Weekly Dev Diary #6 - Environmental tile system

Hello to all in the Deicides network,

I am environment artist at Hardwired and you can find me at our Discord channel as PBY. 

EVERY BEGINNING IS DIFICULT

 

It was 1995 when I encountered 3D software for the first time. I was amazed by what Imagine 3d and Lightwave could do.

I spent all my time and effort seeking to learn and practice 3D techniques. We were just a kids but it did not stop me from sharing my experience with my classmate Lukas (LKR). We spent a lot of time tinkering with code and graphics on old platforms like the Atari 800 and Amiga 500+.

Time flew by and with all the ignorance of naive kids we ended up forming a video game company. With a lack of experience and real commitment it ended as soon as it started, but we already had a taste of game development.

Much has changed over the years; life stepped in the way of my dream to make a living as a CG Artist and I moved into IT System Administration. Those were dark years...

Eventually the light came back and I returned to CG, initially as a hobbyist, and then as a professional in subsequent years. So life has come full circle, and myself and Lukas are working together again, on a project I myself would love to play.

TILE SYSTEM

 

We know that randomly generated maps are one of the "core pillars" of great action RPGs, so before we even started we did extensive research into how other games handle this. Our main goal is to balance randomly generated content and hand crafted areas. We don't want the maps to look too random with lack of style and control, but likewise don't want them to be too streamlined.

It’s no secret that Diablo (though it’s slightly older now) is one of the greatest games regarding style and polish. I really like how Ed Hanes explained their dungeon level design in the video below. It pointed us in the right direction when approaching environment creation.

We are creating a tile based system for building the environment. We will need at least 16 basic tiles for each environment kit and this should give us freedom to connect any given tile with others, when setting up a level:

pavel_tiles.jpg

 

More variations of each tile will give us more room to play and generate environments which look handcrafted but are also randomly generated.

Once all templates are ready we can start generating levels and see how it feels to walk around them, so we can adjust things before the main work on environments is done.

The next step is to work on complexity, add height differences for rooms and platforms and break square pattern of rooms and corridors, etc. when all of this is finished, I will start to populate white box tiles with walls and floors, as shown in the examples below.

all assets are work in progress images.

all assets are work in progress images.

If you will have any questions, I am at our discord channel most of the time.

Thanks for reading and see you next time,

 

-PBY

Weekly Dev Diary #5 - character rigging, bones and ragdoll

Howdy,

my name is Fade, and I am the animator working on all the nice stuff our character artist Lobo throws my way.

I will try to give you some basic insight in to the world of game animation and process of making DEICIDES.

BONES & RIGGING 

 

Once the character mesh landed on my computer, I usually start working on the character rig, where I try to keep the bones count to the minimum. It helps keeping the animation data on the lower side.

We will share rig and skeleton in between same bodytypes. This will cut the production cost significantly with no impact on final quality. Agility BIO, NORMAL and TECH will share same skeleton and rig, so this will give us freedom with usage of similar animations across one bodytype.

In the first iteration I’ve used simple rig for the hands, using just 9 bones, as the character will take rather small area on the screen while playing the game, and so the lower detail can be justified.

handlowbones_01.jpg
handmidbones_01.jpg

However when I started to animate the character, I needed more finger flexibility to create better hand grip poses. And so I’ve added one more finger per hand to the rig, which increased the bones number by small amount( +6 bones for both hands).

When there’ll be need to show high poly characters on the screen doing complicated hand gestures, I’ll just add all fingers and quickly re-skin the mesh, but at this stage, all seems to work nicely.

blganim_01.gif

 

Right after the rig is finished, the next step is to create skinning.

 

You can use all the advanced skinning tools algorithms you have, but at the end, you’ll need to start manually fine tuning the skinning.

Depending on the character, I usually start tweaking the skinning from outside and work myself to the core of the character body( fingers> hand >arm >shoulder; jaw>head>neck…).

Our current vertex skinning is affected by max 3 bones.

RAGDOLL SETUP

 

Once the character is exported to Unreal Engine, one of the things I wanted to setup first was the ragdoll.

RAGDOLL_capsules_with_weight.jpg

While the default setting are ok, there were plenty of issues. First, I had to change the rotation limits for each limb constraint.

So, I started with the knees and elbow joints, and then the rest of the constraints.

Before the change the ragdoll was working, it felt just a bit unrealistic.

After the limits were setup, it still felt a bit lightweight, and so the next step was to increase the mass of some capsules. Like hips, and all the limbs end capsules, where I’ve added a bit more mass, than it was assigned by default.

RAGDOLL_SETWEIGHT.jpg

After this the character felt much more like a human body.

 

Just a quick tip, in Unreal Engine while testing ragdoll, you can “CTRL+ RMB hold” move the ragdoll on your screen in Simulation mode.

As a fresh Unreal Engine user, I am also really thankful for any workflow speedup tips. You can find me at our DISCORD group as Fade.

 

Stay awesome,

- Fade

Weekly Dev Diary #4 - Character art - agility bodytype

Hi, I'm a character artist at Hardwired and you can find me at our discord channel as LOBO.

TIME FOR a CHANGE

3D Graphics and game development has been my thing for over 15 years. I've been working on a number of different projects at many companies which has helped me to gain lots of experience and progress fast. But my dream was always to create "my own" game. Working for someone  could be frustrating some times and i know that only the right project will release my creativity at full potential. So you can imagine how happy I was to speak again with my old friend Lukas (LKR) last year, who responded to my ranting on topic of "getting tired of following other peoples projects and dreams and not my own” in one group on facebook, by saying he is about to start his own game with a bunch of friends-professionals he made during his career. He offered me the position of a Lead character artist and co-founder of the company. Over the years, I have been following Lukas's work, and I am amazed how much he evolved in art direction and style, and his ability to get better has been always inspiring to me. After several hours of chatting and going through all the art, designs and ideas they have, and the fact that they have a whole team ready to start I just said “yes”. Dark  cyberpunk with sci-fi elements of bio-mechanical enhancement, it was truly hard to resist.

Bio version of agility bodytype character (no equip)

Bio version of agility bodytype character (no equip)

With the first look at the art work I felt like this finally might be space for me to shine and after a long time to challenge myself and learn something new. Substance painter, Unreal editor, material library, and most importantly to be the decision maker who says how it should be done. To put it in one sentence it was the right spark (or a kick in the ass as we say in Czech Republic), which ignited my love for character art again!

starting version of agility bodytype character (no equip)

starting version of agility bodytype character (no equip)

CREATING THE PIPELINE

Above you can see two characters – basic version of agility body-type character and his progression to BIO mutation. To be honest the basic version was the easy one, no real challenge on the base mesh, nothing critical, re-topology and UV went well. The tricky part was actually splitting the character for future equip and gear interchanging, and later even modify/replacing limbs.

Questions like:

"Do we need the UV space for each part?"

"How would we combine each parts not to get hundreds of modifiers in the stack?" 

"How do we set the scenes for export?"

"What would be the most efficient way to manage hundreds of body parts?"

Way too many questions which needs to be answered to create stable pipeline.

Texturing

Texturing was like delivering a baby - very very painful. I was starting to get use to substance painter and my swear jar was steadily filling up with change as i progressed through new software inch by inch like an expedition through a jungle. Hours and hours of swearing, which would put any sailor to shame, testing and even more hours of finding solutions for a problem I could easily solve with my old workflow. At the end texturing in substance painter was finished. Our basic agility character is successfully animated and historically the first skeletal mesh in the DEICIDES game.

zbrush models

zbrush models

BIO version of the character was far more interesting to make. Sculpt in Zbrush brought some questions already:

"What the heck does the BIO deformed character look like?”

"What kind of skin does he have?"

"What will he wear when equipped and what will still be visible?"

After an intensive brainstorm, checking lots of movie/comics/games references we decided that the character in the first stage will still have some human anatomical features but there are many mutating aspects visible already. Pale skin, protein generating glands and vines, hardening of muscle and bones structure which create cosmetic "imperfections" and other minor things. Combine it with random sweatpants, absence of any body hair, deep black eyes and you end up with one tough MOFO :). The work on this character was so much fun, I am already looking forward to what our game brings next!
 

- Lobo

Weekly Dev Diary #3 - early prototype and multiplayer

Hi guys,

My Name is Vaclav (discord name Æbone) and I am the coder at Hardwired. I would like to give you some insight in to coding for Deicides.

After doing lots of research and comparison of top engines in the market right now, we decided to use UNREAL ENGINE as our weapon of choice and we have no regrets yet. I love C++ so Unreal Engine 4 was a pretty straightforward option.

 

I am huge fan of the Action RPG genre and have spent countless hours playing Diablo 3 , Path of exile or most recent games in development like Wolcen (Umbra) or Last Epoch. Working on Deicides is fulfilling my dream to create an ARPG which i sorely missed on the market.

PROTOTYPE

We started with the prototype, with simple mechanics and adding tools and features along the way. My goal was to get to know unreal engine workflow and tools. I've started with single player mode and the progress was quite smooth.

         
All was ok until i found out that for multiplayer most of the mechanics and code will have to be structured differently. I had to stop progressing and focus on reconstructing what we already had, to work in multiplayer (dedicated server) mode.    
            

 

MULTIPLAYER

Once we had become a semi-full dev team we had to switch to proper project settings and support multiplayer straight from the beginning. Having multiplayer required more than just adding a few more characters, we have to create a secure system of client/server communication and checks. No one wants to have a spoiled game experience by cheaters. Most of the team members were impacted by this decision, but it will give us heads up and stress free development time if we will try to implement it at later stage.

Our main goal is to have a responsive game as best as we can but still have closed doors for cheating. You will end up creating lots of compromises, but server must be fully in charge (especially in competetive enviroment of this genre). The client simulates predictions with a little bit of a head start(not waiting for server update) and the server will correct it in case of some inconsistencies. This way the player experience should feel responsive and under control with double checks for potential miss aligments.


 

Conversion from prototype to multiplayer was difficult but I learned a lot about the Unreal engine and knowing that if we do the transition later it will be a much harder task to tackle.

 

Thanks for your attention. I will be happy to share any of my progress with you in another Dev Diary post.

If you have any questions don't hesitate and ask! You can find me at our Discord channel.

 

- Æbone

WEEKLY DEV DIARY #2 - TECH vs. BIO

Hi my name is Lukas Kraina(discord name LKR) and I am art director behind Deicides. First off all I would like to thank everyone who subscribed to our blog. Its nice to see people showing interest in our dream project. I would like to show you part of our character creation process which will hugely influence your experience as a player.

When you start your journey as a private contractor you will soon find out that the human body has its limitations, so after a while you will face a life changing decision...

BIO or TECH 

Choose your path wisely, because there is no way back. Once you alter you genes or start replacing your nerve system with synthetic neural network you have to live or die with that decision. 

Agility body type comparison - Basic , exoskeleton , tech and bio version.  equipment not included.

BIO

DNA alterations and mods are as common as plastic surgery; there is nothing that money cannot buy. Bio mods can change your body completely - from hardened bones, a second heart, faster metabolism or even a bone scythe extending from your forearm. Human may become something else, but at a cost. The side effects are unknown; your body will refuse any common technologies. 

TECH

Installing a neural network is just the first step in transforming your body in to a fully synthetic killing machine. If you desire robotic arms that can punch through concrete walls, neuro-links allowing them to remote control several drones at one time, eye-nerve port for your sniper rifle or just stilts like leg for speed and long jumps you will find right modification which will suit your style.

 

If you have any suggestions for nice bio or tech mods feel free to post it in comments or on our Discord channel

 

Thanks! LKR. 

 

Weekly Dev diary #1 - Deicides

Hi,

My name is Vaclav and I am a designer/writer at Hardwired. I am about to share a short story with you that should get you familiar with the world we are placing our game, Deicides in.

 

Outer Shanghai, 2097.

          Gina was sitting in the hallway, back to the wall with her body still, but her mind racing. She knew that her life support was not compromised, but still, looking at the charred remains near the opposite wall, she could swear she smelled the burning flesh.

          She was considering her options. Her order said, this was pharmaceutical facility, C grade, party drugs. But the order was usually overly optimistic about the danger, so the forward payment can be smaller. It was this forgiveness and permission wise thing, most probably. Or just greed.
          This looked at least B grade, performance enhancers, military stims or something. She would know when she gets lower, to the actual labs. No reason to complain so far, all the equipment for salvage was definitely worth the risk.
She liked this part of the deal. Since this facility officially does not exist, this lab equipment does not exist either. And so there is no offence happening, if it appears on black market for a reasonable price. She kept her Mule Drone busy moving everything worth the money back to her ship.
          The other part was much worse, and was weighing heavy on her. Those people here, they also don’t exist. Nobody knows they were here. No one will know what happened to them. In fact, she does not exist either. But these disasters were her livelihood now. She was a special kind of scavenger and cleaner.
          When corporation has a black project that goes wrong, they don’t send their security team, in dropships with their logo on it to clean up. They send one of the specialized mercenaries. They have many names, Yellow Vultures, being equally mine canaries and carrion birds, Cleaners, for taking care of the mess or, if it was one of the god projects, Godslayers.
          She hoped so much this was not one of these. She was not really on the level to do a deicide. When people dabble with things they don’t understand enough, driven by short term gain and create something that is much more powerful than their underfunded security estimated, results are always bad. In this respect, science was coming closer to black magic from the legends. But these titans, gods and demons were made from carbon, titanium alloys or source codes.
          Rogue super AI, super soldier program, super killer drones, super plague. There is still to be one of these ‘super’ things to be grateful to their creators.
But maybe it is just professional bias. Maybe there are many successful god projects. Just people like her are never called if it all goes as planned.

          Whir of an electric motor signaled that the security override worked. Elevator was moving. She jumped to her feet in one fluid motion. Her mechanical arms moving like her own. She picked up the flamethrower and walked to the elevator door.

          Last glance at the blackened remains.She could still back out. I bet this guy didn’t think it was worth it.

“Hope it will be for me.”