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.

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!