Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Folk Tale Dev Blog 15

The last fortnight has been all about the graveyard content kit and starting the work of integrating all the component parts that make up the Sandbox Foundation Layer. For the sandbox tower-defense mini-game ( designed to test siege mechanics ) we wanted an area of the map to coax players out from behind their walls to seek out useful treasure that would help extend survival. The mini-game makes extensive use of the Grassland Kit, so we needed a Point Of Interest that could use most of that kit while feeling quite a bit different with the addition of new props, ambient lighting tweaks, and monsters. With Undead monsters trending in the Favorite Monsters forum topic, graveyards being a human construction with a good fit to the human village that you'll be protecting, and finally Halloween approaching, a Graveyard Kit made a lot of sense.

Content Kit - Graveyard

The Graveyard Kit adds a set of props designed to work well with the Grassland Kit. With a little creativity and a handful of props ( see image below ), it will be easy to create a great looking location.

Graveyard Kit Sample


While environment props set the picture, what really brings a location alive and tells a story are characters and monsters. With both the Necromancer and Skeleton trending in the favorite monster forum topic, we promoted them into production and brought them to life.


Undead Skeleton Warrior

Visual Effects - Special Abilities

Necromancers use dark magic to bind the dead to their will. Developing visual effects for special abilities begins with a concept illustration and notes of what we want to achieve. Effects need to sit within a consistent fx theme for the character that includes color, matter, and props. Undead visual effects make use of a haunting green color. It's not vibrant green because we've reserved that for poison effects; nor is it blue/purple to avoid being lost in the blue of night time. The Necromancer animates the dead, so we make extensive use of skulls and bones, as well as unholy flames.

Moving into production, we break down the effect composition into parts and create grayscale textures that will be color tinted and animated at run-time. Many effects can be setup as a one-shot time-based effect without needing additional scripting. For more advanced effects we can write custom scripts to introduce paths and object spawning, or write custom shaders to achieve certain effects like warping the screen to achieve a blastwave effect. After a lot of tweaking and performance testing to make sure the effect doesn't kill the frame rate, we record a video to use as a reference during sound design.

Sound Design

Sound effects are created by layering individual sounds that contribute distinct aspects to the final sound. For example a low frequency reverse-swooshing sound can provide the build up to an explosion of energy sound. Being spells, we can hint at the magical nature with high frequency sparkling sounds, and add in a dash of the skeletons that are being summoned by replicating bone snapping and movement. Individual sounds are either licensed from larger commercial libraries, or recorded from scratch using an assortment of strange sources. For example, the sound of snapping bones can be replicated by breaking sticks of celery close to the microphone.

The final effect can be seen in the cinematic video below starting at 0'28".

Bringing It All Together - Our Mini Cinematic

With our environment designed, characters positioned, ambient lighting setup, and visual effects at the ready, we can record a couple of video snippets to combine together into a short sequence. Other than cross-fading between clips, no other editing has been done to the visuals; it's raw footage captured straight out of the engine running on ultra graphics.

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Non-Halloween Work

Additional work has been done on sandbox code and content. The Human Smelt building is now finished and work started on the three tiers of the Human Cottage, and in programming we're busy pulling all the code together for update 0.2 which will be the Location Editor Preview.