It’s time to start creating the world, and we’re starting from zero…
Let’s start now and create a small map that will be a creation playground, we’ll call it a sandbox.
We’ll start by roughly terraforming the map. A few hills, a frozen lake… that should do it.
Next: vegetation. Mostly coniferous trees, a few sparse leafless broadleaf trees, bushes, tall grass and some random dead trees. Perfecto.
Now: roads. Yep, that’s a big chunk. We need a system that will streamline the road creation. It’s very time consuming right now, but will certainly fast forward the map creation later on. The textures need to be realistic: road pavement is very porous, and plowing the snow out of it doesn’t make it completely clear. In fact, a thin snow layer remains on the road, stucked in the material. A composite image of several textures recreate the effect. The road also needs intersections decals, side objects, signs, and much more.
What do we often see along the road? Powerlines! Let’s model a utility pole and get a system that easily and quickly hangs wires between the poles.
And here’s the result…
As I said, all of this is being done on the “sandbox” map. It is a small 250 x 500 meters map used to create, integrate and test everything before getting to the “real” openworld map. By creating tools now, future map building will be a matter of a few clicks. Litterally everything that is implemented in Snow Plow is done on the sandbox map first.
On the player side, the sandbox will also be a game mode included in the development builds, starting from a submenu where you can adjust weather (DIY snow storm?!) and other parameters, and then jump in the game and try the game mechanics without any goals. Just endless snow and endless plow.
The “real” map
I’ve received a few questions about the future map. Here is my vision on it, and how I’d like it to be. I’ll try to make it happend.
The world will represent a city and it’s surroundings. Different areas will be made, for example downtown, suburb, national road, the lake, etc, and will all be accessible in an open world. So yes, you’ll be able to drive between different areas. I’ll plan the map development in a matter that we can start with one area and then expand by adding more areas over time. So the map should be drivable and realistic even with just a few areas in the early versions.
It is still early to announce specific system requirements. But from what we have so far, I can tell that using a mid-level gaming PC, I was able to go anywhere from 20 to 105 FPS by adjusting the graphics settings between Ultra and Very Low, so I am confident that everyone should be able to find a setting to suit their PC’s specs.
All games created with Unity have some basic requirements. Of course, the final requirements will depend on how heavy the game is to run. I am using the best techniques to my knowledge and optimizing the game as much as I can to reduce the impact on hardware while keeping a realistic feel. The graphics setting will however be you best ally to make sure you can enjoy Snow Plow.
Here are the basic Unity requirements:
Operating system: Windows 7 SP1+
CPU: SSE2 instruction set support.
GPU: Graphics card with DX10 (shader model 4.0) capabilities.
From now on, each Dev Blog will contain a list of the main features that have been developed or added to the game since the last one. Here we go…
Graphic settings are now adjustable in the main options menu. They come in pre-determined settings, varying from Very Low to Ultra. No specific item can be tweaked as of now, but it should be coming at some point.
A color picker has been added to the Sandbox menu, allowing the player to choose the vehicle’s main color.
A vehicle make, model and description now prompts for a few seconds when getting in a vehicle. A default key assignment map also prompts for a few seconds the first time the player gets in a vehicle. It won’t show up for the rest of the game, but can still be accessed by hitting F1 key.
The sandbox map is taking shape with many natural and articifial elements, such as a frozen lake, vegetation, roads, road signs and decals, fences, buildings, props, power lines, etc.
The graphics have been tweaked at the post-processing level, with many effects added for a realistic look such as sunshafts, sharpness, and light scattering.
I had a very productive developement breakfast with my good friend (and partner on this project) Ian, who’s also a musician and sound engineer, and we talked about audio implementation: sound track, sound effects, music…
It is still early to unveil anything, but it seems like we are looking at:
- Recording sound effects from real vehicles.
- Implementing audio ambiance for every region of the map.
- Creating a soundtrack with original music playing on various fake radio stations.
Snow Plow Project was already on Facebook and Youtube, but we are now also on Twitter, Instagram and Imgur! Follow us on whatever social media you would like to see updates and screenshots!
Next will be the completion of the sandbox map and it’s sub systems. When everything is finished, tweaked and running like a well oiled machine, we’ll start creating the open world! More to come on that topic!
Also, the grader will eventually enter in it’s phase 2: systems update. We’ll rewrite the code and simulate many more systems, like fuel consumption, engine parameters, battery charge, maintenance, etc. Simultaneously, the dumper truck will go through phases 1 and 2. At the end of the process, we should have two drivable vehicle.
Thanks for reading! Of course, all comments and ideas are welcome. You may comment below, via social media, our forum or email!
See you for the next Dev Blog!
Eric, project lead