The final sprint in March is BIG BANG! This sprint features quite a bit of work from our writers, as they begin to shape Sunless Skies with names and descriptions of sky-beasts and different vessel classifications. You may have heard us mention bees before as well, which Paul has brought to life. Tech have also started the very first steps on combat with work on combat AI specifications.
While these may change over the course of development, so far the writers have been busy coming up with different NPC (non-player character) vessel classes you may encounter in the High Wilderness. These vessels may feel neutral towards you, friendly, or aggressive, depending on your choices and affiliations. We’ll give you a few examples:
NEUTRAL VESSEL: Tackety Free-Trader
The scrappy merchants of the Independents. They believe in liberation, profit and free-trade. They are designed to be fast and light - given they're often engaged in smuggling or making quick trips to retrieve/deliver a specific highly valuable commodity to undercut trade embargoes and sanctions imposed by London.
These ships are armed, with prominent guns and show off the Tackety colours. They have light armour that may have some damage, indicating a few narrow escapes, but they’re well-maintained as the merchants take pride in their little ships.
ENEMY VESSEL: Work-World Recruiter
Press-gang ships owned by various London's companies, designed to black-bag unwilling recruits for the Work-House from among the ranks of the easily disappeared and easier forgotten. A combination prison-ship and bounty house, these hulks prey on the weak. Like sharks, they scent blood in the drifts and move in on damaged and vulnerable locomotives. They see themselves as enforcers of Her Enduring Majesty's power.
Work-World Recruiters are heavy, lumbering locomotives, built like small fortresses. They’re armed with prominent and large weaponry. These locomotives might look bloated, as though bulging with prisoners, with big cargo holds.
Did someone say bees? In order to create sky-beasts, our writers first come up with the name and description and then hand it off to Art Director Paul to create. First up is the Chorister Bee!
Beware these intelligent bees, they attack in swarms and if they get into your ship, you might discover a surprise later on.
We're also continuing to evolve the art pipeline we mentioned last sprint. Liam is in charge of creating not only the game UI, but also the game’s animations.
Both Paul and Liam have to work in tandem together in order to not create a bottleneck with either the art or animations. The first step in this process is greyboxing, which means planning art assets out with grey boxes of specific sizes, so that we know how it'll all fit together when it's finished.
Later on in development, Paul will go in and replace the grey boxes with their proper textures, and since it all fits together, no one will have to redo any code or animation.
(Liam setting up parameters for the player’s ship)
After Paul finishes greyboxing and defining specific agents (sky-beasts, vessels, etc.), Liam takes over and begins the initial animation work for that particular agent. This frees up Paul to work on other art pieces before coming back to create textures for the animations Liam has finished.
GAMEPLAY AND DESIGN
Before heading off on holiday to South Africa, Barry began the initial steps of setting up combat! One of the things we’re keen to explore during development is designing various pieces of the game to be easily editable by all team members, to allow our team to work more efficiently and remove some of the bottlenecks we faced in the development of Sunless Sea.
During this sprint Barry began setting up a modular system for combat AI built from individual components called Tactics. These Tactics should allow non-tech savvy Failbetters to create, view and edit combat AI specifications from within Unity.
Henry has been working on how best to capture error reporting within Sunless Skies. This will help us capture as much technical info and bugs as possible from both the Beta and Early Access. We'd like to capture as much initial data as we can to make sure we're proud of the quality of the game when it's finished and ready for full release.
Mac's been focused on how hold management will work so players can manage the items in their locomotive's hold, and jettison cargo when they need to (e.g. if you have a full hold, but find a rare item you'd like to keep at the expense of jettisoning another item).
Next weekend is the four day weekend for Easter, so we’ll be back with a new development update, CHROMOSPHERE, at the end of April!