HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Wow it’s been a month already, we’re flying through this year. I hope yours has been as full as ours! This is Gaian, ready to get you up to speed on the new years happenings at Genome Studios!
Into the Crucible
This month has been an intensive for us at Genome Studios, with no signs of letting up any time soon. However, these are exciting times of intensity!
We started our month doing a 2 week deep dive into current game engine specs and features, as well as their current state today, and forecast moving forward.
We pored over Unreal, Godot, Cryengine, O3DE, and Stride. Some rising quickly to the top for further investigation and examination, while others, like Stride, were far too bare bones to be applicable for a small budget startup like Genome Studios.
We ended up settling on digging into Open 3D Engine, and Unreal. Delving deeper and deeper into minute features and details in order to gauge which one stood on top, everything considered.
The Death Rattle of the Paper Puppets
We finally struck the killer for Open 3D. The paper puppets. Unfortunately there was no solution built in, and I could scarce find any resources on how to begin building a workflow around them. It’s a fairly simple concept, turning sprites into irregularly shaped plane meshes and then texturing them with the original sprite… but you’d be surprised how stupidly diffcult the process ends up being when you have to start from absolute scratch.
Sadly, O3D was going to be so cool to work with, because we’d be getting in on the ground floor. Being some of the first creators on the engine batting for a commercial release.
The Champion Rises. Unreal Engine.
Much to no ones surprise. The fully figured, tried and true, unreal engine rose to the top. It’s bleeding edge tech is tantalizing in its own right, the skills you garner in it are transferrable to future jobs, and it’s got a plethora of resources to access.
Additionally, it has the Paper 2D tool, along with the 3rd party free addon extension Paper ZD.
So we got down to work. Pouring over the engine one last time to dig into the feature by feature implementations for the entirety of the GS_Play framework. The fires of creation kicking in and the intensity ramping up to a new level.
I started carving out environmental studies to create environmental prototypes for all our needs, examine the character controller for what we need to plug into it and tune our controls, find optimal ways to use heavy duty UE systems like the world partition system and more.
It was killer, and going really well.
What are you doing reading about Unreal?
So wait, why are you so occupied with Unreal Engine, don’t you know the Paper 2D toolset doesn’t have any sprite meshing or rigging features in it?
So we axed Open 3D for lacking a feature that would have driven us to having to do inhouse solutions… and Unreal is lacking that very same feature and requires inhouse solutions for it.
With great fortune however, I ended up finding out the pieces I needed to get an external workflow together to actually solve our paper puppet needs, regardless of engine we pick. That’s a good start.
But what’s this about “Verse”?
And closed source available to “Trusted Partners”?
That’s the forecast for Unreal 6… Damn. We had specifically axed Godot for using proprietary code which restricts the quality of interfacing with the engine and wrestling control of it.
And we were specifically targeting engines with source access.
Do what you want cuz a pirate is free!
So we finally put everything to rest. No more uncertainty. No more second guesses.
Our radical passion to make a splash already dictated how we were going to take this from the get go.
Open source is democratic. It’s ‘mostly’ decentralized from core pillars of figures that can doom the business like Unity did. This engine is just getting it’s legs which is that mark of a trend being possible but not quite here yet. Which is the only time risky investment is possible. If it’s a trend everyone is talking about, you’re already too late. Contributors from anywhere can build and add to the engine, and so can we!
So we found ourselves back into the O3D fire, after one hefty psyche-out. It’s a rocky ride out in the outlands, but it’s thrilling and I woudn’t want to be driving forth in any other way.
Our engineer has been pouring over the engine, connecting with bugs and blockers and getting settled into the flow of things, while I’ve returned back to prototyping all the base systems for our Play Framework.
It was 3 days of incredible intensity.
First day was the realization of environment. Creating the sky, ground, lighting, and more. Mostly just touching on all the dials and knobs and showing that one can realize some degree of composition. As you can see in the first video, there’s a high ground and low ground relative to the noise of the rolling hills.
Next day was another high octane day. I scavenged some movement code from my original Unity systems then wrestled with O3D’s event messaging system in order to realize cross communication between a controller and unit. A decoupled pattern to allow input from the player to apply to ANY unit you have it set to. One of my favourite ways to start implementing gameplay, as it means the player unit and enemy units can be identical. Only being different in receiving input from an AI over the player.
Finally it’s starting to feel like there’s a game possible again. The movement of the character, while totally basic, already imparts a pace to the experience of moving. And I can’t get enough of that world of sensation. Oof.
So day 3 comes rolling by, and I pull out some additional movement controls. Sprinting, jumping, and other inputs. Along with camera turning!
What a relief. Now you can move, turn, look, and all that bare minimum stuff. Finally.
We’re only scratching the surface, though.
A great start but hardly even beginning to touch on the real beats of what we’re reaching to make. These prototypes serve to lay the footprint of the acual construction of the features I’m realizing within. However, they themselves can’t quite deliver on a game experience. Even a Del Lago scale one.
So moving into February we’re going to be grilling the engine just as hard as we have been. But now with the pointed direction of action behind us. No more uncertainty over what we’re working with. We have a drive to enmesh with the O3D dev community and engage regularly. And a clear route of action we can take to move our way from an open ended rough engine, into an open source engine that is capable of delivering on the games that we’re striving to create!
Wow, Gaian. You’re filling me with scare-citement!
I know right? Me too! It’s like the wild west out here.
Half the people we’ve talked to about this are thrilled for us and curious about how it all turns out, while the other half are so dubious and concerned for us, sure it’s going to fail.
The budgetary gains from no engine licensing is enormous for recouping and returning on investment. Although, the upfront costs of building with a less feature rich engine are also present. There are so many give and take factors to it that I can’t really say whether we made the right choice or not.
But when it comes to looking into the horizon and seeing what will serve and continue to serve the studio moving on from our first game project: it’s an open source, community supported, Blender for game engines, with source access and standard coding languages at its base. Because that’s something that has no choice but to improve and improve, and hold true to it’s principals of modularity, and industry standard languages.
Sounds like there’s a lot ahead!
Yes there is. So much. Which means there’s plenty of progress you’ll get to see coming up real soon here. We’re so excited to be paving this path, and will soon be bringing everything we’re working on around to a “ready to game dev” state. Then we’ll be talking.
We look forward to seeing you there on the front lines!
Talk to you in the next Month in Review!