Posted by Dmitriy Gorbachev, May 18 2017, 08:49 AM
A new interview with Andres Bordeu on VerticalSlice podcast
Anton Hill has interviewed Andres Bordeu about ACE Team's history, the industry, Nintendo Switch, The Deadly Tower of Monsters and a few other things.
Listen to it here.
And damn, 'goodbye' in chilean is really long. :trollface_boulder:
Posted by Dmitriy Gorbachev, May 10 2017, 08:04 AM
Impressionist Art in Rock of Ages 2, using Unreal Engine 4
People who have been following our blogs will know by now that we're putting a lot of effort into creating distinct visual art styles for the different art periods of the game. Of all the work we've done, the most radical and unique is most definitely the real time rendering of impressionist type levels in Rock of Ages 2 (Siggraph worthy stuff here!).
The following image is not concept art – it is an actual in-game screenshot of one of the levels in the game:
Edmundo developed the technique we use to make Impressionist art, and the method is not based on a post-process that we apply over an existing 3D scene. The assets are all custom-built into the game using a creative way of mixing 3D assets, with 3D brush strokes that are “hand placed” by the artists in 3D Studio Max.
Below is the first Impressionist level we developed and our source inspiration; a painting of Monet:
In very simple terms, the way this works is that we custom paint simplified base models with a variety of brush strokes, similar to how hair is placed on characters in current video game development. We use the vertex colors of our mesh and brush strokes to determine the colors of the “paint”.
Baba Yaga, are you in there?
These painted strokes use a special shader in Unreal Engine 4 which does many things, such as lighting, aligning the strokes properly to the camera, and also allows us to control the width and thickness of the brush strokes. This allows us to make the art seem as if it was painted by a very thin paint brush or a very thick and larger paint brush. (See image above)
Here you can see the technique applied to some assets and a comparison to regular models. (Note: The models on the left are not the same models than the ones on the right. They are completely different assets)
While we mostly use this rendering technique for static meshes and world geometry (re-creating all units in the game could be done, but would be too much work) it can be used on skeletal meshes with bones and animations. The technique is also compatible with lightmapped objects. Here is another example of a level using the Impressionism rendering style:
There is a lot more that can be said about our implementation of this art style, but we try keeping these blog posts short so that they are appealing to everyone. We will probably re-visit this subject in future trailers or maybe another post. For now you can watch the Rock of Ages 2 trailer if you want to see a brief glimpse of how the art style looks in the game itself.
Who said games aren't art? Our Impressionism levels would make Vincent van Gogh proud
(Note: This is a screenshot of a custscene – it is not using the implementation discussed in this blog post. It is purely 2D art)
More RoA 2 Dev Blogs
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Posted by Dmitriy Gorbachev, Apr 13 2017, 10:01 AM in Development
Unit review: Da Vinci tank
360 degree firepower! The Da Vinci tank was one of the first new unit ideas we decided for the sequel, but it was also one of the very last units to reach its final design because we iterated with it many times before reaching a mechanic with which we were all happy.
We quickly identified and fell in love with Leonardo's 'fighting vehicle' machine, because the radial design was ideal for a defensive structure that could attack in any direction without having to rotate, something that would set it apart from most of the other offensive defenses. However, getting the actual unit to work properly proved to be a challenge where movement and projectiles were the two key areas that kept us iterating the most.
Cannons, cannons, cannons...
With a radial array of cannons the unit immediately targeted all approaching boulders from any orientation, but the initial firing patterns and the actual projectiles where not turning out to be very effective. With so many cannons covering all possible angles we expected that a regular straight cannonball would be enough to make it quite powerful. However in practice, the tank missed almost every single shot because even if a boulder was at close range the overall stiffness of the cannons meant it couldn't really aim with any of these. We tried to address this by making the three most closest cannons fire in a sequence, but this still proved to be ineffective.
Our final solution was to implement an instant spread burst (much like a shotgun) so any boulder in the vicinity would receive a set amount of fragments depending on how well aligned it is with the cannon making the shot. This solution made the unit immediately useful.
Boom, boom, boom!
Just like the real thing each cannon works independently. The reload time is suggested by the smoke coming out of the barrel, so if any particular cannon is releasing smoke you have a couple of seconds to approach from that angle.
The final projectile design was so effective we had to nerf it a couple of times because you could dominate a match only using tanks.
Considering how limited the unit was by straight shots we really have to question Da Vinci's vehicle effectiveness. Maybe when they prototyped it during the Renaissance they bumped in to the same problems that we did and that's why it never was produced on a mass scale. :-)
The next thing we had a hard time tackling was the movement patterns. The first idea was to have it rotate like a turret, but that was immediately discarded since many of the units were already stationary and we didn't want to add another one with this limitation.
Our first implementation allowed it to roam freely, trying to reach the player so it could aim from a closer range. This also generated several complications. The tank is so wide and covers so many tiles that it had a really tough time navigating the environment. Also, by looking in to its interior you can see that it wasn't really designed to turn:
Look at all those fancy details you never get to see in-game!
So our final execution is a middle point between 'stationary' and 'free-to-move'. We decided that the tank will only travel along a straight line in either direction that the wheels spin. This movement pattern requires you to plan the layout of surrounding units with care, but not everything you place near it will necessarily obstruct it's path.
The central line indicates the movement restraints and the outer lines the range of the cannons.
A nice detail we added is a cue which suggests which direction the unit will decide to follow. The soldier commanding the tank has to open the hatch to look where he's going, so whenever the soldier is leaning out that is an indication of the vehicle's 'forward' direction.
I can't see a thing in here!
And that's it for this update. Hope everyone enjoyed the details behind this unit's development. Until the next blog post!
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Posted by Dmitriy Gorbachev, Mar 21 2017, 04:22 PM in Development
Level comparison: Bologna vs L'Aquila
Hey guys. Apologizing here again for the lack of updates. The recent Game Developers Conference trip has generated a lot of interesting developments regarding our upcoming projects and there's also been some cool new stuff happening with Rock of Ages 2 that we'll be sharing later. Small team here and so much to do as usual...
On this occasion I'll be sharing our new take on the Renaissance level that features impressive jumps.
Bologna on the left (Rock of Ages 2), L'Aquila on the right (Rock of Ages).
Unlike Scotland vs. Wallachia, where we essentially revamped the same layout, for this particular map we wanted to bring back an extensive slope that ends in a huge leap, which was characteristic from the L'Aquila level from the first title. The concept behind the level was cool, but we weren't so happy with the layout, so we decided that instead of modifying it we'd completely redesign the circuit.
Featuring a section where you can gain a considerable amount of speed that culminates in a big ramp was the main idea behind this level. In the original game, the L'Aquila level didn't technically feature a ramp since the area that holds the giant bull accidentally served to propel the boulder in to the sky.
Above: Rock of Ages2. Below: Rock of Ages.
The first noticeable change is the amount of ramps featured in the new level. If the concept is fun, why limit it to a single time for every descent? In Bologna players will have to traverse through a series of giant slides, each featuring a large jump at the end of the path.
Something else we decided to change is the defensive unit tiling. The center area which features a stream of water does not allow you to build there, so players can always gather speed during the slopes. Defenses will be required to be placed on the borders of the circuit. However, descending through the stream will slightly affect your speed, allowing players that risk the path on the sides to gain an advantage.
Our first tests with this new level were designed so that players could cover a long distance by simply rolling off a ramp after having reached maximum speed. However, one of the things that has changed in the new game is that boulders cover less distance when jumping, (less than in the original Rock of Ages). The configuration difference seems small in a regular jump, but on a giant ramp like this it was clear that the boulders were not covering as much distance as we wanted. Thus, we decided to include a form of propulsion to enhance the jump at the end of each slope.
To the skies!
We really missed the giant cannons from the DaVinci and Cherub bosses from the first game, so this seemed like an ideal scenario to bring these back. At the end of each slope the player must aim at the barrel of the cannon to get blasted through the air and reach the next platform. Total speed is still taken in to account, so if the player blasts through the cannon at a speed that is not sufficient he still won't cover the distance.
Note: It's not accidental that the DaVinci giant statue from the first game is featured again in this level (did you miss it from the previous screenshot?)
So what happens if you miss the cannon or don't gain enough momentum when reaching the cannon? The level is designed like a giant aqueduct with lower levels, so players that don't cover the distance during the leap of faith (or "blast of faith"?), will fall to the bottom level where there's a trampoline at the end.
Pretty sure there were aqueducts that looked just like this in ancient Rome...
The trampoline was designed so that the jump is not mandatory, but taking this path will make you lose valuable time.
And that's it for this latest blog post! Hope everyone is looking forward to playing this level which has been very fun to design and test. Stay tuned for more developments coming up next.
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Posted by Dmitriy Gorbachev, Feb 20 2017, 02:08 PM
Game Developers Conference
Hi guys, if anyone is at San Francisco for the Game Developers Conference (the week of the 27th), Edmundo (art director) and Andres Bordeu (game designer) will be around. In case someone would like to stop by and chat with these crazy devs. We can go grab a beer or something. You are invited!
Note: We can later coordinate the specific location and time if there is quorum.
Posted by Dmitriy Gorbachev, Jan 27 2017, 04:07 PM in Development
Level comparison: Scotland vs Wallachia
Hi guys. Sorry for the delay for this latest update. Starting a new year generally has us busy with a bunch of things and while many of you may be enjoying a nice cool winter, here in Santiago it feels like a furnace outside, which doesn't help too much. But don't worry; we're still hard at work making sure the game lives up to its potential!
Following our regular development blog posts this time we'll be looking at how we've redesigned one of the most characteristic levels from the first game and re-imagined it for the sequel.
Scotland on the left (Rock of Ages 2), Wallachia on the right (Rock of Ages). Same level, re-imagined.
When we started developing the sequel we decided we wanted to bring back some of the more competitive and fun levels featured in the first game. Most of the levels in the new game are still brand new, but there were a couple of older designs that we thought were worth rescuing, and this is one of those cases.
In the following segments we'll explain what changes we did to improve the existing design and how that should translate in to a better gameplay experience.
Note: In the original game you have to fight Dracula at this point. Even though the level layout looks quite similar, we've decided that this level is now located in Scotland. Why? Just because. 40% less historically accurate, right? Any ideas who you'll get to face here?
In all of the levels in the original Rock of Ages, the track mirroring is split at the boulder launching area, having both adversaries looking in opposite directions. We thought it wasn't very fun to start by having you give your back to your enemy, so we've tried to set up starting points that are facing each other.
Above: Rock of Ages. Below: Rock of Ages 2. Here you have line of sight of your opponent.
We've avoided placing boulders directly next to each other in the new game. In most cases you should always be able to view your opponent in a 180 degree view radius. In some maps paths will even briefly intersect.
The narrow section
Another area we decided to redesign is the center of the level that featured a narrow segment with steps. Many people disliked the steps because they killed any momentum you may have gained at that point (and blocking the boulder should be consequence of unit placement, not level design). So to address this problem we decided to replace this area with a bridge.
Above: Rock of Ages. Below: Rock of Ages 2.
Instead of making steps in this area we made it narrower, which presents its own challenge. But a fast boulder that is able to avoid enemy units should be able to move through this part at a good speed. We also decided to limit the areas where you can place units to the checkered sections, because defending the complete bridge was too easy without these limitations.
We wanted to keep the shortcut in the middle section that rewards players that take the "leap of faith" and are able to cover both jumps.
Above: Rock of Ages. Below: Rock of Ages 2.
The smaller platforms are still easy to defend to dissuade players that want to take the risk. The jump is also a little harder for regular boulders, but much easier for light boulders like the giant balloons. Setting up your roster with two different boulders might be a good idea in this level, to cover both paths (take the shortcut or the bridge).
Near the castle
The final segment that leads to the castle was also repurposed to support more interesting gameplay. This section was fun in the original, but very hard to defend effectively.
Above: Rock of Ages. Below: Rock of Ages 2.
The old layout which features several round-like rocks really prevents you from setting up a good defense, because these rocks are easy to jump over/past, invalidating most of the usable terrain.
All levels with good design need to feature areas where defenses can be more effective. We decided to include a stone arch that serves as a choke point, since the entry and exit can be blocked quite easily (you can't build directly below though). Additionally, it's expected that many players will want to set up defenses in the final segment of the level, just before the castle, so we wanted to provide a good landmark to assist with such defenses.
And that's everything for this blog post! Hope everyone likes the changes for our "version 2.0" of the Wallachia level. Stay tuned that we'll be posting some news on Patricio Meneses' music in our next blog post, which should be just around the corner.
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Posted by Dmitriy Gorbachev, Jan 26 2017, 10:34 AM
New on 'The Deadly Tower of Monsters':
By popular demand we've reformatted Steam's Scarlet Nova digital calendar for 2017. Files should be automatically downloaded to your computer.
For those who didn't know, the digital calendar is located at:
Steam\SteamApps\common\the_deadly_tower_of_monsters\Scarlet Nova Calendar
Note: January has been set for 2018 since it already passed.
The calendar will soon be available on GOG as well.
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