The Thumblog! Day 3 - OMG WE HAVE A DEBRIS TORNADO! And a story! / by Andreas Kopriva

There have been a lot of exciting developments over the past few days. So I'm gonna cut the preambling introduction a bit short and get right to it! 

Story and Game Progression

At a group meeting carried out a few days ago, we pretty much settled on an interesting premise, which was based on the principle of having practically fully destructible environments in our game world. 

I don't want to spoil much of the story for two reasons : 

  1. It's not fully written yet - we've decided on the first 7 chapters which represent the introduction segment of the game and which will probably take up around 20 minutes of playtime 
  2. There are a few twists and turns here and there which I think would be best discovered by the player :) 

That said, I can confirm that it is a bit more experimental, narrative wise and that the inspiration is closer to something like Portal, Antichamber and the fantastic Stanley Parable. It's also turning out to be a silver-lining type of story. In other words, it's not particularly dark,gritty and grimy, but not necessarily positive either. We do have the ending though and personally speaking, making that part will be super exciting :) 

We pretty much settled on the game mechanics as well. That conversation started as I was ruminating on the concept of destruction and how that can be a game mechanic while showering and considered the potential of directing the debris to form new architecture which could help the player navigate the game levels. I was actually thinking how cool it would be if you could draw geometric shapes (or pretty much any line drawing) and have debris align and orbit around it. Debris dragons :D

Break and Make

After our group meeting, we had pretty much sussed out that the game would revolve around the concept of fracturing and destroying items and then being able to manipulate said items to form new geometrical shapes. We also agreed to make it an area based puzzle game with potentially a number of different solutions for each puzzle. 

For example, in one scenario the player could be placed before a 6m chasm with a 1.5m bench situated next to them. One potential solution could be to shatter the bench and draw a spline which connect the two sides of the chasm and then have the debris from the bench align to the spline to form a bridge. Or perhaps, draw said path and have the bench as one solid object traverse the path and ride it to the other side. 

The repurposing of debris in this way introduces a fairly original way to handle destructability in games and allows for novel approaches to traversing the environments presented to the player. The above example is pretty simple, but imagine having to traverse a 150m canyon using the same bench or the environment in general  :) 

Speaking of benches - here are a few test renders from assets built (and destroyed) - 


Having drafted an initial game design document outlining level progression and more, it was time to test the mechanics. The below videos illustrate what Achilleas has come up with in terms of destructability and post-break manipulation. 

The above video shows how we (well Achilleas did the coding, but I was on the line urging him to push all the buttons :D) managed to make the multi-component cabinet behave as it should. I had prefractured the front glass in an entirely different way than the body of the cabinet and hence we wanted to make it behave as it would in reality. I think we're on the right path as, following some hilarious physics-clipping explosions, the objects behaved as expected. 

The second video shows a gradually breaking apart of the cabinet (sans glass in this example) illustrating the mechanics of being able to selectively break apart objects. Maybe the player could chip at a part of an object and use only that lump of debris to accomplish a task? Maybe conservation of debris could prove to a factor to consider through gameplay? These are questions which are still to be discussed and decided upon. For the time being, we can indulge in the destructive urges hidden deep within and break things apart slowly, almost tenderly, until there is practically nothing left. And that's pretty cool :) 

The last video is the breakthrough point where an in-engine object could be conjured which could attract debris around it. The coolest thing is when that cube object is placed at a higher altitude and the debris just twirls around before settling. 

All of the above was accomplished using Blueprints exclusively. Achilleas is currently replicating the above behaviours in C++ which apparently offers a lot more freedom, especially when it comes to attributing properties to the debris chunks. Our game mechanics rely on being able to interact with the debris, as in stepping on newly formed debris bridges, so sorting that out is a pretty big priority.

Though we're still very early on in the project, things are falling nicely in place and we're getting some pretty cool looking results. 

The next few days will revolve around finalizing an asset production pipeline and working on the story a bit more. Stay tuned for more on that in the very near future!


-Andreas Kopriva