Lacuna Passage - Devlog #50 - The Bridge Art Progress 2

The next large asset for Foundation Base is nearly complete. The Bridge, or the pressurized walkway, is a large raised platform that spans between all other structures at Foundation Base.  There is also a dock for access to the Pressurized Roving Transport, or PRT. Here are some screenshots of the final look for the exterior of the Bridge:

You will notice that the same translucent canvas from the Greenhouse also surrounds the Bridge.  It is designed to be a durable, flexible, and repairable material that reflects harmful UV rays and holds pressure.  The modular design is suitable for any terrain or elevation variance between the other structures.

In the next week or so we plan on tidying up the interior elements of the Bridge. We are also starting to experiment with an upgrade from Unity 4.6 to 5.1. This would be a big change for us, so hopefully by our next devlog we should have an answer as to how feasible it would be for us to transition.

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #49 - The Bridge Art Progress

Over the last few weeks we have been able to shift most of our art development back to Lacuna Passage.  In our last art devlog we showcased the Habitat with shots taken from our PAX East demo, as well as the look of Foundation Base when approaching on foot. Now we are working hard on the next major art asset for Foundation Base, the Bridge.  The Bridge is a pressurized walkway that connects the Habitat, Greenhouse, and Workshop together.  Here are some work-in-progress shots:

You may notice that the Bridge is made up of a plastic similar similar to that of the Greenhouse.  The frame and supports are designed to be suitable for variance in the terrain and flexibility.  The central hub that forms the intersection of the Bridge serves as a pressurized dock for the PRT (Pressurized Roving Transport).  Eventually there will also be attached docking bays for smaller remotely operated scout rovers.

There is still a lot of work to be done on this piece, but we are quite happy with the look so far.  We hope to have the Bridge complete and textured by the end of the month, so be sure to check back next month to see what comes of it.

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #48 - The next phase of Lacuna Passage development

This past month has been hectic, but we are finally back with a focus on Lacuna Passage.

Some of you had concerns about TIMEframe being a distraction for us last month so this month we want to talk about all the tangible ways that it has positively impacted our continued development of Lacuna Passage.

Demonstration of the Song Seed Music plugin used in both Lacuna Passage and TIMEframe

First and foremost has been the refinement of our dynamic music system, Song Seed. We have been building Song Seed over several iterations in the last year or so specifically for use in Lacuna Passage. The demo we previewed at PAX East was the first public implementation of our dynamic soundtrack and it worked really well for us, but there was still a lot that needed to be done. We realized a long time ago that this system would be very beneficial for other developers as well, so after PAX East we began working harder on the public version which worked well with the timing of our updated release of TIMEframe. Music is a huge part of TIMEframe so we were able to use it as a real-world test of the system. In fact, in addition to our own implementation in TIMEframe, we have just opened up a beta test of the Song Seed Unity plugin. So if you are a Unity developer interested in helping us improve this tech that will be a big part of Lacuna Passage please let us know (and check out the example video above). Soon after testing we will be releasing the plugin on the Unity Asset Store at a modest price. The proceeds from this will all be funneled straight into Lacuna Passage development as well.

Another benefit of working on TIMEframe that cannot be stressed enough has been learning the ins and outs of Steam integration. Lacuna Passage has always been our priority, but it has also been our first foray into commercial game development. We had no experience with integrating with Steam until now. After working on TIMEframe we now have a much firmer grasp on what that integration requires. Store page setup, game package installation, authentication, achievements, trading cards, cloud saves, DLC… the list goes on and on. We have used TIMEframe as our test bed for these features and this has given us invaluable experience as we now implement many of these features in Lacuna Passage. We are now looking forward to a tentative release date of June 30th for TIMEframe which will give us even more experience in running an active product and managing customer relations. Once again, all the proceeds will directly benefit Lacuna Passage development. (And as a reminder, all Lacuna Passage Kickstarter backers will be receiving a free copy of the game and the original soundtrack).

Last but not least, we have been experimenting with new features that have been added to Unity in versions 4.6 through 5.0. We have not updated Lacuna Passage past 4.6.2, but with our work on TIMEframe we have had a chance to see how these more recent updates might affect Lacuna Passage. The new user interface features in Unity might drastically improve the way that we handle the rendering of the datapad for example. There have also been several performance enhancing changes that could positively impact our open-world memory management. We have been able to evaluate these new features in TIMEframe on a smaller scale without any disruption to our Lacuna Passage project management. It would have taken us orders of magnitude more time to even test these options in Lacuna Passage itself.

These are only a few of the most direct benefits we have experienced while working on TIMEframe, and as we move forward into this next chapter of Lacuna Passage development we feel much more confident in our ability to deliver on our original promises. Game development is not a straight path. There will always be bumps and detours, but we work extremely hard to ensure that every decision we make benefits our ultimate goal of delivering the best Mars exploration narrative experience that we possibly can. Over the next few weeks we will have more regular updates with the art and design of Lacuna Passage.

TIMEframe - Development Update

This past month we have been hard at work revisiting our old Ludum Dare entry, TIMEframe, which was recently Greenlit on Steam. Our goal is to have a finished version of the game by the end of the month to put on Steam. Here are a few progress shots showing off some of the new art assets in the game:

You might have noticed some new text elements that were not present in the original prototype. We are introducing a simple history and story to the world of TIMEframe that you will be able to uncover during your exploration.

Much of our focus in these last few weeks however has been on trying to improve upon the atmosphere and lighting of the original version. We really want the game to feel as if you are walking through a painting with all kinds of slow-motion elements.

The soundtrack for the game will be equally stunning. We are currently in the process of recording live string instruments. Here’s a preview of the updated ambient music you will hear as you explore the world of TIMEframe:

The finished game will have nearly 20 minutes of music just like this. 

We really hope this side project demonstrates the level of quality work we intend to uphold. For reference, here is the old web player demo of TIMEframe. We will be sure to update everyone on the release of TIMEframe, and with it our return to Lacuna Passage development next month. As a reminder, all Kickstarter backers of Lacuna Passage will be getting a free copy of TIMEframe as a thank you for your patience and support.

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #47 - PAX East 2015 Indie MEGABOOTH Post-mortem

Background

For those of you visiting our blog from an outside source, here’s a little background about Random Seed Games and Lacuna Passage.

We are a small indie company working on a Mars exploration and survival game for PC, Mac, and Linux called Lacuna Passage. We had a successful Kickstarter and Greenlight campaign back in Summer of 2013. Unfortunately we’ve overshot our goal completion date, but we’ve made some amazing progress and development is still going strong.

We have released a small alpha demo for our backers, but earlier this year we decided that it was time to try and get out and gather some feedback from new players with a brand new demo. We submitted Lacuna Passage to the Indie MEGABOOTH for PAX East and were accepted with just over a month before the big show.

Preparation

The problem was that we didn’t really expect to get in. We had shifted a majority of our development time to a smaller side project that we knew we could get to market sooner than Lacuna Passage. When we were accepted into the MEGABOOTH we had not even begun working on the new demo for Lacuna Passage. So, while other MEGABOOTH developers were focusing a majority of their time preparing their marketing materials, we had to produce 15-20 minutes of brand new content in less than a month while working on marketing and promotional materials at the same time.

Amazingly, we pulled it all off. Spencer (my brother and lead artist on the project) and I worked 70 hour weeks until just before we had to leave for Boston. We emailed over 250 press contacts. We designed and printed banners and flyers. We planned travel and hotel arrangements. It was a wild few weeks.

We also didn’t do a great job of anticipating the costs that such a trip would incur. Below you will see a total breakdown (some estimates) of all our costs.

Total expenses were $4,339

This is a lot of money for us. The total cost was roughly 10% of our original Kickstarter funds. We knew that this was a big risk for us to take, but we think it was a good investment.

What we did right...

Contacting the press was a big deal for us. With our communication prior to and during the show we managed to get 9 interviews. Keeping Lacuna Passage relevant throughout development is very important to us and we think the coverage we received at PAX was invaluable.

We also think we succeeded in spreading the word to new potential players. Almost every person we talked to at the show seemed to light up at the mention of using real Mars satellite data for forming our terrain. Our demo was nearly 25 minutes long and if I had to guess I would say roughly 25% of players played through the entire thing. Probably another 50% played for at least 10-15 minutes. Seeing people engrossed in the game and invested in following the story was incredibly rewarding. In all we had over 200 people play the demo on two different machines at our booth and countless more who were watching on a big screen TV we had on a high stand. By the end of the first day we had several people come up to us and say that Lacuna Passage was the coolest thing they had seen there. Those kind of comments kept our energy up for the long, tiring weekend.

Full video playthrough of the PAX demo

The demo worked great as a marketing tool, but it was also an invaluable playtesting session for us. The feedback we got from watching people play the game was extremely helpful in identifying what aspects we should focus on improving or adjusting in the future. We never had any horrible, game-breaking bugs, but there are plenty of things that could be changed to match player expectations.

What we did wrong...

This was our first big conference, and there are a few areas where we could have done a better job.

The first thing we kind of already mentioned. Don’t try to make a brand new demo a month before the show… We got very lucky. We didn’t have any major problems, but we did sort of burn ourselves out before the show even started. Going to PAX or any other conference should be exciting, not stressful. We should have gone in with the attitude that we were going to be accepted from the start and we would have had much more time to prepare.

We also should have anticipated our costs a little better. It didn’t break the bank, but it was a heavy blow to us and we will need to be much more conservative with our remaining budget. That means we might not get to another conference anytime soon. But we are okay with that. We think that the result we got out of PAX was equal to what we put in. We are excited to dive back in and finish out the rest of development over the next several months.

Conclusion

If nothing else, we wish we had more time. More time to contact press. More time to commit to decorating the booth. More demo stations for booth visitors. More handouts and swag. More everything. Next time around we will know exactly where we should be dedicating our limited time and funds. This was a huge learning experience for Random Seed Games and we are glad we did it.

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #46 - Foundation Base and Ejection Seat Art Update

This past week we had the pleasure of showing off a new demo at PAX East in Boston. This new demo included nearly everything we have been working on for the past few months, including the finalized Foundation Habitat. Here are some in-game shots:

As you approach Foundation Base you notice the Greenhouse and Workshop structures nearby. These are currently inaccessible and incomplete, but eventually all three structures will be connected by a pressurized walkway known as the Bridge.

But before you reach Foundation, you begin your journey from our newly added Ejection Seat. This serves as an emergency landing capsule during a failed landing sequence.

We had tons of positive feedback about the art direction of Lacuna Passage at PAX and we are excited to polish things further. This next month we may take a small hiatus from LP development to finish our old Ludum Dare entry, TimeFrame - but not to worry, we will be back to work on the rest of Foundation Base shortly.

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #45 - See you at PAX East!

Random Seed Games is proud to announce that we will be featured in the Indie MEGABOOTH for PAX East! That's the good news. The kinda scary news is that we are still crunching on a brand new demo when the show starts in less than 5 days...

Lacuna Passage still has a ways to go before release, but we thought it was important to stay visible and get early feedback from players in a public forum like PAX East and we are honored to have been accepted into the MEGABOOTH. The new demo we will be showing is not like our old Prologue demo. This is entirely new content that will eventually constitute the introduction sequence of the final game. It is roughly 15 minutes of gameplay that gets you acclimated to the world, game controls, and narrative hooks.

We will try to post some video of the new demo soon, but here are some of things that we have been working on related to this demo:

Open Terrain

Obviously this is something that we have been touting for a long time. The open exploration of Lacuna Passage with accurate Mars terrain has been one of our biggest selling points, but until now we haven't really shown it in a playable form. The original Prologue demo was only a fraction of what we had planned for the total terrain and now with our PAX demo we will be showing off something much more representative of the final game. The total explorable area now is still only about 1/4th of what the full game will be, but this is mostly for narrative reasons in the early game.

Dynamic Music

The old Prologue demo only had small bits of intro and outro music. This time around we are actually scoring the narrative beats during gameplay and it feels great. A lot of credit goes to our amazing composer, Clark Aboud. You can expect to hear more soundtrack previews in the near future. For all of our game music we are now utilizing our Song Seed music plugin for Unity which we will hopefully be putting up on the Unity Asset Store soon after we return from Boston.

Interior Environments

We have been posting screenshot updates of the Foundation Base Habitat for quite some time now and at PAX we will be sharing these playable interior areas for the first time. Our lead artist Spencer Owen has been working insane hours to get everything ready for the show. The most exciting aspect of the Hab though will be the official introduction of IRA, Jessica's AI companion.

Misc Improvements

There are countless other minor improvements that we have made in the last month or so. We have added a new wind system that dynamically affects all blowing dust and our weather monitoring station instruments. We have a new night sky map that has more accurate star placement and an impressive visible milkyway.  There's really too much stuff to go over in one blog post.

If you want to check out the new demo you will have to come visit us in booth 6181 in the Indie MEGABOOTH next weekend!

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #44 - Designing the Hab Part 3

Check out how the Hab has progressed by viewing Part 1 and Part 2

This past month we have made great progress on the Hab with almost everything necessary to place the Hab in-game.  Most of our previous work focused on the interior components so we are excited to show you how the Hab should look on the surface of Mars.  Here are a few shots of the unfinished exterior:

When you open the hatch door and enter the Hab, you step into the airlock.  One of our artists has been hard at work on that as well, and we hope to see it integrated with the rest of the Hab by the end of the month.  Here are a few early work-in-progress shots from the airlock interior:

In case you missed it in past development updates, here are some interior shots of the living quarters in the Hab as well (take note of the newly textured and complete IRA model):

When we have a working version in the game we will begin adding more unique sections and variation to the interior.  Next up we will be working on connecting the Hab, Greenhouse, and Workshop with an exterior pressurized walkway known as the Bridge.  All the elements are finally coming together and we are really pleased with the result.  Let us know what you think!