Today, I have great news to share with all of you. Above Snakes is ready to take the next step and will transition from Pre-Alpha to Alpha! In the last couple of months, we have worked very hard to bring you the new features that made it into the Alpha.
We Have a New Team Member!
First and foremost, I am happy to inform you about our new team member, Marc. Marc joined the Above Snakes team in February as both a Developer and Level/Game Designer. He has been hard at work ever since and I am sure that many of you have already talked to him on our Discord server. I wanted to wait for the first official Devlog for Above Snakes to introduce Marc - so be sure to say hello to him!
Marc has a background in Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Autonomous vehicles. He is currently living in Florida where he programs self-driving vehicles, but his roots lie in Groningen (Netherlands) which, coincidentally, is the city I live in! Marc has loved gaming ever since the Nintendo 64 came out and has played a wide range of games on PC and all types of consoles. He has been very excited to become a co-developer of Above Snakes where he’s able to apply his programming and design skills in a different field.
When Will the Alpha Be Shipped?
The Alpha will be shipped to all backers who backed for “Play First” or higher and for those who acquired (or will acquire) the Pre-Alpha Access via BackerKit. As you have probably seen, this means that we are ahead of schedule for the Alpha! Originally, we planned to prepare a content patch for the current Pre-Alpha and ship the Alpha later on. In the middle of the process, we decided that our time is better invested updating the core game features that we received feedback on.
By the way, if you backed via Kickstarter on a lower tier and want to join the Alpha, you can upgrade your pledge! Just write an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or join the Alpha via this link:
So, let’s talk about the contents of the Alpha!
New Tile System
One of the biggest changes in the Alpha is the way in which tiles are spawned. In the Pre-Alpha, we recognized the problems that the pre-generated biome map had in determining where and which biomes could be spawned. Rather than relying on the pre-generated map for the player to uncover, we decided to leave this decision entirely to the player. We also ensured that biomes now display proper transitions between one another to generate a believable and natural-looking world.
Matching and Blending Biomes
In addition to the full-tile biomes, these new mixed-biome tiles (or “transition biomes”) have been added to the game. They can (and need) to be used by players to properly transition between different biomes, all while making sure that the edges of each adjacent biome match. This tile update should add more depth to gameplay and make the world that you build more complex.
This is an example of how tiles can be combined and transitioned between one another.
The updated tile system comes together with the new cartography system. In order to make new tiles, you will first have to discover and research them. You can do that on the cartography table - a new item you can craft. Each researched tile is added to your tile pool. From your tile pool, you can choose which tiles are in your current selection and can subsequently be spawned. You choose which tiles you want to spawn, but make sure to select the ones that match your current biomes!
We also redid the process of tile placing. In the Pre-Alpha, you paid in certain resources to make a tile. Since we moved these costs to tile research, we added a new mechanic to create new tiles: scouting. You scout your environment by interacting with it (collect berries, chop trees, harvest rocks, etc.) and, once you have scouted your environment enough, you can create a new tile from your tile selection.
Updated Tile Aesthetic
While reworking the tile system, we also updated the aesthetics of the tiles by updating the technology with which we create those. The surface of the tile can now contain up to 4 textures that can blend seamlessly into another (before it was limited to 1 texture with no blending). Also, we can now sculpt the surface of the tiles to create more natural-looking mountains, rivers, lakes, etc.
Rogue-lite vs. Continuous Mode
We asked players which mode they liked more: the rogue-lite (in which you loose your world) or the continuous mode (in which everything will still be there, even after death). The overwhelming majority of players decided for the continuous mode. With this feedback, we decided to remove the rogue-lite mode for now. We will discuss at a later point in time whether this mode will come back and, if so, how.
Please note, that we will be adding death penalties to the game (right now, dying is basically free).
New Cooking System
We also updated the cooking system which was working similarly to the crafting system (use X and Y to make Z). The new cooking system requires you to combine up to three ingredients. Depending on how well the ingredients go together, your cooked meal will have certain stats. If you match the "right" ingredients together, you can create a recipe which provides you with extra stats and, sometimes, useful buffs! It is up to you to find out the recipes!
New Tutorial and Quests
The whole tutorial was removed from the game and replaced with a more interesting quest system. When starting the game, you will receive certain tasks that help you with survival. Those tasks increase in difficulty but offer less explanations as time goes on. The first tasks will explain the basic hotkeys and mechanics of the game while later tasks will only ask you to do certain things. It will be up to you to discover the rest.
We received feedback from a couple of players that the performance of the game decreased with the number of tiles spawned. Also, PCs with smaller graphics chips were not able to start the game at all (sometimes stuck in the title screen) due to the way the grass in-game was rendered. We worked on improving these things and added GPU instancing to heavily reduce draw calls of grass. Additionally, we also worked with occlusion and frustum culling to improve performance with the increasing number of tiles. We will continue to work on the performance as this is not yet perfect, but we are happy with the achieved results and were able to measure big improvements in FPS.
Our amazing composer, Tyler Cline, has created new music for Above Snakes! This new piece is the exploration theme that plays during nighttime. Have a listen:
A long Night in the West on Soundcloud
There is plenty more to discuss, but that would make this Devlog waaaay too long. Therefore, here is a list of things that are worth mentioning (short and sweet)! If you want to know more about a certain item on the list, please do not hesitate to ask!
- Brand new Character UI that shows Aiyana’s stats.
- A new look for the backpack UI.
- Farm biome with farm animals.
- New wildlife (i.e. boars and penguins).
- New lost soul: the crawler.
- Day and night cycle is now attached to tile creation.
- Removed tile stats.
- Fish can now be chopped into fish meat which can be used to cook.
- Trees can now have bee hives attached to them.
- Water bottle is now an equipped item and not loose in the inventory.
- Ice picking for fishing holes.
- Berry bushes regrow.
- Hammer and map are now items that need to be acquired, not just hotkeys.
- Many UX and UI improvements.
- More storylines and enemies will be revealed soon!
Thanks again for supporting Above Snakes and being a part of our community. As always, please don’t hesitate to ask questions or provide feedback here or on our Discord server.