Update from Heaven's Vault

We've been quiet on the blog for a month or two, as we work away on Heaven's Vault. Since the demo level we took to GDC in March, the game has really taken off, with lots of different elements finally locking together.

We're writing things up on the dev blog in snack-sized chunks as we go, but not everything gets up there, so here's a quick round-up of what's happened recently!

  • We've converted the game fully over to free movement. The GDC demo was built using a hotspot-based "click to walk" system - but we're now moving El around using direct control. That's thrown up plenty of problems! But it's also provided us with a lot of ways to make the game world and dialogue more responsive, with the characters reacting in real-time as the player enters areas of interest, and moves from place to place.
  • Our technical artist, Piran, has been solving all the problems that come from 3D games with scope - from lighting that looks sharp even on phones, to loading a vast open world with soft blurry clouds.
  • Tom K has been working on the flight of Aliya's ship, the Nightingale, whisking us along rivers and chugging through the dead spaces in between. We're authoring our space through a mixture of hand-constructed features and procedural generation tuned to create interesting curves, which we use to fill out the world efficiently. Using procedural techniques allows us to iterate on the large-scale layout of the map without having to rebuild the nitty gritty from scratch every time.
  • We've closed in on the look and feel of the Nebula itself. We're not ready to show it yet - but we think we've got something pretty unusual and visually striking. Best of all, the various elements plays into the backstory of the world at the same time as solving gameplay problems. More obvious designs traded off one side of the game against the other. Clearly this idea needed us to discard the more obvious ones first! A clue: it was eating Easter Eggs that provided the spark.
  • We've got some more characters into the game! Our first demo was a deserted moon - we wanted to ensure exploration and cameras were resolved first - but now we've started work on Iox, the home of the university, which is a busier place. Dialogue sequences are starting to flow, and NPCs are walking around, and talking, and generally causing trouble for Aliya.
  • Laura, our new Environment Lead, undertook a full survey of the three-thousand year history of the Nebula, defining the architectural styles of each age - and every bit of every age. Want to know what 'late early Empire Iox' looks like? We have a page for that (and everything in between).
  • We've had a few more... surprising... ideas about how to lay out the story flow, taking the game into a slightly more graphic novel space. It's either madness or genius, but we can't yet tell.

We're hoping to share a few more screenshots and visuals in the next few months, but until then, you can keep abreast of what's we're doing by following Tumblr, Twitter or Facebook.

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