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Wow, the YouTube video was released in November. How have I never seen it before? I've probably watched it three times in the past hour. It's an absolutely amazing production. What was the budget for this?
Indie game developer and level designer Andrei Ghenoiu describes the production process of his new game On Your Own. The project is being created with the help of CryENGINE. Designer talks about the tools he uses to create visually stunning environments.
About Andrei Ghenoiu
I am only one person at this moment working on this project. I am Romanian, but currently living in the United States. I graduated college in 2012, and worked several jobs while in college: from landscaping, to cleaning and laundry. After graduation, I worked for about a year as a web developer, then got a job as an internet engineer. The only contact with game development that I had was an Android battleship game that I’ve made for my senior project in college, so I’ve got no game industry experience per se. Yet I always wanted to try making games and I chose CryENGINE as the most technologically advanced option on the market.
On Your Own is a survival-discovery-action game. Your character wakes up on the beach, with no recollection of who he is and how he got there. This is where the survival part comes in. The player will have to watch his water and nutrition levels, as well as his stamina levels. I am trying to not use an HUD but there will be some actions that remind gamer about his virtual needs. For example there will be a faint motion when nutrition levels are low, along with a verbal message. To survive, the player will have to hunt (set traps for little critters – like a rabbit for example), along with finding a proper water source. The hunting could also be done by crafting a weapon. I have a bow and spear in mind for the player to craft. Once, these ‘bare necessities’ are all set, the discovery part comes into play – this will eventually lead to the action part, when you discover more of how you got there, and what happened on the island.
The island will be located in the Northern Hemisphere, so vegetation will be mostly comprised of spruce trees, birches/aspen trees, along with ferns, and various bushes and grasses. The map will cover about 12 square kilometers, with a tall mountain towards the south end, and a couple of shorter peaks in between. There will be a system of caves scattered on the island. Also, a couple of lakes, that are being fed by rivers that are formed on the 2 main faces of the big mountain.
Being that I am by myself at the moment, I do expect this will be a long road. I am not ruling out working with other people though. I am 110% committed to this project, and one way or the other will take it to the finish line. Currently I am doing everything, from 3d modeling, to texturing, to lighting and level design. I will soon start working on the programming part, as well as digging deeper into CryENGINE Flowgraph system.
Learning the lighting system in CryENGINE takes some practice, and I am far from where I would like to be. But having this real-time option (even though it’s not fully real time – there are environment probes that have to be generated) helps tremendously – especially for interior lighting. The sun casts great shadows for interiors, but I always add extra lights for that ambient lighting. And with the latest release, you can confine those lights / environment probes to a specific space defined by a mesh. So I think practice makes perfect. Always.
All the vegetation seen in my scenes is the stock vegetation from the engine. I did make a couple of grasses myself, but that is a drop in the bucket, sort of speak. Placing the vegetation is extremely simple. They get added to your vegetation tab, and you can set the properties for each one of them – from density, to view distance, sizing and rotation (so they don’t all look the same) – just to name a few, and then you can just paint them using the brush (which size you can adjust). I have not used SpeedTree, since that would be an added cost that I can’t afford at the moment.
For tools, I rely heavily on Blender and Cryblend. Every custom asset that I have in my scenes has been built in Blender, then exported via Cryblend – both free products. Saving $5000 dollars helps, right? Texture work is done in Photoshop where I also use DDO, NDO from Quixel to speed up the texturing process with some of my assets. I am also looking into Allegorithmic BitmapToMaterial which seems to have some nice features for generating PBR ready normal maps (even though they seem to be more geared towards the Unreal PBR pipeline).
I usually start with some reference material – either from something I’ve seen when driving to work, or something that caught my eye from a post on Facebook. Then I build that object in Blender, and UV unwrap it and texture it. If it’s a higher detail object, I would use DDO, NDO to get the right look and feel for that object. Once I am happy with the look, I use Cryblend to export is straight to the engine, and I add it to the scene. At the moment On Your Own is a ‘labor of love’, since I work your regular office, 9-5 job. And one evening a week working at a local hotel. All the rest of my free time goes into ‘On Your Own’.
I plan on starting a Kickstarter campaign at some point, when I will have some gameplay happening as well. I am still debating on the Early Access part, mostly due to the scenario part. I was thinking of doing Early Access strictly for the survival – crafting – hunting part, and then release the game once everything is in.