Greetings from Outer Wilds Ventures!
Last weekend we were lucky enough to be invited to Day of the Devs, a free event in San Francisco hosted by Double Fine and iam8bit that lets fans play the best-of-the-best indie games from across the world! We were super humbled to be included with so many awesome games, meet awesome developers & fans, and get to playtest the starting village on Timber Hearth!
This dev blog will focus on what we changed leading up to the event & what we learned from it in terms of level design, input changes, art, and tech. Hope you enjoy!
One of the nice things about showcasing a demo at these kind of events is that it forces us to make our game as presentable and playable as possible. This isn’t to say our build was in disrepair, but when there’s ten months of production in front of us, it’s easy for us to ignore the broken texture of the fire, or the missing button prompts to do X or Y, or that we always meant to replace a certain character model.
This was the first demo we’ve created since the game came to Mobius (as the alpha demo was based off of the IGF-winning build). We’ve been making a lot significant progress under the hood, which includes:
And that’s not even including the large additions of level design and artistic improvement we’ve been working on! Knowing that the majority of demo time would be devoted to the opening sequence in the player’s village, we decided to focus on making this as complete an experience as possible.
Button Prompts! The button prompt and input systems went through a huge overhaul both through design and tech, and we're pleased with the way players can switch between tools and modes now. We still have some refinement to the final art, but this will make playing the game with a controller or mouse-and-keyboard much easier going forward.
New Translator Tool! The art below is temporary, but the tech behind it is permanent. We're really excited by the new ways players have to interact with what they discover. This is just the beginning!
Landing Cam! The addition of the new button prompts across the entire game has made players much more aware of our streamlined landing cam, which makes their first touchdown on other celestial bodies much easier!
Water! We've got new rivers, waterfalls, & geysers to make Timber Hearth feel way more alive.
Dang, is that village purdy! The atmosphere and fog shaders over all the new modeling makes the new village flat-out gorgeous, y'all.
New Dialogue! The village now has more characters with entirely new dialogue written with the new system. We believe this goes a long way to making the world feel more alive and lived-in, and we're very pleased with the results.
We were very happy with the results of demoing at the event. Most of the changes we wanted to make afterwards had to do with pathing and clearing up level design. While one of our most core design tenets is Curiosity-fueled Exploration, the village, with its important tutorials, is the one place where we need to be crystal clear on what opportunities for learning the player has (and if she wants to ignore that opportunity, well, that’s on her).
The images above and below show an example of a small level design tweak we made after the event. In the image above, the placement of bridge and tree made it very difficult for players to figure out there was a path below where the rest of the village was (as well as the necessary launch codes to blast off). Players would wander back and forth over the bridge several times before realizing there was a path below. We want the game to be challenging for the right reasons but poor layout isn't one of them. By adjusting what they see when they approach the area, as seen below, we can let them choose their path while making it clear where they can go.
The majority of our playtesters took the time to explore the village and get out into space, which is pretty awesome in such a loud, crowded room! We got a nice list of tweaks to make the village efficient but explorable, and we’re excited to move back to full production!
Bug of the Week!
A brief moment during production we had planets doubling themselves, wandering off orbit, and, well, causing more chaos to the solar system then we intended. That bug fixed, we move on to next month’s beauty!
Updates on our games, our process, and the joys of being Mobius Digital.