Friday Dev Update: Bosses

2:28 PM Unknown 12 Comments

I have a motto that I believe, if followed, makes for an awesome game: 

"Chock it full of secrets and bosses."

In the earliest stage of Salt development -- in fact, even before the idea of Salt existed and all we knew was that we were making a game -- we had this motto. I remember writing those words down on the corner of the brainstorm paper. In this post, I will discuss the importance of bosses in Salt.

Why have bosses in Salt?

A game without any bosses is like a movie without an antagonist -- it's just not as epic. Bosses are catalysts for adventure because they spark emotion. Before they are defeated, they cause fear, excitement, and a sense of scale. After being defeated, they provide a feeling of accomplishment and power.

Some of my most memorable game moments involved boss fights. In Everquest, there was an icy dungeon called Permafrost. Deep within its mazy depths, past tons of incredibly strong enemies and deadly traps, lived an unbelievably powerful dragon. I remember the feeling this dungeon gave me when fighting there early in the game. It was a feeling that emanated from the knowledge that deep down those twisty corridors, too close for comfort, lies a beast that could kill me in seconds -- a beast that would take tens of the highest level, best equipped, and most highly coordinated adventurers to defeat. It made me feel small in a huge world.

Feeling small in a huge world may sound like a bad thing at first, but it is absolutely necessary in a game designed to give you an adventure that you will never forget. If the sky is no higher than your head, what room is there to rise up into the clouds and enjoy a view that, before, you could only imagine?

Salt is often described as relaxing and gentle. However, in its darkest corners, I want there to lie danger and challenge of incredible proportions. There are already a number of bosses in the game that can be found or unlocked. There will be many more to come, each with reward to match the challenge they present. 

Later in my Everquest days, when I had worked long to level up to the maximum level and equip myself with hard-earned gear, I teamed up with a group of similarly battle-hardened adventures to challenge the dragon at the heart of Permafrost. As we fought our way to the back, we passed other young adventurers, much like I once was. We made our way to the dragon's lair, and after a long and tough battle, we defeated her. It is a moment in a game that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

I want Salt players to feel small in a world that is so much greater than themselves. Then I want them to rise up and defeat the challenges in the world that they once thought impossible, and to etch that feeling of great accomplishment into their very being so that it will stick with them for the rest of their lives.

- John Gamble (Lead Developer)


Friday Dev Update: Directions, Lore Books, Resource Cues, and More

10:49 AM Unknown 8 Comments

This Friday's post will be primarily about the progress we've made towards the next patch. I'm going to talk about progress for the main quest, a new NPC that gives directions, a dialogue system, lore books, cues for finding resources, and the potential of updated pirate models (which may not be in the next patch).

Main Quest

We have designed the initial part of the main quest that will be implemented, and have begun laying the required additional groundwork to facilitate the needed mechanics. Basically, we need things like an improved ability to talk to NPCs, conditional loot (such as loot that only appears when you are on a certain part of a quest), and a system to keep up with quest progress.

New NPC and Directions

With the last major update, we changed some of the underlying island generation structure to make elements that spawn on islands more independent of each other. This opened up the possibility for the game to quickly-enough search an area of the ocean and find the locations of things without generating entire islands. This means that we could add in an NPC which could give you directions to something in the world, and we are doing exactly that.

Progress on this is coming along well. I have written a system that successfully produces the location of an islands that contains what I ask it for, such as a merchant.

Dialogue System

To facilitate both the new quest elements and the NPC directions, a dialogue system was needed. I have designed and implemented a new dialogue system that you can use to talk with NPCs. I have also nearly finished implementing the GUI to go along with it.

It might be interesting to note here a design decision that we have made in regards to dialogue. We never want to force your character to say anything specific. In Salt, you play as yourself. Because of this, no dialogue options will contain direct quotes from you. Instead, you will select from a list of actions. For example, an action option may say "Ask about merchants" instead of "Where is the nearest merchant?" This is a subtle (but satisfying to me) way to have players feel more like they are their character, and thus feel more immersed in the world.

Lore Books

Lore is something some people love, and some people care nothing about. Personally, I am a mixture of both, and it largely depends on the style of game that I'm playing. In the Myst series, for instance, I was ecstatic every time I found a new journal to read. It made the world feel so much more alive and meaningful. In other games -- World of Warcraft for instance -- I'm a story skipper. I click through the quest text and just go straight for the next objective.

Whatever the case may be with you and Salt, more lore books are coming in! They will be very small stories that add little tidbits of depth to the world. Some will be small journals of unimportant pirates while others will hint more at the larger story of the world. The new books will be obtainable in a number of different ways, and there will be multiple volumes of some, so you will need to collect them all to get the full story.

Will has been doing tons of writing, so we have a good number of the new lore books completed.

One thing that we would love to add in the future is a way to store and display all of your books in your home or ship. Bookcases would make a nice addition to a captain's cabin. The bookcase won't be in this upcoming update most likely, but you can look for it to come in a later one.

Visual Cues for Resources

Robert, who has always been bothered by the fact that logs can spawn on an empty island, has been working on ways to improve visual cues in regards to the location and presence of resources. This includes changes such as having certain flowers only spawn in fields or mushrooms only spawning in dark wooded areas. And of course the amount of wood being tied to the amount of trees on an island. I'm personally very excited about this because it adds another element of player progress through learning and intuition. Additionally, the realism will improve immersion.

Updated Pirate Model

As crappy as they are, I have come find the pirates with their bad textures and goofy faces very endearing. They are, sadly, a placeholder for an improved model that we can better work with. We have contracted a professional 3D artist to create an updated version of them for us. They will likely be slightly different yet reminiscent of the current ones in their shape and demeanor. The updated models are currently in the early stages of development, so I can't say for sure how long until they are in.

We are looking forward to getting these updates finished up and in your hands! As usual, we will push these changes to the Steam testing branch to work out the kinks before we officially release the update, so you can look for these additions to pop up there first within the next few weeks.

- John Gamble (Lead Developer)


Friday Dev Update: Implementing the Story

10:54 AM willsterling23 3 Comments

I love games with an interesting and mysterious story. It adds so much depth to a world to know that there is a reason behind the places and things you encounter. We want to ensure Salt has this sort of depth and also has a mystery to it.

Over the course of the next few weeks we'll be working to add in the first part of the main story in Salt. Today I want to talk about some of our ideas with the main story and how we are going to implement it.

Implementing in Segments

With Salt being in early access, we have to take an interesting approach to implementing the main story. Because of this, we've decided to implement the story in segments, or parts. This way you'll be able to complete a decent portion of the story, before coming to a close and waiting for the next update. We'll be sure and pick good stopping points in the story to ensure you progress in the main quest line, uncover some lore, and get nice rewards. 

Keeping it Optional

One of our main goals in Salt is to keep the game open. We want you to be able to play it however you want, and this same design goes for the story. If you wish, you will be completely free to ignore the main story and go about your business exploring. You won't be hindered by the story in any way but you will also benefit from doing the story through uncovering lore and getting particular rewards. 

Introduction of New Content

In addition to adding lore and mystery, the main story will also introduce new content. A large portion of this content will be playable even apart from the main story, so you don't feel like you are missing out by just setting out on your own. Content such as places, NPC's, and items will be in the world like normal for you to find. There will also be exclusive rewards for completing main quests. 

A Sense of Direction

One of our main goals with the story is to give you a sense of direction and to have an objective. Currently in Salt there aren't a lot of objectives apart from merchant quests. However, with the main story you will have this nice mixture of open and linear objectives to progress you farther along the story. As you progress, you will uncover the mysteries of the world and begin to discover the backstory of Salt. 

We are very excited to start implementing the main story and can't wait for players to uncover lore and mystery. These story updates are going to introduce a wide array of new content and depth for you to experience!

- Will Sterling (Game Audio and Design)


Friday Dev Update: A Mass of Grass

12:38 PM Unknown 2 Comments

You may have noticed that we gave grass a makeover in our most recent update. It’s thicker, greener, doesn't magically face you whichever way you turn, and I think it fits our aesthetic much better. Seeing as it’s Friday, I thought I’d let you all in on a few details about the design and purpose of the new grass.

When designing the new grass, we wanted a dense, lush look for our islands. This meant we needed a lot of grass meshes in a small area, so we opted to continue using Unity’s built-in terrain foliage system to reduce the performance impact this would have. This left us with less flexibility than we would have liked, but we were able to wrangle in the system to give us some nice looking grass where we wanted it.

The grass is placed in a grid over the terrain. We can decide how many grass meshes go in each square based on where that square is located. This is how we prevent grass being placed on sand or rocky areas. We can then set additional settings on the terrain to determine how tall and wide those meshes can get, what color they can be, etc. Unity’s system takes care of the rest, giving the grass a nice flowing variation using a perlin noise function. It can really create a nice effect!

In addition to the new look, grass is now randomized from island to island. Each island’s grass will have different heights, widths, lushness, colors, and amounts of variation. This helps give each island a unique feel, and makes them more recognizable. It is our hope that this will make exploring even more rewarding, if only on a cosmetic level.

Though this new system isn’t quite as flexible as we might like, it’s not limited to just grass. It can be used for any cosmetic that we would want to place on islands, given that they’re non-interactable. Bushes, rocks, seashells, and more are able to be plugged in, so expect to see more of their like showing up on islands in the future.

The new grass is included in the “The World Has Changed” update, which was just released. I hope you enjoy the new look!

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