I've mostly been polishing up the first map, or rather the "game's world" this week, trying to make it feel more alive and interesting. This is important not only as a purely visual, screenshot gimmick - but more so because we're really trying to create a game and a concept that sets different player archetypes up against each other. For the players who are into exploring the world and go out looking for rare loot, hidden storyline elements and interesting new areas, the world needs to feel right as well as an exciting place to explore. Even in the seemingly vast and rather empty procedurally generated areas.
To achieve this I've been working a lot with wind in the past week, as that's really one of the few things you'd be encountering in a desert landscape. I've added some windgusts, which are whipping up sand as it flows over the dunes. This is completely harmless and only helps with the realism and mood. Then there is a more intense sandstorm which can occur out of the blue. If you get caught in one, it will be pretty punishing for the mech healthwise, and it will reduce your visible range to pretty much zero.
Both these effects should be relatively cheap resource wise.
The sandstorm effect is simply a few layered planes with a custom shader based off an article by Harry Alisvakis, which blends and animates the RGB channels independently of one 1024px texture along some clever depth math that fades vertically. (plus a few particle effects to help sell it)
While the windgusts is done with a terrain shader and another 1024 map which is set to only affect certain texture splats of the terrain, another part of the excellent Microsplat package from Jason Booth.
I've also prototyped a new drone mechanic which also ties in with moving through and exploring the open landscapes. The idea is that you can launch a drone which gives you a better oversight over the surrounding area and lets you explore a larger area faster - there is however some risk involved as you will lose control over your weapons while in drone-pilot-mode.
I've started on a new dynamic theme called "hell" - which I hope to be able to let you listen to next week! I do have a small, but fun treat for you now though!
There is a central concept in the game that there are certain uplink stations scattered in the world that the three factions must compete over maintaining control of in order to have contact with the NovaCorp Mainframe. When I was told to make a soundloop for the uplink prototype, I was walking around listening intensely to just about everything every day! The concept was weird because it is a future "uplink"! and I'm very obsessive about sounds, I can not pass them easily; I believe humans are always going back to the nature to find something new in technology, so I had a great luck, a nice bird is living in my street and singing very impressive! I started to listening to it every day and I tried to understand the phrases and melodies, I used Reaktor to simulate the sound, and the melodies by bending a note, in that progress I remember those dial-up days,so I did some in-depth research on its sound, but I also remembered "satellites will always have noise issues due to atmosphere" my network teacher said, I used an Exciter to add some noises through the generator, a cabinet simulator to tilt down the sound and selecting a frequency range, 8-Pole Low-Pass Filter to choose specific points again and turn the sound wider, also abusing stereo adjuster to force the left minus right signal to sound like transmitted messages.
...And Voíla, The result:
A retro-futuristic signal, communicating with the mysterious Mainframe!