If you are not familiar with From Earth, it's a game where you, Zenaida Liu, land on an alien planet. You don't speak the language. You don't know anything about them nor understand how their technology works. You must find your friend Anthony, as the alien government is after you. The player can decide if she wants to fight her way through or continue peacefully without hurting anyone, trying to hide from the alien soldiers.
Currently, most of From Earth's gameplay is mapped out. It's now possible to play all the way to the half way point of the game, with all the level transitions in place. I also have most of the gameplay planned for the rest of the game with only a few ideas missing. There's going to be a lot of playtesting from now on.
The script is progressing, albeit very slowly. I still don't have a proper Writer, though as I have mostly decided on how the story will progress, the project would rather need a Script Editor than Writer. There is still a lot of free room in the Script.
Although the Script is not quite ready, there is still a lot that can be already recorded. The voice acting department is not doing so well. Almost all roles are still open including the main characters.
We also have a very talented new character modeller, citizen_j, so you will be happy to hear that we should soon have an updated version of the main character Zenaida's model. The modeller has already finished his Anthony model and it's putting the old Zenaida model into shame. We will show both of the new models later on.
Christiaan joined the team as a composer and we have been doing some work on dynamic music system similiar to that of Left 4 Dead.
I am looking for Sound Designers and any kind of help from Prop Modellers to Texture Creators. If you are interested see contact information below.
All in all the progress has been good even though I now have a day job and haven't been able to focus on the project as much.
Thoughts on going commercial
Recently I have been thinking a lot about getting into the gaming industry and turning From Earth into a commercial project. Right now I am mostly thinking about using Indie Gogo. The problem is that right now From Earth isn't a very popular project and would not get far in crowdfunding.
I am trying to get the project ready to go into Steam Greenlight as that is almost a necessary for the project to be successful.
I don't think switching engines is a realistic option at all because of how much work it would be. It would take at least a year of extra work, and I would probably need someone to help with the new engine. Source has so many things already built into it that I would have to implement myself, not to mention rewrite all of my code almost from scratch. A lot of the code is AI stuff and having to do all that again would be so much work that I would have to either remove a lot of the functionality or waste a lot of time.
So if the project would go commercial, it would have to be on Source Engine and on Steam.
I am planning to do a teaser trailer that would help with either getting into Greenlight and / or with Indie Gogo. The problem there is that it would either need some kind of good voice over or some great looking maps. With the script still in progress and having no voice actors for the major roles the first one is problematic. The second one is one that will take time, specially since I have to focus on so many things at the same time.
As it is, the fate of the project, and whether it will go commercial, is not yet decided. I certainly would have no problem with it staying a free game. The most important thing would be to get it into Steam and make it as accessible as possible.
More on the Language System
The Language System in From Earth is something that could easily make or break the game. It has some problems and is certainly something that probably not everybody would enjoy. People will be able to circumvent some of it by choosing the more violent actions, but it will come with the price of aliens attacking her more often.
The Language System fits the existing gameplay and narrative a lot better than for example the climbing system. It's also more of a programmer and design problem, rather than level designer problem unlike the climbing system.
How it works
1) The default dialogue menu is contextual showing the choices where you speak English.
2) You can only speak words that the player character has heard during the game.
3) You need to be in a certain distance of an NPC to unlock the words they are speaking.
4) You can only speak in certain sentence structures so you don't really have to try to figure out where to put the verb.
5) Once you speak a coherent sentence it unlocks that sentence.
6) Unlocked alien language sentences show up in the default dialogue menu and the player will automatically speak the alien language version to aliens.
7) When an alien is speaking something that relates to a sentence the player has not yet unlocked, it will show up above their head as a hint message.
Another problem is that most aliens are afraid of the player when they first see her. Only after seeing that she's no threat will they start talking to her. To help players there are a few ways to make them trust you faster, though you have to be careful not to attack anyone, as they will soon return to their fear state.
Teaching players the language
The problem of teaching players the alien language is a tough one but also a very interesting one.
One of the most obvious ways to hint what the aliens are saying is using a lot of expressions and gestures when they talk. The meaning should come across in both the tone of their voice and their body language. They are trying to mimic the actions of the verbs with their hands when they speak. Most of the time this gets lost on the players, because of the resolution as well as the speed of the animations.
Right now there is no way for the player to read text written in the alien language, though. Not realistically anyway, so that the gameplay could depend on players understanding what it is said on the monitor screens or book pages.
There are also holodisplays that play advertisements about alien beer and such. They are designed to be replayable tutorials of the language system, giving small hints about the verbs that they are using.
Why I think it's worth a try
The Language System is a complicated one, and probably something one shouldn't add so far into the development. But the good thing about mod development is that you are allowed to experiment. There are a lot of ideas I try out, which never go too far. With the Language System it was something that I felt right away it would fit in nicely. It helped with the problem of trying to find more good level designers to join and make more level oriented puzzles. The Language System creates puzzles that are more programming and scripting focused, and they focus more on the NPCs than anything else.
Looking for help
We are looking for any kind of help. While short contributions are welcome as well, we are specifically looking for people who have a little bit more time to spend for From Earth. We are looking for designers to spend more time, and give input on our fighting and item crafting system. We still need to design more puzzles, but we want to focus more on the interactions with the aliens as well as the fighting system.
While we are at the stage where we don't want to add or change anything big (we are more likely to remove than add anything), we are looking for active help on fine tuning the gameplay. As I am currently the only active designer it's very hard to get constant feedback on all the different elements of the game. We need someone who has time and interest in the project.
We are looking for two different types of Level Designers. Firstly, we need people that can bring existing levels an aesthetic quality, and are experienced with lighting, texturing, and the general make up in Hammer. Screenshots and/or example maps are required.
We are also looking for general level designers, such as anyone who has a lot of experience designing different types of puzzles for games like Portal 2. Source engine or Hammer experience is not necessary. You only need to be able to design levels well, whether it is on paper or Google Sketchup or what ever you find best suited.
We are looking for someone with a bunch of time on and interest on the project to bring the Script and dialogue to good quality. The story includes flashbacks showing a little bit of Zenaida's backstory and reflects the choices the player has made during the game.
We are looking for a talented sound designer to create custom sounds for all the alien and human technology.
Most of the concept work will revolve around the industrial era Alien technology and architecture. Samples of previous work required. We already have a strong set of existing concept art for you to draw on.
Voice actors and actresses
We are currently looking for voice actors to do the female alien voices, as well as human voices including Zenaida's voice.
The aliens will be speaking an alien language specifically designed for this mod. Their dialogue is partly already written and ready for recording. Examples will be provided if you are interested.
We are interested in getting any help we can get, especially world texture creators and prop modellers.