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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Gamer’s Rhapsody: Best Game of 2016!
At Gamer’s Rhapsody we won 2016 Game of the Year and Best Story! And best of all, we had a lot of players who got to sit down with Verdant Skies and play through the beginning of the game. Since Gamer’s Rhapsody is a relatively small convention, players were able to continue their saves on the second and third day of the convention, so half a dozen players were able to get 1-3 hours of gameplay! Thanks to our dedicated testers who got through the first 3 character events, picked and sold $500 worth of flowers, and got all the tool upgrades.
Thanks to Gamer’s Rhapsody for an amazing con!
Feedback from the testers filled several notebook pages and has been a huge help in balancing prices and the timing for the first dozen events.
A lot of polishing is happening throughout the game. One good example is this new animation when fields are watered.
Look at those fields!
Fertilizer, Sprinklers, and Area Specific Crops
I’ve been working on some of the more advanced farming features. After watching some of the people who played a longer amount of time at Gamer’s Rhapsody, I realized there was room for more advancement in farming. Once players have done a few rotations of crops in one or two fields, they are looking for some ways to make themselves more effective. Fertilizer increases the growth rate of a crop – and a certain genetic trait makes it a requirement. Sprinklers allow you to water a whole 2×2 field with a single touch.
Drag and drop to apply fertilizer
I’ve also finally done the programming to unlock region specific crops. Rice, for example, grows only in the marsh. Cactus plants can only be cultivated in the mountains.
We’ve added controller support and the ability to rebind the keyboard keys. The game is still completely playable with just the mouse, but our goal is to make it playable with just a keyboard or just a controller as well. We’re testing with XBox, PlayStation, and Steam controllers, but the system should work with just about any controller you can imagine. Worst case, you’ll have to bind some buttons manually in the interface.
The biggest challenge with controller support is making sure all the menus can be navigated effectively with the controller. This has proven to be time consuming so far, but it’s just a matter of sitting down and doing the work.
This is one of six new hairstyles.
We’re continuing to add new clothing and hairstyle options. I’ve developed an animation testing tool so it’s easier to make sure all the clothing lines up properly.
Rosie Martinez is the colony’s talented mechanical engineer. Blind from birth, she never let her disability hinder her adventurous nature. She has a knack for fixing things and has many patents for her original designs. Respected by her peers on the home world, Rosie now uses her gifts to aid you in your colonization of Viridis Primus.
Thanks for your Greenlight Support!
Verdant Skies has been successfully Greenlit on Steam! We are deeply grateful for all of your votes and support; thanks to you, our game will be available on Steam when it is done.
New Clothing, Mechanics, Everything!
So much has changed in the last month, it’s hard to make a list. We’ve got a new flexible clothing system that allows you to combine dozens of different shirts, pants, skirts, and accessories.
The map has expanded to include the eastern side of the river, which includes a new lake where you can harvest clay for your pottery. The color theme of the eastern bank gives the new area a pretty different feel, it transitions from the green grass on the west side towards a purple theme.
New character art and new map areas!
The crafting system has been overhauled- many new items have been added, but we’ve also cleaned up which items get crafted at which station. The 3D Printer is used mainly for crafting objects that have a specific gameplay purpose or can be used to craft other things. The 3D Printer can queue 5 items at a time and things generally take the better part of a day to print.
Contrast that with the woodworking workbench, which is used mostly to make decorative items for your home. Items take a few hours to make at the workbench, but it actually consumes the your time to make these items.
If you find yourself with time left over at the end of the day, use your time at the workbench, artist easel, or in the kitchen! Without using energy you’ve reserved for chopping wood, you can make a tidy profit or restore some energy with a homecooked meal.
One of the new craftable items is the alarm clock, which allows you to nap anytime you want and wake up at the time of your choosing.
The pottery station provides 50+ decorative options for your home, plus the possibility of a steady daily income.
More and more interior items are being added. Once you invite Miles to the planet, you’ll be able to buy flooring, wallpapers, windows, and recolorable rugs.
Change the flooring and wallpapers of your home… with a fancy animation!
The genetic engineering UI has been reworked again in order to improve the usability. There isn’t really anything else like this that I’m aware of, so it’s taken a lot of redesign to make it easy to use. The big usability fixes in the latest changes to the genetic interface have focused on immediately showing the effect of your splice location.
There will still be a few important changes to come to this UI:
- You’ll be able to label/mark your seeds, so you can keep them sorted easily.
- The UI will probably go full-screen to better fit the resulting traits without needing to scroll.
The below picture shows the combination of two seeds with some positive and negative traits. Notice that one of the two genes that code for “Needs extra water” overlap with the quality trait. We could move our splice point to remove the last blue gene, but that would eliminate both the positive and negative trait. But we did get the necessary regrowth gene out of the bottom seed, and that’s one of my favorite traits so far.
The new Genetic Splicer is also red/green colorblind friendly by default.
There are also a dozen events for the first four characters. Wyatt likes to request plant samples from new areas of the planet.
New watering particle effects and new outfits!
Play Verdant Skies at Gamer’s Rhapsody
If you’re in Minnesota, stop by the Gamer’s Rhapsody conference to play a preview build! The convention is this weekend, November 18th – 20th. We will have a booth at the Gamer’s Rhapsody Indie Developer room. Also, you can use the coupon code “GR3” for a discount on admission. If you’re a student, use “GRstudent” for even cheaper tickets!
Steam Greenlight Voting
We’re now on Steam Greenlight, and we need your votes to get Verdant Skies listed on Steam! Please vote for us on our Greenlight page. Voting is free, you just need a steam account, and the more “yes” votes we get, the sooner Verdant Skies will be on Steam!
New Gameplay Video
Our new video shows off all sorts of new things you can do in Verdant Skies. Check out the upgraded fishing system, the crafting systems, planting, watering, and harvesting crops.
Big advancements have been made to our furniture system. Now your paintings will automatically snap to walls, and certain small objects can be placed on top of tables. We’ve also updated the shop, so you can purchase decorative rugs and interior windows to make your house really feel like a home.
This picturesque lake is just west of the town center. You can build the western town expansion from this area, which adds a roadway and new building sites for more colonists.
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.
New weather system! Rain storms come through at random times during a day and water all your crops for you.
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!
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.
A huge amount of work has been done on Verdant Skies since our last post. The first programming pass has been finished on the in-game map. As I watch new testers play the game, I find that the map makes a pretty big difference in how they interact with the NPCs. Since they can find the characters more easily, they can get the dialog for each character every day, and they get a lot more of that person’s story.
When a character is inside a building, their icon appears above the building! The map wasn’t very useful without that feature.
We’ve also been hard at work on content- like cooking! Lizzy has drawn a bunch of amazing cooked food items. We’ll have a special blog post about her artwork soon. Cooking isn’t required if you want to sell your food- it doesn’t really increase the value of most items… but cooked items can be eaten to restore your energy. So if you really want to pack the most into each day, cooking will be an important part of that.
One other bit of gameplay that has recently been reworked is the hybridization system. Everything you plant has a genome. You can either choose to ignore this system, or carefully combine crops you’ve grown in order to unlock special traits. We haven’t finished the tutorial that comes along with unlocking the hybridization machine, but it’s in-game:
In this image, the player is inspecting a Bristlegrain seed. It’s genome is represented by the red and green bars at the top of the screen. This is a pretty good seed, as it has traits for extra yield and a faster growth rate. You can see how it’s genome matches the requirements for the two traits shown.
You can also browse the list of traits you’ve discovered in any seeds. For example, the regrowth trait will automatically replant a crop after it is harvested. The required genome is shown, so you can attempt to modify plants towards the desired characteristics.
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.
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.
We have a huge collection of doors…
.. and windows.
And Lizzy is working on different roofs that can be swapped in and out.
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!