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Game devblog 007

Game devblog 007, where we go 2.5D


For the James Bond edition of the devblog, first – it’s been a LONG time. There’s a lot of news, but – let’s start with an official marketing pitch:

“Covenant” is a space saga with intergalactic trading, mystery and action elements all weaved into an immersive storyline. We follow the adventures of captain John Covenant of the cargo corvette “Tango”, as he and his ragtag crew of misfits try to make a buck traversing the frontier of the inhabited universe – and get into all kinds of trouble along the way.

A lot has happened since the last devblog. Duh.

Just when I thought this game was going to allow me to branch out from my VFX Supervisor day-job career into full-time indie developer – I got picked up to supervise visual effects for a major Amazon prime TV show – Outer Range, Season 1.

This course of events led to me going on the shoot set in New Mexico and than getting pretty immersed in it, and quite stuck for eight long months in an extraordinary tight COVID-19 bubble with a bunch of A-list actors. The extraordinary cast and crew made the work and being away from my family so much easier, but it’s good that the pandemic feels almost like it’s behind us now. Definitely won’t miss that damn bug.

The days were really long, and there was simply no time for dev work. So, after that amazing experience finally came to an end in August 2021 – the busy-bee I am – the day I came back to mi casa in Amsterdam, The Netherlands – I immediately started a brand new creative studio in town and – before I knew what happened – my shop, DENT Studios, got insanely busy. Doing good work means people want you to do more good work. Gotcha. Note definitely taken.

Covenant got pushed again and again and again – until about a month ago when I realized I am really missing something in my life. So, with the company on a good run, I decided to bring on board more folks to work on it with me, and have a more solid idea where to go next with both the VFX and gaming departments within the studio to facilitate this.

I also realized I wrote a whole company development plan like 2+ years ago, and had it all along. 11000AD was always supposed to be the experimental lab to test things out – but now it’s also an integrated gaming division of the company, perhaps with a sign on the door, soon.

A few major technical decisions had to be made, too. Although super appealing – Godot will remain in our hearts and on our drives but until it has an airtight support for targeting mobile devices – we’ll have to stick with Unity to make it happen. Realized it was really slowing the work down once we finally got back to it.

And – also – Covenant’s gone 3D! Well, actually, 2.5D. Which is still 3D, but our main characters and NPCs are sprites in 3D space. And it looks freaking awesome and cute 🙂 I can still keep the pixel art look and feel, but the coding is so much more streamlined as there’s a whole bunch of amazing 3D tools we can use.

So – this is a visual of shape of things to come:

Tango – Level 2 – corridor

The biggest challenge now shifts to creating prefabs to work with this new approach and still keep the pixel art look/feel. Of course, all while learning Unity and developing game systems to support this new approach.

Tango – Level 1 – Shuttle bay

As the C# knowledge is rising, as the work is getting tighter and tigher, the story line has expanded and we’re now almost completely dialed in into game logic development.

Next milestone to hit will be making a dialogue system that functions for our purposes, and then just going forward with the quest list as we had it.

So pumped, feel that spring energy – it’s gonna be awesome. Feels so good to get back at it as the work continues!

See you out on the space frontier!

Reboot

Between October 2020 and today, a whole lot of things happened. One of the most major ones was that I spent most of 2021 in New Mexico, supervising a shoot for a whole season of an Amazon show called “Outer Range” starring Josh Brolin.

Got to hang out with him and a lot of great people there, it was a great experience but it has put a stop on all my passion projects and my audiovisual lab – 11000AD.

However – I’m back in the saddle, and will be continuing where things left off. The website lost a domain for a blip, and I lost the previous website so I’m going through painful rebuild now.

Most of the content is saved in backups, but it will take a while to get it all back up.

I also founded DENT Studios – a creative studio loaded with great talent that has already worked on a bunch of great commercials and some TV shows, so take a peek there from time to time. Lots of cool work going on.

Game devblog 006

Game devblog 006, where we find a way to the lower deck, and test out some basic light effects.

Indie game development is wrestling a lot of beasts, one after another. Well, the fight with the beast of scene changing proved to be an interesting one. There’s a bit of an update and the gdscript that ended up working is for now added to my online godot dev notebook. It may need to be updated as there’s some crazy slight-of-hand effect busting up the fade-out-fade-in transition between decks.

Something is still bonkers about the movement. Beginning to think it’s a godot debug preview window quirk coupled with the fact I’m developing on a mac. I did swap _physics_process with just a _process as I found out I actually should, and either the motion feels a bit better or I’m just overworked and subconsciously want it to feel better. Will have to dig deepr into movement physics one of these days…

But I digress – there’s been a lot of major updates.

I’ve done more pixel art for the bottom floor, it’s really starting to take shape. Although the lower deck takes a back seat to the main deck, it’s actually mighty important for the narrative. This being your proverbial shitty interstellar armed cargo transporter, it’s all gonna be about the goods, of course.

I also worked on lights and shadows initial planning and setup, too, and worked out the basics. Screen glows are working great, and both them and the stairwells light the captain nicely. Spent almost an hour just walking around my spaceship and looking at screens like a child with it’s rattle. This is the kind of shit indie development is all about. You give yourself some time to enjoy the little things as there’s no suits to chase you to hit some made-up deadline.

There’s a lot of functionalities ahead, but what I’m looking into now is finishing the basic furniture design and animation cycles for the rest of the crew. Beyond that I’ll be planning my time to figure out interactions, and items – and start working on dialogues!

We’ll just see where the solar winds take us!

Check out the visuals on the current progress in the latest video (link below) – this one a first with a voice over!

Subscribe to the channel and follow the work!

Game devblog 005

Game devblog 005, where the first prototype is revealed

Clickety clickety click, some more pixel art stuff. And all of a sudden – we gots a game going on. Well, early prototype of just the main deck and movement and shit, but – hey – it’s a start.

Here’s a super early prototype video. It’s really my first “it’s alive” moment. Now, there’s a whole other level (L1) below the main deck, with three access points, but I’m still figuring out how to trigger the scene changing. Also, there’s some kind of a stutter on movement… I wonder if it’s just a debug window issue or something I’m gonna deal with once I publish the game for a platform (it’s supposed to be a mobile game, btw.)
Oh well… There’s my homework for the next blog

Game devblog 003

Game devblog 003, where it’s touched upon the creative thought behind setting up a crew look and idea

Ah the crew. Tropes, everywhere tropes… Lolwut?! No. Awesomeness, everywhere awesomeness 🙂 I started playing with some pixel art concepts for the crew complement designs, setup character looks – and at one point I recon I got enough to run with. The first pass on the crew design concept.

I got the captain, 1st officer, pilot (the redhead in the black “jelek” vest), engineer, doctor, sensor array operator, defense array operator and, of course, the muscle. Sailor shirt guy.

So far I only did walk cycles for the captain, but it’s totes gonna be copy/paste to make the other ones. And I’m sure the look will change, like a lot.

Game devblog 004

Game devblog 004, on selection of tools and the betterment of one’s indie game developers life

Ok, next for some code and making it happen.

When I started playing with the idea of making a game again, I did some research with the engines out there ’cause I’m too lazy/stupid to go back into computer science and heavy duty coding… So, after doing the Unreal/Unity/All the rest of them gauntlet I found out about this small little über-powerful game little engine that does it all. And it was open source.

So, after checking things out I decided to join the Godot Engine fan club a while back. Why Godot? ‘Cause Godot is fokin awesome, that’s why. It’s the Blender & Gimp & Krita & all those cool and open source projects that are now totes on par with commercial multi-million and billion companies out there – only in the game engine world.

To use the lingo of the advertising world – it’s a market disruptor. Whatever the fuck that means, the only disruptors I ever cared about are of Klingon Empire origin.

Game devblog 002

Game devblog 002, where ship creation process is shown – from the blueprint to the pixel

And now for some art.

What’s it gonna be this spaceship thingie? It will inform at least a faction design.

So… Hm… Let’s make a blueprint of it. Maybe give it a name. Oooh, I came up with a temp name “Oregon Trail”. Lewis & Clarke must’ve been into some shady shit on top of trailing a path into the unknown. I was sure our fam in Oregon would appreciate it, and it’s growing on me. We’ll see.

IMHO a personal name of a famous historical figure feels more like an army thing, and this crew… Is not… Some of them maybe ex-army, but definitely no fans. A path, a trail… A trek. But let’s avoid names for now. Here’s the blueprints I did in a vector drawing software. Used Adobe Illustrator for this one, old habits die hard…

Of course this being a pixel art project, only the Flying Spaghetti Monster knows knew what it’s gonna look like in the end. I had to lose most of those curves and my pre-school kid level amount of weapons. It’s still gonna carry armaments, ’cause lawless universe = lot of opportunities to shoot and even more to get shot at. I’ll figure out where to stick them soon enough.

Here’s a sneak peek of the current status:

Game devblog 001

Game devblog 001, where it’s written how it all begins.

Covenant: Project Zero is a major internal game project which will be released by Dent Studios when it’s done. Lot of work left to do, lot of milestones to make.

You can keep tabs on the progress on our game dev blog on IndieDB.

It’s been a bazillion years since I’ve worked on a game title. And just like I remember it, it all starts with a story. A trekkie is a trekkie, and there’s no help to me over there. It had to be a spaceship. Scrappy crew. Fearless captain.

Aaaaand… Hm… Come to think of it let’s make the story more like the shitshow 2020 has been.

Junkyard-bound spaceship. Crew with a shady past. Captain with a chip or two on his shoulder. A universe following a more realistic future based on current level of humanity. Corporations stronger than states, with fleets and vested interest in ever-expanding growth. Conflicts everywhere. Universe riddled with factions, no United Federation of Planets bs.

Just a big fucking wild west cosmos, a free for all – grab as much as you can – or die trying. And you’re a freelance smuggler/trader just trying to make a buck and survive the mess out there. That’s more like it. Sold.

Welcome

11000ad is a new art space showcasing audiovisual works across all media.

From pixel art to game design, all content is created and curated by Aleksandar Sasha Djordjevic and collaborators.