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So.. we realise we missed our 11th update. Things have been pretty hectic. We’d also like to break out of that routine, so we’re changing things up.. Instead of having to wait for one MEGA update every month, we’re going to commit to smaller, fortnightly updates and see how we go from there. Yay! Awesome, right? Well to put it simply, there will be weeks where we will have really interesting and exciting content to share with you.. and there will be weeks that have been wasted researching, implementing and testing something that turned out rubbish. But either way, we’ll be keeping you in the loop letting you know how we’re moving forward.

So.. onto this weeks update!

 

Gooey Stuff

We have always been designing Stranded Deep with a minimalistic GUI in mind, but not to the extent where it would compromise gameplay. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s hard to find a good balance between not breaking immersion and having good variety and room to grow. We had been working with a temporary rotary style menu for the inventory, but found that it was too limiting. So for now, we have a traditional slot inventory and some minimalistic context menus for crafting and building…

Inventory

Crafting

The components of the UI are still temporary placeholders and will more than likely change and improve as the game evolves, but it’s working well and gives us a lot more freedom to add more combinations and complexity in the future. As the UI is very minimalistic and there is no crafting or building menu as such, we’ve integrated some helper functionality into the crosshair. The crosshair is normally a semi-transparent dot to help center your vision when you need it without being distracting, but it will also display different symbol hints for things like being able to open context menus.

 

Whats Under The Hood

A beta of the next version of our game engine, Unity 5, has been released. This doesn’t mean much for us at the moment, but it does promise some performance improvements. One of those improvements is an upgraded physics engine, which is great because we use a lot of physics!

We’ve also run into an annoying hitch with the current version we’re using. There’s a fantastic problem where the game runs great in the editor, but the standalone version’s performance is cut in half. So we’re in the process of testing a standalone build with a more recent version to see if the problem has been fixed. Fun, fun :)

 

Well that’s it for now. We appreciate all your support and how vocal you were when we missed an update :P So we hope you like hearing from on us on a more regular basis from now on.

See you soon :)

 

Stay Alive!

:: Sam

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Hit and Run

It’s just a quick check-in this month.
We’re pretty light on visuals this time around. I’ve been burning a lot of time on boring time-consuming components of the game; things like the menus, saving, a developer console for debugging.. things that are hard to appreciate now but will help debug and speed up development during the upcoming early-access period.

Ben’s been working hard, tying up the animations and adding more procedural content, among other things. There’s a lot of discoverable content to create and generate, including shipwrecks to loot special items, easter-eggs to find and important items to gather to achieve the end-game goal if you want to.

So there has been a lot of progress, it’s a little difficult to show, but rest assured that we are here and working harder than ever!

 

Stay Alive!
:: Sam

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Shady Characters

Well there’s lots to talk about this month :)

 

A few updates ago, I mentioned that we had incorporated Marmoset Skyshop into our rendering pipeline. Well we have now moved away from Skyshop and to our own lighting model.

I have to say that Skyshop is a great product, but it’s better suited for static environments. Because everything in our world is so dynamic, a lot of the great features of Skyshop were redundant in our game. So after having to customise and re-write most of Skyshop to suit our needs, the decision to just write our own lighting model wasn’t difficult.

We now use a custom physically-based lighting model. Physically-based shading is a bit of a buzz word in games development right now, and for a pretty good reason. Light affects how you perceive everything in a game – without it everything would be black! So it’s pretty important to consider how the game environment reacts to it. A shading model is what defines how a surface reacts to light in a game. A physically-based shading model takes that a bit further, introducing concepts like energy conservation, the fresnel effect, micro-facets and more. There’s a variety of different lighting models out there and different lighting models suit different materials. Some lighting models are better at representing things like plastics and rubber, whereas some are better at representing metals, and others are better for rough surfaces like cloth and skin.

The screenshot below is a good visual representation of the differences between two of the lighting models used in Stranded Deep. The surfaces’ roughness increases from a value of 0 to 1, from left to right.

SpecComparison2 copy

The bottom spheres use an improved version of a traditional lighting model that is used in a lot of games called Blinn-Phong, great for things like hard plastics and rubber. The top spheres use a custom lighting model that is better suited to things like metals and rough surfaces like rock, sand, skin and cloth. I’ll be going into more details about the rendering techniques used in Stranded Deep after release, but for now at least that gives some context to what I’ve been working on lately and why.

Rendering Preview2

 

What else?

Ben’s been working on character animations, which has helped add another level of immersion. Building and crafting has been fully functional for a while now and is working great :) We’re finalising everything that you can craft and build. All the physics for the raft building and propulsion has been completed as well. It is really unnerving motoring around an island on your raft at night, or going out into deep water!

There’s been a lot of work finalising all our creatures. A while ago we purchased an ocean pack full of fish. It would have been a great way to get a lot of variety quickly.. However, there was a lot of work getting them game-ready. Ben has had to re-topologize every one as they had a silly amount of triangles, and then create the various levels of detail for each fish. Thankfully animating them wasn’t as painful. Using Unity’s Mecanim animation retargeting, a base fish model could be rigged and animated and then applied to all the smaller fish. Larger animals like sharks, rays and turtles have their own individual animations.

Fish

Underwater

 

Ben’s also been hard at work creating the intro sequence for the game ..and it’s looking and playing fantastic! We had discussed the possibility of not needing it for early access, but after experiencing the intro scene, the game isn’t the same without it! It’s intense and creates a lot of impact. We’re not revealing much about it as we think it will be more enjoyable as a fresh experience.

There’s lots of other little things as well, those boring but important things ..things like confirming menu designs and making sure saving works. We’ve decided on an end-game scenario that players will have to work out ;) We also noticed that we have a lot of german, russian and french followers so we’re looking into translation :) As a whole, the game is really starting to come together and feels great. It’s getting closer guys! :D

 

Stay Alive!

:: Sam

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Cloud Nine

This month has been spent tying up a lot of our components loose odds and ends, making sure that they’re all integrated 100% with each other. In other words, integrating and fixing all the things I’ve been telling myself “Yep, I’ll fix that later” :P

 

One of the new changes is the new clouds system. Our previous system was a placeholder that I had never been happy with. It really looked like a 2D texture mapped onto a sphere…  yuck. So the goal was to create a procedural, dynamically-lit cloud system that would strike a good balance between realism and performance.

The biggest challenge when dealing with something as full and fluffy as clouds is lighting the suckers. Rendering realistic, properly lit volumetric clouds in real-time is very performance-heavy. For this reason, I thought best to focus on higher altitude clouds like Alto-cumulus, Cirrus, etc. Higher altitude clouds naturally have less volume and therefore don’t require performance-heavy techniques like ray-marching to get believable results. The screenshots don’t help to sell the effect, but it looks much more natural in-game. I will be revisiting the cloud system later down the development road. I have some more ideas for lower altitude, more volumetric clouds done cheaply.

The storm system is also properly integrated now. It really adds a great sense of atmosphere. When it starts to rain it makes you want to seek cover, everything looks miserable and you soon get sick of being in the rain :P

 

There’s been plenty of progress with lots of other things too. After re-working the ocean system, underwater is now also fully integrated again. There’s more items, more easter-eggs, and Ben’s come up with a great buoyancy and propulsion system for our raft system. I’m also personally excited about one of our items that provides vital feedback to the player. It was one of those great moments where we thought of an intuitive way to express all the information you’ll need in the fastest, most concise way, while staying true to the feel of the game. More info on that one later ;)

 

That’s about it for now.. Ben and I were talking the other day saying that for the first time in a long time, it actually feels like we’re getting close to early release! But we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. There’s still a few systems to complete, more items, more fish… more fun :)

I’ll leave you with some screenshots so you can get a better feel for the environment of Stranded Deep. Let us know what you think :)

 

Stay Alive!

:: Sam

 

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Day

Night

Storm

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Lumberjack

Whoa! This year is just flying past us, i think its time we post a little update.

In the past we’ve talked about our procedural content and how its used to create the world’s environment. This time we would also like to show off other features that use a similar, yet simplistic approach.
As the title implies i’m talking about trees. Trees play a big role in Stranded Deep, they’re your protection from the sun and rain, a supplier of natural foods, your lookout upon the endless ocean, you might even form a bond. Unfortunately for them, you’re going to need wood..and alot of it!

We don’t want player’s to hack mindlessly at a trunk until it disappears and logs fall from the sky, creating realistic ‘tree chopping’ is no easy task and we’ve looked into many different approaches; animation, mesh deformation, masking and splitting, etc, etc. All of these approaches were surprisingly time consuming and performance heavy.. not to mention out of place.
After much trial and error we decided that we would use predefined log segments that are randomly generated onto a trees foundation, similar to a pipe system.

First a stump is placed and is then followed by an array of  seamlessly joined unique trunk segments with the final vegetation piece placed on top. This allows us to create much more interesting segments with bends and curves in the future that will create much more interesting combinations.
TreeGeneration_1
When interacting with a tree, the segments retrieve their required components and rely on the physics engine. This procedural approach allows us to easily create a variety of trees during runtime and makes it much easier to balance out the distribution of wood to a player per island, you find yourself contemplating over each trees life and end up scheduling their sacrifice in your survivals development. Its awesome!

Heres us having some fun with the generation parameters, i’m sure modders will love creating their very own Hollywood island :)

TreeGeneration_2
..and i bet you’re wondering if you can cut them down..(Things get a bit crazy)

TreeGeneration_3
Hope this gives you more insight into our development, we’re currently in the process of switching lighting and getting everything looking fine but i’m sure you’l hear more of that in the future. We’ve had many questions regarding the release and our lack of updates… the truth is we’re both super busy and working harder than ever on getting this out for all the hardcore survivors.

Stay tuned!
-Ben

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H20

Another little update :)

There’s been a lot of interest in water systems on the Unity development forums lately, so I thought I’d post a quick video update on our water system for Stranded Deep —

There has been some improvements. Our original implementation calculated the vertex displacement on the CPU for a few reasons, but that has been moved over to the GPU now..  A few things are not shown in the video – the wave peaks and the sub-surface scattering.. and some underwater effects.

I’m hoping to have a chance to play with a screen-space reflections implementation in the coming weeks to replace the current method, so might even have another update! :P

But there’s more important things we’re finishing at the moment, like building ;)

:: Sam

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Lets Get Physical

Well it’s about time for an update!

A lot has been happening over the past few months and we’ve been hard at work. I’ll start with the crafting.

The crafting is working great! It’s refreshingly unique and the gameplay flows really well. I think players are really going to enjoy it. If it seems like we’re not telling you much about it, it’s because we’re not! :P As mentioned in my previous post, since the start of Stranded Deep’s development a few other projects have appeared with similar themes. We’re really excited about the interactivity in SD and feel it’s a really important and unique aspect to our game, and we’d like to keep it that way. I will say that it feels great as a developer to realise I’ve just spent the last 15 mins I was supposed to be ‘testing’ the game running around searching trees for coconuts and trying to catch a crab haha.

A big plus for the project’s development has been the recent integration of Marmoset’s Skyshop for Unity. It’s taken the visual quality of the game to another level! Like most Unity users, we can’t recommend Skyshop enough. The workflow is great and the results are even better. Here’s a preview of just a few of the tools you’ll find in Stranded Deep…

Stranded Deep Items

All in all, the interactive side of things, and the game as a whole, is well on it’s way. Now it’s just a matter of punching out more great assets until we can’t think of anymore!

Before I go, we’d just like to say how much we really appreciate our fans patience. Ben and myself are perfectionists, and realise that our fans deserve nothing less. We realise that the project has overshot it’s original timeline. We’re sorry, but we wanted it to be better, and we knew we could make it better with more time. We’ve received a lot of criticism regards our lack of feedback. We’re sorry for that too. Unlike our AAA competitors, there’s just the 2 of us.. for everything. We have really appreciated the strong feedback from the community and realise that a lot of people want this game to be just as great as we do. When we’re slow to reply or post updates, rest assured that it’s because we’re ‘head’s down-ass up’ absolutely buried in our work ..not off at the beach (I wish! :P )

:: Sam

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Procedural Islands

Heres an update on the environment side of things,

Initially we had a vague vision of how we wanted the island biomes to look.. small in size, scarce in resources, and fairly basic. We figured this would produce a much more stranded vibe and emphasise on how susceptible to death you are.

Is3

However this ended up looking a bit bland, probably due to the limitations we set ourselves. We were confused with how players might portray their island, Why would they ever want to be rescued from this paradise? Is their enough to explore?, enough resources for gameplay elements? It’s not easy finding a nice balance.

However, this is the beauty with procedurally generated content , there are no resets or scrapping design elements. I personally felt it lacked in vegetation, you want to feel like this is your salvation and need to be comforted by the foliage to escape from the infinite open waters. So, we played around with a few variations whilst figuring out what was lacking in atmospheric flavour, trying finding a nice balance in all the generated content.

Anyway, this is where we’re at right now, no doubt we’l end up changing a few things, figuring out what works and what we can get away with.

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1

I know we’re still lacking in some up to date footage (we’re working on it) but development is speeding up alot now that we’ve setup the whole generation system, we’ve ironed out most of the issues and everything seems to be running smoothly. I’d like to go into more detail on the system but i’l probably wait until after release. It’s very user friendly and the detail generation consists a lot of spawning parameters like splatmaps, heights, biomes, groupings, variety, rarity, etc, etc. It’s very flexible, i’m thinking of re-using the system for universal use later in the future, instead of specifically for the environment we’re looking for.

Anyway, everything is running super nice and i’m pretty please with how it turned out. All a work in progress, as usual.
-Ben

Progress!

So we thought it was about time we update the page a bit :)

Where to start.. wow! A lot of progress has been made in pretty much every area of the game.
The environment is nearing completion, which means we’ve been able to start focusing and concentrating our efforts on the gameplay aspects. I’ll go into that more a bit later, but here’s a quick run-down on some of the current environmental aspects you’ll enjoy while you’re marooned ;)

  • The world is infinite, being procedurally generated so no two games will be the same!
  • The environment contains a variety of ‘biomes’ filled with different fauna and flora,
  • There’s a plethora of environmental effects including volumetric fog, crepuscular rays, volumetric clouds, atmospheric scattering, blah blah,
  • The water features real-time deep water wave simulations, real-time reflections and refractions, caustics, foam and whitecaps, etc.

I’m sure I’m forgetting more..
I think it’s safe to say that one of the biggest challenges with this game is the scale! Attempting to cram so much high-quality world into one game at a playable frame-rate is a big challenge. Obviously there’s a few compromises to be had here and there, but we’re both very happy with how it’s coming along!

Ok, so back to it:
Re the gameplay, currently we’re working hard on the animal biomes and crafting system.
We’re trying to make the gameplay experience as unique as possible, not wanting to recreate Minecraft on an island :P So hopefully the crafting mechanics will be refreshingly different. A core focus has been making the UI (all the gameplay really) as mimetic as practically possible. Non-intrusive and only what you need. We’ve always wanted this experience to be just that, an experience, not having a UI in you’re face pulling you back to reality all the time. Obviously theres going to be compromises, as it’s just not possible to accomplish some aspects, but it’s a good objective. The system is up and running pretty slick now so should have a video up soon. Funny thing is that Ben and I are both such big damn perfectionists that we hate making videos of our work if it’s not ‘perfect’ haha. Only problem with that is a few games are coming out with similar themes now since Stranded Deeps inception, so we’ll do our best to keep progress updated on our site here and also over at the Unity forums :)
Stay tuned!

:: Sam
P.S: Here’s a nice dawn shot to keep you going :P

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