Over the course of development we have shown several weather-related effects that will come to play a major role in the gameplay of Lacuna Passage. Well, with the upcoming survival sandbox mode we have started to polish these weather effects and randomize them as part of the overall survival system. A fair amount of work has been invested in these weather features to make them feel organic and natural, but instead of going into a ton of detail I thought we could share some gifs and videos of our progress with simple explanations to accompany them.
Cloud Formation Transitions
Mars is not known for its particularly cloudy skies, but there are certainly some clouds on the Red Planet that we have observed. We've shown off our cloud shader in the past, but now our clouds will cycle between different formations throughout the day-night cycle. The above timelapse helps make these transitions more noticeable, but in realtime these cloud effects should be quite subtle. Hopefully the skybox will feel just as alive as the terrain under your feet.
Improved Dust Particles
One thing that helps our terrain feel dynamic is the blowing dust particle system. You've seen these random dust particles before, but previously they only blew in the general direction and speed of the wind. Now they follow the the contours of the terrain as well. This is a subtle change, but it allows us to place these particle zones in a much wider range of possible locations where they can adapt to the terrain shape automatically. If you watched our devlog video from a couple months ago you will have seen how the wind direction and intensity is already being randomized and reflected visually with the weather monitoring instruments on each Waypoint Station.
New Dust Storm Transitions
We are taking a different approach to dust storms now, largely due to the influence of The Martian (both the book and the movie). We loved the idea of a dust storm being a slowly-building danger that requires careful planning to avoid. So instead of showing a distinct stormfront on the horizon, it is now a gradual change in visibility over the course of a few in-game days. Careful observation can allow you to notice a storm before it becomes dangerous, but preparation is even more important.
As we mentioned before, each Waypoint Station will have weather monitoring equipment. So each WayStat that you have active on the map will improve your chances of getting an early warning on your datapad of an incoming storm. These storms have specific trajectories across the map according to the current wind speed and direction. If you have enough warning you may have time to move from one habitat to another outside the edge of the storm. As you can see from the drastically sped up video above, a full dust storm can impact your visibility, mobility, and navigation functions of your suit and datapad. In such a scenario, your scanner may become your new best friend.
Scanner Readability Changes
The scanner function on your suit has undergone some relatively big changes. Those of you that have played the Prologue demo or watched some of our previous videos might recall that the scanner would display an exact outline of almost any man-made object, even if it were behind terrain. We decided to change to the above pictured icon-based scanner for a few reasons. Most important is readability. We were concerned that the old system provided you with lots of visual clutter and very little readable information. Now different types of items will be associated with different icon styles and their scale on screen will remain consistent in order to better identify points-of-interest at a distance.
Ignoring the color artifacts in the above gif compression, you can see some variations we are experimenting with for scanner icons. Right now they also grow in size when you approach within a certain radius of the object, indicating that you have "arrived".
The original outlines around entire objects also felt a little to "science-fiction"; and while we are certainly bending realism throughout Lacuna Passage, we want things to feel plausible whenever possible.
Importantly, your scanner does not have infinite range. You will still need to explore the map and activate additional WayStats in order to increase your scanner range.