Major House Cleaning and GAIA

Been a while since the last update! Rest assured work has been constant, but it was mostly background stuff that wouldn’t for a visually impressive post make. Lots of this background work hinges on the way Unity workflow is designed: Working with Unity and other peoples’ assets makes it possible for a small team to actually make a professional grade product in a realistic span of time. That being said, the process is not without its pitfalls. Because the Unity engine and all the different assets are made by different people working on different schedules, updating asset packs becomes a constant uphill battle. I can imagine how in a small project that only leverages one or two third-party assets this wouldn’t really become a problem, but as a project grows in scale it starts to become an increasingly serious issue.

One solution is to lock yourself into a certain version of each asset that you want to use and forget about the updates… but that limits you if your project is still a ways off from release. That is to say, if you plan to release in a couple of months it may be worth it to forsake the updates that might happen during that time for the sake of just focusing on ironing out your own specific bugs. However, if you plan to be done in a year or more, you will constantly be seeing the original asset authors fixing bugs that plague your project and that you are trying to fix with your own workarounds. That and new features that you wish you could take advantage of once you see them.

I have consistently chosen to stick with the latter option for this project, considering the scale and timeframe. Keeping the main engine and each major asset up to date can get daunting though… With each added asset and each individual update, keeping all the systems working together nicely becomes quite a confusing (and often frustrating) mess. It’s easy to forget or not even notice certain details, and at this point the actual project file that I’ve been working with has become too messy and convoluted. It feels like I came to a point that every bug I found and fixed just caused other inter-system connections to mess up in some way.

This led to the decision to undertake a major bottom-up overhaul and reconstruction of the whole system. A sizeable undertaking, but one that made things way more manageable and just plain BETTER in the long run. This was a major step in completing the pre-alpha, though I foresee one more revamp such as this for the final pre-alpha version.

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In other news, I finally gave GAIA, which is a terrain-editing toolset made by Adam Goodrich, a solid try. While I haven’t written an official review of it yet, I can definitely say that this asset is definitely worth the money and more. It uses the same standard Unity terrain system, but offers such better editing tools that it’s not even funny. It’s like the difference between using MSPaint and Photoshop to edit the same raster image… (I love Paint, by the way; That’s in no way a diss to Paint. It’s probably one of Microsoft’s best products, no sarcasm.)

Though the game’s setting will definitely look nothing like this in the end, I just felt like giving a shout out to GAIA’s amazing features. Besides its actual terrain editing tools, it also offers a system that uses ‘spawners’ to place objects and details all around the landscape. This test scene took me less than 100 clicks of the mouse to throw together, textures and all. I imagine this will also shave whole months off the Alpha stage of development!

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