Shattered Planet Launch Party!

Mark your calendars! Your planet’s about to get shattered.

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If you are in or around the Montreal area and you’re excited for Shattered Planet, then you’re invited!

Where: Execution Labs, 3863 St Laurent Suite 206 (Google Maps)
When: March 28th, from 8pm onwards

The event is sponsored by Unity Technologies, who made the excellent engine that made Kitfox Games possible – Unity! We’re grateful for all the ways Unity improves Shattered Planet and Moon Hunters. If you want to give it a try, download a free 30-day trial of Unity Pro!

Friends to the End: Companions

We’re pleased to reveal the Companions feature in Shattered Planet! On the planet, most aliens are either aggressively territorial, or don’t particularly care that a human might wave a tri-corder at them.

Occasionally, however, you’ll have the opportunity to befriend an alien, either through strenuous circumstances or random chance. For example, here’s a randomly accessible storybit that gives you the opportunity to either Attack or Feed a crablet:

choice

I’ll leave it to your imagination which leads to adopting a pet crablet… but you’ll need a high Wits score to dodge those hungry little claws…

Anyhow, when you’ve somehow acquired a Companion (be they alien, robot, or something else entirely), they follow you loyally until the end! Companions universally hate to see you get hurt and most will literally jump in the line of fire to protect you, whether it’s to fend off a turret or a space-dragon.

We’re in the midst of designing a unique Companion creature and we want your input! Which critter would you rather have following you throughout the planet?

Click the image below to vote!

PetsRound3

Moon Hunters: Character Creation, Monsters, and More!

Hey Moon Hunters!

We’re in our last week on the Square Enix Collective feedback round. We’ve been working on the art and design for Moon Hunters and I thought I’d share a few bits and pieces with you. Most of this was already sent to our newsletter last week, so be sure to join it if you haven’t yet!

First, we can show you a glimpse of a landmark we’re developing.

In Moon Hunters, we want to make things that not only look cool, but also have a reason, even if it’s not immediately obvious. The world is relatively new, with civilisations still rising and figuring out what laws and technology really mean for societies. So the temple of the Crimson Eye, for example, is a site of worship that sprang up in recent years, yet is sealed off from casual visitors. The reason, and method of access, can be found elsewhere in the world…

TempleCrimsonEye

Of course, the Temple is only one of dozens of landmarks, not to mention the dangerous monster territories your personal version of the world. Building up your hero’s mythology will depend greatly on your exploration strategy – are you the type to run amok over the continent, or do you prefer to ensure the safety of an area before you move on?

WorldMapPreview

Meanwhile, Xin is sketching up a storm, working out different enemies and allies you might find on your journeys. Here’s a few of the wilder denizens of the Moon Hunters world, who may not take kindly to uppity players invading their territory. At least, not without the proper rituals being observed!

Enemies_InProgress

Also, we’ve gotten so many questions about classes and personalities, we thought we’d share our designs for the character creation, to help illustrate what we’re aiming for. Each of the character classes plays quite differently, and you can mix and match your class, personality archetype, and color palettes. The Occultist, for example, is a fast yet fragile character that can slip in and out of attack range, and summon a shadow blade in an emergency. Still, it’s up to you whether her personality is more of an intellectual genius or a soft-hearted priestess.

ClassSelectionCollective

That’s all for now! Make sure to sign up for the newsletter for more information on Moon Hunters and how you can help make this game a reality!

The Four Worlds of Shattered Planet

The shattered planet is a varied wilderness. It’s always shifting and re-configuring itself, but it’s still a planet, with all of the ecosystems and climate variance you’d expect from a vast landscape. We’ve hinted at three of the environments available in the game at launch, but we thought we’d take a moment to describe them a bit more in detail, as well as finally show a bit of the all-new fourth environment.

So, not counting a few ‘special’ places you might find, the four major environments are:

Rawhide Valley

This desert is a popular hunting ground for mutant humanoids, due to seasonal nests of both crablets and other, more meaty species. The brush here is quite tough, and has even grown its own defense systems against intruders, but is also dry and flammable.

Known species inhabiting Rawhide Valley:

  • Crablet
  • Crablet Queen
  • Snipeseed
  • Nest Hatchling
  • Nest Guardian
  • Tribal Hunter
  • …?

desert

New Pampas

This lush grassland overgrown with carnivorous plants smells sweetly, with fungal spores floating on the breeze. Somewhere in the grasslands is the heart of the mutant lands, where territorial chieftains meet. If you’re not careful, the overgrown Snaptrap plants can push you over cliff-edges with their massive jaws.

Known species inhabiting New Pampas:

  • Venomous Crablet
  • Seedling
  • Snaptrap
  • Tribal Guard
  • Tribal Chieftain
  • …?

grass

Yendor Corporation Labs

The shifting of the planet revealed a previously underground facility. Its security measures remain active, with highly sensitive turrets, lasers, and sentinel robots patrolling its corridors.. but untold secrets locked away in its vaults. Make sure to bring something to jump over or teleport past the deadly turret fire! Strange energy signatures indicate intelligent life may lie deep within…

Known species inhabiting Yendor Corporation Labs:

  • Mechano-crablet
  • Turret
  • Slicer Droid
  • …?

labs

Contaminaria

This heavily irradiated zone is in the midst of a wildlife rebirth due to high mutation rates. Mutant shamans choose this place as their peoples’ graveyard, though scarce food and toxic water make the fight for resources more deadly than ever. The mutated snow-tunneling crablets often make their homes in what appears to be solid ice, jumping out to surprise unsuspecting prey.

Known species of Contaminaria:

  • Snowtunnel Crablet
  • …?

snow

More Worlds Someday?

Of course, there’s plenty more interesting (and alien!) environments we’ll keep developing after the game launches, to keep the game fresh and exciting. Jungles, beaches, ruins, tidepools, deltas.. there are so many possibilities! We’ll be sure to ask for your input when we get to that stage. For now, we have to focus on the environments we do have, making sure they’re as rich and exciting to explore as they deserve.

If you have ideas for new worlds, or suggestions on how to make our existing ones even better, you’re always welcome to comment below, tweet at us or write on our Facebook wall!

Moon Hunters Feedback, Clouded

We took all of the comments from the Moon Hunters Square Enix Collective project page and made a word cloud with them, to find out what people most cared about, for better or for worse. Some of it was semi-obvious — graphics and art, for example… but some might surprise you!

moonhunterswordcloud

We excluded the words “game” and “really”, but everything else is there! We’re really happy with the reaction so far.

I think it’s clear that the aesthetic we’ve chosen resonates with some people but puts others off. And that’s okay! We’re not interested in making a middling game for everyone — we’re interested in making a best-game-ever for one slice of gamers. So we’ll just have to accept that our taste is different from others’.. as long as SOME people out there love what we’re doing, that’s ideal. Pixel art isn’t for everyone, but neither is poutine.

We’re still collecting all feedback, suggestions, and ideas, so do leave comments anywhere and everywhere and we’ll be sure to consider them seriously. And if you haven’t signed up for the Moon Hunters newsletter yet, make sure to do so soon, or you might miss hearing the first bit of a song being composed for the game…

Announcing Moon Hunters!

Kitfox Games is proud to announce our second project, which has been simmering for a little while in secret:

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Moon Hunters is an open-world adventure for 1-4 players, solving ancient mysteries and building mythologies. Explore a hand-painted pixel art world that’s randomly generated yet rich with crafting, non-linear stories, and arcane lore.

BridgeMock2_post

Features

  • An open, procedurally generated world: Over a hundred different locations and landmarks each have their own potential to help or hinder adventurers.
  • Exploration is key: Every landmark and territory may contain a Myth, which is essential in growing your world and your character.
  • Non-linear story: The mythology of your character and world is determined by your actions, and the world reacts to you differently based on the mythology you build. How will you react when you find a villager has lied to you? Temperamental heroes may be tempted to kill them in revenge, while more charismatic heroes use guile to extract the truth. Or do you try to ferret out other possible traitors? If you have trained in the powers of Dark Magic, the traitor may have a secret to share…
  • Myth-based crafting: Find, collect, and combine rare resources in different ways to create items, learn spells, and summon creatures.
  • Day and night cycle: Monsters and villagers behave differently and rituals have different results depending on the time of day.
  • Pick-up-and-play action: A quick, tight feel inspired by Legend of Zelda lets players set their own pace. A majority of the time in Moon Hunters is spent fighting monsters and claiming magical treasures, so it’s important that combat feels responsive and intuitive.
  • Character progression: Unlock new powers, creatures, items, and myths as you explore the world.
  • Gamer-family friendly: Accessible controls, short play sessions, and co-operative gameplay allow families to play together easily.

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You can sign up for the Moon Hunters specific newsletter by checking the website: http://www.moonhuntersgame.com or just clicking here.

The project was chosen to join the pilot program of the Square Enix Collective! If you head over there, you can read all about the concept and show your support by upvoting us!

MoonHunters_Gameplay_Logo

Any press inquiries or random suggestions, comments, and questions can be either commented there… or send an email anytime to tanya@kitfoxgames.com.

Contest: Name That Alien!

We’ve discovered a new creature roaming the shattered planet and we need it identified by the world’s top exo-zoologists. That’s you, right?

unidentifieddatalog

Send us your best science! You must answer two questions:

1 – What is this creature called? (maximum 3 words)
2 – What are its habits and preferences? (maximum 25 words)

Submit your entry via Facebook, Twitter, or comment on this blog post by February 4th and we’ll pick one to actually go in the game!

For those of you new to Shattered Planet, it’s a planet with similarities to Earth but fragmented from an ancient explosion. Yet life continues, with alien life-forms battling for scarce resouces. As a space captain, you’ll be exploring the planet and cataloguing all of its species, technologies, and strange happenings in your Datalog, for the betterment of the Galactic Union.

For reference, here’s a screenshot of a Datalog entry for the Crablet:

exampledatalog

We’ll also list the winner’s name (if you like) as the identifier in the Datalog.

You can enter as many times as you like, so get posting, tweeting, or commenting! FOR SCIENCE!

Level Design and Procedural Generation in Shattered Planet

Overview

Tanya here! This is a more detailed look at the procedural generation in Shattered Planet than we’ve ever shared before! It’s targeted towards game designers and any who are interested in learning more about game design.

I’ll talk a bit about our data structure, I’ll show a bit of the tools I use as a designer, and show how the complexity grew quite naturally over time from a simple premise. Keep in mind that I am not a procedural generation expert – I didn’t write a single line of the procedural generation code in Shattered Planet. All high-fives and awe-struck eye-shinings should be directed towards Mike, Jongwoo, and Greg.

pocgen3

However, as the designer on the project, it was my job to define the intended player experience, and work with the programmers to translate that into workable rules for the game’s engine to follow. So that’s what this is mostly about — a slightly higher-level look at the logic behind the system, rather than the code that actually runs the system.

If you’re interested in the actual code, let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page and we’ll see what we can do!

So without further ado… let’s think back to the beginning.

The Goal

We started work in the beginning of June, 2013. After two weeks, we had finished with our little prototype and we our gameplay was essentially a turn-based RPG in procedurally generated levels. We knew we would be using Unity.

Not long after, we decided on three design pillars to inform all of our design decisions (with some art direction impact as well):

* Intriguing: entices the player to be curious, and rewards experimentation & exploration
* Strategic: rewards tactical play — various different ways to achieve combat superiority, resulting in difficult decisions
* Accessible: immediately engaging, with lots of feedback, encouragement, and opt-in information

These each, of course, had their own risks if any one aspect became unbalanced or poorly implemented. If the ‘intriguing’ content is too mysterious, it may be invisible to players, or downright bewildering. If the strategic component is too strong, it may be off-putting or intimidating for players, especially on tablets (unless we think we can subsist on poaching Paradox fans). On the other end of the spectrum, if there’s accessibility without strategy or mystery, it will feel like an empty shell of a game with nothing worth engaging with in the first place, especially for more hardcore gamers like myself.

But before you have a level, you need the building blocks.

Room Structure

We wanted to be able to learn from the reams and reams of information online about procedural generation of game levels. Most of these involve “dungeons” assembled from tile-based, rectangular “rooms” and “corridors”. However, to keep with the “shattered planet” feel, Xin directed that our rooms would be more organic in shape. This is cool, but makes it so we generally can’t ever use someone else’s algorithm.

So, we give each room a minimum and maximum height and width, using square tiles. For example, a room might be a minimum of 2×2 but a maximum of 4×4. This results in a variety of possible sizes. Here’s an actual shot of what my design tool looks like, for determining the room size potentials (each level set has 4-5 room definitions):

roomdata

(Note, since it’s not obvious from context: Min and Max “Num Rooms” actually refers to how many of this particular room definition are allowed to appear in a level. The above is a snippet from the “RoomsBasic” level set, as opposed to the “NoLakes” level set, etc.) This results in something like this:

level generation design

As you can see, each also has the possibility of internal “holes”, or “lakes” to be generated. This is handled entirely by the engine — as a designer, I merely specify whether or not a given room can have a lake or not. Depending on the theme (desert, laboratory, etc), the “lake” may look like water, lasers, acid, etc. As the designer, I can also decide per-theme which tiles rooms should use (just dirt and brush? Or just dirt and grass? Or a combination of all 3?), and which obstacles (rocks, mushrooms, a combination, etc). Another tools screenshot:

themedata

(Gen Dirt = Generic Dirt, Des Sandstone = Desert Sandstone, StoneDirt is half of each!)

Each room also has (thanks to our lead programmer, Mike Ditchburn) 2-4 tiles set aside as potential “door” tiles, one on each side. Once these are actually connected to other rooms, the game uses a pathfinding algorithm to decide where it’s “safe” to place obstacles — i.e. where it won’t block the player from traversing the room or accessing treasure.

obstacles

So, taking these rooms and my experience in traditional level design, we built the initial algorithm for how our levels would be generated, which was all about the Critical Path.

Critical Path

If you’re a level designer, you know that the ‘critical path’ is the way the player MUST go, in order to complete the level, with no side-tracks, distractions, or mishaps. Typically, to encourage players to continue on the ‘correct’ path, designers place rewards such as coins (similar to an enticing trail of Reese’s Pieces), and enemies… because rather than run away from enemies, most players find it more fun to approach the enemy head-on and engage in combat, assuming combat is a fun, central feature of your game (i.e. not a stealth game). This pulls the player forward.

So, in Shattered Planet, one of the first rules of level generation was that the engine would establish a “critical path” of rooms, which contains the player’s starting “room”, the final “teleporter” room, where the player escapes the level, and all rooms directly in between.

criticalpath

We then treat these rooms differently than side-rooms. Where critical path rooms get lots of little piles of coins to lead the player forward, side-rooms get “treasure piles” — fewer but larger coin-heaps. Similarly, where critical path rooms get fairly average-difficulty monsters, wandering off to the side-rooms may result in occasional monsters of greater difficulty. This is supposed to create a sense of risk for reward — generally, going the opposite direction from a big baddie will result in finding the teleporter, but also in avoiding treasure.

So at this point, without any further improvements, this is what the maps look like in the editor (circa July 2013):

pocgentriptych

Locked Doors

To add a bit of variety and reason to explore the corners, we added locked doors, with keycards scattered somewhere else in the level. Rather than block the player’s progress (or frustrate them if they’re in a hurry, with the Blight on their tail!), we decided to use the locked doors only for optional bonus treasures (and monsters!). So, we wanted to make sure the locked doors never appear on the critical path. Since we know which rooms are on the critical path and not, it was an easy enough upgrade to remove one corridor from an off-path room temporarily and replace it with:

(You can also see a locked door in the first panel of the triptych above, if you squint hard)

desert

Alternate paths

Almost as soon as we had the critical path and side-rooms laid out, we realised the levels were pretty boring. They had a lot of dead-ends, which resulted in lots of back-tracking, especially for treasure-hunters… far from the Zen flow of a good level. In fact, a room could only have a maximum number of 2 exits, in the above maps!

So, to add variety and ‘flow’, we tacked on room connections, after the critical path and side-rooms have been positioned. Remember how in the “Room Structure” section above I said we mark out 4 “doors” per room? Well, we use those again! We (by which I mean Mike tells the engine to) find a couple of doors near each other, and draw a straight line between them, as best it can, turning a right angle if needed.

junction

This added a much-needed refreshment to the dead-end problem, and makes exploration that much more interesting.

Exceptions

As with any rules, there are always exceptions. Even in game design.

We also had to build a separate set of tools to make “hand-crafted” levels, including the space-ship that serves as the player’s hub, as well as potentially other secret special levels.. (nope, no spoilers!) We tried to re-use the same data as much as possible. So, I place the same TerrainData cubes around as tiles — see, here’s a peek at the hub, only where I’ve taken the normal tiles and replaced one with the old familiar “Gen Dirt” from before.

tilehub

I can also place the usual enemies and obstacle data objects I use to populate themes.

Future Changes and Lessons Learned

There’s always more to do! The level design is about done, but we want (as you may have noticed in the Critical Path illustration) alternate teleporters that can let you skip to special/secret level themes, special ways for the player to creatively make their own paths to floating rooms, maybe even the ability for the player to swim!

But if we’ve learned anything from all this experimentation from the last few months, it’s:
* Apply traditional level design principles, with flexibility — they’re still useful!
* Procedural generation takes a crazy amount of testing! Just replicating a bug can take hours of loading and re-loading.
* Stay open-minded to possible improvements, after you’ve “finished” implementing your procedural generation.

Thanks for reading. If you want to learn more about level design or game design, I recommend checking out this list of compiled design resources on Tigsource — some are free online.

For those of you only interested in the future of Shattered Planet, never fear! The weeks are counting down to launch, and we’re scrambling to get the content and code polished and bug-free for your eager downloads. If you haven’t signed up for the newsletter yet, consider doing so, for the best news, previews, and secret party invitations.

The Winner is: Gekkian Diplomat!

The results are in from our little community poll! Thank you to everyone who participated.

surveyresults

As you can see, the Gekkian Diplomat clearly won out, with over 50% of the votes. We also collected responses on Reddit.com and Twitter, which followed a similar trend. What with already having humans and robots, perhaps it’s only natural that an alien would win out… but of course, everything seems so much more obvious in retrospect.

NewCharWinner

We’ll be refining the Gekkian player character’s look further as we bring it into the game, and of course we’ll provide 4-5 different heads to try out with different ear configurations and facial expressions. We may, of course, also re-visit the other designs in the future.

Thanks again for helping us make a tough decision!