Lacuna Passage - Devlog #55 - User Interface Updates

I just posted a new devlog video covering some of our new Datapad features including our work-in-progress Inventory and.... Crafting features! That's right. We have been kinda cagey on the whole crafting thing, but we think we have finally figured out a way to do it that fits the context of the game. That being said, the devlog video is very very rough. A lot of stuff doesn't look quite right yet with the Datapad UI and things bug out a little even during the short video. I almost didn't want to share it with everyone until it was looking better, but you guys deserve to know what we are spending our time on, even if it doesn't look great or have all the kinks worked out yet. All we ask is that you don't use these videos as a measuring stick for the quality of the final game. Don't share videos like this one to convince your friends how cool the game will be. It'll get better... I promise :)

So here it is. Let us know what you think!

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 #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

NOTE: Saves no longer function as described below. We have made save files accessible in a save folder.

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 #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 #22 - Survival Assets Preview

We are making continued progress with art development for Lacuna Passage and this week we would like to share a few new assets related to the survival elements of the game. Every food and water packet you will find in the game is fully rendered and detailed. Your inventory is not just a text list in a menu. You will have control over a very visual inventory consisting of dozens of unique assets. Check out some of the assets we have created so far below.

We are still adding even more items (including canned and boxed foods), but we are very happy with the look of the transparent and foil packets. On the technical side, most packets range between 200 and 400 polygons with a few of the more complex ones up near 1000.

When you are alone on Mars will you save your vacuum sealed dessert packs for last?

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #21 - Soundtrack Preview #4

Every once and a while we like to share a bit of the soundtrack as it builds and evolves over time. If you watched our video devlog from last week you might recognize the piece from the loops we used to demonstrate the dynamic soundtrack features of the game. They were originally meant just as test loops while we worked on the system side, but I liked them so much that they may find their way into the finished game. Here they are in their entirety. 

Once again, the music credit goes to the talented Clark Aboud. Here's a playlist of all the tracks we've shared so far.

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #12 - Soundtrack Preview #2

We are very excited to share another sample of music from the Lacuna Passage soundtrack. All credit goes to our talented composer Clark Aboud.

You will probably notice the new flood lights in the video. This is just one of many new assets that we are beginning to import into the game. These flood lights are interesting visual markers that can help you find your way at night. Some cloth physics are also on display here which we hope to use on things like flags and tarps sparingly throughout the game. We think that bit of movement makes the world feel more alive and reactive.