Please note that all screen shots displayed in this blog are works in progress and in no way represent the appearance of the final game. Check out the main site here.

Be sure to follow us everywhere with these links!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Things Will Be Great When You're Downtown!

So with the countrysides shaping up, we've been putting some real focus towards getting the procedural town generation happening, and a big part of that is procedurally generating the individual buildings...

So, after having a bit of a play around with town layout generators, we thought to ourselves "where's the first place you go when you reach a new town?" and right away we came to the conclusion of "the tavern, of course! For a hearty ale and a game of goblin dice!" (you'll learn more about goblin dice later)

So we decided to make our coding focus on taverns for the moment. So, to introduce the first tavern created by the game engine... May I present "The Slinky Buttercup"

 This building was actually constructed by the game engine after we taught it how to build houses and threw it a few assets, and it looks pretty great for something that is relatively low poly:

So as you might notice, it's quite a small establishment, but the game has since made a couple of much larger (and more oddly shaped) taverns with names such as "The Swordsman's Doorway" and "The Curious Pumpernickel" (all of the names are also generated by the game)

You'll get to see the building interiors as soon as there's something to really show for it, but we CAN show you a VERY rough demo of the shop interaction planned for the game.

When you interact with shopkeepers of any kind in Malevolence, we've set up a system that is a direct nod to the RPGs of old such as Might & Magic. You can enter the shop, wander around, examine things, steal things (if you're so inclined) but when you talk to the proprietor, this interface will come up:

As a means of homage to the games Malevolence is re-imagining, no matter what town you go to, each interface for each shop type remains the same, so you will get familiar with them quickly. They also each have their own sound. The voice of the Tavern Keeper is none other than Australia's own David 'Aussieroth' Doyle!

So that's it for now. Soon we'll have videos of entire towns generating in the wilderness, and then we'll focus on showing you inside the buildings, and hopefully more shops, too! And working ones!
Until then, stay tuned on the social networks!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Latest News: Team member insight - Nicolas Lee

Nicolas Lee is the lead composer on the Malevolence project, and makes some fantastic game music! So he thought you might like a bit of insight into his processes!
You'll know his work from the game's amazing theme music and countryside ambience:


So he's done up a bit of a behind-the-scenes perspective on his creation of the Malevolence theme music! It's very interesting to watch, so click play!

Nicolas Lee is an amazing talent, and we feel very lucky to have him on the team. He is definitely an asset to any project. You can learn more about him at his official website!
In other Malevolence news, we're doing some work on getting rudimentary towns working, so we'll have something to show for ourselves with that fairly soon (hopefully)
Until then, keep up with us on the social networks, and we'll see you again soon!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Great Outdoors

Right, so we've been busy lately... Outdoors are really starting to shape up the way we want them to!
The lighting code has been quite difficult to write... Luckily, we've been getting a lot of help from Evolved Software to get us pointed in the right direction.

You see, our conundrum is this: In a normal game with hand-made levels, the in-game lighting can be "baked" into surfaces, so that it essentially becomes a part of the object's texture. This is just one example, but there are a heap of little tricks like this that game devs can use to milk more efficiency out of their game. It's not a cheat, it's just being super clever with resources to get the best performance for the resources. Because of these little tricks, very few lighting calculations actually need to be processed by the GPU in any one section of the game. It's a great system and it's worked for developers for years.

 But when making a game such as Malevolence, you don't know where the lights will be, what colour they will be, or what objects they will be projecting onto, since the entire game is generated through code. Due to this, every single bit of light calculation must be done in real-time. So, to use the game on high settings, you need a bit more grunt in your box than you would a game such as, say, Skyrim. We're not talking too much more grunt... A Dual-Core 2.4GHz machine with a decent speed 1GB video card and 2GB of ram should run it just dandy. Anything below that and you'll likely have to start sacrificing things like the real-time shadows. Why can you run Skyrim but not Malevolence? Because Skyrim has the luxury of being able to pull off fancy lighting tricks, because the level designers knew where everything would be in the game at all times.
Unfortunately, if you want to play a game with an infinite world, you need at least a relatively up-to-date machine. It's an unfortunate trade-off, but we're hoping that by the end of the year most people have a machine that's up to spec. But let's face it, if you're a gamer, it probably already is.
So anyway. Calculating an entire world worth of environmental lighting from one single light source (the sun) is a teensy bit tricky, but as you saw in the last video, we're getting pretty good at it. We've had to handle bouncing of light, realistic bloom, canopy shadows around trees, water reflection and refraction but take a look and at the same time enjoy the incredible countryside music being made by Nicolas Lee.

 And here's a bit of a look at the amazing light refraction effects while underwater in the game:

We originally weren't going to allow the player to move underwater, but the thought of being able to find and explore submerged ruins and cities proved to be just far too inspiring. So we figured, if we're going to be doing it, then we might as well make it look sexy as hell while we're at it!
But anyway, that was a very rough example of what the external environments will look like with the finished lighting on them. Unfortunately that demo was made with a hand-made heightmap, but we have also been doing lots and lots and LOTS of work on our infinite procedural terrain heightmap generator (way cooler to say than IPTH)

Check it out:

This little tech demo shows the early-days procedural construction of the overworld in the game (minus textures or lighting). The solid grey parts are the water, if you can imagine it.
These environments differ from other games as they are not generated via perlin noise or fractals or blobs or diamonds. They are a simulation of the actual plate tectonics and erosion that is seen in nature, thus making a much more natural looking and unpredictable environment for the player to experience.
We figure that just because the game isn't full of hand-made levels, that doesn't mean that it has to FEEL like it isn't made full of hand-made levels. By now you've probably all played Skyrim, and you can tell that those guys know their stuff when designing worlds. They have done such an incredible job that it brings a tear to the eye, but imagine if a game could create that sort of thing on its own? That'd be something quite special.
What you see above is quite early stages, but you should be able to get the gist of what we're trying to do. Just imagine those rolling hills covered in forests and fields and towns and farming communities and caves and ancient ruins (some of which will be partially or even fully submerged underwater and will require you to go down there)

Better bring some potions of water breathing.....

One last thing. Yesterday we managed to reach position #2 on the charts at IndieDB/ModDB, right there next to Minecraft. Having that happen has been the single most uplifting thing that has happened to our humble team since we started this project, and it's from people like you reading and supporting us, so keep on being amazing, all of you! Who knows? Maybe one day we'll be sitting just above Minecraft and Notch might finally notice us hahaha I really think that this would be his sort of game.
But anyway. We'll see you next time with more cool stuff. Keep on rocking! And, as usual, if you haven't already, join us on the social networks!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Halfway Point Retrospective

So development of Malevolence has been getting quite heavy lately, and recent personal-life crises have led to me not being able to work on it for a couple of weeks. However, me being me, not being able to WORK on the game has just left me THINKING about the game quite a bit, and it led me to want to share a little bit of a halfway-point retrospective of this games development, and the revelations it has brought me.

But first, a brief history:

When this project was first conceived back in 2010, it was only meant to be a small project. Basically a re-imagining of Might & Magic set in an infinite world - not particularly focused on graphics or too much innovation as it was only meant to be a fun project to a) sharpen my skill-set and b) be awesome fun to play. However, that didn't last long...

Somehow (still not sure how) word started getting around that the game was being made and all these fans of Might & Magic, Eye of the Beholder, Wizardry, Dungeon Master and even things like D&D and Dwarf Fortress started contacting me wanting to know more and giving me suggestions.

Well, it soon became apparent that I may just have an audience for this title, so I started posting around about it on forums and web communities and such, and the following started becoming immense (in comparison to other projects I've done) - even far eclipsing my last large project, Dungeon Master Pro - and after discussing it with my wife and close friends, I decided to take it the whole nine yards, make it the best I can make it and release it for sale. But to do that I'd need a team.

I teamed up with Rachel Birchnoff, a long-time artist friend of mine whom I had collaborated on MANY times in the past and also met Natalie Jane - a talented up and coming artist - while doing my groceries and together we invented the look and feel of the game. During this, I also was writing my butt off coming up with the history, the world and the structure behind the game. By this stage I had been playing around with the engine quite a bit and it was starting to piece together really well, but it was missing one key thing... Sound.

I knew absolutely no voice actors, however A short while before, a friend of mine had shown me the work of Deven Mack Jnr. and I tried for a good solid month to try and reach him. In the end, he wasn't able to work on the project due to union commitments, however, he did give me the details of the wonderfully talented Steven Kelly who was only too happy to help out, and who also led me to get in touch with Samuel Drake, Amber Lee Connors, Rebeka Thomas, Karen Kahler, David Doyle and Benjamin Irvine who all provided voice work to go into the game, bringing it to an entirely new level. It was at this point the community clamoured for the game to look better, so I obliged, adding in better detail lighting, normal mapping, proper shadow effects, etc. It was a long process, but paid off well. The game started getting massive praise from the community, which was quite humbling.

Around this time, and sitting on a team of about 20 people at this point, we were contacted by Nicolas Lee, an indie composer based out of Seattle, who offered to do music for the game. We'd had composers on the project before and had been screwed over, which had made us wary, but Nicolas started outputting this absolutely incredible work, such as the game's theme music:

We also got contacted out of the blue by the one and only Roland Shaw to help out with sounds in the game, which nearly made me fall off my seat when I got the email. His work has truly taken the game to a AAA level.
These two guys gave us some real renewed vigour to make this game the best it could be. We started getting comments saying how it was comparable to some AAA titles, and that it was even starting to look as good as or better than the Elder Scrolls games, which really made us feel special. We started getting requests for interviews, dozens of applications from people wanting to work on the project, some of whom we brought on, such as Saxon Bell, Jordan Glew and Thomas Martin, who are offering up their writing services to the project. On top of all this, we've managed to get some amazing testers, most of whom we've never met in the flesh, who have done an INCREDIBLE job of finding all of my mistakes and also doing up lets play videos and the like to help promote the game, which has been amazing, and they will be rewarded when it's over!

This whole time, everything about the game has been self-funded. I've been pouring pretty much everything I have into this game to keep people paid who need paying, to keep services like the website running, and it's been quite hard a lot of times - especially recently where my financial situation changed quite drastically - but this amazing group of people I have working together on the project has just kept going. Either volunteering completely or having an incredibly patient, understanding "pay me when you can" attitude which has made the project be able to run as smoothly as it can. Every single team member on board has been incredibly supportive, encouraging and helpful the entire way, and it has been an incredible experience thus far. Friends and family have been giving me lavish gifts to help me be comfortable, from herb gardens to pool tables, making me feel even more humbled, but things are looking up. Around March my financial situation will be changing again - this time for the better - and I'll finally be able to catch up and really get things moving. But I'll never forget the patience and understanding that the team has given me thus far.

But now, the retrospective that I promised.

During this last 18 months or so, I've learned a lot of interesting things. Malevolence has been a real life changer for me, and there have been certain events and revelations that have come to light:

1) Before this, the closest person I knew to the games industry was one of the network admins at Pandemic Studios before they closed down. Since starting this project I've met a heap of professional voice over artists, as well as some people in the games industry such as Alistair from Bane Games, Dan (formerly) from Halfbrick Games, Scott from Creature Interactive, Dave from Desura, Daniel from GamersGate, Joshua from Techzwn, James from CoG, Roland from Spicy Horse, all of Bubblegum Interactive, Blowfish Studios, Hedgegrove Enterprises and many more.

2) Malevolence was nominated for the Indie Game of the Year awards of 2011, which was extremely unexpected. At the time our game was only barely together and no-where near finished, but still, the community spoke and we were nominated. We didn't hope to win anything, but just to be nominated at such an early stage was such an amazing rush.

3) We made the cover of the inaugral 2012 TGC newsletter and have since become a household name over there. TGC is a really big community and those guys have been fantastic.

4) We were invited to present the game at the GAME festival in Sydney. We put ourselves into debt to go down there and do it, but it was totally worth it, just to be around the other game devs and see joe public (who had never seen the game before) give it such an overwhelmingly positive reaction - some people even stood there and watched the trailer on loop 3 or 4 times with their mouths open. It was amazing.

5) We knew the project was going to be big. I don't think that we could have possibly know just HOW big. It has at some points become quite overwhelming and I've had to take a break or two here and there, but the clamouring of the public for me to get back to work usually motivates me to get going again.

6) I learned that the public in general is unforgiving, and don't read. Some people have posted comments on blog entries asking questions which are actually answered in the blog entry they're commenting on, others have outright told us our game looks like crap. More than anything, people have said that what we're trying to do is impossible. We know it IS possible. We have provided evidence that it is, but like I said, people don't read. However, the negative comments have been about 1% or 2% of the feedback. Haters gonna hate, but in the end, they don't have an IOTY nominated game and I do ;-)

7) The game has given me a whole new understanding of the word 'dedication'. For those of you who read these blogs every time, you'll have read about my frustrations, difficulties and roadblocks along the way, but the team has... not... stopped.

8) The game has also made us re-assess what 'success' means for a game developer. I'm not making this as my day job. It's a side project, so I don't need it to be a smash hit to live. Because of that, the money that the game can potentially make is secondary to making a great game. When all is said and done I want Malevolence to be the best game that it can be, and that is MY ideal game. A lot of the things I'm doing on the project, other people don't agree with. But when all is said and done, that's their problem, not mine. As I said earlier, the VAST majority of feedback is extremely positive, and I'm very proud of that.

9) Finally, no matter how much I've enjoyed working on this, I've learned that I'll be super glad when it's over. Yes, I have plans for expansion packs and a sequel, but I'll still be bloody glad when it's over...

Well, if you read this far then good on you! We'll be releasing a new alpha version relatively soon and it'll have the outdoors in it (at least in early form) so you may get to see some interesting lets play videos from Hyfrydle32. We'll put up a more functional blog post quite soon, as we're playing with water bodies at the moment and will actually HAVE something to show for ourselves haha

Anyway, thanks for reading. I hope it was insightful.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Pretty Outdoors!

So you might recall ages ago we put the dungeons through a massive graphical overhaul to make them look SUPER pretty. Well, the outdoors are getting the same treatment. Still early days at the moment, but we thought we'd show it off since we're quite excited about it!

Firstly, we focused on making the trees much better, which you saw in a previous post (remember? With the God-rays peeping through the leaves and all that fancy stuff?)

Well, we've since moved on to updating the way the terrain is formed, including water bodies, super-high mountains, etc. Take a look at the video first:

Pretty nifty, huh? It can produce some pretty sweet landscapes! Currently it's quite basic, though. The final version will have various textures for different altitudes, better lighting, more terrain objects such as the rocks, grass, ruins, etc that you've seen in previous videos. But it's coming along! Just thought you'd all like to see it!

That's it for now, but don't forget to join us on the social networks, and we'll see you again soon!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

And The Sword said... "Let there be light!"

So you've had a glimpse of the external environments from Malevolence, but they've looked pretty bland, so we thought we'd give you a little treat view of the sorts of outdoor lighting in the game. Since there is only one major light source in the overworld, the lighting situation is actually much more complex, as everything is based on reflected light, rather than direct light. We are, however, able to get some pretty sweet volumetric lighting effects happening when the sunlight shines through the leaves. Oh, and the leaves move in the wind ;-) this will happen on all vegetation, so the world will really seem alive!

The next video we put up will most likely be showing you this lighting system being applied to the entire in-game world, but it'll have to go through some stress-testing first. We hope you like it so far though, even in this early stage! Let us know in the comments!

And, as usual, don't forget to join us on the social networks!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ancient Ruins

Hi all! Just a quick post to show you the ancient ruins in action!

Keep in mind while watching this video, however, that no level designer touched this. All of what you see was put together by the game engine, and the world is INFINITE, so there are INFINITE other sites like this. Some larger, some smaller, some more destroyed, some more intact.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Outdoor Assets!

So with the outdoor environments will come new assets. Here's a sneak preview!

Out in the wilderness, the player will encounter all sorts of things. Towns, cities, dungeons, graveyards, mountains, oceans, and sometimes, they will find these old ruins of civilizations long past. There will usually be some goodies to find in them, and, if the player is lucky enough, the ruin will have an undercroft that they will be able to go down in and explore!

So anyway, we thought we'd show off some of the new assets being made! This set took about an hour and a half to do, but texturing and UV unwrapping took about 8 more hours. But you should get to see them in the game in the upcoming videos!

Most of our other work has been getting the advanced lighting working outside, so that it looks prettier, as well as adding water bodies such as lakes, rivers and oceans! So stay tuned! New videos will be up soon!

And don't forget to join us on the social networks!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Great Honour!

Wow! What an honour! Malevolence was featured on the cover of The Game Creators magazine for its' inaugural 2012 edition! Check it out!

A big thank you to all involved! It's such a buzz for the team!