We've been putting a lot of work in to Grimmstar ever since our initial launch trailer on January 21st. Along the way, we've been trying to remember to record our progress so that we can continue to give updates about the game through a variety of media.
At the moment, our first devblog is nearing completion and should be finished and uploaded to our YouTube channel within the next few days.
Edit - Our Devblog is now up and ready for your viewing pleasure! WE'll be sure to include these videos whenever possible so you don't have to come back to discover them.
To double up with that, here's what we've been working on for the game
When we showed Grimmstar at PAX, our initial goals for the project changed so that we could rush out a combat demo for everyone to play. As combat is the core part of this game, we felt it necessary to get as much feedback as possible so we could make sure all of the mechanics revolving around combat felt as good as possible.
Initially though, the game revolved around the idea that you, the player, would be traveling from location to location within a whole solar system. Rather than having a single planet as a level (like at PAX), the solar system would be your level; a kind of open sandbox that allowed you the freedom to approach your objectives however you wanted.
There were a few issues to get this resolved...
First, the scale of the player ship was modeled to be 1:1, meaning 1 Unreal unit was 1 cm. We modeled a pilot and fit the pilot in to the cockpit of the ship and modeled the ship around that. This wound up working great for us, but now that we have to give a true sense of size and scale of an entire solar system, we've decided that it's much easier to play that off with a much smaller ship size. We're now using a 1:5 scale for everything, but that required quite a bit of reworking, especially with the physics portions of the game. WE're still in the process of fine tuning everything (especially for the player ship, but more on that later), but everything is turning out pretty good so far.
The second challenge was being able to create a map that would be believable as a full solar system. We're testing things out with Alpha Kordela, a red dwarf start system that has two gas giants separated by a large asteroid belt. To achieve this, we had to utilize Unreal's World Composition tools to create multiple maps that are streamed in and out of a single persistent map. This is the first time any of us had used this system, so it's taken some getting used to. After some hours of tutorials, more hours of frustration and complete restarts of the project, we managed to start understanding how the system works. We now have multiple levels laid out and nested so that larger celestial bodies are always visible while smaller areas of interest load as you approach them.
By nesting some of the levels inside the larger levels, we can develop points of interest around something like a planet. When we move the planet level to where we want, all of the nested levels move with it. This is actually super convenient for us.
Most of the time has been spent getting the ship physics working right and balancing the warp time and the distances of the planets so that it's not overbearing to warp somewhere, but you'll still have a bit of time to relax during the warp process. Warping too fast makes the solar system feel small, while warping too slow makes things super boring. Don't worry, we're not going to go all Star Citizen on you and make you wait 10 minutes just to get to the next planet. We think a simple 30-45 second wait time would be more than enough to provide some relief and even allow us to trigger some events like Comms chatter while you zoom around space.
Populating the System
Space is big. And rather empty. Actually, it's very empty in real life. Game like Skyrim did a wonderful job giving you a large sandbox with a whole crap ton of stuff to do every few minutes. It helps when you really only have 2 dimensions to travel. Having so much open space in... space... makes level design rather challenging. First though, we have to start making things feel believable by populating the area and ensuring everything stays consistent with lore.
Alpha Kordela is the system that our demo will take place in. As stated before, it's a red dwarf with two gas giants and an asteroid belt separating those gas giants.
The outer giant is Fenrir, which is where our combat demo for PAX took place. Fenrir houses the headquarters for the mobile Outer Ring Mining Corporation. The HQ handles administrative tasks and houses the main processing plant for processing materials that are sent to it. It just so happens that Fenrir has some rare materials around its rings as well, so the plant has been retrofitted to scoop up those materials as it orbits the planet.
Odin is the smaller gas giant, nestled closer to Alpha Kordela. It's a much more peaceful planet, holding an atmosphere of winds that are light enough to have a small colony floating up high. It also houses the habitation unit for the Outer Ring Mining Corporation's staff and family. The hab unit doubles as a transportation hub for those traveling solar system to solar system.
The asteroid belt is where the real fun is (for me, at least). There are a few very large asteroids that reside among the mix of smaller asteroids that make up the belt. One of these large asteroids has actually been converted in to a refinery for the Outer Ring Mining Corporation. It's dirty, dark, and purely industrial inside here as the Outer Ring's staff works tirelessly to send shipments of rock to be refined in to more usable materials that are then sent to the processing center at Fenrir.
We've spent most of the time so far bringing this asteroid refinery to life by giving it some nice volumetric fog, lighting the outside and inside, and placing some ships around the refinery itself. Later on, AI will be added to the ships so that they actually move with a purpose, but for now, they're just there to look pretty.
There's plenty more to come and we're excited to show you all what we have in store!