Space Dust Studios

Developer Blog

Author: Nathan Thomas

Development Update – July 2014

Progress is continuing at a rapid rate with the gameplay, environment and vfx improving every day. Also – if you missed our last post showing early game-play footage, be sure to check it out here, but bear in mind the game looks a lot better now!

GAMEPLAY UPDATE

We took our Space Dust Racing milestone build to the IGDA Melbourne pitching night and got some great feedback. About 30 people wandered over and joined in the 4-player mayhem, and offered some great suggestions on things we could improve and their favourite elements.

SDS IGDA

Playing Space Dust Racing @ IGDA Melbourne meet, complete with scrappy piece of paper showing controls affixed to side of laptop

New features we’ve added include the ability to ram other vehicles off the track, auto-aiming laser sights for the turret gun, slow but sneaky homing on the smart missile, a passive shock shield which protects you from attacks and also acts as a melee weapon, and a more forgiving revision of the vehicle physics to ensure players remain in the game for longer. And thanks to Unreal Engine 4.3’s splines, we’ve added spline data for the race track, which has finally allowed us to create a silky smooth camera behaviour and easily give the AI racers some rudimentary knowledge of the track.

CLAWTOPIA

SDS_SpaceDustRacing_July03

Latest Clawtopia shot

Clawtopia is feeling more and more like the alien tropical island we imagined in the early concept art. Pops has been heading up the creation of the terrain sculpting, plant creation/placement and it is really coming to life. As final gameplay adjustments are made to track and obstacles, the remaining white-box assets will be replaced with final art and textured mesh.

SDS Plant Concepts

Plant concepts for Clawtopia

SDS_SpaceDustRacing_July_01

The concepts above as fully realised assets

The vision for Clawtopia was that it should feel familiar but also alien, and that vibe is really starting to materialize. Obviously the enormous crashed flying saucer helps a bit!

SDS Saucer Ortho

Crashed Saucer production drawing

HERMAN’S SKIFF

Clawtopia is Hermans’ home world, so unsurprisingly Herman will be the next Space Dust Racing character to be built. However… Grigs is first building out the geometry for his vehicle, which in keeping with his character is a fishy inspired hovering jet powered skiff (phew!). Several rounds of concepts were  created from which the final design was refined to fit similar proportions to Sarge’s tank – you can see the early progress below.

SDS Hermans Skiff

Concept / Ortho / Mesh creation process

Well… that’s it from us for this development update. Is there any part of the game you’d like us to talk about? Leave your thoughts below in the comments.

Space Dust Racing – First Look – Early Gameplay Footage

7 players, 5 locations & 2 months dev…

It has been crazy busy at Space Dust Central! We hit our first major milestone at the beginning of the month, and have been working hard toward our complete vertical slice. In keeping with our plan of open ongoing Space Dust Racing development, here’s some early gameplay footage.

This play-test footage from the 28th of June was recorded directly from the game with 7 players over 5 different locations (online multiplayer). Glen also recorded our Google Hangout audio stream which I overlaid on the footage. While it is still early days (just 2 months of dedicated development!), we’re really happy with how fun it is to play already. And it is totally fitting our end goal of couch racing chaos!

Screenshot 002 - 15 July 2014

We plan to have a larger general update shortly, though I’ve included a recent screenshot above as we’ve moved on since the footage was taken. As always, please post comments and we look forward to showing you more soon!

Development Update – June 2014

Space Dust Central has been super busy since our last blog post. The transition from Unity to UE4 is complete, models are being made, concepts scribbled, tech developed and gameplay implemented… and Beans has just continued being awesome.

Networking nirvana!

Just a few days ago, Michael stood up online multiplayer for Space Dust Racing. We’re able to create and join online matches, which all came together surprisingly painlessly thanks to the mature networking support in Unreal Engine. Despite our core gameplay focusing around couch co-op, we can already see the value in having an online multiplayer build so early in the development process. We can playtest remotely, and with Skype running in the background we’re finding this is great for brainstorming ideas while we race around the track.

My my… is that a shark missile!?

Yes indeed… mounted on a giant spring no less! Grigor and Pops have been building and animating our first batch of weapon models (there are more in the works). Obviously these are the raw mesh without texture, but it gives a good indication of where things are headed! Included is an orthographic projection of the Turret Gun in the top right, continuing on from the last blog post about art process.

Weapons

Our first batch of weapon models

“Clawtopia”

The setting for our first level is Herman’s home planet…

“Eons ago, Herman’s distant relatives (simple hermit crabs) were abducted from the “Hermit Hut” pet-store by aliens with a penchant for interstellar marine biology. On the return journey they crash landed on a tropical planet we now know as “Clawtopia”. The hermit crabs survived, and surrounded by the futuristic (and slightly oozy) wreckage, they quickly evolved into the highly advanced crustaceans that you see today. Herman is their champion.”

Below are some of the initial concept sketches – we wanted to get a cool contrast between tropical island and spacecraft wreckage, and also multiple terrain types within the one level. The actual track shape is different from what you see here – these images just show thematic direction.

Clawtopia concepts

Initial thematic concepts for Herman’s home planet

Sarge and Tank (a love story)

Continuing on from our last post, you can see the original tank concept sketch, and below it the final raw 3D model. A few things changed along the way – like the tracks have been fattened up considerably, and the side of the cockpit altered so you can really see Pops’ cool character animations.

On the right are concept paint-overs showing the skins we’ve decided to go with. Grigor is continuing work on the build of Sarge and his tank, so hopefully will have some images of the final product in the next post.

Sarges tank

Sarge and his tank – concept, model and paint-over

That’s it for this post! Thanks again for stopping by to check out the development of Space Dust Racing.

As always, if you’ve any comments or questions or thoughts, please post below! :)

Character Design: Space Dust Racing

So far you’ve been blessed by Michael’s sultry tones offering valuable process and workflow advice for new remote development teams.

This post however, you have me – Nathan (AKA napes) – I’m the Art Director at Space Dust Studios, and while less sultry, I hope you enjoy finding out more about the process I use for creating characters for Space Dust Racing, complete from scribbles through to a 3d model.

The Brief

“Create multiple unique characters with a combative cartoon sci-fi bent.”
I intentionally went about this without any preconceptions and instead let the process drive the initial ideas. If you’re naturally more of a hard-surface/mechanical concept artist (I am), this process will hopefully loosen you up a bit too :)

Scribbles to Thumbnails

This is a really fun part of the process. I literally scribble shapes that have roughly the right dimensions, but intentionally don’t think too much about them. Some loose sketching and a couple of spots for eyes trigger possible ideas for forms, shapes and poses. The great thing about this process is that 1 scribble silhouette can yield multiple ideas depending on how it is interpreted. I sometimes play this game with my kids where we share a silhouette, and see what each of us makes!

The image below shows a breakdown for Piccolo Diablo, our mean moustachioed intergalactic taxi driver.

SDS-ScribblesToThumbnails

This scribble silhouette could have become any number of thumbnail characters

 

I end up doing loads of these thumbnails, most of which get discarded.

As nice or interesting forms emerge, so do possible stories for this character – good or evil, their role or where they’re from – and as the story evolves, so does the sketch which in turn adds more detail to the story – it’s a cool little circle.

Review Sheets

After I have a sheet of 10 to 15 thumbnails which have something interesting going on, I send them out to the team for a ‘gut-feeling’ review. This is without any story information – it is purely about identifying which thumbnails visually resonate well within the group – they have to feel good first!

SDS-ThumbnailRoughs

Some of the thumbnails sent out to the team – some survived… most did not!

Working up a colour concept

From a chosen thumbnail (in this case I’m going to continue using Picollo Diablo) I start working up the colour concept sketch.
In Space Dust Racing, colour is super important as our characters must have unique palettes and silhouettes, so I gather thematic and colour reference to sample from (bottom left of image).
This is also the stage where I start to flesh out detail, and sometimes things go wrong as you can see from the progression below. I started losing my way, and Picollo Diablo began to look like a cross between John Goodman and one of the Village People! I was still happy with his back-story, so I bounced the WIP out to the team for feedback, and ended up reverting back to an earlier sketch and continuing again from there.

SDS-ThumbnailToColourConcept

From a Thumbnail to Concept – sometimes things don’t always go to plan!

This process resulted in these initial character concepts below, though it’s important to note that not all of these will make it into the final game!

SDS Dust Racing Line Up

Some of these characters will miss the cut!

Prep for 3D’ifying

Generally the more detail you can provide the 3D artist, the better – ideally orthographic drawings (front/back/side), a colour concept and/or material reference.

However…we’re lucky as our senior 3D artists Grigor ‘Grigs’ Pedrioli and Stephen ‘Pops’ Honegger are really experienced (and frankly awesome not to mention good looking). They can do wonders with the bare minimum of reference. So for this next section I’m going to use a different character – Sarge!

As the colour concept for Sarge is close to front on, I provide Grigs with a rough side projection showing basic detail for his torso, posture, odd leg/hip shape and arm.

SDS-SketchFor3DArtist

The rough sketch for 3D Artist ‘Grigs’ showing the important details for Sarge.

 

A few chats here and there, and a few days later back comes this great 3D model. Sarge’s character has really transferred across from the sketches, which is awesome!

SDS-UntexturedMesh

The final un-textured mesh. Even without materials and colour, Sarge has plenty of character!

So that’s it for this post – hope you enjoyed it and please post comments below. In a future post we hope to show some modeling/texturing walk-throughs  and  best practice.

Finally – there are many ways of generating non-realistic character ideas and none are ‘wrong’. However, providing 3D Artists with the right details and clear information will always result in better looking in-game characters!

Cheers, (n)

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