Intermission: Blueprint refining

At this point in the project i decided to pick apart some of the more complicated blueprints i had, mainly the ones that were causing me some minor bugs and issues. I spent some time refining these blueprints to make them work as well as they can with the other features i had set up, when put together.

The main blueprints that needed sorting out where the ones revolving around the camera and game’s Day/night cycle. The camera before was quite clunky and slow, as i had mistakenly used a Character class instead of a Pawn for it, resulting in a few issues i had later down the line. I got around this by stripping the blueprint down, recreating a lot of the code and altering some things i had. The newer camera felt much better as it was faster and was no where as restricting, as during the remodelling of the blueprint, i was able to add in a Pan feature and Edge Scrolling. Giving the player much more manual control over how the camera was positioned and moved throughout game play.

 

As for the Day and Night cycle, the first hurdle i had was trying to link it up to my intended Time. The game’s time would progress, AM/PM however the sun’s position would not suit the displayed time, resulting in the Sun being up at midnight. (This may work in terms as it is an alien planet, however i felt this would bother players as well as myself and needing resolving) The current game time roughly takes about 10 minutes for a day to pass, this may change as i continue testing features. I had to completely restructure this blueprint as the older method i used simply no longer fit with the game time anymore. The new blueprint now after a lot of trial and error is link to the time, allowing me to speed and pause the game while now affecting the day/night cycle. The sun rises at roughly 6AM and will set for 7PM.

Week 7: Buildings

After working on the resources it came time to start putting together some buildings for the player to spend those hard earned resources on to construct.  These buildings were not part of the main asset part i have been using and so i had to construct the assets using bits and pieces available to me to cobble together structures i thought represented the style i wanted.

Shelter: This is the basic home for the crew members, for each home in the settlement, the crew will gain a small resource harvesting bonus, letting them earn more of a single resource.

Radio Pylon: The most important building in the game, this radio tower will broadcast a signal out for the crew members to be rescued each day. The strength of the signal can be improved further by the use of Booster pylons. When the signal hits 100% the crew will be saved, however the signal attracts the creatures of the planet, meaning the risks of the signal will increase as the game reaches its end.

Stockpile: This small structure is meant to represent the pile of resources the player gathers, the crew members will harvest resources and bring them to this pile to be added to the settlements total gear.

Medic Shack: This more intricate building represents the medic station. A specialised building that slowly regenerates the health of injured crew members. When hurt, the crew will enter this building for safety.

Captain’s Station: This large building is the main set up for the settlement, this is where the player will order their crew members and assign tasks. here they can select the map and see what resources and dangers are in the immediate area.

Week 6: Resources & Spawners

This week i have been looking to get the base versions of resources down and into the game in some form. There are four main resources types present in the game, Wood, Metal, Food and the elusive Power Cores. The idea for these resources is to give the player another area to the gameplay, where they must manage the right resource for certain tasks, keep a healthy stockpile of food for their crew and most importantly find Power Cores to boost the radio signal.

After messing around with some assets i had, i put together several representations for these resources.

Food:  The food was put together by adjusting several plant assets i had, the idea was to make the green and red tips stand out against the orange of the landscape.

Metals: This is one of the more important materials in the game as it is essential to the building of every building present in the game right now. These chunks of metal are intended to be remnants of the ships wreckage.

Wood:  This resource is also a vital part of most of the building options in the game right now, and is present the most in the map. There is currently only one type of tree in the game but i’m hoping this won’t have an impact art wise

Energy Cores:  This is a specialised resource, cores are only used to the creation of Radio Boosters. However they are vital to the survival of the crew as without them, the radio signal would be too weak to progress.

 

In addition to the resources, I’ve set up a neat volume box blueprint that spawns in several versions of the resource with many different randomised variables. Such as random sizes, rotations and locations in that bounds box and the amount spawned. This lets me set up vast resource ares without any repetition in the assets.

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Week 5: Hostile AI & Where To Find Them

This week i have been working on several AI systems, Mainly the player AI and a Hostile enemy AI i have planned. The Crew member AI is designed to act around set jobs and tasks, such as Salvager, Security, Medics. When assigned to these tasks the Crew member will preform these tasks as best as they can. Gathering resources from local salvage points, Defending the camp from wildlife and healing the injured and sick.

Meanwhile the Enemy AI planned is intended to stalk the camp during the nights and trying to ambush the Crew members as they see to their tasks. The enemy will occasionally launch small attacks on the camp, trying to test the players defences. These attacks will cost the player resources and possibly injure or kill members of the crew if they aren’t prepared

Week 4: Building Placement

This week i began work on the games building mechanics. The idea is for the player to be able to select a set of buildings they can then construct and manage in the game. Here the player clicks on the hud element and a ghost image of the building then follows the cursor anywhere along the games landscape. when the player right clicks on a suitable location, the building is placed. This is also set along in a grid, so the buildings can be arranged correctly without overlapping into each other.

The end goal for this mechanic is for it to be linked up to a resource cost, so that when the player selects a building, the appropriate resources are taken from the players stockpile. The idea is to have several buildings available to the player at the start, such as Shelters and Defence posts, then as the days pass, more buildings will become unlocked.

 

Week 3: Level Design and Time

During this week i worked on getting some form of level design working and in engine so i had somewhat of a clearer idea as to how it would look. I have been utilising an asset pack called Stylized Desert Environment. This pack provides me with appropriate assets that i’ll use to create the games environments. Using several other assets i have gathered, i was able to create the intended look for certain areas of the game, such as the crashed ship. Using the landscape tool i was able to put something together to make it look buried into the sand.

In addition to creating the level blockout, i wanted to give the environment some life and movement instead of a static landscape. I got round this issue by creating a day & night cycle, every 5 minutes an in game day will pass, the sun sets, the area gets much darker. I found the casting of the shadows really made the area feel more active. To add to this affect i also added in a Wind directional source, this lets me affect the environment and materials of plants so they blow in the breeze. this small detail gives the scene more life.

Week 2: Prototyping

I wanted to get working in engine as soon as possible, as im not too much of a fan of pre-production work. so once i had my idea in mind and a direction i wanted to take the project, i began working on producing a prototype straight away. I’m more confident working with the Unreal Engine so that’s where i started, i utilised the tool’s templates, opting to use the Top down template as a good starting point, deleting the code i didnt need, from there i started to get a working camera. As in this project the player never directly controls a character, they would spend their time controlling an overhead camera.

Once i had the camera controls how i wanted, i started work on character AI. in Tantalus, the player oversees the safety of both the campsite the survivors have scrambled together and the survivors themselves. These survivors will come in two variants, Crewmen (Blue characters Below) and Scouts (Red characters). Crewmen are the cogs of the game, these characters will scavenge resources such as Wood and Metal from the surrounding environment and the ships wreckage. They will also construct buildings in the camp. Meanwhile Scout characters will act as the camp’s defence, They are the surviving members of the ships security force. These Scout units protect the camp and crewmen from hostile wildlife the player may encounter however most importantly they reveal new locations on the map, Ie. a scout character that has been sent off, may return with information on the whereabouts of some ship wreckage.

Getting AI working for these characters and getting roles set up for them will be a large time consuming task.

Week 1: Start Of The Project

The first week of Final Year Project has started and we have been tasked with creating a project solely by ourselves. As a designer i could of chosen to make a game prototype, a UI design, a Level or several other design tasks. After some time deciding what i wanted to work on and putting some ideas for my project proposal, i have decided to create a working game prototype for a Top Down, Settlement Survival game. Which i have name Tantalus.

Tantalus is a single player experience where the player will have to guide and manage a group of survivors of a spaceship crash, constructing a settlement and trying to survive on a strange world until help can arrive. The player takes on the role of the ship’s captain, and will have to send the survivors out to gather resources from the nearby environment, salvage what they can from the shipwreck, All while trying their best to maintain a strong SOS signal so the survivors can be found.