Posted by on May 7th, 2015

Hey, Kingdom!

My name is Artie (@input_output_7) and I am writing this week’s blog. I’ll be providing an inside look behind the game design of transforming your seed’s body! It is currently in the works and is at its basic stage. So, grab yourself a sandwich, some fruit, or whatever pleases your hunger because you might get a little hungry while reading this, or it might influence some physical activity.

This is an early prototype of the system.  We don’t have all the features in for it that will show off body changes in muscle and definition but I think you’ll get the idea of where we’re headed!

In TUG, we want to provide our players visual representations for what type of actions and skills they’ve performed over time. One of these visual cues is your seed’s body type, which is dependent on your eating habits!  We’ll be tracking other items such as physical activities and skill based actions in the future but for this prototype, we’re only worried about your food consumption.

Stat wise, a particular seed’s body type projects its strength, agility, constitution, energy, and movement speed. By allowing the player the ability to adjust their body type via their eating habits, the character can increase/decrease its base health, stamina, energy, and movement speed over the course of gameplay. Be aware there are trade-offs (We’ll talk about those in a future blog).

The way we’re currently calculating the player’s potential of increasing or decreasing its body size is relative to the amount of time there is in a day and if you’ve exceeded the required amount of energy (that is, your energy bar) needed to stay replenished for THAT day. An example would be: if you’ve overeaten, around 3 times more than your max energy in a single day, expect to gain the max amount of points towards your body size. You can see the results in your arms and stomach after waking up from a deep sleep on your comfy crude bed.

It’s worth mentioning that edibles are the only consumables that are taken into account towards affecting your body size. So having a fuel potion each day is like drinking slim fast. You may be gaining your daily energy but you’re definitely not going to gain any weight, just lose it.

Here’s a collection of day-by-day pics I’ve taken of my body transformation:

Day 1
Started off fresh. I’m feeling 100 with a body type in between thin and large.

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Day 2
Ohh man, am I hungry. I didn’t have any time to eat yesterday because I was busy gathering resources for clothing, tools, and weapons! My hips and arms are slightly thinner in size. Forget about that! Do you like my hide vest?

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Day 4
Whoa, did those tools and weapons help! I was able to gather so much fruit and meat that I rewarded myself with large meals. I ate so much I gained the max weight for each day. I couldn’t help it. I was too hungry! What do you think about my hair?

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Day 7
So, for the past 5 days I’ve been bulking up to prepare myself to survive in the freezing polar biome. I’ve also changed my hairdo! I look good, right? It’s pretty darn cold up here in the polar region. I think I’ll head back to the bamboo forest for some sunshine.

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Day 9
Alright, I’ve reached the max size! My arms are thicker and my stomach is wider. I gotta tone it down a bit.

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Day 18
I needed a new look, and yeap, it’s true what they say about the liquid diet – it works. 10 straight days of not eating a single thing … well I lied, I ate SOME fruit each day, but I was mainly on that fuel potion.

image

If you have questions, drop a comment below or tweet me @input_output_7 and @x_nekochu_x.

– Artie

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Posted by on May 29th, 2014

My name is Paul aka ConceptGuy, I am the Art Director here at Nerd Kingdom. My job is to guide the look and feel of the project visually and make decisions that impact (hopefully for the better!) the quality of our projects.

Our team is a bit smaller than most established game studios, but we are constantly growing. Currently, I direct a team of 8 artists (including myself) consisting of 3D enviro/prop artists, animators, concept artists, character artists, a special FX artist, and a rigging artist. On an average day, I am usually sitting in on a multitude of meetings with various departments including art, design, code, and management. When not in meetings I’m typically at my desk doing production work or providing feedback to the team on work as it is being developed. I make it a point to sit with the coders and harass them at least once a day. This usually manifests into some form of random nerf gun attacks, asking inane questions and forcing them to explain complex algorithmic solutions as if I’m a 5 year old, or offering my supremely generic advice of “try harder do better,” which usually garners a chuckle. Aside from that, I can also be found working with the marketing department to provide art, screenshots, videos, renders or ideas as needed or requested.

tug_insp_art25.jpg

 

My personal art disciplines range from concept art to environmental modelling with a heavy emphasis on character modelling and texturing in zbrush. That being said I typically jump in wherever I can and do what must be done. I also have extensive experience in UI/HUD design, so those tasks typically land on my plate as well. If I were ever forced to choose a pure discipline it would likely be concept art as I enjoy drawing, painting, creating characters and biome design. Throughout my entire career, I’ve always been something of an art generalists which has made me versatile to the studios I’ve worked for and has opened doors for me to pursue lead and directorial positions. I enjoy the ability to have a larger impact on the overall project and visual design of the game. It is very fulfilling for an artist who’s been working in the industry for many years.

I have been asked by several people over the years how I got into the industry and I always tell them that I drew every chance I could and still do. I fill my sketchbooks and find my influences in all sorts of media including movies, games, comics, animation, and games. Everything fills your mind with ideas to build from and expand upon and every artist has to create a mental bank to pull from. I attended advanced art programs in high school and pursued an art degree in college. Beyond that I worked on my portfolio and looked for opportunities, which meant doing things I didn’t always want to do to get by such as web development and design. I always have and to this day actively work on side projects to further my education and entertain myself. I know enough coding to get by in my personal projects which gives me valuable insight into how art assets need to be put together for a coder to utilize. I worked many years in the indie and mod communities which led directly to professional freelance work and eventually full time studio jobs. My first professional paid contract was as a character concept artist for Unreal 2K4. I later went on to work on Halo Wars, Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Brothers in Arms, Walking Dead, Age of Empires, along with a few other (some regrettable) projects. I have also worked on a multitude of mobile and handheld games for virtually every platform available. I enjoy what I do very much and am extremely grateful to be doing what I’m doing.

If you’ve stuck with the story this far then I thank you for lending me your time. I hope it was informative, inspirational, and maybe a little entertaining. Feel free to contact me if you want to drop a resume or have any questions, we are always looking for potential talent! 🙂  

Email: [email protected] Subject: Attn Paul, Art Director

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Posted by on May 8th, 2014

Hello all, Skittles (Kevin) here and today we are going to talk a little about the illusion of life in TUG.  When I first joined Nerd Kingdom in early 2013, animation was but a dream that they wished to implement in the future.  It was thus my first task upon arrival to catch up on all the lore and design documents available at the time so that I could get a better feel for what sort of animations we’d need.  

My approach to animation does not seem that complex to me, but putting all this down on paper revealed just how much more extensive it really is.  So, first things first, I started with a flowchart, mapping out animations to figure out which ones were transitions and which ones were a hub for many other animations.  The animations listed on the flowchart are mainly a wish list for what I’d want my character to be able to do in the future, so none of them are definite.  Many of the animations on the flowchart will require various systems we had not yet implemented at the time, and some systems we may not even get to until sometime in the distant  future.  After creating the flowchart, I also created an elaborate spreadsheet with formulas linked to other formulas to help me keep track of how fast characters move in relation to the world.  Working with design, we set the seedling’s walk speed as 1 with his run as 2.  It was a constant back and forth between 3D software and engine, all the time watching how the feet planted on the ground.  Once I had them staying in place (not sliding/slipping), I then had my “x” to determine what the distance was for all other movement speeds (formula: 1*x=Walk, 2*x=Run).

Flowcharts

Spreadsheet

After checking with design on the proper movement speed, I checked in with sound to make sure the noise my animations would logically generate would work within the confines of the sound system being developed.  I was given a list of bps (beats per second) , ranging from 1bps to 32bps.  This range gave me several formulas to work with,  for example, the walk cycle uses a 8bps tempo, while the run goes for a 4bps.  The walk and run use an even split system, so that when one step hits the ground it will be an equal amount of beats spaced between each foot plant.  The fast sneak also shares the 8bps, but with 4 limbs planting to consider, I went with a more asymmetrical pattern.  I set it up so it would go at 6 beats a cycle, 4 beats would be feet and hand plants, while two beats would just be in-betweens.

Beats Per Second (4 beats a second, run animation is half a second long)

And that is all we have time for this week y’all, part two of my animation ramblings will make its appearance sometime in the future!

@NK_Skittles 

 

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Posted by on April 24th, 2014

I’m Jan, one of the concept artists for TUG, and in today’s blog I’m going to talk a little bit about my process in designing the look of the Seed. Apologies in advance for the heavy design/art speak to come.

Seed_Con_4.jpg

One thing that strikes me as unique about Nerd Kingdom is the direct lines of open communication our players have with each other, as well as with us, the developers. This “openness” was stressed to me when I first signed on to the project, and it was with this in mind that I chose to further emphasize this idea in my initial designs for the Seed character.

In a relaxed state, our Seed’s bottom-heavy humanoid body creates an upward facing triangle. The Seed’s enlarged hands help focus attention to the top of this triangle, which is the face of the Seed. This is important because it draws players attention in a way that allows them to intuitively initiate character interactions as the game progresses. The natural lines across the Seed’s face are arched and angled in a way that creates downward facing triangles which counterbalance the body’s upward angles. Intuitively, these intersections create a center of focus on our Seed’s mouth region. Symbolically, it is my hope that by using these design principles and finely tuned aesthetics, these stylistic decisions will positively enhance gameplay and player interactions with each other and with the game world.

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The inclusion of the crystal in the Seed’s hand adds a level of iconography to the character design while also playing into the lore of the game and providing a UI and HUD element for the players. The Seeds look almost human… but not quite. We wanted to emphasize that alien-ness while still keeping the characters aesthetically pleasing and relatable.

For our Alpha, we took our Seeds back in time and tried to create a look that reflected the basics of hands-on Stone Age survival. This allowed for playful experimentation with costume and external aesthetic design choices.  A few influences that came to mind were Lord of the Flies, Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, and Tarzan (never-nude cut-off shorts also made the list). The fact that our Seed is a “blank” or generic actor with no real facial expressions or animations yet provides contrast with the bright colored leaves and berries he/she is dressed in. Color also makes for a livelier experience when duking it out in multiplayer combat!

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To branch out a bit from fur and animal pelts, I looked mostly at Maori and Polynesian grass and plant clothing for reference. Since the Alpha Seed doesn’t currently have access to sewing materials and prefers to run around half naked whilst crafting items, we have an opportunity to rope war paint and patterned symbols into the mix to allow for further distinction and customization options between different Seeds.

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As the game expands, expect to see a constantly increasing variety of outfits, armor, clothing, and adornments for your Seed, including more hairstyles and skin colors.

TUG begins with a Seed. Who will your Seed be?

Cheers,
-Jan
(@janofalltradez)

 

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Posted by on April 3rd, 2014

Hello everyone! I am Andrew, aka Auti0, Lead Programmer at Nerd Kingdom. For this week’s blog, I wanted to discuss modding in TUG.

Modding is incredibly important to us at Nerd Kingdom and is a major part of our development roadmap. If we break it down, there are eight different components that are moddable in TUG: terrain, textures, objects, sound, FX, shaders, UI, and scripting. Today, I’m going to focus on the scripting aspect of modding, which arguably has the ability to change the game most drastically.

When it comes to scripting, there are plenty of languages to choose from. A few common ones are Python, Angelscript, V8 JS, Lua, and custom implementation. Each one has their pros and cons. For TUG, we decided to go with Lua as our scripting language.

There are four primary reasons we decided to go with Lua:

  • Relatively easy to use as far as scripting languages go (no decompiling code and having to use third party APIs to modify it)

  • Incredibly fast when combined with LuaJIT

  • Straightforward process to hook engine functionality up

  • Well known in the gaming community and used by major titles such as WoW and Just Cause 2

With all of these reasons combined, it felt clear to us that Lua was the choice for our game.


So I’m sure you are wondering at this point what kinds of things can you script through Lua in TUG. TUG runs on the Eternus engine, which we’ve built in-house from the ground up. We are in the process of exposing the majority of the Eternus engine’s functionality to Lua in order to make scripting incredibly flexible and powerful. A modder will have a wide range of things they can change, from making a minor tweak to some combat to completely overhauling the combat system. You can completely control gameplay, AI, physics, camera, etc. through scripting. The freedom is yours to make what you want in our homegrown engine!

Since modding is a major part of TUG’s vision, supporting our modding community to our best ability seems only natural. We’re committed to doing everything we can to make it as easy as possible to create and share mods. We will work closely with modders to alter and add functionality that is exposed to Lua from the Eternus engine. To further improve the modding process, we are providing everyone access to the same tools we make and use for development in-house. Tools are an incredibly important part of game development, so why not share the love?

I am super excited to see what you, the modders, can come up with! What kinds of mods would you like to see be created for TUG?

-Andrew

(@Auti0)

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Posted by on March 20th, 2014

Hey everyone, I’m one of the three Erics here on the dev team, also known as RiK ( rik3d ) online. In today’s blog entry, I’m going to talk about the process we at Nerd Kingdom use for producing art assets. We each have our own workflow and means of staying (relatively) organized, and while our art all eventually gets in the game, we each tend to take a different path.

Typically, we all start off with a piece of concept art, which can be iterated on to achieve the overall look and feel we want while conforming to the design requirements. Sometimes design drives the direction of the art, and sometimes we come up with the art and create design elements to back them up. Other times, we’ll give the concept artists a model and let them paint over it to flesh it out with more details. Once the concept is finalized, I’ll crack open 3ds Max and create a quick proxy model. Proxy models allow us to quickly flesh out the overall shape, size, and proportions of the object with minimal detail, and make sure it works well. Obviously, a sword needs to look correct in relation to a character, whether it’s sheathed in their belt, equipped in their hand, or buried in their back.

01Concept-Proxy.jpg
Once I nail down the proxy model, I start working on the higher detailed base mesh. For some objects, now is when I could create the model that would be used in game. For those objects that require highly detailed or intricate shapes, I’ll prepare the model for high detailed sculpting by creating a medium detailed base mesh. Base meshes are higher in polygons than the in-game version would be, and should generally consist of all 4-sided polygons (quads). This model is then taken into sculpting software like Zbrush where it can be subdivided into millions of polygons to allow for very high detailed sculpting and dramatic geometry changes.

Concept-Sculpt.jpg

Once the high detail sculpt is finished, I’ll optimize the model for the in game version and unwrap the geometry (flatten it into 2D shapes for texturing). Then it’s time to bake out a normal map (a 2D image that is applied to low resolution geometry to create the appearance of high levels of detail) and start painting the textures. There are other texture maps I may create (also called baking) to help serve as a guide to painting, such as an ambient occlusion map (self-shadows) or cavity maps (darkens crevices and holes). Painting textures can also be a process of iteration, especially once you test the first versions in-game alongside other game assets. There are several different types of maps we may need for the in-game asset, the most common being a diffuse map (color), normal map (high-detail geometry details), and an emissive map (glow). These are saved out as 24 or 32 bit targa files. 32 bit maps allow for transparency like you see in the bamboo leaves, grass/bushes, etc. The models themselves need to have a collision mesh, which is what stops characters from walking through objects, and what the game detects when you hover your target over an item.

Maps.jpg

The collision mesh is a very low detail model that overlays the in-game geometry. Different games and engines require different levels of detail, and for the most part we can get away with an incredibly low polygon count and get the result we want. This collision mesh is exported out with the object geometry into a single .OBJ file, which is then specified in the object’s data file. This leads us into the implementation phase of working with the data files.

coll.jpg

Any item we want to spawn in game or be equippable to the character exists in a series of text files. These files contain most of the properties that dictate how the object is to interact with the world. These files include settings like mass, friction, durability, and some render settings, among others. They also specify which textures, models, and icons can be used. Once the data file is set up, I’ll drop my .OBJ into the appropriate folder location and load the game.

text2.jpg

Any of these steps can be iterated on based on feedback from art, design, or code. In the case of the crude stone sword, Inkmech ended up creating the ZBrush sculpt and editing the textures almost a year after the original model and texture were created. This was a result of the shift in art styles, the reassignment to a different tech tier, and implementation of several engine features.

texturechanges.jpg

Hopefully this gives everyone a bit of insight into art production in a game setting, and makes it easier for everyone to create their own modded weapons, environment pieces, and other objects! We have additional documentation online for folder/file structure and some of the technical limitations on our forums (Modding subforum), and there’s additional community-submitted info on sites like TugWiki.com

I post my own work-in-progress shots up on Twitter, so follow me @RiK3D to see behind the scenes and early progress shots of some of the assets I’m working on!

See you online,

RiK

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