A lot of extensive work has been going on, getting the discoverable artifacts in place and building their relationship with the ship’s weight, fuel efficiency, cargo space etc. at it’s core. For ease of testing and experimental purposes, I felt it was time to work on learning how to display UI and link it with the relevant values and blueprints. I tried a few methods, some with great difficulty as the engine had been updated, changing the online example methods to be ineffective. Midway through my testing I have a placeholder UI representing two of the in game variables the player will be managing; fuel and engine integrity. Using this knowledge, I also worked on getting a pause function to take effect when the player had a popup confirmation box appear on screen, during the dive loop.
An important part of the visual style I had set for Blacktrade is being able to see the different layers of geographical depth. This meant that the water had to be transparent for the player to see that detail. I spent some time working on creating a multi layered, masked off water material that would give the impression of a water’s surface, while adhering to the visual style I had set. With some mathematical lerps and dot products, normalization and masked textures, I managed to get a result I am relatively happy with. I plan to revisit it extensively in the future, but for now here it is.
Blacktrade is an important step in my career as a game developer. To me, it is my true chance to prove to myself that my confidence is not misplaced, that I can, and will bring to completion something I put my mind to. One big challenge is learning to use a new system in a new engine, namely UE4’s blueprint system. After wetting my feet getting the base controls in, I set my first task to building the dive functionality. After alot of brain mashing and a little guidance from industry professionals, I managed to implement the functionality. While this is terribly messy at present, and will be cleaned up in future, here is what the dive loop looks like in blueprints.
Bringing a project or idea into an engine for testing is always a daunting but exciting process. As a visual person, I always like to have a couple of art assets to flesh it out straight off the bat, so I set up my project, imported the boat and a placeholder level I made in Maya. After playing around with some properties I was able to have an insight as to how the game would play and feel in it’s rawest form; driving.
When I play games, I really value when designers have accommodated for a player to play the way they wish, it gives a longer life to the product, and it is far easier for the player to feel a personalized experience. I took care to make this a big part of my ship and crew’s design and functionality, including their effects on gameplay.
For that purpose, the ship’s equipment is worked in a slot like manner, with limited space, the player has far more equipment in the realms of possibility than can fit on the deck.
These are two example configurations of the ship’s equipment with a sneak peek at the early 3D model.
Before starting development it is important to have planning, and the designs fleshed out first, not only to remain on track, but to allow a stricter self discipline on myself.
I worked on fleshing out and documenting the mechanics, which allowed me to split the gameplay into two distinct phases.
Exploring phase: In this phase, the player will pilot their salvage ship, they will be able to send their diver down to search the sea bed, when they return the player may choose to salvage what was found if anything. Many varying factors such as equipment, conditions of the artifact and time constraints may affect whether the player is able to salvage at the current time, it will not be unusual to have to return to previously scouted dive sites.
Docked phase: Upon returning with their haul, the player will first identify what artifacts they have recovered, as the knowledge and equipment to do so may not have been on board. Artifacts will be given a value by the black market, and the option to sell will be available. Using their newly earned credits, players may now spend their spoils away, giving the first tangible effect of player choice. The ship has limited space, and so choices must be made, what equipment does my ship need? What crew members could I really use under my employ.