August Developer Update

Verdant Skies Coming to PAX West!

It feels surreal to say that we are showing Verdant Skies at PAX West September 1-4 in Seattle, but we are! Our booth is # 7115, and we are very excited to be right across the aisle from Larian Studios on the 6th floor of the expo hall. (We’re really big fans!)

This is a huge step for us in our development process, and it is exciting as well as stressful! Depending on how our meetings go with publishers, we may finally be able to say we have a release date!

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Best Artwork at 2D Con 2017!

Even though most of the compliments we receive are about our very unique art style, it is always a pleasant surprise to be officially recognized. Congratulations and thanks to our very talented artist Lizzy on a much deserved win! There were a ton of awesome games at 2D Con this year, so we feel extra proud of our win for Best Artwork! Congratulations to the other winners: Pinbrawl (Best Multiplayer & Gameplay) and Newt One (Best Single Player, Soundtrack, Gameplay, and Game of the Show).

Game Development as a Science

The Verdant Skies team was back at the Science Museum of Minnesota for their Social Science: The Science of Pixar event on August 16th. Andy (@kortham), Beth (@BethKorth), Lizzy (@Pixilizi_Art), and Troy (@YellowChord) gathered some valuable feedback on our latest build. Despite a strong hesitancy to cut down any trees in game, everyone really enjoyed themselves, and a bunch of folks joined our mailing list.

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New Animals!

While Lizzy would love to create every art asset in game, it just isn’t possible with the sheer number of items we need illustrated. With that in mind, we reached out to local artist Deborah Garcia to bring the animals of Viridis Primus to life. We don’t know about you, but the team is absolutely in love with the little critters!

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New Avatar Creator with Mouths and Noses

We really want our players to be able to see themselves in Verdant Skies. One of the key features that makes that possible is the avatar creation interface. Though the original interface wasn’t terrible, we think this revamp will really help folks visualize their options.

A recurring criticism of our avatars has been that they look “creepy” without anything occupying the bottom half of the face. We played around with different combinations to address this issue, and are pretty happy with the direction we’re headed. They need a little polish, but we now have mouth and nose options!

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Genetic Splicer Tutorial!

Many of our playtesters have loved diving into the genetic splicer to create seeds with amazing traits. However, some folks have trouble figuring out how the slider works, and how to best utilize the machine. So Andy made this handy video tutorial to explain how to get the most out of modifying your crops.

Combine two seeds of the same type to create a better hybrid!

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Play Verdant Skies at PAX West 2017!

We always love to meet our fans and get their feedback. If you, or someone you know is going to be at PAX, please stop by our booth and say hi!

Verdant Skies June Development Update

No summer vacation for us!

With no May update you may have thought we were taking the summer off. Nothing could be further from the truth! While many are out enjoying the summer sun, we’ve been hard at work creating content for Verdant Skies.

New Recipes, Award, and UI Art

Lizzy (@Pixilizi_Art) has been hard at work putting polish on much of the UI. She added some new vibrant colors to the old recipe icons, and created some new award icons that you may see popping up in the newly redesigned Achievements panel.

We are still considering some different approaches for the new panels. Here are mock ups showing off a couple of the possibilities we are exploring. Works still in progress!

The Science of Sound Design

The audio team for Verdant Skies presented the game at the Science Museum of Minnesota! Troy (@YellowChord) and Topher (@PhantomFreq) were asked to participate in an event called “Social Science: The Science of Pixar” and brought Verdant Skies to show attendees how sound can impact games and animation. They brought a variety of sound effects including footsteps, wood cracking, champagne bottles popping, and farts to demonstrate the effects that sound design can have on the play experience. It was easy to make switches in real time due to the software we’re using for Verdant Skies. Wwise is an audio middleware program that allows audio professionals to make detailed changes to the sound while reducing the work for the developer. Players were wowed not only by the sound and music, but the gorgeous hand-drawn art, diversity of characters, and spear fishing.

New Character!

Along with revisions to some of the events for our already announced characters, Beth (@BethKorth) finished the first few relationship events for our newest character.

Meet Skye Miller

Despite being paid by Planetary Pioneers, Skye takes seriously her ethical responsibility to produce an unbiased narrative of the colonization of Viridis Primus. Her desire for an honest representation sometimes puts her at odds with Jade who would prefer a more positive spin on the colony’s progress.

Programmer’s Corner

There’s tons of changes to report, as always! Over the last couple months, Andy (@kortham) has implemented dozens of changes. The most interesting change is that we now have cave fishing! He also improved controller support, and upgraded the AI for the NPCs so that they have more realistic wandering. To address a problem with NPC pathing, he made it so that the NPCs now favor walking on the paths, and the player will be unable to block the roads by constructing items.

Happy Spring from the Verdant Skies Team!

Spring has sprung!

Much like our world outside, there’s many things blooming in the development of Verdant Skies! From crops to insects, we’ve added some great new art. Love is in the air as we continue to expand on the relationship system. Of course, what update is complete without some bug fixes!

Working on Relationships

Lead Writer Beth ( @bethkorth ) finished the first draft of Rosie’s entire character arc. From your first meeting all the way to the commitment ceremony, it’s amazing to see it all come together! Andy ( @kortham )  worked on the programming required to flag relationships as exclusively dating or married. Different characters respond differently to you based on your relationship status, and each individual relationship moves at a unique pace. Some characters want exclusive status early in the relationship, and others don’t care at all.
If you become good friends with someone, but decide not to date them, you move down a friendship path, and you’ll get an extra friendship event in place of the dating ones. Next month, we’ll give players a way to break up with someone they are dating. A similar interface can be used to start dating someone you previously turned down.

Finalized Crop List

Crops are done! Lizzy ( @Pixilizi_Art ) has completed the artwork for all the growing stages of the 14 crops in the game. There are four crops native to each of the regions – plains, mountains, and marsh, and there are two extra crops found across the river. In testing, this is a pretty good sweet spot where you’ve got a lot of variety but you don’t have crop-overload. Since the player can genetically modify each species they have, they can end up with a lot of seeds!

New Bug Art

Lizzy has also been busy working on art for the bugs that will be inhabiting Viridis Primus. Here’s six in addition to the Angler Mite you’ll see in the insect collection image below. These little guys are probably a lot cuter than the insects that may be invading your garden or home this spring. Check out that fuzzy coat on our adorable little Umbra Bee on the bottom right!

Lots and lots and lots of fixes

I skim through the changelog to remind myself what we did over the past month, and this month there were about 4 pages worth of fixes. A lot of these are too small to mention, but it includes many fixes to furniture, controller support fixes, improving the usability of various UIs. We made a concerted effort to go through all the clothing and fix minor layout problems with them. One playtester noticed that the crafting recipe for sawdust required that they already had some sawdust, so that was fixed. Some of the oldest art in the game, such as the shipping box and scrap pile was redone to match the improved standards we have now.

Play Verdant Skies at GlitchCon17!

Verdant Skies is honored to be included in this year’s Minnecade! Come playtest at GlitchCon May 5-7th. We’re hoping to get some really long playtests out of this convention in order to test some of the new content. Most people who play for 2 hours really only start to scratch the surface of what we’ve got finished… which is really encouraging!

Verdant Skies- New in March

New fog effects, audio, controller support!

March has been a busy month for us; we showed Verdant Skies at MinneBar, a Minnesota tech conference. We all worked really hard to make VS as polished as possible for the event. For me, that meant a lot of work into perfecting the controller support, since only XBox controllers were available at the event. We got a great team picture of myself, Beth, and Lizzy.

Marsh Fog

Scott ( @slembcke ) had some free time to help out on the project, and one of the awesome shaders he wrote adds fog to the marsh. Fog changes with the time of day and has a configurable height off the ground. It’s all drawn in the same pass as the sprites themselves, so it’s very fast. We’ve also got a nice night-time / morning fog that occurs in other areas.

Even More Interiors

Beth ( @bethkorth ) has been hard at work making interiors for the new characters. Without revealing too much about the new ones, here are a few sneak peeks.

New Sound Effects and Music

Our two audio masters have been hard at work! Troy ( @yellowchord ) has started writing adaptive music for Verdant Skies, so the outdoor music will flow and change with in-game events dynamically. Topher ( @PhantomFreq ) did a great pass through the sound effects in-game. There are a few special events like the house construction that feel much more satisfying with sound.

Improved Fishing

Spear fishing has been a big hit at testing, people say it’s a lot more exciting than waiting for a fish to bite. Topher added new sound effects to the fishing mini-game and I programmed different fish characteristics, so you can see which fish you’re going to catch.

Each region of the map has different fish. Being able to identify which fish are which is pretty handy. In this case, the little fish in the middle is a “Flying Trout”, and it’s a good one to target since it’s great for sushi- an easy to make early cooking recipe.
The fish that are easy to cook are great early-game energy boosters for players who want to get the most out of each day.

Since there are more regions, we needed more types of fish!

Meanwhile, work continues on character events, bug fixes, usability and UI improvements, and all the usual stuff.

Introducing Wyatt

Every space farming colony needs a reliable botanist, and Dr. Wyatt Jones is yours! Friendly albeit a little distant, Wyatt finds little use for small talk. However, he will be more than happy to speak at length regarding the sciences. Use his vast knowledge to aid you in your farming endeavors.

Verdant Skies Development News

It’s still February somewhere in the world

Yeah, technically it might be March now, but we’ve been so busy working on the game, posting about the news falls to the back burner. And honestly, making the game is more fun than writing blog posts anyway.
Cleanup, polish, improvements, and even a few new features have been the focus for the last month. Under the hood, there’s been some big upgrades to the audio engine (upgrading WWise to a new version) and a major rework on how shadows and reflections are rendered. These changes allow for better performance and fix a few outstanding graphical glitches that we’ve mostly just avoided showing in screenshots. Shadows and reflections are now much more consistent. For example, when you see a flower waving in the wind, the reflection and the shadow now also wave.

Insect Catching

Insect collecting is a new memory-matching style mechanic we’ve introduced. Alpha testers have loved the fishing mini-game, so we wanted to expand that to other resource gathering tasks. In order to successfully collect an insect, you need to find a matching pair of them out in the world. Once you’ve got a pair, the insects go into your inventory and can be sold (maybe even cooked), or given to a character who collects them in their terrarium.

Jade’s Room

New Interior Decorations

Lizzy has been hard at work making new interior decorations (in addition to new portraits for old and new characters). The extra wallpapers, floors, and new furniture allow for a lot more personalization in the interiors.

Rosie’s Room

Story and Dialogue

Two new characters now have their arrival events written, bringing the total of already unlockable in-game characters to six. We’ve got 6000 lines of dialog in the project so far, and we’ve fleshed out most of the first five friendship events for the first four characters. After the five friendship events, you unlock the next five romance events- somewhere towards the end of that group, you make the decision to exclusively date that person, which can lead you towards marriage.

We’ve also done the programming work necessary to move the quests, mails, and event triggers out to a separate file. These are easy-to-edit json files, and it allows us to work on them without having to recompile the game. But more importantly, it allows for the possibility of users editing the files to add their own content!

The cave has also received some upgrades.

Preorders Available

We’ve made pre-orders available via the Humble Bundle store! Once Verdant Skies is released, you can redeem a steam key for the game through the Humble Bundle site. If you’d like to support our development process, you can preorder on the Verdant Skies page. Pre-orders aren’t for everyone- don’t worry, we’ll let you know when the game is released too!

Trees take a few days to regrow now, forcing players to explore a bit further if they are doing major lumber construction projects.

Introducing Jade

The mastermind behind the colonization of Viridis Primus, the colony’s administrator Jade Worthington is a force to be reckoned with. Direct and driven, Jade enjoys the company of likeminded people. Laziness or ineptitude is sure to land you on her bad side. Her motives are a mystery but it is obvious that she is determined to make this endeavor succeed no matter the cost.

Developing Rosie’s Art Style

Character portraits in Verdant Skies have changed a lot through the development process. Each character begins with a biography, which plays a major role in every decision on the character’s design- clothing, attitude, pose, and more.

 

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Once the basics have been nailed down in the sketch, Lizzy begins to refine the details of the character and render the character in more detail.

 

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At this point, the design of Rosie is pretty nailed down. We’ve continued to change the art style for the in-game portraits.. so Lizzy creates the final portrait.

 

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Once this final version of Rosie is finished, new versions are made to show Rosie laughing, embarrassed, concerned, and whatever other expressions are required for the narrative.

Usability Study

We participated in a usability study by a local user experience expert. She played an alpha version of Verdant Skies for about two hours and wrote up a heuristic analysis. We’re working on fixing some of the usability issues she found. Check out her report!

Verdant Skies – September News

September Developer Update:

Since the last public showing at 2D Con, nearly every aspect of the game has been improved. New music has been composed, artwork has been repainted, game mechanics have been reprogrammed, and new events have been written! For more detailed updates, follow us on Twitter and check the blog.

Updated the water graphics- it reflects sunlight as it shimmers and the foamy shoreline moves in and out slowly.

Weather System

New weather system! Rain storms come through at random times during a day and water all your crops for you.

Art Updates

While our exterior environment was strong at 2D Con, many small adjustments were made to improve the cohesion of the world. The flora and fauna were redesigned, and an overhaul of the roads has really helped tie the world together visually. In addition to the exteriors, the interior placeholder art has been replaced with tastefully designed rooms and accents that the player can customize as they please. The NPC art has been updated again as Lizzy strives to find a cohesive rendering style for the characters. We now have four fully rendered characters in a consistent style and are working on additional emotion portraits to accentuate the dialog. Our recent closed playtests have provided a great perspective on what we’ve accomplished, and what still needs work.

The new interior art allows players to move, replace, and eventually recolor all these items of furniture!

More Character Events

Since 2D Con, the entire intro has been rewritten for clarity and to increase player involvement. Beth has also been hard at work creating more relationship events for the first four non-player characters. We also have new daily dialogs for them. The bios for the next two NPCs are in the works as well, and the visual descriptions have been sent to the artist. Hopefully by Gamer’s Rhapsody we will have the friendship events and daily dialogs for the first six NPCs completed to allow for a more robust experience.

New character emotion portraits!

UI Rework

The UI is probably going to continue to change, but we’ve moved to a simpler and cleaner style for the interface.

No spoilers here!

Tool upgrades! Each standard tool now has three different upgrades. The upgraded versions are faster and use less energy, but they also can be used to access different areas, or farm in more difficult terrain. There are two secret tools you’ll unlock as you progress through the beginning of the game.

New custom housing options!

More code and artwork for the customizable house system has been finished! We’ve got a visual tour of some of the different ways you can decorate your home as you expand it through the different levels.

New House Art


New House Art
Individual doors and windows can be changed, as with the color of the house. Each person living on the planet has a home that matches their individual tastes.


New House Art
We have a huge collection of doors…


New House Art
.. and windows.


New House Art
And Lizzy is working on different roofs that can be swapped in and out.


New House Art

And finally, I wanted to keep the amount of extra windows to a minimum, so you can edit the design of your house as you walk around outside it by using the arrows that pop up near each window, door, or at the base of each building.

Careful observers will notice the new map icon in the bottom of the screen. Details will be revealed in the next blog post!

New Icons!

We’ve been working on updating our player UI. Check out these new icons Lizzy made!

AllTools

These are just some of the basic tool icons you will see in the game. We plan on having upgrade options as play progresses. Each tool will become more powerful as you upgrade it.


She also made the correspondence icons for when you receive communications.

AllTools


Last but not least, romance indicators! As your fellow inhabitants fall for you, their level of attraction will be tracked with these gorgeous hearts.

 

Thanks for following our progress!