Shavra – Improving Visuals in Game Guru

I haven’t updated this for a while because I was finishing my test game and have been trying things here and there. I feel like I have progressed enough to give this another whirl (as I try to achieve a higher quality than in my SF games)

In my shooter games I can rely on the rather simple shooty shoot mechanic to carry my games. I know that centering the screen on something you want to hit and then clicking is not necessarily cerebral doping but can be fun and challenging. I hold a lot of fondness for the FPS genre but this game is decidedly not one. Despite there being weapons I still plan on having this to be by and large an adventure game…facing all the challenges that come with this. As a fan of stealth games like the legendary Thief series I also try, knowing that I’ll likely get sub par results, to get stealth mechanics up an running. Its very possible that I’ll cancel the idea if it proves to be unfeasible.

So yes, I’ve written out the plot points of a smaller game in this universe and will deliver that as soon as I can. I have less time this year than I had 2016 but I’ll still try to keep up with this. Am I repeating myself here?? Anyway!! On to new stuff:

Despite dabbling in some gameplay mechanics I also tuned the visuals and had fun working on my maps!

Note that I have not yet replaced the HUD I had in Redacted : hired gun. Just pretend its not there, I’ll get behind crafting a placeholder swap out for that later.

 

Samweyrian Village – Herbalists Hut 

 

Still a huge fan of Errant AI’s work in puncto weapons! 

 

There is a certain serenity to this village to me. I’ll ad some insects buzzing around when its polishing time! 

I try to make places have an organic feel to it with lowpoly clutter objects like this! 

Me fooling around. There are no enemies in this level, just NPC’s. But hey! I like that tattoo I added so there ya go

If you look at that char, you won’t notice how much the AO is not working in the background (:

 

Abbey Island again. A tiny bit optimized and modernized 

Its possible that it will be a while until I can post newer material since I’ll probably have a lot of tweaking to do to get a servicable stealth…illusion…going. For one level at least.

I think I mentioned everything I wanted to point out so I’ll hold back on blabbering on endlessly. Let me know if you have any questions as alway:

Feedback and ideas are extremely welcome.

-Wolf

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Hello!

I haven’t updated in a while and figured I should before I’m away for a few days.
Not much has happened here. I have imported the weapons that have also been present in previous iterations of my fantasy games. Namely EAI’s splendid fantasy set (I also …finally…bought the whole set).
They still look pretty fine! I decided to go with leather gloves rather than the blue version I had in this when it was still called “Spyra”.


Halberd with outdated handrig

Here is one of them ingame. Nevermind the shading errors in this levels, I take care of that later, its an easy fix

 

His set is the best one out there if you ask me, especially since he also has a set of spellcasting gestures made and his stuff is easy to rig to.

I also chose to invest a couple of bucks in better characters. I’m pretty happy with the new ones as I felt the other ones did, despite my best efforts, drag the game down both in terms of visual quality and immersion. The new ones are spiffing though!! Very happy with them and how they are animated

Here is one:

 

Let me hear your thoughts if you feel like it.

I have imported over 100 different rock models into reloaded…from pebbles to cliffs. It would make sense that the settlements are around rocky areas where there is shelter from Sandstorms… these I can create now. I have also learned from Skyrim that blending entities with the terrain makes for the best landscape look. I’m getting good results now but I can’t say how it will perform once baked lightmapping is in. I have to thank rolfy here, as I use one of his textures for some and the color-palette of this texture for all of the rocks in Shavra.

Altough I generally optimise my game very well, I go with high resolutions for the terrain as it just elevates the overall feel of the game! Its one of the reasons why texture mods for older games focus a lot on the terrain. A blurry, dull terrain just kills the mood.

The amount of rocks I have allows me to create very diverse dungeons aswell. Altough classic dungeoncrawling will be more rare in Shavra.

Desert-themed fantasy often has architecture that is built in large sandstone formations. This would be a difficult task to pull off but I will try it anyway later in development!

Thank you for reading!

 

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Shavra – fear and loathing with interior design and characters

Hey gang!

I have to admit that I present you this updated with mixed feelings. Not only because I didn’t get all too much further into development but also because I developed a love-hate relationship with my characters. I have been talking a lot about this in the past but I’m really starting to dislike the set I use for Shavra. Don’t get me wrong, I got plenty and they have functional animations for a lot of different scenarios but they seem to drag the overall visual quality for the game down.

I have presented this project outside of this board on a couple sides and that they don’t match up with their environments or look weird and stiff has been mentioned a couple times. I can’t help but agree and am debating wether or not I should invest the time and most likely also money to get better stuff to work with.

That said, I am pleased with how the laboratory of the abbey has turned out. The entire building is now set up and all it needs are its NPC’s and questcontextual dialogues. There is not much gameplay in that building as you are just getting some exposition and briefed for your next mission. That means that the player will likely not spend that much time in it (Shavra has no crime system so you can’t rob them off all their potions) but I still have to make it all look the part.

I’m happy with the different potion models I have and look forward to designing the ones the player can find and use in dungeons. They look great in real time shading too, the baked lights kinda make them look a little FPSC’ish though but still acceptable in my opinion.

Baking the abbey and all its halls took forever. Which was okay as I got out of the house, bought the food for my cats, got myself a salad, spoke to a bloke I went to school with I ran into, ate the salad, came home, finished a painting and the map was baked.
Its all acceptable as long as I don’t get FPSC’ish crashes and memory errors!

 


Laboratory interior. I improvised that balcony out of old FPSC’s “modtable” meshes from the WW2 set. I think it works visually.


To illustrate my point about the characters. I have talked with Pirate Myke about how I could improve upon them and he had some good ideas. Lets see if I can implement them.


Shavra uses a lot of my old “Mystics Lair” models. I think I will need to take a few evenings to make a followup pack for me…and put it all on the store too.

This is the mess hall. You can make out these shader artifacts on the wall here. Notice how these are absent in most other shots!
Notice that I tried to make the shadows fall at least somewhat correctly.


I only found it fitting to have these mushrooms bringing in additional colour. Seeing how they cultivate rare plants and all.


Old lady on a pew. Another character mesh I’m not terribly in love with :/


Breaking up the gallery with a vegetable field from outside.

The laboratory without any NPC’s around.

Female alchemy student. I didn’t rig any tool to her mesh yet so she kinda just stirs in the air in this shot. Am not too sure if I should keep her or not either. You can look at her mesh here:


Older work I have purchased and build up on. Many of my chars have been in FPSCreator packs as mentioned lately but never used all too much so I wanted to feature them but I’m doubting more and more that I’ll go ahead and replace them with something better, even if that means more work.


Abbey student NPC.


Cassia
Story related NPC. At least my first version of her.


And I leave you with an impression of the alchemy lab. Herbs and boiling potions! I wonder what it would smell like.
Please let me know what you think as I always value your input!

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Shavra – Nothern Island and Abbey Interior

Alright! Time for an update!

I know that what I have shown the last time was already rather polished so I’ll have to warn you that what will be shown in this update is in an a lot more “raw” state.:)

Estimating a release date for anything I do is impossible at the moment. I think I get a couple of evenings to work in GG and something comes in between and I don’t touch Shavra for days in a row. Then I suddenly make a lot more progress than expected and am tempted to believe that it will always go this fast. I have been working on this on and off for the last couple of days and just plan to get the alpha out this year and then see how it progresses (the game and the engine).

The dullest thing about making a video game (I have already evaded a lot of dull procedures by using a plattform like GG) must be the tiresome adjusting and improving of furniture and clutter items. You need them for your game but its just so mindnumbingly boring to retexture a bunch of cabinets. :/
I usually listen to music or some kinda lecture. Sometimes watch some internet video or a show on the side. …can only recommend to do it that way because you gotta do it if you want your game to look the “video” part of “videogame” πŸ™‚

Aside from that complaint, I had a lot of fun working on the chars and these new environments. I have started to furnish the interior of the Abbey and am almost done with the other side of the island. Here you’ll be hunting 2 dinosaur like creatures that have attacked the settlements (hence the pallisades everywhere, by the way)

I can also say with certainty what kind of levels will be seen in the Alpha-demo:

Aresh-Ren (By evening and nighttime)
Areshian Abbey
Abbey-dungeon
Interior of several huts
Pub (day and night)
Cave (optional: sidequest only)

I am aware that these look similar to what has been seen before. This is because we are still on the same island, just on the other side of it. Developing does take a lot longer than playing πŸ˜‰

You’ll see a bunch of sunrays in this update… cause its neat πŸ˜›

I’m happy that I have a bunch of bearded chars for the game. Adds to the fantasy mystique. This is a docent at the abbey. I want him to give you a dialogue based sidequest, but haven’t worked on any of how I can achieve that to be interesting.

The lecture hall. West wing of the Abbey.

First thing you see once you enter the other side of the island. Its an a bit more woodsy area.

I’m happy to share this! I think I managed to make this level feel really “breathing”.

Swampy coast.

Abandoned huts. As mentioned before: large dinosaur like predators are roaming the area and you need to deal with them.

πŸ˜€ A small animated turtle I got for FPSC a couple years back. It finally has its uses.

Entrance Hall, Areshian Abbey.

And ending on a lush, foresty note is a nice way to wrap up the screenshots. Please leave some feedback if you wish.

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Shavra – Progress and Characters

You can also read the last update for more information on design choices πŸ™‚

I had some time to work on this and after some frustration and quite a few deleted meshes, I finally have a level of quality and workflow I can maintain to make individual characters. I have discussed this in the last update and they are still far from what is seen in current game engines but I think they fit the overall aesthetic well and blend in with the world. I haven’t done that many yet.

In the plot you will hire a ferryman to get you to the Aresh’Ren island and that is precisely the first character I have salvaged. He is not perfect and these old meshes feel rushed and have quite some frustrating flaws in them but I am getting there. This also settles that dialogues will be textbox based, with the occasional shout or comment that is audible… old school, the fossils among us will remember that well.

My next step will be to design the characters I need for the alpha, but I have also worked on other levels. I have added this swimming pool to the sanctuary where FPSC’s stock swimming animation finds its use. This is the first time I see this animation in use since 2005.

two bathing maiden in the new sanctuary pool.
Its entirely by accident that her hair has this wet look, by the way

I could end the update here, but I have also gotten the Island map to the state it will be released in when the alpha goes out sooo… while this greatly resembles what has been shown before, its now upgraded! …and this is my thread, I can present this the way I want.

Abbey with extensive garden area.

As seen before only tweaked. Notice the sign over the inn, I’ll go with sumerian style writing as the writing of the Shavrans.

Please leave some feedback if you’re already here

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Shavra – Resurrection (Archive)

Hello!

While I’m aware that most of my old followers have most likely forgotten about this project I’d still like to continue updating this profile as I am working on this title again.

I had a long hiatus from game design as I was working on my career and then I have trained my skills on a completely different projects. Add a few 3D modeling gigs here and there and months have gone in the land.

This project has been continued as well and I will now post what I have been up to in a few updates that will follow in relatively short time.

*** *** ***

**************

While I really should upload my models to the store I have instead been working on Shavra. =) Oh well! At least I am happy with the results. If you are interested in how I go about designing my games, read the following italic text.

At first I weave a broad storyline out of an initial idea. Then I take an educated guess of what can and can not be done. Older members know that with FPSC, I have usually been wrong and I couldn’t do it in the end…well sometimes I could and that was always fun. Now that this has been established I note the single acts and where they take place. I now start developing the maps for the middle parts of the game. Never start at the beginning because

1. You will get better and only rework and remake them which can ultimately distort the original idea.
2. The first few levels will give the first impression of your game, you should craft them at the height of your skill level. A player who is already playing as far as, say, level 5 won’t mind as much if its slightly less advanced.

Here I’ll develop a broad layout of the map, then I add the basic gameplay, then I add the characters, then I tweak both of these aspects, then I’ll add more advanced gameplay and then the map and the models will be polished.

We are mostly still at the broad mapdesign phase altough I have started branching in the character creation part.

Characters in indie games are trouble! If you play indie games you may have noticed that many of the big independent titles have little to zero interaction with actual real-time characters. Amnesia, Penumbra, Doorways and many more do a lot to avoid them.
In AAA games the characters are lively and amazing. I remember well someone describing the fact that the eyes of your squad in the early Brothers in Arms games would follow the player as scary. Well… how would you describe the extremely vivid characters in modern games then? Its not uncommon to find younger commentators describing the conversation animations of older games as “cringe-worthy”.

I think this is really something an indie dev has to ponder upon if he does not want to alienate his players. How do I go about using characters in Shavra?

The fact is that I have a large library of rarely used and decently animated chars to populate my world. They are in a rough state and need a lot of touching up but I believe that I can make them look passable with some texturing magic. Interaction is another aspect of this and in the end I just decided to go with a conversation system similar to S.t.a.l.k.e.r. or Morrowind.
They look better than Morrowind chars and the standart for my game is set to be that of a modded Morrowind visually.
Sure, a lot of players are too jaded to bother with the end result but I’m sure I’ll have a player base….I always had one.

Now I also have some visual updates… because I know how exciting an all-text update is πŸ˜€

I have mentioned that buildings will have (at least somewhat) matching interior architecture to how they appear outside. That has always been important to me. Here the interior of one of these huts we saw earlier. Making these is quite fast and easy, my only complaint is the plasticky shimmer GG adds to my props in baked lightmapping under the current rendering system…but all this will be improved. There are some shading and rendering faults in these images, I know that.

Strolling through Areshian nature and taking in the vistas. I’m happy with the quality of the foliage I use and find that it already has quite an atmosphere to it. Its in no way perfect but it looks already better than what I thought I could do in GG yet. What do you think?

Prototype of the Areshian Abbey. Not too crazy about its current normalmap and texture quality but getting there πŸ™‚

Thats it for this time! If you have stuck through and have been reading all this, please let me know what you think! πŸ™‚ Feedback is always very appreciated.

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Relict – FPSCreator Fantasy Game – 2010

2010

FPSC

Hello there!

Relict is a project still close to my heart. Game development is a particularly frustrating art form as its very possible to pour a lot of work and time into a project and yet still end up with nothing. The project has evolved alongside my skills and technical knowledge and eventually migrated over to the unreal engine. (See here)

Swapping the engine was the last one of a long sequence of mistakes that eventually doomed the project to fail. Working on it, however, taught me a lot of valuable lessons. I dabbled into writing,scripting, music and sound design as well as improved a lot of my game development skills. In this archival post I’d also like to share the primary reasons of why you can not download and play it now and all I can show are screenshots. But first lets take a look at the actual project:

I designed the plot line to play to FPSC’s strength, at least partially. It would take place in a single areas that offered too locations. An idyllic abbey and a large dungeon complex underneath. The game would first take you through exposition and tutorial type levels through the abbey, levels I have decorated with a lot o attention for detail. This was also the time that I have adopted the widespread use of normalmapping. Afterwards you would be on a dungeon crawl through an ancient and increasingly dangerous underground temple complex.

As I was aware that character interaction and dialogues would have been hard to deliver convincingly I wrote in a demon character that possessed the protagonist and would taunt him as well as offer comic relief. This was supposed to be very similar to Clarence in Penumbra or Xana in Dark Messiah.

Throughout development, character meshes would change/where replaced/retextured and upgraded.

The lower picture shows an early test of a light spell that would allow you to illuminate darker areas. Working torches or flashlights where either rather silly or barely functional in FPSC at the time due to its static lightmapping system and the general gist of how light and shadow work in it. This spell is a work around and is based of the feature that guns briefly light up the area when shot in the engine.

I initially wanted to copy in the plot line I posted in a forum when I presented this game, but my english skills where vastly inferior at the time and it makes me cringe now. You can look at it here…if you want to.

A short, vague and ultimately bland summary is this:

In a world ravaged by war, a clash between the forces of magic and the upcoming power of technology, a young thief finds himself a key figure destined to shape events.

As generic as this sounds, I did write a rather servicable script for this that featured several fresh ideas for me to convey plot and lore with the limited tools I have had. Serviceable enough that its likely that I pick this project up again in a different engine some time in the future. πŸ™‚

The feature list as presented at the time was:

  • *Mystical and Dark Ambience
    *Dialogues, short side quests and hand to hand combat
    *Parcour and Puzzle based gameplay
    * Nice Effects!Fire,Water, Magical Energys, Rain, Lightray, Fog…this game will have it all
    *A lot of animals (small and large ones)
    *Outdoor levels
    *Selfmade models, paintings and a huge load of re-textures to give this game its own look

These are examples of in-game interactivity. The inventory system was largely “fake”. It presented items that you can gather in boxes in a way that implies that you have an inventory you can access but in reality things where either consumed/read/activated immediately or became part of your HUD and thus activated with a designated key.

The second picture here shows how I have gotten around the fact that I was unable to get any cursor/mouse interaction going for menus so I attached functions to convenient keys.

Now on to the downfall.

The truth is that when I was working on Relict I was a different, much younger and much more naive person. My enthusiasm made the project grow way beyond my capabilities and means (and beyond the scope of the engine I developed it in) and now that I am older and wiser I just know that THIS game would have been impossible to finish. Later titles failed due to inadequacies with FPSC then but this one…its almost all on me. You see, FPSCreator has the following issues:It does not flush the ram properly after a level is finished (and my levels loaded in a lot of content), it had a memory cap allowing one to only design very small and very well planned levels, its hilariously unstable once games are built and its combat system did not allow one to make particularly convincing magic and melee systems (altough I tried my best using the fantastic models by Errant AI)

Speaking of the melee system. The main flaw was that one could not properly chain attacks which made sword fighting rather awkward. Rather than being able to swing your blade around you would hit…wait for it to get to starting position and then hit again. This works for back up melee weapons in shooters but not so much a full fledged fantasy games. Spells would be disguised “modern” weapons.

However! The brawling in the game was really fun, I gave the enemies a few delightfully insulting taunts and the awkwardness of everything added a certain charm to it.

Another glaring issue was the sheer amount of scripts always active in every level. I wanted to give the player the “immersive sim” experience masterfully provided by games like Thief or Deus Ex. Lots of variables, lots of HUD overlay’s being triggered…no surprise a lot of things would overload or not activate properly. Levels started to look like this in-editor:

A lot of concepts, ideas and artworks I have made for Relict have eventually migrated over to projects like Shavra and Acythian. Sure, I’d be proud to have released this game but the sheer workload I thought I could manage and all the features I thought I could “figure out later” makes me now see clearly that this whole thing was simply impossible. I am still thankful that I started it and I had a lot of fun just toying with creating this little world.

Huge shoutout to the FPSC community who helped and supported me while I was dabbling with this.

Thank you for reading! I leave you now with a collection of screenshots from the project:

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