Friday Dev Update: Procedural Generation and Depth

10:44 AM willsterling23 0 Comments

Although procedural generation has been around for a while, it is a big topic of discussion in the gaming industry today. When you think of procedural generation, a lot comes to mind. I mean after all procedural generation can basically offer you an infinite world with infinite possibilities if done correctly. But does this in turn mean that it's actually fun? 

Since Salt is largely built using procedural generation, I wanted to share our thoughts on using this game mechanic and how we still intend to make our game fun and have depth in an infinite world.

Why we chose procedural generation

First, I think it's important to understand why we chose procedural generation as a way of building the world of Salt. There's a couple reasons why we did this. First, the idea of an infinite world is pretty fun. Especially an infinite world where you sail across an ocean and explore islands. It just seemed to fit this idea, if we could do it correctly. Secondly, it's a great way for us as a small team to create a large amount of content for the player to explore. We only have so much time and resources and so by cutting out having to design each island from the ground up, we were able to create a much larger game than we ever could have otherwise. 

How to add depth in a procedural world

As stated before, an infinite world does not equal infinite fun. We are firm believers that games need to have depth and immersion. We don't want the world of Salt to be uninteresting and overly repetitive. Because of this, we are intentionally implementing certain design mechanics and content to ensure the world has depth and creates a fun and lasting experience. Here are some of the ways we are going to do this: 

Overarching Story

Within an open and random world, we also want to have a progressive and structured story. This is something we'll be slowly implementing as the game develops. Having a story that you can figure out adds a lot of depth to the world and gives us the opportunity to create intentionally designed paths of progression within a world that is otherwise random. 


In addition to having an overarching story, you need to have lore. There are reasons you discover what you do in Salt. When you discover ruins for example, there's a reason they are there. You may not know why yet, but having a story and lore will give you the opportunity to figure that out. 

Discover-able Places and Rarity

As you adventure across the world of Salt, we want you to constantly be finding things you didn't even know were in the game. This has been an intentional design mechanic on our end and we intend to keep it that way. We often put secrets in Salt and are always adding things to the game that players aren't aware of. There are going to be many places, items, island types, and more that are very rare and difficult to find. Some may be found by chance, while others may require a certain trigger of events. In any rate, there will most likely be secrets you haven't discovered. 

In short, we want to do procedural generation the right way. We are constantly going to be adding in more and places, items, and content to discover and using different design mechanics to keep things fresh, deep, and interesting. 

- Will Sterling (Game Audio and Design)


Hardcore Progression and Replayability

8:37 AM Unknown 1 Comments

I'm a big fan of hardcore one-life modes in games. It's like flipping on an intensity switch. I rarely don't jump straight to hardcore, but I love it for after I have become very familiar with a game, and want the extra intensity and challenge.

I've been playing some The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth over the last week, and it got me thinking about progression through hardcore mode. If you've never played it, The Binding of Isaac is a game where you have one life (or at least a limited number of lives depending on
the items you get). If you die, you have to restart. What is really cool, though, is that during your play, you can unlock and upgrade things for future play-throughs. This is a an excellent mechanic to pair with a hardcore one-life style game. It gives me the feeling of progression even when I fail miserably.

Salt has a hardcore mode option that activates the perma-death mode. It can only be enabled/disabled when starting a new game. Once you do it, it's forever done for that save file (and for that save file only, so don't worry about your other ones). It also causes the frame of your health bar to turn black so that if you take any screenshots, people can instantly recognize that you are playing on hardcore mode.

Salt's hardcore mode is fairly basic, but I would like to eventually add a lot more depth to it. I think it would be cool if doing certain things in a hardcore game would unlock things for future hardcore games. For example, maybe defeating all of the named pirate bosses in a hardcore game would unlock a hardcore option that would make all pirates more difficult but drop better items.  We could add many different achievements and rewards within the hardcore game mode. This would add a lot of fun and intense replay-ability to the game while also offsetting the frustration of a lost game with some reward that you get to keep.

It will be important with such implementations that we make sure to not demean the normal (non-hardcore) game mode. There is something in my brain that makes me unhappy if I make a choice that limits my potential. A good example of this is an MMORPG with both first and third person view options. Even though playing in first-person is much more immersive to me, and I would enjoy it better if it were the only option, I can't bring myself to do it with the third person option available. It gives me the feeling of losing that potential since I have the option of a more advantageous view point. I end up playing in a way that is less fun to me even though the option is there.

I believe this same line of thinking would follow if we made a lot of content that was exclusive to hardcore mode. If I were playing the normal mode in Salt, and knew about this super awesome legendary ship of glory that was obtainable in Hardcore mode, but not in my game, it would lessen my experience. This is why I believe we have to be a little bit careful about the hardcore progression rewards when we design them.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on the matter. Are you a fan of hardcore mode unlocks, and if so, what kind of hardcore trans-game rewards would you like to see in Salt?

- John Gamble (Lead Developer)


Friday Dev Update: Music and Audio Direction

9:51 AM willsterling23 5 Comments

Music has always been one of my favorite aspects of video games. Developers can use music to invoke emotion, create intense moments, or calm the player at different points in a game. It can help to facilitate the theme of the game and create memorable experiences. Today I want to talk about our choice in the music and audio direction of Salt, and give you an inside of look at that process, as well as what that will look like going forward.


I think every game should have a unique 'sound' to the music, while also integrating with the theme of the game. In Salt, I wanted the music to feel epic. I wanted you to feel awesome when you were manning the helm of a big ship crashing through the waves in the open sea. At the same time however, I didn't want the music to be like very other epic orchestra composition you hear. It needed to have a foundation that was different. That foundation ended up being a piano sound. 

In Salt, most of the music you hear will have an underlying piano sound to it. It's heavily laden with reverb and trails off for a while, leaving a melodic undertone behind the strings. This, blended with the more modern orchestra sounds, gives Salt a unique but still epic soundtrack. My overall goal in doing this is so that when you hear the music, you instantly know it's from Salt. 


We like your experiences and 'moments' in Salt to be spread out. A common theme you'll notice in the game is a stretch of relaxation and exploration, followed by intense moments of adventure and challenge. We wanted to ensure this design element translated over into the music as well. For this reason, we chose to keep music somewhat scarce. 

I went back and forth on this design decision for a while. On the one hand, I liked the idea of some melodies playing while you explored islands, but on the other hand I didn't want to over-stimulate the player. I think far too often games have music occurring all the time. And therefore no moments really stand out with the music. 

You'll notice that most of the music that occurs in Salt happens while sailing in the deep ocean. We thought this was a great place to implement the music. It creates an epic feeling when sailing on the big waves and helps as a time passer while traveling long distances. For exploration on islands, we opted to use atmospheric sounds and really immerse the player in the world. 


As with many other mechanics in Salt, music is conditional. Depending on where you are and what you are doing, will determine the type of music that plays. For example, different music will be play depending on whether you are sailing in the day or at night. 

My favorite area to use these conditions on are bosses. When you fight a boss, you will hear specific music for that boss. This music will reflect the nature of the enemy and invoke a certain emotion to go along with it. These sorts of mechanics can also create a "learned response," where the player hears certain music and it instantly brings in a flood of emotion based on their previous encounters. 

As we go forward with Salt, more music and atmospheric sounds will be added into the game, maintaining with our theme of exploration and adventure. 

- Will Sterling (Game Audio and Design)


Saturday Dev Update: Time and Tide

2:25 PM Unknown 1 Comments

Time plays a big role in Salt's environment. Most of the time it's obvious - the sun moves across the sky, day turns to night, and spooky spiders come out to get you. Other times it's more subtle. We want players to feel connected to the passage of time, notice its patterns, and begin to use its subtleties to their advantage.

When designing the day/night cycle, we wanted a flexible system that let us do more than just rotate the sun and moon around. The cycle of a celestial body is based on the current in-game date and time, it's axis tilt and angle, and it's revolutions per day. Using these parameters, we were able to create a semi-realistic moon cycle just by decreasing the moon's revolutions per day ever-so-slightly. This same mechanic will likely be used on the stars (when they're added) to create a yearly star cycle.

This system opens up tons of possibilities for events, secrets, and mystical happenings for the player to discover. Tides, moonrock, and fish are some of the minor things already in the game that take advantage of these cycles, and we have plenty of exciting ideas for many more. Time will likely play a much larger role in Salt in the coming future.

- Robert Gamble (Game Design, Coding, Environmental Design)