6 December 2015

Bleak Devlog 06-12-15

Final update before everything that's been worked on thus far is handed in for Christmas.

So here's the last minute mechanical additions to BLEAK.

Power, as a resource has been added. It works a little bit different to the other resources as it's not produced regularly, instead being produced in one lump sum when the building is created. That total is then subtracted from by any power-producing buildings (currently only the Brickworks, but that's going to change after Christmas) and the remainder is sold on to the BLEAKverse equivalent of the National Grid. Power currently has a value of 5 Currencies for every nebulously-defined unit, so right now it's not a particularly useful money making idea, given that the only implementation thus far of a power producing building is:
A solar array, it's small, produces one whole power, and probably isn't very good value. It's got an upkeep cost of 4, meaning that you're only getting 2 currencies back from it.

What? It's a Solar Cell, in England. What did you expect it to do. The solar arrays inefficiency is also down in part to certain hallmarks of the dystopian genre, Solar just isn't grim enough. It's too clean and harmless. Coal, Gas and Nuclear is where it's at in the Cyberpunk Dystopia's BLEAK takes its inspiration from.

Here's an example of how the solar array looks in the two lighting states. I know the shadow is super low resolution, but you're never going to be playing at this zoom level, so it's okay.

And here's a gratuitous shot of a settlement, with a meagre turnover, and no power surplus.

5 December 2015

Bleak Devlog 5-12-15

So yeah, as mentioned in the previous devlog, today is about the creative process behind making assets. The example for this will be the Housing Department, the 'manager' building for the generic population type.

This is a building in my hometown, which although it's freely available online, I've felt the need to pixelate out any identifying marks on the photo, for as much good it'll do. Why this building though? Well, it's familiar to me, and looking at it, you've got to agree that it's drab office exterior is perfectly generic for the purpose we need it for.

Google Maps shows us that the building's an L shape, so let's work with that.
It's basic, and servicable, but one of the narrative themes for BLEAK is that everything that's happened, when it happened in the BLEAKverse, it was bigger, badder and just generally more. So let's bring that into the visual design. What's better than an L? Well I'd say a U shaped building, since it'd have another wing, and the benefit of the courtyard being enclosed, with the two wings looming over it.

So let's see how that'd work.

Well, that looks better, doesn't it! This design also has the added benefit of making more efficient use of the 30x40m footprint I've given it. Whilst stranger, tetris piece shaped buildings is something that I'd love to have done, to implement it now is much more work than I'd feel comfortable undertaking.

And here's what the 'final' design looks like:

Not much changed from the sketch, other than the addition of a courtyard area, which eventually got filled by a pointless statue, because oh lord do I love the concept of these kind of Plop Art decorations

2 December 2015

Sneak Peek #2 - 2-12-15

I lied about the next update being a look into my creative process, here's an impromptu Video!


Bleak Devlog 2/12/15

Fair amount of work has been done since the last update. In no particular order, here's the big changes

Primary control of the camera has been switched from WASD keys to the Keyboard Arrow Keys. Whilst WASD is more common for control schemes, this switch frees up the QWERTY key line for hotkeys.

Hotkeys you say? Why does Bleak need hotkeys all of a sudden?

Because gone is the old buildings area of the UI, instead now replaced by this smaller, lighter, brighter, more adjective-y Contextual area. Contextual in the sense that it changes depending on what building in the game scene the player last clicked, to take a leaf out of Starcraft's book. The different panels can also be accessed from the QWERTY keys, providing the contextual building has been built at least once.

To help sell the mood in the upcoming private alpha, I've added a tentative musical track, which can be listened to here. Music fans might be able to recognise this as a portion of Holst's Jupiter Movement. For the purposes of BLEAK however, it's been slowed down 50% to turn this recognisable, patriotic tune into something quite redolent and sinister. It captures the mood of the game quite well, and suits as a useful track to convey what I'm looking for in a main track.

The map selection screen got an update, it's now got another side that details what the player's going to expect on the other side of this screen. It's just got the one map, and I don't think there'll be any others for the hand in, so there's an element of fiction to this screen, but it's helping to convey what I want to get across.

And finally, I'm proud to announce that the generic buildings no longer include any temporary greyboxes, although that's not to say that what they do have are the finished assets.

Next devlog: A glimpse into the creative process behind Bleak.

26 November 2015

Bleak Devlog 26/11/2015

Today, not a lot got implemented. But that's not to say I didn't do anything. Today I'd like to talk a little about what has been implemented since the last devlog, and about the smaller inspirations for BLEAK.

The above screenshot is from Mohawk Games' product, Offworld Trading Company. This game was the main seed for the aesthetics from a gameplay perspective, with the works of L.S. Lowry providing inspiration for details and overall feel.

For the parts of the game where information needs to be given to the player, one of my intentions is to use the grinding, impersonal language seen in corporate and legal missives, such as this example taken from Google:
There's something about the language that's perfectly suited to the genre and to not capitalise on that would be a mistake. 

There has however been a minor graphical addition, in preperation for a feature that will be implemented sometime soon. Power Generation and use is a hallmark of the genre, and a fairly large aspect of modern infrastructure. Tying into the precedent of there being vehicles, but no requirement for roads, power as a requirement will be present in BLEAK, but power lines will not exist as requirement to utilise that power.

The issue is that they're still a staple of the english countryside, as the above image will attest. That image is of the winning concept in the National Grid's [year] design competition to design the replacement for the tradtional lattice pylon. Whilst an argument could be made for the pylons in BLEAK to stick to the traditional design, for the retro-futurism kick, I think a blend of the two designs will be the most interesting overall.

To that end, here's the pylons in game in all of their set dressing glory:

The underslung cables are a little hard to see, so they'll need to be thickened in Maya, but they'll do for now I guess :D

24 November 2015

Bleak Devlog 24/11/2015 - Numbers and Graphs

Very sparse in terms of actual game content today. Sorry!

But that doesn't mean that it's not an important. Lots of number crunching to come up with tentative values for all the goods and items available to the player.

However, there is one addition in the form of this beautiful thing:

Who doesn't love the idea of ruining someone's pastoral idyll through the use of a superheavy crawler. This is how the game starts, mechanics wise. Pick a spot, and your trusty behemoth with level anything in its way until it reaches its position and dumps the start of your dystopian empire down on the ground.

The farms are going to be remodelled, to keep more in line with the twee british idyll of the starting point.

Other additions include:

Tenement buildings have five variants that are randomly chosen when they're built

The game now supports negative height buildings, such as this claypit

There's a trade system, where you sell your crafted goods in return for raw materials.

The final deadline for this alpha version is the 7th of December, so brace yourself for a flurry of activity as I cover all of the bases in regards to the criteria I have to meet.

3 November 2015

Devlog 03/11/2015

Oh boy do I have a bumper update for you all today. My apologies for not updating this sooner than now.

Recently added is a main menu screen. the buttons are mainly for proof of concept reasons, and the underlying systems may be too work intensive to warrant creating for the May degree show.

Going forward, this map selection screen will remain for aesthetic purposes, with my follow-up goal being semi-procedural maps using UK Ordinance Survey data. This is incredibly long term and will probably not be in the May release of Bleak.

A minor addition to the buildings now allows you to do this, which is pointless, but it's fun to push the tiny people around, and at its heart, that's what BLEAK's about. Making life for your citizens as hard as possible, for whatever reason you want. In addition, everything's now aligned on a 10m grid, and buildings turn red if they cannot be placed, for reasons such as insufficient space, funds, resources and population. Later iterations will have a UI element to detail what's missing.

Some small steps have been made in terms of aesthetics, emission maps have been added, along with the shift to HDR rendering with a bloom image effect, the tilt shift's been increased but that's up for debate and finally, two greyboxes have been replaced with tentative final versions, the starting tier farm, and a claypit. The claypit was finished today, and on thursday it'll probably be made more shallow, to look more like a hole and less of a hollowed mesa.

And under the hood, changes have been made to the interactions between buildings and their relevant managers. Instead of the old system where the manager produced resources on occasion in numbers based on how many relevant buildings are present in the scene, the new system has the individual buildings running themselves, updating the manager on their own time. This has the benefit of making income and resource changes more responsive.

19 October 2015

Devlog 19/10/2015

Sorry for the lack of an update last week. Small bits of additions and iterations here and there since then, and I didn't feel that the state the game was in last week was enough of an update to warrant posting.

So what's changed?

I've ditched the free-placement nature of the game. Everything now sits on a 10m x 10m grid. This was down to user feedback, saying that without more intricate systems in place, the lack of finesse would be irritating. Also added is a Minimap, as seen in bottom left. Moving the camera through clicking on the map is a feature I would like, but I'm not sure is entirely needed.

Population buildings now drain food resources, it's balanced so that it's 1:1 in terms of production to consumption, but that slowly raises Discontent (the tiny red face at the bottom left). Depending on balance, it might get bumped up so that one farm can support two buildings.

Shadows got fixed, they're now much more solid and have a much higher draw distance. If this proves to be a big performance hit, I'll have another look at it and readjust.

The terrace got remodelled, which can be viewed here

Next up for remodelling is the farm, which is going to look more recognisable once it's done, as well as have a larger footprint.

And for the longer term is this, which is a hastily written flowchart for an alternate way of placing buildings, which might remove some issues that currently exist in the game.

Anyone got any critiques, comments, cash payments?

9 October 2015

Bleak Devlog 9-10-15

This GIF isn't uploading to Blogger at all, so here's a link to it.

Not a lot to show off this week, it's mostly been a case of writing design documents and Art Bibles. I'm pitching BLEAK to my University course staff next Monday, and after that I can really knuckle down and get mechanics implemented and working.

Right now though here's what's been done this week. The camera's been replaced with an Orthographic camera, which will need a lot of tweaking to look better, but I feel adds a much better look to the game, and lets people get a hell of a lot closer to the models.

Also being shown is the expansions to the building production system. It's slowly going to be expanded upon with more and more buildings. Currently implemented is the Basic food production (The small blue-tarped building) and the Building Component factory (the big white placeholder) These both have purposes as production buildings. Next up is giving the tenement building a use, and wiring that back into the other buildings.

29 September 2015

Bleak Devlog 29/09/2015

Today was mostly spent expanding on the ability to place buildings.

You can now select a chosen building using the buttons on the lower portion of the screen. Scale and size will be reworked later on in the project.

however the implementation as it is does have its fair share of issues, like being able to destroy the terrain freely,

and being able to place buildings on top of buildings, on top of buildings etcetera

Bleak Devlog 29/09/2015

This project isn't dead, I swear

Now that’s got your attention, let’s get down to it.

Updates stopped for about two months, and there’s a reason for this. I Uni late august and before and after then I was either packing up or settling back down. Now I’m back and working on this four days a week because this is my third year project as well as a passion project.

Since work redoubled on this, the following things have happened:

Bleak’s Game Design Document hit both two thousand words and ten pages. Still relatively detail-light but writing’s still ongoing.

I fixed a nasty camera issue that had been confounding me for a number of weeks.

I consolidated the manufacturing and truck demos together, and fixed the building placement issue. Next up is adding building colliders to stop people overlapping buildings on top of each other

I also started throwing together more concepts for UI. It’s not going to really go any further than this until I do the visuals after Christmas, but it’s always good to keep ideas flowing.

And I’m going to start doing some spotlights on the separate population groups, what they do, and how you win using them. This’ll start tomorrow, with the normal, run-of-the-mill Worker.

30 July 2015

Devlog - 30/05/2015

Okay. So a little bit of a longer Devlog this time around. I've decided to slow them down a little so that there's actually more to show in an attempt to spark conversation.

I implemented the mouse interacting with the gameworld, to a minor extent. If I want to continue this way around I'm going to have to rethink things in terms of how the gameworld actually fits together. I had intended for the player to be able to place buildings free form in the game world, but will have to maybe revert to a more traditional grid system.

Also billowing smoke in the middle of the terrace is a modified version of the truck I've used so much of. They're going to be worked on a lot more, and I'm going to have to watch Mad Max: Fury Road for better inspiration, because that's going to be the vehicle of choice for the many many bandits and raiders attacking your export trucks leaving your settlement.

Something else I've added is the ability to pan the camera around a central pivot. I need to work on it a little more as it doesn't actually adjust how the camera moves around the world, meaning that edge scrolling and the WASD keys don't move the camera in the direction you'd expect.

I've also written up some more of the late-game ideas and features I want to implement.


Discontent is  used to facilitate growth and building of structures. Discontent is a percentage scale from 0-100%. Intervals of 10-20% add new penalties to the game world, ranging from increased resource use to lower production. A discontent score of 100% is one of the games fail states. Discontent rises with certain things. Some buildings will provide a service whilst raising discontent, high populations will raise discontent, having low to no food stored will raise discontent. The Discontent mechanic exists to curb building beyond the limits of the money system, as building up too quickly will cause your citizens to riot. However some buildings like the Propaganda Centre and the Documentary Studio have higher outputs if operating under high levels of discontent.

Panoptic Nexus

The ‘city hall’ of the Bleak world. The starting point of every city. The Panoptic Nexus is situated in the centre of the map, and grows and develops with each and every profit milestone. Upgrading the Nexus unlocks new edicts, which bolster and change how other buildings and features work.


akin to the milestone unlocks in Cities skylines, but instead of based on population, they’re based on currency, either in terms of profit, or balance. Per trade Profit makes more sense as balance can be idled and cheated


Edicts are similar to the feature in Tropico which shares its name. Edicts are a way for the player to customise your settlements code of laws, for fun and mostly profit.

Populational Needs

the pairs of diametrically opposed groups both have maslovian pyramids, however one of them is markedly more complex than the other.
(Science > Luddite) (Criminal > Prisoner) (worker > Unemployed)
The less complicated side to the pair does not have a victory state assigned to it, although the victory state of the more complicated side of the pair can only be achieved late in the game, and requires a lot of resources and capital to be invested.

Gameplay Tiers.

Gameplay is broken into three tiers. The first tier is where the game starts, providing the player with a basic set up that will keep a small population stable for a reasonable amount of time. However the player will have to expand and grow the settlement as currently it will not be profitable. In addition their population will grow slowly, accelerating during migration waves. This means the player will have to expand infrastructure to support their burgeoning population.

This leads into the second tier. At this point the player will have some form of export base, and will at least be breaking even. This tier opens up more production options, including the second stages of many production lines. However at this point, the discontent mechanic comes into play. The player then has to expand on infrastructure further, to ensure that the settlement doesn’t riot and tear itself apart. Additionally the player can now begin to specialise their settlement through focusing on specific population groups and passing specific edicts. Once the player has placated the population enough that immediate riots are no longer an issue, the game opens up into its final tier of play.

The third tier greatly expands on the population groups, with three of the six having victory conditions, the opposite three being without, but to make up for that they’re simpler and require less ‘upkeep’ choosing one or more of those three allow the player to focus on alternate win conditions through the contracts system.

25 July 2015

Bleak Devlog 25/07/2015

Some concepts for the start screen and the in-game user-Interface

23 July 2015

Bleak Devlog | 23/07/2015

Used the Terrace model to map out a generic Victorian suburb, which i'll keep coming back to and expanding out as needs be. I'll probably return to the model and tweak colours on it, really push the idea that these buildings are old and uninhabitable.

Broke ground on placing buildings physically in the gameworld. It's going to need a lot more work, but it's a start. Next up is getting to appear closer to the actual cursor, and destroy any of the terraces it clips into. Then once that's sorted out, I'll maybe redesign the tower, break it up into several tiers, and animate its construction.

22 July 2015

Devlog 22/07/2015

Today I worked on Particles and rockets.

firstly there's this. It's a dust cloud. My intent for this is a bit of visual flair when placing or demolishing buildings. The Tenement model is going to get roughed up and made a bit more grungy, and it's going to litter the map in lines and blocks, suggesting the remains of a blasted and windswept Victorian suburb. I might give them a tangible game play value and have them give the player small amounts of resources when they're destroyed, like urban reclamation.

ROCKETS! The chosen epoch for inspiration firmly contains the Apollo program, which certainly had its influence on the sci-fi genre. The ICARUS ( Working Title) Rocket will be used as a medium-game building to ferry goods and materials to and from a lunar base, which I'd like to expand as far as another settlement, but I'm probably going to avoid that now thanks to Anno 2205's announcement. Both these examples are barebones and not particularly detailed, but will be worked on in further iterations.

21 July 2015

Bleak Devlog 20/07/2015

It's been a fair while since I've done one of these, but not because I've been slacking.


First thing is this, which I realise looks like nothing in particular at all. At the time I intended it to be the start of a modular Fence model. The animation being an example of how I envision building construction to look like in BLEAK. Other games have gone for the realistic 'scaffolding goes up and the building's slowly constructed' and whilst it works, it's usually quite benign visually, and kinda boring. The inspiration for this sort of fluid, unfolding is the game Offworld Trading Company has intricate, detailed animations for its buildings, shown here. I'm also of a mind to try something like this because animating in this style seems relatively easy, and it's another string to my bow.

Second is this, a test of both the Day/Night cycle, how the Land rover 109 inspired vehicle deals with being controlled as a Navmesh Agent, and how the individual component handle the games Timespeed being adjusted. Apart from a few things that might need working out, everything seems to work fine with adjusted speeds.
This is an animation test of a building. All the animations as of yet that are implemented are done within Unity through scripting.

A closeup of the building in question, a Protein Farm, the backbone of any food-producing colony. Where the protein comes from? Watch Snowpiercer.

Finally, showing off an RTS camera I shamelessly stole from the Unity Forums. I'll work with it, add a few features I need, but mostly this is exactly what I need.
And that concludes the GIF portion of this Devlog. Now here's a bunch of images.
 Left, a terribly Gamma'd render of the finalised version of the Sci-Fi 109, in-unity on the right.

Left, the in-progress version of a building that will feature heavily in BLEAK, the Panoptic Nexus. Currently the Nexus is a carbon copy of the BT tower, but later iterations will tweak and adjust the design

Left, the Protein rack object, and the storage barrel taken from within Maya, Right is the Storage Barrel rendered in Unity.

Work in progress 109 heavy haulage variant, knocked out from model to in-unity in a day, even including a horrible crash to desktop thanks to Maya.

A variant I was toying around with of the 109, which I think would fill the same niche that the Sinclair C5 would have had.

The heavy haulage 109 in unity, shown in both day and night lighting. The underside lighting on the night scene was a side effect of how I was creating the Day/Night cycle, which has since been fixed.

A screenshot from Unity, showing a Terrace building model, the two variants on the 109, a place holder person model, and the storage barrel. This was to gauge if the visual style of the game was working at this early stage. Minor tweaks were made to the albedo colour of the Terrace, and I've noted the accidental uptake of a colour scheme that strongly features contrasting orange and blue.