Posted by on February 20th, 2014

I’m John, aka Nekochu, the lead designer for TUG, and this is the first in a series of developer blogs we’ll be sharing with you guys! We hope these updates will be interesting and insightful to both you TUG veterans who have been with us for awhile, as well as newcomers to our community. This blog will cover our progress on various game systems, talk about how we approach design and development, and discuss some of our planned future endeavors with the world of TUG!

I feel like I should be calling all the readers a clever name… like true believers, the devoted, or maybe Nerdlings?  Anyway, tweet me @X_Nekochu_X and we’ll try to come up with a good title for everyone who is on board!

So today, I wanted to talk about our crafting system. We just got successfully Greenlit on Steam, and early access to the TUG Survival Games is now open for purchase. It is in the Survival Games that TUG’s developing crafting system is currently featured.

Crafting in TUG is vital to your survival. You start in an open world as a Seedling with absolutely nothing. By searching around and trying out some things, you’ll quickly realize that some objects are scavengable and can provide basic resources. Laying these scavenged resources out on the ground and testing various combinations will yield the first set of basic tools. By using these tools, you can find and harvest new resources and try new crafting combinations to discover crude weapons that can be used to battle other Seedlings.

When designing TUG’s crafting system, we began by looking at its predecessors to try to find what works and what doesn’t work. Most systems tend to have a grid with patterns, and trees leading down branches of craftable recipes. In the early design phases, we used this as a starting point for thinking about TUG’s crafting system.

In this early mock up, we were trying to lay out some of our more difficult design concepts, like having a one-to-one size ratio for items in the backpack and on the crafting space. Through these early iterations, we quickly found the limitations of this grid-based table and inventory system–namely, how much of a disconnect this heavy UI created for the player’s experience. However, using this as a starting point helped us identify the space requirements for future iterations on elements such as tables, crafting stations, and inventory.

We never wanted to have a full UI system for the crafting process. From the beginning, we have always wanted to keep it very natural and intuitive for the player. Early crafting should capture the feel of a scavenger or early explorer gathering items and sorting them in a natural workspace for assembly. So for crafting crude tools, we decided to create something that would seem like a natural workbench. Our first version of the crafting system in-game used a special tree stump and flat rock object that served as crafting stations for players.

These objects served two purposes: a nice flat surface to lay out your resources, and a tactical position for players hoping to strike other unsuspecting players trying to craft. It was an interesting take on the heightened danger of making a choice to craft or to hide, but we found that by adding this extra layer into the steps, we slowed down the pace of the survival game experience.

At this stage of iteration, we also found some issues with item generation and scavenged resources. Our original idea was to have the scavenged resources be a true one-to-one generation, which meant if you needed a particular stone as part of a crude tool recipe, you would find it lying on the ground. As you can imagine, those resources were quite small, and we encountered a collision issue where some resources never generated at all in the environment due to their size. This led us to instead create parent models for many scavenged resources.

We still needed to make it seem as if the player could scavenge a resource with nothing but their hands, but we wanted the parents for the resources to be a bit larger and easier to spot than the resources they yielded. Thus items like wood sticks come from a tree sapling, while stones come from a small yet more visually readable terrain rock.

We still had the issue of the pacing of the game, so our next iteration was the removal of the crafting stations and a return to the roots of the crafting experience: laying resources anywhere and crafting on the ground. However, in returning to this method of crafting, the bug of smaller resources disappearing during generation reappeared. The issue was that the collision for smaller objects sometimes caused resources to slip under the terrain and become lost–quite a frustrating problem for players in an environment with already scarce resources and full of would-be hunters!  Luckily, thanks to some ingenuity from our coders, we were able to enforce some stricter physics rules and mitigate this issue.

This leads us to our current version of crafting in TUG. Once you gather the right resources, you can lay them out anywhere on the ground and start crafting the tools or weapons you need to survive!  As for the future of the crafting system, we hope to soon tackle our inventory system and bring it inline with the same advances we have made to the crafting system. We want to capture the feeling of spreading out your items on the ground, or at least offer a more intuitive way of sorting through your stuff while still keeping to the logic of one-to-one size relationships.

Stay tuned for more updates and dev blogs from the team!


Posted by on May 25th, 2013

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