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!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Just Because We're Proud!

We have a few new screenshots we'd like to show off to you, just because we're SUPER proud of how this game is shaping up. Plus, we have a few new (and a couple of returning) team members on the project whom we'd like to introduce!

So, where to begin? Well, we've been doing more work on the overworld portion of Malevolence, and in doing so have got some juicy new screenshots to show you all:

The walls of a small city

Dungeons are spawning now, though it took us a good half an hour of
wandering around to find this one...

Yeah, we know you've seen guard towers, but this one was near a ruin! Yay!

This ancient ruin was underwater, which looks REALLY cool...

So what about these artists? Well, Rachel is back, for starters, after a bit of a break to focus on other things, and she's back with a vengeance, pumping out all of the pieces for the procedural weapons generator. She's just finished all of the dagger pieces for the demo and is moving on to the other weapons classes as we speak:

We also have recruited one Carrie Oglesby to the team, so give a warm welcome to her. You'll be seeing some of her work as time goes on, but please join us in welcoming her to the project! We're also welcoming two other artists, but we'll get you more details on them soon. We've also brought back another familiar face, Sophie Davidson! Many of our more recent followers won't know this, but Malevolence actually started out as a card game (a very cool card game) but we couldn't find investors to be able to publish it, so we decided to make a video game of the card game to raise the money to publish the card game. That was about two years ago, and... Well... The video game sort of got out of hand and everyone went bezerk about it haha. Well, to get back on topic, Sophie was one of the wonderful artists on the original card game project (which still exists, but is on hold). Sophie has come back on board to work on the art you will see in the game's intro cinematic, which you can hear the wonderful narration for here (voiced by Karen Kahler):

But new artists isn't all that's going on. We've also recently brought on board the twice published author Ryan A Span, who has also written for games such as Mount & Blade and UFO: Alien Invasion. We feel very lucky to have someone as high profile as him on the project and look forward to seeing what he comes up with to breathe a bit more life into this game.

At this point I am of course obligated to remind you to support our IndieGoGo campaign and share the link around like crazy. Contributions have slowed a bit lately, and we need that link shared around! Post it everywhere! Click the image below to visit!

And feel free to spread our pitch video, too! We've got a little under 3 weeks left in the campaign, so help us get it happening! Remember that it's a pretty neat way to get in an early pre-order of the game!

And also, as always, don't forget to follow us on the social networks!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Sights to See

Well, the countryside (in it's very rough form) has been submitted to a couple of our wonderful test team, even though it's only foliage and ruined temples at the moment, but their testing will provide valuable insight into how it runs on other people's machines. It's not so much bug testing at the moment, moreso performance testing.

Speaking of bugs, though, the testers may find one or two if they look hard enough. Check out this video!

We've added insects to the game, just to make things seem a little bit more alive!

We've also - since submitting to test - added in the very first sign of recent civilization. Guard towers! In the game, the guards of the Blade Clergy erect towers at regular intervals through the countryside to keep an ever-vigilant watch for orcs and goblins and other creatures that would raid and pillage their way through towns. The player will be able to visit these towers and gain valuable insight into the nearby towns (or steal stuff, but that's another part of the game altogether)

We'll be adding more stuff quite rapidly now. Our art team has been doing some pretty damn impressive work on the procedural weapon generation system and it's looking better than ever, so you may well get to see some of that soon!

While working on the countryside we've had a couple of quite humorous bugs pop up, too. One time, we got the shader code horribly wrong and the game became fairly psychadelic:

And we also found a GIGANTIC mushroom in the forest, which was a bug, but we decided to keep it (though finding a massive one like this will be quite rare)

But anyway, remember to support our IndieGoGo campaign and share the link around like crazy:

And feel free to spread our pitch video, too! We've got a little under 3 weeks left in the campaign, so help us get it happening! Remember that it's a pretty neat way to get in an early pre-order of the game!

And also, as always, don't forget to follow us on the social networks!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Boy, do we have goodies for you!

As you know we've been knee-deep in the overworld of Ahkranox, planting seeds, cultivating the wilderness, all for your personal pleasure!

Building an immersive 3D fantasy world is no small task, as you may well guess. It needs to have a real sense of magic to it. It needs to inspire a sense of wanderlust in the player, no matter where in the world they are, and that's a hard thing to do.

However, what's even harder is trying to teach a game engine to build a world like that FOR you... This is what we've been going through...

However, it's finally started paying off, and we're managing to get all sorts of wonderful results from it.

We've finally finished adding all of the flora into the world (for the forest biomes) and have started work on adding ruined temples to the mix for the player to explore (since those models are done and ready to use), and we've been getting some positively stunning results:

Still early days, of course, and the bloom is still quite heavy... I'm going to say this in bold lettering so that the skim-readers will hopefully see it:


There, now that's out of the way, I can explain a little more about what we've been doing :) Given our limited time lately we've only managed to whip out the flora models to use with the advanced lighting, and the ancient ruin models are still there from the last time we used them (though they look CONSIDERABLY better under the advanced lighting system, don't you think?) and so, in the leadup to our week's 3D model creating marathon, we've decided to get the overworld working with the models that we DID have, and this is what we got in the end:

All of the flora is done (still no ground textures yet though, that's still to come) and we've started adding the ruined temples! Only about 30% of the temples are done, but you'll see more as we progress :)
And before you complain about the amount of bloom, please remember that this game is in development, so, for coding purposes, we're constantly running it at max settings so that we can make it as efficient as possible, and that means having the bloom turned all the way up! It won't be like that in the final game.

So that's where we stand for now. We'll be doing some more work as the week progresses, but after this week we're on holidays from our day jobs and will be doing a MASSIVE amount of work making all of the rest of the 3D models and putting in the biomes.

Remember also, that we're running our IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign, and we have a new pitch video up for it, so please spread the link around for us!

More stuff soon for you, and don't forget to join us on the social networks!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What on Earth are we up to?

We've been busy little bees! Like we've been telling you, we've been working on re-writing the overworld. Where does that stand? Well, we're here to show you.

It's been a very stepped out, laborious process to be totally honest with you, but we're determined to do it right this time, which means baby steps.

First, we had to get the biome system working nicely, so we did up this simulation:

Then, once we had a local world area working nicely, we made our little roguelike simulation, which you've also seen:

But then, once we had perfected that (we got biomes working in the roguelike simulation. Sorry, no video of that one... We were slack...) we needed to get back into the world of 3D. Only problem was, we didn't have all of the 3D models and textures ready yet! Oh noes!

So we started building the 3D version anyway. We basically re-created the roguelike into 3D cubes and put textures on them telling us what they were representing (kind of comical, really):

If you watch closely you can see all of the biome information flashing up for a frame or two as it gets processed. That'll be taken out eventually. It's just us working on the game as we're putting up videos.
But anyway, the objects in the game aren't much without the terrain to put them on, so we tried our hand at re-writing the heightmap generator into the advanced lighting code that we had worked out in previous versions. With no foliage or anything it's really quite spooky... The entire of Ahkranox was just one, big, infinite desert, blackened by the heat of the sun...

While the water looks the way we wanted it to, pretty much nothing else existed in the world. It felt very lonely to walk around in (and still a little buggy) so we decided to combine this with our cubic representation of the game and populated it with the temporary models of what would be found in the world!

Now we're getting somewhere! If you can imagine it, those cubes are all of the trees, grass, houses, pigs, rocks, etc, that you're going to find in the world! They're also being recognized by the lighting engine (as you can see with the water effects) which is pretty cool. Just imagine... Going down below the surface of a lake and seeing the ruins of an ancient temple in the depths with the ripples of light through the water, lapping over the old stone archways... Oh yes... It excites us, too!

So basically, we know we still have a lot of tweaking to do. Just watch, there will be at least one comment saying "too much bloom!!!" below, but it's all untweaked as yet. We're just focusing on getting it working for now. Once we're happy with how it's looking we'll start our tweaking.

Then, in a couple of weeks, I'm taking a solid week off my day job to just pump out dozens and dozens of 3D models and textures to populate the world with. It'll be like nothing you've ever seen. I'll of course show off all of the creations as they're being done....


In case you didn't see it in the previous post, we're doing a bit of a fundraiser for the game. We can't get KickStarter here in Australia, so we've gone with IndieGoGo for the campaign, but we'd love to have you either contribute, or, if you can't contribute, share the link around as MUCH as you possibly can! The more the link gets out there, the better!

Keep in mind, if you contribute, it's not for nothing! We have some very tasty goodies for people who want to help us reach our goal! Head on over to the site to check out what you can get.

One main thing to note is that this is your first chance to pre-order the game before the demo is launched on Desura later in the year (Desura will be taking pre-orders as well, but think of this as a 'get in early' card) plus we've got posters and t-shirts and art books and more for you if you contribute. So head on over there and share the link until it hurts!

That's all for now, but we hope you enjoyed seeing the progress on the countryside exploration. Be sure to stay tuned to hear more about that!

Also remember to stay tuned on the social networks!

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Call to Arms!!!

Boy do we have awesome stuff to show you!

First of all, if you can bear to stand my thick Australian accent, I have a short video showing what the back-end processing for the biome system looks like:

It's only short, we know, but a lot of you do or are interested in making games, so it's always interesting to see the behind the scenes stuff, I find.

Now, the big news... The core team for this project lives and works out of Australia. In Australia, we don't have access to Kickstarter, otherwise we would have started one for this project ages ago. But we did find a similar site that offers the service in our country. It's called IndieGoGo and it's pretty much the same thing as Kickstarter, only it's available to more countries. Anyway, we've started a fund on there!

"Why do that?" you may ask "don't you have enough money to make the game?". Well... Yes and no... We have no financial backing whatsoever. The entire project has been being funded by my day job, and the generosity of team members. My income is limited, but while I can afford to finish production of the game, it can only be to a certain level. With financial backing, this game can really shine since we'll be able to hire more animators, artists, etc to make the thing really rock!

The good thing about places like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter though, is that when people donate, they don't do so with no return. You will get some awesome perks for donating to the project.

The main exciting point on this, however, is that any donation of $25 or over, essentially makes you have a preorder down for the game, guaranteeing you a copy when it's released. Higher donation values will land you either a hardcopy of the game (as opposed to the digital download that the game will be) or even a special edition hardcopy.

Once the demo is released on Desura, we'll be taking pre-orders anyway (also through Desura) but the IndieGoGo site gives you some added bonuses as well, like t-shirts, posters, art books, even getting your name in the credits!

So please, head on over to our IndieGoGo page and have a look around! And, most of all, PLEASE SHARE THE LINK around as much as possible to grab people's attention! Simply click this image below to visit the page!

That's all for now, but we're making some really great progress on the countryside exploration, so stay tuned to hear more about that.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Your Answers!

So over the last week or so on the IndieDB site, we've asked people to ask us the questions they want to know about the game, the team and our thoughts on game related things in general. Now it's time for answers!
We've been flooded with questions via here, our IndieDB site, the Facebook Page and via email, and unfortunately we've had too many to be able to answer them all, but we've put together a list of as many as we could to answer you as best we can. So here goes nothing!

The original Malevolence team: Nyssa, Alex, Rachel and Natalie

Q. Have you considered adapting your procedural generation method for use with planetoids and/or sphereoids? I would imagine being able to procedurally generate an planet's worth of content and have the same content show up at the same spot every time would be very attractive to other developers looking to license your technology.

A. We imagine you're right! The alogrithms would very easily adapt to planetoids, and we had briefly considered doing an infinite version of X3 or Freelancer using this method, but settled instead on what you see here. But with regards to licensing, unless someone comes to us with an offer we can't refuse, we have no plans to license the technology of Malevolence. It's something very new, very high-tech and very powerful, and if made common knowledge we believe that big game producers would ruin it, as they have so many other great ideas. That being said, if we had an offer made to us which meant that we'd be able to quit our day jobs and make games full time, then we'd probably take it and spend the rest of our days making more awesome new ideas!

Q. What inspired you to use the fourth dimension as a means to make your procedural generation method predictable (i.e. going from Point A to Point B, then returning to A from B, with the content remaining the same at A, B and all the points in-between)?

A. We'd taken a long look at other uses of procedural generation in games, and taken particular note of their limitations. Games like Daggerfall which had solid world borders because half of the game was hand-designed, and Minecraft - whose world starts breaking up and falling apart when you start to reach long number form limitations and did a substantial amount of research of our own to work out how these limitations could be overcome. Funnily enough, this research started out back in 2005, long before Malevolence had been though of. Once I had the tech working, I put it aside for the "right game" which turned out to be Malevolence.

Q. Why do you think it is important to let the community see your progress and give their feedback on it?

A. When you think about it, a game is nothing without people to play it. We're not some big corporate-backed design company and we really would love people to play our game when it comes out. We've very passionate about the game, and it means a LOT to us as a team. It's sort of become a family member in a way. We've nurtured it and cared for it for two years now, and we want other people to get to know it. Especially since it's such a new concept! Normally game companies have a very high brow, closed door approach to game development, but the truth is, the gaming community is really interested in the process behind it all, and we want them to feel like they were a part of the development. All of you guys are awesome (except the haters!) and have been so supportive that we want to reward you all by showing you inside Wonka's Chocolate Factory as much as possible!
Besides, sometimes you guys have good ideas! :-P

Q. What resources (e.g. games, papers, source code, etc.) did you use to research ways of generating procedural content?

A. Far too many to list here... Most of the standard papers published by MIT and Carnegie Mellon were read, but we had some obscure references, too, such as ancient procedural architecture like the Mosque of Uqba. The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall was also a big reference and we did quite a bit of research into that, but also games such as '.kkrieger', the entry into the 96k game competition at Breakpoint. But, to be completely honest, about 75% of it is original work. We weren't happy with the way other people generated procedural content so we came up with our own methods for the most part, to make things seem more nature and less... Robotic...

Q. Are you working on other procedural generation content?

A. Everything that we've been working on we've been putting into Malevolence. Pretty much all our spare time goes into it!

Q. Given as Euclideon, the developers of the controversial Unlimited Detail Engine, are also based in Australia, what is your opinion on their engine, and why?

A. They actually live very close to us! They're a reclusive bunch over there, but that is through necessity. They are HOUNDED by media day and night, the poor blokes. We feel that it's a big shame that so many trolls/flamers attack them saying that they're all talk and no show, and that their engine is a fake. I can guarantee you that it is real, and does what they say it can do. It'll take more work to have it in a position worthy of releasing a proper game, but they're well on their way to doing just that. They're an incredibly talented bunch of people and deserve much more praise than they get! Though it probably wouldn't hurt them to be a bit more open with the public. We cop a lot of flack from people saying that what Malevolence promises is impossible, but we explain ourselves and the flack disappears :-P

Q. What advice do you have with developers dealing with the time differences between team-members? (i.e. The majority of your development team works in Australia, but some of your best QA testers work in Germany.)

A. Funnily enough, of the 34 people working on Malevolence, only half a dozen of us are based in Australia. The rest of them are all over the place. From California to Scotland to China! It can be very difficult getting the timings right, but we've made use of four key things that have helped. 1) Skype. It shows you the local time of the person you're talking to and is a great way to leave messages. 2) Email rules. Filtering emails from different users into various folders, etc, helps you keep on top of things. 3) Bizarre sleep schedules. As the team director, I don't get much sleep. I'm up at around 7am for my day job, but don't actually go to sleep until 1 or 2 in the morning, because those extra few hours of staying up late allows me to be able to talk real-time with most of the crew. And finally 4) My iPhone. Being able to push emails through to the palm of my hand wherever I am means that I can communicate with my team within a few minutes of them emailing me with something. I can also access Skype on it to have that convenience as well. Most of them are friends with me on Facebook as well, so it helps that I can access that on my iPhone as well.

Q. Has your development team found any resources which are 'hidden gems' (e.g. unknown or obscure) on the Internet which you've been utilizing in the development of Malevolence: The Sword of Ahkranox? If so, what are they and where can we find out more about them?

A. The software on offer from The Game Creators has been a huge help in quickly prototyping the tech behind this game. When you're working on something as complicated as this you don't want to have to dive right into the C++ straight away as you can lose motivation fast. Having a good prototyping system can help you see if your idea will work quickly before you go on to the proper stuff. In our case we stuck with their products and used their DarkGDK libraries for a lot of our work.
Aside from the development side of things, our lead concept artist, Natalie, likes to use an art package called 'Paint Tool Sai' which is pretty nifty, and another of our junior concept artists uses a program called 'ArtRage' which is a personal favourite of mine, too.

Q. What has your experience been like with attracting and working with professional voice actors?

A. Now that is an interesting question. Before we launched the trailer, we actually had never met a voice actor before and had no-where to begin. For the trailer, I really wanted to find the guy who narrated the original Warcraft 3 trailer. I searched and searched but couldn't find him. Then I found out that it was Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime in the Transformers movies, and he would be impossible for an independant like me to contact. I was a bit disheartened, but then I watched the INCREDIBLE dot dot dot review video and heard the voice of one Deven Mack whom I was able to get into contact with. Unfortunately he was a part of the Screen Actor's Guild and couldn't charge below a certain rate which we couldn't afford, so he put us onto a friend of his named Steven Kelly, who eventually did the trailer voice for us. Personally, I think Steven did a better voice job on the trailer than Peter Cullen could have done, so we were extatic. We then VERY quickly found out that pretty much all indie voice actors know each other, and we were knee-deep in voice actors within a month. Steven put us onto the likes of Karen Kahler, Samuel Drake, Amber Lee Connors, Rebeka Thomas and David Doyle, who went on to do the voices of the characters and monsters in the game, as well as a couple of other people who were new to the voice acting trade. I myself did the voice of the Minotaur, and the singer of the local death metal band, 'In Death...' stepped up to do the voice of the Ogre.
They're an eccentric bunch, as all genius minds are, and are an absolute pleasure to work with at all times. We actually get very excited when one of them wants to call us over Skype, as it's an absolute delight to hear them speak as they all have the most incredible voices. Steven Kelly, for example, I could happily listen to him simply reading from a phonebook for hours!

Q. How is your team working on an infinite world that we all will want to explore? Such as, how much variety in landscape and gameplay will be present? 

A. We're of the firm belief that if you can make a repetitive action interesting enough, people are happy to do it. Proof of this concept is Minecraft. Actually a very simple game, but your repetitive actions lead to the creation of amazing things. In Malevolence, a similar theory is employed, with the amazing thing at the end being your character. The in-game world never ends, so you'll always have more dungeons/temples/crypts/forests/cities to explore, but the quest system and item system is also procedurally infinite, so you'll never run out of things to do or to find, either!

Q. Once it's ready will the alpha be available to buy and play before the game is finished, ala Minecraft?

A. Sort of but not quite... We have no interest in handling an alpha update system, so what we are planning to do is to release the "demo" around July/August if all goes well. I put "demo" in quotes because it will be virtually the full game. The only difference is that you won't be able to save. So it'll be pretty much a "play until you die or get bored" scenario, but you'll be able to experience pretty much everything the game has to offer. If you decide you like it, you'll be able to buy it on December 21st and have the full thing, with all the extra content and the ability to save! The demo DOES have some limitations other than the lack of a save feature. For example, you're only able to find about 50,000 weapons, whereas in the full version there are unlimited weapons...

Q. There is a lot of water will there be things like boats?

A. There will, but not just anywhere. Settlements that are based on a coastline will have ports where you will be able to barter passage on a trader vessel to other coastal towns nearby.

Q. Did you base your procedural generation method off of fractals?

A. Actually no, but there's a bit of a story there. We originally started with fractal generation but the things that it came up with looked too... Fractal... If you know much about fractals you'll know that things generated with them tend to have a certain look about them, and they tend to repeat themselves. Well, we didn't like that look, so we tried about 4 other procedural techniques, and had the same results with all of them. In the end, we developed our own procedural generation algorithm based off of a morphing hyperbolic paraboloid with an extra time dimension. We use it to simulate tectonic movement and erosion much as it happens in the real world in order to generate landscapes, and we use it's numerical results to generate everything else. It took us a LONG time to get right, but it works really well, and generates really natural looking environments (as you can see)

Q. Will there be any type of multiplayer support? And if not, why? And if there is support, how will this work?

A. When Malevolence: The Sword of Ahkranox is released at the end of the year, it will have no multiplayer support whatsoever. It will purely be single-player. HOWEVER, if this game ends up being popular enough, and it has enough of a fan-base, we have two expansion packs lined up, and then a sequel. The first expansion pack will bring 4-player co-op multiplayer support to the game. Everything will still be turn-based, which you might think is limiting, but when you get to play the demo/full game, you'll see just how much like a real-time game Malevolence feels. It may be turn-based, but it certainly doesn't feel like it!

Q. Can we buy land,ships,mounts?

A. You'll be able to buy a house in certain towns, but you can't own your own ship, only pay your way on other people's ships. There are also no mounts in Malevolence due to the grid-based movement system, though you can pay for travel by Griffon if you want. The sequel to Malevolence won't be grid-based or turn-based, so it'll have mounts and all that, but for now it's just travel by foot, really. 

Q. If the world is persistent can wars start with lands?

A. All of the infinite world is persistent, yes, but wars won't ever be witnessed. Raiding parties travel across the land, however, and a town you may have been in before may one day be found razed to the ground by Orcish brigands. But then again it will eventually be re-built. Sometimes you may find what is left of a large skirmish, but that'll be the most of it. The main focus on Malevolence is exploration and looting. But if we make it to the sequel, there will be a much more "epic action" feel to the gameplay.

Well, we hope that sates you all for now! If you have any last-minute questions for us, just ask away in the comments section of this news post and we'll answer as best we can!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Yours is the world, and everything in it...

So we've been rabbiting on for ages on how big the game world is in Malevolence *cough*infinite*cough* but what have we shown??? O_o

Well, in this very short blog update, we have a present for you! It's the very first view of an entire world section in the game! This isn't looking on the actual 3D world in-game, it's a graphical representation of the world data that generates the world around the player. You'll see something a bit like this on your in-game map though:

Basicallty, blue is water, brown is desert, green is tablelands and the grey areas are the icy regions. Looking forward to exploring it? We sure hope so.

It's still looking a little fractally at the moment, which we're working on (we don't like this because it's not actually generated using fractals >_<) but let me just give you a sense of the scale that we're talking here...

See this inland sea?

That sea, my friends, is roughly the size of the entire in-game world of Skyrim. Mmmhmm. We're not lying. And remember, this image is only showing a small fraction of Malevolence's in-game world of Ahkranox. The game world is INFINITE. It goes on forever.

So once this is more integrated with the 3D engine, keep a look out for more screenshots like this:

So ponder that fact when you get the game and you're sitting in a fishing boat on the Sea of Skyrim ;-)