Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Folk Tale Dev Blog 9

by Simon Dean, Project Lead

Following the disruption of June due to the launch on Steam Early Access and the team transformation, normality has returned and the pace of production is picking up once more. Hopefully you'll have watched the Sandbox Vision Presentation and know that our first two major updates will be a preview of the Location Editor and a Tower Defense Mini-Game to test out new systems being introduced for sandbox. I'd like to share with you the progress we've made on both these and other tasks during July.

Location Editor

For sandbox, map variety is essential for replayability. The terrain system in the Tutorial was great for a linear campaign, but doesn't provide the flexibility required for a sandbox game where infinite variation is required, nor did the old terrain system support player designed maps. We've been developing our own tile based system built around kits that will let players snap together their own worlds, save them, and share them with the community.

We'll be eating our own dog food so to speak, and using the editor to design a variety of location maps that will be included in the final game so players can dive straight in and enjoy full and varied games, or open them in the editor to dissect at your leisure as part of your learning if you like the idea of designing your own worlds.

Here's a *very* early sneak peek at the Location Editor in action:



The Location Editor ( not to be confused with the World Editor ) is based on kits. Each Location is themed, for example snow tundra, volcanic mountains, or grassland. There will be terrain-based kits for each, including transition kits for helping blend between two terrain kits, for example if you wish to include both snow and grass plain terrain features in your Location. There will be some constraints imposed for memory management, so we plan to warn players if their Location design is likely to be over memory budget so that improvements can be made.

Some of the planned Kits include:

  • Terrain Kits inc. Transition Kits
  • Landscape Kits ( Backgrounds )
  • Building Kits
  • Character Kits
  • Trap Kits
  • Prop Kits

We're also working on a tile-based navmesh system that allows us to swap out sections of the navmesh, say when you construct a building. Navmesh systems have historically been fixed geometry "baked" at design time in an editor, and unable to change when a game is running. For an RTS game where you can build almost anywhere, we need to develop the next generation of navmesh systems, providing the memory-optimality of navmesh technology with the flexibility of grid-based pathfinding systems that can be recalculated in small areas ( e.g. a building area ) at run-time. Work is progressing well and we are now ready to integrate the new pathfinding system into the Location Editor.

Another part of the terrain system is the ability to load and save map data ( aka persistence ). This requires a framework to handle all of the games persistence requirements including map designs, navmesh data, and world game state for save games including characters, buildings, chests, and traps. That data needs to be flexible for development, but produce small file sizes that can be quickly downloaded from the Internet. Again, work is progressing well and map loading and saving can be seen in action in the video above.

Siege

If like me you've played your fair share of tower defense games, you'll know there's lots of pleasure to be had in designing your defenses to hold back hordes of attackers. In the first sandbox mini-game we hope to replicate some of that feeling, and to do so we've enlisted the help of some of history's most awesome siege machines. To defend your town, you'll be able to:

  • Construct the mighty Trebuchet to hurl at the goblin's siege machines from behind your walls ( we're also considering being able to fling fire pots and rotten corpses in later updates ). They are expensive both in gold and resource terms, take a long time to build, are slow to operate, but inflict a huge amount of damage;

  • Construct tower turrets including Repeating Crossbows to mow down goblin infantry ( fast rate of fire, low damage ), and the Ballista ( slower rate of fire, medium damage ) to target and wound larger opponents such as the ogres before they pound down your walls and gates;

  • Place spike traps ( eviscerate ), flame ( ignite ) and goo launchers ( slow ) to impede the goblins as they approach your walls;

  • Position the city guard around your battlements to fend off the goblins who'll be scaling your walls, and mount a defense where your wall is breached;

Wave after wave of goblin reinforcements will arrive, growing stronger over time. The goblins have their own siege machines, including the Goblin Trebuchet to pound your walls and buildings. We'd also like to include a Goblin Battering Ram but may have to leave this for another update.

Human Trebuchet


Human Defensive Traps And Tower Weapons


Goblin Trebuchet


Goblin Battering Ram



Once concept art is available, it goes into modelling where we create multiple detail versions of the object. Swapping models at runtime based on camera distance to show high detail close up, and low detail far away, is known as Level Of Detail ( aka LOD ), a technique games use to achieve higher frame rates. It's an art to decide what detail requires geometry, and what detail can be provided by a texture. The less geometry in an object the faster it is to draw and the less memory it consumes, but go too far and objects can lose their quality and start to look like a mobile game. During review we identify if any further optimizations can be made, after which is goes for texturing. Because we have so much content potentially in the world at any one time, it's important we maximize our reuse of existing textures, so most objects are mapped onto one or two very large texture atlas. One more peer review, and the completed object is passed to our Animator who rigs, skins, and animates the model bringing it to life ( two of the siege weapons nearing completion are included in the buildings video below ).

City Walls play an important role in defending your town, keeping siege machines and larger enemies at bay. Smaller monsters such as the goblins can however scale your walls, as shown in the video below. It's not as straight forward as simply creating an animation, instead a climbing system has to be developed that can cope with different height walls ( for example a wooden palisade is lower than a tall stone wall ) and has a different overhang that must be overcome in the final part of the ascent. Not only that, but pathfinding has to be seemless when a wall stands between a character getting from point A to point B, and smart enough to realize when there is a gaping hole knocked in the wall by a Trebuchet attack that would provide a much easier route to traverse.


Upgradable Buildings

Being the first of the new-phase of upgradable buildings, much more work has gone into the Bakery than will be required on future buildings. I shared the concept art for the Bakery in the Sandbox Vision Presentation, and this month we've revisualized tier 3 to add a second floor. We want your village to progress from a small settlement, to a prosperous medieval town, and part of that involves building upwards. So we've added a first floor to the tier 3 Bakery.

The art team have modeled all three tiers and painted new textures that will feature in all the human buildings, which can be seen in the video below, as well as two of the siege machines. There's often some deviation between the original concept art and the final object where we improve and tweak things throughout the workflow.


We've also added a more incremental construction process rather than the 3 stage approach that is currently in the tutorial. This will help provide a more realistic visual experience instead of a building switching instantly from 0% complete to 50% complete.

Now we have our precedent for building concepts including construction materials, and the new textures available, moving from building concept art to completed 3D models will be a lot quicker.

UI

We've completely overhauled the minimap:

  • It's now circular and shows the direction to location markers when they are out of sight
  • The rotation can be locked, or spin with the camera angle
  • Zoom now works
  • The origin button has been moved from the topbar to the bottom right of the minimap
  • A map button has been added to pull up a larger view of the whole location map
  • Markers now have tooltips
  • The current zone name is displayed above the minimap
  • The zones now fade in and out as you change zones


There are a few minor tweaks to make, and once finished we'll roll it out as a minor update.


Lots More Going On Behind The Scenes

There's a lot more happening behind the scenes than is presented in this month's blog. Our Animator has been doing a lot of R&D work to explore how best to implement character customization. It's an in depth topic, so instead we'll feature it in a future dev blog. Similarly, our Writer is also developing the dynamic story framework which we'll also feature in a future blog.

We're hoping to bring you at least one comprehensive development blog each month if you wish to follow how your support during Early Access is helping develop a game that the community has directly contributed to with feedback and suggestions.


23 comments:

  1. Everything is looking great, can't wait to get my hands on the editor, looks much easier to use then most other level/world editors I've played with before. Also like the concept of the buildings growing 'Up' as well as out. Also the concept stuff for the siege-craft is looking good, can't wait to try out the TD mini-game.

    Keep up the great work guys.

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  2. Looks like you'll run into the "square terrain" look that games like NWN suffer from, given your tile-based approach. Any ideas on how to mitigate this?

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    Replies
    1. More tile variation and an ability to have tiles larger than one cell so we can add more variation to the interior geometry are about the only options. It'll never be as visually smooth as a free terrain system, but that is far outweighed by the benefits it provides.

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    2. Hmm, if it would be like the Warcraft 3 - Editor it would be extremely efficient. But the NWN-Tile-Look is also fine and absolutely okay for a Indigame.

      Just make sure that you not only can make worlds, also units/own tiles and more :) A community that is free to do anything they want making games better then a company ever could do (See it in ArmA 1/2/3, Neverwinter Nights 1 & Addons, Counter Strike and many more. Even old Games still alive thanks to modders/community, even ArmA 1 is still online ^^)


      bought the early access of Folk Tale and got not dissapointed, now its just up to the developers to finally bring a good alpha-patch so that we can do more then only play the tutorial ^^


      Stay crunchy.

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  3. Excellent progress team, the art style is just fabulous and the animations on siege equipment and goblin wall scaling look very smooth and convincing.

    The compass and view changes were in need of definite change, so its great to c these have been updated for ease of use and player orientation.

    The sandbox direction was always going to include some limitations on design, making the build options easy will be critical to getting large scale player/customer uptake. If your successful in this area it will open a huge door to player engagement, leading to requests for all kinds of game ad-dons later as players want to create new and interesting content.

    Anyhow enough from me... i just want to get my hands on it and play around a bit! :-)Devourous

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  4. Love these in depth looks at development! They are definitely a pleasure to read, and I can't wait to see the results.

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  5. Think it would be great if there came a steam work shop part the game up, so the edited maps from other players can be played and exchange on steam work shop.

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    Replies
    1. This is being discussed over in the Steam Discussion Hub and is something we'll be reviewing.

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  6. While I don't have a problem with multiplayer, especially co-op, I am primarily interested in the single player sandbox experience given the fun story I've seen so far.

    I also bought the early access on Steam and have been happy so far with the game. I'm looking forward to the save feature and other improvements.

    Your development blogs are great to see and really illustrate why things aren't instant.

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  7. Have you thought about use of a custom squad based system? Say you have 6 peasants and you send 3 to the barracks to train as militia, 2 to train as archers, and say 1 to train as a swordsman or something. Then you solidify them as a squad and now all your pathing for this entire 6 unit squad is done by itself instead of each individual. There would have to be some individual work but on a much more limited scale. This way you would only need to give orders the squad such as hold it's ground, and if your squad has enough archers you can use a volley ability, or enough swordsmen and you have a shield wall, or enough militia you have a hedgehog formation. I like the custom implications of the squad because it allows you to make a squad that can fill one role well or be all around. Like if I wanted a squad to defend a wall it would be half archers half infantry but no cavalry or monks. Just some thoughts.

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    Replies
    1. Squad mechanics will be reviewed once we've gotten more variety of adventuring units to test with. There's definitely some scope there for such a system.

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  8. I'm so excited for this game although the tutorial can get repetitive the sandbox mini game and the level/world editor will really help make the time until final release faster.

    So Glad I bought the game and helped this great indie company that have really been great in keeping us all up to date with information about the game and also on what are their next steps.

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  9. While these improvements look great, I think the current backers should be rewarded ASAP with an actual playable game, rather than a repeatable tutorial.

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    Replies
    1. By far the most anticipated aspect of Folk Tale is the main sandbox mode. 80% of resources are directed towards progressing sandbox. There is a bulk of work that needs to be completed to shift from a campaign based game to sandbox as discussed in the Sandbox Vision Presentation, which is what we are tackling right now ( this blog highlights the progress we are making ). Once that work is completed we can resume adding content and gameplay.

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  10. Hello, folks ! :)

    Purchased the early access immediately once I've seen someone's walk-through on youtube.

    However, got a couple of comments:
    1. A monk though obedient to commands steadily tends to escape once not attended to.

    2. At the Golem site: when climbing up the stairs (the one on the left) one of my militia men somehow got stuck and fell inside the wall and never walked out.

    3. Swords and rings when transferred from Inventory to personal inventories of units disappear when superimposed over already occupied hands and fingers

    Yet overall you are doing a great job and I can't wait to see the final release !

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    Replies
    1. Howdy.

      You'll be pleased to know that all of these issues have been reported by the community at http://steamcommunity.com/app/224440/discussions/1/864971287481812860/ and they will be fixed in time.

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  11. So, how do I download this new development?

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    Replies
    1. This blog is a look at what is in development rather than looking at an imminent game patch. When it becomes available, Folk Tale will automatically update via Steam.

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  12. Will there be a way in the level editor, to turn off leveling up buildings, for RP's sake. Say you want a town to stay in its first level compared to a city, where you want everything to be at its finest.

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  13. The whole things look great. I love to play the online games in my free time. I spend at least 3-4 hours per days to complete the level of different games. These days my mission is to accomplish the level of agent smith, which I am playing on Dr-games.com . I hope it will complete soon and then I will try your mentioned games.

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  14. Is there a Multilanguage update comming? Please

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    Replies
    1. There is eventually. We need to do more work on the Community Translation Tool to add some guide notes as well as some way for you to preview translations in the game.

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  15. Hey. Will the Fog of War be made to be part of the actual world or just on the map?

    ReplyDelete