Environment Design: The Shattered Desert

Hi guys! Tanya here!

Today I’ll go into some detail on our environment design, using the Desert as an example, since we haven’t shown it off much yet and it’s the first area-type the player encounters. I’m actually from the Mojave Desert of southern California originally. I spent most of my childhood chasing lizards, catching kangaroo mice, and climbing the Rocky Mountains… when I wasn’t allowed to play NES, anyway.

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An environment’s atmosphere comes from every element — the landscape, the colors, the wildlife and lighting. Xin, our artist, starts by painting the terrain we need. For the Desert, we knew we wanted basic tiles of Dirt, Sandstone, and Brush. We want the Desert to feel desolate and dry, but not lifeless.

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Now, before you think, “those aren’t very interesting! Where’s the life, the juice, the oomph?” … we started out going super-detailed, with intense painterly details on each tile…

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And yes, they were beautiful! BUT when they’re tiled all together, 10×10, it looks terrible. Dirt starts to look like meat!

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We might still sprinkle details like these throughout as a rare treat, but for now, we’ve had to forcibly tone down the contrast and details of any one basic tile, for the betterment of the whole.

Next, he paints combinations of each tile-type with another, so that the world generator can smoothly transition between regions. For example, a half-Brush, half-Sandstone tile should always buffer between Brush and Stone areas.

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The final terrain layer is composed of “crumbly bits”, as we call them, which help reinforce the idea that you’re on a shattered planet. They match at least half of the tile-type they’re generated next to. For interior levels, these take the form of metal struts and frames. For exteriors, they’re more like chunks of earth and rock.

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And then, at long last, the fun part — we can add gameplay! Bushes and rocks are obstacles that get in your way and help with the ambiance. As for enemies, you might have seen our Hatchling and Nest Guardian back when we first concepted them in July, and now they can finally romp and hunt in their natural desert habitat. Combining all of the elements together gives us a flavorful, unique Desert environment that feels significantly different from the others.

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So, with no photoshopping or other trickery, here’s a screenshot taken directly from the game while it’s running:

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The next step will be adding in a flavorful background for each environment. We want to keep the lonely, dark feeling of the desert at night, but something a little bit more interesting than plain black.

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Unique story encounters can also happen in the desert — finding unearthed skulls, old campfires, lost hatchlings, or even strange stones can lead you on mini-adventures into the unknown. Just like home?


If you’re interested in playtesting Shattered Planet or just receiving our monthly newsletter, be sure to sign up on the right-hand sidebar!

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Shattered Planet Trick-or-Treating

When Captain Tamara went trick-or-treating on the Shattered Planet, she wasn’t sure what to expect. She handmade a crablet mask, but carnivorous plants and crabs aren’t known for their holiday cheer. With nothing better to do on Halloween, she figured it was worth a try.

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Eventually, she found some candies that someone had left lying around.. the Great Pumpkin perhaps?

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So, she ate one. Or two. Or twenty.

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In her report, Captain Aurora says the candies taste mostly like butter?

(Yes, that gif is directly from gameplay — turning into a crab is not generally recommended, but may get you some new crabfriends.)

Happy Halloween!

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Joined by an Audio Hero: Ryan Roth!

Tanya here! I’m a huge fan of Starseed Pilgrim — I have a limited-edition button pinned to my bag at all times… and a big part of that is the audio, which is an immersive, dynamically generated soundscape, created by the one-and-only Ryan Roth. Maybe you know him better from Electronic Super Joy, The Yawhg, or Sokobond.

Anyway, the super-double-awesome part of the pin on my bag is, I earned this pin by hunting down and securing a lunch with the makers of Starseed Pilgrim, Droqen and Ryan Roth. All because I had the audacity to ask Ryan to work on Shattered Planet

…and he’s said yes! So, look forward to a hand-crafted, synth-tacular soundtrack from Ryan Roth himself, both in the game and likely to be for sale separately on his website.

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This information was announced first in our monthly newsletter! If you haven’t joined, consider doing so on the right-hand side-bar.

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A Contest: Write Your Obituary, Clone001!

Shattered Planet is a very difficult game. You explore a hostile world, trying to survive as long as possible. Sometimes you manage to find a new friend, but most of the time, everything is trying to kill you. And that’s okay! You’ll find some crystals along the way and take them back to the lab for synthesising into new items.

But you don’t want to be forgotten! Even clones should be honored for their achievements — and the others can serve as a warning to others. We already have over two dozen possibly obituaries, but we wanted to include our fans in building that number sky-high.

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As you can see, the default obituary reads: “Here lies Clone001, who only just entered this world.” You can do better than that! I know you can!

So now’s your chance to get your ideas into Shattered Planet! If you can write the best obituary, we’ll put it in the game, plus we’ll mail you 3 limited-edition Shattered Planet stickers! Runners-up may get offers of consolation prizes such as beta test invites.

Entry details:

  • Entries must be submitted before midnight EST, November 8 2013.
  • Entries must be posted as a comment to this blog post, or on our Facebook page, or tweeted @kitfoxgames.
  • Entries may include any name you want as the subject — your friends, your family, yourself! However, long names will eat into your space (see next rule)…
  • Entries must be no longer than 117 characters, including the victim’s name, punctuation, and whitespace. If you want to include explanations for how this death/descriptor was earned, feel free to include it as well (even in a separate tweet), but make it clear which part of the entry is the obituary and which part is the explanation.
  • Don’t be hateful or, like, gross. You know what I mean.
  • Kitfox Games employees (all 4 of us) cannot win, but we may enter as many times as we want, for fun.

An example entry: Here lies Tanya, who had the reflexes of a sick cow.

We’ll tweet any cool entries we get, so you can also just follow us to get a steady stream of silly deaths. Email us at info@kitfoxgames.com if you have any questions.

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Playing With Fire

Space captains can now find themselves in a tough spot if they play fast and loose with fire.

Because, you see, grass and moss and brush tend to catch nearby fires and even embers can be dangerously hot to walk on.

Watch the gif below carefully to see a venomous crablet get turned to a pile of ash!

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Free Game: Sculptorgeist

As a mind-refresher, the Kitfox Krewe took a weekend off from Shattered Planet and decided to do a game jam! If you’re not familiar, the purpose of a game jam is to make a game within 48 hours. And so… we did!

Behold, the glory that is Sculptorgeist:

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The official game description: “In Sculptorgeist, you are a poltergeist haunting a clay house. You can only effect the inanimate objects, not the easily frightened clay people that are trapped in the house. Try to get the highest score! Happy haunting!”

Pro tip: Click and drag for maximum scaring… and if you are a MASTER OF FRIGHT, perhaps you’ll earn a secret ending!

If you want to play it, click here and get started!

Furthermore, as you’ll notice in the link, we did it as part of the Indie Speed Run, which is a contest … so if you leave a rating, maybe we’ll win a prize of some kind? Wish us luck!

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Building Your Captain

From the start of the project, we knew Shattered Planet was about exploring. And when we first implemented a protagonist, we were often asked, “So who is this guy? What’s his story?

It was a fair question. The protagonist we chose was a distinctive character design. Internally, we called his initial sketch “the Renegade”.

But when I tell my friends about my accomplishments in Brogue or Minecraft or Binding of Isaac, I don’t talk about what The Hero or Cubeguy or Isaac did — I tell them what I did. And not everyone can or will relate to the Renegade as themselves.

So, we’re adding some basic character customisation, which you can access from your space station at any time. We’ll be launching with three character types, and we’re ready to show off our first two.

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I haven’t decided yet whether there’s any significance to choosing your type — maybe being a Renegade could give higher Wits but lower Strength, for example. But we love the strategic depth yet initial simplicity of games like Brogue, which always start you out the same way and let you build your strategy as you go, and quickly re-start a new run when you die.

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However, you can rename your character at the cloning vats, all the better to have a hilarious obituary to share with your friends… even if when you tell stories about Shattered Planet to your friends, it’s all about your strategy, the crazy levels you found, and the bizarre set of circumstances that lead to your death.

Which one will you play?

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Inventing the Inventor

The Inventor is an important character that the player interacts with on a regular basis, so we made sure to dedicate some extra love to creating its concept.

Here’s a glimpse into our creative process for its character design!

First Iteration
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– A1 and A2 were too goofy
– A5 felt too gangster, so we made a nerdy A4 version
– We need more sketches!

Second Iteration
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– We did a quick survey of 15-20 developers and B2/B3 were tied as the most popular.
– B4 now looks like old grandpa, which we decided was undesirable
– MORE SKETCHES!

Third Iteration
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After a bit more sketching, we definitely preferred the friendlier, happier faces and decided it was time to narrow down on the design. The white arrows point to our internal favorites.

Fourth Iteration
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At this point, we’re pretty satisfied with the design of the head, and the yellow-green one is our favorite color scheme… so this is what the good doctor will look like in the game. What do you think? Did we make the right decision?

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Captain’s Journal Entry: Some Assembly Required

Section 62, paragraph B12 of the corporate policy guide dictates that we must subscribe to Space Fancy magazine. Otherwise, I wouldn’t touch that thing with a ten-foot lightsaber. I mean, just look at it.

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And if that weren’t bad enough, then the crew saw a “Replicator Device” in the catalog section, which claimed it could create ANYTHING … weapons, armors, even delicious Thanksgiving dinners!

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After some weeks of begging, I had to admit that the crew had some money leftover in the social budget… so we ordered one.

Unfortunately, the assembly instructions were written in some interplanetary gibberish, and Zex failed mechanical engineering, as it turns out.

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Our first attempt did not look like the machine in the catalog. So we took it apart and tried again.

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Closer this time, but it seemed to warp time and space to evade assembly.

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Finally, we have it mostly put together… I dread the day the crew figures out how to turn it on.

Out of Character lesson of the day: Always talk to your artist about how your assets have been put together before trying to put them in the game!

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Join the Shattered Planet Mailing List!

Look to your right. No, not in real life — on our website!

You should see a mailing list sign-up. Why would that tempt you?

1. That’s where we will send our first playtest invitations.

2. That’s where we will announce any major release details first.

3. That’s where we will announce contests to win prizes, from Shattered Planet swag to possible iTunes gift cards!

4. We’re super-nice and not spammy. At most, we intend to only send something every week or two, and maybe a bit more frequently in the week around launch, but that’s it! We haven’t actually sent a single mail to the list yet, because we didn’t feel there was anything important enough to bother you with… but pretty soon… there might just be something interesting in your inbox…

5. The larger our mailing list, the more likely we will be able to launch Shattered Planet successfully and keep going as a company!

As four people, we’re aware that our core team is larger than the usual solo or duo company. This is a bit of a risk on our part, since we rely more on sales and income than smaller teams, but we think that the “indie scene” is ready for slightly more beautiful and polished games than are currently on the market.

If you want to support professional-quality indies.. join the mailing list, and spread the word!

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