Lacuna Passage - Devlog #40 - More Greenhouse Props and "IRA"

We left off our art devlog last month with the addition of the plant racks in the Greenhouse. Our newest addition to the Greenhouse is the Pressurized Isolation Unit, or PIU, that is used for isolated experiments on particular groups of plants. Four PIU’s will be located in the center of the Greenhouse and can be interacted with.

Next up we head back to the Habitat module of Foundation Base to finish up some of the more detailed sections of its interior. Near the center of the Hab will be a station devoted to our Intelligent Remote Assistance unit, IRA. IRA will be a computerized assistant, similar to SIRI on iPhones, that is linked to every module in Foundation Base, as well as your datapad and EVA suit.

For the most part, IRA will serve as a source of dialogue to help progress the story, but you will occasionally be tasked with bringing things back to the IRA module within Foundation Hab that houses IRA’s on-site computer and 3D scanning system. We want IRA to feel like more than just a digital voice in the game, so he will have a physical camera arm to interact with for scanning and analyzing objects you find during your excursions. Below are some early low-poly models for IRA's camera arm.

We'd be lying if we said that HAL 9000 wasn't at least a partial inspiration for IRA, though we do want to avoid some of the sinister undertones that come with that comparison.

We plan on delving more into IRA and the Foundation Hab in the coming weeks, so check back for updates!

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #39 - Happy Holidays from Random Seed!

The holiday season is here, which means a hectic development period for Random Seed and some fun announcements. Kickstarter backers, make sure to read all the way through ;)

First is a quick heads up that we will once again be participating in the upcoming Ludum Dare game jam competition on December 5th through the 8th (this coming weekend).

We've participated in previous Ludum Dares and had a ton of fun creating entries like TIMEframe and Dodgy Ball. This time around we are hoping for a competition theme that will be a good fit for us to utilize our Unity music plugin, Song Seed. We would love to be able to produce a game that demonstrates the flexibility and quality of the system and then release the plugin on the Unity Asset Store soon after.

In other news, we are also planning on attending PAX East 2015 in Boston on March 6th through the 8th. However, much of our presence there is dependent on whether or not we are accepted into the Indie Megabooth. If you are unfamiliar, PAX is a huge convention for gamers and the Indie Megabooth is a space on the show floor where notable indie games can get exposure amongst the ranks of AAA developers and publishers.

In preparation for our Indie Megabooth submission we revamped the Prologue content that was originally built for GDC 2014. The Prologue has been our main testing ground for introducing new features over the last several months and a lot has notably improved since its original incarnation. To get a small taste of what has changed you can check out our updated "trailer" video of the Prologue content.

There is some stiff competition to get a spot in the Megabooth, but we are hopeful. If we do not get in then it is uncertain if we will have any other option to demo the Lacuna Passage Prologue for attendees, but we will worry about that if it happens.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

Thankfully, even if we don't get into the Megabooth, all of our Kickstarter backers will soon get to play the Prologue demo right at home. That's right, we will be releasing a build of the demo exclusively to backers and pre-orderers before Christmas! We know it can't make up for the lack of a finished game, but we want all of our supporters to get an early taste of what is to come and hopefully we will get some great feedback in the process.

We announced a while back that Random Seed is teaming up with the Humble Bundle folks to get all of our digital backer rewards distributed, and now that will start with the Prologue demo. Another update will go out to everyone when we are ready to link your Humble accounts with the email you used to back Lacuna Passage on Kickstarter.

We will also be opening up requests for access to the Prologue demo from journalists and Youtubers, so if you are not a backer but would like to feature Lacuna Passage on your site or channel just contact us via our form and include links to your credentials. Not all requests will be honored, but don't hesitate to ask.

Thanks for your support and enjoy your holiday season!

That's it for this month's dev update, but check back for our next art update on the 15th!

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #38 - Designing the Greenhouse Part 2

Read Part 1 from last month

For this week’s art update we want to focus on the addition of plant racks to the Greenhouse.  We have designed a rather intricate rack system for holding and watering the plants.  There will be four rows of plants along the length of the Greenhouse, as shown in the screenshot below.

Click to enlarge...

The middle rows feature raised sections that can be lowered in order to access the plants above.  Water is piped through the floor and into containers at the base of each rack, which is then pumped up the poles to be sprayed onto the plants.  The plant containers on the racks can be removed and arranged with different sizes to accommodate different plants.  They can even be removed and brought back for examination.

Click to enlarge...

We plan on adding many different kinds of plants and allowing the player to interact with them.  In the coming weeks we will work on adding the lighting, ventilation, and research equipment to fill the rest of the space.  There’s still plenty left to do, but we are quite pleased with the look of the Greenhouse thus far.

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #37 - Song Seed, Saving, and Physics

The last few weeks have been very busy for us on the systems-side of development, so let's dive right in.

Song Seed Unity Plugin Progress

We are inching ever closer to the release of our Unity plugin, Song Seed. We did a short introduction video for the plugin in a standalone post a few months backs. Since then we have been hard at work, adding new features, ironing out bugs, and beginning to create the documentation.

Example of Song Seed documentation diagrams

We should be close to doing a beta test for Song Seed, so if any Unity developers are reading this and are interested in helping us test it, please contact us.

Any music loops should work with the system, but our composer for Lacuna Passage, Clark Aboud, is currently working on some custom loops packs specifically designed for Song Seed which will also be available on the Unity Asset Store soon.

Saving and Loading in Lacuna Passage

Lately we have begun tying our background gameplay systems into a central saving and loading feature that will be fairly unique in Lacuna Passage. To prevent players from manipulating their save data to "cheat" the survival randomization we will be utilizing a save system that deletes your save every time you reload the game. When you quit it will create a new save.

This effectively creates a form of "permanent pause". When you quit the game it's more like you are putting it on pause and when you restart the game it's like resuming it again. You cannot choose when you save or duplicate/copy your save files. Every time you die you will have to start over from the very beginning. If that sounds punishing, don't worry. Dying is a huge part of Lacuna Passage and each time you restart it will be with a new wealth of survival knowledge (in fact, taking notes is strongly encouraged). Each playthrough will be an opportunity for you to improve on your previous run.

Above you can see a very simple demonstration of loading in the player's previous position and rotation. A bunch of other things (including survival stats, time of day, and weather) are also being reloaded in the background. Now that the basics are in place we can extend the saving and loading as we fill the world with more content.

Physics Items

We haven't really touched upon many of the different types of items you will be able to interact with in Lacuna Passage. Obviously we will have things like food items which will need to be collected for survival, but those are small enough to fit in your suit pouches. So what about items that are too large to fit in your suit, but are still small enough to be carried? Well, you will have to carry them... with physics!

As you can see in the images above, a small number of items in the game will need to be physically carried. These items will often be necessary for certain survival challenges so keeping note of their locations around the Foundation Base will be critical. You won't be able to just pull them up from a menu, so don't lose them. I'm sure you can envision a survival scenario that might require the above fire extinguisher. Other examples might include an emergency generator or a power drill.

Also, it's really fun to throw them around :)

If you have any questions about this month's devlog just let us know in the comments!

 

If you're still reading... here's a sneak peak of some more progress on the Greenhouse Spencer has been working on since last month...

Click to enlarge

Make sure to check back for the art devlog post coming on the 15th to see more!

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.