November 6th – Tending the Garden

November 6, 2014 in Dev Blog, News

Hello everyone!

Today I spent time working on the starting planet’s garden biome. Those of you playing around on the nightlies might have noticed it needed a little bit of love.

The first issue was the lack of variation in foliage, so I spent some time drawing some additional pine trees. Metadept tweaked the biome settings to generate more flowers and bushes.

The second thing was the parallax background. The rolling hills were beautiful, but it looked a bit flat with the trees only available in the foreground. I fixed this by adding a few parallax layers with pine trees of various scales amongst the hills.

Lastly, the mountain skybox. I spent some time making it look unique, with tiny pines, grasslands and flowing rivers.

Here’s the culmination of these tweaks below:


The rest of the team has been busy working on bug fixing, starter quests (including quests that generate when you pick up certain items) and the game’s first mission. I expect you’ll be hearing about these in the near future!

Until next time, have a good evening!


November 5th – Just Progress

November 5, 2014 in Dev Blog

It’s been a busy week already, and it’s only Wednesday!

We’ve completed most of the content and basic configuration for the first few tiers of the new biome and crafting progression, so we’re now working through the game one tier at a time to fix bugs, balance numbers, and generally tie everything together. There are a few more biomes to add (particularly at high tiers) and some exciting things like missions that we’ll be working on as we go along, but this mostly involves intensive playtesting and cleaning up all of the new (and old) issues we discover.

GeorgeV and the other artists continue to add more content, including a few more items to liven up the Garden biome. Armagon is configuring weapons and adding shield generators to dungeons. I’ve been fixing bugs and improving biome configurations. We’ve also gotten a good start on numerically balancing the combat and crafting for tier 1 (and discussed how this will relate to the overall progression). Too many small improvements to list!

Kyren also just finished a revamp of the liquid system. The main visible difference is that liquid is no longer compressible, so the total amounts of liquid in large pools will make much more sense, but the rendering methods are still the same. The more important benefit of this is that large quantities of liquid will now settle much more quickly and won’t lag out servers, so we can now start real work on ocean planets.

We’ll be posting more about Oceans and other biomes soon, once we get into the relevant content tiers, but I did just a bit of preliminary testing with Oceans in the new water system and I’m very excited about the prospect of filling them with life!

November 3rd – Dungeon Shield Generator Implementation

November 3, 2014 in Dev Blog

So I started work on adding shield generators to the existing dungeons at the end of last week. I’ve gotten a few done so far. Some have been relatively easy to handle, chiefly the dungeons that already had places naturally suited to the addition of a shield generator, with appropriate obstacles in place.

Others have involved a bit more work. With our dungeons now having wire functionality, I was able to do a lot of the stuff I’d wanted to do with the Apex test chamber dungeon since I first started it.

To give a better idea of what you’re looking at in the video, the player entering the facility will need to power things back up before they can progress any further. There is now a shield generator, but you aren’t going to be able to get to it at first. Two sets of doors restrict your access and you’re going to have to find the two switches that open them. Each switch opens one layer of doors. Only when you’ve activated both will the shield generator be exposed to you.

Presently in our nightly the shield generator just gets turned on and off by player interaction, but the intent is that you will have to smash them yourself. Once the generator is disabled you gain access to one last reward room where you might find something quite nice inside! Disabling the generator also restores the player’s ability to take the dungeon’s objects and blocks, as well as their ability to place blocks inside it.

This all is fairly simple when you describe it, but making it actually work has been a bit of a nightmare, since I have wires that appear in different rooms in random locations so I had to wrap my head around how best to use the logic gates, which I’m still relatively new to using. I had to make sure the brushes worked dungeon-wide and the pieces that were needed always appeared. I mean, take a look at this!

There’s still some functionality I’ll need before I can truly finish the dungeon as I originally envisioned, chiefly the ability to have traps and hazards controlled by wires. I ideally wanted the teslaspikes to only turn on when the player walks into the room (so you don’t know what the room is like until you get there), and to turn off when the switch at the end of each path is thrown (so you can travel back to the entrance in relative safety). I’ve already worked out precisely how I’m going to do this when the trap wiring functionality is added, but as this is more of a polish thing, its going to have to wait for now.

It’s been fascinating to see how something as simple as having a light turn on and off under specific circumstances can be incredibly involved. Still, it’s great to have this kind of control over the wiring system now. I don’t expect every dungeon will receive this treatment but I thought you might find it interesting to see how I’m using it so far. For now I’ll continue to update the other dungeons with our shield generators.

See you later folks!

October 30th – Biomes

October 30, 2014 in Dev Blog

After working on terrain and cave generation last week, I’m now configuring biomes and treasure pools to include all the new assets that GeorgeV, Armagon and the rest have been building. It’s actually been a lot of fun to test, and I’ve enjoyed discovering many interesting little spots:

…yep, just another day in the universe!

October 28th – All the small things!

October 28, 2014 in Dev Blog

G’day folks! Today I’ve taken a bit of a break away from getting more of the new biome weapons and drops working, in favor of working on a number of smaller things that I’ve needed to give some attention to for a while now.

Many of the game’s trap objects were broken when the status system overhaul hit, resulting in players no longer taking damage. Some of these objects were already a bit broken to begin with (electric-sounding instakill wooden spikes, anyone?) so I gave the traps we had a bit more TLC today.

Now their damage levels are a bit more reasonable across the board (though they could still be subject to change down the line), they make more appropriate sounds when you hit them, and what was probably most time-consuming was fixing all their hitboxes to more accurately reflect the areas that are actually dangerous, including when they are flipped.

Trap Hitboxes

Previously most had their hitboxes generated automatically, often extending into empty space around the object that should have been safe for the player. It’s one of those subtler details that one would rarely think about when playing games (unless they’re done poorly), but it’s pretty important to get right when you’re the one making them.

As a small aside, those of you more familiar with the game’s objects may have noticed that the propeller can be placed on walls and ceilings now. The more I looked at it, I figured it would be nice for the airship-enthusiasts in our player base to have more options. The spinning propellers are still dangerous though, so be careful where you place them!

I also did a little tidying with the interface to make sure all the new status effects were displaying the appropriate graphics when inflicted upon the player.

Status Interface

In a bit of more exciting news, Metadept has pretty much wrapped up work on the shield generator for our dungeons (which I spent some time testing today). Essentially these generators will exist somewhere within the dungeons, restricting the player’s ability to build, place, break and wire objects within that space. That is until the player locates the generator and disables it. This will mean players can no longer circumvent all obstacles by building across or digging through them unless they’ve already been lucky enough to find the shield generator before-hand.

Setting up the existing dungeons with this new functionality will likely be my focus for the next few days. This will mean creating shield generator rooms for each one and getting them to spawn reliably. This can sometimes be difficult when you want to have them appearing in randomized locations (and preferably some distance from the entrance).

If things go the way I’d like, it’s my intent that each shield generator should have some form of obstacle to make shutting the generator off challenging or risky in some way. This could be as simple as the generator being locked behind doors that are only able to be opened from elsewhere in the dungeon, some strong enemies might be guarding it, maybe a little tricky platforming and problem-solving, or perhaps a combination of all of the above.

That’s it from me, good night folks!

October 27th – Caves

October 27, 2014 in Dev Blog

Last Wednesday I decided to spend some time on caves as part of my work improving the terrain generation. Starbound’s cave generation used some very simple algorithms that worked reasonably well but weren’t very exciting, and I wanted to try my hand at an improved cave generation algorithm. So, I wrote a new generation method and reworked the existing ones to get more interesting results. The short version is that caves are more frequent, more connected, and more varied. If you want the long version, keep reading for a technical explanation!

I’ve been calling the new method “karst” cave generation since it loosely mimics natural geology by generating caves in layers. The algorithm itself is fairly simple, relying on a combination of several Perlin noise sources with different configurations. All of the noise is applied vertically, so it’s possible to use only one-dimensional noise sources. For Starbound, however, I’m sampling in two-dimensional coordinates around a circle with circumference equal to the world width, which creates a noise pattern that smoothly wraps around the world seam.

The first step in the algorithm is to pick layers to place caves at. This could be a simple probability applied to each Y position in the world, but I’ve chosen to enforce a minimum layer resolution in order to avoid clumps:

Next I use a Perlin function with a high period to select where on these layers caves should be generated:

Then I apply a second Perlin function with a moderate period and amplitude, as well as some positive bias, to vary the caves’ ceiling height:

I use another, similar function to vary the floor depth, with a lower amplitude to make the caves easier to walk in:

Next, I taper the endpoints of the caves to avoid the harsh edges, based on the original noise function being below a cutoff point:

At this point it looks a bit like real caves, but they’re very horizontal and boring, so the next step is to apply another function with a very high amplitude and period, which gives the caves slopes and makes the layers cross over each other:

This is looking much better, but is still very horizontal, so we mix in some large, tall chambers using a different configuration of the same algorithm:

…and finally mix in some normal worm caves to further increase verticality and connectivity:

The final result is a good mix of caves that feel natural and provide plenty of opportunities for exploration as well as some hazards (sudden drops and chambers of enemies) to keep things fresh.

In this example there are a LOT of caves in the world, and I’ve been tuning the configuration to get slightly fewer caves but still retain the right amount of complexity. I’ve already been having a lot of fun testing it, so that’s a good sign!

Sorry for the lengthy post, but hopefully some of you will find the explanation interesting and maybe even useful in your future projects.

October 24th – It’s getting wet in here!

October 24, 2014 in Dev Blog

It’s coming…


A slight preview…

See ya!

October 22nd – Throw Me A Bone

October 22, 2014 in Dev Blog

I’m sure you can guess what I’ve been working on. Yup! Still adding new weapons and loot! While I’m keeping some stuff a surprise, over the past few days I’ve implemented a few fun craftable throwing weapons. Here’s a peek at a couple of them!

Thorn Grenade
Thorn Grenade
“A makeshift nail bomb. Scary what one can achieve with a fruit and small explosive.”

You may recall there was a nailbomb grenade in the game, however I personally found it not particularly useful due to the fact it operated on a timer and it was almost impossible to get the nails hitting where you wanted them to. This devilish combination explodes on impact, spraying twice as many thorns, making it pretty lethal if you land direct hits, particularly if the target was already in the middle of a large group.

Throwing Bones
“Nothing screams archaic like throwing bones at your enemies.”

Finding old bones may now prove beneficial in more ways than one. This item when thrown releases three bones in an arc that bounce a couple of times before breaking apart. This makes it entirely possible to sling them considerable distance across the landscape, if the terrain is in your favour.

That’s it from me. Good night everybody!

October 21st – Terrain Generation

October 21, 2014 in Dev Blog

Regular readers of the blog might remember my previous posts about adding more terrain variation to planets. Well, that’s what I’m working on this week! Rather than talking much about it I’ll just show you a few samples of new terrain patterns:




These are still WIPs, and I’ve got more ideas to put in, but so far it’s adding a lot of interesting variety to planets and I’m excited to continue working on this for a bit.

We’re hiring! Part-time Office/Community Assistant

October 17, 2014 in News

We’re looking for an office assistant with an interest in games communities!
The role would involve helping out with administrative tasks as well as assisting with community-related tasks.

Who we are looking for:

  • excellent multitaskers
  • well-organised
  • super efficient
  • ideally interested in games
  • active member of online communities

This would initially be a part time role (2 days per week) at our office in London, UK.

Please e-mail your CV to [email protected]!