screen shots

Base level preview

Wanting to take advantage of the great outdoors rendering capabilities of Lumberyard, we've "moved" the Spy DNA base to a small island, which can only be reached by sea or air. The island will also feature a helicopter landing pad and an extensive training facility for the Spy DNA agents to use between missions to hone their superhuman skills.

Here's a screenshot of the pier for you while we're working on the base level.

Combat in Spy DNA

This is Jason with an update on the Spy DNA combat system.  We’ve been making some graphics and demo videos for our Kickstarter pitch, and I thought we should share some of them with you. In today’s post, I’ll start with our new gunsight, that we use for aiming, and then move on to the combat system.

In Spy DNA we have put a lot of thought into making combat feel as real as we can.  One of the areas that’s often disappointing in games is the critically important mechanism you use to attack the enemy. 

Most games assign a character a simple chance to hit, usually modified by range and cover.  We use a full 3D world instead.  To avoid the problems, such as identifying obstacles and cover, when aiming in the  top-down view, we open a gunsight view when you pick a target.  

Single shot firing sequence

Single shot firing sequence

The biggest thing we do differently is replace the “chance to hit” with “Circular error probable”.  The rings around your aim point represent the 50%, 90%, and 99% likelihood of your shot landing within those rings. 

You trade off time aiming for more accuracy in your shot.  You can adjust it to try to get the first shot off quickly, or take some time to make sure you hit. You can also adjust the number of shots, burst, or burst length.  

When using automatic fire, burst or full auto, recoil will reduce precision of later shots as recoil adds up.  For single shot and burst your character will re-aim so follow on shots meet the same accuracy requirement you set.

Our damage model is based on your weapon and where you hit the target, not on a random dice roll.  So you will be able to aim for weak spots in the armor or for vital parts of your target.  Cover is handled the same way.  The ability to move the target point around lets you aim for exposed parts of the target. 

Now let’s talk about how our combat system works. We call our system Concurrent Turn-Based.  I’ll explain what this means.  We differ from traditional turn-based games  in some important ways.  

Let me start with what we are trying to accomplish. 

  1. The player should have time to think and take in the battlefield and environment.  
  2. The moves available to the player should as close as possible mirror the options that  a real-life soldier would have.
  3. The results of actions should be be realistic.

After a lot of experimenting we have settled on a system where the game focuses on a character when it is their turn to start their next action.  So while combat is ongoing, the game engine cycles though characters as their turns come up.  In this way it feels like a traditional turn-based game.  There is one very important difference.  While the game is progressing to the next player turn, every character and object in the game moves.  

This was not a decision we took lightly.  We made this decision to avoid the time quantization problem that traditional turn-based games have.  Think of the frustration where near the end of the player turn you move a character and trip one or more enemies.  Now your character (or whole party) just sits there helpless while the enemy takes a turn (or full round) worth of actions.  This is a side effect of games trying to map combat to a mechanism that doesn’t exist on a battlefield.  

In Spy DNA we are trying a more direct simulation of the world.  The character that makes contact would actually have the initiative.  The characters that spots them would make a reaction time roll (based on their attributes and combat experience) to see how fast they can react.  Also because other characters in the player party may be mid-action, such as movement, you could cancel those long actions and give them a new task.

I made a short video where a character ambushes two unaware NPCs.  The action commands I give the game are:

  • Throw a grenade
  • Draw my pistol
  • Crouch
  • Aim and shoot to finish off the second target

About three seconds of game time actually elapses in this demo.

Compared to Turn Based games, we have two major differences.  The first is turns in Spy DNA are not uniform in size.  Turns come up as the character completes their previous command.  This means that fast actions such as firing a single shot will result in that character's turn coming up again quickly.  Slow actions such as moving a long distance will mean many other characters are likely to take their turns before coming back to that character. 

The second major difference is the turns progress concurrently, i.e. all at the same time.  So if you give a move order to one character, and a quick attack order to another,  each time the second character attacks you will see the first make some progress on their move order.  In effect, you will see time progress forward for everyone until one of your characters completes all the commands in their queue.

Should a character spot something needing your attention while they completing an command, the game will stop and focus on the character.  This allows you to react to things that come up mid action such as an enemy coming around a corner.  

I hope this gives everyone a feel for the type of gameplay we are trying to deliver.  

 

 

All our base are belong to you

One of the levels you'll be revisiting often in our new game is the base, where your characters can equip weapons, add new genetic enhancements, and heal combat injuries.

Here are a few screen shots from the Unreal Engine 4.10 level editor for you.

This here is the office area of the Crolimax Lab, where the researchers work. It looks very much like a regular office, because that's what it is!

The lab houses a secret vault with cryogenic suspension capsules where our genetically-enhanced agents can rest and recover between missions.

Things get a little more intense in the secret underground facility, which can be reached from the back of the Crolimax lab.

The underground base has virtual reality training facility, where the agents can hone their skills from shooting and hand-to-hand combat, to hacking, and safe cracking.

The Crolimax report: December 2015

December is usually the time to kick back and slow down for the holidays, but not here at Shy Snake! We’ve been busy building Spy DNA, making new levels, models, and character behaviors.

In the weeks since our last update, we’ve focused on finishing the first draft of the game “screenplay,” AI, realistic damage, and additional weapons and forms of combat.

Story

As of today, we’ve cleared a major milestone: the first complete draft of the game script is finished!

Screen capture from a demo level

Screen capture from a demo level

What does this mean? That we’ve got the entire story arc outlined and every level that moves the story forward described in detail, with character dialogue and different action options.

The script is a little over 31,000 words long, and 190 pages at this point. We’ve got the game spanning four chapters, each chapter about fifteen levels long:

  1. Character creation and background
  2. Game premise introduction
  3. Investigation and pursuit of the bad guys
  4. Escalation to final boss fight

The game is focused around the protagonist (the character that you create and play throughout the game) uncovering an espionage plot and pursuing the evil guys across the world to prevent classified tech from falling into the hands of a rogue government.

As the story develops, complexity and battle intensity grow to continue challenging the player while their skills and attributes grow.

We’d love to tell you much more about it, but we don’t want to spoil the game for you, so the last bit we’d like to share is that we expect the script to grow by at least another 50 percent or more as we add deeper dialog trees and extra side quests. We can’t wait to share the game with you!

Level design

The script has 45 levels in it, give or take, which cover the main storyline from start to finish, and this number will only continue to grow as we add side quests. Each of these levels is a detailed 3D map living in the world of Spy DNA fifty years in the future, with landscapes, buildings, cars, and of course people!

Screen capture from the level design editor

Screen capture from the level design editor

Level design is what will take an enormous amount of time from today on, all the way to the beta release, after which we expect to focus on polish, and not add any more content.
If you wonder what level design looks like, here is a screen capture of Alex working on one of the early levels on the game, which takes place in an apartment complex.

The Crolimax secret base is going to be one of the maps that the player will return to after most missions, to both heal from any battle injuries as well as to receive intelligence reports and new genetic enhancements. This map is what we’ll be focusing on this week, before moving on to getting the character creation working. 

These three levels (character creation, Crolimax base, and the apartment complex) will become our first playable demo, which we’ll make available to a small group of players who we’ll look to for feedback and suggestions.

AI

A good Artificial Intelligence (AI) is critical if we want to make the game fun and challenging for players, whatever difficulty they choose. The AI will control both the enemies as well as neutral and friendly NPCs, and be able to adjust on the fly, based on the player’s actions and commands.

Getting the AI to do all the necessary things for the playable demo is another one of our main goals this month and next.

Combat

Of course, what would a strategy game be without combat? We’re getting to the point where we’re pretty happy with how our projectile weapons work, and are now switching gears to create a hand-to-hand combat system for those situations where you want to avoid attracting attention with gunfire, or just don’t want to shoot any civilians.

The villains are driven by the in-game AI, which makes them act in response to player actions

The villains are driven by the in-game AI, which makes them act in response to player actions

On a side note, the grenades also work now, and you can see how that looks in the level design screen capture that’s linked above. Now that we have grenades, adding destructible objects to the game is our next priority, because seeing things blow up is half the fun in throwing a grenade, right?

All in all, we’re quite happy with the progress we’ve made this month, and are looking forward to sharing more with you next year.

Happy New Year from Shy Snake!

Our first screen capture video shows game controls

Our new game is introducing a lot of new concepts for the 3rd person strategy game genre, such as the timeline, as opposed to a fixed number of action points per turn. To help you visualize what this means for the actual gameplay, we've made our first screen capture video, to show how the timeline works, as well as how aim, accuracy, and damage calculations translate into player experience.

Let us know in the comments below what you think, and what else you'd like to know about our game!

Video transcript:

Hello and welcome.

My name is Alex Maier, and today I would like to show you how to use the controls in the new game that Shy Snake is building.

In the lower left corner, you can see the HUD, which shows your player characters and their respective states.

Currently, your party has two player characters: Ms. Green and Mr. Purple. They are idling, which is fancy talk for just standing around.

If you want them to do anything beside idling, you can give them a command.
Click anywhere on the map to tell your character to go there.

Oh look, here’s a non-player character, who looks like a bad guy. Let’s shoot him.

When you move over the enemy NPC, it changes to crosshairs.

You probably want to aim a bit before you fire, and you can click on the target a couple of times to add aiming time. Each click adds 0.2 seconds to your aim.

While the aim gets better, you can see your current chance to hit in the graph below, in the HUD.

When you like your chances, you can fire your weapon by right-clicking on the target.

Since the weapon we’ve equipped is a two-round shotgun, you can see that the ammo bar to the left of the chance to hit graph has gone down by one-half.

Now if you want to give your characters more than one command at a time, you can do this by pausing the timeline. Just hit SPACE.

You can queue up a number of commands which will be executed in order once you unpause the timeline.

The HUD has more information to offer. To toggle the expanded view, hit TAB.
Now you can see a diagram of your current target area as well as the damage and penetration graphs.

When timeline is paused, the stats shown are for the current moment in time, but once you unpause it, they become animated as the time flows.

So this is all I wanted to show you today.

This is still a work in progress, please stay tuned for more updates as Shy Snake continues to work on our new game.

Talk to you next time.

 

What is it all about?

In the future, all LEDs are blue.

In the future, all LEDs are blue.

Psst! Want to know a secret? I’ve been working on the script for the new game, and got a rough outline done!

Want to know what the game is going to be about?

It’s going to be set in a not too distant future, so you should still recognize the tech. The difference will be, that it will just work. And there will also be lasers and railguns and other futuristic weaponry. And genetically enhanced soldiers.

Right, that’s what the game will really be about: Leading a squad of genetically enhanced warriors in a fight to save the world. Because anything less doesn’t require an international squad of super-soldiers.

So as a player, you’ll have your main character, who is the squad leader, and a selection of similarly enhanced troops to support you. Each of them has a specialty, like sniping or explosives, or maybe even interrogation. Don’t hold me to any of that though, because the game is still pretty much a work in progress, and everything can change. But you get the idea.

Between deployments you and your buddies chill in cryogenic storage pods. Why? Well, on one hand, it’s the future, and apparently it’s the thing to do. Also, if your government-funded project just sank millions into creating a handful of super-soldiers, you don’t want them to just be hanging around aging, so that in ten years you need to make and train a bunch of new ones. That’s just wasteful, and even in the future, the money is tight.

So about that government project. It has a lab and a whole secret base where the scientists can do their research and keep an eye on the cryo-pods, to monitor the cryogenically stored soldiers and revive them as needed. Like, when the world is in danger.

When the game starts, you find your character waking up in their pod, and the lab has obviously been attacked while you were sleeping. The whole place has been turned upside-down and a bunch of people have been shot. Nasty business.

Now, it’s going to be your job to figure out who done it, what they were after, and how to stop them.

Sounds good so far? Wait till you see the rest of the story.

But if you were wondering what I’ve been up to since the last blog update, now you know.

By Alex Maier, Shy Snake founder

Creating the world

Everything in a game has to be created from scratch, either by you or by someone else: walls, floors, furniture, and of course the characters themselves. This is called game level design.

When you create objects for the level, you have to teach them everything about themselves so that they appear in the correct spot in the world and also look right. It goes kind of like this.

Object: What am I?
Me: You're a carpet floor tile.

Floor tile: Am I shiny? Am I smooth? Am I made of metal?
Me: No, you're not very shiny at all, you're kind of bumpy, and you're definitely not made of metal.

Floor tile: What color am I?
Me: You're this kind of unexciting institutional green, because you're in an office building.

And so on, for every little thing that exists in the world. In order to make the task of game level design a little bit less daunting, I use Unreal Engine 4, shown in the screenshot.

I spent the last couple of weeks creating and fine-tuning materials for the walls and floors of the building used in the first level of the game and then placing props, such as office furniture, in the different rooms. Yes, I made a bunch of different carpet tiles. How did you guess?

It’s quite exciting to see a world come together, let me tell you. I can’t wait to show you the first demo!

And now, back to work.

By Alex Maier, Shy Snake founder