Monday, August 17, 2015

The Home Stretch

Hey everyone it's time for another update on where we're at with launching our Kickstarter campaign. For those of you who have been staying up to date with our progress you will be aware that we filmed the live action portion of our Kickstarter campaign video back in June. It was the first time so many members of the team, 5 of us, were in the same location together and it was the first time most of us had met in person. Since then this summer has been a flurry of activity as we begin entering the final countdown for launch.

The in-engine portion of our campaign video has ~4-5 outstanding issues left to be fixed. This primarily includes tweaking particle effects and polishing up oceans a bit more. Once that's complete, hopefully within the next week or 2, our sound engineer Panu will do the final pass of the music and sound effects. Next month we will begin combining the live action and in-engine video footage to create our final series of Kickstarter videos (there will be more than 1). We will also be launching the Battlescape website which will include information on the plot surrounding the game as well as additional information regarding the environment, ships, weapons, etc.

Also next month we will be putting together our media materials, fan-site kits, and press releases. Yesterday (Sunday, August 15th, 2015) we had our 3rd team-wide playtest of the game and it's coming together quite nicely. While it's still largely a prototype at this stage I believe it represents a great sneak peak of where we want to take this game and the team spent a very enjoyable 3 hours playing it. Our current plan is to make the prototype available to members of the media during our Kickstarter campaign. We will be showing it off via a live twitch stream for everyone else and for those of you who pledge the early access tier you will be able to download the prototype at some point shortly after the campaign ends. If you are a member of the media and you would like to make sure you receive a copy of the prototype please contact us.

Until the Battlescape site is launched we're going to continue holding back the majority of our content, however we will likely provide the official launch date once it goes live. While most of our screen shots are of the same couple planets if you've been paying attention we've let drop some hints of the things to come. It's been a hell of a journey and once we pull back the curtain I'm confident all of you will agree we've built something incredibly unique an special - we can't wait!

Lastly here are some screen shots from the playtest:

Galaxy background is still a work in progress

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Kickstarter video has been filmed!

Hey everyone I'm happy to report that this last week Flavien and I flew to Helsinki to meet up with our sound engineer, Panu Aaltio, as well as one of our programmers, Kimmo Kotajarvi, to film our Kickstarter video. It was the first time I had seen Flavien in-person since 2010 and it was also the first time more than 2 team members had ever been in the same location at once! Unfortunately Flavien's luggage was misplaced by the airline and we started off our day of filming by getting him some new clothes.

Flavien looking for new clothes
Once Flavien had picked out some new clothes we headed to Panu's studio to begin filming. It's worth noting that up to this point Flavien had been working on the prototype for Infinity: Battlescape in complete secrecy. Nobody else on the dev team had seen it as we have all been working on the in-engine portion of our Kickstarter video which, even though they share assets, is actually a different "game". Originally he was going to show it to us earlier however he was so excited with the progress he was making he decided to wait until we met in-person in Helsinki for a big unveiling. When we arrived at Panu's studio Flavien took the wraps off of the Battlescape prototype and showed it to the team for the first time - needless to say we were all quite pleased with the result.

Seeing the Battlescape prototype for the first time
After spending some time with the prototype we began setting up for recording our video. A friend of Panu's who specializes in film assisted us with getting a green screen and 3 cameras. He was a tremendous amount of help during filming not only for his expertise but also as someone who knew little about our project and was able to provide unbiased feedback.

Our filming setup
Filming began with Flavien and I getting mic'd up followed by sound and camera tests.

Camera & sound test
Fortunately sound and video worked on our first try and to get warmed up we decided to start off with answering questions from Facebook and the forums. This ended up being a great idea as it took us some time to loosen up to the point where we felt comfortable on camera. After spending a few hours filming we broke for lunch and met up with Kimmo. Prior to flying to Helsinki we had written a script for our live action recording. Once filming began we quickly realized that the script was far too robotic and we began trying to record our video more as a casual conversation between Flavien and I. Kimmo became our impromptu director and was a tremendous help in making sure we covered all necessary topics and that we redid takes when appropriate. The day of our recording the weather was amazing and we took an hour long break in the evening to go on a hike.


All in all we spent about 9 hours on-site recording for a total of 80gb of footage. While there's still a tremendous amount of work to do in post-production we feel confident we got some great footage and we'll be able to put together a compelling video. The editing process is going to take some time but we can't wait to show all of you the finished product!

Our last day in Helsinki the weather was cold, windy, and rainy so we didn't get a lot of sight seeing in. One of our artists, Kristian Agren, who also lives in Finland stopped by and showed us around a Finnish art gallery but aside from that we mostly stayed inside and enjoyed some Finnish beer. We spent a lot of time playing the Battlescape prototype and discussing our plans for the Kickstarter. At one point Kimmo remarked "so, you guys are here, I guess we're actually doing this". I responded with "yeah, we're totally doing this".

Enjoying some brews while discussing Battlescape
Today the Battlescape prototype was unveiled to the team members who were unable to make it to Helsinki. We played our very first multiplayer match, which we also recorded, and I have to say even in these early stages it was a hell of a lot of fun. We have a lot of extra footage and we aren't exactly sure what we're going to do with it yet. Perhaps at some point we'll release a "making of" or "behind the scenes" video however in the meantime it'll go into the I-Novae Studios vault.

There's a lot of polish that still needs to be done before we can launch our Kickstarter however everything is starting to fall into place. We still aren't announcing an official release date just yet but as you can probably tell from all of this activity we're working hard to launch the campaign soon. I'm incredibly proud of the team and I think you all are really going to like what we have to show you. Our last night in Helsinki Flavien finally received his luggage. I took a picture that I believe perfectly captures our excitement as we progress toward launching this Kickstarter and making Battlescape a reality.

Last night in Helsinki at 1am Flavien gets his luggage

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Update on the status of the Kickstarter

Well it's been a little while since my last blog post so I figured I'd write an update for everyone. Naturally the thought on everybody's mind has been "when are you going to release your Kickstarter". We decided a while back to stop giving estimated release dates as the moment we miss them everybody starts yelling at us for being vaporware. That being said we are in fact trying to release it this year and, believe it or not, I think we're entering the home stretch.

If you've been actively following us you've probably noticed that over the last ~4 months we've started regularly releasing new screen shots and small videos every week. This has been the beginning of the gradual ramp up to the release of our Kickstarter campaign I mentioned a year ago. You may have also noticed that most of these content releases are devoid of ships or anything resembling gameplay. This is because we're keeping all of our new content a secret until we launch our Kickstarter campaign.

 Our Kickstarter campaign video is coming together quite nicely. As I am writing this I actually have it playing on repeat in the background and I can't begin to describe how excited the team and I are to show it to all of you. Nearly all of the animation work, with the exception of some tweaking and a few bugs, has been finished. We've done the initial pass for our audio and music. Currently we're integrating all of the particle effects, tweaking post-processing, doing a final pass on the audio, and getting ready to tackle a few remaining technical issues we need to wrap up.

We've written the script for the live action part of our campaign video which will include both Flavien and I speaking. I'll be flying out to Europe sometime in June for the actual filming which will be the first time Flavien and I have met in-person since spring of 2010! The entire video should come in at ~10 minutes and we'll have some additional smaller videos that we'll release throughout our 30 day campaign.

I had mentioned previously that our goal was to release an interactive demo prior to the launch of the Kickstarter campaign. Due to time constraints we've decided we're no longer going to be able to do that. Instead we're planning to do a live Twitch session with Flavien playing a prototype of the game during the Kickstarter. Lastly we're almost done finalizing all of our reward tiers and we'll be releasing a list of them soon for the community to review. We're trying to stick to digital rewards as much as possible however at the higher end reward tiers we do have some plans to make physical goods available.

It's been a long time coming but we're almost there and we can't wait to show everyone what we've been working on!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

How we Take Screen Shots

Today's blog post will actually be a guest post from one of our artists, Dan Hutchings (@HutchingsINovae), about the process he goes through when creating our screen shots. Dan has taken some stunningly beautiful screen shots with the I-Novae Engine and without further ado I'll pass the podium to him:

"This week I’ve decided to share a bit about the screenshot taking process and provide some behind the scenes insight on the state of the engine. The I-Novae engine is becoming quite user friendly, the tools allow one to control the visual mood and tone of a scene without having to make calculations or adjust code, which is great for a free flowing artistic process.

A screenshot can look quite different just by adjusting the star’s temperature (which translates to colour) from red dwarfs to blue giants. Once a nice view has been selected for capture I can begin tweaking the scene settings to find something that looks appealing. Lower temperatures give reds and oranges whereas higher temperatures produce lovely blues and whites. Personally I prefer the purple sunsets and blue hues.

I control the visual depth of the image by adjusting atmospheric scattering such as density, thickness, and refraction to produce a thick haze or thin veil of an atmosphere. The ambiance of the shot is further modified by toggling the oceans; I can capture a barren dry landscape with a glowing red giant or a frozen, water-less, irradiated world quietly orbiting a white dwarf star. A lot of character and back-story can creep into a shot as it develops.

Now that the general mood has been established it’s time to hone in on the details. Too many stars in the sky? That can be resolved by changing the location of the system within its galaxy. Moving out of the galaxy will reduce the number of visible stars in the shot whereas moving it near the galactic center will fill the sky with points of light. Each star you see represents another solar system in the galaxy, I could fly there if I had the time, however I’ll wait for FTL drives to be integrated before attempting that stunt.

Currently our clouds are low resolution, two dimensional, static, and lack variation. They’re only experimental and the final solution is still under development as a low priority feature. Despite these limitations I manage to pull off some spectacular shots from ground level where they don’t look as bad.

We have received many questions surrounding the future of clouds and whether or not they’ll be a feature in Battlescape. We do want to see volumetric clouds in the engine as well as lush vegetation covering our planets - and more! The current issue is time. Core features come first and beauty treatments are lower priority for now.

There are still many engine features that our current set of (public) screenshots haven’t shown along with an array of game content yet to be published. As the remaining features are integrated and polished, and once they’re ready for showcase, you can be sure to see them featured in future postings.

Taking these weekly screenshots has become a “spare time” task of mine. I enjoy searching for great shots that demonstrate what the I-Novae planetary engine can produce. I love creating the images and I get to enjoy reading the comments once they've been published ;) Let me know what you like or even what you’d like to see more of in the future!


Monday, January 26, 2015

Musings of an Independent Game Developer

Being an independent game developer is easily one of the greatest challenges I, and I think probably most everyone on the I-Novae team, have ever undertaken. Many members of the dev team have been working for close to 10 years on this company and to our great astonishment some community members have stuck around with us for about that long as well. Independent game development is, in many regards, a beautiful and rewarding thing. We have ultimate creative freedom and everything we've been doing over the last decade has been in pursuit of our collective dream game. That being said there are many times where it has felt like a 10 year death march. While people are generally supportive of our endeavor we occasionally get comments like this one:

When I see comments like the one by @IGeennn I'm always slightly amused. As it turns out I was wondering the exact same thing but in the reverse - what has taken you so long to build your own planetary tech and release a game? Please hurry up because, frankly, I'm tired and would prefer it if you could just do it for me. As of the time of this writing the I-Novae team consists of 11 people working in various capacities. In the last 10 years we have collectively invested, through both money spent as well as lost wages due to working full-time unpaid, over a million dollars. During that period of time we have also received exactly 0 return on that investment. Ten years, over a million dollars, and 0 return - ouch.

We've nearly closed investment more times than I can count. We've signed licensing partnerships with companies only to watch them go out of business when their publisher went belly up and stopped paying them royalties on the games they'd already shipped. We've also nearly sold the company on multiple occasions. The high's have been high and the low's have been low. Most everybody on the team has struggled with depression in some form at some point - yet we keep chugging along.

The team is working as hard as they can to finish the Kickstarter campaign as soon as possible. Our campaign video is really coming together nicely, the excitement surrounding it amongst members of the dev team is palpable, however none of us have any idea if our Kickstarter campaign will succeed. Half a million dollars is an ambitious goal and we really haven't even discussed what we'll do if it fails. It's equal parts terrifying and thrilling to know that, after so long, we will soon release our tech to the public and we have no idea how it will be received. It's possible we may never have a return on the investment we've made in this company. It's possible that the best we can ever hope for is to move the medium forward in some small way. None of us started this journey to get rich. We started it to pursue a dream, to build the game that captured our imagination as kids, to conquer the cosmos.

We're approaching, in some form, a culmination of that effort. Hopefully there will be many more culminations to come. We'll keep chugging along, doing the best that we can, and let the cards fall as they may. Every day I'm humbled and amazed we've been able to assemble a team of such dedicated and talented people who've stuck together for so long. However this journey turns out it has been an honor to work with each and every one of them.

So there it is, that's independent game development. You're probably better off just inventing snapchat or some app that lets people pretend to drink beer. You'll finish it in a fraction of the time and sell it for a billion dollars.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Hey everyone, merry Christmas, it's time for another update! For starters a lot has happened since GDC last spring and you may recall us saying something about a “planetary rings” video. This video was originally meant to be the last video we release before launching our Kickstarter (KS). Previously we were hoping to release that video and launch our Kickstarter before the end of the summer and, well, things didn’t quite work out that way. That’s primarily due to the usual culprit: most of us are working in our spare time which makes it difficult to estimate timelines because things come up with health, jobs, and other general life type things.

Recently we’ve had a lot of internal discussion about publicly providing timelines. We frequently miss them and people get angry and call us vaporware. Thus we’ve decided we will no longer provide exact timelines for the release of new content. From now on you will just hear “it’s done when it’s done”. To that end we are obviously not going to be launching our Kickstarter this year. While I’m not going to provide a new timeline I can tell you we will continue to work diligently to release it as soon as possible and as of this exact moment in time everything is really starting to come together.
What does “coming together” mean? For starters we have all of the animations and shots for our Kickstarter video mocked up in-engine. Accomplishing this was dependent on numerous art assets, engine features, and of course the creation of the actual animation curves. Most of our materials are finished and half of our art team has moved on to fun things like lighting and particles/effects. We still have a tremendous amount of polishing left to do however all of this stuff we’ve been talking about for months is finally starting to come alive.

On the engine side we’re wrapping up the last of the major features we wanted to get done for the KS campaign. Early in the year we had another programmer, Kimmo Kotajarvi, join the team and we’ve spent a significant amount of time working on tools, art pipeline, particles, cross platform support, optimization, and HDR. You may be surprised to see HDR on that list as I wrote a blog post about our HDR solution a couple of years ago. Previously we were doing what most games do with regard to lighting by using realistic “ratios” of light instead of realistic “quantities”. Late last spring we decided to finally switch our lighting pipeline over to realistic quantities of light so we could really show the impact that stars of various intensities have on objects in space.

So, without providing a timeline, where does that leave us? The team is beginning to move over to the polish phase. There will be a lot of tweaking things such as animation, lighting, and post-processing. We still need to record the audio, write the script for the live-action portion of our Kickstarter campaign video, nail down all of our stretch goals, launch the Battlescape website, and put together our marketing materials for the month that our KS will be running. In other words there’s still a lot to do but the good news is that most of it has to do with running a good KS campaign.

While we’re still committed to our plan of keeping most of our new content under wraps until we launch our KS campaign we will be releasing new content mostly in the form of art and/or screenshots. If you’ve been following us on Twitter, G+, or Facebook, you should have already seen some of this content coming out already. Overall we’re very excited as we move into 2015, while launching this KS has taken a bit longer than we originally hoped we’re confident most of you will be pleased with the results!

Here are some fresh screen shots including a few teasers of the new content you will see in our final Kickstarter campaign video:







Monday, March 17, 2014

Update as I Head to GDC 2014

Stars at sunset
Wow I can't believe it's already time for GDC. I fly out to San Francisco tomorrow morning so if you're going to be at GDC and you want to meet up please let me know via twitter! It's been a whole month since I quit my day job to work on I-Novae full-time (again) and it's been a whirlwind of activity. Flavien has been working on putting the finishing touches on our new particle engine and I've been working on tools for our art team to improve their workflow. Originally we were hoping to have launched our Kickstarter by now and unfortunately that isn't going to happen. While our campaign video is really starting to come together, we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, it isn't quite ready yet. Specifically:

  1. The art team is putting the finishing touches on the assets for the video. One in particular is taking a significant amount of time but I don't want to divulge too many details because we're keeping it a surprise for the Kickstarter video. In fact we're keeping almost all of the art assets a secret right now which is hard to do because they look great and we can't wait to show everyone!
  2. Our Kickstarter video has been mocked up but we're still tweaking the camera shots and the pacing. It's amazing how much time this takes.
  3. There are still a couple of engine level things we're finishing up. The biggest item on the engine todo list is re-integration of planetary rings. We hope to have that done by the end of next week which will allow us to then focus on polish/shipping.
  4. We have to finalize music and sound fx.
  5. The scripts for our Kickstarter videos still need to be written.
  6. The Battlescape website still needs to be built which will include information on the factions, ships, and an overview of the weapons that will be in the game.
  7. We have to finalize all of our pledge tiers
  8. Lastly we have to write press releases and get all of our marketing materials ready.
A view of Infinity

Like I've stated before we're planning on releasing one more video before we launch our Kickstarter. If we can finish that by the end of this month, which we've been crunching really hard to do, then we're going to be aiming at launching our Kickstarter towards the end of May or early June. If it looks like we're going to slip again then I'm likely going to start cutting scenes from the Kickstarter video until we arrive at something we can ship. Sometimes I think we're a little too obsessed with perfection.

In the meantime I've attached some new screen shots to this blog post. Please head to our forums and let us know what you think - they're honestly the best way to stay up to date with our progress and the various members of the team check them daily. As always we greatly appreciate your support and we can't wait to get this Kickstarter out the door!

That's a big sun