By open development we mean that we aim to share with the community details of the design and development process often keep secret by game developers. That is to say we are not 'open source' simply sharing the details of the process for others to learn from and to solicit feedback that we can learn from.
Heathen Engineering EditHeathen Engineering is a corporation in our game and is the name of our team/company. Principally founded by James McGhee originally working under the name (DarkStar Games) or (Huginn and Muninn Games) efforts have up till Jan 2014 been largely a solo matter. Based in Ireland the dev team doesn't have a 'brick and mortar' studio rather we are spread around the globe with team members as far south and east as Australia and as far west and north as the USA.
If you would like more information on Heathen Engineering (the studio) you can find us on the web at HeathenEngineering.com on Facebook and even IndeDB or simply e-mail us at Heimdal@HeathenEngineering.com
Help Wanted Edit
Authors (Written word) Edit
Linear story telling Edit
Terran has need of multiple authors to define the backstory’s of key factions, companies, crime syndicates, bounty hunter gangs, races and areas of space such as notable planets. These stories should be rich enough to stand on their own as creative works yet flexible enough to be extended by other Heathen authors, fan authors and the player in game.
Non-linear story telling Edit
Like most games Terran is non-linear that is it lacks a clearly defined start and end point. Heathen has need of multiple authors to generate story trees or ‘quest arcs’ which provide the key points and branches that will be used to generate missions and events in the galaxy. These trees should leverage linear story elements and should include multiple paths and multiple outcomes. As the game has no logical end it is important that the stories keep to a limited scope e.g. a company, faction or region so as to limit possible conflict with other arcs.
Think D&D Dungeon Master!
Authors (Spoken word) Edit
Heathen has called on talented local voice actors to ‘voice’ key lore points of the story; many of these such as the human/terran history segments will be released out of game as teasers during the development phase while others will be available in game in the form of faction or region introductions, tutorials and key lore bites.
Visual Art Edit
2D scene & character artists Edit
Heathen is preparing a number of short videos done in the context of the game which convey the game’s history or lore. Similar videos will be prepared for other key aspects as well as for general marketing material. The desired form of these videos will be animated still images e.g. sliding, zooming and rotating stylized and static scenery and character images to convey the stories of the video segments.
In addition Heathen has need of 2D scene & character images for use in concept and in production materials ranging from passive to combat scenes and from deep space to planet surface.
2D UI, Icon/Glyph artists Edit
Heathen UI is designed to be immersive and so we have told the player that they are the pilot and they are integrated into their ship thus all UI elements are presents as if they are in game context and apart of the ship OS. The Terran OS as we call it for now includes news threads which feed players missions and events, 3D editor tools used by the player to design and build ships and various social, marketing and administration and management interfaces in the guise of apps.
2D texture artists Edit
Heathen leverages PBS (Physically Based Shaders) e.g. artist familiar with PBS or tools such as Substance Painter are ideal however any artist familiar with creating textures for 3D objects is desired.
In addition Heathen uses image based lighting via HDR panorama or cube skys; Heathen’s internal tool kit calls for the generation of nebula, planets, stars and other space elements which will be used to compose both static and procedurally generated skys/space scenes.
For note all gameplay takes place in space no terrestrial skys will be needed at this time.
3D modelers Edit
One of Terran’s key features is the ability to build custom ships; this is accomplished by giving the player a very large set of unique and fairly detailed components which can be assembled in any manner the player sees fit … think Mr potato head but for space ships … in addition various models will be needed for space stations, satellites, asteroids and other space objects.
At current the need for 3D characters is completely optional; if sufficient resource is available there are designed calls for such models however we are currently working under the assumption that we will not have nor need humanoid models.
Sprint 3 Phase 2 Edit
Don't you love all the clever names ... sprint 3 ... phase 2 ... iteration X ... despite the dry name Sprint 3 of Phase 2 promises to bring us to the fun stuff. Not to say the work thus far hasn't been fun for us but since its been largely theory and concept there hasn't been much to in the way of gameplay to show off; that's about to change. This sprint is the implementation of the core systems into its final form e.g. the clean up and polish of all the tech and proofs of concept we have been doing. This means the lines of code, pretty pictures and ear drum bursting audio all get assembled into what looks and feels a lot like a video game :)
So far the team is about a month into the sprint and has the core systems just about ported over; the UI is looking much nicer and running much smoother thanks to the improvements brought by the upgrade to Unity 5. The game's visual look and feel is more or less where we want it as well with recent changes bring us very close to the target quality ... images to come.
.... one to check out while you wait ....
In addition to rendering and low level features there have been improvements on the overall feel of the game. The scale we are able to handle now is much improved so our ships are able to travel faster be bigger and have more turrets ... you can never have to many turrets :) All of this equates to more combat goodness but don't worry empire builders, merchants and there are improvements for you as well though they are waiting patiently in the backlog for now.
And to wrap it all up we are happy to announce that we have added a few new members to the team; how this impacts the game aside from improving time lines and quality of output means we can handle more of the features on our wish list. Heathen Engineering's Terran will feature a diverse set of original music and a radio/MP3/jukebox (pick the term for your age group ;) ). We have also been able to add in some special features that we will announce when they are a little more solid ... nope its not a secret ... we don't do secrets ... its simply to rough at the moment to explain well without writing a small novel ... so just hold on for a bit or if your really wanting to know pester us on one of the community sites and I'll be happy engage in conversation on it ;)
Unity 3D is our weapon of choice when it comes to game engine. Initial prototyping was done on later versions of Unity 3 and development thus far has been on Unity 4 though we expect to release on Unity 5. The basic design of the game has always been modular such that it can scale up and down based on the teams available skills and time as well as available technology with little loss of effort. Because of this the name of the game in terms of design and dev has always been proof of concept then prototype and only after we have a good view of the finished product do we bother with implementation. We have avoided implementing the visual and gameplay aspects of the game for the same reason e.g. its easy to port system logic and data model but not so much so with resources or gameplay.
This method does add a fair bit of overhead but saves us from becoming technology bound early on key as the life cycle of the game can easily span major technology advances as has been seen.
Unity its self includes a few plugins to take things a bit further or to given an edge in a particular area of development. These come in the form of Assets. Heathen has produced a few assets its self which can been seen here and the list below are addition tools we use from other developers.
An image based lighting tool; for a space game this is incredibly important (image based lighting) unlike terrestrial games which still benefit from image based lighting but do have the advantage of finite light sources where as in space your principle source of light is the nearly countless stars surrounding you. While we could handle this in various ways image based lighting coupled with physically based shaders allows for easy and accurate lighting and shading based on the environment the ship is in e.g. flying through a purple and blue nebula with bright blue white stars will light and shade considerably different than flying through a binary star system.
Like Skyshop this isn't strictly a Unity tool but is integrated with Unity. Substance Designer, Substance Painter and Bitmap to Material are a couple of tools we use from Allegorithmic to design and develop our materials and the textures they use. This is a particularly valuable tool for a small team where you need a quick turnaround without sacrificing quality. Substances (the result of substance designer) can be used in Substance Painter or directly by unity as materials of there own accord e.g. procedural materials enabling run time change of the material for effects like corrosion, aging, etc.
Story design and concept especially for non-linear games can be a real challenge to keep sorted. ArticyDraft allows us to design and mock implement many aspects of our game such as story arch, menus, etc. completely independently of the engine.
General Art Edit
While Blender was our primary modeling tool and coupled with The Gimp and Inkscape accounts for the bulk of the early source for the visuals Heathen made the switch to Maya and Photoshop mid 2014 to optimize the content pipe. Maya LT, Mudbox, Photoshop and AfterEffects include a number of productivity features not available to Blender, Gimp and Inkscape and with recent extensions such as Maya LT send to Unity and the subscription based access AutoDesk and Adobe offerings where finally a viable option for us.
With the move to physical based rendering Allegorithmic's Substance Painter and Substance Designer has picked up the heavy lifting with regards to our 2D needs such as textures, various maps such as AO and Normal and it to includes a number of productivity features which greatly improve content creation times.