Saurian DevLog #63
Header screenshot credit: Jynn
Hey everyone! It's been a spell since we've given an update on the next playable, so we're going to rectify that this week.
Our progress on getting another playable into the game has been too slow, and we feel the criticisms we've received on this front are valid. We share your frustration, as we are well behind our internal deadlines as well, and unequivocally apologize for the delays. While, for complicated reasons, we can't be fully transparent about why this has happened, we will be as transparent as we ethically can. We also have a concrete roadmap for going forward, which we'll summarize here.
First off, the biggest update: Pachycephalosaurus will no longer be the next playable animal; instead, we'll be making Triceratops next. While this may be disappointing to some of you, and exciting for others, there is a purely technical reason for this decision. The next paragraph will summarize that reason, so if you're not interested in the details you can safely skip it.
The gradual ontogeny morphing system, in addition to being a complex programming problem, requires some special animation data which controls the blending of animal proportions as they age. While Dakotaraptor had relatively simple forms to create this data for, the forms of the other animals were harder -- especially Pachycephalosaurus. In order to works towards creating the blending data for Pachycephalosaurus, we started with Triceratops' stages. Triceratops' blend data is easier to make than Pachycephalosaurus mostly because it has fewer horns, and because those horns don't shift in their configuration in the way that Pachycephalosaurus' does. At a certain point, we recognized that we simply had more progress already on the ontogeny for Triceratops than we did for Pachycephalosaurus, and that we couldn't afford to postpone development of a playable any longer. So, for this reason alone, we'll be making Triceratops next.
Our roadmap right now is as follows. First, we'll release the next patch containing bug fixes, optimizations, Champsosaurus, and some atmospheric water effects. After that, all efforts will be focused on getting a playable Triceratops into the game, as well as new vegetation when the pipeline allows for it. For the first iteration of Triceratops, we expect to have: basic social structures and interactions, a new graphical interface for said interactions, and Triceratops' unique attack (charging). From there, we will further flesh out social dynamics; adding a territory mechanic, and implementing courtship / mating / nesting (which will be more behaviorally complex for Triceratops than for Dakotaraptor). Another necessary goal is for improved dynamic obstacle avoidance navigation by the AI, leading to better looking and moving groups of animals. We are currently doing R&D on the navigation front to figure out whether we will continue to tweak our current system (which is based on a now-deprecated pathfinding asset) or refactor to utilize one of several potential replacements. At the moment, we are actively iterating on our Mac version, and while we’re still sorting out some shader and performance issues, we’re getting much closer to a playable result. Our tester was able to get ~30 frames per second on a modern Mac with OpenGL, but we believe we’ll be able to optimize it further.
TL;DR: Triceratops will be the next playable dinosaur due to technical and timeline considerations. It is the next main feature we intend to add to the game after we release our next, smaller patch shortly.
With all that said, here's some footage showing our current progress on the playable Triceratops: a fully animated juvenile in-game.
Hopefully this footage has given you a little reassurance that we're really on our way to meeting the goals of our roadmap. If you have lost some faith in us due to our failure to deliver a new playable dinosaur sooner, we understand, and we'll be trying to earn it back. If you've read this far, thank you. The fact that you care enough about Saurian to read through this wall-of-text is our greatest source of inspiration, and has kept this project alive through some tough times. We'll be doing our best to meet your expectations, and will see you in a couple of weeks with more progress.