Teaser

After two years, we’re finally ready to show-off our first teaser trailer for Stranded Deep.
We are incredibly humbled by the response of our growing Stranded Deep survivors, so we hope you enjoy watching it us much as we did making it.

Without further ado…

Let us know which parts got you excited the most?

 

#stayalive
:: Beam Team

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Let There Be Light

This past week, I had to take a slight detour back to the fish system; Ben had been finishing up the functionality of the spear-gun and mentioned that “it’s going to be great when you can go proper deep sea fishing.”

“Yeah that sounds cool… oh wait…”

Derp.

It was something that had completely slipped my mind. The idea is that there are different fish populations for different biomes, depths, etc. Around the islands you’ll find schools of smaller fish, stingrays and the like. Go out deeper and you’ll be able to fish for the bigger, more rewarding species.

So as of this week you can actually do that!

Ben’s been finishing off the player buff system. I mentioned in a previous update that there is very little UI in Stranded Deep. We’re attempting to provide most of the in-game feedback visually and audibly from the player character themselves. You are able to actually see if you have a broken arm, cuts or infections.. You’ll hear your stomach grumble if you’re hungry, or your watch may give you the occasional beep to let you know one of your stats is low. Paying attention to yourself is going to be an important part of the gameplay in Stranded Deep as there will be no traditional UI constantly in your face.

The audio system and animation system also got a quick once over with some work to add in more customisation and variety for interaction between all the different items. As we clean up and finish more items, things are starting to look and feel better and better. One of Ben’s favourite new items is the lantern. It’s one of those items that reacts really well to the environment around it – walking around an island at night with your lantern leading the way. Per request last update, we thought we’d throw in a short clip of messing around with the lantern ..and the campfire burning away as well :) (The quality is a bit dodgy on the page so it’s best viewed on Youtube in HD ;) )

 

 

Stay Alive!

:: Sam

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Check In

Just a quick update this time around.

We’ve been doing a lot of the same things we mentioned last week – getting everything tied up, chasing bugs, squishing them, etc..

I spent more time than I should have trying to figure out why the highlighting system was broken.. In the game there’s an item highlighting system that helps you visualise what items you have selected or grouped together for crafting and building, etc. I eventually figured out that it was the LOD system we integrated last week – some items we’re flipping over to their next LOD level which uses simpler shaders… so yeahhh, there’s always fun things like that :P

I had to knock up a new burning system. The existing system is pretty great, but at the moment it’s a bit of a bulky monster. It’s likely to make a return, but there’s a few practicality/performance issues that need some more thought. So for now, a simpler burning and cooking system has been implemented and it’s working great :)

There’s a lot of boring loose-ends to tie up at the moment that doesn’t make for very exciting reading, but it’s all progress :)

Back to it ;)

 

BuildingBurning

 

Stay Alive!

:: Sam

 

 

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Balancing Act

This last week or so we’ve been consolidating all the items in the game.
There’s a long list of things to check off for every item – physics, LODs, layers, tags, names, materials, animations, audio, scripts and functionality, texturing, particles and more needed to be confirmed and tested working. Theres a few specific items to finish off, with more functionality we want to add, but even so there’s been a large, large chunk checked off the todo list, so that’s a good feeling :)

I’ve also been tidying up the shaders for our new terrain that Ben covered last update. The standard terrain shader softly blends between the different textures…

Terrain Blending_1

Quite simple.. and quite ugly :/ In real life, sand doesn’t just linearly fade into rocks. It falls into the cracks, filling them up, with rocks poking through. With our new terrain system, we’ve been able to incorporate better and more realistic methods to blend between textures while saving some performance at the same time. Win win :D ..add some displacement effects and things should really pop and look pretty sweet.

Terrain Blending_2

 

The long process of balancing items in the game has also begun. Variables like durability, health and damage need to be balanced against each other for all items. No doubt, this is going to be something that continues well into early access development, as we continue to adjust and tweak variables as the game progresses and more players give us their feedback.

We’ve also been nailing down the progression of the game; From your first moments on the plane, familiarising yourself with the controls and mechanics, to the first time you set foot on an island and need to find a crude cutting device to cut down a tree to create a fire, craft a better weapon, etc. The natural progression of the game is also something that needs to be well balanced. It is possible to get straight out there to find some awesome tools and weapons.. but if you haven’t set up some kind of home base, at least a basic food supply, etc, chances are you’re going to die pretty quickly.

So all in all, it’s been a productive few weeks, moving us ever closer to that release build :)

 

Cool shot

 

Stay Alive!
:: Sam

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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.

Shore

 

Mesh

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.
 

Textures

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.
 

Details

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.

TerrainDetailShifter
Reefs

 

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 :)

Coral_Texturejpg
RockTexturejpg

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.

Crab_Killer
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.

 

Sharks.

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
-Ben

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kn064j.jpg

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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