Lately I tried not to make plans on the game release date, because all my latest estimates were incorrect.
However, I've already overcome many difficulties, and now I can make forecasts again.
Let's look at the plan I made in early Autumn:
I already wrote that game balance setup was much more difficult than I thought, and took a very long time. In the process I discovered many tricks that made balance setup easier. If I knew these tricks initially, then, perhaps, this work would have taken much less time.
At the very beginning of January I decided to launch alpha testing, although initially I didn't intend to conduct this stage of testing at all. At that time the game was set to only 20 percent, and testers had to wait for the next game level setup finished. However, the launch of alpha was justified - bugs were found and fixed, and there were also many ideas that I tried to implement.
At the moment game balance setup is finished. The game is completely ready and can be played from the beginning to the end. The level of readiness now corresponds to the level at which many indie developers usually put the game in early access. Now main tasks for me are: to identify obvious errors in game balance and make all the mechanics as clear as possible for the players. Instead of early access I decided to begin beta testing stage. This stage was launched a week ago. For testing I took players who speak my native language, Russian, as we have to communicate a lot with each other, discuss suggestions, vote for edits, etc. Testing is very productive - I get a lot of good and useful suggestions, most of them I implement, thereby making the game better.
I'll start making a trailer this week. The biggest problem here is that the music track is not ready yet. However, the trailer should be ready by the end of April. Just after that, the game will appear in Steam store in the "coming soon" section. Steam requires the game to stay in this state for at least 2 weeks. During this time, I will keep making final improvements.
Thus, the game should be expected in the second half of May.
I think that in the next post I will already be able to show the finished trailer and share a link to the page in Steam store, and you (I really hope so) will add the game to the wishlist :) Also most likely in the next post I'll specify the final release date.
You've probably already noticed that in some screenshots posted earlier, there is a little ghost ball flying next to the hero. In this post I'll tell you more about it.
Magic orb (or simply Morbo) will not appear immediately, but as soon as you find it, it will become your faithful companion until the end of the game. In the game Morbo will perform several functions.
According to the game story, Morbo is an artefact that was created specifically for search and exploration. Players will be able to use this for their own purposes. Pay attention to it's behavior - if something valuable or interesting is hidden nearby, Morbo will attract your attention. It will also serve similar to a compass from Force of Nature 1 - mark all main objectives on the map.
As in FoN 1, day and night will follow each other. At night, of course, it will be much darker than during the day, and world exploration won't be very comfortable. Besides that, you will find caves and dungeons in which there will be no light at all. The torch will help you navigate in the dark, and you'll be able to hit enemies with it. But, nevertheless, it is much more convenient when both hands are free. Morbo emanates soft ghostly glow, which is enough to find the way in a dark cave. If necessary, the strength of this light can be upgraded.
Our hero won't have any magical skills, but he will be able to use magic. And the main assistant in this will again be Morbo. With the help of a special covering, Morbo will be able to accumulate mana, which can be spent on magic spells. Moreover, these spells will come from Morbo, not from the main character. Usually Morbo will follow you itself, but if you wish, you can detach it from the hero and control it directly. For example, it will be possible to send it into a crowd of enemies and use some spells to inflict damage on them, while remaining at a safe distance.
It's worth to remember that both abilities to accumulate mana and to cast spells will belong to Morbo, not to our hero. In singleplayer this won't be so noticeable, because Morbo will always be near you. But in co-op walkthrough, this feature will make using of magic a little uncommon. Only the player with Morbo will be able to use it's magic and give it commands. However, any player at any time will be able to call Morbo to him, no matter how far it is. Mana will also be shared for the entire team. I think this will make players act more coherently.
By the way, the idea of making a flying magic ball as a controllable companion went to me from the game Warlock, released in 1995 on the Sega Megadrive and SNES consoles. At that time, it was a rather unusual mechanic, that stuck in my mind.
While game balancing is in process, let's return to the comparison of the first and the second parts in numbers.
Counting constructions we have the same problem with variations as with enemies (as I wrote about in the second part of the statistics review). For example, fences have variations with different lengths - corner, 2 cells, 3 cells or 4 cells. I will not take into account such variations. Also, I will not take into account pathways and pavements, because there is no geometric models for them. I will also not take into account the pocket lamp, although it can be used as a decoration.
So, in total, in the first Force of Nature there are:
48 buildings in total.
In Force of Nature 2 many constructions have several upgrade levels. However, different levels of the same table are essentially different tables: they have different recipes and look different. Therefore I will consider such levels as unique buildings. Ready-made dwelling houses (as it was in the first part) will no longer be available. As I wrote in one of the previous posts, houses will now be built from pre-designed elements: a floor, walls, doors, windows and a roof. But I will count all such a set for 1 building. Among the innovations of the second part there will be animal barns, feeders and so on.
So, complete buildings list in the second part:
Total: 94 buildings (almost twice the amount of the first part).
Game development is still in process, so this list is not complete. Maybe, there will be more of them.
It was quite difficult to count all the sounds, because there are sooo many of them. And yes, there are variations again. At the same time, large number of variations is very important for sounds. Many sounds such as footsteps,
or strikes sound very often and regularly. Without a sufficiently large number of variations, the repeatability of the same sounds will be too obvious. When calculating, I conditionally divided all sounds into the following categories:
Back to numbers:
In summ there are 19 loops, 25 individual sounds and 113 groups - total 423 separate sounds.
In sum 40 loops, 72 individual sounds and 403 groups. 1941 separate sounds in total.
It is about 4.6 times more than in FON1 !
P.S. The post turned out to be about numbers, so to decorate it I'll add a screenshot of the battle against spiders:
Upcoming game has thousands of different parameters - crafting recipes, enemy health, the amount of experience required for each level, energy spent when using each weapon, and so on. All these parameters must be specified. But if you set them lightly - just put them down at random, game walkthrough may not be interesting: sometimes too hard, sometimes too easy, sometimes boring and slow. All these parameters should be configured wisely. It was this task that turned out to be the most unpredictable for me in terms of time. At the end of Autumn, when I was just starting to balance the parameters, I was sure that I would be able to do everything in a couple of weeks. So I was confident that the game would be released before the end of the year. But since then, more than 3 months have passed, and the work has been done only by about 60%.
Why so long? I'll explain on the example of weapons setup.
At some point, player gets access to 3 types of copper melee weapons - a copper sword, a copper spear, and a copper mace. I wanted to adjust their balance so that none of them was noticeably stronger than the others. So that each has its own pros and cons and players are equally profitable to fight using each of them. Melee weapons have the following parameters: animation duration, idle time after impact until next strike, damage, energy spent, probability of stunning the enemy, number of seconds of stun. The same situation as with sounds - you can't set them individually, only as a group at once. And to do this, you need to be able to look at all these parameters for each weapon at the same time.
In the first part of the game I already faced this problem, and found a fairly simple solution - Google Sheets. In them I entered all the necessary parameters, and also made columns with formulas that helped to instantly calculate such characteristics as damage per second, energy spent per 1 unit of damage, energy spent per second during a continuous attack, and so on. With the help of such a table you can change weapon's main parameters and immediately see how calculated values change. Thus, it's quite easy to achieve that the average damage per second for all weapons is approximately equal. This is how I set up parameters in Force of Nature 1, so the first thing I did was setting up such tables for all objects in the current game: for weapons, clothing, trees, enemies, etc. Setting up these tables is a much more time-consuming task than it might seem. After all the formulas are thought out and set up, you still need to enter all the objects in these tables. And that's hundreds of lines. Very long, monotonous and boring work. Here, for example, is what a table with enemies looks like (and this is only a small part of all monsters):
These tables turned out to be much more massive than in the first part. Over time I encountered one very significant drawback of this approach - the need to regularly manually synchronize values in these tables and in the game files. Working with parameters looked like this. First, I set the numbers in the table, focusing on my intuition and my idea of what should be stronger/better/more dangerous for interesting walkthrough. When doing so, I rely largely on the calculated values that the table provides me. Then I need to carefully move all these parameters from the table to the game, without making any mistakes. Then I launch the game itself and begin to walkthrough it, as players will then do. At the same time, I make sure that the weapon behaves exactly the way it was originally intended by me. Of course, there are lots of edits at once. One weapon needs to be made a little stronger, another - a little faster, etc. I immediately make all these changes to the table, so as not to forget about them later. When the edits accumulate quite a lot, I stop the game and start moving them from the table to the game project files. At this stage I have to carefully check all the parameters, not just those I have changed while playing. This is because during the game my attention was focused on the gameplay, and not on remembering which parameters I changed and which ones I didn't. Of course, it's not without mistakes. The head from such work begins to boil very quickly, mindfulness falls and the work turns into a nightmare.
My patience didn't last long. The mixer panel for balancing sounds showed itself very well, so I decided to make an analog of such a panel for game parameters.
Unfortunately, in Unity there is no simple ready-made solution "out of the box" to make a lot of parameters for various objects and conveniently arrange them in a table on the screen. But there are tools that allow you to create your own editor extensions. I had to spend some time to figure out how to do this. After all, this game is my first experience with Unity. However, in the end, I made a window in which all the weapons are collected. All the parameters that need to be adjusted are located side by side, and all the formulas are neatly transferred from the tables and work exactly the same. In fact, I've got a full analogue of Google tables. But this time all changes are made immediately directly to the project files. Setting up weapons with such a panel turned out to be much easier, so I spent a few more days and made similar panels for monsters, clothing and food. Over time I also set up relationships between different tables. For example, clothing can affect damage and attack speed of a weapon. At the same time, this influence can be different on a particular weapon. For example, if the sword deals 10 damage, and hits 2 times per second, and the mace does 20 damage, but hits 1 time per second, then both the sword and the mace will deal 20 damage per second. But if you wear gloves that add 5 to the damage, then the sword will deal 2 hits per second for 10+5=15 damage, i. e. 30 damage per second, and the mace for the same second only 20+5=25.
The ability to manage tables with both weapons and clothing in one window allowed me to set up more complex formulas that take into account both clothing, armor, amulets, and weapons at once. This way I can now balance not only the weapons between each other, but also the overall character build.
All this took a lot of time, but hopefully it will help me achieve a much better balance than in the first part of the game.
Uhh.. There was no news for 2 months.
But don't worry. It doesn't mean I'm relaxed and do nothing. Conversely. All I do is work, so it's hard to find the strength even for the next post.
The main thing I've been doing all this time is playing my own game. Along the way, adjusting each parameter - the speed of each enemy, the cooldown of each skill, the volume of each branch crunching, and so on.
It was the volume of the branch crunching that caught my attention the most at the very beginning of my walkthrough - I noticed the lack of sound volume balance. There are thousands of different sounds in the game - hits, crunches, steps, animals, magic, weather, inventory etc. All of them were recorded separately and their volume is random. Therefore, some sounds scream very loudly, creating an unpleasant sensation in the ears, and some are barely audible. The fix is simple - you just need to set each sound to the correct volume. Each... Of several thousands... By the way, it's impossible to consider each sound separately - it must be combined with several other sounds in order to srt up the volume of these sounds relative to each other.
In Unity it's not easy to balance sounds' volume. To change each source's volume you need to pause the game, change the volume value, and then continue the game. Sometimes it is not so easy to detect which certain sound is out of the mix. As a result, setting up each sound takes several minutes. If you estimate roughly the total required time for this, you'll get 5 minutes * 2000 sounds = 10000 minutes = 166 hours = 20 days of 8 hours (if you work without interruptions). Not very good prospect...
To make it easier for myself, I decided to spend a few days and make a mixer panel, which will allow me to adjust each sound directly during the game, without stopping it.
In the end, that's what I've got:
The panel locates ALL the sounds available in the game. I can assign a horkey to any of the sounds, play these sounds quickly and easily in any combination, smoothly change the volume of individual sounds, thus quickly and easily determine the volume of each sound. It is also possible to play some sounds automatically to create some abstract background from them and be able to fully focus on one sound.
At first I thought creating of this panel would take me 2 days, but it took 5. But this time was not wasted. Thanks to the mixer, balancing sounds turned out to be a simple task, which I completed in just 2 days.
So out of the blue, I lost one more week of time.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all! Stay healthy and let the new year be positive!
There are lots of different items in both parts. I will not describe in detail, just give the numbers:
Force of Nature 1:
Force of Nature 2:
I will note that earlier there were many repeating elements among clothes and weapons. For example, there were many similar armor coats, differing only in the color of metal. Swords made of different metals also differed only in color (similarly, many other types of weapons).
Now there are very few such color variations - all the elements of clothing are unique and the variety of weapons is also much wider.
By the way, because in the second part there is a new character - a girl, all the clothes had to be drawn in 2 versions!
Now to the question that worries everyone the most. When will the game be released?
At the beginning of September I planned I would have time to finish everything and release in November.
However, I slowed down a lot on a point that I didn't even take into account at that time - on the dialogs. I came up with the main idea of the story myself, but I specifically hired a screenwriter to design the elements through which the story will be presented to the players. Thinking through all these phrases, dialogues - all this actually takes a lot of time, so I needed such a person. By the end of the summer all the work was 95 percent complete, but the screenwriter suddenly disappeared. Just stopped communicating. I don't know what happened to him. I was mostly busy with other things and looked at his results superficially. Before adding all the dialogues and phrases to the game I read the story to my wife, and she found a lot of inconsistencies. Also, quite a few situations painfully resembled episodes from the Lord of the Rings. As a result, I made a hard decision to completely discard the results of the screenwriter and to do everything again from scratch. This time I was helped by my wife and a friend (who, by the way, also wrote all the music for the second part of the game).
As a result, we lost sooo much time - a month and a half. It seems strange to me - where was all this time spent? After all, the entire result eventually fits into 10 A4 pages. However, I am satisfied with the work done. The stories, in my opinion, have become much more interesting.
Perhaps you will say: "Why do we need a story at all in games of this genre? No one likes to read long texts anyway." However, it is important for me that everything that happens in the game makes sense. And I tried to make the texts not very long and complex, so that there was no great temptation to just scroll through them.
I won't specify new terms, because I'm afraid to make a mistake again. I will only say that I work from morning to night, seven days a week, to release the game as soon as possible. If you look at the list of tasks that I gave in September, then I'm about here now:
In the next posts I will try to compare the first and second parts in numbers. Let's start with enemies.
There is one difficulty in calculating the total number of enemies. Should I take into account all shape and color variations of the same monsters? Or count only unique monster classes? The easiest way is just to give all the numbers.
Let's start with the first part of the game.
So, in total it has 12 enemy classes: Goblins, Golems, Sappers (goblins with bombs), Devils (from the desert), Rippers (ghosts with scythes), Scorpions, Skeletons, Yeti, Bears, Elks, Boars, Foxes. Some of the monsters in the same class have different models. For example, a brown bear and a polar bear have different body shapes, there are several types of Skeletons, and so on. If you count the number of different models, you will get more:
Total: 19 different enemy models
Almost all monsters also have color variations, for example, goblins inhabit different locations and have different colors. If we take into account all such variations (i. e., all different enemies that are generally in the game), then it will come out like this:
Total: 47 different enemies, although many of them are very similar to each other.
So, in total the first part contains:
I will not list all the enemies of the second part of the game, just give similar numbers. In total it will contain:
If we compare domestic animals, then:
There are 6 animals in the first part (each represented by a single variation)
In the second part - only 4 animals, but 2-3 color variations each - 10 unique variations total
Yes, there are fewer types of domestic animals. But, in fact, the goat and the cow in the first part brought the same resource (so I decided that the goat could not be included), and the pig had a little more benefit than zero (as I wrote earlier, I did not want to force players to kill peaceful pigs).
Besides that, in the first part there were rabbits and penguins. But in the second part there will also be some peaceful characters. And it will have bosses as well!
Another important feature worth mentioning. In the first part all enemies were purchased. By the way, it is the only thing in the game that was bought - everything else (buildings, trees, stones, resources, weapons, clothes and the main character) I drew myself. In the second part there is almost no purchased content. All monsters are unique and were made specifically for this game - you will not find them anywhere else in other games. Even the ones that were in the first part were redrawn to have a unique look.
In the following posts I will compare buildings, items and locations in a similar way.
In this post I will talk about one of the biggest game innovations - ghosts.
I already mentioned earlier that there will be bosses in the game. By killing them, you will release their souls, which will then exist in the form of ghosts. You can talk to ghosts. Some of them have unfinished business, which they will either tell you directly about, or hint at, if you ask them carefully.
This way you will receive additional quests. These quests are quite complex and it will not always be clear immediately what to do. To complete some of them, you will have to think, for others - to travel a lot.
However, after completing the task, the ghost won't remain in debt, and will help you at the base.
Ghosts can do different things: craft, build, mine resources and repair. I already wrote earlier that in the new game, the work will not be performed by your own (as it was in the first part). Someone should stand by and do the job. Before the first ghost appears, you will have to do all the work by yourself, but then you will be able to assign tasks to ghosts by adding items to the crafting queue. By the way, queues at many tables have been increased to several slots. You can queue up a few items that interest you, and leave to do other things, and the ghosts will craft.
Usually, the ghosts will look for the job themselves, trying to disperse around the base. Different ghosts will have their own preferences in the work. Some will prefer crafting, others - construction.
You can also make a direct order to the ghost to do a specific task. Besides that you can equip several ghosts to do the same task simultaneously to speed up its execution (although their performance will then decrease).
The ghosts have another useful feature. Wherever you are, you can always summon a tamed ghost and ask it to teleport you home.
In my opinion, ghosts are a very serious change in the game, and I hope players will like it.
So, the summer is over and the game isn't ready yet. Although in the spring I supposed everything would be different. Let's figure it out.
Almost everything that was supposed to be done by the end of the summer has indeed been completed. Absolutely all monsters and bosses are drawn and, most importantly, animated. I had the most doubts about the animation of monsters and bosses, but we did it. Quests and storyline are also ready. Some dialogs are still going through the final editing stage, but it doesn't take much time. Weapons, equipment, clothing - everything is ready for battle. All main buildings are also ready.
What is still not ready and is delaying the release?
A few points that I didn't think would take a long time turned out to be quite capacious. We are currently working on the final cut scene. Yes, the thing, what was not in the first part at all. Since the second part of the game has a determined storyline, it also has a determined ending. Or more exactly, even 2 different endings. Creating final cut scenes takes quite a long time: again it's 3D and 2D animation, unique scenery and music. But this is necessary to give the story a complete look and not leave players in a state of frustration and uncertainty - "I did so much, but what for?!"
The next point, which turned out to be much more difficult than I thought, is the creation of production chains. What and from what resources we will craft, what research will be needed to build the next construction, what types of fertilizers will be available at different stages of the game, what resources will fall out of monsters, and so on. If you think these tasks are not so difficult, I assure you, they are. In the beginning, adding of various recipes is quite simple. However, later, when you have to bring it all together in one chain, a lot of difficulties and contradictions appear. A lot of items, resources, enemies, buildings and research, everything depends on each other, and to set up dependencies, you need to keep all this in mind. In the same mind, which already stores the architecture of the entire game and controls the creation of all content. I even tried to get an assistant for this task - a person who graduated from a game design course. I spent quite a lot of time explaining him in detail how game systems function, but in result he wasn't even able to structure what was already done at that moment. Now the task of creating production chains is almost ready. I would estimate about 90 percent. The remaining 10 percent are quite difficult - adding each new resource to the game requires a lot of effort from me.
The next thing is voice acting. The game's voice acting also takes longer than I planned. But it doesn't stand still. We have already finished voicing nature, weather and buildings. Unfortunately, the monsters are only voiced by 30 percent so far. In order for monsters' voicing not to become the main factor delaying the game release, I will most likely have to start testing the game when not all the monsters will be voiced yet.
It's hard to make accurate predictions. Almost all of my assistants are tired and go on vacation. I myself have not worked for the last week, because I got sick (it's okay, it's not covid and I'm already on the mend, I was even able to write this post). I'll try to describe an approximate plan for the remaining work:
As it is not difficult to calculate, if everything goes according to plan, the game should be released in November.
Character leveling system in the second part was completely redesigned.
Previously, levels were not a player's achievement, but simply stages of game walkthrough. Many players didn't like that getting new levels required completing quests (which limited players' freedom) and that the availability of buildings and recipes depended on it. Now character leveling up and rising through stages of technological progress don't depend on each other.
Fighting monsters, the player gains experience. Having accumulated a certain amount of experience, the player gets a new level. With each level obtained, the player also receives several skill points. He can spend these points to increase his health, stamina, accuracy and other attributes. Also for these points you can learn several active skills, such as sprints, dash, block pose, etc., and some magic techniques. There are 19 attributes and skills in total.
Such a system will strengthen the RPG component of the game genre and will allow players to develop a character in accordance with their preferences.
Rising up through the chain of technological progress still has certain stages, but now it looks much more natural than in the first part. You don't need to complete quests to unblock new buildings and recipes. The limitation is very simple: you cannot smelt an iron ingot if you have never encountered iron ore before (obvious fact).
The game will have a special table for investigation new resources. If you find something new, take it to this table and explore. For example, researching ore will give you access to a blast furnace and metal recipes.
Quests are still present in the game, but their role is now completely optional, and only tells the player what to do in the early stages of the game.
P.S.: many people ask about the release dates. Previously I assumed that I would release the game by the end of the summer, but now I realize that I don't have time. In the next post I will give a new detailed review of the development progress and try to give new estimates about the release date.
As in the first part of the game, some constructions can only be placed inside the house. However, the way of house building is now completely different. Now there will no longer be ready-made houses, such as a hut or a dugout.
The house will now need to be assembled from parts - floor, walls and roof. You can decide for yourself what size the house will be, what rooms will be inside.
The floor of the house is always divided into blocks 4 by 4 cells each. If you place a new block next to an existing one, its height will be automatically adjusted. When you place the very first block, the construction grid will show you how far ground roughnesses will allow you to continue building the floor on the same height.
When I developed house foundations, I pondered how high the floor should rise above the ground. If it will be very high, this will allow players to build large houses even on quite scabrous surfaces. But then you can get large stairs on which players will have to "jump". Through trial and error I found a maximum value for one stair of 75 centimeters (30 inches).
House walls are also divided into blocks, 1 by 4 cells each. Wall length within this block will be automatically changed to adjust to nearby walls.
I had to do a lot of work with the roof. I wanted to keep roof building process management as simple as possible for players - just specify where roof blocks should be placed. And at the same time I wanted roof blocks to automatically fold into a single roof with a logical shape, but the roof shape not to be trivial.
To achieve this goal, I developed a system of 23 separate parts, which automatically form the final shape.
The result is something like this:
I would like to add more decorations to the walls and roof, but I have already spent a lot of time on this constructor. Therefore, even if my hands reach it, it will be after the game release.
In this post I'll tell about some details of character's inventory development.
Graphic style of item icons
We've done a huge work to create our own style for item icons. Firstly, I wanted icons not to look soulless, as it often happens when using screenshots of 3D models of items. Secondly, I didn't want a high level of realism, as it was in the first part of the game (I took photos of real items for icons there). Thirdly, I didn't want to go to another extreme - cartoon-like images. Also, icons should be easily recognized in small size - you can draw a beautiful detailed object image, but when you reduce its size to fit into the inventory cell, all its details turn into an illegible chaos of pixels. In search of the needed style we tried many different ways of drawing the same objects.
We even made a table where we experimented with detailing, textures and shapes realism for a single object.
Finally we came to use a realistic shape, simplified details and stylized textures. I like the result. Icons look neither like cartoons, nor realistic or rendered. A close look will reveal the work of artist in each icon.
The capacity of your backpack will be quite small at the beginning of the game - only 16 cells. However, with time it can be increased by creating different bags.
We've also added a few small changes that I hope will make life easier for players. For example, inventory compaction not only transfers all items to the upper-left corner now, but also groups them by class (food, weapons, resources, etc.). Sending items from the inventory to the chest (and vice versa) can be done now via mouse click with pressed Shift key.
Important scenario items will now not fall into the backpack, but into a purse, from where they cannot be lost if you die.
Character animation is quite a difficult task. There are many minor movements in the shoulders, pelvis, torso turns, etc. We don't pay attention to them, but if they are absent, the character starts to move like a robot.
Not having a lot of experience in character animation, but having the need for a large number of them for the first part of the game, I resorted to homemade motion capture technology. For this I used Microsoft Kinect sensor, which was designed for XBox 360, but can also be connected to a computer. This sensor uses infrared scanning to obtain a depth map and is essentially a low-resolution 3D scanner. On XBox, the sensor can detect player’s positions very approximately, but in real time. For PCs, there are special programs (I used iPi Mocap Studio) that allow you to record video, and then to extract human movements more accurately. All animations of the main character in the first part of the game were made in this way, and it took me only a couple of days. Main time was spent on manual cleaning of captured animations. Since the sensor can capture only from one side, sometimes when the body turns, hands can be hidden from the sensor by the body itself or by the head, so their position is not detected and has to be set manually. In general, I was very happy with the result. Although the quality of animations is not at a high level, I would have done much worse with my hands and spent much more time.
Since the quality bar for the second part of the game has risen, I wanted to make animations better. To do this, I decided to use two sensors to record animations. In addition, I decided to buy new, more modern ones - Microsoft Kinect 2.0.
On iPi developers' website I found recommendations for installing the sensors. There are 2 basic configurations - to point the sensors opposite each other, and to point them at 90 degree angle to each other.
First, I decided to test the position of the sensors opposite each other. But it turned out that the quality of the result is no better than recording with a single sensor. The second sensor works well avoiding overlapping hands with the body, but in fact hands' movements are visible either by one sensor or by another, so we still get tracking with one sensor.
Configuring the sensors using the second scheme allowed to slightly improve tracking quality. Most of the movements were detected by both sensors simultaneously, which increased the accuracy.
However, animation quality still didn't reach the level I wanted to see in the second part.
So I started looking for an experienced animator. After more than a month of searching I finally found a person, whose animation quality suited me. Now we make up to 3-4 animations a day, and in about a week or a little more, the main character's animations will be ready. But there are also monsters and bosses, so animation is still one of the key factors determining the release date of the game. I hope I'll find a solution to speed up the animation of minor characters.
Most of the buildings are already finished. But here I proceed from the principle of the more is the better. I plan to add lots of more decorative buildings. It takes quite a long time to create them, but we put our heart and soul into them. We try to think through the mechanism of their functioning and work out all details. Here, for example, is a jeweler's table:
This table will produce amulets and various parts of complex shapes. According to my estimates, it will take about a month to finish main buildings and another month for decorative ones.
Enemies are also half ready. There will be quite a lot of different ones: wild animals, various fantasy creatures, magicians and knights. And we'll try to find time to add many new ones before release. Artificial intelligence algorithms have been significantly refined. I haven't done any fine-tuning of AI yet, but I hope that with the help of new algorithms I will be able to make battles more dynamic and interesting than in the first part.
There will be 5 bosses in the game. Concepts are ready for all of them, but 3D models have been made only for three for now. Creating one model takes about a week, so it won't take much time to finish the rest of them. The worst thing is to give them unique abilities, because it requires writing program code. I think it'll take me another 2-3 weeks to script the behavior of all the bosses. This is what one of them looks like. Meet the Lord of metal:
Drawing models for monsters and bosses is only half the job. They also need to be forced to move. Character animation is quite a painstaking labor: it turns out to make only 2-3 separate movements a day. On average, one enemy takes a week of time. At this moment, it's the main factor that postpones game release, because many characters with ready 3D-models are not animated yet. In the next post I'll tell you more about various difficulties I had to face while animating of the main character.
We fill the game with content intensely. Yes, there is still a lot that I want to add to the game. However, some of this work is being done in parallel, and I hope that in 2 months we'll be able to start beta testing. As a result, the game should be ready for release sometime in August. Yes, I know that the deadline has moved forward. Previously, I estimated to complete the development by the end of spring. But at that time, many aspects were not even started. Now all the main parts of the game are already affected and we are steadily moving towards completion. Therefore, I hope that the current forecast will not be far from the truth.
In this and in the next posts I will tell you point by point about the current progress of game development. I will describe what is ready, what remains to be done, and give my estimates for the remaining work.
The game code is almost completely ready. It remains to script all bosses and a couple of minor quests. The rest of the game is already fully playable.
2. World and environment
All game locations are already finished. The game has 5 main biomes plus some additional locations and 4 types of dungeons. Map generation algorithms have been significantly improved since the first part of the game. Now the way to the goal won't be as straightforward as before. You'll have to explore locations to find the right way. Here is a screenshot of swamps - one of biomes I wrote about earlier:
The sound part of the game is nearly half completed. Sounds of user interface, footsteps and bumps on different surfaces are fully finished. Crafting, building sounds and surrounding noises are half completed. It remains to record weather sounds, birds singing, unique sounds for different constructions, magic spells and all the monsters. So, there is still quite a lot of work. According to my estimates, it will take about 2 more months.
At the beginning of the first part of the game, it is indicated that all music for it was made by "Storm Warning!" band. It's a music band my classmate and I founded when we were students. I used some tracks from our tracklist which I composed and mixed by myself. This time music is technically from the same band again. But now our guitarist works on it. He composes tracks specifically for the game. The music is very pleasant and fits well into the game environment. There are already more than a dozen tracks ready, and we hope to produce as many more.
The game will have a fairly wide variety of clothing and weapons. There are already more than 50 items of clothing (and there will be 20 more). For example, how do you like this outfit?
Many weapons are not ready yet - about a third of the estimated number is done. However, all the scripts are finished, and I only need to make models and draw icons. It won't take for long.
I’ll post the second part of the post with the rest of the points and summing up a little later, but no later than this weekend.
I try to make all game aspects at the highest possible level. This also applies to the game sound design.
In the first part of the game I recorded sounds on a fairly inexpensive condenser recorder Zoom H4n. This recorder has its own low level noise, inappreciable when recording loud sounds. However, if you record quiet sounds - clicking seeds, taking an object from inventory, bones tinkling, etc., this noise becomes noticeable. I had to process recordings with a noise reduction filter, and this notedly decreased the final sound quality. Despite this, sounds recording is a very exciting process. I looked for sticks and stones on the street, broke and threw them, recorded individual sounds, and then assembled from them the sounds of different breaking structures.
To improve the sound quality in the second part I decided to improve my equipment. I did not want to buy separate microphones, stands, a recorder (a complete set for professional sound recording). I just decided to replace my rather cheap voice recorder with the recently released Sony PCM-D10 - an updated version of the Sony PCM-D100. This recorder was called the best in quality on many forums. I had to wait half a year for this recorder to appear in my region. However, the recording quality upset me greatly. It was no better than my old Zoom H4n. I made a test recording and compared signal spectrum.
On the high frequency ranges Sony is actually a bit quieter, but in the main audible range of 100-5000 Hz it has even a slightly higher noise level. In addition, it has a parasitic exceeding in the region of 7000 Hz. I decided that maybe I got a defective one, so I returned the recorder and bought a new one in another store. But the situation was the same. I also returned a new recorder.
Then I decided to find an experienced professional who will not only have good equipment, but will also be a sounds processing specialist. After quite a long search I met Eugene. Now we are actively recording sounds for the second part of the game. We try to make a maximum of live sound and a minimum of synthesized.
The situation with COVID-19 makes life a bit more difficult for us, as we can’t fully use the services of voice actors. But we're doing our best.
Here is a short video on which you can see the process of recording sounds for Force of Nature 2.
Animal breeding has been slightly changed compared to the first part of the game.
The full list of domestic animals at the moment is as follows:
It was decided to completely remove the pig from the game. The purpose of a pig for a farmer is obvious - they are bred for meat. But I didn't want the game to encourage players to be cruel to peaceful and harmless animals. Want some meat? Eat the boar. He is not peaceful at all and generally he is the first who gets into a fight. And I don't want to use a pig for such far-fetched purposes as finding worms.
In order to tame an animal, you will still need to make a trap and throw it on the animal several times. But now you will not be able to tame it until you provide it with a place to live. There are two types of animal houses:
Universal barn will need to be built first, because you don't know which animal you will meet first. Then it will be more profitable to build specific sheds for certain animals.
Feeders appeared in the game. They can be put on the ground and filled with food. Animals themselves will eat if the feeder is close enough to reach it. After installing such a feeder, you will only need to collect resources from the animals and replenish food supplies in feeder from time to time. Resources collection has also been simplified compared to the first part. Now you don't need to open the GUI window and click the button to collect resources. When the animal has finished creating the product, a special icon appears above it. You can click on it and the hero will run up to the animal and take the product.
Unlike the first part, now animals will not accumulate produced products and will not be able to continue working until you take finished resources from them. But don't be afraid. Like many other buildings, animal houses can be upgraded. At higher levels, these houses will be able to accept food from the animals that live in them. You will only need to add food in the feeders from time to time and take finished products from houses at once.
I hope you'll like these changes!
Building system has undergone some changes compared to the first part of the game.
As before, building can be done only within markup grid. A special window in the corner of the screen shows how many resources you have for the selected construction. This is useful if you build a lot of repetitive elements, such as fences.
All buildings were redrawn from scratch and now have a more detailed design.
Also there will be a lot of new and interesting buildings that were not present in the first game. In fact, the whole progress line is new. This will not just be a repeat of the first part with improved graphics.
The building process doesn't go by itself anymore. As for all the work in the second part, to proceed the building you need to be close to the construction. The hero starts working with his hands to increase the percentage of done work. But don't worry, you won't have to work with your own hands for long. Soon enough you'll have an assistant who will work on the base while you travel the world, fight enemies and gather resources.
The building progress can be viewed by gradually appearing parts of the construction.
Also some buildings can be upgraded to the higher level. They will work faster and give the access to new recipes. For example, here is the first and the second level of tailor table.
In the first part of the game user interface was not very convenient. Many windows replaced each other, which distracted attention.
Now I tried to fix this problem. To begin with, the design itself has changed. The asset RPG & MMO UI 6 from Unity Asset Store was taken as the basis, but after it was significantly redone to fit my own needs. Windows can now be moved around the screen. Windows' header has an interesting animation. For example, this is how the main character’s inventory window looks like:
Also, the current character characteristics were moved to this window. It seems to me this should simplify the comparison of different equipment, making it possible to immediately observe how armor, running speed, damage per second and other parameters change. In addition, there will be much more different clothes and weapons in the game than in the first part.
To quickly move items between your inventory and an open chest, you can now click on objects with the Shift key held down - this will instantly send the item from inventory to the chest or vice versa.
Building and craft windows have also changed significantly. I tried to get rid of excessive windows and fit all the necessary information into one window. This is how the building window now looks like:
The list of all buildings is placed to it's left part. It is also possible to select a category (crafter, storage, farming, decoration, etc.). The description of the building is now in it's right part, with the ability to choose from several variants (for example, the length of the fence).
I hope the new user interface will allow less distraction from the main gameplay and it will become more fun to play.
Many times I've been asked to add a female character to the first part of the game. But adding a new character means not only to draw it, but also to fit all the clothes to it. This is quite a bit of work. Therefore, I never added a female character to the Force of Nature 1. But now I collaborate with artists, so I can afford to realize every element of clothing in two versions - for male and for female.
So raise your thumbs up! Force of Nature 2 will allow you to choose the gender of the character.
This is how these characters look like during customization:
And this is how they look like in the game:
As before, character's skin and hair color can be customized. Also you can choose one of several hairstyles.
I didn't embed an underwear color customization (as it was in the first part), because there will be much more various clothes in the second part, and the character will always have something to wear.
The gender of the character can only be selected in the beginning of the walkthrough. During the walkthrough, only colors and hairstyle can be changed.