Sunday, November 23, 2014

NOWHERE Progress Report November 2014

Leonard wrote in the Nowherian forum about our current progress with NOWHERE:

Right now is, hands down, the worst part of development. There are no fancy graphics to show off, no intricate gameplay, no surprising AI, no badass music, just unglamorous system design that interests no one so we can get all the aforementioned stuff in a manageable form that doesn't keep becoming a sluggish and unserviceable mess. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

NOWHERE Progress Report: It's Going Great & Terrible At The Same Time

This post is partly an explanation of what's currently going on, partly an attempt to summarize the situation for ourselves.

First, the bad news.

With the final release of NOWHERE scheduled for the end of 2015, we're currently about 30% into development, and tech wise, it's going great. As you know our goal is to be 99% asset free, that is: all assets are generated on the players computer, for the players world, and the player will also have a chance to guide this process in the game. I've finished prototyping and embedding the meshing & landscaping tech, wrote a new procedural audio engine, and got the procedural model generator to productive speeds, on which I'll write more at a later date.

We solved some tough design issues concerning Nowherian world structure, body physique and society building, although it still all exists only in thoughts and paper, and none of that is implemented yet; Among improving our procedural authoring tools, I'm currently in the process of laying the foundation for world persistence, which is a demanding challenge. You can track my progress online at our open source repositories. I can't wait to finally work more on the actual content.

I'm sorry, I messed up, that were the good news! So, now the bad news:

We have not only been greenlit on Steam (so could theoretically release NOWHERE as Early Access game any day), but have also been accepted to talk about NOWHERE at the GDC Europe Innovative Games Showcase in August (out of what I imagine to be hundreds of applicants).

Wait, that's actually good news again. Here's the bad news. For real now.

In light of the rising complaints about Early Access games being released too early, we wanted the next alpha release to make a good impression, and so we overran our deadlines numerous times to get to a point where the game would be presentable enough for an Early Access crowd. (And we do need that crowd. The founding campaign on our own website isn't nearly attracting as many supporters as we need to cover funding for the complete development time.)

The result is that we're broke, phenomenally so. The Humble Store revenues for this month wouldn't cover our expenses sufficiently; Sylvia's dad borrowed us €1k to cover for this month but the situation is repeating. This month we're only getting $250 in revenues, but we need about $2k to cover rent, utility, food, etc.

The original planning was that a Steam release this month would give us sufficient revenues in writing (Both Humble and Steam pay out revenue with one month delay, e.g. this month we've made about $360, which are only due for payout for the end of August), so we could borrow a little more knowing that we'd be able to pay it back soon enough, and that the risk would be minimal. Alas, I can't seem to find an end for this alpha just yet, at least not one that would attract enough new interest. We gambled too hard.

I admit, we're really bad at advertising for ourselves. Talk is cheap and people want to see results, which is why I dug deep into what I love to do (writing sweet sweet game tech), and avoided doing anything that would not further development directly, such as video promotion, more interviews, and so on. This was probably not a good strategy. Now we need to find a way to fix this.

I would like to repeat that we are not ever going to give up. We're agile enough to deal with setbacks, and we own 100% of our project. This game is going to get made, whatever it takes. This is the work of a lifetime, and there is no other project we'd rather work on.

If you would like to help us out financially, and you feel you can afford to spare a small contribution on a monthly basis, please have a look at our Patreon page. Patreon contributions reach us sooner than any other revenue source.

Our fundraiser is of course also still running.

We would also again thank all our founders and supporters for your trust and contributions, you're making this project possible, and you deserve to see an excellent outcome.

Update: my amazing mom read our blog article and, since my birthday is coming up,  spontaneously decided to send us a little "birthday present" (and offered emergency loans in case this happens again), so August is saved. You all have moved heaven and earth in the past days to get us back on track too, and it worked! September appears almost covered now as well. You all are incredible and we are lucky to have such strong support! I'm back on working on the next release, and we'll be able to do one or two more alphas for founders before the Steam Early Access release. We're aiming for early August. Let's hope the trip goes a bit smoother from here on.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Voxel Mesh Hybrids: A Walkthrough

Six more weeks have passed since I first posted about Adaptive Volumetric Meshes, which have since turned into Voxel Mesh Hybrids after some refinements for the sake of simplicity and ease of use. It's the driving tech behind the procedural and player-authored meshing that our game in production, NOWHERE (alpha available for download), requires.

After the recent refinements, it's time for another short write-up, as the work has reached a stable state and is nearly ripe for release as part of the next Alpha later this month. Beware: from here on it gets technical.

Friday, April 4, 2014

NOWHERE - News From The Business End

Aside from all the hardcore video game making going on, a bunch of super exciting business related events happened during the last few weeks as well. Enough reason to post a summary. Hold on to your seats.

March 4th: Thanks to everyone involved (which most likely includes you), NOWHERE has been greenlit on Steam. That means our greatest hurdle to a Steam release has been overcome. All existing and future buyers of the game will be able to redeem their Steam keys after launch. NOWHERE is scheduled to launch April 15th 2014 (Update: Steam launch and new alpha delayed, new alpha scheduled for June 10th!) in the Early Access category, along with a new alpha build and an accompanying trailer. Until then, you can follow new updates on NOWHERE’s Steam Greenlight page. A huge thank you to everyone who voted for us and supported us, you are amazing and the reason we got this far.

March 17th: All founders registered for access to the Founders Lounge at the Nowherian forum can now download all previously released alphas from its Release Archive, thanks to the tireless work of forum administrator Frame. If you are a founder, you are eligible for the Founders Lounge! To add founder status to your forum account, just send us an email to support-at-duangle-dot-com and mention your forum username and purchase email address. If you bought the game via Humble Store please send us a screenshot of the purchase or forward the purchase confirmation mail. I'll process every request as quickly as possible. Thank you for your patience!

March 23th: A few founders asked if it were possible to support the development of NOWHERE on a monthly basis, so we created a Patreon site. You can also pledge smaller amounts monthly to get a copy of Nowhere. Patrons pledging at least $21 will be listed in the Patreon section in the game's credits (ranked by contribution).

  March 24th: Nowhere has been launched on the official Humble Store. Please note that due to technical reasons these sales go into another bucket; the full list of reward tiers can only be purchased on our site.

  March 30th: 1.000 founders (currently 1.042) have bought and supported NOWHERE. THAT IS SERIOUSLY TOTALLY NUTS YOU GUYS.

March 31th: We visited Rezzed this weekend, listened to great dev talks and met a bunch of great people. Although videogamesing is awesome, It’s good to leave the cave and do something different from time to time. Birmingham was lovely. What in the world beats vintage cheddar? Nothing. Not even our game.

April 1st: We’re thrilled to report that Duangle got acquired by Mountain Dew for a round $2 billion sum and is renamed to Dewangle. All Nowherian bodies will be branded with appropriate new corporate identity. An exciting synergy only for people who have no idea what’s been going on lately!

April 2nd: Duncan Harris, curator and creator of the lovely website Dead End Thrills published a long interview with Leonard and me in his Rock Paper Shotgun column. Check it out!

  April 11th, 2014: The distant future. Nowhere will be playable at PAX, at the “Joyful Bewilderment” installation organized by starting April 11th between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. in Boston, MA, USA. We’re not sure yet, but either Alpha 75 or Alpha 91 will be shown.

Monday, March 24, 2014

New Tech Unlocked: Adaptive Volumetric Meshes

This week I reached a major milestone in my implementation of the new general meshing tech for our game in production, NOWHERE (alpha available for download), which is going to replace the previous implementation we used for sculpting and will do a better job at covering the different procedural modelling approaches the game requires. To commemorate the occasion, I did a little write-up. Beware: from here on it gets quite technical. I interspersed the article with a few screenshots from the work on the prototype. These are not screenshots of the game.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Vote for NOWHERE on Steam Greenlight!

Although Valve has announced recently that they would rather switch Greenlight for something else, we still haven't really done something with it, although we paid the $90 admission fee a long time ago. So we figured, what the heck, let's try it. If you have nothing better to do right now, why not head over to Greenlight to give us a big smackin' YES? It will be totally worth it your time, and we may actually end up on Steam, which greatly helps our ever diminishing funding treasury.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

NOWHERE - Alpha 91 - Sailing

About three months have passed since the release of Alpha 75, and it's about time for an update. This video walks you through the changes in Alpha 91 of NOWHERE, which you can download right away from your Humble Store account, if you have backed the game or are about to do so.

Windows, Linux and Mac OS X builds are online.

- NEW: The readme.txt has been updated to reflect latest changes. Check it out.
- NEW: Procedural terrain! Alpha 91 demonstrates the earliest incarnation of the kind of landscapes you can expect to see in NOWHERE. After a short one time seeding, the game starts off with three Nowherian shells, which are uniquely grown for every game; All shells are depictions of the same Nowherian at different stages of his life. The smallest shell has an age comparable to the human age of 10. The second shell is about 20 years old, while the third shell is about 60 years of age, and has an average diameter of 600 to 800 meters. While these bodies are still just gracefully rotating shells, in the finished game, Nowherians will live within and around each other, functioning both as agents with artificial intelligence and housings to other agents.
- NEW: Instead of a propulsion system that would get you precisely where you would like to go, you are now equipped with a much more energy efficient tether, which works as a mixture of a rope and an anchor, or some kind of electromagnetic umbilical cord.
- NEW: Previous alphas have been using the Bullet physics system, which was difficult to control from Python, badly documented and therefore hard to tune right. The library has been replaced with the OpenDynamics Engine, which, while not as excessively featured, is more accessible, well documented, exposes better treatment of hard collisions and, most importantly, is fun to use.
- NEW: A completely overhauled rendering system. The engine now uses deferred high dynamic range rendering and lighting, normal mapping, cascaded exponential variant shadow maps, screen-space ambient occlusion, motion blur, depth of field rendering and wide bloom to improve color fidelity, surface plasticity and depth perception. These improvements help players greatly with navigating an abstract environment, and establish the basic system requirements of the game. They also help us to maintain a basic visual quality level even when models and textures are still placeholders.
- NEW: Video quality can be controlled with the command-line switch --video-quality and provides seven different presets to balance presentation for performance. Check out the readme.txt for more information.

Known problems are listed in the supplied readme.txt.

Up Ahead:
- Populate the colony with Nowherians.