Monthly Devlog | November 2023 | No. 58

Development
December 11, 2023
December 14, 2023

Throughout the past month, the Depths of Erendorn development teams have exhibited remarkable progress across various domains. The 3D Modelling team has been dedicated to expanding character customisation options, showcasing proficiency in creating diverse hairstyles. The Set Piece Design team has embarked on the creation of a Viking shield prop and a Viking ship-themed firepit, demonstrating meticulous research, retopology, and a dedication to thematic richness. The Client-Side Programming team's reflective phase led to strategic planning, new developer tools, and the implementation of a 'Dry Test Level' for combat simulations. The Server-Side team focused on reintegrating code, optimising data structures, and upgrading accounts infrastructure, showcasing a meticulous approach to foundational development. The Sound team's comprehensive planning included crafting placeholder sound effects and transitioning to Watertarg abilities, emphasising their commitment to immersive audio. The Environment team refined the prop and environment design workflow, creating specialised materials and employing innovative techniques for detailed environmental elements. The Animation team refined workflows, created a UE5 Mannequin rig, and focused on facial expressions, contributing to heightened realism in character animation. The VFX team achieved a significant milestone with a versatile VFX Master material and explored the 5.3 Niagara fluid system for enhanced waterfalls, showcasing their dedication to advancing visual effects. Examples of their exemplary work from the past month can be previewed below. As always, join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit for daily updates on Depths of Erendorn. Alternatively, join our Discord for all the latest! - now let’s get into it!

3D Modelling

Last month, the 3D Modelling team at Depths of Erendorn has been diligently expanding the game's character customisation options. They initiated the creation of a short hairstyle, showcasing proficiency with a new tool. The presented examples highlight their ability to construct diverse hairstyles, focusing on short sides and slightly longer strands on top for future variations. Additionally, the team experimented with alternative methods for creating very short hair, considering a texture on the scalp for small hairs as a more efficient approach. The refinement of a particular style has been a central theme, with meticulous attention given to short hair details, resulting in a smoother transition to longer strands. Examples of this ongoing work, showcasing diverse hairstyles and refined details, can be observed below.

Short back and sides style using new techniques

Using textures to create the short hairs on the model

Combining all techniques for a more refined style

Work in progress refinement for hairstyle

Set Piece Design

This month in set piece design, the team embarked on a relaxed yet purposeful introduction for our new prop designer, tackling the creation of a Viking shield prop. This asset stands out with its versatile paint decal material, featuring adjustable parameters for paint designs, opacity, colour, and the unique ability to invert the paint mask. Collaborative efforts involved fleshing out tasks for the current sprint, ensuring a streamlined workflow. Simultaneously, dedicated focus in set piece design was directed towards sculpting a Viking ship-themed firepit. The meticulous process began with comprehensive research and reference gathering to ensure authenticity and thematic cohesion. Progress transitioned to the critical stage of retopology, positioning the team for upcoming bakes and seamless progression into the texturing phase. Examples of this collaborative effort can be explored below.

Shield model for decoration in game

Textures shield ready for engine

Alternate shield texture

Nordic-inspired fire pit for initial settlement

Programming

Client

Over the past month, the client-side programming team at Depths of Erendorn engaged in a reflective phase, analysing the achievements of the previous milestone and strategising for the upcoming one. The focus was on breaking down the necessary steps to seamlessly incorporate new characters and abilities. To facilitate this, the team planned and implemented new developer tools, streamlining the process of integration. A concerted effort was dedicated to mastering the new aspects of the engine, with a particular emphasis on understanding the action system. Additionally, the team delved into learning sessions and planning activities for the next stages of development. As part of the milestone preparation, the concept of a 'Dry Test Level' was introduced, allowing for independent combat simulations to refine character and ability implementations. The team made significant strides in implementing this level, enabling efficient testing of various gameplay interactions. Work also continued on the development of the 'Dry Log' system, refining the user interface and addressing the intricacies of data types and conversions within the system. Additional examples of their work can be explored below.

  • Modified the game's execution order to allow for a 'Dry' setup, including initialising a Session and Combat to run 'Dry Logs'. By setting up new modified versions of the Session and gamemode classes that mirror the function of their regular counterparts while leaving the function of their subordinate managers identical, we get simulated gameplay as close to the real deal as possible.
  • Modified the Game State Updater (the class responsible for parsing server updates and turning them into actionable objects in game) to allow input via 'Dry Logs' a locally generated version of the content the server usually sends to connected clients.
  • Created functions and widgets for spawning in a character of any class at any location and rotation during a Dry Test.
  • Planned and added some initial classes to allow the creation of Dry Log sequences, by allowing PGC developers to define sequences of Dry Logs we can accurately simulate the effect of different gameplay scenarios, such as an Ability or Active Effect being triggered. In order to give greater control over test scenarios, a method has been devised to allow us to modify each potential parameter of each potential log between simulations.
  • Functions for applying parameters that are normally received via the server, as well as differentiating logs and events.
  • Started on developing the UI and associated methods of log creation/deletion and broader control.

This month the team has also been upgrading the DoE client to Unreal Engine 5.2.3. This has involved working through the following steps;

  • Updating all plugins.
  • Converting the project.
  • Fixing any newly deprecated function calls in the codebase.
  • Preparing our modified version of the engine for distribution to the team.

Server

Over the past month, the server-side team at Depths of Erendorn has been diligently focused on key aspects of development. A major effort went into reintegrating polished code from the internal milestone created since the Navdata branch inception. Notably, the team prioritised new inventory functions, offering more granularity in deciding when actions save to the game's database. Work on optimising data structures continued, driven by the need to reduce RAM overhead as the new nav system enabled the exploration of the entire map. The team achieved a commendable 20% reduction in RAM usage per loaded chunk through various optimisations. Further enhancements involved optimising the speed and efficiency of server memory loading, introducing cache wiping mechanisms, and delving into research for a dynamic XP system for zones. An ambitious upgrade of the accounts infrastructure marked a significant undertaking, with the team transitioning away from the old MVC Framework to establish a more flexible and integrated system. The ongoing work, as it nears completion, promises benefits such as account creation within the client, increased flexibility, better system integration, improved password security, and enhanced account management features.

Sound Design

In the past month, the Sound team at Depths of Erendorn strategically planned activities, focusing on new sound effects (SFX) for Zentragal abilities, acting as placeholders until visuals are developed. Their meticulous approach extended to crafting Talent Abilities, transitioning from Forest Druid to Watertarg abilities like Hydro Transference and Tidal Surge. This comprehensive planning underscores the team's commitment to immersive audio in Depths of Erendorn. Additionally, the Audio team worked on sculpting the ambient soundscape for the Ice Cave environment, experimenting with synthesisers to achieve an "eerie, mystical, crystal-y, shimmery" atmosphere. Revisiting Alps trip recordings added authentic sounds like cracking and dripping, showcasing the team's dedication to a captivating auditory experience. Previews of the evolving soundscape can be explored below.

Environment Art

This month, the Environment team at Depths of Erendorn concentrated on refining the prop and environment design workflow by creating a specialised Prop and Decal Master Material tailored for large props. They meticulously honed a trim sheet for settlements, integrating opacity masks for Decal normal details to achieve intricate and realistic environmental elements. Practical tests involved applying the decal trim sheet to wooden pillars, acknowledging potential colour variations in UE5. Additionally, the team pioneered an innovative edge normal detail decal using ZBrush and Substance Painter, allowing nuanced details on large objects with optimised texture sizes. This commitment to refining techniques and workflows for impactful environmental design is evident in their ongoing efforts, as showcased in the examples below.

Repeatable pattern for pillars

Examples of repeatable patter on textured pillars

Patterns on more complex pillar

Pillars in engine

Pillars with textures and degradation

Animation

Over the past month, the Animation team at Depths of Erendorn has been dedicated to refining their workflow and gearing up for future updates. A pivotal initiative involved creating a UE5 Mannequin rig, termed the "base character," in their 3D animation software. This foundational character serves as a standardised platform, streamlining the process of creating and editing animations for the game's diverse characters efficiently. Simultaneously, the team delved into optimising joint configurations and placements to enhance facial expressions. This included a comprehensive update to the facial rig for the human male character, introducing additional bones and adjusting skin weights for heightened animation quality and expressiveness. The recent animation update further emphasised the team's commitment, focusing on refining skin weights and implementing nuanced idles with variations for the human male character. This meticulous work is geared towards achieving heightened realism in motion, particularly for characters closely resembling humans, such as elves and dwarves. Examples of their exemplary work from the past month can be previewed below.

UE5 Rig combined with Human Knight model

Complex face rig showing emotions

Visual Effects

Throughout the past month, the VFX team at Depths of Erendorn achieved a significant milestone by creating a versatile VFX Master material. This comprehensive material, equipped with a diverse set of options, enables the team to enhance workflow efficiency by utilising material instances of the Master Material, eliminating the need for frequent creation of new materials. The team showcased the remarkable variety achievable with just a few options through an extensive video, emphasising the flexibility brought about by this innovative approach. This week, the team also delved into the 5.3 Niagara fluid system, exploring its functionalities in a separate project. This exploration aimed to understand its mechanics and leverage it to create more visually appealing waterfalls for the game environment. The resulting discoveries promise to enhance future VFX work, and the team is enthusiastic about implementing these improvements in-engine once the upgrade to 5.3 is underway. Concurrently, the team is exploring optimisation strategies for the newfound techniques. Their dedication to learning and implementing fluid systems is evident in their ongoing efforts to establish a foundational structure for future waterfalls, introducing dynamic movement into the world of Erendorn. Examples of the team's work and experimentation over the past month can be explored below.

That’s it for this week’s devlog, but have you seen our monthly roundup of October yet?! 

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