Lacuna Passage - Devlog #36 - Designing the Greenhouse

The last few art devlogs have focused on the development of the Hab.  This week we would like to switch gears and turn your attention to another structure located within Foundation Base, the Greenhouse.

Work in progress for exterior modeling and texturing. Click to enlarge.

The Greenhouse will be connected to both the Habitat and the Laboratory with a pressurized walkway made out of a similar inflated plastic seen here.

Since Mars has less of an atmosphere than Earth, a structure pressurized to Earth’s atmosphere on Mars will attempt to expand outward.  The Greenhouse was designed to be smooth and spherical in shape in order to reduce the number of weak points caused by this expansion on the plastic.  The base of the structure will be buried in a mound of Martian dirt with buttresses along its length for reinforcement.

Inside the Greenhouse there will be plenty of room to walk about and observe the various plantlife used for experimentation.

Work in progress for interior modeling and texturing. Click to enlarge.

There will even be a few areas set up with computers and microscopes where you can learn more about the procedures and results documented by the Hermes crew.

Now that we have the exterior shape essentially complete, we will continue designing the interior with plants, lighting, ventilation, and watering systems.  We also plan on adding a few exterior components for temperature regulation and electrical lines that would be routed through the Greenhouse walls.  There’s still plenty to be done, but the Greenhouse is on its way to becoming a fully-functioning part of Foundation Base.  Check back for more updates on its progress next month.

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #35 - Improvements to our terrain automation

Development is finally reaching the point where we are able to start placing content within our full-scale environment.

Our demo from the Game Developers Conference and the Midwest Game Developers Summit was effectively a test to ensure our tool set for terrain development was sufficient for the much larger scaled terrain that would be in the final game. The demo was approximately 5 square miles of terrain (though only a small part of it featured in the walkthrough) and now we are working with roughly 19 square miles of exploreable terrain for the final game. You can see a comparison below.

Anyone who has worked with terrains in Unity knows that there are dozens of variables and settings to tweak to get things looking just right. Doing all that manually for 16 terrain tiles (as opposed to 4 in the demo terrain) was not an option. In order to scale up our workflow for iterating and improving this larger area we needed to automate as much of the process as possible.

Transient

There are plenty of tools on the Unity Asset Store that are built specifically for this purpose, but after evaluating many of them we realized that we needed something more tailored to our setup. So we began working on a custom Unity Editor Window.

To the left you will see a preview of our Full Terrain Manager. This custom editor allows us to update materials, detail textures, heightmaps, colormaps, normalmaps, splatmaps, and detailmaps with the press of a button rather than manually assigning them one at a time for each of our 16 terrain tiles. This cuts a 2+ hour process down to less than 15 minutes. So if you aren't a developer and just want to know what this means for Lacuna Passage, it means we will have more time to make the terrain in the game as stunning as possible.

The next step will be to get our terrain streaming ironed out so that only the terrain tiles that are needed are loaded for the player at their current location. Then we can begin placing some of the other assets we have been working on to make this feel like a truly expansive Mars landscape with the same level of detail and quality you saw in our smaller demo terrain.

 

That's it for today's devlog, but check back in a couple weeks to see another art update from Spencer and his progress on the Foundation base camp Greenhouse.

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #34 - Designing the Hab Part 2

Make sure to check part one of our continuing "Designing the Hab" art preview.

The Hab is designed to serve as the main living area for the Hermes and Heracles crew, so it will be a tightly knit and practical space full of dense detail. This week we want to highlight a couple new areas within the Hab and talk briefly about their design.

The laundry and bathroom unit combine into one compact space that utilizes more of the recessed wall space.  The shower, sink, and toilet are all located up a ladder-like set of stairs and behind the area that houses the washer, dryer, and cabinet space.  Combining these units would be a logical way to reserve less space for plumbing across the Hab.

Next we have the bunk sleeping quarters.  There are six bed spaces divided across the main walkway with a large table.  The table can be used for research, repairing equipment, or anything that requires a little counterspace.  Each bunk is equipped with personal locker space, a sliding isolation door, and even a digital screen with a built in radio.  Eventually there will be photos, letters, and other personal items that decorate each crew members’ bunk.

We are all very satisfied with the direction the Hab is going.  Improvements are being made everyday and we can’t wait to finish adding in all the details that make up this complex living space.  Our next big hurdle in the art for Lacuna Passage will be the Greenhouse - so be sure to check back to catch more on its development in the near future.  As always, feel free to comment below!

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #33 - Designing the Hab

My name is Spencer Owen and I am the lead artist for most of our internal habitats and other mission structures. I will be contributing posts to our devlog over the course of development pertaining to the design and art decisions that are being made. For my first post I am going to go over some of the decisions we have made for the main Habitat that you have seen previewed in previous posts.

The Foundation Base Habitat has come even further this past month.  We have added a few new pieces and are currently in the process of messing with the shaders and textures to achieve a cohesive look throughout the Hab.  The internal volume of this structure is meant to be dense and functional, but also a bit spacious and relaxing for the crew.  We are shooting for a certain realism in the Hab that will allow us to satisfy these restrictions.

Since most spacecraft today are designed for zero gravity, you will often see cargo holds and electronics strapped to every surface of an interior such as this.  Our Hab will need to function on the surface of Mars, meaning we have to design a little differently than the ISS.  We had to look for inspiration in things like campers, RV’s, and trailer homes.  I’ll highlight a few areas and talk about the design decisions.

In the kitchen area the size of the appliances and their position is most important for functionality.  Additional cabinet space for the non-essential equipment is stored above, accessible with a ladder.

In the couch seating area we chose to recess the couch into the wall, revealing the shape of the exterior hull.  This way the couch does not obstruct the main walkway, but instead serves as an alcove for relaxation, with a great view of the Martian surface.

The media center area sits directly across from the couch seating area, allowing the television screens to be used for entertainment, communication, or presentation.  The table serves multiple purposes as well, with adjustable computer stations located nearest the wall.  Radio and media equipment sit within arm’s reach.

Another design goal for us was to highlight the functional areas of the Hab so that the player can immediately recognize them.  In order to do that we will be using a signature orange color in the textures of interactive objects and locations, similar to games like Mirror’s Edge.

Most of all, we want the Hab to feel like a safe place for the player to relax and go over any information they find between EVA’s.  We still have work left to do, but we are really starting to get the atmosphere and design of the Hab’s interior finalized. The design problems we have solved here will carry over into the other internal environments throughout the game.

We will be featuring more of the internal modules of the Habitat over the coming weeks in another blog post. If you have any questions feel free to sound off in the comments!

Continue to part two of our "Designing the Hab" preview.

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.