Lacuna Passage - Devlog #32 - State of the Game Address

Today marks the one year anniversary of our success on Kickstarter! We love the support we have gotten from all our backers in the last year and now we want to give a full rundown of where we are in the development process for Lacuna Passage. This is our State of the Game Address...

ART

The amount of art content required for Lacuna Passage is a pretty massive undertaking for such a small team, but we are making great progress, especially now that we have another full-time team member dedicated to 3D art. Spencer has been hard at work lately with our other part-time team members Jeremy and Cameron on the internal designs of the Foundation Base Habitat, one of several human structures in the game. Below you can see some work-in-progress shots of the main habitat.

Obviously there is still a fair amount of work to be done here, but you can start to get a sense for the space and how it will appear in the final game. We have also been testing out lightmapping for the light and shadow effects you see in these screenshots. Even these very early tests seem extremely promising. I think the finished product should be a compelling location among many that you will inhabit during the game. We would like to do more frequent blog posts in the future showing art progress including some tutorials on how to achieve the effects we are creating.

We also continue to refine our terrain creation process and our surface textures. The planet Mars is as much a character in Lacuna Passage as Jessica Rainer is, so we want the terrain you explore to be as detailed as possible.

STORY

Our team members contributing to the story have been doing some amazing work. Unfortunately this is one aspect of development that we can't really share with you. We want each of you to experience the narrative without spoiling any details. We did hold a writing contest a few months ago though, so if you haven't read the winning entries yet make sure to check them out

PROGRAMMING

Our primary gameplay systems have seen some major improvements in the last few months and we have been chronicling our progress in our devlog. Here's a recap of where we are with some relevant links to previous posts:

MUSIC

Most of the music you have heard so far has been a proof of concept. We are waiting until some of the story scenarios are more concrete before working on final compositions. The features we continue to add to the Dynamic Music system will also influence the final soundtrack.

PUBLIC RECEPTION

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When we were preparing to attend the Game Developers Conference earlier this year we put together a small demo of Lacuna Passage that we called Prologue. This helped us have something to show a few journalists and other interested parties. The feedback we got was great, but we knew that there was a lot that needed to be done before showing the demo to players.

Just earlier this month we attended the Midwest Game Developers Summit with a new and improved Prologue demo at our own booth. We made a post about our experience there a couple weeks ago which you can read here. The response we got was excellent (someone was even nice enough to write about us) and we returned home with a renewed vigor that has kept us pumping ever since. Make sure to check out some of the amazing in-game photos that players took from the conference.

I also gave a talk at the MGDS called "AAA" Indie: Big Games with Small Teams and Tiny Budgets. It's about 30 minutes long and gives some additional insight into the development of Lacuna Passage to help other aspiring indie devs. I got some great feedback from the talk so I posted the whole thing online (though you will want to watch with captions because the audio isn't great).

KICKSTARTER REWARDS

MEMENTO AND SIGNATURE BACKERS

Right now we are focused on creating core game-related content, but we will be contacting Memento and Signature Backers in the future when we are ready to add in these special backer rewards. We are very excited to integrate some of our supporters into the game in a very personal way.

THE GAME

The Bad News: It’s becoming obvious to us that we will not have the game completed by our original estimate of December 2014. We hope that none of you feel misled. We were honest up front when we told you that we were not experienced game developers, and this is a side effect of that, but...

The Good News: We WILL finish this game. We will NOT disappear. We won’t run out of funding anytime soon. We will continue to share regular updates and get the game to you as soon as we can. We want this game to be something special by the time it gets to you. Thank you for your patience and support.

If you are feeling extra generous, you can actually donate additional funding now through our website to help us secure even more resources to finish development (voice artists, 3D artists, software licenses, etc). And don’t forget, you can also preorder additional copies of the game for your friends and family. Every little bit helps!

We hope you have enjoyed following our progress as much as we have enjoyed working on Lacuna Passage. This game is our passion and it wouldn't have been possible without our Kickstarter backers.

THANK YOU!

Sincerely,

Tyler Owen
Lead Developer

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #31 - The Midwest Game Developers Summit

Last week we posted (mistakenly only in a Kickstarter update) about taking a trip to Oconomowoc, Wisconsin (yes, that's a place) for the Midwest Game Developers Summit (yes, that's a thing).

EUHdC08 - Imgur.jpg

We decided to bring along our improved Prologue demo that we created for GDC and show it publicly for the first time in the MGDS expo hall. And the response that we got from players was awesome.

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The recently added controller support came in very handy and the game felt great played on a big screen with a controller in your hands.

Our players walked away with some cool stickers and we took their names and emails so that we could send all the photos they took in the game to them later. We were blown away by some of the pictures they took and collected our favorites in an album (click below to enlarge or view on Imgur).

I also gave a talk at the conference entitled "AAA" Indie: Big Games with Small Teams and Tiny Budgets. If you are interested in seeing some behind the scenes development details about Lacuna Passage you can check out a video recording of the talk below, but the audio is not great so make sure you enable captions to help you follow along.

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #29 - Habitat Interior Designs

Since we posted our last few videos we have made even more progress with the time-of-day systems by adding in clouds and stars which you can see below.

Exaggerated clouds to demonstrate the rim-lighting effect as the sun passes behind the clouds

Exaggerated clouds to demonstrate the rim-lighting effect as the sun passes behind the clouds

Subtle, wispy clouds like you would find on Mars

Subtle, wispy clouds like you would find on Mars

With these systems mostly complete I have now moved on to improve our scripts for controlling inventory and context sensitive object interaction. One of the first steps in doing this has been to make a “tag” system. This will allow us to display information about any object just by looking at them. Below you can see these new tags in their early form.

I’m also very happy to officially announce that we now have a new full-time team member! My brother Spencer (who can be seen in the original Kickstarter pitch video) has joined us as a full-time artist and general assistant for the project.

Spencer and Jeremy (another part-time project volunteer) have been focused these last few weeks on developing the designs for the main habitat, otherwise known as the Hab. Jeremy has been creating a set of modular elements that can be combined like lego pieces and Spencer has been utilizing those modular pieces to rough out several different internal “modules” of the Hab. Below you can see the first three modules we have begun designing. The crew bunks, a bathroom/laundry area, and a couch seating area.

Crew Bunks

Crew Bunks

Bathroom/Laundry

Bathroom/Laundry

Couch Seating

Couch Seating

These are still very early screenshots. There we be lots of detail added in the final designs, especially when we start to apply more textures. With Spencer working on these models full-time we expect lots of progress in the coming weeks.

We are taking a lot of care in designing this habitat not as a sprawling space base out of a science fiction film, but rather a dense, functional living space that would be reasonable for an early mission to Mars. The Hab is one of three planned structures that will make up the Foundation Base Camp. The others are a greenhouse and laboratory, which we will begin building soon.

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #26 - Development Since GDC

After returning from GDC last month we have come back to development with a renewed vigor. I met some great people and attended some great sessions, all of which have inspired the direction we will take from here on out. Today I want to discuss some of our current objectives.

One of our big focuses right now is to polish up our dynamic music system. Over the last several months we have determined that our music solution might be a valuable addition to the Unity Asset Store. The system we have designed solves a unique problem that we think other developers might be able to benefit from (you can see an early version of the system in this devlog video we posted a while back). With the announcement during GDC that FMOD will be free for indie developers with small budgets we were worried that our system might become redundant, but after looking at the pros and cons of using FMOD we are convinced that our system provides a simpler and more streamlined workflow for developers looking to utilize dynamic music stems without the need for an external editor. We will likely charge a small amount for our scripts on the Asset Store to see if we can subsidize part of our development cost with the income.

Some of you may have heard of the game Extrasolar which utilizes a non-real-time photography mechanic. The developers of Extrasolar gave a talk at GDC called “Game Design at 0.0003 FPS” where they detailed some of the specifics of their system and it got me thinking of ways we could benefit from this approach. We obviously still have to maintain a decent frame rate for the exploration elements of Lacuna Passage (which the player can influence by selecting different quality settings), but when the player chooses to take a photo we have some leeway. We can render a higher quality screenshot from a secondary camera with more image effects than the primary game camera at the cost of only an extra half second of rendering time.

These are some examples of non-real-time photos taken from the game Extrasolar. Click to see the full resolution.

These are some examples of non-real-time photos taken from the game Extrasolar. Click to see the full resolution.

For those with high-end gaming rigs, taking a photo will take almost no time at all and the quality will be identical or even slightly better than the quality of their game-view camera. Those with lower-end hardware running on low quality settings will still get the same high-quality photographs just with a slightly longer rendering time (still less than a second). Since we don’t have to worry about rendering multiple frames per second when taking a photo we can create a unified quality for all photos for all players. This is especially useful when we look at our VR implementation. Obviously we can’t take a screenshot of the view straight from the Rift or we get a distorted, double-vision photo. Below you will see what a photo taken from the Rift looks like with our new secondary camera system.

Top image is the view from the Rift cameras. Bottom image is the photo taken from that view. Click to see full resolution.

Top image is the view from the Rift cameras. Bottom image is the photo taken from that view. Click to see full resolution.

We have also been working to improve our asset pipeline so our artists can produce content faster and more efficiently. An important part of this process is our Asset Previewer. Our Asset Previewer is actually a small separate Unity project that contains all of our shaders from the game and some tools for viewing assets that help to ensure that when they are put in the game they will fit with the scale and style of all the other existing assets. This is extremely useful for us since we cannot afford to purchase Unity Pro licenses for all of our artists. They can preview assets with this project in the free version of Unity and I can import them into the main project later.

Recently we added a feature that lets us export animated gifs straight from the Asset Previewer to create seamless turntables of our assets. Between these gifs and other screenshots we can get a great idea of what an asset will look like before we ever need to place it in the game. Here are some examples.

Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient

The weeks since GDC have been extremely productive for us and we hope to keep up this pace. If there is anything else you’d like to see about our development just let us know in the comments!

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #25 - GDC Mega Update

Regretfully, it has been almost two months since our last official update. Well today I am remedying that with a really exciting post about my upcoming trip to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco (actually I'm writing this from the airport on my way there). The team can’t wait to show our work to all the conference attendees, but I wanted to share with you first all the work we have done to prepare for this trip.

We have created a demo that we are calling Lacuna Passage Prologue which will serve as a sneak peek of what players will expect to see in the final game. It has story elements that tie into where the game will start, but the gameplay is more of a linear tutorial to introduce important concepts in a short time span for demonstration purposes. This Prologue content may or may not be incorporated into the final game. It depends a lot on the feedback we receive while at GDC and if we think it is valuable to the experience we want to create. Since a lot may change in the coming months we are not planning to distribute this content to backers prior to release, but we have created a video play through for you all to watch and added a bunch of new screenshots.

We would love to hear what you think of the direction we are taking. If anyone is interested we might do a more in-depth run down of how we built this demo in a future devlog. This is a great opportunity for us to get even more people excited about Lacuna Passage who may never have heard of us before. Feel free to share the video or screenshots with your friends and family.

If anyone will be attending GDC and would like to play a live demonstration of the Prologue content you can email me at <contact [at] randomseedgames.com>. I will also be wearing bright red Lacuna Passage tshirts all week, so if you see me just flag me down!

Wish us luck!
Tyler Owen
Project Lead