Lacuna Passage - Devlog #73 - WayStat Navigation and Weather Monitoring

Waypoint Stations (WayStats for short) are crucial science installations that will assist you with your navigation and weather monitoring. In the survival sandbox mode you will need to discover these WayStats and activate them before they're data can be accessed.

If there are no active WayStats within a certain radius of your location your suit's navigation functions will be offline. As you can see in the images above we have discovered a WayStat, but the HUD at the top shows our navigation is offline. To fix this we must first turn it on.

With navigation features back online we can now see our custom objective marker heading on our HUD compass and our own location in the navigation app on the datapad.

The weather monitoring functions however will require a small upgrade to the WayStat's components. If we try to access the new weather app on our datapad right now we will get a "NA" label at the location of the WayStat.

So you must access the component panel of the WayStat and install a new fuse.

Now when we access the weather app we will get a percent value that represents the visibility at the location of the WayStat. A 100% value means that there is no sign of a dust storm near the WayStat.

A single active weather monitoring WayStat will allow you to check your weather app to see if visibility is reduced, but you will need three active weather monitoring WayStats in order to get advanced warnings for incoming dust storms.

Related to navigation, we have also added a new gameplay purpose for photography. Some game discoveries like WayStats and habitats will have permanent map markers, but others like small supply caches will not. In order to catalogue your discoveries you will need to take photos of them (and perhaps save them to your favorite photos folder). Then you can access them in the photo app and use the "Set Custom Objective" feature to find your way back to their location.

And as you can see in the above gif, we are starting to fill in our landscape with these discoverable locations. 92 semi-randomized locations to be exact. We've only just really gotten started, but here's a closer look at one of the smaller supply cache locations.

As we work towards filling in our survival sandbox with interesting locations to explore we will probably keep most of them a secret so that finding them for the first time will feel like a genuine discovery.


And finally we want to show you how the terrain will improve as we continue to place more unique rock structures. The comparison below shows you the bare terrain from our NASA satellite data and what it looks like after we have manually placed more detailed rock formations.

That covers everything from this last month of development. Thanks for reading and make sure to let us know what you think in the comments.

Lacuna Passage - Devlog #59 - New Cliffs and Rocks for Terrain

Normally our devlog posts at the beginning of the month are reserved for general development progress and gameplay systems, but Spencer and I wear many hats here at Random Seed Games and I've actually been working on some art related stuff over the last few weeks in preparation for our first survival sandbox map design.

We want to make the survival mode a unique experience from the story mode that will come later. So that means a unique map on release, and hopefully multiple unique maps over time. I decided that this would be a perfect time to revisit one of the most criticised aspects of our terrain... the rocks and cliffs.

The NASA data that we use for our terrain generation is incredibly helpful for creating basic formations, but there are some definite limitations. The data resolution and the inability to create overhanging rock formations combine to make the terrain look like a continuous flowing surface without many rugged features. To combat this we need to create rock meshes that protrude from the surface and form more realistic cliffs, etc. In the past we have relied on the Unity Asset Store as much as possible for rock models, but for cliffs we had difficulty finding appropriate models. So I spent some time this month creating my own cliff models using real Mars cliff photos as reference.

During the creation process I realized that these models might be useful to other developers working on desert environments or planets, so I packed everything up and posted it on the Unity Asset Store for $25. Each variation began as a uniform model which was modified by extruding the vertices using a heightmap generated from a high quality texture. Then each unique model needed to be optimized and adjusted to hide the texture seams as much as possible. Ultimately this provides us with very similar "building blocks" that combine perfectly to create larger formations.

The end result looks great, especially at very large scales where the repetition is more easily hidden. So if you are a developer or know someone who needs some realistic cliff models/textures you should check out our Asset Store page.

Additionally, we are still relying on some other Asset Store packages to supplement our own terrain assets. We did manage to find one set of cliff models that will work for us, but we had to make some significant edits to make the meshes modular and lower poly. The package also contained some really high quality rocks that will look great strewn around our terrain.

Arid Environment Rocks - Unity Asset Store

After working to match these rocks and cliffs with our own we feel much better equipped to start building our survival sandbox terrain.

New Relief Terrain Pack Shader

More recently we have also started investigating a new terrain shader in order to further improve our terrain quality. Our old terrain shader is a heavily modified version of an Asset Store terrain shader and it is having issues now with the Unity 5 physical rendering changes. This new Relief Terrain Pack shader may be our best option, and after some early tests it may actually improve our workflow for terrain creation overall. We don't have any screenshots of it in action for Lacuna Passage yet, but to get an idea of what's possible with the RTP shader check out the video below.

November has been a busy month for art development. The rest of December will now be devoted to building up the survival sandbox map design version 1.0 and populating it with randomized elements that will make every survival mode playthrough a new challenge.