Dev Update – More Improvements and AI Concept Art
In this update, we will look at more improvements to both functionality and optimizations. Also in this update, we will talk about us exploring using AI art generation to speed up our concept generation to help with story telling and character development for the game.
Further Ship Refactoring – Outside Turret Firing Arc
One bit that wasn’t working since the demo fully was the functionality of the “Outside Turret Rotation Range” for weapons. The biggest problem with the old system was making sure we could re-trigger the weapon if the Player was still holding down the same fire button when exiting–>reentering firing rotation. Now with the new component weapon system refactored with better firing/refiring logic, we can call/check on that weapon during the refire sequence to see if we are indeed within the firing arc of that turret’s rotation.
Further to this setup, we are including a functionality to let the Player decide whether to allow/disallow firing of that weapon outside of the range.
The reason for that would be maybe you’d want your Missiles to be fired regardless of the direction since they’d arc around in a direct toward your locked target. Otherwise, most direct weapons might want to be deactivated while outside of the arc as to not waste a shot.
Laser Burn Decals
A simple, but nice to see addition is the laser burn decals (or just damage decals from weapons). Currently this will project a burn decal that fades over time on the hit surface which just demonstrates more visual interactions with your environment.
The eventual end result we want to get to is to have the setup of weapons to have dynamic render target damage in localized areas. Basically allowing visual damage at the point impact location you’ve specifically shot at.
Something more like this.
New Post Process Sun Lens Flares
Since the old setup of the Sun lends flares was really bothering me (UMG based which made it expensive AND also needed to be handled when switching between PDI/Ship as to not clear Lens flares on the HUD + Not dealing nicely with occlusion (ship blocking the flare) since UMG is CPU side and required constant tick collision checks, not GPU visual polygon checks + No support for Super Sampling (High res screen shots) I was tired of dealing with it and decided to switch over to a Post Process version of the Sun’s Lens flare!
As a result it works much better for use in positioning my editor camera for seeing the proper end visuals for a high rez screenshot…
…or properly seeing these flares and function better with complex occlusion like on a ship.
Other Misc fix – Hit Result RPC Work Around
Perhaps I should’ve posted this in a Development Brief, but I recently discovered that “Hit Results” from things like Ray Traces in the engine return different results when dealing with these in Multiplayer. Even if I was to do a Client Only Raycast and pass that “Hit Result” through an RPC event, that output never comes back the same!
Ray Trace RPC Range check between Server/Client
To work around this, I found that the best way was to have the Hit Result struct be setup on another custom struct (that has the exact same variables) and pass that new Custom Hit Results struct be passed through as a Replicated variable instead.
As a result, that worked!
Range check between Client/Server is now the same!
Now the Hit results including all the needed info like hit “Location” and “Distance”, etc. are all the same now in Multiplayer.
AI Concept Art
To speed up the development of the Single Player story side, we’ve been dabbling with using AI Art to help us get some character concepts up faster and help flush out the story as well. Before we began work on Character Concepts, we first asked our new AI overlords to give us some concepts in relation to how best we could create the Crystalline versions of the Silicoid (the adaption/evolution of the Silicoid that have hardened Crystalline structures that absorb energy based weapons).
The results were really interesting.
Further to the Crystalline versions, we also wanted to create a concept for the final boss.
Click here to see a spoiler
Inspired by the “Planet Killer” from Star Trek;
We came up with the “Megalith” which is essentially the “Mother” of the Silicoid and the Player must venture to the Jovian orbit where this massive creature has made its home.
The Player must take their fleet to Jupiter and confront this creature by entering into its inferno like maw (with proper shielding/armor) and detonate multiple nuclear devices within.
Pinup Girl decals
One of the first ideas we wanted to test the new AI Art gen against was the idea of creating multiple Pinup Girl decals for your ship (like the old World War 2 Pinup girl decals, but using more modern characters).
The idea is to have pre-located spots on your ship’s hull to be able to customize it with one of the Pinup decals. Here’s a rough concept (not final placement).
In order to make this happen on the vessels, we needed a few dozen or so Pinup Girl decals to work with to later test this out. Here are just a handful of picks…
We also managed to get some decent concepts for our NPCs you will be interacting with. Here is just a taste of a few of them you’ll interact with in the story.
Early Mentor and tutor for the first bit of the game, until he mysteriously vanishes.
We also used some new Text prompt to voice and an automatic video generator to really help sell the full concept of interacting with our NPC.
We’ve also used the Voice Cloning tech to synthesis Jonathan Marcus’ voice! It’s not quite there yet, but it’s close.
Doctor David Arnold
One of our favorite character’s we’ve been playing with has been Doctor Arnold. The Chief Scientist for the Solar Warden project who you will be talking to in regards to research and upgrades to the Solar Warden fleet.
Careful though, he is an arrogant, pretentious, psychopathic-megalomaniac who cares very little of the human “condition” and thinks we can best evolve the human race by integrating with machines and technology.
While working on Doctor Arnold’s character concept, we were playing around with several lines he might remark to the player about his insights toward transhumanism and how ethics and humanity itself stands in the way of technological progress.
Here are some samples of Doctor Arnold’s insights.
(Humanity’s recognition of its own dysfunction)
(Dying has a “technical solution”)
(Ethics vs Progress)
We’ve had such fun in making Doctor Arnold and him spouting his intellectual bombs that we might make this a recurring section in the updates called “Intellectual Bombs by: Dr. David Arnold”.
We definitely got a good head start with a lot of story concepts thanks to the AI generation side that we can now leverage. This also gives a nice break from always churning out the engine side content and gives fresh air to some of the lore side ideas we’ve been kicking around. There’s a lot more we can share for the next update, but for now we’ll leave it here.
See you in the next update!
God speed, Warden!
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