Make It Terrain!

We made a big decision in the last few weeks to move away from using Unity’s built in terrain system completely.

Unity’s terrain engine uses height-map and splat-map data for displaying terrain heights and referencing texture blending that is plugged into a multi-purpose component for things like detail batching, trees, texture painting, and more.

We’ve been using these components in re-usable terrain tiles for displaying our procedural generation data, which was not intended for runtime manipulations.

We wouldn’t go as far as saying we’ve created our own terrain engine, but rather a new way to display our procedural data in a much more appropriate and efficient manner for our scenario.




Because the procedural and visual calculations are separate systems it made the switch fairly simple to convert the heightmap data into mesh data by assigning height values to each vertices.


Texture splatting is now solely based off the height-map data with different height graduations for the individual layers (coral, wet sand, dry sand, grass, etc). This means we were finally able to scrap the multiple splatmap texture lookups in the terrain shader which was really eating performance! Now, all the work is done inside the shaders. This has also freed up some resources so we can have much better blending effects between texture layers and some more fancy displacement effects.


One reason we hadn’t made the switch earlier is that Unity’s terrain engine does quite a good job at batching and rendering all the terrain details (grass, small rocks, etc) ..but it is also very memory-heavy.

I made the decision to incorporate terrain details into a previously made grid-based spawning system for random world debris (similar to the world generation). This actually helps a lot with memory consumption, as objects are being recycled and only generated around you based on seed values.



So what does all this mean for you?

Well, the system is fresh and far from optimised at the moment, but we’ve seen equivalent or better performance compared to the old system with a boost of roughly 20 frames per second in parts and a significant decrease in overall memory usage.
There used to be a slight hitch transitioning between world tiles with the old system, and it’s barely noticeable now. There’s still some work to do to the new system. Things like terrain mesh LOD and culling; detail batching and LODs, will all help with the overall performance. We can also look at pushing detail into small areas with tessellation and all sorts of funky shader stuff. So it might seem like a weird late change at this point, but it’s definitely one for the better.. more importantly, it means we know our systems inside and out so if anything breaks, we know exactly what and why.

To celebrate the new terrain system I dabbled in some terrain textures, here’s a couple of them :)


It’s been a slow couple of weeks for us this time around.. but everything’s moving forward. It’s down to a lot of annoying fixes and small changes now..
So that’s it for this update. Be sure to stick around for more updates and announcements!

– Ben

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Two by two

A lot’s been happening since the last big update and it’s hard to put it all into one showcase so we like to break things up a bit.


Lets Talk Animals and Biomes.

As a lot of our followers know, Stranded Deep is infinitely procedurally generated. Along with this generation, a variety of different biomes and habitats are also created that our animal system heavily relies on.

The conventional way to populate worlds in a lot of games is a “spawn in system” – a player triggers a zone or event and a spawning system kicks in. However, we’ve gone into a little more detail, creating a system that incorporates population, breeding, and territories. We really want to put emphasis on your resource management and the visual impact you can have on environments; You can strip an island bare for wood, extinguish the crab population, eradicate reefs of fish, and even push back shark territories.

To survive in Stranded Deep you have to be smart and care for the environment, giving it time to heal and replenish or even aid in its development. Sure, you can think short term and stock up on crab meat, but long term when your fridge runs dry and there’s nothing to populate the crab holes things may get a little scary.



No ocean survival adventure is complete without them. We’ve spent a lot of time developing sharks behaviours and one of the biggest challenges was balancing how they’re portrayed. Let me run through some of these behaviours:

Sharks are assigned territories within biomes and are continuously exploring these areas as they would in the real world. You can find tiger and reef sharks scavenging the shallows and great whites ruling the depths.
You might randomly stumble upon a shark’s course or you could lure them with careless activities such as spear fishing or bleeding out.

Shark Raft_wm

All sharks have different traits, some are more curious than others whilst some are completely frightened of you. If a shark is interested in you during an encounter, it is likely to start circling, trying to get an idea of what it’s confronting. It might lose interest and continue about its day or depending on the circumstance, build aggression for an attack. What happens from here is something we wish players to experience first hand. We believe we’ve depicted sharks as realistically as possible, not as careless killing machines but as the curious creatures they are.

This is just a small glimpse of Stranded Deep’s wildlife; birds, turtles, stingrays, sea snakes, the list goes on and we might get to cover some more in a future update. With the help of Early Access we can continue to balance and develop new exciting systems that will all impact your survival.

That’s it for this update. We get asked a lot of questions about hunting and wildlife so hopefully this gives you a bit of an insight. We appreciate everyone’s support and absolutely love reading your thoughts! Exciting times ahead during these final preparations before release :)
Be sure to stick around for more updates!

:: The Team at Beam

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A few weeks back i put together a quick speed art trying out some new techniques. Our many Russian friends over on the Stranded Deep RU page showed a lot of interest when it became our twitter banner so we thought it worth posting a higher resolution for those interested.

Stranded deep Speed Art 1080p


We would love to see fan art from our many talented followers sent through our contact page or even tweet us @BEAMTeamGames

Be sure to check back for more frequent updates

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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…



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.




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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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.
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 :)

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

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!

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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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