Exanima 0.8.3

Madoc

Project Lead
The game has undergone extensive changes and received many updates on the beta branch over the past year or so, but it's finally time to bring it all into the main branch again. There's really a lot to cover here even if we just focus on the big stuff, so please bear with us.


ITEMISATION CHANGES

Exanima for all its physics and realistic approach to armour and weapons is still an RPG, itemisation is important, and loot is the carrot in a game with a lot of stick. But the usual approach of ever increasing tiers with unlikely bonuses has no place here. So what can we do to keep us interested in finding new items, to make them feel special and us invested in them?

We have been finding ways to make items as unique and mechanically interesting as possible while remaining grounded in reality. Procedural methods and detailed properties to guide them allow us to do that. This has big gameplay implications, and can also be leveraged in many ways to create a much more realistic and immersive game world.


PROCEDURAL WEAPONS

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Every weapon that was previously a fixed item like "the poleaxe" is now being replaced with a "factory" that can generate a certain type of poleaxe. This is a large collection of different hafts, langets, bolts, axe heads, rear spikes, top spikes, guards and queues which can be randomly combined to make a unique poleaxe with unique qualities and features.

This alone can generate sometimes billions of combinations for a single weapon, but that's just the start, there are also variable deformations. The same haft type can vary in length and thickness, spikes can have varying lengths, curves and tapers, an axe head varies in the angle, curvature, width and length of the blade and has different hole patterns cut into it and so on and so forth.

These things give every weapon a unique shape and characteristics. These have important implications with physics, both in terms of collisions and inertia (how the mass is distributed), which is very noticeable. They all handle and behave differently.

That's not all. Each item is made and textured with unique generated materials. Different parts of the same weapon might be made from different metals, woods etc. The quality of those materials also varies, and so does the condition.


All these weapons are generated from the same one handed falchion factory:


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The end result is that there are practically infinite weapons, each has its own characteristics and varies in quality, condition and appearance. Part of our objective was also to make weapons more realistic, and indeed the new weapons both look and behave much better.

This already makes weapons so much more interesting, but there is a lot we can do now. We are working on giving each weapon different grips and orientations it can be used in, giving more purpose to its unique features and more meaningful variety for weapons in general. We are actually building weapons from individual components now, this is detailed information we can use to improve how they behave too.


ITEM GRADES AND QUALITY


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Much of the new procedural itemisation doesn't only concern weapons, but everything else too. Previously items could vary in colour and had a few fixed modifiers such as "rusted" or "superior". Now all items use procedural materials and factors like quality and and elegance affect the choice between different types of fabrics, leathers, buttons, coatings, paints and finishes. All materials have varying quality with visible differences.

Build and material quality are accompanied by traits, which may be material specific. These are things such as heavy, light, reinforced, hardened etc. which further modifies the item's base properties.

Finally you have a third independent factor, which is condition, adding wear and rust to items and affecting how they perform in various ways. Condition does not degrade over time, however in story there is now a way to improve the condition of items you find. This means that the many old rusted items in the game which were previously all junk, might now be diamonds in the rough, worth taking a closer look at. Items of particularly good quality and having desirable configurations or traits are something you can invest resources in.



NEW RENDERING ENGINE

You're probably wondering, but why? The game looked fine, this was a truly massive undertaking and not something we wanted to be doing at this stage in development. There were various things we had to or wanted to improve, but individually they did not justify making a totally new rendering engine. However, already deep into the work with procedural items, we started running into serious problems we had no control over, and with great reluctance we finally accepted that if we didn't do this and do it now, we'd just be wasting time and energy and the game would have an uncertain future.

We're going to explain the problems we've solved with the new renderer, as well as some important benefits that came with a fresh design and take on every part of rendering.

Compatibility and driver issues became a serious problem, particularly as we worked on our new procedural systems. Exanima has a unique and unusual rendering engine, and the things we were trying to do just weren't being properly supported by GPUs, and we couldn't expect them to. We really tried to find workarounds, but everything failed and a drastically different approach to rendering was the only fix.

Driver CPU bottlenecks have always been a problem, but over just two years we'd lost a huge 30% performance to driver updates as they moved away from our less trodden path. With GPUs and monitors advancing very quickly, while CPUs mostly just get more cores, this was becoming a very serious problem. With our new rendering engine we were able to literally triple framerates or even better in the more CPU bound cases.

Our material system, while competent, was very difficult to use. Artists were faced with choices that required a physics degree and a calculator. Complex materials were also resource intensive. In practice either due to complexity or for the sake of efficiency, things rarely looked as they should. Our new material system is much more streamlined, easy to use and efficient, it removes the uncertainty and makes high quality materials simple and cheap, with lots of support from our tools.

A hard light source limit was an issue with our old renderer, particularly with multiplayer on the horizon, where we'd have less control over how many lights would be in one place at once. The new renderer is still a forward renderer, but isn't strictly limited in how many lights it can handle.

Global illumination (GI) or indirect lighting is a fundamental part of rendering. Without it shadows would be black voids rather than just dark. Exanima's dark environments require at least a basic version of this, but our solution wasn't great. It didn't scale well to large open spaces, didn't support much verticality; while indirect light didn't pass through walls, it ignored everything else, even doors, resulting in very flat and weird looking areas of shadow. It also performed very poorly for moving lights, once again an issue for multiplayer and a limitation in general.

This is a notoriously difficult problem to solve. Baked solutions can't deal with dynamic objects and lights and are a huge burden on content creation; ambient occlusion only darkens corners, it doesn't deal with actual light and darkness; other solutions tend to be cumbersome and slow, with extreme hardware requirements.

We were able to come up with our own GI solution which solved all our problems and drastically improved the game's visuals. Our solution is completely real-time dynamic, blindingly fast and works in any situation, whether it's a dark little room or a valley viewed from a tower with the open sky above. It captures even small details adding lots of depth and doesn't care how many objects or lights are dynamic, it just does its job.

Here's what things would look like with no GI at all:


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Flat ambient brightness things up, but it looks bad and there can be no darkness anywhere.


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Our new GI solution approximates the light being scattered in the environment. There's lots of depth, detail and soft shadows.


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The added depth also adds lots of visual clarity, making it easier to see, especially in relative darkness.

The GI also allows glowing objects and effects to cast their glow on nearby surfaces and their own soft shadows, without any expensive light sources being involved. These can have any shape, which has many applications and will be hugely important for the upcoming force thaumaturgy.


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Here's an example of the classic blue jar using the new GI. The moving crate casts soft shadows and can even block the glow close up.


HUGE ASSET REMASTER

New rendering engine and material system also meant remastering just about every material and texture in the game. Items mostly took care of themselves with the new procedural systems, but the game has thousands of unique props and other assets. Core character and creature assets were remastered, with undead receiving big visual upgrades. Almost all materials throughout the game were made new, many older assets were completely rebuilt from scratch, including early game environments.

Thanks to our new renderer and tools this was a very smooth process and throughout we've built a huge library of materials and procedural workflows for future content too.


ARENA OVERHAUL

Before Exanima 1.0 we wanted to make arena into a proper game, more structured, compelling and immersive, with goals, rather than just an endless sequence of pointless fights. It also needed some important quality of life and balance improvements. There have been a lot of changes, both specific and general that we feel puts arena in a much better place for release, but we have also laid a foundation to do much more with it in future and we have a lot of interesting ideas. There are also some relatively small, but important changes which will come sooner.

Please note that the new arena mode comes with a complete wipe of previous arena saves.

Tournaments are a new end game activity for arena. Once your fighters reach master rank they can participate in weekly tournaments that provide high end weapons and special armour rewards. Tournaments are a series of 6 events with increasing ranks and special match types, sometimes with weapons restrictions applied.

In tournaments you compete against the best fighters of rival companies, these are more intelligently outfitted with better equipment and provide more of a challenge. You can enter as many events of a tournament as you like, but you must win at least 3 and not tie with another company.

Every four tournaments count as a season, if you manage to win all four you will be awarded a high end, ornate suit of armour. There are several such suits in the reward pool.

The match system has been overhauled and many new match types introduced, including 1v2 and 1v3 modes. Regular matches are now split into standard and specials. Standard matches can be configured to your preference and run as much as you like. Each day a different selection of special matches is available.

New mechanics have been introduced and much has been improved. Daily upkeep for your staff is properly implemented, but this is offset by greatly increased prizes and the ability to do up to 3 matches each day instead of just one. You can now balance the passage of time against your earning and training depending on your current goals.

A new management screen provides many new features. A report notifies you of events and provides quick shortcuts to take actions. Daily financials are given and records for your company are tracked.

A new arsenal has 5 tabs per category providing 5 times as much room for your items. Items now stay exactly where you place them instead of being populated randomly. Items that you equip to your fighters or move into the environment now remain in your arsenal but are highlighted accordingly, so you can always see everything you own. This also means that if you decorate your base with your items they can still be used in matches and will not be lost in case of content updates.

Character management has been simplified and improved. The confusing double inventory is gone and a single pane shows all items assigned to the character. These also stay arranged as you put them, and equipped items are highlighted so you can easily see exactly what they are. Skills are immediately accessible without clicking through an additional screen.


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A new physician NPC can be hired. Physicians help your fighters recover faster from injury. Importantly they can also save fighters that would have died in a match, so long as their injuries are not too severe.

A new trainer NPC improves the rate at which your fighters learn skills and can even teach skills from their own repertoire to idle fighters. Which skills can be learned directly from the trainer depends on what the trainer knows, so pick one carefully.

New arenas, new music tracks and new armour are also in this update, changes to much of the existing content as well as of course the countless new weapons and improvements to items. We still have quite a lot of new content to sort through and finalise lined up, as well some as some features that you can expect to see in smaller updates over the next few weeks.



NEW USER INTERFACE

Recently we had to redesign a lot of the game's interfaces, and for some time now we've been wanting to replace that ugly computer-softwary UI for something more elegant and versatile. This was the time to do it.

The new UI had to be simple, compact and still work for complex controls and layouts. We also needed it to work well with negative spaces. We'd been throwing concepts around with input from the community for years, but we hadn't found something we liked yet. Finally we came up with a design that managed to tick all the boxes.

The new UI system still supports functional modular interfaces, but using designed elements rather than just some shaded boxes. It also easily integrates more custom elements and works well for just about any compact or sparse layout. It also finally all scales properly up to 4k resolutions.


CURSOR CUSTOMISATION

We're not quite ready with the new settings screen yet, but we know many of you have been anxiously awaiting options to customise your cursors. We have already implemented all the functionality for it, so as a temporary measure we've allowed you do this via the ini file.

Here's an example that changes the non combat cursor to ivory, the combat cursor to orange and makes cursors 50% larger:

CursorInt = ffeeddff
CursorCom = ffb050ff
CursorSize = 150

The size is a percentage value, the colours are RGBA hex codes, where the final 2 digits represent alpha (opacity). If you're not familiar with hex colours you can use an online colour picker like this one here: https://rgbacolorpicker.com/hex-color-picker (note that you must add an alpha value like "ff" at the end).

You can find the Exanima.ini file in %APPDATA%\Exanima (paste this into the windows search box).


COMBAT AI OVERHAUL

Exanima has a steep learning curve with physics and very nuanced controls, but once past that initial hurdle things are very different. There's a lot of very complex prediction, tactics and fine manipulation of physics involved. These are skills humans naturally excel at, and there is no artificial difficulty in Exanima, so an experienced player will find beating simple AI very trivial.

Our goal isn't to generally increase difficulty, but rather to make AI behaviour less predictable and exploitable, so that beating it isn't just a matter of repeating the same well timed move. We also wanted to create more of a difference between unskilled and skilled AI, so that important characters or tournaments could feel more challenging than regular opponents.

Our original plan was to give AI a selection of different tactics to draw from, this would make AI more diverse and less predictable. This is a nice idea, but once we implemented the framework for it and began testing we realised that the AI needed more fundamental changes.

This led us to reworking the AI from the ground up, with more tactical behaviour and prediction based on what's actually happening in the physics than predefined rules. There is a much better core system here making AI more intelligent and engaging. We will continue to adjust this, focusing more on high level decision making now, and we do have a framework for the tactics system that we still plan to use.


Changelog for version 0.8.3:

  • Many new realistic procedural weapons with virtually infinite variants

  • New in-depth property and randomisation systems for all items

  • New story mode itemisation mechanics and consumables

  • Completely new rendering engine

    • Necessary to solve GPU driver support issues

    • Drastically improved performance

    • Fast and efficient high quality materials

    • Fast and versatile dynamic global illumination

    • Improved shadows, reflections and more

    • Tight integration of new procedural assets

    • Removed hard light source limit and dynamic light bottlenecks

    • Improved weather effects

    • Many new advanced capabilities

  • Complete arena overhaul

    • New company based management features

    • Tournament system with special rewards and mechanics

    • New match system with configurable matches

    • Eight new match types

    • New expanded and improved arsenal

    • Improved character management system

    • New Physician NPC hireling

    • New Trainer NPC hireling

    • Day system with trade-offs for progress and time

    • Player customisable company emblem

    • Company record tracking

    • Increased match prizes and other balance changes

  • New arenas, more coming very soon

  • New music tracks, updates to some old music

  • Various new items of clothing and armour

  • Remastered core character and creature assets

  • Greatly improved visuals for undead and corpses

  • New facial hair with 6 styles

  • Remastered most game assets for new renderer

  • Improved many combat motions

  • Characters dynamically correct edge alignment during attacks

  • Improved accuracy of overhead attacks

  • New smarter combat AI

  • New skin based user interface system

  • Complete graphical overhaul of all game interfaces

  • Full UI scaling up to 4k resolutions

  • Cursor colours and cursor size can now be changed in the ini file

  • New more varied sound environments

  • New sound effects for wet ground

  • Improved movement over uneven ground

  • Improved item and NPC outfit generation

  • Brushes can now be used to clean dirt off items

  • Many content changes, particularly in early game

  • New early game music track

  • Reworked main theme with live instruments

  • New in game lore

  • Improved body dragging behaviour

  • Improved camera controls

  • Improved Security skill technique

  • Improved Embolden power

  • Tokens now work even while stored in containers

  • Massive number of bug and content fixes

  • Many other improvements and optimisations


WHAT'S NEXT?

There's quite a few things we've been working that didn't quite make it into this release, such as dyes and some general improvements to weapon and combat mechanics. There's also more arenas and some items we still need to add. These things will be added over the next few weeks.

Minor additions aside, from now until full release this is pretty much a wrap on the arena mode. Now we will be focusing entirely on completing the story. The next update will include one of the 3 remaining maps and force thaumaturgy.

We've just put a huge amount of work into core game systems, our engine and our content creation tools and we wanted this update to be really complete, especially as it comes with an arena save wipe. The frequent updates on the beta branch with constant feedback from the community was beneficial, so we'll likely continue to use the beta branch, but also release some smaller incremental updates in general.

Anyone can opt into the beta branch at any time. We'd also like to remind everyone that we post weekly progress updates on our own forums and Steam. You can follow us on Twitter and join us on Discord: https://discord.com/invite/Z5aV2bF


Thanks and have fun,

Bare Mettle
 
I already have Exanima from Gog, but I have just now purchased Exanima from Baremettle.com thinking I would get the most up to date version, but the download was for .8, which is also the most recent version Gog has. How can I update to .8.3?
 

P5ykoOHD

Member
I would love to have some news on Sui Generis ... Exanima is already great, but I'd love a more "open world" experience like the one promised in the videos and screenshots of it thus far.
 
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