This update sees Alex discusses the greyboxing process on the home planet, Timber Hearth, then Wesley discusses updating the art & lighting throughout the solar system, and finally Loan introduces our last mobile release, Beacon 38, and how it relates to Outer Wilds!
One lat thing before we turn it over to Alex: in case your friends didn't get in on the campaign, we now have a "Slacker Backer" pre-order available on our homepage. Have them play the alpha demo and join Outer Wilds Ventures! Now over to Alex!
The starting village on Timber Hearth has been playtested to hell and back, it’s clearly effective at establishing the tone of the game, and it’s literally award-winning. So it should come as no surprise that we’ve decided to essentially redesign the whole shebang. Which is why we now find ourselves in the strange situation of making a graybox for a piece of level design that hasn’t changed in years.
“But what is a graybox?” you ask.* A graybox is a rough version of a level, often made by shoving untextured cubes together (hence the- well you get it), which is created by level designers to block out a space and test it with gameplay. Since most of the locations in Outer Wilds exist on or below the surfaces of spheres, we graybox our levels in Maya using a collection of tools that help us do things like build paths on curved surfaces and carve out caves and canyons.
- The village and villagers felt kind of generic.
- We faked the gravity in the village to point straight down, which was inconsistent with the rest of the game and also made the crater feel very small.
- A lot of people missed the zero-g cave, which was arguably the one thing you didn’t want to miss.
- We didn’t teach players how to use the probe.
- The zero-g cave didn’t have any gravity because...umm...space magic?
The new design we’re working on tackles all of these issues with a variety of interesting nouns including geysers, sequoias, mine shafts, sap wine, waterfalls, and folklore. I’ll leave the specifics for a later post, but early playtest results are promising. For those of you who haven’t played the alpha, this should be a much better introduction to the game, and for those of you who have, hey, now you don’t have to play the same thing all over again!
** This is what actually happens so far as I am aware.
Luckily, the newest addition to our team, Logan, is a bona-fide genius when it comes to graphics programming, and he came up with a great solution to our lighting problem. If you played the alpha demo or watched our vertical slice video, you may remember that everything looks pitch black when the sun is gone.
We are very happy with the results of the new lighting system, and when combined with the atmosphere system Logan is currently working on, it will help the solar system to feel much more expansive and fun to explore. Below is a gallery so you can see some more shots of the new lighting in action!
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