Friday Dev Update: Back in the Chair

1:43 PM Unknown 6 Comments

We’re still hard at work on the GUI overhaul, and it’s coming along nicely. There are just a few more additions before we’re ready to put it on the testing branch. I don’t have any one particular topic I wanted to blog about this week, so I thought I’d just give you guys a general update on what’s been going on at Lavaboots Studios.

Progress on the GUI has been a little bit slower over the past couple of weeks because I was busy getting married! Everyone seemed to have a good time at the wedding, and nobody fainted, so I think it was a success. Now that all of that is over with and I’m back from the honeymoon, I’m back in the dev-seat and John doesn’t have to shoulder all the coding anymore. Which means, as of right now, we’re on track for releasing the new GUI to the testing branch in the near future! We’re all super excited about getting this update out to you all.

There are a few other things in the works here at Lavaboots, but they're not ready to be revealed just yet. Keep your eye on future blog posts for peeks at what's next!

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


Friday Dev Update: Item Hotkeys

6:33 AM Unknown 3 Comments

Since launching in early access, Salt has allowed you to bind hotkeys to items using the keyboard. With the implementation of controller support, similar functionality is required for controllers. I want to talk about the updates to hotkey visuals that is going to be included in the next major update.

Keyboard Hotkeys

Keyboard hotkeys are going to behave as they always did. Mouse over an item and press a number to bind it to that number. As before, you can bind multiple items to the same hotkey which will allow you to cycle between them.

Now, when you bind an item to a hotkey, it will appear on a hot-items bar at the bottom of the screen so that you can more easily tell what you have bound to what button. If you bind multiple items to the same hotkey, the icon for the next item in the sequence will appear in the hot-items bar.

By default, the hot-items bar will only appear when you have your inventory open. We will be adding an option to have it appear at all times for those that desire.

Controller Hotkeys

Using hotkeys with the controller is somewhat similar to using them on the keyboard. Instead of pressing a number key, hotkeys will be activated with a bumper + button combination. When you press one (or both) of the bumper buttons on the controller, the controller hot-item interface will appear at the bottom of the screen (see image below). When it appears, you can then press one of the d-pad directions or A, B, X, Y. If you are in your inventory with an item selected, this will bind that item to that key combination. If you have your inventory closed, it will activate whatever item, if any, that you have previously bound to that button combination.

One thing to note is that you can have a total of 24 unique bindings with the controller since left bumper, right bumper, and holding both bumpers at the same each result in their own set of hotkeys.

As always, we would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!

- John Gamble (Lead Developer)


Friday Dev Update: Balancing Random Loot

10:31 AM willsterling23 5 Comments

There's something extremely rewarding about looting an item that you know is rare. It's almost an addiction, like gambling. You know the odds are stacked against you, but when you do get that item, it's pure elation. You want it again.

This is something you will likely experience in Salt at some point or another. A lot of the resources and items in the game are based on chance. In a sense, they are randomized. This works well in the world to alleviate monotony and keep things fresh, but it doesn't come without its challenges. One of the most difficult areas to overcome with a randomized loot system is balance. 

Creating Balance

Just as there is the potential to be lucky, there is also the potential to be unlucky. There are times I've played Salt and scored big when it comes to certain rare items. For example, I recall times when I've come across an island that seemed to be a goldmine of hardwood logs, the ever elusive timber. Then there are times where I've spent hours in search of hardwood only to come up dry. By statistical averages, most players will be somewhere in the middle. But then there will be those who end up on the outskirts, whether for good or bad. 

How do you balance this out? Do you constantly tweak spawn chances until the maximum amount of players are happy with it? Do you give players a little more than they need or make things more scarce in general? 

All of these questions are aspects we have had to consider when picking loot chances and designing a system of balance. We've come up with a few ways to do this. 

Alternate Paths

Our major solution to the problem of balance is what I call alternate paths. Essentially, what we've done here is provide players with alternative ways to get most items and resources in the game. Since we have already been talking about hardwood logs, lets use that for an example. 

Let's say you are getting unlucky and not finding many hardwood logs. Did you know you can use broken pirate axes and sometimes craft hardwood logs that way? You can also find merchants who sell them. Or you can find a merchant with a quest to trade regular logs for hardwood. 

Providing these alternate paths helps to balance the chance of finding certain resources. In addition to that, it also allows you to focus on your playstyle and still get the items! If you like combat and fighting pirates, you will find hardwood by killing them and crafting their broken pirate axes. Or you might find it in wood log stacks near their campfires. It allows you to focus on the aspects of the game you enjoy most, while still feeling like you are getting the items you need. 

This is still a work in progress and we constantly tweak it, but I think this is a game mechanic you will see implemented in various aspects of the game.

Resource Placement

A more recent implementation that we've done is implement a new resource placement system. Rob has designed this system to help you better learn where certain resources are and be more productive at finding them. This system helps make sense of the things you find in the world. Now, instead of finding hardwood logs in the middle of a large field, you will be more likely to find them in heavily forested areas near trees that resemble their color. 

Community Feedback

Last but not least, community feedback. We can test and test all day but we are only three people. We need data and feedback from a large group of players to let us know if certain resources and item rarities are balanced well. We've been able to tweak a lot of item chance changes so far based on your feedback and it's helped us create a more balanced system for the player base as a whole. As we implement new items and more resources into the game, we would still love to hear your feedback on item rarity chances and any suggestions you may have! 

Balance in a randomized world is hard. But by implementing these design ideas and constantly getting your feedback, we are confident that items will be challenging and rewarding to get, yet remain balanced and obtainable to all players. 

- Will Sterling (Game Audio and Design)


Friday Dev Update: New Inventory UI Preview

2:45 PM Unknown 12 Comments

For this week’s dev update we want to show you all a picture of the progress on the new inventory UI. Note that some parts (the icons for the tabs for instance) are place holders. I’ll briefly discuss a few of its features.

Larger Icons

It may not be very apparent from the image, but many of you may be pleased to note that the icons are slightly larger than before. We had gotten a number of complaints about the size of them in the past, especially from users with very high resolution monitors. We increased their default size from 32x32 to 50x50. You may notice in the picture that they appear slightly pixelated. This is because all of the icons are still currently stored as 32x32 images. We’ll do a run-through and re-create them all at larger resolutions to fix the pixelation.

Better Tabs

As you probably know, the tabs in the current Salt inventory interface all act as their own little container. The new tabs are filters rather than containers. One good thing about this is that it allows us to have an “All” tab where you can see the entire contents of your inventory in one grid.

Obvious Item Rarity Colors

I love getting rare loot in games. It is the main draw that keeps me playing many RPGs. It makes me feel accomplished to be decked out in a full set awesome gear. This is why we are making it easier to instantly recognize better loot by having item backgrounds reflect item rarity colors. It also has the added bonus of making rarer crafting components more distinguishable from their common counterparts.

Controller Support

Notice the little frame around the orange crafting journal. What does that mean? Does that mean it is currently being selected by a controller? Why yes it does! I know many of you won’t get too excited about this as you prefer to use the great old keyboard/mouse. However, this will be a great change for many who have been wanting controller support. The inventory as you see so far is fully navigable and usable by a controller. I personally used to be a keyboard/mouse exclusive kind of fellow. Since then, I have come to appreciate how much freedom a controller gives me in terms of finding a relaxing gaming position that doesn’t require me to keep both arms outstretched like a zombie for long gaming sessions.

Character Window

Currently, all equipped items appear in one of the inventory tabs just like everything else. It will be nice to have it more separated and organized. The window on the left side of the screenshot is the character window. It is visible at all times while the inventory is open and it shows what is currently equipped as well as some stats. Equipped head, chest, legs, feet, and handheld items are displayed in the upper section, and all other equipped items are displayed in the lower grid.

Crafting Tab

The crafting tab will be a tab attached to the inventory window. In the image, the tab with the picture of the potion bottle is the crafting tab for temporary functionality purposes. We will change the icon later.

If you select the crafting tab, the inventory grid will be filtered to display only crafting components, and an additional interface will pop up from behind the inventory to display your selected components and what you can make with them.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. A UI overhaul has been needed for a while now, and I’m excited to finally get to do it.

- John Gamble (Lead Developer)