Hollow Earth


This past month has been pretty productive for me. I’m always surprised at how quickly I pick this stuff back up. I imagined it would be very hard to get back into Age-making but I remember the hotkeys. Like riding a bicycle. Currently, I have several Age concepts moving along.

Tosholek is in the last phase of getting stuff together. It’s ready for release for Uru:CC, but I’m waiting for now on having a version converted to go up on the Gehn shard before releasing. I’ve fixed a lot of the issues in the previous version. Most importantly, everything is converted into lightmaps or vertex painting, meaning that I have a lot more control over the Age’s lighting now than I did before. Basically, Uru can only handle 8 lights on an object. In the past, I would use a maximum of 8 lights to light an area using the engine’s dynamic lighting. All my Ages do this. Any more than this, and one of the lights stops working. Usually, it’s a big one like the Sun or something. The new system I have uses three sets of lights. The first is a set of lights in a lightgroup that can effect everything. If I have something that’s animated, like the birds in Fens or the kickable in Tosholek, it is told to use JUST that lightgroup to light itself. The second set of lights is my other lights. Things that won’t light other objects in the Age, but can still be used to light the avatar. Finally, the third set of lights are the lightmap lights. I need this because the lights I use to light the avatar or kickables are often too strong to use in making lightmaps– the light it just too bright. So I have a set of lights I use only for lightmapping. I may have more sets of these lightmap lights as I need them. Often, this is used for interiors where I need to have light inside without the object being affected by lights outside.

In other areas, I’ve found an old notebook with a lot of my Age concepts. Its helped me get Tharel’s concept nailed down better as well as given me a number of texts to release as well. I’m planning on reworking the texts at some point as well. A lot of my old stories are like my old Ages: nice, but kind of cringe-worthy. I tried to base them on the King stories, and they sometimes got a little too out there. New stories are going to focus primarily on philosophical texts and historical documents rather than dramatic stories.

In addition, I’ve gotten more historical work done on Ages like Vasrahn as well as preliminary maps. Eder Jonim is the farthest along, ready for more detailed maps. If anyone reading this is able to help, I’d be very interested in hearing from you. I’ve also done… other things. More on that “soon”.

Filed under: Ages, Development, Uru Community, , , , ,

Story Update

So when I started doing stories and Ages for Uru, I set up a tiddlywiki, an offline personal wiki with all my lore information. Since then, tiddlywiki seems to no longer work on any browser, so I spent these last few days working on porting my lore to Zim to manage it. In doing so, I came up with some interesting statistics:

  • Over 25 Age concepts.
  • 50 Character profiles
  • 2 D’ni Areas
  • 1 Major historical event
  • 2 Groups
  • Over 20 Stories

While I’d love to release all that stuff, it’s clear to me that a lot of this needs pruning. Most of the Ages and characters particularly were one-off characters used in one short story with nothing else really planned for them. Others vaguely tied into a story arc, but just in kind of a wink-wink reference that people might get. So, to keep myself sane and focus my stories on the still-massive amount of content I would like to produce, I’ve established four main story arcs that I’ll be focusing on:

  • The Ishveer War Arc
  • The Tharel Arc
  • The Shomat Arc
  • The Devil Arc

Of those, the Devil Arc is the one I’m most excited about. It feels to me like a lot of good modern stories where every little thing is connected. That arc currently spans 11 Ages and 15 characters, although that is liable to change in time.

Next would be the Sholek Arc. I considered ret-conning and merging this into the Devil Arc, given that hey both touch on similar concepts, but Sholek is such an interesting character that he needs to stay in his own timeline.

Ishveer and Tharel are less “Arcs” and more centered around their respective Ages, but require more story work than other one-off Ages like Eder Jonim.

The rest of the stories and Ages and Characters etc. not in those arcs are sadly going to either go away or be repurposed. A lot of the Ages were, if I’m honest with myself, just an excuse to use a D’ni-sounding name.

The hard part, and my future work, will be on building and strengthening the Age concepts I already have. Chiefly, I want to define things to *do* in each Age. I love making scenic Ages like Fens and Bimevi, but I also want to get into working with more technical Writers to make minigames for my Ages. Uru needs more Ages where there are things to do, not things to see, and that’s what I plan on providing.

Filed under: Ages, Development, Uru Community, , , , , , ,

Coming Back

It’s strange, being dragged back into the Uru community after such a long time. I had heard that friends like Tweek and Kae were back, but I never thought I would get swept back up into the community. I was ready to move on. I am still kind of on edge, worried about whether this is the right step.

Still, the strength with which I have come back is shocking to me. Only a few days back and I already have my exporting setup humming again. Blender hotkeys and modeling tricks come back to me while I feel like my skills have improved. My IC chops are back up to speed and Cavern Link is back up and running.

At the moment, Fens is going through a drastic reshaping and upgrade. Packing more and better content in the space I made is the goal. I’m starting fairly small, my projects have been collapsed both because I don’t feel they are very interesting and they are too expansive for my capabilities. Until I know better what I will be dealing with, I can’t spend the time on a 7-tier mental hospital Age that ties into 4 other expansive Ages all part of a coherent plot. I went down that path before, didn’t make much progress, and ended up burning out. So, the dream of a personal Uru expansion pack is going to wait.

Filed under: Ages, Uru Community, , , ,

Development: Bimevi

Bimevi is another Age, like Sholek’s Temple, that was created as part of a contest. In this case, the Rapid Age Development contest. The Age was my first stab at making an Age grounded in D’ni lore and my first Age that really had a core story. Since release, Bimevi’s concept has evolved so that its story is now tied to a much larger one.

Bimevi started as a top-down drawing of a small pit. The concept had all the elements seen in the final version with a few key exceptions. For one thing, the plants and flowers were much more prevalent. This was changed both in acknowledgement of Bimevi’s history, but also because it would have been a pain to try and get such a lush area to look visually appealing (Uru’s transparency issues being the way they are). Another change was in the memorial area. In initial concepts, the area was a simple pair of feathers attached to a rod extended out of the wall. When I began modeling this, however, it became obvious to me that this kind of memorial was too “tribal” for a D’ni, even one as progressive as Neereth.

Filed under: Ages, Development, , , ,

Development: Fens

Fens was my second Age, coming about the same time as the new version of PyPRP was developed. Fens was the first Age I made with a specific purpose in mind and a theme in which to display that purpose. The purpose was to make a swamp Age. The theme would be “as natural as possible.” The Age, like my others, served as a testbed for new concepts as well as an environment in which I could experiment.

I was inspired by a piece of Cyan concept art I had seen titled “Glades.” I knew I wanted people to wade around in the Age and feel like they were slogging through a bog (I planned to perhaps have some areas where the land dropped off and your avatar momentarily went into the goop before swimming back up, but that wasn’t in my skillset at the time). Another thing I wanted was an island. All of the Myst Ages had at least one island and I wanted to have a single island and let the player explore out into the rest of the marsh (where things might happen over time, obscured by the fog). I also wanted the Age to be dynamic, changing frequently. While I haven’t done much recently, I do want to keep it somewhat up-to-date. Finally, I knew I wanted to have the Age be “fan-run” in that I wouldn’t provide any of the information about what the plants/animals were, I’d encourage explorers to write up what they thought and include it in an in-Age journal. The possibility of inclusion in an Age was something I saw as necessary for Uru to live (after all, if the only real avenue for involvement is in making Ages, how will people who can’t/won’t make Ages get involved?).

Fens in many ways embodies many of the challenges most designers face in creating beleivable areas in games. One such challenge was getting an acceptable amount of detail into a model without overwhelming the computer rendering it. Most of my models were very low-poly, like the semi-circle plants. The one exception to this was the model for the trees, which used many faces in the lower half of the tree. This was because I built the trees by taking a single cylinder and connecting it to a series of twisted “roots” cylinders.

Another challenge was in limiting the space in a believable way. My first concept of the Age was an unending series of small islands the player could start exploring, but eventually end at some variation of an invisible wall.Once the first island was designed, however, I decided that even a small series of islands would get repetitive and the invisible wall would inevitably seem arbitrary.I decided instead to place the island inside a basin in the fog. The basin realistically limited the area the player could explore while providing an area where the player’s imagination could go wild. Originally, the basin top was going to be lined with the same style of trees as the tall mangrove-like “fengroves” in the swamp. This was scrapped when testing showed players weren’t sure how those aquatic trees could grow above the basin without compromising the basin’s integrity. Instead, the basin was lined with more traditional deciduous trees similar to Eder Tsogahl to show that the upper level of the basin was drier. “What’s over that edge?” or “what’s in the fog?” were questions I wanted to always put in the player’s mind.

Creating a diverse set of flora while preventing repetition was another key challenge. In early designs there were many more “fengroves”. Because the “fengrove” trees are all duplicates of the one on the initial island, this led to the swamp seeming repetitive and it was easy for players to get lost in the forest. Later on I added bulbous flowers that were essentially trunkless “fengroves.” Even though they used different models, different textures, and had a distinctive sillouhette, their elevated roots were still too similar to those of the “fengroves” and the flowers seemed too fake. Similarly, earlier releases featured fully-modeled grass similar to the grass seen in the Cleft. These 3D blades were removed because they were all unlit and were not visually-attractive. There were also more small mushrooms in previous versions of the Age. These were placed to create an appearance like the beta shots of Teledahn’s shroom forest. Unfortunately the mushrooms seemed too repetitive and testers got lost in them so I reduced their numbers and replaced many of them with the semi-circle plants. One organism that has stayed throughout all iterations isthe blue parasite blobs. These were designed to be relatively-high-poly sacks that would flop naturally from whatever surface they were placed on and would connect to the surface via very low-poly “roots”. The design of this organism made it so that it was easy for me to naturally distribute them without a lot of work. The “roots” were simple to stretch to a surface and the high-poly blob was easy to shape to look naturally affected by gravity. I positioned them i nthe world so that players would naturally attribute them with decay. The dead tree has many of them on it while the listing tree has a few more than a regular tree does, giving the impression that they both come along with decay and also cause it.

The listing tree was the second tree actually put into the Age and was the first major landmark outside of the link-in island. It was designed to be at least partially climbable and future ideas for this tree was to have it act as a natural foundation for a treehouse. These ideas were incorporated into the home on the side of the rock statue.

The dead tree came later as I began emphasizing natural landmarks players could use to navigate the Age. The tree was made to be a kind of natural observation post while also showing the Age in decay. In initial designs, the tree was going to be a natural bridge up to the basin top, but this was discarded when I decided opening the basin lip would push the release date back too far.

The house was a last-minute idea to serve as a location for the Age journal and credits booklet.The original design was going to incorporate geothernal energy tapped by the large connection tubes. While the house turned out smaller than that, the tubes remained. Overall, the house may one day be scrapped for a larger “forest lodge” style house.

In the future, I’d like to add animals to the Age beyond the distant birds. Numerous concepts for other creatures have come and gone, however. Regionally-triggered animal appearances similar to “shroomie” in Teledahn are an ultimate goal, however this seems a long way off. The next major update will be releasing a beach area and the tunnel to it from the main basin. The beach area would incorporate new techniques for limiting player movement and reveal the Age’s ocean and nearby locations.

As always, I hope you have fun exploring and I encourage you to send in your contributions for the Age journal and try your hand at classifying the flora and fauna. I would like to get a wiki set up (perhaps using the DZS) where people could submit their ideas for the plants and animals. Regardless, I hope you have as much fun exploring this Age as I had creating it.

Filed under: Ages, Development, , , , ,

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