Blog Archives

Feral Blue — Devblog #9 — James Graham Ballard

July 27, 2018  |  Feral Blue  |  2 Comments

Hi everyone,

Sometimes there are such weeks, or even months, with nothing really outstanding to talk about the ongoing game development. Made some improvements to the reloading interface, worked with deck materials — all of this sounds like a report to your boss.

This is why in times like these, instead of talking about the development process, we’ll share some things indirectly related to the game. For example, our sources of inspiration. Let’s hear our creative director Alexander — he has something to say about the writer James Ballard.

‘I really love Ballard’s books, although they always drive me into a state of discomfort. Ballard is British, he wrote pretty strange sci-fi, and it’s unclear if we even can call him a classic — classics have successors, but the only thing Ballard left after himself is the adjective ‘ballardian’. However, you could hear about him without reading his books — ‘High-Rise’ is a recent movie based on his book — there is quite relevant criticism of class society and cannibalism in there. There’s also an older movie about fans of car accidents, which they arranged on purpose to experience orgasm. These two novels I don’t like too much, but ‘The Drowned World’ and ‘Concrete Island’ is more to my taste.

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‘Concrete Island’ can be easily turned into survival video game: a person got into an accident and got stuck between trestles and junctions in the center of the metropolis. If you even had to run across a highway, then you know the horror of the crazy traffic. Now imagine this traffic everywhere around you, mobile phone is dead, no way to the road — there is only a dump between overpasses. There you go, another game in ‘survivalcraft’ genre. Maybe, this could be our next project? But for now, we’re taking ideas from ‘The Drowned World’. In short, here’s its story:

Something happened with the Sun and it had a massive power increase. Of course, polar ice melted. Crazy precipitation and heating of permafrost have led to siltation and erosion of a huge number of lands. A cool morning would be +35 Celsius, during the day the norm is +50. Cities tried to save themselves with the dams, but it didn’t help — great showers began in tropical regions, which slowly began to rise to the north and descend to the south. Increased radiation and hear strongly influenced plant and animals — Earth returned to the Triassic period: sticky heat, giant ferns and warm bogs, with alligators aplenty.

Not many people left, and they generally live at the poles. Radiation, heat and constant malaria attacks also affected world population: the birth of a child became a rarity. The main characters in the novel are: scientist who studies a lagoon formed by a sunken city (as it later turns out — it was London); a rich heiress who lives in that lagoon and refuses to evacuate; an army squad that tries to maintain the appearance of order and normal life. But normal life doesn’t come easy, because in the very morning everybody is drunk as hell (a way to deal with the heat) and giant mosquitoes constantly try to break through the protective grid of the boat. ‘The Drowned World’ is a typical psycho-pathological novel from Ballard, where a gang of Voodoo marauders is almost the most adequate set of people left (at the very least, they are productive).

I don’t want to do a verbatim ‘gamification’ of this book. But I certainly want to borrow that main feeling from there — the end of the world doesn’t need to be an exclusively fun adventure, like in Fallout 4 (or like in ‘The Day of the Triffids’, if we are talking about books). Nor does it have to be a tragic grey doom, like in ‘The Road’. It can be a very sunny, bright, hot and a bit mundane holiday at sea.’

Feral Blue — Devblog #8 — Status update

July 5, 2018  |  Feral Blue  |  3 Comments

Hi everyone,

It’s the last day of Steam Summer sale, which means it’s also the last chance to complete that Wallace & Gromit bundle, that you’ll never ever launch.

Today we’d just like to tell you what our Feral Blue team is working on right now.

1) Our artist Natalia is making the interface for naval battles. Last week we asked her to rework an almost final version of the layout (as it seemed for a moment), because our coder and designer thought it was ‘a bit too much of everything’. The coder has been hit with a crushing weapon right in his head (it was a Wacom tablet), the designer managed to escape. Seriously though, it’s no easy task to fit in the control of four cannon boards, if one of those boards can have catapults on it, the second one — martyrs, other cannons are on the bow, and you also need to choose between an incendiary arrows or a pot with poisonous frogs. Soon you realize making interface is no easy feat. And yes, we’re testing it with the Cyrillic font, because all words become longer and more difficult to fit in in a pleasant way.

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2) Our visual coder Sergey is hard at work with a system of sunsets and dawns, and he also needs to finish his task on fires. Sergey, if you are reading this — you don’t need to pour oil everywhere and set it all on fire, this is not Mad Max, please stop this pyromania.

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3) Level designer Stas is putting together the ship for an American faction. By the way, don’t you think you overdid with the number of siege weapons here? Someone needs to relax with all the ‘Warhammer’ gluing.

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4) Our coder Anton is resting from the wounds received in battles with the artist, and is also finishing his work on the modular system for ship damage in naval battles.

5) Designers Alexander and Dmitry are reworking the table of resources for the fifth time and arguing if such a product as drugs should be in game. On the one hand, we already have alcohol, on the other — we have an apocalypse on our hands, which means harder stuff should be present. But what if the kids play this game? Then we’ll be able to show them that hard drugs are very, very bad.

Feral Blue — Devblog #7 — Religion

June 28, 2018  |  Feral Blue  |  1 Comment

Hi everyone,

Today we’d like to bring up the topic of religion in Feral Blue. We can’t say that the faith is barely seen in videogames, but it seems we can all agree that usually it’s presented in a very simplified way. Kratos, who’s conducting genocide on Olympus — is an obvious example, that’s about the religion of ancient Greeks, just a bit repurposed to fit mainstream audiences. Let’s take another and better example, Civilization series, where religion is one of the main gameplay systems. What we can see there: that it’s just another line with numbers, ‘morale’ of some special sort. Taoists and Christians will act pretty much the same way. We all know that Gandhi will bombard us with nuclear bombs, regardless of his religious beliefs.

This is understandable. These days, touching religious topics is tricky and at times even dangerous. But it’s always possible to think about religion in general, how it can define a person — and from what we can remember, something along these lines can be found only in Planescape: Torment. In other cases, all game characters seem to adhere to the same Protestant ethic or plain atheism.

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In Feral Blue, what most religions promised has already happened — we’re talking about the end of the world. Though, usually, after that follows the salvation, but it didn’t. This will explode the religious consciousness. Most of the in-game factions will focus on dealing with religious goals, not capital. Because only people with a peculiar mindset would put an uneducated teenage girl in a position of the supreme commander-in-chief — for most modern people it would, of course, just look like a glorified talisman of the crew. Religious people would abandon their castles and farms, willing to go thousands of kilometers to alien and unpleasant desert, just to save the world — and historians will tell us that it was the Crusaders that had a cunning economic calculation.

Of course, civilizations won’t perish. We’ll have Europeans, Chinese, Aztecs and Russians in our game. But they won’t be just ships and soldiers painted in different colors. They will act accordingly for the greater purpose — saving the world as they see fit. Players will need to evaluate the faction not just aesthetically (cool katanas guys, I’m in!), but rather ethically (catching all the bad people and throwing them into the active Krakatoa volcano? I’m in!). Perhaps, you will even be able to influence your chosen religion: for example who can be considered bad people — all murderers, redheads or everyone who put mayonnaise in their salad? Maybe skip the volcano, and drown them in the name of the Great Dolphin Mother instead? In short, there is some scope for creativity here, but before we have the first version of interface, we better stop here.

Feral Blue — Devblog #6 — Propulsion system

June 20, 2018  |  Feral Blue  |  2 Comments

Hi everyone,

Today we’d like to tell you about propulsion systems of our ships. In Feral Blue there will be a combination of several types of ships: steam-based, rowing and sailing. Some of the ships will even combine different propulsors at once. We know many such examples from history, like steam frigates or galleasses. This is a pretty complicated topic, and we did our best to find similar games to see how smart developers went about this. But it seems that avoiding systems like this is part of being a smart person, as we found nothing. If you can remember a game where you’ve seen something similar, please let us know — we’d be really interested to check it out.

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So here’s what we’ve come up with:

– Sails will become the most reliable and safe ‘engine’, but they cannot be switched into the boost mode. In addition, sails depend heavily on wind — we didn’t dare to make a full-fledged simulator, so that we won’t punish players for missing the wind directions. Still, a bad wind won’t do you any good. In most cases, sails are the default propulsor.

– If the ship has a rowing deck, it will be possible to increase the movement speed — the speed of rowers will be added to the speed of sails. Rowers can also be forced to work faster — in that case they will go into the boost mode. The human spirit is stronger than weak body, and the speed can grow greatly, but as a result someone will dislocate their shoulder joint or get rupture of their aorta, and you’ll have to let them rest for a while. Rowers can get ‘overheated’ and will go out of order. In that case it’s a good thing to have a spare ‘engine’, or else you will be done.

– Steam engine is like rowers, but better — and it can’t get a heart attack. But it can explode, so there’s that. The ‘boost’ works pretty much the same, it’s not really the ‘nitro’ from racing games, but works similarly — you get an increase in speed for a short time, risking breaking your engine.

– Rowers and steam engine will let you reverse the ship, no such thing with good old sails.

– Rowers need to eat and drink, steam engine requires fuel (also stokers who will throw this fuel into the furnace). Sails are environment-friendly, low cost engine, that only requires wind and fabric for repair.

At the moment we’re passionately discussing how all of these tactical opportunities can be fit into one interface. We hope the initial version of it will be good enough to show in public in a week!

Feral Blue — Question Time

June 15, 2018  |  Feral Blue  |  4 Comments

Hi everyone,

It’s a week of non-stop E3 news and coverage (also World Cup starting here in Russia), so all we can really do at the moment is try to ride that wave and make some use of it.

While we’re knee-deep in designing our own naval battle system, why don’t we take a look at the recent Skull & Bones trailer from Ubisoft? We’re just wondering — do you like what you see? What exactly did you like more that anything else shown in the video? Does the combat look interesting?

Just a bit of a ‘marketing research’ :)

Let us know!

Feral Blue — Devblog #5 — Decisions

June 7, 2018  |  Feral Blue  |  No Comments

Hi everyone,

At the moment there are really no ‘pure’ genres of videogames, each game combines a number of them — platformer with management elements, shooter with RTS elements, visual novellas with skill trees. However, as a rule, there is always one genre that acts as a foundation for other additions. In our case, that foundation is roleplaying.

In the name of the genre itself, it seems, is missing the term ‘leveling up’, though it’s always expected. In Feral Blue you can level up all kinds of things, but the focus here is to decision making and playing your role.

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We won’t be giving your character a lot of rich background, like Geralt of Rivia has, for example. You’re just a Captain, the character is yourself, so the story is entirely up to you as well. And when your character dies — you’ll be writing the story of his successor (which can be assigned beforehand, if your deceased character was prudent).

What kind of decisions does a captain make? Well, the usual: let’s say you’ve captured a ship, and in its cargo hold there’s wood and slaves. The ship is overloaded, but you can place the prisoners on the deck and into the service cabins. Then, of course, there is a risk of getting epidemic on board — but you can always sail to the nearest port and sell those slaves profitably. Or you can take aboard only a part of prisoners, sink the rest with the enemy ship, and the rescued slaves can then be handed over to the cannibals. Or you can use them as food for yourself, if you expect a long voyage ahead with little supply. If it turns out there are more qualified specialists among those slaves than ones from your own crew — you can invite your soon to be former mates to the captured ship, sink it, and welcome your newer crew. If you want to play it kinda boring — you can save all the slaves, let them join your crew and die of cholera later.

We want to get away from too refined, too literary ‘moral dilemmas’, when players are forced to choose between two characters to kill (and what Clementine will remember). Such things are not really fair to the player, and often look silly. If players are presented with an unpleasant choice, we need to give the opportunity to avoid that unpleasant choice. If players do everything right, they should be able to free the slaves, improve their reputation and avoid the epidemic — only if their ship is ready for a situation like this. Or if they are lucky. If not — they can always try their best and die of cholera.

So this is what we wanted to say about the nature of the captain’s decisions. The missed ‘leveling up’ aspect in the post is present in Feral Blue, and we’ll talk about it soon!

Feral Blue — Devblog #4 — Ship upgrades

May 31, 2018  |  Feral Blue  |  1 Comment

Hi everyone,

Thanks to everyone who participated in the discussion on our in-game currency! We just wanted to clarify once more, that we’re indeed planning to use barter in the game! So it’s not just all about clean water :)

Now, on to today’s topic.

What wasn’t too great about Blood & Gold is naval warfare. It’s very tricky to do good in general, so often times it has to be hidden behind wild pace and beautiful visuals. Obvious example here are ‘pirate’ Assassin’s Creeds: both Rogue and Black Flag provide their ships with noticeably unrealistic speeds. In addition, the visual detail of the ships makes it difficult to properly upgrade them. You can, of course, repaint sails and stuff like that, but you can’t change the mast system or build one more cannon deck. You also can’t just buy a new and better ship — which was no problem for Sea Dogs, by the way.

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At the moment, we’re finished with the basic system of the world, how your ship’s crew is set up and controlled, and now the ship upgrades are in our focus. As Feral Blue’s world is not too rich in resources, any material — whether it be wood for the hull or fabric for sails — is very valuable.

All upgrades will be divided into those that affect the life of your crew — like desalination station, infirmary or steam engine. And those that determine the battle power of your ship — catapults, ballistas or cannon systems. Damage to the battle upgrades makes the ship weaker in combat, but still able to ram your enemy with subsequent boarding. But losing propulsion — sailing, oars or a steam engine — can lead to the death of your entire crew.

The main danger of this kind of gameplay is making it overly difficult, which can lead either to monstrous development times or to the player’s loss of game control. That’s why we’re doing our best to make something called ‘vertical slice’, and give it to players in the form of closed alpha version. Perhaps, people will want more simple naval battles and a full-fledged captain simulator. Could be vice versa — strong accent on battles and quite simple upgrade system like ‘take a bigger cannon, shoot further’.

Feral Blue — Devblog #3 — Currency

May 24, 2018  |  Feral Blue  |  2 Comments

Hi everyone,

In today’s devblog we wanted to talk about such how would money work after the apocalypse. Our previous post sparkled some interesting discussion on this on Russian gaming site Riotpixels.com — so we decided to bring this topic to open discussion.

Firstly, we could always go the funny way. Like Fallout’s bottle caps or something like that. In that case, money is kind of useless by itself, weighs nothing, doesn’t take up space and it can be exchanged for all other goods.

Obviously, coming to an Amazonian village with a suitcase full of euros, you probably won’t be able to buy, say, onions. But exchanging onions for an almost fresh sandwich should be possible to do. Money is important in urban culture, where everyone believes that money is valuable.

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In this regard, the world of Feral Blue is closer to an Amazonian village than New Vegas, so the idea of traditional money would not be appropriate. So how exactly should we express value of anything?

Our current choice is water. Everyone needs water. It’s easily divided: fill the whole tanker with it, if you want, or measure it with little sips. Water can also be, how they say now, ‘mined’ — through desalination point or by finding rare springs. However, it’s not very convenient to save and hard to carry around. Your purse would look like a bundle of thermos.

Some players suggested gunpowder as the currency. We’re not sure about this, to be honest. On the one hand, it seems convenient, valuable, rare enough, and it’s easy to divide. On the other — it might be a bit too valuable and easy to fake (set fire to a pinch for testing?). Or, if you’re Incas living in the Andes, who use catapults (more reliable that way) — why would you need gunpowder anyway?

So what do you think? If the world survived the apocalypse, what would become the currency? Fresh water, soil, gunpowder, wood, vodka?

Feral Blue — Devblog #2

May 17, 2018  |  Blood & Gold, Feral Blue  |  5 Comments

Hi everyone,

Today we’re continuing with the general gameplay overview of Feral Blue.

Boarding

We are quite content with what we managed to achieve with boarding in ‘Blood & Gold: Caribbean!‘. So we’ll try to so something similar in Feral Blue: fencing is not too simple, not too complex (a few types of strikes and parries), you can shoot and can get shot yourself (for more adrenaline). Most likely, the boarding tactics will differ from ship to ship (and different crews), so fights could turn into massacre or someone might lock themselves in cargo hold and ambush you with spears (we remind, powder is in short supply).

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Economic system

The main productive forces of this world are concentrated on the islands — every suitable piece of land is either plowed or planted with trees. Wood is the new oil, so without it there will be no ships and civilization will perish.

Not everybody could get themselves an island, however it can be bought — for example, from resident of the Andes. So some tribes are focused forests, pigs, slaves, wheat and other useful resources on these floating bases.

Finally, there are also sailing towns that have become the main trading centers in this world.

You trade with water. If wood is oil, then water is gold here.

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Politics

Each major faction pursues its own goals. Players can create their own ‘faction’, if all goes well — or build a career by enrolling in one of the other larger ones. This is where we use our experience from Blood & Gold and, partly, Mount & Blade.

So this is our general vision for the project. As you know, game development is very unpredictable and something can go wrong at any moment. But after a good number of missteps in Blood & Gold, we hope our second try in making a game with the naval theme will go smoother.

Feral Blue — Devblog #1

May 10, 2018  |  Blood & Gold, Feral Blue  |  No Comments

Hi everyone,

Today we’re sharing our first development diary about Feral Blue — our first game based on Unreal Engine 4.

Let’s start with the general overview of the project — what it’s all about. We’ll describe the game’s basic elements, but in a very short manner, so that it doesn’t turn into a design document. Feel free to ask any question in the comments, we’ll give an answer to everything.

Setting / Game’s world

Plane Earth turned into a water world, almost like in the movie of the same name (well worth watching by the way, Dennis Hopper play a villain in Waterworld masterfully). Games and films have taught us that an apocalypse, whether it’s climatic, nuclear or pandemic, can happen right now or in the future. Which is weird, because in the past people basically lived during post-apocalypse. We advice reading about Late Bronze Age collapse — it’s almost like Fallout, but in the age of pharaohs.

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But we decided no to go that far and have out catastrophe set in the era of Louis XIV and the Anglo-Dutch wars: that’s when the Second Flood happened. Versailles and London are the bottom of the sea, but the technological achievements helped survive a small part of European population. Mountain systems, such as the Himalayas, the Alps or Tibet, saves the inhabitants from eternal sailing, but put them in a state of eternal war with the less fortunate people.

The ship

The player start as a ship’s captain. Let’s cut to the chase and explain this by some examples: this part of the game works similarly to Fallout Shelter with its caste society and a slight influence of Crusader Kings.

You have noblemen-sailors, who fight in sea battles, are responsible for weapon systems on the ships and busy being chivalrous. They don’t like dirty work and bad conditions, under bad treatment they can start rioting against you.

And you have plebeians — they clear the decks, cook food in the galley, repair the lining and perform all other necessary chores. They can’t fight at all and can be easily be sold into slavery.

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There’s also an intermediate link — let’s call them ‘cadets’. They can be used to clean toilets, but they are capable of swinging a saber in the boarding fight, if needed.

Distributing your resources between these three castes of your crew, you will be trying to build a harmonious society. Otherwise, that crew will kill you one day — and then the game can be continued as a New Captain (with another set of talents).

The ship can receive new upgrades with a better hull. For example, you can choose between sails, paddles or even a steam engine. Although, the oarsmen would need food and water, the steam engine requires fuel, and the sails are useless when the sea is calm — decisions, decisions…

Sea battles

The idea here is pretty simple — we’ll try to add a bit of realism to the system seen in Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. Firstly, we want to reduce the movement speed of ships, Secondly, the price of each shot (and each hit) will increase. Thirdly, no good old exploits like ‘shoot them with grape shots, dodge, then board an empty ship’.

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The setting dictates its rules — gunpowder (coal + saltpeter + sulfur) will be at deficit, so many it makes sense to switch to the classics in some cases, such as catapults and ballistas.

The main challenge for us here is how to make the aiming interesting. In Blood & Gold it was a bit too obvious and and the only requirement for the player was to get very close to the enemy. In Feral Blue we want to try a more complex system, so that each successful hit would be rare and would give more satisfaction.

We’ll continue next week with more info on boarding fights, economic system and politics — stay tuned!