Shrub Week

Shrub Week. The words echo through the blasted hearts of the Gaslamp Games art team. After the last week, they know no love, no joy; only hand-crafted foliage assembled in the no-man’s land enduring a tense ceasefire between Haste and Artfulness.

We need shrubs. Lots of shrubs.

It all began several weeks ago on a rainy day in Vancouver (which, admittedly, could be any day in Vancouver). My proclivity for punctuality and organization was goaded by the Stick of Management through the bars (of Necessity) which walled the Cage of Fixed Deadlines. The wielder of this device of torment? Everyman-by-night and notorious beer-sampler Gaslamp CEO Daniel Jacobsen fixing me with an executive gaze through that smug little webcam perched on my leftmost monitor (the one with the strange hydraulic arm which may someday unleash its blind, hateful power). The challenge? Complete the entire “non-tree plants” section of the Project Odin Minimum Viable Product Art Asset List.

Challenge Accepted.

Who doesn’t love wheat? Micah J Best, that’s who.

Break down the requirements, derive the assets from the general design. We talked about this before. Every biome needs ground-cover and some happy little bushes; each zone on the vaguely defined temperature/humidity matrix needs some agricultural product(s). And we damn well are getting coffee plants. You, dear player, may well end up scratching Dire Cabbage from the permafrost on the Cliffs Of Frozen Terror (a mountainous sub-glacial high-horror biome of but middling humidity rating), but at least I’ve given you a chance. Remember me for that much, at the end of it all!

Now, each shrubbery has its own technical requirements. A barrel cactus? Little more than a malevolent cylinder bristling with standoffish loathing. Disc fungus? No problem; Sean practically lives on disc-shaped fungi (a lie). Grassy Things, though technically not shrubs, fall into the “non-tree plants” category and therefore being within the purview of Shrub Week are particularly troublesome due to the thinness of their bedeviling leaves/stalks which are visually lost when viewed from afar, at an angle, with our orthographic game camera. Further, said camera can be rotated, potentially revealing the invisible geometries which only Invisible Geometers ought be privy to. (And if you look, it seems that they’ll confiscate your brain and put it in a jar for safekeeping. It’s all for the best of an unfortunate situation, really. Stiff upper lip now and all that. Yes, jars sometimes get mixed up, but it’s not their advanced filing protocols for which they are best known and there’s a reason for that.)

This is a very small, occasionally very colourful tree that looks like a shrub and lives in the tundras of deepest Hyperborea. It also consisters of between 3 and 5 texture cards, therefore excessively and unreasonably low-poly.

Sean and Joseph have been coming up with some tricks to address this issue (yes, my tangent perhaps threw my dear reader off: the issue at hand being that of portraying grass and small bits of foliage)– altering card normals, using card facing and playing to the known camera angle directions to construct a facade of reality from Wrong Geometries. It’s no grass, it’s actually four cleverly arranged one-sided 2D planes! Speaking of which, Nicholas has been implementing some Perfectly Safe rendering options on our asset importer to make life easier for the artists (not often done): some texture cards won’t cast shadows, others shall, and we may get billboards if we decide that DOOM really was on to something special back in 1993.

There may also have been experimentation with  stacks of card textures to create small plants and flowers relatively cheaply; these have also run into issues with shadow rendering, but I’m sure Nicholas will get it all sorted out before the Geometers come for his brain. I, for one, am counting on them being distracted with turning the coffee maker inside-out.

Left: Shrubs. Center: Pillar of rock; not a shrub. Right: Other shrubs.

In all, Shrub Week was pretty good. We got lots done, suffered together, beatings were had, lessons learned, friendships made and broken. But I think we’re glad to be moving on from shrubs and I’m about through with writing anything at all on the subject for at least three days. Next up: a couple weeks of miscellaneous trees and animals with a machine module or two thrown in with that set of pipes before we do Creepy Week. I probably shouldn’t tell you much about Creepy Week because that’d make it less Creepy. Perhaps you can tell that we’re getting excited about it already. It’ll be Fun.

(Best of all, I’m still allowed to have the artists create land-coral, urchins, and giant anemones because they are all technically animals, not shrubs. Another victory for Science!)

Posted in Clockwork Empires | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
23 Comments

23 Responses to “Shrub Week”

  1. Patrick says:

    We want a shrubbery!

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  2. Wootah says:

    Amazing! Do any of the plants/shrubs grow through the course of the game? Even if gradually? Do they get progressively bigger?

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    • AdminDavid Baumgart says:

      Plants shall grow, though almost certainly in distinct stages with some cheesed effect for the transition.

      Say, when wheat transitions from sprout to mature it’ll make a little puff of wheat-leaves.

      Experiments with geometry shaders will be done and we’ll say no more about it ’til there’s something to show!

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  3. Sigma says:

    There are gear shaped shrubs?

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  4. I feel it is my duty to point out that those tombstones are also not shrubs.
    Unless of course there are shrubs which resemble tombstones in this world, which may require more explanation than it’s worth.

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  5. Fade Manley says:

    Shrub week is an excellent week. Who knew grass could be so much fun?

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  6. Headjack says:

    I feel like I’m being stalked…

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  7. The rauchweizen was delicious!

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  8. Xyvik says:

    This is probably way beyond a question that can be asked from a technical standpoint yet, but do you envision maps that are large enough to encompass most if not all of the various humidity / temperature zones and therefor we would see all types of shrubs in one map?

    Or are you thinking more small-scale where a map has maybe two or three hum/temp (that should be a type of song…) and therefore we have to ruin many colonies before we see all the types of shrubbery?

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    • AdminDavid Baumgart says:

      We quite intentionally want to restrict the range of temperature and humidity you can experience so that you don’t, in fact, load every single texture in the game at the same time and cause your computer to explode.

      Plus, our theoretical settlement scale vs theoretical worldmap scale doesn’t really allow for it. And again, intentionally so.

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      • Xyvik says:

        Understood! I was actually hoping this was the answer (and rather figured it would be, as per the computer exploding bits)

        A tedious follow-up question: random hum/temp maps, or when choosing a new Colony will you decide “Hmm, I’d really rather see my Foolish Peons suffer in the depths of the Looming Glacier Pass!” kind of options? Or Both!

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  9. Mr. Peepers says:

    Dire cabbage is good for making extremely sauerkraut.

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  10. Liosan says:

    Shrub, shrub, shrub, egg and shrub
    Shrub,shrub, shrub, shrub, shrub, shrub, baked beans, shrub, shrub, shrub and shrub.
    (Choir: Shrub! Shrub! Shrub! Shrub! Lovely Shrub! Lovely Shrub!)
    Or Lobster Thermidor aux crevettes with a mornay sauce …

    (Choir: Lovely shrub! Wonderful shrub!)
    Shut Up! Bloody Vikings!

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  11. William says:

    Notice that he used “Fun” with a capital. Points to anyone who knows what that means. This should be good…

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  12. Godwin says:

    “Best of all, I’m still allowed to have the artists create land-coral, urchins, and giant anemones because they are all technically animals, not shrubs. Another victory for Science!”

    Hahaha epic! I can already hear the vehemented discussions that were a part of this victory and the always hungry Pit where such matters are decided ^^ :)

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    • Godwin says:

      Also, YES to silly fungus names :) Silly in a steampunk-victorian kind of sciency way, of course.

      Hippodottamus Nox etc :p

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  13. Karock says:

    Those are all gorgeous. Kudos on the art.

    I don’t know how much of this you would consider, but it would be awesome to have a biome that has ‘plants’ of a mechanical nature. AKA cog-bushes.

    Also as a side question, will some biomes be able to take over other ones? If you ravage a forest for instance, might it not be overtaken by desert? Or might some plagued biome not infect and destroy your productive wheat fields when unattended?

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    • vanatteveldt says:

      That’s a nice idea actually. I can’t remember the biome definition, is it just temperature+precipitation, or is soil depth also included? Because the former should be constant but the latter certainly not. If soil depth is not a biome level variable it is still possible for soil depth (and hence desertification) to vary within a biome, and thus over time within the game?

      One of the things I think is a shame in DF (2012 at least) is that farming is too easy. Farming should get more difficult as a plot becomes exhausted. This could be ‘easily’ modeled in a soil depth variable that is decreased by taking away vegetation (harvesting / woodcutting / grazing) or by flooding it.

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  14. vanatteveldt says:

    That was !!easy!!

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