It has been a long time since our last post and our promise to give a monthly update hasn’t really gone to plan but we have been hard at work and making great progress. Most of the progress made has been in the art department as things have been little slow on the programming side of things as Brogan has had his hands full as front-end programmer for another game Blackout Rugby but he is still doing as much he can with his spare time. Gareth on the other hand has been doing some great work on the tile map art and character design which we are very excited to share.

Aliens and Animations

As your crew discover new planets to explore they will also encounter alien life, some hostile and others docile. So far we have two animated aliens. These alien designs were sketched first using pencil and pad, and then redrawn in Affinity Designer.

Our first alien-type are peaceful creatures named Unitoids. Their horn, hair, and ribcage contain useful material that can be used by the crew back on the spaceship. The player can choose to kill the Unitoid for its resources, or nurture it and have it lead you to hidden treasures scattered across the planet.

This concept of being able to interact with the different alien types in multiple ways is something that we would like to concentrate on in the future. This will add an aspect of replay value to the game loop by giving the player the option to approach unknown creatures in either a passive or an aggressive way.

Our second alien type is the brutish Titan. They are formidable creatures that are generally aggressive to any being that is not of its own kind. These beasts can be tamed and used to the advantage of your crew when navigating hostile areas of a planet. If your crew manages to take down a Titan, its beads, diamond, and blades can be converted into valuable resources.

This was our first time animating objects using physics in Unity. Through some very useful advice given to us by somebody who had had experience in 3D animation on the Indie Game Devs Facebook page. This initiated a realisation for us that a lot of 3D animation practice could carry over to animating mesh-based sprites in 2D.

To get the beads moving and swaying with the animation the beads needed to be attached to the Titans “Head” bone. Each row of beads (with each bead being its own separate sprite) was bound to the Kinematic Rigidbody “Head” bone with a Dynamic Hinge Joint. All of the beads were connected using Kinematic Hingejoints. The final step was to increase and adjust the Solver Iterations under 2D Physics in Project Settings until it resulted in the beads swaying with the animated sprite in a natural motion.

Tiles for Planet Environment

We are still hard at work on the planet environment. As stated in our previous blog post, each planetary environment will be procedurally generated. In order for us to achieve this we decided on using a tile-based sprite set. After some trial and error with creating these tiles using solely vector drawing, we changed our approach to a hand-painted style to emphasis a more natural look. Studio Ghibli landscape images seemed to be an appropriate reference, as they effectively prevent the character in the foreground from “getting lost” within the background image by contrasting the solid-shapes of the tightly drawn characters with the loose painterly backgrounds.

Studio Ghibli use poster paint when painting their backgrounds, but finding a poster paint brush for use in Affinity Designer was unsuccessful. As a substitute we used the gouache brush from the DAUB PIGMENTO toolset. We found that these brushes have great responsiveness and pressure recognition.

– Gareth