Lacuna Passage - Devlog #70 - Exterior Modules and Development Roadmap

First and foremost, let's go over some of the development progress since our last update. Lately it has been easier to share what we've been working on in video form, so check the video below to see our progress on the habitat exterior modules.

That's all well and good, but now we would like to share something with you that we probably should have done a while ago.

We are officially launching a publicly visible development roadmap.

Since we are such a small team, a lot of our development planning happens across lots of different mediums (Google docs, Trello, email, Skype, etc). I had been using that semi-disorganization as an excuse to keep our overall progress hidden, thinking that our devlog posts were enough to keep our backers and followers happy. Thanks to feedback from a few very honest backers I have finally decided to prioritize a more presentable public roadmap.

We have been using a progress tracker called Trello for quite some time now, but various aspects of the game have been split among several different private boards and we haven't done a good job of maintaining a consistent approach to documenting each feature or piece of art. So to rectify that I have recently been working to consolidate the major elements of the Survival Sandbox into a single Trello board where you can view tons of information.

Lacuna Passage Survival Sandbox Development Roadmap

The link above will take you to our public board where you can explore all the features we have planned for Survival Sandbox v1.0 and beyond. We are still planning for the Story Mode as well, but none of that will be covered in the Trello board in order to avoid future spoilers.

If you are not familiar with Trello you will see that we have organized the "Board" into several main "Lists". These cover the high-level categories of game development which are then broken down into "Cards" that detail specific features and art.

We have also leveraged the color coded card labels to help visualize our overall progress at a glance. Above you can see that the first label on each card shows the progress we have made on that specific feature. The second label on each card shows when that feature can be expected. SS1.0 means that it will be available in the first Survival Sandbox v1.0 release on Early Access. SS+ means that it will come in a later update as a feature addition. Of course, all of this is subject to change, but we want to be as transparent as possible with our current plans so that you can more easily follow along. This roadmap will always be visible directly from the navigation on the site (which is also linked in the navigation at the top of this site).

These cards should also be a great way to revisit older devlog posts that cover the more detailed development decisions that went into specific features. As you can see above, some cards have links directly to the relevant devlog posts. So instead of having to search by keyword on our blog, you can browse the entire feature list on Trello.

As of the time of this writing, there are still a few sections of incomplete cards with only titles and labels. I will be working through those remaining cards over the next week to add more descriptions, images, links, and progress checklists.

If there is anything you think I've forgotten to feature in the roadmap, please let me know! The most obvious omission is a visible release schedule or timeline. I understand that this may be frustrating considering how behind we are with the release already. I can tell you that we have a release window in mind, but we cannot discuss it at this time until more details are worked out with some third parties. Thanks for your patience.

Our attempts to feed Naga in a special chair for her megaesophagus condition...

Our attempts to feed Naga in a special chair for her megaesophagus condition...

And for those of you who remember our post back in April about our dog Naga... we have some sad news to share. We discovered that she had a skin condition called dermatomyositis in addition to a swallowing disorder called megaesophagus. Her megaesophagus became so severe that she developed aspiration pneumonia. After fighting with her pneumonia over nearly three months she began to lose strength and we made the incredibly difficult decision to let her go. Megaesophagus is not a curable condition, and while some dogs can be managed with strict dietary assistance, Naga's case was too much for her. We have been devastated by her loss. She was only six months old and we wanted to show her so much more of the world. For those of you with dogs, hold them tight ♥♥♥

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #68 - Maintenance Panels and Unity Assets

The exterior modules for Foundation Base are nearly complete.  We have spent the last few weeks touching up the maintenance panels you will find on each unit.  These panels are located on the sides of the main control unit, and open to reveal components that need to be monitored and repaired to keep the machines working properly.  Here’s a look at what a panel on the Oxygenator might look like as you approach it and when it is opened:

As you can see, there are three components inside this panel: a circuit board, pressure gauges, and fuses.  Each piece has the potential to short out or break, so you will need to craft backup pieces to replace them.  Here’s a closer look at the pieces in this panel:

Some units have more than one maintenance panel.  The heater unit, for instance, has another panel containing heating coils and carbon filters:

To repair these units, you may need to read run diagnostics or shutdown the power source beforehand.  Checking these units regularly could also prove useful if you can resolve potential issues before they become a threat.  After all, you won’t have long before you run out of oxygen, heat, or water if you leave these machines broken.

We are also working on putting up some of our assets from Lacuna Passage onto the Unity Asset Store.  Creating packages of related meshes and textures can take time, but we are hoping to pull in some additional revenue from doing so.  We only have a couple packages up right now, but we encourage you to check them out!

The next package we hope to release features a set of stairs and a raised platform used for the Habitat entryway.

Feel free to comment below!


Lacuna Passage - Devlog #66 - Exterior Modules and Maintenance Panels

We have nearly finished all the exterior modules for Foundation Base.  Here’s a quick look at the final designs for the three main units - The heater, water reclaimer, and oxygenator:

Each of these units are color coded with reflective and vibrant paint colors that will help you distinguish them from a distance.  This was important that we use textures for this purpose, because creating unique silhouettes would be expensive not only in development time, but also in polygons.  Obviously the machines each have their own style, but mostly we are just swapping out the diffuse textures to change the colors since all three units are utilizing the same normal, specular, and gloss textures.

As you can see, we have added a control hub to the front of each module.  This is where you will normally approach the machines, and interact with the control panel.

From here you will be able to perform diagnostic checks from your datapad.  You will also be able to download documentation about possible repair procedures.  Sometimes you will be required to shut off the power to the machine prior to doing these repairs, so you may have to perform your work fast before the Habitat loses too much heat or oxygen.

Most repairs will direct you to a particular maintenance panel.  These panels vary depending on the machine, but they are always located to the side of the control hub, designated by letters.  For example, if you run a diagnostic that returns a particular electrical error code, your downloaded instructions may direct you to then shut off the power source and replace a fuse in maintenance panel A.  When you approach the maintenance panel, here’s a peek at what it might look like:

When you open the panel you will be presented with multiple components, each corresponding to different types of repairs.  You will need the correct pieces of equipment to perform the repairs.  For this example you would notice that one of the fuses is burnt out in the bottom left portion of the panel, so you would need to remove that fuse and replace it with one from your inventory.

Obviously the texturing for these internal components is not complete, but you get the idea.  There will be many different pieces and repairs required for these units, but after some practice you may start to learn the quickest ways to fix them.  Or better yet, you may be smart enough to run diagnostic checks regularly to repair possible issues before they ever occur.

Feel free to comment below!

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #64 - Solar Panels and Exterior Modules

Last time we had a chance to show off the RTG, or Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, and we discussed how it could be used to power some of the life support systems at Foundation Base.  Here's a look at the completed RTG on the charging platform:

 We now have most of the other components complete as well, including power switches, solar panels, and the bulk of the heater, oxygenator, and water reclaimer.

The heater, oxygenator, and water reclaimer (above) are the three main life support systems at Foundation Base that will require monitoring and occasional maintenance in order to survive.  These exterior modules run heat, oxygen, and water through buried lines back to the Habitat.  The modules themselves are separated from the Habitat, each with individual power sources to prevent full power loss to the most vital survival components.  The separation of these units ensures that any explosions or overheating that may occur in these machines will not affect the safety of the Hab.

The machines themselves are unfinished, but we have been working hard to make each one seem unique while utilizing parts from other assets.  It's important for us to consider buying some assets from third parties for Lacuna Passage in order to quickly generate content.  In the case of these exterior modules, we purchased an asset known as the "Compressor" from, and primarily used it's pieces to create 3 unique machines.  Here’s the original compressor model for you to compared with the units above:

There are a few different ways to power these machines, and monitoring their power sources will become just as important as making sure the machines themselves are running properly.  Currently, we have three types of solar panels that are the most common source of power to the exterior modules.  The larger solar panels require more materials and time to craft, but offer greater power efficiency.

Solar panels can be easily covered in sand or damaged after a storm, so you will need to dust these panels often in order to produce adequate power.  Here you can see the different levels of sand covering a large solar panel:

Each bank of solar panels will be positioned near a switch that controls the flow of electricity generated from the panels to their corresponding machine.  Color coded flags mark the path to the machine being powered.

The power switch is needed to perform maintenance on the machine.  If something needs repair, you may be required to shut off the power source using this switch and then replace a part on the machine before turning the power back on.  We are excited about the many variations of repair work that will be necessary with these new modules in place.

Next we are working to create a hub attached to each module that can be opened like the hood of a car to perform part replacements for the fuses, pumps, and other inner workings of these machines.

Feel free to comment below!

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #62 - Inventory Storage and the RTG

The last major component of the interior Habitat, the Inventory Storage module, is complete.  The final third of this module holds the Consumables portion of your inventory.  Just like the other parts of the Storage unit, the items shown here are a visual representation of the amount of food you have stashed.

With the Habitat interior finalized, we only have a few other major art-related tasks for the survival mode left.  Our next highest priority assets are the external maintenance units at Foundation Base.  These include anything outside of the Habitat that you may have to repair such as the Water Reclaimer, Re-oxygenator, and Heater.  Most of these machines will be detached from the Habitat, with buried lines that connect them to structures.

From a game design perspective, this allows us to create some interesting maintenance and upkeep EVA’s where the player can choose to do routine inspections or risk waiting until something fails.  We want these units to have multiple problems that can arise randomly, and also force players to make choices of how to utilize the resources available to them.

For example, each of these units will require a power source.  Solar panels will serve as a common source of power in most cases, but they require dusting regularly and can be at risk during electrical storms.  Another power source that will be available is the RTG, or Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator.  Here’s a quick look at the work-in-progress model we will use for the RTG in-game.

The RTG is basically a vessel that contains a naturally decaying plutonium core.  Plutonium-238 creates heat as it decays, which the vessel uses to convert into electricity.  It can last for over a decade and is a very practical way to power something on Mars.  For Lacuna Passage, the RTG will serve as the sustainable and low-maintenance alternative to solar energy.  It will be a rare find that the player will have to decide carefully what to power with it.

The RTG is something we are very excited to implement because it expands our options for survival elements by drawing from real-world inspirations.  NASA actually uses a RTG on the Curiosity rover.

Feel free to comment below!

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #60 - Inventory Storage

One of the last major pieces we are working on for the Habitat is the inventory storage modules.  The items in your inventory will be split into three categories: materials, equipment, and consumables.  Likewise, the storage unit will be divided into those same three categories to visually represent the items you have stored away.  Here a few pictures of how the inventory storage area looks right now:

As you can see, the crafting materials and equipment sections are complete and feature many different items you may find as you explore drill sites, supply caches, or other Habitats.  For the most part, we simply use crates or boxes to represent the number of items stored in the materials section.  The module has five variations, from empty to full, and as you store items you will see it change to represent its contents.

The equipment section is a little more complex.  The most important pieces of equipment are visualized individually for quick identification.  This is because we want players to choose what pieces of equipment they can take out on EVA’s, leaving behind potentially important or useful tools that they have to keep track of.  Your inventory will fill up quickly with heavy tools, so it's important to only take what you think you need on long trips.  Here’s a closer look at all the equipment stored away:

Each piece of equipment has it's purpose, and knowing when to use them will be important.  Some are easily identifiable with unique models, but some others are only shown stored in a case.  This was intentional to reduce modeling and allow placeholder art for pieces of equipment that may be added in the future.  Currently our Haz-Mat Kit, First Aid Kit, Soldering Kit, and Wiring Kit all share this model:

You will notice that the only difference is the diffuse texture that is applied to each.  We feel that paint color and labels are enough to differentiate these pieces of equipment.  Sharing textures and models between assets is important to reduce load times and file sizes.  As we approach the release of our early access, we will be taking many steps like this to future-proof our game.  Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Lacuna Passage - Devlog #58 - Fitness Station and Inventory Storage

We have been hard at work adding some interesting new interactable “work stations” within the Habitat to give depth to the survival aspects within the game.  We recently completed the fitness station, consisting of the multi-purpose aRED (Advanced Resistance Exercise Device) and a Treadmill.  Fitness is an important factor to consider as you travel across the Martian landscape.  For instance, training at the fitness station will increase your overall stamina and reduce the likelihood of injury.

We wanted the fitness station to resemble some of the equipment used in space today.  The treadmill is pretty recognizable, but the aRED is something you wouldn’t find in your typical gym.  That’s because it uses vacuum pressure to replicate multiple weight-based exercises, reducing the need for unwieldy weights.  Here’s a cool video from astronaut Mike Hopkins showing off how it works.  The vacuum pressure even makes it practical to use in zero gravity at the ISS.

Our next station we are in the progress of adding is the storage area for inventory items.  We want this area to feel easy to access, and show visually what you have stored away.  At any time the player can walk up to any of the three storage areas to access the inventory management screen on their datapad to add or store away items in their backpack.  Here is a first glimpse at how it might look:

This area is one of the more essential components to managing your food, equipment, and crafting materials, so we want it to be rather large and visually appealing.  We plan on adding lots of small details to make it feel like it actually reflects what you have stored away.  And remember, you can find multiple Habitats in our survival mode - allowing you to store away items at specific locations.  Inventory management will surely be key to your survival on Mars.

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #56 - Crafting and Research Stations

As we work to implement more survival focused features into Lacuna Passage, we have been revisiting the elements of crafting in the game.  We have decided to incorporate dedicated “work stations” into the Habitat that the player will interact with depending on what it is they need to craft or research.  For instance, if the player would like to craft an emergency pop tent, they may first need to take something to salvage over to the workbench to break it down into materials.  Or they may need to use a 3D printer to create parts from scratch.  Here are some images of how the workbench and 3D printer look right now:

These workstations will be randomly generated in some (but not all) habitats the player discovers in survival mode.  Another objective we would like to include in the survival mode of Lacuna Passage involves the new research station.

This area would be utilized by collecting rock and mineral samples in order to better understand the geology and biology of Mars.  Although this goal would not directly affect your survival, we found that having multiple open-ended objectives is more enjoyable.

As we work to create many new and interesting areas in the habitat, we are always trying to utilize existing models and elements from other assets.  We reuse as many pieces as possible, like the computer monitor mount and work station tabletop.  Even the wall and outlets are recycled bits from other sections of the habitat.  It's important that we create these assets in ways that would allow us to reuse them in the future.  For example, the microscope pictured above was one of the very first internal habitat assets we created, but we have a variant with an attached computer monitor and keyboard that we can use in other locations.

We have plenty of other ideas in mind for interactive workstations, and we hope to have even more to show next month.  Let us know what you think in the comments.

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #54 - Random Hab Modules

With our sandbox survival mode for Lacuna Passage in the works, we knew we needed to make some changes to the habitat modules.  There will be a few established habitats randomly placed for players to discover and utilize to survive as long as possible.  These habitats will all be unique and full of specialized modules that serve different purposes.  Bunks for sleeping and storage for food and supplies will be available in each hab, but things like research stations, 3D printers, and crafting areas will be randomized features in only some of the habitats you find.

In order to make the habitat capable of this level of randomization, we had to revise the way the hab is set up.  Now each component in the hab takes up an exact gridspace that can be randomly assigned in almost any part of the inner structure.  Here are a couple examples of how things may look with randomly swapped modules:

This is also the first time we have really shown off how the new Unity 5 standard shader makes our internal areas look.  We are very happy with how simple and consistent this shader performs with all of our materials even though we have not finalized the lighting yet.  Here are some more interior screenshots with placeholder lighting:

You may notice a new workstation in those last couple screenshots that we are currently working on.  This will have a few different functions, but in this example it serves as a station for testing soil and rock samples.

We also managed to give some of the panels that fill the extra space in the hab a rework.  They previously seemed a little too extruded and they interfered with the flow and interactive elements of the hab.  Now they seem a little more streamlined and less intrusive.

Progress is definitely coming along, and we hope to show you more next month regarding some of the new areas in the habitat where you will be crafting supplies to help you survive.

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.