Andromeda Wild is now live on Kickstarter!

Entry 07 "It's the little details that matter" - October 21st, 2015

I think one of the things that's really important when you're developing a video game is to pay attention to the minutia. All the little details add up to create an incredible whole. For example, I've been finishing up all of the in-game elements for our upcoming Kickstarter video; creating some new plant models to be scattered around the ground, tweaking the wind effect material that's applied to said foliage, tweaking and configuring animations, and generally just trying to Ace everything's presentation. We've only got one shot at being successful on Kickstarter so I'm aiming for a hole in one here. When I was setting up the animations for Asher – your canine companion and co-op partner for the game, I noticed that when we took him in for his photogrammetry session, there was a tiny detail that was missed.

Here's a look at a collage of the photos from the 3D Scanning session. See if you can notice the detail that was missed.

Asher Photogrammetry Collage

These wonderful photos translated into an absolutely astounding re-creation of my best friend. Here's a recent photo of Asher compared to his in-engine 3D model.

Asher Comparison

The one detail that the scanning sessions missed, believe it or not was left out due to it being occluded by Asher's tail…

I couldn't possibly leave this detail out so I decided to address the issue today. I took a new photo of Asher with my phone – shockingly he didn't mind at all but that's probably because he didn't know it was going to be uploaded to the internet – and set about to not only get it added to his original texture but also to make sure it blended seamlessly. The results, I'm sure you'll agree, were worth all of the effort:

Asher's Asshole

I mean my god, how the heck was the poor guy going to poop in his previous condition? As I said, it's the little details that really matter when designing games.


Entry 06 "Creating a Hero" - September 9th, 2015

For the last few weeks I've been working non-stop to get everything ready for the Kickstarter campaign which is launching in just over 5 weeks. I've been working on an in-engine animation sequence for the video including a cool first person perspective animation of exiting your escape pod after landing on the planet. I'll likely have something to show on this front in the next day or so but in the meantime, I asked my friend Travis Wilson to design a concept for the hero of the game.

I originally wanted the hero to be a female and leave it at that, but I had a friend point out that it might be a good idea to allow the player to choose between a male and a female protagonist and I begrudgingly agreed. For the KS video the protagonist is going to be male as I'll be providing the voice over work for the character myself, but the first iteration of the game will launch with a female protagonist.

Solovant Mesh In-Engine

Travis' first design was really fantastic but I wanted the game to feature a strong female lead of an ethnicity that's not often - if ever - featured in games; an African American. I think it's incredibly important for games to star characters of all ethnic backgrounds and to portray them in a positive and non-stereotypical light. It's too often that a shooter stars a 30 something year old white male and I felt it important to break this trend. Our male option will also break tradition.

Solovant In-Game

Travis absolutely nailed the second take in my opinion and I can't wait to see her turned into a 3D character model. She looks strong, confident, capable and most importantly she's not clad in a skimpy and useless stomach and cleavage revealing outfit! She actually looks like she's dressed for the situation she's planning to experience. Originally Travis had drawn her with a pistol in her hand but I replaced it with a wooden spear as I wanted to emphasize that the hero is going to have to improvise and craft their own weaponry in a lot of situations.

That's it for this update. Be sure to post your thoughts in the comments section below and check back soon for the next update!


Entry 05 "It’s a Process" - August 11th, 2015

Last week I posted an article showing the work in Progress of the Solovant, one of my favorite creatures in the game so far. This week Allan has completed the model so I invited him to write about his experience:

Solovant Mesh In-Engine

The Solovant creature for Andromeda Wild was developed in total; buy a number of different people. Starting with initial concepts, these are rough drawings that convey the general idea of the item on hand. Eventually you have something solid enough to hand off to the next person in the chain; the 3D artist who takes the 2D image and turns it into something 3D. It's not as cut and dry as it sounds, the 2D image rarely contains enough information that a three dimensional item really needs to feel 'just right' in its final form. The 3D Artist has to take many liberties and creatively fill in those gaps, all while consulting with the rest of the team. For example, for the Solovant creature the concept did not contain quite enough information in regard to the design of the head, and its mechanical function. At that point, I know it's supposed to be a synthesis of bear, walrus and 'cool factor', so that's what you go forward on. There is a bit of a leap of faith involved, but as long as it's grounded in reality to some extent and looks cool to you, chances are it'll work. Eventually everyone is happy, and you can move out of that initial sculpting/planning/solidifying the design phase, and into making the final mesh that will be used in the engine. Paint it up, and ship it. Next please!

Solovant In-Game

Thank you Allan for your breakdown of the process.

Now that we have the creature modeled and imported into the game engine, the next step is to get him animated! More on this as soon as its available.


Entry 04 "Everyone Makes Mistakes" - August 11th, 2015

I thought it would be fun to show everyone some of the mistakes that you run into while developing a game. There's definitely been a trend towards developers showing off early works in progress of their game and this garners a lot of positive response. Fans love to see the development process from a behind the scenes perspective. One thing I haven't noticed though is a developer showing off the mistakes they make along the way. I think it's due to a valid worry that it might put fans off or make the developer seem incompetent but personally I always get a laugh from these moments and to be perfectly honest, a lot of game design is trial and error even for experienced designers.

Wooden Spear

Over the last few days I started working on getting a wooden spear model working in-game (pictured above). For simplicity's sake, I'm currently working on top of a base game project that Epic created, as a starting point for Andromeda Wild. This makes prototyping a lot faster while working as a solo developer. In this project, the first person arms and hands mesh has been separated from the weapons themselves. This has the benefit of rendering faster in game, but the downside of making it more difficult to line up the animations properly, especially for melee weapons like a spear. This is where the funny happens; I rigged the spear model with the hands and arms as one piece inside 3D studio Max and exported a test pose for use in the engine.

Spear Rig

I configured the weapon properly inside the editor and then added the new Spear to the player's default inventory. I start the game and switch from the rifle (default weapon) to my new spear but I can't see the spear anywhere. I was mostly expecting this as often times you need to adjust the origin point of the skeleton to line up with the first person camera. I press F8 to jump out of the player's body (while leaving it standing on the ground) so I can take a look at the mesh in 3rd person. The following is what I saw:

Spear Weapon Test In-Game

I chuckled a bit when I first saw this and that inspired me to write this latest diary entry. What you're seeing is this; the new spear model is actually using a full character skeleton to drive the animation.

Spear Rig With Biped

It's called a biped rig in 3D studio max and it just makes animating a lot easier. Because of this, the origin point for the spear, hands and arms is where the feet of the skeleton are. Because I'm currently using a mix of two different approaches for rendering the weapons – the rifle uses Epic's setup where the hand and arms and the weapon itself are separate pieces and my new spear integrates them into one piece – the player "pawn" is currently set up to have the origin point of the weapon placed near the origin point of the hands and arms. So logically this is also true for the new spear model as well. Since the skeleton isn't visible in game you can't see it, but essentially the spear's skeleton is standing on top of the player's arms hence why it's so high up in the air.
The problem is easy enough to fix, I just have to lower the origin point for the weapon model and then re-export the rifle using the same setup, but it was certainly amusing to see this little hiccup so I felt like sharing.


Entry 03 "The Solovant" - August 7th, 2015

A few weeks ago I contracted an artist by the name of Allan MacDonald to create a model for one of the creatures of Serifos; the Solovant. The Solovant is one of my favorite creature designs for the game, possibly due to the fact that he has been worked on by several artists. My good friend Travis Wilson created the rough sketch for him back at the beginning of the year and then Oliver Timms brought him from a rough sketch to a more polished design shortly thereafter.

Solovant Concepts

The way I interpreted the original rough was a creature that was part bear and part walrus but the size of an elephant. The Solovant is a nomadic animal who is most often found roaming the landscape alone. He's an omnivore, an apex predator on Serifos and one of the few creatures that can be found throughout every region. For the most part the Solovant won't attack you unless it has been provoked however, it is an incredibly territorial beast and as such you'll want to give it a very wide berth whenever possible.

Allan began his work with some paint overs of Oliver's final sketch to theorize some variations to the creature and some possible additions.

Solovant Variations

I really liked the different head plates- it reminded me of ceratopsids and how they all have a unique frill - however I wasn't a fan of the extra bones on the spine as it made the creature feel too much like a dinosaur. Serifos is the planet that will be most like Earth so I want the animals to feel more familiar and less alien than they will on the other planets.

The following is a series of Work In Progress screen shots of the Solovant (with variations) taken directly from Zbrush:

Solovant Sculpt WIP

The final design has since been approved and Allan is working on retopologizing and texturing the Solovant as I write this. He will be joining me soon in another developer diary post detailing his work on the creature once the model has been finished.


Entry 02 "Time Management" - August 3rd, 2015

One lesson I've found incredibly hard to learn that is the subject of today's diary entry is when I'm wasting time working on something that is for the most part unnecessary. I have a friend who always thinks I'm crazy when I start detailing areas of a level that no one – or hardly anyone – will ever see. For example, back in my counter-strike level design days, I used to try to make the level look as pretty and detailed from the perspective of the "ghosts" as it does for players who are still alive. For me it's about consistency and probably feeds my OCD (figuratively not literally). Or when I spend 4 hours trying to model the perfect tree. My friend's point has always been something along the lines of "Dude it's a shooter. If you spend any amount of time looking at the trees, you're dead!" I have to say that he has a valid point. Over the last few years I've been really trying to rein in my desire to spend countless hours perfecting every detail in order to actually complete the end goal of what I'm working on; be it an individual model or an entire level. Which brings me to the present.

I've realized that starting work on the new "Valley" region that I wrote about in my first entry of this journal is actually going to be a complete waste of time and incredibly counter-productive to the successful launch of my kickstarter campaign.
I already have a fairly good looking forest level that I invested a solid month designing that I could bring to a visually stunning quality with only another few weeks of work and yet for some reason I got it in my head that I need to start over from scratch simply because the current level won't actually be in the final release of the game. I came to my senses today while on the incredibly long and boring bus ride to work. What I show in the kickstarter does not have to be what actually is in the final game. It just has to be indicative of what the final game will look like. That's a concept that's really hard for me to wrap my head around but ultimately it is true. The entire point of the kickstarter is to sell fans on the idea of the game rather than on a final product. More to the point, the reason why the level was going to be "scrapped" in my mind was because I realized that Serifos – the first planet that will be playable in the first iterative release of the game – already has a swamplands region that will be a dense and dark forest area. I realized only after spending a month working on the forest environment that having two densely treed (is that even a word?) areas on the planet might get a little boring and it would be a better idea to make the regions of Serifos vastly different as its going to become the backbone of the game for quite a few months. What I've only just now realized while writing this diary entry is that just because it's removed from Serifos doesn't mean it can't be used as a region on one of the other planets. Besides, even if it is removed from the game entirely, it served its purpose which was to get the game greenlit on Steam.

Forest Updated

It's really hard when you're creating a game, not to get attached to everything you make and to be ok with dropping something if it doesn't work. As an artist you start to fall in love with the work that you create almost as if the work is a part of you and that often makes it rather difficult to let anything go. But as I say, I'm doing my best to be as objective as possible and to trying to ensure that my thought process is all about maximizing my time at a moment where I really don't have much to spare. So really all of the above was a rather long winded way of saying "I'm moving back to working on the Forest level and increasing the visual fidelity of that environment for the kickstarter video rather than starting from scratch on the new Valley region and potentially not having enough time to bring it up to the visual quality that I want people to immediately understand and relate to when they see the game."

Phew! Even my succinct statements are rather long winded it seems. Anywho, I have a new action plan for the kickstarter video and it is as follows:

  • Pretty up the Forest level to bring it to a visual fidelity that you feel accurately represents the goal of the final product.
  • Get one of the creatures of Serifos modeled and working in game (more on this very soon).
  • Create a model for one of the hand crafted weapons that you will be able to make in the game (large wooden spear) and get that working in game.
  • Craft a scene that showcases what an encounter with a creature might look like in the final version of the first iteration.
  • Ensure that everything looks as incredibly sexy as possible.

And if I manage to get all of that finished before the end of August then my personal stretch goal is:

  • Create a scene that showcases what it will look like to actually spawn into the world when you first start the game, complete with an escape pod landing event (as I feel this will be a great opener for the KS video.

If I can get all of this finished in the next month amd a half then I'm confident that people will be impressed when they see the KS video. That's all for this entry folks. As always, if you want to be reminded of every new post to this diary, please hit the subscribe button at the top of the page and if you like what I wrote, have any questions or just want to tell me that I'm a big fat head, please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the site.

Thanks for reading!


Entry 01 "Welcome" - July 29th, 2015

Welcome everyone who stumbles across this developer diary for Andromeda Wild (so what I should say is "Hi mom"). If you haven't heard of Andromeda Wild before, please take a look at our website, our Steam Greenlight page, (AW has been greenlit) and our You Tube channel. Oh, and you can also follow us on Twitter. If you would like to be notified of every new developer diary entry, please subscribe.

This week I started work on creating the new "Valley" environment for AW based on concept art by the incredibly talented Jake Opperman;

Andromeda Wild Valley Concept

At the moment I could only afford to have Jake work on a single high level "look dev" concept piece for the Valley. As such, I had to come up with the layout on my own based on extrapolation of Jake's final art piece.

I tried to think of how I wanted the player to be able to move through the area. The idea for the Valley came about when I realized that having both a "forest" and a "swamp lands" meant that we were going to have two areas that felt quite similar – densely populated with trees – and I thought it would add to the variety of the world if we decided to make the forest area into something a bit different. Maybe the word "Valley" isn't really the best descriptor but it works for now. The idea was to add a lot more verticality to the region and to create a much more vast and open feeling within this region as opposed to the swamp lands which I intend to be very dark and claustrophobic.

In the concept art Jake added a canyon with water falls flowing down into it and I loved the visual beauty that this would add to the scene. I didn't want the entire area to be a series of "islands" divided by a canyon and no way to navigate between them however, so I decided to have the canyon open up and taper off at one end. I'm not sure if this is something that would ever actually happen in nature and I need to do more research on how to make sure this looks natural visually but the idea is there and right now I'm focusing on getting the layout feeling right before I worry about how to make it look and feel correct and natural. Overall I think I'm happy with the layout and the opportunities for exploration.
The Valley is going to act as the central hub that connects all of the other regions together so it has to have linear components to it that funnel the player towards each of the 3 other areas that they can explore on Serifos. I also want to make sure that there's a lot of different opportunities for fun here as well and that players aren't just running through it with their heads down like you might do in a train station. It has to stand out on its own as well. It's likely to change a lot over the coming months but I think it's a good start. Be sure to check back here for more updates and please be sure to subscribe to the diary or follow us on twitter if you want to be notified when a new update is released.

-Peter Ryan
Creative Director