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Thread: Lords of Nether - State of the Game - 11/03/2018

  
  1. #1
    Lords of Nether
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    Default Lords of Nether - State of the Game - 11/03/2018

    Hello, Great and Mighty Netherlords!

    Now that the first part of our Vault program has concluded, we decided that it would be best if we told you what we’ve been up to lately, where the game is now and how we are planning to proceed forward! This will probably be a big read, so grab a goblet and sit back in your throne as I, your loyal Overseer, do my best to bore you!

    As we see it, getting the Underworld gameplay done is the most important thing right now and what we must make sure is done first and as best as possible. This of course is because the majority of the game will be spent underground, and thus a demo of these features is more important right now than showing you the Overworld. Priorities, as they say! But also, as you may be surprised, the Underworld is the far more difficult of the two to build up functionally, as technically the Overworld only exists in a relatively static form to be explored and fought through, whereas the Underworld will be procedurally built and edited in realtime by your and the AI’s actions ingame. Think of the Underworld as the true core of the game and the Overworld, the vacation spot where you go to meet new people and very likely kill them all. Maybe set it on fire too. Now, we are pleased to say that the basics of most of the player’s interactions with the underworld such as Digging, Terrain Claiming, Building Rooms and placing objects etc., are already in the game at present. They still need to receive some polish and tweaking, but we are very happy with your ability to directly influence the world.

    As these features were done to an acceptable state (for an in-development build) a few months ago, we shifted gears largely into preparing what could arguably be called the true meat of the game – the Creatures and everything that involves them. Now, these are, as most developers will likely tell you, some of the largest, most time consuming and fiddly tasks that you get to do while working on a game, and there’s a simple reason for that – AI. AI is extremely important to our type of game, perhaps far more important than it would be for any other rts, because here the creatures lead their own lives and make decisions on their own. While yes, you can temporarily override a creature’s autonomy by issuing them a command, creatures still need to take care of their needs with the facilities you’ve provided, as well as make solid decisions in combat when not given direct commands. And that is essentially what we’ve been and are currently doing, breathing life and arguable intelligence in the minions you will control, so lets try and break this down a bit.

    One of the first things we created for creatures was something called “Influence Systems”, a set of networks that gather different types of data from the dungeon to relay it to a creature. You can think of this as a creature’s “awareness” of sorts. These systems are very comprehensive and extensive and can collect a vast variety of information, from whether there are any other creatures in it’s vicinity, whether they are friendly or not, how strong they are based on type, level, morale and health status, to being able to even understand environmental and area hazards and much more. These are in essence, the eyes and ears, the senses of our creatures.

    Now, the second major task was Pathfinding. As I’m sure many of you know, pathfinding is an extremely important thing in games, arguably even more important in an rts where a unit deciding to take a silly route may result in the failure of your entire strategy. Pathfinding is essentially the unit’s ability to rationalize the terrain it has to traverse and pick the most logical, efficient way to it’s target destination, while comprehensively avoiding obstacles along it’s path. There are many things to account for here, per example what the unit considers traversable terrain, whether going through a terrain that may reduce it’s speed, such as water, is imperative or efficient, avoiding other units, being aware of obstacles and much more. Pathfinding really is a massive rabbit hole that I, as someone who isn’t one of those Programming Kobolds, can scarcely explain the full length and brevity of, but essentially it’s extremely complex and very, very important to get right! You will be happy to know that we worked hard on this and it is currently in a state which we are very happy with! Naturally, as all things this early in development, it will need more polish to truly shine, but all in due time. During all this of course, we had to create the ability to command units about and this feature was fairly straightforward to add.

    As these foundations were built, it was time to move on to something bigger, more ambitious and extremely important – combat! To this end we began introducing the basic stats of creatures such as health and damage, going through a number of iterations to get the foundation of this feature up and running! It was no small task of course, but it is there now, functional in its basic form, giving you the ability to pummel enemy agents into the ground! As all things there are many things to tweak and add, such as animations, speed of combat, adding in resistances and damage types, but all those things will come in time as well.

    During all of this we’ve also had to do quite a fair amount of work on the art side of the game. We went through quite some iterations of animation workflow in order to finally settle on what we want to do, so here’s what were doing and how we’re trying to achieve some of it.

    We understand that units are perhaps the most important and engaging part of the game you will interact with. Yes, building your dungeon is important should be as easy to access, yet capable of complexity as possible, and we are making sure that is indeed the case, but creatures are the real reason you’re here aren’t they? They are your army, your minions who you have to summon, nurture, protect, fight for and send against your enemy to raise your banners over their shattered corpses! They are, I think you will all agree, the soul of a game like this. To that end we want them to not only be functional to the best possible degree, but also to be as full of life and personality as possible. The process we have finally settled on is to record both motion capture data and actual video recordings for our animation. The reason for this is because we are working with imperfect motion capture gear and the time taken to fix the myriad of errors the data receives might as well be spent on hand-crafting the animation from video references and recordings, resulting in a more artistic animation that can convey more character than mocap can at many times. However we still hold on to the mocap data because it proves very useful for timing, so that we can make sure we have a good blend of realism and artistry, which I think you’ll all agree is the best case scenario. In addition to this, which is the bulk of the work here, we are also working on things such as realistic cloth physics and even ragdolling for when it’s necessary. You may have seen some early versions of these things, especially the cloth simulation, in the video we uploaded a while back of Mordred walking through a test dungeon. You may recall that the cloth there was very janky and would trip up at the slightest provocation from any collider in it’s general vicinity. This was largely due to the method we were using back then, which was using a set of animation bones on the cloth and simply physically simulating them in Unity. Needless to say, this was far from optimal so we tried some other ideas and while Unity’s own Cloth Simulation showed some promise, we ultimately encountered too many problems with it, and that is when we found and decided on OBI Cloth, a plugin that greatly improves our ability and options when it comes to this feature. We are still testing and trying to implement this, as it also requires having to go through some of the older models and change some things in order to make it work properly. Whew, that was a meaty paragraph wasn’t it? Alright, moving on!

    You have doubtlessly seen many of the other art-side things we’ve been working on, as evidenced in the Vault program, but there are other things such as expanding the current UI’s functionality, creating ingame UI elements such as health displays and Use nodes, making the Mordred hand cursor (don’t even try to pick anything up, you should know better by now! Bad Lord!) and much more. We’ve also designed a few systems and things as we went along, that we think enrich the gameplay in many areas through slight tweaks, and we look forward to telling you more about them as we get them up and running, but those are not likely to be available in any form in the first demo, so for now, priorities!

    And so we come to what exactly we are doing right this moment. Other than wishing Knight entrails were a little easier to get out of your armor, we are also working on a very crucial and exciting feature! Remember the AI thing from earlier about creatures having to live their own lives, with their own thoughts and needs? Well, that is exactly what we’re laboring to create at the moment, and so far we’re very happy with how it’s going. Creatures already have needs and will labor to satisfy them, moving around the dungeon to do what they need to! Now, this is the very basics of this system of course, as it is a complex network of their own individual needs, their species-specific preferences (some creatures will like to spend their idle times training, others drinking, third yet, burying their faces in a book) and the direct tasks they have been assigned by you. Think of it this way, If a creature is assigned a task directly by you, such as being a Warden in your prison perhaps, it will prioritize that task above all else and only stop performing it if it’s hungry, in need of rest or very very upset. An unassigned creature however will have more autonomy, preferring to do certain tasks over others, such as manufacturing for trolls over training, but in addition that creature may also sometimes choose to idle around a bit to entertain itself or relax, be that through taking a stroll through the dungeon or sitting down for a mug of ale. This is some of the level of complexity we are aiming for, and while it’s still being worked on, we are confident we can make it work. In addition, creatures will fully obey direct orders you give them (again, unless very, very upset), losing all non-combat related autonomy for up to several seconds after they’ve accomplished the task you’ve given them, if they’re able to. After this time, they will go back to minding their own business. After all a good soldier follows commands but can think and care for themselves!

    And lastly, we are very happy to tell you that we are currently working on a site for Lords of Nether! We are doing our best, rendering graphics and setting up what we can and while it’s a little while off, we aim to unveil it with the release of the Alpha Demo, which we will make available for download there directly! On this site you will have access to information and various media from the game, a newsletter, access to forums where you can discuss things together and communicate with us, you know, the works! We can’t wait to bring that to you as well!

    So now to wrap this up, I will talk a bit about how our future plans look! As already mentioned, we plan to unveil the site and the alpha demo together, and our optimistic goal for that is somewhere within the next three months! This first demo however, will be rather limited but should show you very well what we are capable of doing and what we are in fact, aiming to achieve with LoN! We will most likely only be able to give you access to Lord Mordred, the Goblin creature species and the Man-at-Arms enemies! Also, workers of course! Cant forget your loyal workforce, no, no. In addition we are unlikely to be able to work traps and spells into this demo, but pretty much every other bit of basics should be there for you – you will be able to dig and claim terrain, gather gold, build three different rooms, place the respective furnishings they need, build a Goblin army, defend your Lord and eliminate the source of the enemy onslaughts! We will do our best to create several different challenging levels despite this lack of diversity, but it is our hope that this will already show you the spirit of what we’re trying to do.

    After the release of this demo we are going to go a bit on overdrive on trying to expand this fantastic community so that as many people know about us before the Kickstarter as possible! During this time we will also be heavily preparing for the KS campaign. It is again, our optimistic estimate that we are ready for this campaign around 7 months from now, putting our projection for the Kickstarter’s launch around October or November and we’re going to do our best to catch those soft deadlines. Of course, the world of game development has to be nothing if not fluid as complications can always spring up, but we are quite confident we can do this in time before the winter holidays! For this campaign, we are highly likely to prepare a second, expanded demo that will feature at least one more creature species – the Grindylow, and one more enemy – the Archer! Hopefully we can also give you access to spells, and maybe even think of a way to introduce a few traps! Beyond the Kickstarter campaign however, it is impossible to make any real estimates, given how much really depends on how well the campaign does, so for now we are keeping that as open minded as possible to avoid putting ourselves in any traps (hah!).

    And that, my Netherlords, is all that I, your loyal Overseer can currently think to tell you! I hope it has been informative and that you are as happy about the strides we’ve been making as we are! We’re going to try and release smaller posts like this at times when there is something interesting to report so stay tuned as always!

    Once again, thank you all so much for your support and appreciation! It means more than you know!

    ~ The LoN Team and your faithful Overseer







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    Last edited by DBlac; March 11th, 2018 at 12:40.

  2. #2
    Your Majesty Hapuga's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lords of Nether - State of the Game - 11/03/2018

    Awesome stuff! Enjoyed a lot reading your post a lot. Will show what you do to coworkers, need more meat for kickstarter
    http://img192.imageshack.us/img192/6659/c2warlocki.gif

  3. #3
    Lords of Nether
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    Default Re: Lords of Nether - State of the Game - 11/03/2018

    Quote Originally Posted by Hapuga View Post
    Awesome stuff! Enjoyed a lot reading your post a lot. Will show what you do to coworkers, need more meat for kickstarter
    That means a ton man, thanks so much!

  4. #4

    Default Re: Lords of Nether - State of the Game - 11/03/2018

    I can't wait to see how this game turns out. When is the kickstarter?

  5. #5

    Default Re: Lords of Nether - State of the Game - 11/03/2018

    Question,... will the units get some teamcolors, or will we have to tell enemies from friendlies by looking at the floating circles above their heads?

  6. #6
    Lords of Nether
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    Default Re: Lords of Nether - State of the Game - 11/03/2018

    Quote Originally Posted by mishko View Post
    I can't wait to see how this game turns out. When is the kickstarter?
    Thats in the post as well mate, hopefully 7 or so months from now, before the christmass holidays somewhere we hope.


    Quote Originally Posted by YourMaster View Post
    Question,... will the units get some teamcolors, or will we have to tell enemies from friendlies by looking at the floating circles above their heads?
    Thats actually something we're still figuring out the best course of action for. Team colours could make things look a bit cartoony if not done in a very specific way, but the other methods of telling enemies from friendlies are not always visible, such as the health displays. I think the clusterfuck of health displays can get out of hand so we want to limit it to display only when the creature is sufficiently injured or on highlight, but we will also have options for that. So yeah there may end up being team colours, I've just no idea how we'd apply them just yet.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Lords of Nether - State of the Game - 11/03/2018

    Well, I suggest to figure it out soon, because it will have quite the impact on the rest of your work I think. When doing teamcolors, this is something to design your units around because each unit needs to come with bits and pieces that can change color. This does impact the look of the game, but so do the health displays.

    For the human faction you could actually consider implementing some historically accurate methods of identifying sides in battle. On the evil creatures side, that's a bit more difficult as they are basically naked.(in your current designs)

  8. #8
    Lords of Nether
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    Default Re: Lords of Nether - State of the Game - 11/03/2018

    Quote Originally Posted by YourMaster View Post
    Well, I suggest to figure it out soon, because it will have quite the impact on the rest of your work I think. When doing teamcolors, this is something to design your units around because each unit needs to come with bits and pieces that can change color. This does impact the look of the game, but so do the health displays.

    For the human faction you could actually consider implementing some historically accurate methods of identifying sides in battle. On the evil creatures side, that's a bit more difficult as they are basically naked.(in your current designs)
    Aye, humans are generally much easier to do this with, but im sure we'll find a way to make it work

  9. #9

    Default Re: Lords of Nether - State of the Game - 11/03/2018

    So pumped for this! Are you the lead/only dev DBlac?

    The screenshots look amazing, can't wait for the alpha demo.

  10. #10
    Lords of Nether
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    Default Re: Lords of Nether - State of the Game - 11/03/2018

    Quote Originally Posted by Lquiz View Post
    So pumped for this! Are you the lead/only dev DBlac?

    The screenshots look amazing, can't wait for the alpha demo.
    Hey Lquiz, glad to see you're so excited! I am the lead yes, we're a core team of four, with some other, auxiliary artists we call upon for certain things (like a composer and sound designer)

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