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.

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.