Coffee Diary - November 2023


Hey Exanimates,

Welcome to our first monthly coffee diary. Until now we posted a weekly dev diary on the forums, talking about what we're working on and how development is progressing. We're switching to this monthly format now, and going forward we should be able to make these more interesting and maybe include media when appropriate. Keep in mind that we are always careful with spoilers and we prefer it if you experience things in game, so we can be a little secretive.

We have just released a huge update, so we've been pretty busy just getting feedback, making improvements and fixes. We're still tracking a couple of issues, but the game now seems to be in the best shape it has ever been. This is the time in the cycle when we properly assess our next major development goals and work on things like systems and tools to support our workflow. At this point though our roadmap is mostly things on a small or medium scale, mainly gameplay features and content rather than major engine or tool development.

Our one bigger goal and focus for the next major update is the "role system". We'll likely talk about this more in future diaries, but for now we'll give you a basic introduction. The role system is very broadly what gives characters identities, behaviours, relationships, memories and interactions. Characters might have hundreds or even thousands of active roles, acquiring new ones all the time as they experience things, meet other characters and engage in activities. Roles are often situational, such as "person in shop", through which relational roles like "customer - shopkeep" can be acquired. Any NPC can acquire these roles, they will remember the experience, be able to relate information about it and so on. There's quite a lot more to it, but we won't get into all the details.

It's a powerful system that is mechanically quite simple, but requires us to gradually add more and more roles to make the AI smarter and understand more things. We already have a version of this in the game, but with only a few placeholder roles that rigidly script behaviour, not at all how this is supposed to work. Exanima's AI is so far almost purely driven by emotional states and personality traits. This alone is almost enough to model a wide range of behaviours, but the roles are another layer providing much needed context. Essentially the intelligence to guide the emotions. Roles should not override core emotional responses, but rather just nudge them in the right direction and ultimately be driven by them.

This sort of thing is our true passion, we want to create a believable world, and to us that's all about how it behaves. We originally didn't make our game physics based because we wanted awesome combat, that was really a gigantic detour from our true goal, driven by feedback. The physics is there because we want things to be truly interactive and less artificial, everything should behave in an organic way rather than according to a simple set of rules and predefined actions.

The next big update will include progress on this role system and include new intelligent NPCs and more dialogue, and also a new area to explore, which is very terrain heavy. For some time now we've been wanting to spruce up the visuals of our terrain, and we've already begun work on improving our tools for designing terrain and its surfaces. The ground is visually dominant in Exanima, so this is important. The updated terrain will feature better materials and many remastered assets, but it also solves many difficult problems that our level designers currently have to deal with. You will likely see incremental upgrades to the terrain before the major update, such as improved 3D grass which has been patched in already.

While we're hesitant to promise anything too specific, we are considering one or two smaller updates before the big one. One topic would be fully implementing Potential and other thaumaturgy mechanics, adding some new powers, improving existing ones and also the controls. Another thing that is high on our priority list is mechanics for saving progress in the late game. This will not be simple checkpoints as the game is no longer linear, but rather an optional system you will have to discover and engage with. We have been laying down the pieces for this for a long time, and with its introduction they will finally have a purpose and provide new objectives and interactions within the game.

We hope you found some of this interesting, and please let us know if you like this format (yes we will try to include some images in future). We'll see you here again on the first Monday of the next month.


-The Bare Mettle Team


I remember, a very long time ago, the roles system being mentioned in those early Sui Generis news posts. It's exciting to see Exanima gradually reaching parity over time.
Awesome stuff. How's the multiplayer testing going? I remember a while ago you guys posted a couple images/gifs of an early test build of multiplayer in the Arena, but haven't seen or heard much since. Is that something you guys think will be worked on more soon?

As always, exciting stuff to read. The Roles system is going to be crazy, I hope we get some NPCs devolving into lunacy because they gradually keep getting roles that make them scared and anxious about being in the dungeon and such. Can't wait to see the end results!


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