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Monthly Dev report and More...

2015-01-07 Development

The pre-alpha


This first Wednesday of 2015 you can finally download Pre-alpha version of Planets³!



In order to download the pre-alpha, log into your Planets³ account, and go to my game licenses. You will see a "download" button.

This option is only available for people who preorder the game (here on our website or on Kickstarter). And, as a reminder, every backer needs to register on our website using this form: https://www.planets-cube.com/kickstarter-backers-registration.html

This version is compatible with Win7 SP1 (32 & 64 bit), Win8 (32 & 64 bit) and Mac (OSX 10.9.2 or above).

This pre-alpha is mainly the migration of the prototype on Unreal Engine. This migration has required some adaptations, like the size of our universe, the size of the planets, the sun position, and so on… If your hardware enables it, set the quality on “Epic” in the options, the game will look way better in this mode.

In this version you also have the possibility to play in multiplayer!
To do so, a first player needs to launch the game by clicking onto the “Play” button.
The other players just need to enter his IP address in the IP address field and click onto the “Join” button. The first player’s computer will be the server.

Planets³ Pré-alpha

On the way to the Alpha


In a few months, during the second quarter, we will be releasing the Alpha version. This future release will be offering the following features:

  • Combat!
    The possibility to use weapons and armor sets against enemies
  • Crafting!
    Thanks to the harvesting of minerals, the use of the crafting interface and a bunch of objects, weapons, armor sets and tools for you to craft.
  • A first "Planets³" landscape
    Thanks to the detailed generation of a first zone: the moors.
  • And other improvements like for example a dedicated server, a game “launcher” (to facilitate the downloading of updates) and so on…


In addition we updated the progression chart on the website.

Monthly Dev Report

2014-12-03 Development

The UE4 Migration


The migration to Unreal Engine goes on.

We are facing unexpected problems regarding the user interface and the rendering at a long distance, but we are getting there!

Implemented features:

  • Movement synchronization in multiplayer
  • Block destruction, placement and “picking” (synchronized in multiplayer) including wall placement
  • Terrain generation like in the prototype
  • Integration of “pre-modeled” trees

    Juniper

  • Menus and the key bindings configuration window
  • Partial compression of the geometry enabling the game to run on 32-bits platforms
  • Mac version
  • Real-time saving
  • Universe creation / loading window
  • HUD



Remaining features in order to release the pre-alpha:

  • Placement ghost improvement
  • Destruction ghost improvement and tools implementation
  • Display of the inventory window and implementation of all the associated actions
  • Display of the game settings window
  • Correction of some lag and synchronization problems in multiplayer
  • Integration of the animals
  • Improvement of the multiplayer connection window
  • Deactivation of Unreal Engine’s dynamic shadows (not adapted) and restoration of the block lighting model we used in the prototype
  • Setup of the rendering in order to improve it (reflection, particles, textures)
  • Creation of the installers for Windows and Mac
  • Correction of the remaining bugs


The web Tools


We have added several interesting features on our website.

Private Messaging


You now have access to a messaging system working like on some social networks, that is you have the possibility to send messages to people in your friend list.

So a new option has appeared below the nickname of the community’s members enabling you to send them a friend request.

Add Friend

If the person accepts, you now have the possibility to send him/her a message from your account page, in the new “Private messaging” tab

Private Messaging

If you receive spam (through a friend request or a message) you have the possibility to report it using the “Action” button.

A new icon « messages » has also appeared on the top right banner of the website.

Last Messages

English-speaking / French-speaking Forum


We decided to fully split the English-speaking and the French-speaking forums.

You can, from now on, use the language selection button on the top right side of the forum to change the language of the forum and switch from one forum to the other.

Moderators


The application form for the moderators is still open, if you wish to join us, it is here: http://www.planets-cube.com/forum/topic/846.

We will choose the first moderators in December.

Monthly Dev Report

2014-10-29 Development

A new engine for Planets³


This month the entire dev team focused on the new engine. We needed to take the good decision and to start migrating the game on the new engine. Indeed we finally choose the new engine: Planet³ will now use Unreal Engine from Epic Games!

Unreal Engine

Engine Choice


Guyk and Mick investigated dozen of different engines. Some of them were even specially designed for voxel worlds. But at the end only one of them adapted to all our constraints: Unreal Engine.
The 2 important constraints we have:

  • To regroup advanced technical specifications: OpenGL3+ and DirectX11 full support, access to shader model 5, advanced toolset for creating games.
  • To be able to easily release the game on different platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Consoles.


The migration is not finished yet, but here is a first video of our current progress:



Obviously we focused on the migration of the world generation and the rendering aspect of the game (we cannot make a blocks’ game without blocks!). You can see that we already activated some rendering options: HDR, atmospheric fog, reflection effects, god rays, lens flare, particles effects.

Development Choice


The first challenge was to learn how to use this fantastic engine because nobody in the team had ever used it before. CodingMarmot, Guyk and Mick did take the challenge and successfully migrated almost half of the game in less than 3 weeks.
This month’s goal was to show you a video with multiple planets using our sub resolution engine.

The second problematic was to start « from scratch » for a major part of our code. Indeed it was most handy and clever to use Unreal Engine tools (like the UE script called BluePrints). This way we will go faster in the future and most importantly: we will use the UE Editor. The UE Editor represents all the creation power of Unreal Engine: development simplification, easier to test, to debug, real time debug and multiples possibility of configurations … We couldn’t afford to miss this tool!
For performance sake a large part of our code will still be coded in C++ but we will use Blueprints wherever suited.

Today, after 2 difficult months, we are truly happy with our choice. And we are already feeling the positive aspects of using Unreal engine, in terms of quality as well as in terms of time saving.

Next challenge: to continue the efforts and release the pre-alpha just before Christmas!

And new website functionnalities


Altalus continued to increment the number of our web space features.

Moderation


This month he improved a lot the moderation forum space. This work is invisible but is essential to maintain a stable and viable environment for the community.
By the way, we will soon call on moderators from the community.

« Spam »


He also did make some modifications about spam countermeasures, against all these “evil people” or robots that post undesirable messages.

« My account » space


As we were saying in last news, “my account” space has also been improved.

Furthermore, people who supported us on Kickstarter or during the 2 months after Kickstarter have now access to new features depending on their pledges. They can now choose a name for a monster for example. These monsters that will be randomly generated among other monsters will be a little different from the others (stronger for example).

Features


You also certainly saw that there are new features:

  • RSS flow on news
  • filters, options and possibilities to follow a topic on the forum


Next big feature will be the Forum Private Messaging system.

Monthly Dev Report

2014-10-01 Artistic, Development

Prototype


The construction prototype has been released 1 month ago and we’d like to thank you all for your constructions, critics and bug reports.

This month we have decided to put forward 6 of your constructions:

Backers Constructions
constructions de Mandrek, Dastan71, Wowman77 et Epsilon32


Dev


We focused our efforts on 2 of the most important parts of Planets³ : Multiplayer and rendering optimizations.

Multiplayer


Mick’s arrival enabled us to make progress regarding the multiplayer implementation of the game. We are also putting in substantial amount of efforts on the design and structure of our code.

Rendering


After spending several days of development, thinking, and investigation, we now know what we have to do in order to improve the rendering performance of the game. We even discussed our issues with experts on massive data rendering in french research laboratories (INRIA /CNRS) these last few weeks and they confirmed what we suspected : we have to satisfy some technical specifications.
Sadly Ogre, which is the rendering engine we are currently using, doesn’t allow us to satisfy those specifications efficiently. That’s why we have to replace it.

This was not foreseen and will have a substantial impact on the whole development roadmap.

Some answers to questions you might have:

  • Will this engine replacement have an impact on the release date of the Alpha?
    Yes, undeniably, this will postpone the release of the Alpha by several weeks.
    The Alpha will not be released in 2014.
  • Does this mean that there will be no new content in 2014?
    Perhaps there will be, we will try to release a “pre-alpha” version for Christmas. We hope to be able to include some “simple” multiplayer gameplay and perhaps a new gameplay feature. All of this using the new engine. This will depend on the time needed by the development team in order to integrate the new engine.
  • Have you already chosen the new engine?
    We are still evaluating some of them, and will keep you updated next month.


Our objective is to choose an engine which not only satisfies the rendering specifications we need but also will enable us to increase our productivity in the future (physics, AI, networking, and so on…). So it’s a bad news right now but it will be a great improvement for the project development in its globality.

Artistic note


The following schema represents the different zones of the first planet. The 5 zones on the surface are split up into 17 biomes, with each its topography, its wildlife, its dungeons, its constructions. In this picture we only disclose the topography of the biomes.

biomes

The red deer, the peacock and the squirrel are part of a long list of living beings which will inhabit each biome.

Animals

Web


Aside from the game development, you have certainly noticed that we keep updating our web tool:

  • you can now publish pictures of your constructions on the forum.
  • you can now rate posts and sort them by popularity
  • a new version of the “my account” page has been released, which is clearer, more practical and which will soon be improved with new functionalities (private messaging, web site/forum settings)
  • people who have supported us on Kickstarter and the 2 months after Kickstarter have now access to a new space where they can manage their rewards.

Monthly Dev report and More...

2014-09-01 Artistic, Development

Development


A fair share of our work is invisible for now, since it consist of engine improvement (world generation, rendering, differential saving, installation …). Even if it is still under development, we have reached a stable version.

The universe is currently composed of several static planets which are quite far from one another, so we decided to increase movement speed in space in order to make it easier to travel between them.

Planets³ - view from space

We added a little arrow above the pickup ghost in order to indicate in which direction the blocks are going to be removed, this is very useful to understand what is going to happen.

Pickup arrow

We implemented a new “block placement ghost”. It displays more clearly that the blocks can be rotated and which shortcut to use to change their orientation.

Block Placement Ghost

Since the press prototype release, we also put effort into the user interface, it now shows what the final user interface of the game will be.

Planets³ User Interface

Artistic note


The “Sculpting³” is really enjoyable each time you contemplate the result. Indeed a beautiful construction requires patience and a good deal of observation to judge the result every step of the way.

The new “block placement ghost” is of a great assistance to help carefully choose the right shape and orientation of each block (we have a thing about the tetrahedric block, don’t you?). Iterate over and over again is the key to realize the sculpture you dreamed of.



You have at your disposal a complete block palette of colored materials. The material choice is relatively arbitrary and doesn’t have much importance in the current creative mode.

Planets³ Inventory

The world generation is basic. The planets’ sculpture (vegetation, landscapes), the design of living beings, of constructions and so on… has been put aside for now.

The light dynamic is also basic (the planets being static). It will require some work to be adapted to the upcoming moving planets.

The world is made of materials which have each their own colored texture. On each block of a given material, this color varies randomly a little bit.In the future, a second layer of alternative textures will be added to paint the materials regarding their nature : woods, rocks, metals, fabrics, crafted materials, and so on...

Planets³ Biomes

The construction prototype


It’s the september’s “surprise”, we are proud to deliver a first version of the project : Planets³’s construction prototype.

This first release is not the Alpha version of the game. It’s the prototype version we gave to the press during the Kickstarter campaign with some improvements. We thought it would be nice for all of you, who have supported us, to finally be able to put your hands on something concrete, even if this prototype doesn’t reflect yet what the game will be.

Information on the game
It’s important for you to understand that your saved universes will very likely not be compatible with the future version of the game. Indeed, given the list of changes that will be made to the game in the coming months, the list of materials itself will not be valid anymore. But don’t let it stop you from sharing your most beautiful constructions !

The shortcut you have to know: F1. It displays main available shortcuts.

We also opened a “Prototype” forum section in order to discuss specifically this release (to report bugs or to discuss improvements you would like to have in the game).

Beware that this prototype is currently only available on Windows 64 bits.

Now it’s your turn!


All of you who have pre-ordered the game with an alpha access can go to their Planets³ web account and download the prototype.
Those of you who didn’t pre-order the alpha access on Kickstarter or on our website during the 2 months after Kickstarter can now upgrade their license to purchase the alpha access.

Everything happens here in your Planets³ web account:
https://www.planets-cube.com/my-account.html

First Monthly Dev report

2014-08-06 Development
Yes, it’s one week late, but we wanted to release the first monthly dev report with the new website.

Pickup Ghost


Today I would like to present you Planets³’s pickup ghost. As you may know in Planets³ the blocks are 25cm square, so we implemented tools that allow you to pick up multiple blocks at the same time. The following video will give you a preview of our work.



The pickup ghost shows you how many block you will remove at the surface, highlighting the corresponding block faces. But it also shows how many blocks you will remove below the surface.

Textures


This part was a hard one. On the concept presented on Kickstarter, we see all different kinds of textures. The sand and vegetation textures only use single colors, with some color variations. The textures of the trees have a pattern, lines to represent “wood material”. And the leaves are made of another pattern, a sort of green blur.

Today, after dozen of hours of reflection, multiples design in photoshop (pixel art, patterns with numbers, high-def textures …) and lot’s of in game tests we finally chose our way to draw materials in Planets³.
We will stay with single color textures, using color variations for each material (for example the sand could have 6 different yellows). But as we have a lot of different materials in Planets³, single color textures alone was not sufficient, so we decided to add some patterns and effects (with shaders) depending on the material “category”.
For example metals will shine but wood materials could have patterns.

We do have to finalize this work, so we won’t show you screenshots of these new textures today.

Engine improvements


During the last month we also improved the engine:

  • we did work on the multithreaded universe loading
  • we started to change the way we enlighten the planets
  • we changed the topology of the planets, to be more flat, and have less mountains but more abrupt. However the current result is still not definitive since we will have to modify the way planets are generated in order to stick to the concept arts of the planet you saw.

Miscs


  • we added shortcuts management
  • we modified the UI to reflect new design work
  • we added the possibility to change video options from within the game
  • we improved shadows to reduce flickering
  • we improved the support of OpenGL and Direct3D 11. Direct3D 11 support is still in progress but Direct3D 9 and OpenGL are fully operational.
  • we corrected other different bugs
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