March / April 2020 Newsletter
Welcome to the 2nd Ecosystem newsletter! As well as some behind-the scenes bug fixing and plenty of polish, there’s quite a few things to share from recent development this time round – including what Tom’s been working on in terms of a realistic fluid simulation, a more natural system for the plant life, and the finalisation of work on the terrain editor.
The full game will have a far more advanced terrain editing system than currently exists in the demo. There will be extensive options for the easy generation of complex terrain, and the results can be very pretty. The short video below shows a glimpse of the potential of some of these new features.
The system allows large-scale base parameters for the beginning of your game such as the jaggedness of the terrain, different soil types, if it’s flat or mountainous, and lots more besides. The idea is that you can quickly make an ocean of your choosing, then edit it further manually. It’s easy to create reefs, lakes, beaches, cliffs, or even if you want to go a little further off the deep end (pun absolutely intended) alien-looking environments.
A lot of the most recent work has involved the creation of a fluid simulation. In a real-world ocean environment, the flow of currents is a vital transportation system for everything that breathes life into it.
Tom has recently been been working on a full current system, which will affect many aspects of the game. For those interested in the technical details, the new fluid sim uses a kind of Lattice Boltzmann method that accurately models the way a current flows around terrain. Plankton and eggs that creatures lay can now float in the current and be transported by it. It will also affect the distribution of nutrients, and the direction from which creatures can pick up the scent of them. In the below video the small blue lines (which are an optional visual) indicate the direction of current around a boulder .
The demo has fairly artificial-feeling nursery system, in that the game senses a U-shaped cove in the terrain and creates one, but they’re all as good as each other. However, in the new system, a cove really will catch eggs and plant seeds (more on that in the next section) and they will be affected by the flow of water over and around them, as dictated by the fluid sim.
Plant Growth and Decay
Although plant life is not the focus of the game, the drive to make the whole environment feel like a unified, breathing ecosystem where everything is affected by everything else means that Tom has begun to work on a more involved system for plant growth. In the demo, once plants are placed they are static and do not respond to outside influence.
With the currently in-progress system, they will spread out across suitable terrain. They have their own preferences for light, soil, crowding and nutrients. If they’re healthy they will release seeds (which can be swept along in the currents, and deposited far from the parent), or if things are not to their liking they can become ill. It’s worth noting that plants will not evolve (the creatures are the evolutionary aspect of the game) but combined with everything else, they are now connected in a much more fully-featured Ecosystem. It gives more space for creatures to find evolutionary niches, and there’s no doubt some of them will be surprising.
The Real World Situation
It would seem strange to write a newsletter potentially read by lots of people and not mention the current crisis going on in the world. We hope you and your families are staying safe in your homes, and let’s all remember to be considerate to those around us whilst this virus passes. Play some games, stay in touch with your loved ones, and above all be kind to yourself and everyone.