Author Topic: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!  (Read 6127 times)

Offline x4000

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Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
« on: February 18, 2011, 02:06:21 AM »
Original: http://christophermpark.blogspot.com/2011/02/shadows-traps-and-particles-oh-my.html

It's been a productive week!  The difference in the feel of the game between last week and this week is pretty astronomically huge, which is awesome because I spent at least half my time on non-AVWW business stuff this week.  That means future weeks will go even faster -- but I digress.

Here's the new video:



And here's what is new:

Art Progress: Shadows!
Last week we showed off some of the first buildings, and the first basic particle effects, as well as redoing how all the plants were blended into the scene.  That seemed to really make people happy compared to two weeks ago, but there were still a lot of comments that folks wanted to see shadows in the game.  I'd been reluctant, because I figured there was no way shadows would look right in a game of this sort.

I have never been happier to have been massively wrong.  This week we now have shadows in place, and they are utterly transformative.  The buildings and plants from last week are all unchanged, but with the addition of shadows they now seem so much more grounded in the scene.  And the terrain seems so much more alive at the same time, too.  The exterior art style for the game is now feeling very close to final in these versions.  Granted, I need to do art for a ton of more terrains, buildings, objects... you name it.  But they will all be done in this style.

Skelebots
Keith, meanwhile, has been hard at work this entire week on gameplay and the HUD and menus.  Characters and enemies now have stats and levels, and gain experience points from killing things.  The robots have been renamed to Skelebots, by the way, since they look partly like skeletons.  Humorously, some of the skelebots started cannibalizing each other as they chase the player, and thus gain experience and eventually combine into one Super Skelebot that is very hard to kill if you let them chase you long enough.

This is because the enemies are now much better at pathing, and both the players and the enemies will slide around obstacles rather than getting stuck on them.  And in terms of the skelebots in particlar, they will knock down weaker obstacles (trees, cars, etc) as they home in on you.  The effect of this can be quite terrifying, as when there are thick  trees you might not even see the skelebot, but you see this cloud of dust being kicked up as trees are snapped in a line heading straight for you.

Luring enemies into open ground is a definite strategy, although keeping things to close quarters can still work, too. Last week we had barely gotten this first enemy in place, and so it was getting stuck on obstacles all over the place and generally being ineffective.  They looked scary, but were ridiculously easy to evade.  This week... they're unsettling, to say the least.

HUD
The on-screen HUD for the game is intended to be very minimal, as with many action-adventure games, to let you see the most of the action as possible.  There are six skill slots along the bottom of the screen, and you can switch between three different sets of these slots with the press of another button.  The text to the left of these slots, showing the level and experience points, is very temporary and still in the AI War font.  But that's about the extent of the HUD.

Spell Targeting
One thing that the PC folks complained about last week from the video was that combat was basically only on the four main compass directions.  This is pretty familiar to console gamers, and so I hadn't thought much about it (being a pretty even mix of lifelong console and PC gamer).

Keith was experimenting around last Sunday, though, and put in a targeting system where you can press tab to cycle through enemies -- and that turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.  That let us increase the speed of the skelebots, for one thing, so that they run only a hair slower than you.  Before that would have been instantly fatal, but now you can lob fireballs or other spells over your shoulder as you run.  That really changes things up.

There are actually two different fireball spells now, you might notice from the screenshots or video.  One is just a dumbfire mode that either aims along a compass direction or straight at an enemy you've targeted.  It doesn't change course once it's been fired.  The second is a homing fireball, which curves to seek the specific target you've selected, following them as they move.  The homing fireball really only works in open spaces, but it can be shot in a dumbfire mode along the compass directions as a backup, too.

Inventory and Scrap
The first bits of the inventory have now been implemented, although we still have some visual and code work to do with it.  This is pretty exciting, because a ton of parts of the game revolve around picking up items and loot and later crafting or trading with them.  Also, all of the spells and other actions you can take aside from moving around are based on items that you equip into slots.

Last week we just had a couple of spells hardcoded into place for early prototyping, but this week they are fully spell gems that are equipped and which can be shifted around.  In this week's video, you can also see that the enemies and other destroyed objects are dropping little glowing balls.  Those are the earliest versions of scrap being dropped, such as various types of wood, metal, etc.  These are useful as minor components in crafting -- more on that later.  Suffice it to say, this is coming along quite well.

Traps
Bear traps have been added to the game as the first trap.  These are used just like spells, but are deployed directly in front of you.  This makes it almost impossible to deploy traps while enemies are actively chasing you, since you can't run backwards.

The effective trapper sets up his/her traps in advance, and then lures the enemy across them.  Traps are one of the five main classes of craftable items (along with weapons, armor, magic gems, and consumables), so there will be lots more to come from them.

Particle Effects
Last week we had a very basic particle system, and some particle effects that looked okay.  However, this week we now have the final versions of the fireball and heal spell effects in place, along with the teleport and summon tree effects.  Plus lots more types of death explosions, which look pretty cool. When you die, there's a big red poof.

This was my big project for about half my AVWW time this week, and I'm really glad to have it in place now.  Not only did this involve a lot more particle animations in Particle Illusion, it involved a lot more programming of possible particle behaviors in the game itself.  Fades, movements, delays, scaling, shader selection, and other things.

There's still more that we can do in the future, but the particle scripting system in the game is pretty darn robust at this point, and lets us get some pretty complex effects.  What you see actually implemented so far is just the tip of the iceberg, but will give you a pretty good idea of what's coming.

New Objects And New Junkyard Scene
There are a variety of new objects in the game this week, although not as many as last week since we were mostly focused elsewhere.  A couple of new kinds of grass and reeds for the junkyard type scenes, new shipping containers also used there, and tire piles as well.  All of these objects (not the plats) are destructible by players and enemies.

The randomized junkyard scene is mostly for testing and example at this stage, but it adds some more variety to our green cliffs and snowy woods scenes that you've seen before.  These are using the "chunk scripts" that will later be the underpinning of the procedural generation methods for the game, but right now they're only so random.

Story Evolution
Over there on the official AVWW page (where you can see all the new screenshots, too, by the way), the "What Is A Valley Without Wind?" section has been updated to include one new paragraph at the end.  The story about this being a post-ice-age survival game is still true... to a point.

The receding ice age has been the whole of the characters' existence up until the start of the game, but as the game gets underway the scope of that story actually expands to contain something much larger.  No spoilers!  But for those who are wondering: no, it isn't time travel.  I do love a good time travel story, but this is something more original, at least in the world of game stories.

Coming Soon
A big goal of ours coming up is to get the world map going, and actually cross-chunk movement and the more official regional seeding scripts.  That's when we'll start seeing more unique and interesting regions, and where all those tons of new art pieces are going to be coming in handy.  That, plus building interiors, caves, etc.

I can't believe we've only been working on implementing this project for four weeks -- with all the months of design talk, it feels like longer, but we're also just so much further along than I would have expected for this sort time period.  That's... unusual for us.  We're still looking good for the first public alpha hopefully in late March, but of course we'll keep you up to date over the coming weeks as development continues.

As each subsystem comes online (art, HUD, particles, actors, world map, etc), that's taking us ever closer to the point where we can really let loose and focus hugely on content and gameplay almost exclusively.  That's exciting, because even for the first alpha I want to have a huge amount of variety.  So far that's looking quite feasible!
« Last Edit: February 18, 2011, 05:06:01 AM by Fiskbit »
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Offline Weteor

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Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2011, 03:28:18 AM »
Wow, that looks great

Offline Fiskbit

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Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2011, 05:10:28 AM »
Big improvements over last week, for sure! I really love seeing games develop, as the amount of progress you see in such a short time is really exciting. Looking forward to next week. :)

As a side note, Chris, the embedded video was broken in Chrome (though not Firefox) because of a line break in the string indicating the plug-in name. I fixed that here, but you'll want to fix that in the blog post, as well, so it shows up properly for Chrome users.
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Offline cupogoodness

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Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2011, 06:06:21 AM »
I figure instead of starting a new thread stating to a lesser extent what Chris has posted here via our press release/news post, I'd just include the relevant links here.

12 new screenshots over on the AVWW feature page: http://www.arcengames.com/w/index.php/games/avww-features

The latest video footage in HD: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iI8yG5AknSE&hd=1

Blog post: http://arcengames.blogspot.com/2011/02/valley-without-wind-progress-report-3.html

Offline eRe4s3r

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Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2011, 07:20:43 AM »
Just wondering, but it is intended that the buildings and objects have a vastly different perspective than the trees and ground? It looks kinda.. ehm, weird? (talking about the scrapyard container yard mainly) ;D

Good to see that shadows are in, they look really nice (as I said ;p)

Much improved in any way ;)

Naturally i am gonna go all out and say, is there gonna be romance? And speaking of being attached to annoying things, pets?
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Offline x4000

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Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2011, 09:09:31 AM »
Thanks, Lars -- fixed the video link on the blog and main site!

eRe4s3r -- Yes, the differing perspectives are very intentional, using the same technique as every 2D top-down SNES/DS/etc game.  It can give cognitive dissonance if you stare at it a certain way, but that's true in Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana as well.  Nothing that can be done without using a really unpleasant side-only or top-only view, which I'm not going to do, or moving to full 3D, which I'm definitely not going to do. ;)

Anyway, glad the new stuff is a hit!

As for romance and pets -- I'm not sure, but possibly!e  Neither are first-line features, but if the game takes off then I expect we will want to add some of both, given time. :)
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Offline eRe4s3r

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Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2011, 09:56:55 AM »
Heh yeah i am playing star ocean (SNES) atm and the perspective differences are quite drastic - since i am doing 3D stuff it just immediately springs to the eyes....

Seeing the game right now naturally i am wondering whether you plan to support gamepads with dual analog sticks etc. naturally also keyboard and mouse ;P ? And more importantly, a dialog wheel, what about paperdolls for equipment (BG2 + paperdolls in google ,p)

I was also wondering whether you plan to include water and lava ?
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Offline Rxauin

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Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2011, 11:34:01 AM »
On Looting:

Recently I've been playing the Rift MMO beta. There's a little feature in looting that makes me smile everytime it happens. When you loot an dead enemy, it automatically loots all other dead enemies within a certain radius. It's a little feature that makes me happy.

Think AVWW can have something similar? Maybe even a spell that pulls everything to your backpack.

Offline BobTheJanitor

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Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2011, 11:47:45 AM »
Video looks good, I think. I can only watch videos at work by abusing a web proxy that barely works and shows videos in terrible resolution. The environments looks great. Shadows look great (except they appear to be layering themselves on top of things unnaturally in some of the shots). At the rate of deforestation we're seeing in these preview videos, we may have to subtitle the game "A Valley Without Trees". If I blow up a bunch of trees in an area and leave and come back, are they going to magically reappear, or will I be leaving a swath of destruction in my wake? With the old school style adventure game feeling, I think you could get away with having everything reappear without too many complaints, although permanent destruction would be interesting as well. Or maybe saplings regrow later. But then again, I doubt you're wanting to build a fully functioning biome simulation that won't have much effect on the running around, shooting bots, and exploring.

What are the odds we might get a dilapidated parking garage environment in the game at some point? This is apropos of nothing, but I walk through a parking garage at work every day, and I always think it would make a good post-apocalyptic environment. Cracked concrete pillars, rusting cars, light filtering down through crumbled walls, killer robots. You can't go wrong with that. Anyway, great looking update. Hopefully this will finally quiet the art critics.

Edit: Also kinda sad we didn't get a new music track with this update. I'm really enjoying the tunes.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2011, 11:51:45 AM by BobTheJanitor »

Offline eRe4s3r

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Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2011, 12:36:46 PM »
Speaking of trees, maybe there ought to be tree stumps and several stages of "destruction" to make it look less, ehm "insta tree b-gone" ;p
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Offline x4000

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Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2011, 01:14:39 PM »
Let's see, to the various  questions here:

- We'll be supporting gamepads with dual sticks, but there won't really be anything to do with that second stick.  I don't think we'll support aiming via that, as you need that hand in order to press face buttons to use abilities, and I don't want to confer a special advantage to folks with special hardware like that.  It shouldn't be needed, anyway.

- We won't be supporting mouse interaction with anything in the game itself, not even in the menus.  All keyboard or gamepad.

- For looting, all of the enemy drops will be visible on the field itself, rather than something you have to explicitly pick up from a corpse.  Think dropped hearts and rupees in Zelda, rather than dead bodies in Fallout.  In general, we will be hugely limiting the number of containers you have to search through.

- That said, when a player dies, they drop a back that contains all their stuff in it, and you can open that bag and get stuff out of it completely or piecemeal.  When players choose to drop one or more items, this also happens.  Any player-dropped items all combine into one bag per player if they are a certain amount of closeness to one another, so you don't wind up opening a bunch of bags to find what you need, or sorting through an immense stack of loose stuff.

- For trees and other things you destroy, when they are gone they are gone.  Everything is permanent, so if you have loot laying around on the ground, that also does not disappear with time.  So there's never a time incentive to rush back and get something.  So you can really clear-cut areas if you are so inclined, and it will look pretty desolate after that.

- In terms of enemies, when you kill all the enemies in a chunk, they also don't respawn immediately.  However, using the rapid-aging technique, they will come back over time as you explore other areas and later come back.  If you kill all the skelebots in one chunk and then leave and come right back, they are still all dead.  Five minutes later, a few of them are back.  An hour later, and it's crawling again.  We might do something with tree regrowth or something later on, but that would likely not be until beta at the earliest.

- Definitely there will be parking garages. :)  A lot of things in this game actually aren't that dilapidated (see the updated story notes as mentioned in the OP), but they are deserted and overrun.

- I wanted to do a new music track with this one, but this one was just such a kick-butt new video with all the shadows and new effects that I wanted some music to match.  The other four or five tracks are awesome, but don't have that same level of driving intensity as these two.  Next week and after that shouldn't be as much of an issue, so expect to hear the new tracks there more. :)

- Regarding the trees and the like, mostly it is going to be "Death poofs."  At some point in the future I might make them fall over and fade out, but that's also for beta or after.  In terms of tree stumps, there's a possibility we might do something with that if we get into regrowth-with-time, but I haven't decided yet.  That again would not be for a good while, though.
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Offline tigersfan

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Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2011, 01:15:37 PM »
So, one question I have from the new video (which is great btw) is... is leveling based on time? The way the leveling part of the UI looked, (with New in :15 or something like that), it looks like you level up based simply on how long you've been playing. Is this correct?

Offline x4000

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Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2011, 01:36:25 PM »
So, one question I have from the new video (which is great btw) is... is leveling based on time? The way the leveling part of the UI looked, (with New in :15 or something like that), it looks like you level up based simply on how long you've been playing. Is this correct?

Nope, that's how many EXP was remaining.  So it's new in 15 EXP points.  The exp is gained solely from actions you take in game: finding "points of interest," killing monsters, completing little jobs, and doing other things like that.

That's great feedback, though, as that is very unclear from that part of the interface, so thanks. ;)  That part of the interface still needs a lot of polish, although the slot buttons are looking the way I want.
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Offline tigersfan

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Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2011, 01:49:45 PM »
So, one question I have from the new video (which is great btw) is... is leveling based on time? The way the leveling part of the UI looked, (with New in :15 or something like that), it looks like you level up based simply on how long you've been playing. Is this correct?

Nope, that's how many EXP was remaining.  So it's new in 15 EXP points.  The exp is gained solely from actions you take in game: finding "points of interest," killing monsters, completing little jobs, and doing other things like that.

That's great feedback, though, as that is very unclear from that part of the interface, so thanks. ;)  That part of the interface still needs a lot of polish, although the slot buttons are looking the way I want.

Ahhh, good news! :-) I was really hoping it wasn't simply time based.

Offline ShinseiTom

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Re: Shadows, Traps, and Particles, Oh My!
« Reply #14 on: February 18, 2011, 01:52:38 PM »
Nope, that's how many EXP was remaining.  So it's new in 15 EXP points.  The exp is gained solely from actions you take in game: finding "points of interest," killing monsters, completing little jobs, and doing other things like that.
Wait, "points of interest?"  Does that mean this game will have places awesome in some way, and you get experience points just for managing to find them?   Because I like games that truly reward searching every nook and cranny.  Few games these days do.