Recent Posts

Pages: [1] 2 3
1
General Chat / Re: Good work btxsqdr~
« Last post by Shermac on April 22, 2017, 09:22:57 AM »
Ah the good old time. Wish I participated more back then.
2
Announcements / Re: Proven Lands is funded! WE DID IT!
« Last post by Shards on December 05, 2015, 08:07:19 AM »
Gratz , i m glad you guys did it , Proven lands will be a great survival sandbox for sure !
3
General Chat / CISCO certifications for futuristic careers
« Last post by benol on August 07, 2015, 05:46:41 AM »
CISCO certifications are marking their success as the ultimate learning programs determining the career of young professionals. The confusions on choosing the right career and the scramble for better jobs are leading many professionals to be decisive on their career. CISCO certifications are proving to be adequate training for achieving global careers as they are recognised across the world. These certifications are settling young professionals in global cities; the introduction of CISCO training in Dubai is a classic example. Young professionals from various parts of the Gulf are settling in the cosmopolitan city for procuring technical training and pursuing better career prospects. CISCO certification training is improving the qualification of young professionals while settling them in distinctive career roles. These certifications include CCNP or Cisco Certified Network Professional, CCNA or Cisco Certified Network Associate and CCIE or Cisco certified Internetwork Expert program. There are many specialisations in both CCIE and CCNA; the specialisations in CCIE are CCIE Routing and Switching, CCIE Service Provider, CCIE Security, CCIE Collaboration, CCIE Data Center and CCIE Wireless program. There are also similar specialisations in CCNA such as CCNA Routing and Switching, CCNA Service Provider, CCNA Security, CCNA Data Center and CCNA Wireless program. There are several seminars, bootcamps and workshops conducted by instructors that simplify the curriculum to the young candidates. Such novelty in training is capturing the interests of young professionals into the training; it enables them to understand the programs better. The professional training for certification is truly establishing the career of a large fraction of young professionals.
4
Hey folks,

Rafael here. Let’s talk about the game design of Proven Lands today, let’s talk about survival, which is, along with science fiction, our core concept.







Why Survival Matters

To me DayZ or H1Z1 are not really survival games, but FPS games with a few survival features. These games are great in co-op, but I never felt like Robison Crusoe, or like Robert Neville in the first half of I Am Legend. They’re cool, but they are rather run-for-your-life experiences like Temple Runner ;) or Hunger Games than games like The Forest or Fallout. The same applies in many cases to RUST and all the other RUST-alikes like GRAV.

I love survival novels, films, games. I really do. The first half of I Am Legend is a good example of an apocalyptic survival film. By survival I don’t mean the horror survival genre, in which you survive a dungeon or witch. I’m talking about back-to-basics survival games in which you take care of your mind and body a lot. Food, insanity, morale and health. That’s why our main character is named after Teruo Nakamura by default, a Japanese Imperial soldier from the Second World War. The interesting thing about him is that he’s someone who survived until 1974 on a small Indonesian island without knowing about the end of the Second World War. I also like the core concept of Enemy of Mine.

Why Proven Lands Is A Survival Game

For Proven Lands I’ve always wanted a game where I would have been a survivor on a hostile planet and a game that I also could play for 50 hours. It is not a survival simulator, and it shold be, as you can easily see it, less serious than other sci-fi games. So I questioned myself: How to add some depth to a survival game like Don’t Starve without making the game an academic paper?

At first, the trait and mood system. Even though Proven Lands has a number of RPG features, most of these are in the background. You won’t find an “intelligence” or “stamina” value. Instead, you fight temporary “trait” states of your body like “sick”, “hungry” or “freezing”; these states base on values, but you will never see the actual value in the game but the trait icon. Many traits are stackable, so the more “wounds” you have, the higher the chance that you get “fever”, become “sick” or get a “scar”. It takes some “skills” to learn how to manage these traits, even though some of the answers to them are obvious. Other traits are permanent like the “human”, “drugged” or “dead”.

Secondly, we are in space, on an alien planet. So we don’t have axes (we gave it a try once, but it didn’t take us long to notice that it didn’t feel unique enough; another survival game with axes, really?). Laser weapons and drones, that sort of stuff – in addition to a few new features – is what we like in Proven Lands. And you are not a super hero, nor a NASA scientist (which is somehow typical for a sci-fi theme, isn’t it?). You are an average guy with a big mouth that landed on a planet. Many aliens are more advanced than you. You won’t become a professor after 10 hours in-game, nor will a real-life wiki help you to craft whatever you want (like in Minecraft or Starbound - as long as you know the dependencies or ingredients, right?). There is a skill and knowledge system that forces you to see the game through the weaknesses and strengths of your character. And there’s also a simple, but powerful language system that simulates the slow process of learning an unknown language.

Last but not least there are buildings and crafting. Resources, crafting and buildings are actually a big part of the game. They deserve a few own blog posts I think. What I can tell today is that we’ve been thinking a lot about the “home base” concept and buildings in survival games. Why? Because every survival game has some sort of building mechanic implemented. Think “camp fires”, “tents” or “walls” for instance. We will tell more about the new building concept over time here - also about crafting and drones, don’t bother.

Finally, more scientific features of Proven Lands are “radiation”, “oxygen” or “temperature”. Even if most sci-fi stories are about humans-in-spaceships, the truth is: space and planetary missions are deadly to our body due to radiation. Only because Earth saves us from (most of the) radiation, most of us seem to forget that being in space, as well as on many planets, is like living next to a Chernobyl nuclear reactor (”space medicine”). This might be one of the reasons why we will never see humans in spaceships travelling to other star systems, despite Star Wars and Star Trek. In Proven Lands it means: On most planets you should be cautious. It is not a hard sci-fi game, but I think we’ve found a cool way to indicate danger (thanks to the “trait” system).

The overall idea is, and I hope you see that, that we give you all these features but just in the background and on a procedural level, so that your gameplay decides what you’ll run into. I like “easy to learn, but hard to master” game designs. I like simple, but powerful and dynamic game mechanics. And I will tell soon more on how a “fever” or even “death” grow from a simple cold.

I hope you’ve enjoyed it a bit. Now I’ve got a cold in real-life. Great. Sort of a real-life trait system stress test I suppose. ;) So I will take some rest now. I hope you’re fine! See you soon.

Also, follow us on

http://blog.provenlands.com
http://facebook.com/provenlandsgame
http://twitter.com/btxsqdr

Cheers, Rafael
5
Hey guys,

when I was talking to a Youtuber a few days ago, he asked me about our voxel engine and this sort of stuff. And then, at the very end, he asked: Well, but what is a "voxel" anyway? We started to laugh. So let's talk about voxel basics first.

Voxel

A "voxel" is basically a "3D dot", a value in a 3D grid -- a term of computer graphics (i.e. "volume graphics" and a "3D discrete topology") much like "pixel" (picture), "texel" (texture), "maxel" (material) or "resel" ("resolution element" in image analysis). As you see above, a voxel can, but doesn't need to be used in a Minecraft game. It is only a data representation, a data structure, or to make it easier, the way how you store data. And you can do the opposite too, like "voxelizing" a vectorized data to voxel data and vice versa.





Voxel Rendering

So how do you render that voxel data in the end? Because so far we just had blocks or clouds of data (depending on your representation).



The groundbreaking Outcast (1999) rendered landscapes with a voxel engine. It was pretty blocky, but the landscape was not Lego-alike like in Minecraft years later, right? Master of Orion 3 (2003) used voxel graphics to render space battles and solar systems. And Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (1999) used it for the unit model rendering. The CryEngine uses a mix of voxel data and a height map for its impressive terrain engine, in order to not be as boring as the terrain engines of Unity or Unreal. "Volume rendering" itself is even older, not only is it used when they scan your skull with X-rays, it’s also a common tool in scientific visualization. In fact, volume rendering and the whole concept of “voxelization” has deep medical foundations, which we you can see above too.



Rendering voxel data like in Minecraft is basically this: You make polygons out of voxel data, because our current graphic cards base on that; so it is true that if you would have a voxel graphic card, it would be faster. For us, today, it is much like drawing by numbers, with tons of calculations if you want your model to be smoother than a cubic voxelization like in Minecraft. In games like Minecraft where you handle "cubes" instead of a smooth terrain with overhangs like in Proven Lands (or much better engines such as C4 or Voxel Farm), you can already guess that you safe time if you “just” render cubes. The guy behind the C4 engine wrote the very first dissertation on this topic in 2012, on huge voxel terrain landscapes, which means that working on a voxel engine that renders a huge landscape is pretty state-of-the-art today, due to a number of performance issues the higher the rendering resolution and the view distance.

In fact, you can say that on the left side you have "voxel engines" like Minecraft  -- and on the right side revolutionary "voxel engines" like Atomontage. Proven Lands is somewhere in the middle, more to the left than to the right, and of course less impressive than the voxel engine of EverQuest Next (Voxel Farm by Miguel Cepero), which has, well, more than one engineer *cough* and an incredibly higher budget. So as a tiny game developer you make tradeoffs all the time when you’re basically not a game engine company like Unity. But if you don’t need to compete with EverQuest Next, there’s no shame about that, if you look at the success of Minecraft.

Okay, so I hope you enjoyed the little lecture even if it was a bit techie. Soon, we’ll talk about the famous Marching Cube and similar algorithms in voxel engines, so that we’ll be able to talk about voxel engine optimization and level-of-detail issues, which is crucial if you want to render higher view distances.



Oh, yes. I just had to add that creepy bug anim. ;)

Also, check out our blog: blog.provenlands.com

Cheers, Rafael
6
Sursday Updates / Sursday Update - 5 March 2015 - Terrain Engine Part 1
« Last post by btxsqdr on March 05, 2015, 08:22:49 PM »
Hey guys,

it’s Thursday, therefore it's time for a Sursday Update. Today I’d like to chat about the story behind the voxel-based terrain engine, so we can talk about voxel details next week.

The Beginning

Originally, Proven Lands wasn’t more than a nice game idea I had since Minecraft I think, but I always imagined it to be procedural in some way, even if I didn’t expect it to become reality soon.





When I jammed 2013 on http://lostutopia.com, which is basically a cubic voxel-based game I did during the first (?) Indie Game Magazine game jam, I told Jeffrey about it. He made a few quick illustrations for Lost Utopia as well as a “survival game in space”, influenced by Don’t Starve, Project Zomboid and roguelike games. I felt something important was happening, so I quit Lost Utopia after five days of development and switched to Proven Lands, and I tried to avoid as many side projects as possible. It was the time where “Proven Lands” actually “started”.



I am into graphics programming and coding in general, so voxels and everything related to the GPU and complex stuff is cool to me. I did some tiny games at that time, like https://vine.co/v/hmhXP2qUj6Q(WebGL) while I also worked on a water simulation https://vine.co/v/hWpDp2KZ0ra (Unity/GLSL) and other projects. I felt that a voxel based terrain is our long term goal, while a playable gameplay prototype is our way to go, starting with a height map based terrain, due to our team size and everything.



Height Map Based Terrain

During that time I asked an ex-AAA 3D artist if he could create a large landscape for Proven Lands, in order to see how long it takes for him to model and design a big chunk of the planet. I was cautious. We made a few concepts. We did prototypes. After two weeks it turned out to be too expensive.

So I created what was supposed to be a prototype of a “sandbox survival” game based on a height map. What was meant to be a “workaround”, turned out to be okay over time. It was a dirty hack, but it looked nice. It was pretty unique back in 2013 (I think). I ran into a number of performance issues on Unity though, but we were able to show a running super pre alpha hack in spring 2014.



Quite a number of sandbox survival games actually do base on height map terrain - or most games in general. It is very common to use it and GRAV shows even in Early Access well how far you can go with it in a sandbox game. But it has limits, and I noticed them early.

The generation of a terrain like that one is always the same. A “planet” consists of x “chunks”, where each chunk has x “generators” that are able to place textures, models, quests and enemies.



When I started to write an own terrain engine, due to Unity 4 issues, instead of using the Unity built-in one (which meant that I was about to write my own height map based terrain engine within Unity), I was at a point where I was said: Why don’t we try to implement digging, caves, flying islands and overhangs into Proven Lands? I did 3D engines before, I was used to Marching Cubes for years, it felt pretty reasonable, despite our team size and budget based on savings.

I still remember that at that time someone on tumblr asked me about Planet Explorers, which was new to me. I felt that we could have been overrun by height map based survival games soon – which, looking back at it, turned out to be right, taking a look at Steam today, right? So we decided to give the voxel based engine a try while preparing the Kickstarter. We wanted to see how Kickstarter goes.



Post-Kickstarter

After our *cough* ambitious Kickstarter failed, we had kind of a down, to be honest. We made a few tough decisions and decided to halt our small team for a few months -- except for the voxel engine development. And while negotiating with publishers, I had also to jump in on a different project at the same time, for good reasons since we ran out of savings.



We lost a few months due to that “shut down”, but I managed to rewrite the voxel engine from the scratch, to clean up the game design, and at some point, Jeffrey was working again on concept art. We even imagined a Proven Lands in 2D, if you remember that time. It was a strange time of waiting, recovery. That voxel engine back then looked okay, but I had to rewrite it because it didn't work out in the way how I imagined it, for instance, with a huge view distance.

So I talked to a number of people in the industry working on voxel based engines before I made an overhaul of the voxel engine. I worked with the Unreal engine before and I knew that Unity is more powerful at procedurally generated terrain, but still, I gave Unreal another try; I will tell more about these engine differences next week. However, I also talked to Miguel, the guy behind the VoxelFarm engine, the voxel engine behind EverQuext Next. It turned out that we had similar issues, but he had more experience and a bigger budget, obviously, so I had to be pragmatic – once again. When suddenly The Guardian wrote about Proven Lands and described it as the next “Minecraft contender”, even without being a Minecraft-like game, it gave us wings. And surprise: Soon we had an investor and we were on fire again.

Okay, that’s enough for today. Next week I’d like to tell more about the tech behind the voxel engine and how it works.

Progress

You might also wonder what happened in the meantime. Last week we worked on the UI design, which is hot, as well as on the 3D design of the player and of a few new alien buildings. Max is a new VFX artist (he’s actually a Ubisoft employee working on an Assassin’s Creed title, if I’m not mistaken). Max works on sand storms and an important effect of the major tool. Oh, and a new animator will be soon working on the animations of the bug creatures. While I'm talking at the moment to a few music composers and sound designers about sound and music.



I had to handle some business stuff, but I’ve also managed to improve the gameplay -- and the grass system, which is also something I wrote myself, because if you create your own terrain engine, well, you have to implement a number of things yourself. See below for a screenshot and a cool looking shader bug. ;) More about the voxel engine itself next week!







And a romantic picture of our new office ;)



Proven Lands on

tumblr: http://provenlandsgame.tumblr.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/provenlandsgame
indiedb: http://www.indiedb.com/games/proven-lands
Steam: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=236563162
twitter: http://twitter.com/btxsqdr

Cheers, Rafael
7
Sursday Updates / Sursday Update - 26 February 2015 - Gravity
« Last post by btxsqdr on February 26, 2015, 04:14:00 PM »
Hey guys,
 
I’d like to start with some weekly updates from now on, always on Thursdays.
 
It’s been some busy weeks, but we’ve achieved our internal February milestone. Yay! An important step for the voxel engine, for the game asset production and for the Unity 4 to Unity 5 update as well. The spirits are high.
 
We’ve also prepared some new player's building concepts for our 3D artists, which - mark my words - is a time consuming step before it finally goes to production. Every concept needs different perspectives in order to make the 3D artist’s life easier. A nice workflow for the asset pipeline if you work with distant freelancers. But see for yourself below.
 

 
Furthermore for the most part I worked on gameplay routines of the game itself. Adding missing parts, reworking other gameplay elements and testing of how it feels compared to the quick gameplay of games like Don’t Starve or Torchlight 2 (like: How is the camera in a cave? How does WASD and mouse-click-movement feel? How does item picking feels?).

A funny moment was when the terrain digging drops something like “dirt” or “iron” resources and then they suddenly started to fly up towards the sky instead of falling down. But this weird bug instantly caused Jeffrey and me to have a great idea about gravity devices, weapons or items. Also: See below.
 

 
Right now Jeffrey is re-illustrating the UI, it is something we wanted to do for a long time. Up until now the UI had three different styles over time, so we wanted to reduce it to a number of two with a few simplifications implemented.  While the 3D designers work on the new buildings, both of the aliens and the players.

Next Thursday I'll tell you more about how we generate a planet with our fancy voxel engine.
 
Cheers, Rafael
8
Sursday Updates / Sursday Update - February 2015 - Busy
« Last post by btxsqdr on February 14, 2015, 10:38:23 AM »
Hey folks,



Surprise, surprise. The last couple months have been very busy for us. You know, a small team and tons of stuff to do. While I hoped that I could just focus on the game, some nasty business bla kept me busy from November on, so I decided to handle a few things first, work on the game, and stay silent for a while. So, what happened in the meantime?

We finally moved to a small office, where we had our Christmas party. Hey! To be honest the building is ugly, but the office itself is cool. To me it is amazing to see what we’ve achieved so far considering everything basically started with a game idea that I had once during a game jam. You know, seeing Jeffrey’s posters and concept art around the office’s walls is really something for me.

Jeffrey did another amazing concept art. We’ve spent quite some time looking for a new character design, new flora and fauna, as well as a cool concept art for the alien and player buildings. It feels better now. But that’s the cool thing about being small, isn’t it? If you know what you’re doing, you can iterate pretty quickly until it goes to production.

Furthermore, after two dozens interviews a few new artists, both animators and designers, joined our ranks. Anastasia, a 3D designer and Diablo 3 juggernaut. Felix, 3D designer and Canadian. And Lukasz, a Polish talented school kid and known a bit for making funny Minecraft videos. And Luis, a 3D designer and young US-American. Some full time, some part time, some freelancers. These guys made our core team consist of four plus a few freelancers. Yes, it means, I’m still the only coder here, among other things *cough*. Let's hope for a second coder soon. No new sound and music yet.

A new gameplay add-on feels pretty unique to me, I hope you can wait a little longer until we reveal it. All in all February is an important production milestone for us, that’s why I found it more important to achieve that milestone first and make sure that the business side is according to plan before I tell more. I look forward to YouTube videos in which I rant about our bugs and stuff.

I found time to simplify and finish the basic storyline of Proven Lands. As you probably know yourself, Proven Lands has a story mode, and there is a linear major storyline as well as a dynamic AI-driven open world “storyteller”. If I’m not mistaken, we will release the 5 episodes of the linear major story episode by episode after the release, similar to Telltale’s The Walking Dead game. So while you will rant about the open world “storyteller” bugs, you get some pretty updates with new episodes for free and can tell us how you feel about the story. I talked about this to Red Bull Games in Brazil recently, in Portuguese though: interview.

I also added mod support to Proven Lands, which is not that easy due to some restrictions of Unity, but to put it in easy words: Proven Lands is now basically a mod of the Proven Lands engine within the Unity engine, with an own terrain engine, own shaders, own grass solution, AI excitement (procedural caves?) and all that jazz. See below for the item editor in which I config some stats of 200+ items.

Btw, the UI had to be recreated due to the new Unity 4.6/5.0 UI system. It sounds secondary, but I have to mention it since it had to be rewritten completely.

The voxel engine is making progress. Creating whole worlds with a tiny team, where big companies need dozens of artists, is a damn risk. I’m about to rewrite the LOD and asset loader, which is challenging but the game is doing fine. The grass solution is done. Flying islands, caves, canyons, and everything's is seed based, voxel based (digging, building) and practically seamless and endless (depending on your harddrive space). True story: I found out by accident that my voxel engine actually renders the terrain at a distance of 64 km (and not 16 km, which is the natural distance to the horizon at an altitude of 10 m). It actually made me laugh about it for a day or so. You can "fly" 1 km high and higher, so you see more than 16 km, but this part is a little clunky, that's why I'm rewrite the LOD loader, for instance. A smooth height/altitude of 70,000 ft would be awesome some day *dream*. But these are nice-to-have's.

What happened to multiplayer? We’ll see about it. It is on my schedule, but first things first.

When do we will release? When it’s done. I know, I know. 2015. ;)

Finally, I believe that debugging, gameplay and balancing is more important than fanciness in a voxel-based game, after you've achieved a certain "fanciness" level. Like more Rust than Landmark. StarForge is an example of a 3D voxel-based game that failed deeply in that regard, in my eyes. Or Blockscape (even if I like the developer *kudos, man*), Planet Explorers (though more stable these days) or GRAV (if they don’t make it). I’m mentioning it because I guess it is our biggest concern this year. It is like most (or all?) voxel-based games have performance issues. And that’s why I personally tend to be more cautious. I’ve been talking once to Miguel, the engineer behind the EverQuest Next voxel engine, about issues and costs, and I realized that this it. Either we do it or leave it. Proven Lands is not Minecraft nor EverQuest. We have more humble plans with the voxel engine, but still. Voxel-based games like StarForge or Blockscape are so new that there is a chance that we are too small to make it too. When I look at our team size and the progress, when I look at the progress of Planet Explorers, when I hear about Molyneaux's bigger budgets and about the voxel game fail of Yogcast (really great guys though imo, kudos), I believe that we are doing very fine. Without a big publisher, by the way. Slowly but steadily though.

And what else do we do? Board games, Don't Starve and Starbound.  :-X

Final thoughts for 2014

Yep, 2014 was quite a ride. Not only for me, but for all of us and for the game in general. There have been so many downs but so so many ups as well. I doubt we would’ve come so far without you. I know everybody says that, but some of you guys really cheered me up in some pretty tough times. Thank you for that!

We still have a long road ahead of us, but we’re slowly but steadily about to reach our goal – releasing Proven Lands this year, which is and would be very, warmly, super awesome, in my eyes. And then I will take the first week off in a long time.

Next update? Early March. ;)

Art, photos and screenshots



























Some screenies for you guys, with a few assets, only four ground textures and an AI test with 20 creatures











9
Announcements / Re: Proven Lands is funded! WE DID IT!
« Last post by Nice-N-Simply on January 24, 2015, 07:11:26 AM »
So whats new with the game? 2015 and allo
10
Sursday Updates / Re: DevLog #1 -- October 2014
« Last post by Nice-N-Simply on January 24, 2015, 07:09:16 AM »
So how are things going with this game so far? I haven't hear much until the forums started.
Pages: [1] 2 3