the game’s first settlement. While most of these assets, like chairs and tables, will simply have a tiling texture applied to them, for assets like books and the stew inside of a cooking pot, we’re going to use a texture atlas:

  • A texture atlas essentially combines multiple images and textures into one image
  • Using the texture atlas, we can duplicate the mesh of a specific asset, like a book
  • We can then move its UVs to a different part of the texture atlas to get a whole new texture

This process means that only one mesh and one unwrap will be required for an asset. It also means that we can easily get different variations just by using a different part of the texture atlas for different assets.

Moving on to our world’s environment, a new large-scale terrain material has been worked on for the outside environment, as well as for the new settlement level that we’re building. We’ve also started exploring virtual texturing tech and its possible applications with river splines, road splines, and asset blending.

Here are some of the generic assets we worked on for settlements:

Programming

Elite Enemy Work

One of the changes our Programmers made this week was the creation of elite statuses for our enemies. This was done as a way of balancing out the difficulty of a battle with the time it takes to complete one, an issue that was leading to rather boring gameplay:

  • When enemies are placed in a dungeon room, each one has a predetermined XP value, which helps to keep our rooms and their battles balanced and cohesive.
  • However, this means that when players start entering more difficult dungeons with a large team, the number of enemies quickly increases.
  • This is a problem because it leads to very long games, as well as long periods of waiting time for players while all of the enemies take their turn to attack.

To counter this issue, our Programmers introduced a limit on how many enemies can be in a specific room - and this limit can be set depending on which groups of enemies spawns in any given room.

Any remaining XP is then used to level up the enemies to ‘elite status,’ ensuring that the rooms will be balanced even when there are fewer enemies present. Using this system, we can effectively balance the difficulty of a dungeon fight with the amount of waiting time between turns.

Simultaneous Turn-Based Combat

Speaking of waiting a long time between turns, this is a common issue with turn-based games that can affect the overall gameplay experience, especially if you have a large team. We decided to introduce simultaneous turn-based combat as a way of reducing this waiting time:

  • Previously, players were only able to have their turns separate from each other
  • With our new system, players will be able to move and cast abilities in one turn together
  • This drastically reduces the amount of waiting time between other players’ turns
  • It also enables a much higher level of communication and coordinated teamplay

The server now understands that this new combat method is a gametype, and lobbies can be created and changed to be simultaneously turn-based. We’re really stoked about this feature, which we think will add a lot of possibilities to the game, as well as making it a more enjoyable and gratifying experience.

Tweaks to Stats and Abilities

In addition to all of the above, our Programmers also had to rework a couple of areas relating to abilities. This includes Critical Damage, a value that is calculated when player's attack successfully hits for Critical Damage, and Haste, a stat that can be used to reduce the cooldown of an ability:

  • Critical Damage Rework: Critical Damage was originally calculated before defensive damage reductions were taken from the target. Now, it is calculated after reductions.
  • Haste Proc Rework: Whenever it is triggered, i.e. procs, Haste reduces cooldown. This meant that if a player had a lot of Haste, they could use abilities with a 1-turn cooldown multiple times, which we didn’t think was fair for multiple reasons. After its rework, Haste will now only proc once per turn, meaning that it can’t be constantly reused.

Upgrading to Unreal Engine 4.25

This week was also spent upgrading Depths of Erendorn from Unreal Engine 4.23 to 4.25, and ensuring all team members could transition painlessly. We’re stoked to say that the upgrade has been a success, and our devs are itching to explore all the new and improved features of this engine upgrade!

There was one minor setback, though: upgrading to Unreal 4.25 broke the floor generation in the game due to plugin changes. But this was quickly resolved and the floor now works again - at least upgrading the engine only caused a small amount of collateral damage!

A large-scale terrain material has been created for the outside environment.

That's it for this game devlog - see you next week!

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