Another round of playtesting on Monday gave me the feedback I needed to build out my plan of progression. In this newest development build, I’ve built out the game’s mechanics and aesthetics – this post will focus on the aesthetics of the game, including a nearly-finished first visual pass, some animations, and early sound.

Above is my first video showcasing the world of Aetherus. We see the world from the player’s perspective, and how the atmosphere feels.

Normally, Aetherus is a world of open air, of freedom, of mysticality and of magic. However, the Malevolence’s corruption has tainted these characteristics, turning open air and freedom into a haze of choking shadows, mysticality and magic into suspense and fear.

What was once a sunny, magical island above the clouds is now a clouded, darkened isle.

The darkness is only broken up by the glowing light of the island’s magical constructs. This myriad of towers scattered across the island host powerful crystals that channel the Auria, shaping them into destructive forms of magic against anything that is deemed a threat.

The towers of Ionar. Within these towers are Aesarean power crystals, instruments of energy that allow the wielder to channel the Auria into or at anything they wish.

As the original architects of these towers, the Vara are intrinsically linked with these constructs and the crystals within. Using their spiritual link through the Auria, they can direct the crystals, commanding them as defensive weapons. In the final build, all of these towers will begin dormant – dark and devoid of energy. With enough Auria, the player will be able to bring these towers to life, and use them as a line of defense against the onslaught of corruption.

All Aesarean structures reflect their magical architecture in their blue, Auria-infused constructs. Bridges, shrines, and towers alike host these moving crystalline constructions.

Aesthetics are far from complete. Sound and visual effects are a major part of any game, and the current build of the game only includes footsteps. In the final version, I want to showcase Aetherus’ magic through soundscapes and animations – magical, glowing particle effects around certain structures, rings of power around buffed towers or the player, smooth trails of magic as towers fire energy projectiles at enemies. 

The beginnings of the cave system. Though darkness is a key part of the level’s aesthetics, vision in this area is a bit too obscured, and will be adjusted in the future.

Existing areas and structures, too, are still missing key components. The upper level of the map still needs texturing, and many of the unique shrines lack the Aesarean flair that the other structures have. The darkness of the level requires special visual effects to make these structures stand out – without them, the player will have a difficult time discerning them from the darkness in the distance when activated. While dormant, I think it’s good if these structures aren’t immediately recognizable – a key part of the game is exploring the map and finding new areas or items, after all, and letting players roam the darkness and stumble upon a new structure or two would be an interesting part of gameplay.

The mine entrance and the forge structures still lack visual flair. Without crystals, flames, or lighting, nothing makes these structures stand out in the darkness. However, while dormant, these structures will remain dark. It is up to the player to locate and activate these places.

I’ve also spent tireless hours this week working on the systems and mechanics within the game. The wave system, including random bridge selection and scaling wave size, and enemy navigation. However, as is typical of code, there have been issues. The scale of the game and the systems within it require a lot of code – in order to make my work a bit less stressful and easier to debug, I’ve been writing my code modularly, dividing code into a multitude of scripts, each of which deal with specific systems or parts of the game. Some scripts act as object reference libraries for other scripts. Others manage just projectile behavior. Enemy AI and pathfinding so far have been working fine, apart from some unusual interactions with the navigation mesh. The wave system also experienced few issues. However, I’ve only just scratched the surface with player attacking and the tower system; there are collider detection issues with player attacks, and the towers, while they would detect enemies, would detect them too late. Projectile behavior is also in its infancy and, in the current build, inactive.

The foundations of the wave system are mostly complete. However, I still need to work on enemy AI – an important part of the game – and further wave/enemy-related components.

Priority one for me as I continue development is to finish level aesthetics, interaction, animations, visual effects, and sound, due to external requirements. Once I’ve met these requirements and the development of this game is no longer tied to anything outside of personal goals, I’ll begin working on game mechanics and systems.

This closes out this arc of development updates. If I have the time to continue working on this project once the primary deadline is past, I’ll start another round of posts right here in my blog, as usual. Stay tuned for more!

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