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EXO ONE end of week update – 10 Feb 2017

Have been scrambling about doing all sorts of stuff this week after hearing EXO ONE would be at Rezzed. Partially getting over excited maybe, but also wanting to maximize the opportunity and make the game look its best for the end of March. So to that effect I’ve been:

  • Sweating in the 40C heat here in Adelaide with no air con in my office
  • Improving both planets
  • Finalizing the height map for Planet 2
  • Working on final details/grass/rocks etc for Planet 2
  • Had a ‘breakthrough’ realisation of how we can more easily see through clouds and keep our bearings at the same time
  • Emailing a swathe of people I know in game dev, generally asking for their thoughts about the whole Rezzed thing and how I should handle it (since I probably won’t be flying over)
  • Turning up my PR/Marketing efforts. Mostly feels like to no effect whatsoever, lol. Either I’m bad at it or it just takes a far bigger, longer concerted effort than I think! Made me think of Jacob Leichty’s (from Astroneer)Tweet:

I’m pretty sure people care about your game Jacob, stop complaining, omggg!! :)

For my marketing troubles last week (I probably spent almost 2 solid days doing nothing but…) I gained 3 newsletter subscribers and a handful of Twitter followers. Boom! It also seems that Reddit somehow dislikes me about as much as I dislike it…! I’m joking, I love Reddit, I just hate posting anything to it, because I get downvoted and comments like this:

redditshit

Somehow nothing I ever post there gets any love at all. I feel like Reddit is like this:

“You did something great? You’re personally telling us about it? Go away!!”

However… if…

“My friend did this and now that happened and OMG isn’t that amazing?!” Upvote!!!

Ok, end of rant. Back to work. I officially abandon all Reddit hope lol.

Thanks for following!

EXO ONE Selected for EGX Rezzed Leftfield!

Super stoked to announce that last week I was notified that EXO ONE has been selected to be shown at EGX Rezzed, a London games event, as part of their Leftfield indie games collection. EXO ONE was chosen from a record number of submissions and will be featured alongside 17 other games. Check them all out here.

The event will take place on March 30-April 1 and if you happen to be in London, you’ll be able to go play it, complete with the 2nd, and maybe 3rd planets.

This will be the second event EXO ONE has shown at, after debuting at AVCON last year.

I actually attended Rezzed 5 years ago when I lived in London, and met some really cool people, including Chris England from the indie hit Xenonauts. I’d love to attend again with EXO ONE, but the cost may be a bit prohibitive. Spending money on international flights is a slight luxury right now! I’ll be looking into who might be able to take my place so to speak, but if all else fails, it sounds like the Leftfield guys have everyone covered with a bunch of their own people that will be there to troubleshoot/take photos/generally help out.

Crossing my fingers (and beginning some actual planning) for some good coverage of the game. Will see what comes of it! Can’t wait!

Morning Promotion + More Planet 2 + Twitch Streamers

Planned Tasks:

  • PR/Marketing (half the day)
    • I’ve made a couple EXO ONE planet making-of videos but not really promoted them much.
    • Post both on IndieDB
    • Post a newsletter informing subscribers that new daily dev logs exist, + new videos
    • (On the weekend I also posted the vids to the Map Magic unity forum)
    • Force self to post them on Reddit (Reddit scares me, prob just cos of all the rules and all the touchy self-promo haters)
  • I’m thinking of also pinning a new post to my Twitter, which is something like, “here’s exo one (animated gif/video?), subscribe to the newsletter here”.
  • Continuing Planet 2 (the other half of the day)

Wot I did

  • Shared the youtube vids around on everything from StumbleUpon to IndieDB
  • Wrote this Twitter post about Pinned Tweets from Top Developers.

  • “Wasted” lots of time getting the above image in my tweet to actually show up…! As well as adding Yoast and a few other sorely needed things to the blog.
  • Went down a marketing rabbit hole that took half a day in research
    • Updated my PR/Marketing docs with a few things learned on my rabbit hole journey
  • BTW, promoting and sharing even the shortest article takes a lot of time, omg! Also, I hate pressing submit/send/share every single time.
  • Signed up for some game dev Slack groups to see what they were about
  • Since it’s now late I’m just going to do some Twitch ‘research’ and watch some game devs I noted down last time I was on William Chyr’s stream
  • Lol at the title of this blog post

Twitch Streamers

In case you’d like to check these people out, I’ve been recommended all these guys:

https://www.twitch.tv/williamchyr

https://www.twitch.tv/xra_

https://www.twitch.tv/qazitv

https://www.twitch.tv/lachhhandfriends

https://www.twitch.tv/nonplayercat (no videos here, hmmm. They don’t want people watching after the stream ends?)

….

Night night!

How top game devs Pin their Tweets

pinnedTweets

As I have marketing on the brain for EXO ONE, I’m simply looking at a range of Twitter accounts I follow to see how they take full advantage of anyone arriving at their Twitter profile.

Da Pinz

William Chyr pins Manifold Garden’s Steam store page with a video. Call to action? “Add it to your wishlist” so you’re notified when it comes out.

Team Cherry totally copies William Chyr, OMG!:

Astroneer delivers a space-themed “out now, go buy it!” pin, showing the game name, what the game is about, and where to get it, boom!

While Tom Francis is so attractively successful he promotes Ubisoft instead of his games:

Ooblets prompts you to sign up to their newsletter/mailing list, linking to their home page, which features the sign-up form top/center. They also throw in the games logo/screenshot + one line description, nice!:

Finji, loving their political Tweets lately, pins this one up front and center (P.S. how long till a politically inspired game? Or is Overland “post-Trump America?!”)

Mr William Pugh (OMG, look at that amazing hair!) blams a Youtube video to the top of his Twitter account, featuring their cray-cray VR game, in collab with @squanchtendo. I wish *I* could be told by the Rick and Morty creator to fuck off in VR, but I lack the Vive! These guys have so much marketing punch they can name their game the complete opposite of what it is, nice! Kinda like me with EXO ONE eh?!

OK I need some variety to finish this off…

Lawl, here’s Luke Muscat’s. Again, perhaps only doable/recommended if you have a big name like his:

Mr Nicoll “The Beard” Hunt shares some wisdom only possible through beardedness, earning him a hefty 1800 retweets for his efforts. I’m going to totally copy him and pin this article and see what happenz. On Twitter, so often your followers are other game developers, so this is certainly a nice way to corral support, by helping your fellow devs/offering advice/tips.

Now, to actually finish this post… Pin all your updates and give them a fancy ‘update name’ + subtle animated gif. So classy!

Anyone got any they think are particularly clever? Or your own? Comment or something!

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Distraction Levels, Huge. More Planet Making.

Due to some (good!) news I can’t announce just yet, my distraction levels lately have been rather huge, so I’m not getting a lot done.

So I thought I’d do another planet making video.

Planetary Planning:

  • Focus is on the clouds for this planet, so won’t go too crazy with terrain. We are probably aiming to be airborne at least half the time on this planet, so the terrain is a little less of a focus.
  • Need to make sure the player isn’t going to be ramming higher altitude terrain while inside clouds, so keeping things low/smooth.
  • Consider what terrain is good for constant, fast, 1-directional movement.
  • Today mostly tackling a Mars-style, high-speed wind affected terrain using line nodes and noise masks. Check out:

Video

Action! (the video recording software) or my computer shafted me and I lost most of the first take, so here’s a 2nd one, using NVidia ShadowPlay (thanks for the suggestion, Mr @CFantarella).

Flora

I know some frozen rock is unlikely to have much in the way of living flora, but yknow… SPACE! Who knows how these plants live!! Plus, moving grass shows high speed wind nicely.

I checked out some of the fastest moving water/water plants on earth and saw this long flowing and endangered Texas grass:

Also saw a lot of interesting super long seagrass/seaweed, and wondered if I could replicate it somehow. Collisions with long flowing grass probably wouldn’t happen, but at the same time, I’m not sure I care that much. I’d rather the cool looking flowing plants (which probably wouldn’t affect movement anyway) and zero collisions. Indie game dev! Boom! Anyway, this might be a tough ask depending on the scale I go for. I’ll see what I can rustle up.

Things to try:

  • 3D plant models made from Blender. Probably multiple big sheets, to which I add a tiling grass texture, x and y, for rezzz.
  • 2D billboards, but much smaller scale, don’t know if I can even get them to follow the wind direction I want.

Results:

  • Can’t use grass, it doesnt take wind zones into consideration. It just flaps about aimlessly.
  • Made a custom tree and messed around with it for an hour or so to get this:

exo one space grass

The main problem with this is, we can’t really animate it like flowing grass. So it just kinda sways oddly like a tree. Maybe I need to get my hands on a line renderer type of thing… Unsure I’ll keep this.

Tweaking Terrain

Spend another couple hours making the rivers better, the lighting better (now we can see the ground more easily) and the sky/nebulae a little clearer:

rivertweaks

And then back onto the grass again for another hour, and so it went until it was ridiculously late and I got too carried away tweaking things! Looking back at the grass stuff again in that screenshot I think it actually looks alright, hummm. Will see what it looks like to me on Monday morning!

Bye!

More PR + Ice Planet Making-Of Video

Planned Tasks

  • Continue through Game to Market eBook and ensure I have a well-rounded plan to take to my consultant. 4 hrs
  • Upload teaser for EXO ONE to Facebook (mostly to see how many views it might generate) 15 mins
  • Begin Planet 2 terrain (replacing placeholder terrain). Possibly film for Youtube. 3 hrs

PR/Marketing

After going off on wayyy too much of a Kickstarter tangent (though not entirely unrelated to EXO ONE’s marketing), I covered some of the following:

  • Communication channels (ie Facebook, email, Twitter, etc)
    • What to post, when, topic ideas
    • Earned vs free coverage options
  • Kickstarter marketing
  • Read a crap load of stuff that took ages.
  • Watched this video:

Which was in this excellent article by IndieWolverine on Kickstarters: http://indiewolverine.com/2016/02/01/video-game-kickstarter-tips/

Planet 2 Terrain

I’m going to try recording a video of this just to see what it’s like, but may not actually share it (will see!).

Here’s some reference for this planet’s terrain:

I’m going to try essentially replacing this water with ice for this cold world. I think long half-pipe like river structures should work well in combination with the fast moving clouds, especially if they mostly somehow orient themselves to match the cloud direction.

River Heightfields

Ok so I spent an hour making a video and it’s not too bad. Pretty slow, and I’m rusty, and mumbly and so on, but that’s what 2x youtube speed is for ya’ll!

Here’s some screens from it, showing the node setup, the resulting heightfield, scene view and in-game. Again, this was only an hour of work, so it has a little way to go still.

MakingOfPlanet2Height01

Above: River heightmap, created using a simple noise texture, but isolating one small strip of grey value and then applying a curve that turns that grey value strip into a river bed cross section.

MakingOfPlanet2Nodes01

Here’s the very simple node network used to create the river, with the cross section I mentioned above.

MakingOfPlanet2Height02

The heightfield, represented as green for low altitude, red for high (which… is kinda backwards…) :)

MakingOfPlanet2Scene01

The heightfield with a muddy/rocky texture, and snow layered over the top to make it more obvious where the river bed is/isn’t.

MakingOfPlanet2InGame

Much more lighting and material work required to make the river stand out properly, but here’s a quick in-game screenshot anyways.

The Videoening

Wow, I’m famous, there I am, on Youtubes! Listen to me mumble! And don’t forget to 2x me!!

Cya next time!

EXO ONE PR Marketing Planning

I’ll be working with a PR company/individual on EXO ONE’s PR/Marketing, probably in an hourly consulting capacity. I plan to write my own marketing plans and timeline, then get the experts to essentially OK it before I proceed.  I started this process yesterday, and while I have a large number of scattered notes and documents, there is no master plan document anywhere which covers all bases, and which I’d be happy to send to anyone. So I’m continuing to work on it today so that when I’m ready to start working with someone we can hit the ground running.

Just some of the resources I’ve used to gather PR/Marketing advice includes (and I’ll leave you to Google them!):

  • Thomas Reisenegger’s (from ICO partners) GDC talks
  • GDC talks in general. I’ve watched so many they all blur into one
  • Game to Market eBook
  • Pixel Prospectors Marketing Guide
  • Indie Game Girl

Wot I Actually Did Today

  • SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats + how to mitigate and capitalise on them)
  • Elevator pitch tweaks
  • Similar games research, market sizes
  • Identifying similar features from similar games
  • Objectives (sales, timelines)
  • More thinking/research on game naming
  • Assembling some initial quotes from press
  • Reading developer interviews from Game to Market ebook
  • Product USPs and tone keywords.

Fun, no…? I enjoy reading about and learning about this stuff, but don’t exactly like actually doing it!

I probably have another day or half day of this to go before returning to the fun stuff.

Until then…!

Pre KickStarter Plans, Planet 2 Terrain, More Cloud Tweaks

KickStarter

Had a chat with some developer friends last night about my pre-KickStarter plans. The biggest hurdle, I feel, is getting a decent audience prior to launching the KS, so that I can get the important initial momentum.

Have also spoken with some PR/Marketing people briefly, and this is what I’m thinking:

  1. Consult with a PR agency, perhaps focusing on audience building and planning leading up to a KS campaign. I’m told you can often do hourly consulting calls, so I’d hand them my plans + questions on audience building. I’d love to have someone on board full time for a few months, but that is bank balance breaking right now.
  2. Do a trailer
  3. Build an audience using magical PR advice + trailer
  4. Get some professional feedback on my completed KickStarter page prior to launching
  5. Launch successful KS (it’s that easy)
  6. Use KS money for a variety of things from paying myself, to getting musicians, writers, concept artists, etc.

So I really just need to send some emails and see if some of these recommended PR people are available to work with me.

Task Planning

  • PR emails. I’m sure I’ll obsess over these a while :P 1 hour.
  • Clouds tweaking. Pretty important, 1 hr.
  • Planet 2. 4 hrs.
    • Spend a little more time getting the clouds more “readable”. I think they just need to look a little more…clear. I’ll try and define my thoughts below
    • Planet 2 geometry, replacing the placeholder generic stuff with something unique and fun.

PR/Audience Building Thoughts

The reason I’m getting in touch with some PR people is all my tweets, animated gifs, blog posts, teaser videos have amounted to only a tiny following. I need 10x my current numbers at least, pre-KS.  Maybe when I share a build with press, and they start writing about it, plus I release the ‘main trailer’, I’ll suddenly gain tons of followers? Some PR consults will hopefully ease my mind a bit/confirm some of these thoughts, and give me some ideas for how to build that audience, among other things.

Actually perhaps instead of some direct emails to these PR people, I might go in a slightly round-about route of emailing some of these people’s clients, and ask what they thought first.

I’m also punching in all the listed games to check their sales on Steamspy and trying to get a feel for how well they’ve done. Hopefully, I’ll get some emails back from the developers, as it seems like a really wide range of success levels for these games.

Took 2 hours researching these people and researching/emailing their clients.

Getting Distracted

Spending too long braching off reading PR/Marketing articles. Spent maybe an hour doing this, whoops.

Planet 2 Clouds

Somehow it’s 4pm already and I’ve done pretty much nothing :/ A few more distractions today too.

Ok, clouds. They’re decent right now, but I’m going to Move Sliders TM and:

  • Get a bit more depth (try tweaking cloud extinction/contrast) and perhaps just cloud height
  • Tweak edge noise settings so it looks nicer when we are right inside clouds. Changing trueSky’s unit/scale might help here too.
  • One of the least realistic looking things is how the clouds don’t appear to be affected by the terrain below them at all. This might be nigh on impossible to change, but I may also be able to cheat it a bit by maybe
    • increasing ‘churn’ of clouds
    • lowering clouds right onto the ground and increasing their height so you can’t tell as easily
    • make them more see-through(?)
  • Right now the clouds are possibly also too ‘constant’ and I’d like there to be more variation so there’s peroids of more and less clouds
  • Maybe a little more ‘distinct cloud formations’ which the player can recognise as they follow the clouds (to give more of a sense of where we are).

Progress:

Since turning lightning off I realise how broken my code is which auto-transforms us back into a glider if we are holding shift when entering clouds… Need to look at this soon-ish.

  • Changed the sky units, so it’s effectively scaled down but more detailed.
  • Can’t diffuse the clouds too much, leads to uncertainty as to whether we are actually in a cloud
  • Softened cloud edges (better looking close up)
  • Raised clouds off terrain a little so they didn’t look as odd not being affected by it
  • Reduced cloud density (less clouds, more open space)
  • Looking better in most ways, a little worse (legibility at certain angles) in others:

EXOONE-Planet2

  • Might remove certain monoliths that occasionally clash compositionally. Esp now with the reduced thickness/low altitude cloud.
  • Going to call this good enough for now and try not to fiddle with it for many more hours.

1 hour

Quick Look at Gliding in Clouds Bug

While hardly noticeable in the last planet, it’s very annoying now, need to check this out.

Solution, EXO ONE wasn’t gaining enough energy to replace cost of gliding! 15 mins.

Removed a Couple Offensive Monoliths

And their compositionally breaking lines!

5 mins

Short Detour…

Realised I had overwritten my first planets terrain data with the new one, oops. Got it back pretty quick though, 15 mins.

More Detouring

I’m not quite sticking to plans here… Now messing with camera settings, because at night, the lens flares and stuff can look really overwhelming!! 20 mins

Planet 2 Terrain

Having some odd issues right now getting a simple 1 biome terrain working with Map Magic. Must be cos it’s late…! 30 mins.

Going to setup a screenshot for Made With Unity Friday and schedule that to go out, because it’s almost midnight. Will pick up the terrain again on Monday.

Whoring Up Some New Pluginzz!

uNature and Amplify’s screen space shadows look interesting! Might have a play :) Have a good weekend!

Fin!

Planet 2 Continued, Cloud Surfing

Got a little bit of tester feedback over the last couple days, mostly pretty positive, some bugs I already knew about and some I didn’t. Realised I hadn’t really tested what happens if you get stuck under monoliths, so that sounds like an issue for one tester at least. And it seems the ending sequence for the Rezzed build also didn’t work 100% of the time, whoops. The esc/start button works at least, so hopefully, whoever plays it can do that!

Planned Tasks

  • Go back over my own blog post(!) from yesterday and try to figure out how I can light the clouds and environment with two different coloured lights.
    • The problem with using a standard Unity directional light is, that won’t light the clouds. So I have to use trueSkys sun (too bright, never see stars) or moon, which might still be too bright.
    • In terms of ambient, my code currently just takes colors/intensity from trueSky, so I need to be able to tweak this now per planet. In my LevelManager (sits in a planet scene), I might have a bool you can turn on for ‘custom ambient’ which is adjusted via Unity’s Lighting.
  • If I can get the terrain/cloud lighting working well, then I might do some more tests with trueSky’s skybox. I might be able to try an 8192 resolution, but I’m not sure just how crazy that is for memory usage, or if there’s a way around that. Perhaps by compressing it/crunching it or maybe even using one of those texture streaming type plugins. *shrug*
  • Going to have a bash at doing some geometry that mimics riverbeds, so we slide around in half pipes that criss-cross each other. I have an old bit of reference that has stared at me the past year that I’ve wanted to try.

Interruptions

Had a delivery I had to deal with that took me over an hour :/ Late start again…

Lighting Clouds

So yesterday I said…

I’m trying to use trueSky’s moon to give the clouds a bit of lighting from the nebulae, but unfortunately the higher I set the moon lighting, the duller the skybox gets (due to camera exposure). Reducing the atmospheric brightness fixes this issue

Yet at some point I abandoned that for some reason. Trying again.

  • To get the moon lighting the clouds, moon’s albedo needs to be 1 and diameter non-zero, giving me a moon that I don’t want. I may be able to fudge a transparent moon texture in to hide it.
  • Then we over crank the lighting effects on the clouds to receive an unnatural amount of light (from the ‘bright nebula’)

Here’s just a test for colors from nebula hitting clouds, with a highly incorrect blue light on the terrain!

wipPlanet2Nebula3

This is working, I’m able to adjust cloud color/brightness, and with that, they look more separated from the nebula as well, which is good. So I’m moving onto coding in custom ambient levels per planet.

Custom Ambient Per Planet

That was way too ez for a master coder (extreme sarcasm) like myself. Took about 5-10 mins. You can see we have some red being picked up by the terrain, the clouds are kinda half blue, half red (pinkish), which I might tweak a bit still:

wipPlanet2Nebula4

Now that we have cloud color + terrain ambient + directional lighting all working, time to make the nebula look decent. I think this is a task that could potentially take days, and knowing me I’ll mess with it that long!

Nebula

Gonna mess with:

  • 8192 resolution, see what memory usage is etc, and how much better the res is. NFI if 8192 is easy for modern PCs or I’m a total idiot for even considering it.
  • Will probably find some public domain NASA nebula photos I can use, then get painting/compositing I guess!
  • Just need to keep that blue/greenish and red color scheme.

So an 8192×4096 is ‘only’ 16mb, maybe not a bad option? That’s with DXT1 compression. However, the end result just looks *so much* like a photograph that it really kills the mood a bit.

Another issue is that I have such heavy image effects that we don’t quite get nice ‘pin prick’ looking stars, and I’m hesitant about adjusting settings (and lo’, it took 5 hrs) for one planet. I’d like the game to have a cohesive feel, and all that blur is needed to hide the non-existent art team I have :)

So I might try for something more like Homeworld did, way back in the day:

homeworld

While they were super smart about how they made these (it’s all vertex colored with a somewhat complex mesh) I’ll just brute force some blurred nebula, because one man art team, and because there’s some pretty amazing nebula photos available that I can press blur on.

  • Found a camera bug, which I think I just also fixed… A tester reported this too so fingers crossed this didn’t happen to the Rezzed reviewer dude! 5 mins!

OK I got overly wrapped up tweaking values there for some time! Maybe because I’m fairly happy with how it’s looking. I’ve got the fuzzy nebula for now, I don’t mind it, it isn’t amazing but I’ll probably come back to it later. Probably took 2 hours. Here’s how it’s looking:

wipPlanet2Nebula5

With these low and numerous clouds, I’m thinking even more that I need to raise the camera up when we enter them, so we can see more easily exactly where we are. Might be even more ‘jarring’ though if we constantly move up and down… hmmm. I might also play with trueSky’s threshold distance, which kinda lets you see through close clouds.

Cloud “Surfing”

I just made a pretty fun gameplay discovery, where you can ride clouds like waves (they’re moving really fast). I’ve angled them a bit towards the objective, and a bit sideways, so you can just look left a little to see them coming in. And it feels real nice when you’re riding along in one. Would like to do an animated gif but I need to at least fudge in an ‘advance level’ key or some way to just Build one level. Perhaps a ‘testing single scene’ bool and a string in the LevelManager for the scene to load…

The other thing that needs ‘fixing’ now is that lightning in this level is ridiculous, there’s so much easy to access cloud you’re just being hit endlessly. This is more fog than cloud, so adding this to the list.

Maybe did another hour of cloud tweaking both visually and gameplay wise.

Fudging Level Loading

Well maybe not fudge… I’m gonna use this a lot, so maybe I’ll try and do it well :P

My current GameManager code goes:

  • if (SceneManager.GetActiveScene().name == “ManagerScene”) //load the start screen
    • {
      • Debug.Log(“ManagerScene is active, loading start screen”);
      • LoadEXOScene(“IntroEarth”);
    • }
  • else
    • {
      • SceneSetup(SceneManager.GetActiveScene());
    • }

In a build, the active scene is always the ManagerScene. So I need to tell it to do otherwise, “if (BuildingForSingleScene)”.

And if we are building to just test a single scene, I wonder if I can grab the active scene name, like an Editor Script or something, rather than me having to type in the scene to build/load each time?

Alternatively, I could instead do some much simpler system where, if I whack a debug key (a number), in the intro screen, it’ll load that planet. Rather than learn editor scripting, this winz for now and doesn’t require any re-writing!

Done in about 30 mins. A few things I’d done earlier, of course, caused other scenes to break and it took me a little while to figure out what was going on!

Lightning, Off

Should be pretty easy. Eventually I might query trueSky to see if there’s a storm added in, but now I’ll just blam in a bool and set it in scene setup. Done, 5 mins. To prep for the animated gif I spent another 15 mins or so tweaking the clouds!

Din Dins O’Clock

Boom!

Animated Giffage

Hopefully can record something that looks good in kinda 15 mins, then render it out etc, might take another 30 ish mins.

That took a while as well! Probably 30-45 mins. I think this is partially a sign that the camera angle and look of the clouds needs some tweaking, as it shouldn’t be so hard to get some good footage…

You can check it out on my Twitter @JayWeston

That’s it for me. Probably not even 6 hours today but feel like I got a decent amount done still.

 

 

Planet 2 Planning and Initial Tests

Planned Tasks:

  • Follow up on some emails for Hyperfocal Design + some back end “coding” 30 mins
  • Writing up some notes on a friends game currently in development 60 mins
  • Planet 2 Planning. What will the geometry look like and handle like for gameplay, what will the colors/lighting be like, etc. 2 hours
  • Initial Planet 2 test geometry/lighting/color. 4 hours.

Hyperfocal + Emails

Took a little longer than expected, 2 hrs total.

Planet 2

If I had the budget, team, time etc I’d probably get a bunch of concept art drawn up per-planet, but I don’t, so I’ll focus on assembling a bunch of art and photos that somewhat capture the look I’m going for.

Here’s what I’m after, considering Planet 1 is mostly ‘nice looking’, bright, warm:

  • General theme is still somewhat ‘nice’, welcoming, but cooler and more alien than planet 1.
  • No sun, night time, visible night sky with intense, nearby nebulae, which lights the terrain below in a combination of red/blue/green.
  • Harsher shadows, lit by EXO ONE’s light
  • I’d like an almost snap-frozen ocean look, but am thinking this may be quite a lofty goal. Perhaps a moon-like surface as a backup plan… Since I’m kinda lacking time and resources, I’ll be doing this a bit. Can I get good, fast results? If not, abandon and move on, maybe return later :)
  • As an object/flora theme I might try placing a lot of icicle/ice mushroom covered objects, which would have the added benefit of being easily repeatable.

Gameplay wise:

  • Similar to first planet, with variations on geometry, mostly pushing more of the voronoi patterns than flowing hills. If I can get them looking anything like waves I’ll go with that. Otherwise it’s moon surface!
  • Lower clouds, possibly touching the ground (will test!) therefore less height but more speed
  • Fast moving clouds moving in opposite direction to goal(?) Play with having to move from cloud to cloud, or avoid them. Former makes more sense considering planet 1 gameplay. One planet may require the player to stay low/behind hills… could be this one.
  • TBD whether we need more aerial gameplay.

Here’s the Pinterest board I made for “Planet 2”:

https://uk.pinterest.com/jayweston/exo-one-planet-2/

1hr

WIP

  • Initial new scene creation – cloned Sagan4 and renamed some things. I feel like this is a terrible way to do it but don’t really know any other way! I think if I ever accidentally apply prefab changes to something I shouldn’t, I can potentially stuff things up across multiple planets… Doing prefabs for every planet seems crap too, because if I want to change something for all planets, the changes aren’t made everywhere… Thoughts??
  • Putting some placeholder terrain in, then setting trueSky to night time.

wipPlanet2

  • The tough thing here might be generally making a great looking nebulae skybox… I’m going to look at how trueSky’s is done.
  • I’ll be replacing trueSky’s lighting with my own to simulate the light of nearby nebulae hitting the planet.
  • Pasted in a nebulae from my reference quickly to check out the quality level etc. It’s pretty low for a 4096… probably not worth trying to do any detail apart from large scale color variations.
    • Could explore other options such as high res nebulae billboards in the sky, but for now I think I’ll go for the in-built, mostly easier method.
  • Just from this test it’s now super obvious I should keep the red tones lower, otherwise I quickly return to a ‘sunset looking’ color scheme similar to the first planet.
  • I’m trying to use trueSky’s moon to give the clouds a bit of lighting from the nebulae, but unfortunately the higher I set the moon lighting, the duller the skybox gets (due to camera exposure)
    • Reducing the atmospheric brightness fixes this issue
  • Differentiating visually what is nebulae and what is cloud seems harder than I’d thought! But haven’t spent long yet on this. It’s just going to be tricky if I want to use a ‘low res/color wash’ style nebulae. This is made harder too when I’m wanting to use a foggy, low cloud layer. They both look quite similar. Not even worth showing!
  • This part of development just always seems to take me ages moving sliders. Can’t get away from it I suppose… It’s fun and I enjoy it but it takes ages figuring out good settings.
  • I’m now trying a more ‘iconic’ looking nebulae, rather than ‘a bunch o nebulae clouds’. So it’s obviously not terrestrial cloud… Thing is… All nebula is cloudy up close :P
  • Here’s the sorta detail level we get from a sharp 4096, 16bit skybox:

wipPlanet2Nebula1

Not great! I’m just currently slapping in high res NASA nebula to see what looks good or not! Starting to wonder if I’m going to have to bail on the skybox idea.

Breaking for dinner. That took me about 2 hrs of playing around.

More Nebulae

Again the Nebula for some reason just seems to look like red clouds in the sky. Unsure why. Perhaps because so often when we see nebula they are very finely detailed? Or it’s the Milky Way, which is super faint to the naked eye. I could also just be pushing the color too hard…

wipPlanet2Nebula2

I’ll sleep on it!

Tomorrow, Per Planet Ambient

There is no light color coming down from the red nebula, so tomorrow I might either play with some reflection probes or per-planet ambient settings, so I can add in some red/pink light (using the above screen for example). Will help give it that colorful red/blue effect I’m after.

Bye-bye!

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