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.

Mushroom Cove
Tuesday, 26 July 2011 01:18

Some screenshots of an area I've been working on recently. This place is called Mushroom Cove and it's one of the starting areas.

It's still work in progress, but I'm happy how it's turning out so far. As I might have mentioned before, I do this sort of work iteratively, adding more graphics to a tileset over time and coming back to spice up old areas.


underrail mushroomcove1 underrail mushroomcove2 underrail mushroomcove3


Next on the agenda is working on getting rid of those ugly character and creature models, as well as getting some music into the game.

Rechargeable Items
Monday, 27 June 2011 23:36

It's been a while since the last dev log. Unfortunately, some day job stuff caught up with me and I didn't have as much time to work on this game as I would like to. But that's been taken care of now and things should be returning to normal.

The good news is I've taken certain steps that should allow me to devote even more time to this game in not so distant future.


* * * *


underrail ShieldRecharger

I've changed some devices to require energy in order to be used. You can restore item's energy by expending energy cells, but you can do this only when out of combat.

So this change introduces a twofold resource management concern for the player. First, they will have to ensure their combat devices are charged up before combat as well as use them more rationally now that they can actually run out of juice mid combat. And secondly, they must be sure to pack up enough energy cells when going out on an expedition.

Most energy cells are single use consumables, so they also act as commodity money in the TLV economy I talked about a while back.

I might allow alternative ways of recharging items, but I haven't decided yet. One thought I'm having is adding power stations at certain locations in the world that you can use to instantly recharge all your items (like in System Shock 2 for example). I'll have to take into consideration the resource management I mentioned above first, however, as I wouldn't want to encourage constant backtracking in order to save money. Perhaps these power stations could have a long cooldown (1-2 hours).


Character portraits
Tuesday, 26 April 2011 22:24

I've been working on the first character portrait the last few days (among other things). It's not done yet.

Underrail Portrait

This is hard work, but very fun. It's the kind of graphical work I enjoy because you are heavily rewarded for investing in details and there's not much repetition, unlike when you have to draw a complex object from many angles or when you're doing wall spritesheet or some such (I love isometrics really, but it can be such a pain).

I'm debating whether I should refine the portrait with smooth shading in the end or leave it as more of pixel art. Most things in the game (except very small objects) have smooth shading, but portraits are sorta design aspect of their own so they might be fine as pixel art. Portraits are as much part of the interface as of the "in-game" world, so I think it's just as important (if not more important) that they fit in well with HUD graphics and icons. Portrait style will also guide the style of backdrops and boxshots when I get around to them (will probably get a professional to do those, however).

Scrolling Combat Text
Tuesday, 19 April 2011 20:48

Or the floating combat text, if you will. Added this feature a while back. I'm aware that there are people who will dislike this sort of stuff, but I find it useful when I want to track effects on a specific target, since the combat log tracks everything going on in the vicinity and can get  bit crowded. Anyway, it will be fully configurable so you can turn it completely off or enable it for just some events such as damage, periodic damage, healing, shield gains, special attacks, etc.

I won't be showing a screenshot of it as it's hard to capture a good one and it won't really testify to the quality of implementation. You'll be able to see this in the next video.

Just so that this update is not completely dry, here's a random item:

Grenades and Explosives
Wednesday, 06 April 2011 23:03

Grenades are the primary source of area of effect damage in the game. They can be used to their full damage by any character, but those that specialize (invest skills and feats) receive certain benefits such as shorter cooldowns, extended range and quicker throwing action. Currently there are three types of hand grenades:

Frag grenade

High damage output against unarmored target; not very effective against heavily armored targets. The closer the target is to the center of detonation, the more shrapnel damage it takes.


High explosive grenade

Good damage output; not affected by armor as much.



Incapacitates everyone caught in the blast for a few seconds allowing you to restealth.


Frag and HE grenades have multiple "power levels", so their damage scales up. You will be able to find them in many areas throughout the game or create them yourself by mixing different explosives you obtain. Primary skill for crafting any type of explosives is Chemistry.


I intend to implement at least one more grenade type: EMP, which will do some or all of the following: electrical damage, burn shields, stun robots. Other stuff that I might implement includes: smoke grenades (reduces visibility which causes ranged weapons to miss a lot), nerve gas grenades (endless possibilities!) and Molotov cocktail (sets stuff on fire).


Time bombs

These deal massive amounts of damage in a wide radius. They detonate 10 seconds after being deployed and will be mostly used to clearing up passages on the map or sabotage. Though I guess they you could also trap enemies and blow them up in some situations.

Mixed Update
Wednesday, 30 March 2011 22:24

Hey guys, been a while since the last update. In the mean time I've got a lot of things done. Unfortunately, a lot of those things are under the hood of the engine and have no shinies for display, but there are some that do.


New Toolbar icons


I actually call it System Bar. Whatever the common term is, it's updated with new icons, so let me know what you think. If you want to compare it to the old one, check out this image.



Crossbows have been added to the game. So how do they fit into the future that is TLV? Well, while they do not do as much damage as firearms and energy weapons (and are particularly ineffective against heavily armored targets), their bolts travel at a relatively low speed which allows them to penetrate energy shields more easily. You will be able to coat their bolts with poisons or rig them with explosives which makes the crossbow a versatile weapon. Also, there will be feats that will make the crossbow an attractive weapon for a stealthy character.


Sound effects

Another thing I've been up to is mapping sound effects for all the stuff I implemented so far, so the game is no longer mute. It was somewhat tedious process, mapping them retroactively like that, but it's done now. No interface sounds or music yet though, I'm holding that off until I get more content in.


* * * *


This was by no means an extensive list of everything I've done in the mean time so expect more (short) updates to follow soon.


I've started working on a new area. It includes an underground lake. This will be my focus in the coming month and I'll be sure to post screenshots of it as soon as I have something presentable.


By the way, I changed the RSS feed. The old one was spawning duplicate entries in Google Reader, so if any of you were subscribed to the old one (or even if you weren't :) ) resubscribe (link is in the upper right corner). Thanks.

Sunday, 23 January 2011 19:51

When trying to decide how to implement trading on one side I thought of what would make the most sense in the given social settings, while on the other hand I didn't want to make it too complicated or tedious to manage.


Underrail is basically a loose network of station-states (there are plenty of them, more than the player will be able to visit in this game). Though they share some common infrastructure of the metro system, most of these stations are self-governed and independent from one another.


In this environment simple exchange of items is the most natural form of trading. But also there is a place for commodity money here – such as pure water and quality food, which are no longer abundant. Growing food underground is hard work and contaminants are plentiful.


However, a number of stations have made a security/economic alliance which allows for more advanced forms of trading, such as the use of fiat money. The value of this money is guaranteed by the abovementioned alliance, but not all merchants are willing to accept it yet.


So the economy in Underrail is mixed of all three methods of trading mentioned above.



Because then there are number of ways to measure item value, each item (or stack of items) will have its value listed in the tooltip in a form of fiat money it is objectively worth. This will allow the player to know which items relative worth to one another, for example.



On the trading interfaces, however, I decided not to put the sum of these values for offered and requested items, but instead use a slider (the break-even point that separates the acceptable and unacceptable trade can shift to one or the other side to indicate the merchant's reaction, the middle is the default reaction). The main reasons for this are that I don't want to clog up the interface and (back to what I said at the start of this post) I don't want to make it look complicated. It's not set in stone, though, so I might change my mind later.


Saturday, 08 January 2011 13:49


Like in many other RPGs, in Underrail you'll also be able to sneak around by the use of Stealth skill.

It is implemented in such a way that when you enter the Stealth Mode you are actively attempting to hide from every other character in the vicinity separately, and each of them is trying to detect you separately. What I mean by this is that there's a separate indicator of how well you are hidden from each of the characters that appears above them when you enter the stealth mode.

This eye shaped indicator keeps filling up if you are being detected and empties out if you are well hidden to a point where the detection level of that particular character changes. The four detection levels are:

- Oblivious (green) – enemy is totally unaware of your presence;

- Suspicious (yellow) – enemy suspects that someone might be around, but is not sure exactly where;

- Alert (orange) – enemy is certain that there is someone stalking them (or they have seen and fought you but you've managed to restealth somehow). The enemy will also have a general sense of the stalker's location;

- Aware (red) – enemy can see you (you are a valid target now).

Different enemies may react differently to each of these states. For instance, if a 'civilian' finds out he is being stalked he might panic and run, while on the other hand an experience soldier might throw a stun grenade in your general direction in order to pull you out of stealth. That is how you are destealthed, by the way, by suffering some hostile action such as taking damage or being stunned.

The speed at which these detection levels will rise or fall in your enemies as you sneak past them depends your stealth skill and their detection (which is derived mainly from their perception stat), but also on illumination, distance and engagement angle (being behind your opponent is much safer, while being directly a few feet in front of your opponent will almost always result in them detecting you no matter how good at sneaking you are).


Also, you cannot start hiding from someone who has you in their sight. You'll need to dodge behind a wall or use one of these:


However, stealth in TLV is not just a (situational) utility. Investing in stealth skill will also affect different aspects of combat (such as increasing damage of your stealth attacks and providing new defensive mechanisms), but more on this some other time.


Still no playable alpha demo
Monday, 11 October 2010 00:45

Back in June I said I was planning on making a playable demo available for the public. I was a bit behind on the schedule due to some personal matters, but even that aside, I've decided to postpone this. There are still some interface/controls issues that I wish to resolve before I'll let others play it, but the problem is these changes will have to wait until I get some more important features done (the ones important for further content making). Ideally, I'd like to have this demo out by the end of the year, but don't hold me to it!

In the meantime I will be posting more screenshots/videos of new features and art; more regularly as well.

Removing charisma, Alpha 2 demo
Sunday, 13 June 2010 23:03

I've decided to remove charisma from the base stats pool. I did this for two reasons:

First, currently there's only a single skill based on charisma (persuasion). While I could make the social skills more granular, that's exactly the thing I want to avoid. In fact, persuasion was originally separated into three skills, but I decided I don't want to offer too many non-combat skills as I suspect they wouldn't be used much over the combat ones anyway. Which leads me to the second reason.

I think that having a non-combat base stat in a heavily combat oriented game is bad design, and since I can't and won't incorporate charisma into combat, I'm removing it.

Persuasion will now be based on wisdom. I guess I could base it on intelligence as well, but since another social skill (mercantile) is already based on that, I think this would allow for more variety.

* * * *

In other news, I'm planning to release a playable alpha 2 demo sometimes mid to late august. It's still an alpha build, so it won't include that much: just a few missions with some dialogs, trading and combat. Below are screenshots of a few areas I was working on recently:


Crafting System
Tuesday, 04 May 2010 22:21

When I started thinking about the crafting system for Timelapse, I knew I wanted to make something that would allow creating a great variety of items, but without getting into a situation where I’d commit to creating just a bunch of crafting blueprints for completely custom items.

So I thought that well since I’m already planning to implement a random item generation, I could leverage that in making the system more robust. So here’s how it goes:

Instead of creating a blueprint for every single item you’d be able to create, I’ll be implementing just one per every type of craftable item, such as: one for each weapon and armor type, one for every gadget / medical item, etc.

Now while some of these blueprints will define very strictly the components they need, most will just require an item of certain type and allow you to provide any variation of such. This will allow you to vary the crafted items in two ways: first, you can provide any of the subtypes of the item available, each contributing different bonuses/penalties; and secondly, the provided item can be of varying quality which allows for item scaling and, basically, reuse of the blueprint throughout the entire game by just providing the required components of greater and greater quality.

So, for example, let’s say we have a blueprint that creates leather armor from a hide of some genetically mutated beastie. So let’s also say that there are a few different types of these beasts, each of which hides provide different bonuses; and also, the quality of the hide is tied to the level of the beast itself, so as you are able to kill tougher beasts, you obtain better hides, and this allows you to make better armor.

Now let’s also add another component to this blueprint and let’s make this component optional. For example, you could be able to create an overcoat for your armor suit that would perhaps grant you some additional damage resistance, or a stealth bonus. So basically this component would also have similar variations as the first.

So you can see that adding components to a blueprint increases the number of variations of the resulting item exponentially.

As for the crafting requirements, they will be tied to the components used. So each component will have certain technology skills related to it, and the component’s quality will determine how high the skills have to be to use this component in a blueprint.

Mind you, this is not set in stone yet, and implementation details may evolve and change over time to balance it out, but the general idea will remain.

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