Interface Work
Wednesday, 04 July 2012 21:38

I did a lot of interface work these last couple of days:

  • Reworked all the controls/windows to be able to scale to any resolution (or at least those that should scale)
  • Added an options page with video resolution, audio levels and some gameplay settings
  • Added interface sounds
  • Replaced the remaining placeholder icons
  • Added indicators that will show you which target's you'll hit when invoking AoE abilities (no more  accidentally getting caught in my own pyrokinesis)
  • Other minor tweaks
I also made a big change to how the quests are documented. Originally there was a journal that would record your quest progress in more detail, but as I started adding more quests I found that they all had some minor or major decisions you could make, so documenting all that become tiresome and time consuming very fast. So I fell back to a Fallout-style check list instead. This will enable me to add as much C&C into quests and dialog (and just the world in general) as I want without all the overhead of having to reconstruct it all again in the journal (my dialog engine is so much more advance than the quest tracking code to the point that sometimes it actually takes longer to create journal entries than to write the dialog they are based on).
Underrail - High Resolution
Not the most interesting stuff to work on, but it's essential for the release. Also, adding stuff like support for wide range of resolutions and options page makes the game feel more like an actual product already.

Next I'll be working on a number of changes and additions to game mechanics, before getting back to producing more content, starting with a couple more psi abilities.

 
Weapons
Thursday, 28 June 2012 19:33

All the weapons I've planned for the demo are in, along with their crafting components and blueprints.

Of all the weapon classes for the final game, only the energy rifles are not in yet. Of course, only a 1 or 2 models for each weapon class are done as of now, but that should be enough for the demo. Anyway, adding more models and weapon enhancements is pretty easy (and fun), it's creating the crafting mechanics that's a lot of work.

Anyway, here they are:

  • Underrail - KnifeKnives
    • can be crafted out of any type of metal
    • can't have any extra enhancements, but there are several types of knives you can make with different molds: regular combat knife, serrated knife (chance to inflict bleeding wounds), dagger (bigger critical chance, damage that pierces the armor is increased against organic targets)
    • incur 125% mechanical damage resistance more (harder to penetrate the armor)
  • Underrail - SledgehammerSledgehammers
    • high damage output (especially in hands of a strong character)
    • high strength requirement
    • ignores mechanical damage threshold (damage can never be fully mitigated)
    • 10% chance to stun target on hit
    • can be enhanced with special components for extra on hit effects
  • Underrail - PistolPistols
    • only firearm with no skill requirement (any character can be fairly efficient with it)
    • AP cost varies greatly with caliber (high calibers are good vs armor targets, low calibers are good for spending remaining APs)
    • no moving penalty (can move and shoot without precision penalty)
    • no melee penalty (enemies in melee range do not reduce your precision)
  • Underrail - SMGSMG
    • single and burst fire
    • no moving penalty
    • no melee penalty
    • can be enhanced for increased burst precision (less likely to miss/hit other targets)
    • moderate skill requirement
  • Underrail - Assault RifleAssault Rifles
    • single and burst fire
    • slight moving penalty
    • no melee penalty
    • high damage output, especially with short range burst (most powerful close range firearm in hands of skilled character)
    • high skill requirement
    • moderate strength requirement
  • Underrail - Sniper RifleSniper Rifles
    • powerful single shot attack, great against armored targets
    • high moving and melee penalties
    • high skill requirement
    • high damage output (especially from stealth)
    • low strength requirement
    • high precision when firing without interference
  • Underrail - CrossbowCrossbows
    • versatile weapon
    • incur 125% mechanical damage resistance more (harder to penetrate the armor)
    • slower projectiles allow easier energy shield penetration (energy shields are not implemented yet, though, and won't be in the demo)
    • can fire special bolts (poison, tranquilizing, etc; this is not implemented yet but will be in the demo)
    • cheap ammo
  • Underrail - Energy PistolEnergy Pistols
    • Lower damage potential than an average firearm of the same quality
    • Increased precision
    • Does energy damage which easily penetrates most armors
    • Bad against energy shields
    • Very expensive
    • Uses energy rather than ammunition (charged from batteries)

 

Got all the ammunition calibers done as well, but only the standard, tungsten-carbide (AP) and JHP (anti-personnel) rounds. Each caliber will also have at least one special bullet type in the final game.

There are 6 bullet calibers in the game: 5mm, 7.62mm, 8.6mm, 9mm, .44in and 12.7mm. They are all packed into a universal cartridge that any weapon class can use if the weapon is of that caliber (I know it's not how it works in the real world, but there it is). When crafting firearms, one of the components is the barrel which will dictate the caliber of the weapon. Not all weapon classes and models and use all calibers.

 

Next on the agenda is tweaking the game interfaces; most importantly, adapting it to high resolutions.

 

Btw, here's my new favorite weapon in the game:

Underrail - Shock Steel Sledgehammer

 
Armor Types
Sunday, 24 June 2012 16:39

It's been a crazy week since I released the demo video. It went better than I hoped. I got a lot of positive reactions to it, and also some attention from a couple of digital distribution platforms.

Next big step is to release a playable demo to the public. I made a big list of all the stuff I want to get into it.

This week I got the three armor types done, with blueprints, components and all. Now before I talk about the specific armor types it's important to understand what the basic properties of armor mean:

  • Damage Resistance / Damage Threshold - most people will be familiar with this. DR is a percentage of total damage that is absorbed by the armor, while DT is the flat amount of damage that is subtracted from the incoming attack. So basically DT can absorb the whole thing, so only attacks that do more than it can actually hurt you. But unlike in some games DR and DT don't add up, the armor will either absorb the amount of damage specified by DR or by DT, not by both. It will use the one that absorbs more damage.
  • Encumbrance - this property indicates how much the armor restricts movement and how noisy it is. Dodge, evasion, stealth and movement points are reduced by this percentage.
  • Minimal Strength requirement - if you wear an armor and do not meet the strength requirement, it will reduce the amount of action points you have (and this is very bad).

 

Underrail - Metal Armor Crafting

Here are the armor types that I got done for the demo:
  • Leather Armor
    • cheap
    • provides some mechanical damage protection
    • can be padded to provide extra protection in melee combat
    • components are readily available (animal skin)
    • can provide other damage resistances depending on the type of leather used
    • low encumbrance, no strength requirements
    • can be crafted with an overcoat that grants stealth bonuses or additional protection
  • Tactical Vests
    • provides excellent protection against bullets (+200% DT), but not much against other types of attacks
    • low encumbrance unless anti-rifle plating is used
    • no strength requirement
    • can be crafted with an overcoat that grants stealth bonuses or additional protection
  • Metal Armor
    • Excellent mechanical resistance
    • Decent energy resistance
    • high encumbrance
    • moderate to high minimal strength requirement (depending on type of metal used)
    • can have offensive enhancements (spikes, blades)

The final game will have at least two more armor types, but I haven't decided which ones yet.

Next week I'll be working on weapons, with focus on the ones I haven't done much work on yet - the automatic weapons (SMGs and assault rifles) and melee weapons (knives and sledgehammers).

 
Security Measures
Friday, 01 June 2012 00:59

I'm almost done with the first big "indoor dungeon" I've been showing ventilation plans for earlier. Two levels done, one more to go.

It's going quite slowly right now because I'm also adding a number of features, as well as refining AI and adding more special abilities to enemies you can encounter so far.

As I've mentioned before I would, I've added security cameras. They have two purposes:

1. You can use see what's happening in all different corners of the area if you find the surveillance room

Underrail - Surveillance Room Underrail - Camera View

2. If you are in a hostile area (and couldn't take control of the security system) you should avoid the cameras themselves because if they detect you, they will be calling in reinforcements (System Shock style).

Underrail - Detected by Camera

And in this particular area it'll summon sentry bots that are patrolling around the area. I think I made these a bit too powerful for the level you're supposed to encounter them and they are all but impossible to deal with without cheats currently. They have a lot of mechanical resistance, a fairly powerful main attack and two types of disabling attacks. I might be toning them down a bit, though they are not that many and once I introduce EMP grenades they will be easier to handle.

Personally, I think it would be fun to have an enemy you circumvent in the early game (by using ventilation ducts, stealth, distractions, etc) before you are powerful enough to deal with them, but we'll see.

Underrail - Hit Chance Estimation

In other news, I've reworked the melee and ranged hit chance calculations. The final hit chance is now displayed when you mouse the target as well.

 
Ventilation
Saturday, 12 May 2012 13:41

Most buildings in the Underrail will have a ventilation system you can access and use it to move around or hide from the enemies. It'll be a particularly good way to scout ahead, as I intend to implement a 'peek' action you'll be able to use from within the ventilation to see what's outside a particular ventilation opening before stepping out (have to implement context menu on objects first for this, though).

Underrail - Ventilation

All this doesn't mean that ventilation ducts are the safest place in the game, however. There will often be nastier things than you hanging out there.

 

 

Underrail - Ventilation Entrance

Currently any character can access the ventilation, but I'll be adding skill checks later on. There will probably be two ways in which you can open a ventilation shaft:

  • have enough points in lockpick and use a special tool (will probably need to rename 'lockpick' skill into 'burglary' or some such)
  • have enough points in strength and use a crowbar
One technical limitation is that I cannot really afford to produce all the separate crawling animations for all the actions and weapon/armor variations, etc. So the character will visually appear to be standing even when inside the ventilation ducts. I think this is acceptable compromise considering how much this gameplay element will be adding to the game.
 
TB Combat Stealth
Wednesday, 02 May 2012 15:31

Last week I worked on more graphics for Lower Underrail areas.

I also added pistol and crossbow blueprints and some basic parts to be used to create "lower tier" weapons.

But most importantly I went back and worked out the remaining real-time to turn-based combat conversion stuff, including stealth. You will now properly detect stealthed characters during your turn as well as be detected.

So to explain in a bit more details: previously the detection checks were performed every 0.5 seconds against all the surrounding characters.They added or subtracted from your stealth buffer for that particular detecting character (your stealth value is being tracked against each individual NPC, it's not a global thing) depending on your stealth skill and their detection value (which is based on their level and perception). These mechanics have been retained for the real-time mode, and in turn-based mode this check is performed after every 10 action/movement points you spend, but the stealth buffer change that it causes is halved. This is because in turn-based mode while you are playing out your turn you are both detecting and being detected. So basically you are being detected both during your turn and your opponent's turn, unlike in real-time when everything is happening simultaneously; hence the halving of the stealth buffer change value.

So all that stuff that I explained in the original Stealth update way back still applies to the turn-based combat, but the detection checks are a bit more granular.

Since the character movement speed is reduced when in RT mode, it's movement points are reduced in TB mode.

The actual steath/detection levels still need tweaking for both RT and TB mode, though. Currently, you can unreasonably hard to detect with enough points in stealth even at very close distances and that's not the idea. I'll be fixing this at some point soon.

I also fixed other various problems with TB combat, so I can say that it is now pretty much fully functional with all the features that were present in the RT mode.

 
Areas, Shadows, Stats
Monday, 23 April 2012 20:16

Been doing a lot of different stuff the previous week. Here's the highlights:

- I've created graphics for a new type of area. In contrast to the Lower Underrail stations which are large open areas, there's a vast network of narrow passageways around and below them. Around the active stations they are usually patrolled and safe, but the farther you stray the more dangerous they become.

Underrail - Lower Underrail Passageway

 

- I've added blob shadows to characters.

Underrail - Blob Shadow

 

- I've removed the Wisdom stat. It served no purpose anymore except for forcing the psi-based character to split stat points between it and Will. All psionic skills will now use Will stat instead, just as all science skills use Intelligence; and Persuasion skill will now use Intelligence.

 

- Redesigned the stat system somewhat too. Previously you could assign values between 5 and 15 for each stat (Strength, Dexterity, Agility...etc) at the character creation. The system had D&D like purchase aspect (or whatever you call it) where the higher the stat goes, the more expensive it is to increase it. The new system works much like the stat system in Fallout. Where you start with 5 points in each stat and have 5 additional points to spend, or more if you decrease some of the stats (no stat can go below 3). You'll still gain stat points as you advance levels, but it'll now be only on even levels. Basically I made it a bit more straightforward.

 
Progress on TB Combat Conversion
Monday, 16 April 2012 20:40

I'm finished with changing stuff to work with turn based combat for now. I converted most of the abilities, psi powers, items and feats. The change was usually straightforward with the exception of stuff that affected movement and attack speed which sometimes required redesigning.

The only thing that I haven't touched yet is the stealth system and related abilities, feats, etc. I have some idea of how detection will work in turn based mode but it's going to be a bit tricky to implement. There's also some other AI related stuff that doesn't work as reliably as it should yet. I'll deal with these things later, as they are not critical to this iteration.

Underrail - Turn Based Combat Preview

I also added a few more features to the turn based mode UI. When you want to move to a another tile a path will be visualized for you. The color of the path segments will tell you how far you can get with only using movement points and how far you can go if you use action points as well. Also, the points you'd spend on this action will be highlighted on the action point bar. And for those situations when you need to micromanage your action points, there's also a numerical display on how many points you currently have, how many you'll spend on this movement and how many will you have left.

If you don't like some of these features and think they're clogging up the interface, don't worry, you'll be able to turn them on/off individually in the final game.

These features only work with movement action for now, but they'll work with all actions in the end.

 
Turn Based Combat Mode
Sunday, 01 April 2012 21:49

I wasn't happy with how the combat was working out, so I was playing around with damage to health scaling, combat speed and other parameters. But I couldn't strike the comfortable middle between too quick and hectic (narrow corridors, obscuring walls and other isometric stuff didn't help much here) and too dragged out and unnatural. So last week I set down and implemented a turn based combat mode.

I considered doing this before but I was reluctant due to some real-time dependent (not necessarily combat) features I have planned. But I gave it another thought and I think I can still manage it despite the combat being turn based.

Underrail - Turn Based Combat Preview

So about the combat: Not all skills and abilities are implemented to work with turn based combat yet, but it's coming along nicely. The system I'm currently using is action point based with separation between action (all purpose) points and movement points (green and yellow on the interface respectively). I'm still deciding on how much of each a character should have and what stats should influence them.

In the following week I'll be mapping the rest of the stuff to work in turn based combat as well. As for the future of the real time combat in the game, it will still stay for battles that don't include the player character, but the player combat will probably be exclusively turn based as I don't want to have to balance all the encounters for both. Have too much stuff to do as it is.

 
Radial Menu
Monday, 26 March 2012 00:01

The different loading options for weapons (full magazine, single bullet) resulted in a need for items to have multiple 'capabilities' as I call them. This in turn required some sort of context menu to appear when using these items from your inventory, so I created a radial menu control.

Underrail - Radial Menu

You can also use this control to set the active 'capability' on the item you've dragged onto the action bar. An icon representing the currently assigned capability will appear alongside the item icon in the lower left corner as well.

In the process of doing this I also fixed a number of interface bugs and tweaked a few things I meant to for a while.

Making changes to UI and producing new types of controls is one of my favorite stuff to do. Perhaps because it's easy and I get to see the results quickly, owing to the solid and versatile UI framework I wrote as the part of the game engine way back at the beginning of this project. I can't remember exactly anymore, but I think I wrote it even before I set the foundations for the isometric rendering component. It's likely because the rendering component is a UI control itself (that is, it derives from the base control class).

Anyway, in some future iteration I intend to implement the radial menu as the context menu of usable objects for invoking alternative actions. So you'll be able to, say, right click the door and choose between opening them (default action), locking them and picking the lock, instead of having to invoke these stuff first and then target the door.

 
Weapon Ammo
Saturday, 17 March 2012 17:01

Ranged weapons now use ammo - bullets, energy (recharged from energy cells like other rechargeable items) and bolts for firearms, energy weapons and crossbows respectively.

First two also have limited magazines (depending on the weapon) so once you're out of bullets (or used up all the energy in case of energy weapons) you'll have to reload. The crossbows do not need manual reloading as you're effectively reloading it after every shot.

I've added magazine indicator to help you keep an eye on when you need to reload.

Underrail - Magazine Indicator

When the firearms are concerned you'll only be able to load the bullets of matching caliber into a gun, of course. There's also specialized ammo types such as armor-piercing and anti-personnel rounds.

Underrail - 5mm JHP round Underrail - 5mm W2C round

 

This will effect the gameplay in two ways.

First, it will allow more tactical options of what ammo type to use against which opponents. For example, you'll want to use anti-personnel ammo against various critters and unarmored humans, while using armor piercing rounds to more easily destroy sentry bots and turrets. And because you're allowed a primary and a secondary weapon, you can load different types of ammo into each if you're facing a mixed crowd. Also, when out of combat, you'll be able to load your firearm bullet by bullet, setting up your magazine just right for the coming fight.

Secondly, because ammo is another resource you have to manage now, you'll be required to use it more sparingly and more intelligently. For example, you might not want to kill off each rat with your high caliber sniper rifle if whacking it with a crowbar can do the job. Remember, bullets will both cost money (or equivalent value goods) and be in limited supplies.

 
Lower Underrail
Tuesday, 06 March 2012 01:46

I've been mostly working on graphics for a new area in the previous week.

Underrail - Lower Underrail Underrail - Lower Underrail

The are two major metro networks in the Underrail: Lower and Upper Underrail.

Lower Underrail (shown on the screenshots) is sort of industrial/military zone that back in the days of its prime housed a number military training grounds and production facilities, power plants, warehouses, secret research facilities, prisons and more. Some of these locales are abandoned now and some are inhabited and adapted by small groups or independent mid sized colonies.

While everyone protects their own station and the immediate surroundings, no larger faction has a decent grip on the Lower Underrail so it remains largely unpoliced. Wondering its long dark sprawling tunnels is dangerous business, especially if you venture unprepared.

 
Hacking Computer Consoles
Monday, 27 February 2012 02:10

underrail computer console

 

Throughout the Underrail the player will encounter a great number of computer consoles. These consoles will have multiple security access levels that the player can attain by finding the required key card or by hacking.

The consoles have various purposes, such as:

 

  • Store documents (general texts, blueprints, messages)
  • Control electronic doors and storage lockers
  • Control automated turrets, sentry bots, etc.
  • Provide view through remote cameras

 

So investing in the hacking skill will allow you to change the environment to work to your advantage in combat, or avoid the combat altogether. In some cases it will also be an alternative to persuading/bribing/fighting your way to the key card in order to progress in some locations because you’ll just be able to hack your way through.

 

 

 
Weapon Classes and Skills
Tuesday, 14 February 2012 02:21

 

There are essentially eight weapon classes in Underrail: pistols, SMGs, assault rifles, sniper rifles, crossbows, knives, sledgehammers, and miscellaneous melee weapons (such as a crowbar).

The last three are covered by a single skill – melee - which also includes unarmed combat.

Crossbow is a class of its own. I intend it to be a different kind of weapon from the rest of the ranged weapons; one that makes up for its lower damage output with additional utility and shield mitigation.

The rest of the weapons mentioned above are the usual ranged firearms (though some will have energy based variants as well). Originally, they each had their own skill, but after a while I realized that wouldn’t work well for two main reasons:

 

  1. I want to introduce different weapon classes gradually during the early game, but the player would be asked to invest skill points in a certain weapon class immediately which would often leave him with two options: waste skill points in the early game to be proficient in a weapon you might not use later or spend skill points only in the chose weapon class and struggle until you obtain that weapon.
  2. Some weapons (assault and sniper rifles) will have naturally higher damage output than others (pistols, SMGs). The latter will still be viable damage-wise in the late game and might bring additional utility; however, for a character that wants to max out their pure weapon damage, rifles will be superior. So these should require more training to be used, but with originally, it’s just as easy to spend points in rifles as in pistols.

 

 

So I decided to merge these four skills into a single skill called ‘Guns’. This solved the first problem. Then I introduced minimum weapon skill requirement for using different weapon types. This requirement is based on the weapon class (pistols - requirement, SMGs - low, rifles - medium) and weapon level. This will ensure that only those characters that spend a lot of points in Guns will be able to effectively use the most powerful weapons, while other characters can decide how much they want to spend in this skill to supplement their other damage sources.

By the way, not meeting the minimal skill requirement for a weapon will not prevent you from equipping the weapon, but give you an increased chance to miss (which increases with skill discrepancy).

 

 
Human character models
Monday, 06 February 2012 22:22

For those who might have missed it, I've changed the name of the game to “Underrail”. You can find out why on the homepage (http://www.underrail.com, or http://www.timelapsevertigo.com if the new DNS registration hasn’t kicked in yet).

 

Of course, this isn’t the only thing I did in the past six months of silence. With the old title I also got rid of the placeholder human and creature sprites - so no more blockmen and disproportionally large head quadrupeds.

 

Here’s a sample of what the new human models look like.

underrail human models

Unlike the tileset graphics, these are modeled in 3D and then prerendered as spritesheets. While they may not blend perfectly with the surrounding graphics, this is the best way for providing all the armor-weapon variations graphics while keeping the art budget in check.

 
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