Sean Tracy (ST): Hello and welcome to another episode of Around the Verse. I’m Sean Tracy.
Chris Roberts (CR): And I’m Chris Roberts.
ST: This week we’ll take a look at some of the behind the scenes work that went into the mission playthrough that we saw at CitizenCon, but first let’s see what’s new our player community.
CR: Yeah, a couple of weeks ago Synchronizers put together a large scale meet-up event. They rallied their org mates for a cooperative ingame adventure.
ST: Always cool to see so many ships like that working in unison; I think.
CR: Yeah, I know. It’s totally cool. I mean … actually every weekend there’s usually some group posting some …
ST: … footage …
CR: ... cool shenanigans, and then we all share it over on several chats and say, “Wow.”
ST: Yeah, it’s nice.
CR: It’s kind of fun …
ST: … Yeah …
CR: ... when you sort of build systems and people play with them. So ...
ST: … Totally … totally agree.
CR: … definitely cool.
ST: So also on the community front many of you who attended CitizenCon got the chance to sit on a lifesize dragonfly.
CR: I did. I sat on a lifesize dragonfly …
ST: … Me too …
CR: … and had a picture taken, but it was definitely a unique photo-op. A lot of you got pretty creative with your poses. We’ve posted all the Dragonfly photos on our website so make sure to check them out.
ST: Not all of them. I mean they got one with Steve Bender, I’ve got one with …
CR: … Okay ...
ST: … So they’re not all …
CR: … yeah, well we won’t talk about those ...
ST: ... anyways …we go on.
CR: It’s not safe for work. [Laughs]
ST: It’s true. Now on to development. Hopefully by now you’ve all had a chance to watch the mission playthrough that was the corner-piece of our opening keynote at CitizenCon.
CR: Yeah, so the mission highlighted the up and coming planet, Hurston; its main landing zone, Lorville; and some new systems and mechanics debuting with Alpha 3.3.
ST: A lot of teams contributed to this mission and its various moving parts. So here’s Luke Pressley, Gareth Borne, Ben Curtis and Brad Adams to shed some more light on the inspiration and design behind the mission.
Mission Playthrough Closer Look
Luke Pressley (LP): The mission you saw at CitizenCon is just one of the new missions you’ll find on Hurston.
Gareth Bourn (GB): We had a really big list of locations. With Hurston we all had to think about the lore involved and how the family doesn’t care a wit about the planet whatsoever.
LP: They pollute it and they even bombard it from space to just test their own weapons. That was one of the things that me and the writers were very keen on showing, and if you just imagine the gameplay that can come out of that it’s like both space and ground level action. This gave us the idea that one of these satellites will malfunction and fall from orbit or be pulled down by some kind of nefarious action.
GB: So what we ended up with was the Relay, due to it being this big piece of technology that would really heavily juxtapose the savannah, and then it would just look really cool.
Ben Curtis (BC): So downed Relay was quite a large undertaking from the props team this year. It really wanted this thing to look like it kind of fallen out of orbit and come out of space. What started out as quite a small communications buoy that we had already … you know an existing asset. We were just planning on making a crashed version of it. We really wanted to expand the scale of the asset. The Designers had a few key kingpin mechanics that they wanted to introduce, so we needed to back it up with the art.
GB: We really wanted it to look great as well as play great. So the whole idea of the demo was to making something that the end user could actually play. So the main challenge was making the climbing section not look too contrived.
BC: So a lot of time we spent in making the visual damage read well. Things like the fins kind of bending forward. We wanted the kind of scorch marks and the burn marks and like the really damaged panels.
GB: Because we had tried things like fallen over solar panels that you could walk up and all of that kind of stuff, and I was like, “Isn’t that convenient that, that fell that way.”, so we thought about the rear section had a lot of structure, and we thought a lot about bending and breaking that and making that look a little bit more organic than simply, “Oh it fell over that way. See, you can climb up it that way. Isn’t that very useful.”
BC: This obviously helped with making the puzzles in it more believable. One of the key areas was the jumping puzzle. There was a bit of iteration to make it fun from a gameplay point of view, but also from the art point of view. Once the player had made their way up onto the main neck we wanted to make sure that it was really clear to the player where they needed to go.
Excerpt from CitizenCon Mission Playthrough
CR: ‘Kay, let’s try to make this jump. It’s like old school platform game here. Right, we’re going to do it Glen. Right, we’re going to get a good run up. Awww … Glen! [Crowd Groans]
Todd Papy (TP): You got it. [Crowd Cheers Glen On] … [Crowd Erupts in Cheers with Glen’s Success]
Glenn Kneale (GK): The beauty of our game is that it’s so transparent to the public with us having something live it shows that it’s not fake, so accidents can happen. Medipens can be forgotten. Deaths can be had. [Laughs] Don’t know what to say, sorry. [Off Camera Laughter]
BC: After you’ve made your way up to the nose of the Relay, the server blades - that was the item that you picked up and kind of interact with and inspected to progress the mission on.
So, we took one of the computers, ship items, and yeah that’s the thing that actually kind of pops up and comes out of the top of the nose, but the computer blades was something we hadn’t actually tackled from an art side yet, and as these are the things, we call it the tech where we can pick up and kind of inspect them now. Wanted to … you know we spent a bit of extra time making them kind of look very nice.
Brad Adams (BA): As you can see here we’ve actually got a helper set up for the actual prop. What we actually do is set these helpers so that the prop actually aligns to the hand. So there is a bit of difficulty trying to get it fitting in the actual camera view for the player, ‘cause this is what actually the player sees. Sort of first looked at the biggest size that we have for the square type props, and this is what you’d call the max pose, and then this would be the min pose - maybe holding up his paper or something, and what this allows us to do is then blend between the max and the min pose. So, asset wise we only have two assets really just for this sort of system.
So then once we jump in game you can then see the helpers are actually aligning where the prop is in the hand, but at the moment you can see the grips don’t actually conform to the object, so this is actually using the current max pose that we have. So if I dial down the grips, you can then sort of see this is like a blend between the max and the min pose, and again you can see it’s not fully conforming yet, so I’ll then dial it down a bit more. You can start to see it coming a bit closer to the min pose. Okay, down to about 0.4 … you can start to see the grips that were used in the actual demo, so this would be a value that we then set specific to that prop so that grip doesn’t get used for any other prop other than this server blade.
There’s some mission side of things there are various elements that are on these props that might help you in the mission that you’re in, so as you saw in the demo that you wanted to look for the prototype blade. This is what the inspecting allows you to do, and also it allows the player to sort of investigate props … actually look at them closer, and maybe there’s some hidden things on different props or you know. It just allows you to investigate.
BC: So it wasn’t just making a random piece of tech that comes out of a panel on a mission. It was actually this is progressing … well it’s giving us an understanding of what we want to deliver across the game and not just this one mission.
GB: In the demo itself we had it that the blade had been stolen by the scavengers, but it’s going to be random in that the blade might already be there - and therefore the mission’s shorter - or the blade might have fallen out during the actual wreckage itself - so you might find it in a large chunk of debris kilometers away 0nce you’ve found the main transponder of the Relay - or you might find that the scavengers have taken it to a stash house instead of the underground facility. All of these things really bring variants and excitement to the missions so that you can play it more than one time and it will guarantee to be different.
LP: But the challenge for us was how do we … then if it’s missing let the player find it. So we settled upon the idea of a … this is like the chip in your phone - the GPS chip in your phone. When it’s powered up … if it’s taken away from the satellite the satellites can still know where … well … know where it thinks it is. So that then shows up on … on the tracker again. So that’s how we got around that. And it meant that you had to go into the thing there. So we were able to build out the innards of the satellite as well.
BC: The interior of the asset was one of those things that we really wanted that excitement when you go down into the neck and you can get that really atmospheric feeling of the whole thing has crashed onto the planet’s surface.
We also realised there was a lot more that we could do than just the set of puzzles that you see in the demo. In the future we’re hoping to have the “uncrashed” version. One of the actual things we did very early on is we made the complete version first so that then it made our lives a little bit easier when we were making the damaged version. But it also means that we’ve got that to now finish off, take to final art, and then hopefully we’ll be seeing that around the … the game soon.
ST: Yeah it was really nice to hear from the guys actually working directly on the mission. I’m sure for them this year it was a lot better - well easier I think, better for the players - to work on an actual mission that was about to ship that’s not a year away but more a few weeks away from the community. And it’s actually content that’s going in the game it’s not just for that demo ...
CR: Yeah, I think that was … in fact you Sean were one of the people that was really pushing for this when we were discussing what we were going to do to show off Hurston and we were deciding is a tech reveal is it more like, “Okay, this is gameplay you’re going to get …”
ST: That’s right.
CR: … And we were like, “Okay, the game’s becoming more mature.” The idea was like yes, we can go and put a specifically scripted mission together but let’s build it right, let’s build …
CR: … the starting module that would be this mission template …
CR: … that you could have in different locations, with different outcomes.
CR: And I think it was really good for the team to focus on game mechanics. And then I think the other thing that we wanted to do was start to work in some of the interaction - the player interaction system - that we’re working on. So taking the blade out …
CR: … interact … inspecting it - you can do the same with all items you have …
CR: … that will also be the way you’ll be able to put attachments on …
CR: … or change stuff out on either weapons or … look you pick up an item and it’s not working, maybe you turn it over; there’s a door on the back. You open the door there’s a room, there’s a dead battery. Take the dead battery out; put a new battery in ...
CR: … bam, it starts working again. So there’s a whole bunch of gameplay that opens up …
CR: … because of the Item Ports system …
CR: … and the Interaction system that we’re building.
ST: And I mean … some people I’m sure were like “Oh, why are they bothering drinking coffee? Why are they bothering doing all these interaction things?” But it’s all about this world being a lot more tactile. And it seems so simple that okay you just get .. press a button and you l interact with the thing and you’re just holding it perfectly. Well we go as far as all the different grips that we have to have. Whether it’s two handed. Whether it’s one handed. There’s so many different subtleties within that. So it’s good still to do the coffee cup and the bar drink ...
CR: Well yeah.
ST: … whisky.
CR: The whole goal is to make the game very ... it’s a first person universe and we want you to be tactile and we want not just it be about flying a ship or about shooting something. So we want a toolset where people can put things and use things together and …
CR: … do really cool stuff with it. And so that was one of the things that we were showing off with the mission. And I … I … hopefully you guys liked it. It was fun …
CR: … building it and we’ll be doing lot more cool stuff going forward.
ST: Yeah. And maybe one of the last things to touch on: the longer the Designers have access to these systems the more creative they will become with them. So at first you set up a system to grab the coffee cup, grab a whisky glass, grab just a little card. But as soon as they start combining them in super interesting ways ...
ST: … and it just comes from having the systems a little bit longer and being creative with them, I think you’ll find a lot of really fun gameplay comes out of it.
CR: Yeah. No. I … I totally agree. So next week we will dig into the conclusion of the mission. We’ll get into the design of the underground facility, the combat AI, and other elements that were at play.
ST: Nice. Well moving on to non-CitizenCon-related updates, we now have item previews for mobiGlas and shopping kiosks working.
CR: Yeah. That’s actually a long time coming.
ST: It’s a big deal.
CR: So they’re starting to look good. There’s still some polish and improvements to go, especially in the lighting, but I think they’ll be in shape by the time we release 3.3.
ST: Awesome. And speaking of kiosks and shops, here we some pre-vis work on the branding options for splash screens. This will lend an appropriate amount of variety to the vast array of shopping experiences throughout the universe.
CR: Yes and by the way if you’re shopping in a Rest Stop make sure your crime stat isn’t too high because I’ve heard those shopkeepers have a zero tolerance policy to criminals and they may be a little aggressively on their turrets as you can see here.
ST: Halloween is just around the corner and we’ve got two different but equally chilling contests kicking off tomorrow to bring it in. A pumpkin carving contest on Twitter and a Spectrum based showdown that challenges you to FOIP your most terrifying - or terrified - face in game. I’m sure Josh will love that.
CR: Yeah. No. I think it will be … I’m sure it will be … be pretty brilliant - both cases - so looking forward to it.
ST: And that just about does it for us this week. Jared’s back tomorrow with an all new Reverse the Verse live following up on the new flight experience panel from CitizenCon. That panel is available to watch now on our YouTube channel.
CR: Yes and all of our panels continue to be released through the end of the month. So go check out whatever you may have missed because that’s some really great stuff and people really took some time to put some really nice panels together.
CR: Someone over here maybe did a few of them.
ST: I appreciate …
CR: But, yeah, they’re great. It’s like a mini GDC so it’s cool.
ST: And it’s luck … lucky for us as developers to get to do this so we show you some behind-the-scenes stuff so it’s great.
A big thanks to the Subscribers - speaking of - who make all of these shows possible.
CR: Yes and of course thanks to all the Backers out there who we won’t be able to do this without all of your support.
ST: That’s right.
CR: And until next time we will see you …
Both: Around the ‘verse.
CR: Ahhhhh. Around the ‘verse.