Status Report August – September 2018

October 4th, 2018
Status Report August – September  2018

Even during holiday season we managed to put a lot of effort in game development.

First we have focused on animal AI. Animals where categorized depending on their primary movement style – walking, swimming and flying and their behavior – prey and predators.  We have realized soon, that build engine AI path finding is not suitable for us. We had to develop our own mechanics from the scratch for fish and birds. So we had to design not only movement, pathfinding, but collision handling and evasive maneuvers as well.

Next part of development included the creation of first map and environments available in demo. This includes area(z) such as coastline, beach, jungle, bamboo forest, meadow and a secret area. The final frontier for player to conquer is deadly swamp.

We were not only creating the area(z) itself by modifying the terrain and plating plants. The work included decision how the map should be designed to provide required resources for survival and crafting for best player experience.

To provide player a resources to survive – we deigned our version of loot economy. This calculates not only the spawned loot, but considers even items already crafted.  Economy is based on zones – not on predefined spawnpoints. And there can be multiple zones for each item. The animals (like fish) spawn the similar way.

Some animals act as “border control”. Especially sharks are spawned when player swims or is drifted by sea currents out to open sea. If player manages to swim back towards the beach, they will lose their interest.

In swamp we have prepared and tested dynamically spawned natural obstacles – so player will have to find his way thru the swamp. Just finding the one static way on Wikipedia or elsewhere, will not work. We want the player to rely on his own knowledge, experience and skills. And luck as well …

With area(z) created on map – the next step was the environment itself. We have set up the day/night cycle, wind, and light settings. Also sea tides, sea currents (which affect loot and player character as well) and fog. Only the temperature impact will be added later in bigger update – as it is complex issue. Anyway the temperature is already affecting loot, and is also changed by fire heat and material being wet (wet items will cool down). Same will be done on the side of player character later. Also we have to connect it to basebuilding – like shelters – which will provide some heat comfort.

All above mentioned is connected to one “environment manager”. It allows us simply to decide what part of the day it should be and how fast will be the day cycle running. It will set up properly all values, including sun, wind, fog, sea tide level and currents.

Also we have being working on first postprocess parts –such as blood stains, underwater view etc.

As the game is closing to the first milestone – playable demo, we had to work on legal, tax registration, licenses and other connected issues.

We are finalizing our first presence on web, social media and working hard on STEAM game page, so we can publish them officially.

Once again I would like to thank all the people, who are helping us with this project as well to our supports.

Really can’t wait to see first players to test the game demo and provide us first so needed feedback.

Duro Bulo
AreaZ Game Developer

Status Report April – July 2018

Status Report April – July 2018

Let me introduce you the AreaZ game – we have been working on for several last month, based on Unreal  Engine 4.

It is a hardcore survival game – where you have to focus on survive techniques, use local resources in different Areas. With each action you take a risk and have to focus to use your energy and resources wisely.

We have defined the main game principles following:

1) Game should not be easier when players manages to make his first steps. It should constantly bring new challenges and obstacles to overcome. Player should continually influenced by environment and had to feel the need to use available resources. Not like in other survival games, where getting first food, water and basic equipment means the end of survival and turning to PvP shooting action only, where player needs just to eat and drink sometime.

2) Player should use such abilities and techniques a average survival would be able to. He has to focus on resources available in local environment (area). Game will use basic (primitive) survival techniques – and not focus just on looting. Character is not a some kind of superhero with all abilities and knowledge.

3) Environment should be versatile and uncertain to keep player interested, active. Making him to scout every inch of the map for resources. It can not happen that player knows and runs directly to food/water or material resource, he remembers from his previous character life. He will need to scout and plan his activities also according the part of the day. Each search and action will cost him energy and it might happened that collected resources will be not worth it and will not cover the energy used to gain them. Also he will have to find hints and track footprints to find resources..

4) In case we will include multiplayer (currently only single player would be available) – the game should make it hard for geared up players to come back to spawn beach and “rape” fresh spawned players.

In the first moth we have also tested first crucial game mechanics prototypes such as – sea tides and sea currents, item spawning, spreading of fire on nearby flammable materials, and fire extinguishing by water (due to rising sea level). We have obtained first environments for beach, jungle and swamp AreaZ. Made sprint, stamina, wetness and energy consumption prototypes.

Inventory
In May and June we have focused on creation of character inventory and HUD. Our Inventory system is modular, can be used not only at character itself, but also on any object in world. It can be used in fireplace, chests storing items etc. The size of inventory can be set for any object differently. Items can be dragged and swapped between slots and inventories modules. Item stacking is also available.  Information about item volume (such as water, food volume in can), quality or damage of item, item temperature and wetness is available as well.
But my opinion is that we should simplify the inventory and make the game so functional, that inventory will be mainly used just for overview and to make order between items.
Because of that we have simplified the inventory. Mainly interaction with items in world will be done by hands. I do understand that some players love to reorder the loot in their inventory all the time and spend in inventory more time, then in game. But this is a survival game not “packing my luggage for holiday” simulator…
After Early Access, the inventory system will allow us to add clothes, items that will take more slots and item rotation.

The most important feature is that Character can use BOTH HANDS independently.

This is a feature I was looking for very long time. In survival game you should (must) be able to use torch in one hand and weapon in another. Humans have two hands and are used to use them for crafting, and other activities naturally.

Crafting

Functional crafting was our goal for the next month. Here we could fully unleashed the full power of our two hands inventory, as we can naturally combine items the character is holding in each hand.

Our goal was to make crafting as very intuitive.

It is based on so called recipes. A recipe is chosen automatically based on items combination the character is holding in each hand. Also there is difference if player is interacting with another world object. There will be different recipe when standing by fireplace or not, even character still has the same items in hands.
To craft – player does not need to go to inventory or some crafting action menu. Just press and hold the “F” key by default and so called primary recipe will craft. Crafting can be cancelled or just stopped (if item allows it) by pressing “F” key again or by hitting the mouse button to start an attack. Surprised player can defend himself and do not need to wait, till crafting action is done. Example – you are opening a coconut with an axe. By clicking mouse button you can immediately use that axe for melee attack. If crafting is stopped – only partial volume will be used.

If there are multiple recipes for one items combination, player can access them via inventory. If stacking is enabled – exact amount of item is needed.

I have not decided if crafting recipes will be shown or player will have to figure them themselves (find the second possibility more interesting, hopefully not frustrating). Skill system is not planed yet.

Crafting system is robust and flexible. Allows player to craft new items, to change states of existing ones – change volume (water in bottle, etc.), repair or even damage items.  They can be made dry or wet or their temperature can be changed (warm up, cooled down).

Also world objects can be crafted – those need to be placed on ground. Before doing that player is enabled to change their location and find a suitable place. World object will be then placed on ground and not float in air. Such object si f.e. fireplace.
Also world object can be placed under water (f.e. crab trap). With this object  player can make interaction – put other items in it (meat, wood to fireplace.
this is also the first step for basebuilding – when placing shelter, walls or barricades.

To simplify the user experience, we made a keyboard shortcuts, that allows player to store item from each hand to inventory or drop them to ground. Also there is a key shortcut to swap items between hands.  Using those player is still aware of his surroundings.

Crafting system manages not only crafting but also manages character actions such as eating, drinking, igniting of fire, opening of items (such as coconuts or canned food) , or attaching bait to traps.

Every crafting or action requires its time and energy. This energy must be replenished from food. Player has to use his energy and food wisely to survive. Also energy does not come directly from food, but must be digest first. This should make game more hardcore and make player to better plan his actions and energy consumption.

The final goal is to accumulate so much energy – that character will manage to cross the frontier – the swamp (in case of first Area). Future will bring access to another AreaZ, with different resources, environment exposures and risks to survive.

In the end of July we have focused on character itself. We have setup the basic animations and functions. Currently character uses its energy, and can restore it by eating and digesting food. Character can became wet and dry himself by sprinting. Also stamina is implemented.

Character can be idle, walk, run, sprint or jump. Also it can strafe. Also crouch is implemented.  Swimming is already available. It can pick up items (also during swimming). It can interact with items and place objects on ground.

Few last days we have focused on melee. The type of melee attack is based on item (weapon) the character is holding in hand. There are different attacks for axe and spear. Spear can be used to also to fish underwater when swimming.

Object when hit is receiving damage and can be destroyed. Each object has it own durability. Each item (weapon) gives its own damage power.

Next month I would like to slow down, as it is holiday season and want to be with my family – as they strongly supported me.

Anyway we will slowly add new items, implement their features, add crafting recipes and actions Also we will place this item in world, make points of interest and slowly fill the map.  Also I would like to set up initial environment such as day and night, environment temperature, some postprocess, fog, and sounds.

Next after fireplace, bamboo and drift wood is added, we will implement temperature impact on character +hydratation. The weight of character will be added in EA.
Also we would like to make first steps wit animal AI behavior.  And fill the map with animals to hunt and predators. Also add some venomous ones.

If this will be achieved we will make preparations for Early Access – improve HUD quality and inventory graphics. Also to save and load the game – at least for character and crafted items (same as it is done in multiplayer games)

I would like to thank to everybody who is participating and supporting  this project

Juraj Bachar
AreaZ game Developer