Inside Nekovia — GDC Edition — Our Latest Gaming Innovations
Calling all Heroes.
This edition of Inside Nekovia comes on the heels of the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, where the studio’s main focus for the first quarter of the year was to deliver an early build of our game to showcase at the event. The leadership team got a chance to meet each other for the first time in real life, but most importantly, we got a chance to meet some of our early supporters on the project.
We feel that we are making great progress in development, specifically in the areas of audio, art, design, and production, and we would love to share it with you.
The audio team has designed and implemented realistic sound effects for the game’s arsenal and mechs, as well as sounds for feline-like locomotion. The art team has produced a test level with vibrant visuals, explosions, and paint overlays. The design team continues to work on gameplay mechanics, while production is working on improving game performance.
Our ultimate goal is to provide players with an immersive and captivating gaming experience.
Our Audio team has been diligently designing and implementing sound effects, with a particular emphasis on enhancing the core audio experience for the GDC demo. We are proud to highlight some of our achievements, which include the following:
- Demo Weapons: Our focus has shifted to the latest additions to the demo’s arsenal, which include the Jaguar Pistol and Prophecy Assault Rifle.
- PurrBomb Launcher: A traditional grenade launcher that fires explosives that can detonate over time or on impact. We emphasized the mechanical aspect of the firing sound, resulting in what we like to call a ‘tubey thonk’ in the industry.
- Zephyr: The first of our energy weapons, which utilize recharging energy cells instead of finite ballistic rounds. The Zephyr is similar to an SMG with a fast fire rate and relatively low damage rate. We kept it light-sounding, emphasizing higher frequencies and the urgency of the fire rate.
- Legionnaire: The game’s main sniper rifle, the Legionnaire is extremely high-powered and comes complete with a scope for one-shot kills from great distances. We designed a heavy, resounding punch for the firing sound and a long, reverberating tail as it echoes across the landscape to emphasize its weight and lethality.
We have recently started working on audio for the mechs in our game. Our current focus is on creating core locomotion sounds for the Assassin, such as walking, running, jumping, and landing. Given that the Assassin is one of the stealthier mechs in the game, our sound design approach emphasizes speed, agility, and power while still remaining subtle.
In the next stage of development, we will explore creating feline-like locomotion sounds, such as those for wall running and climbing. We are excited to explore how a huge robot might sound as it scrambles across a wall like a cat!
We’ve made progress on the environmental audio system, which we began working on last quarter and have implemented across the main battle royale map.
- Ambiance: This project involved designing background audio for the main exterior map and each of the internal rooms within the buildings. We implemented a diffused, urban city ambiance throughout the wider map while populating each of the rooms with sci-fi-esque room tones, complete with ominous hums and other-worldly telemetry sounds.
- Reverb: To complement the ambiance, we designed reverb effects to give each area and room a realistic sense of space. For this, we utilized a convolution reverb system, which is a method of capturing and then emulating real-world spaces in the game. This helps create a clear distinction between exteriors and interiors, as well as helps define believable room acoustics.
- Spatial System: For both of the above, we utilized a spatial audio system. This system enables us to attach both ambiance and reverb to three-dimensional zones within the world, complete with portals (e.g. doorways) between them. This means that players hear the corresponding audio when they are in a given room, but can also hear audio from neighboring rooms or areas coming in through doors and windows. It also means that sounds emanating from neighboring rooms benefit from the corresponding acoustic properties, which all help add to the sense of realism.
Player Feedback — The term ‘player feedback’ refers to a collection of sounds that are designed to communicate important information to the player during a match, providing them with a better understanding of their surroundings. These sounds are typically ‘non-diegetic’, meaning they do not exist in the actual game world, and may include sounds such as:
- Hit Marker — A sound to indicate a successful hit, regardless of the player’s distance from the target (a common feature of shooter games)
- Take Damage — An additional sound to increase the sense of danger when a player is under attack
- Player Death — This is more of a stinger, used to announce that a player has been eliminated from the game.
Music — We are still in the early stages of musical development. However, last week, we began working on a mood/brainstorming board to help define the overall musical tone. Our goal is to create a palette of instruments that will match the world, story, and action of the game, ultimately giving the score a unique aesthetic. We will have more to share on this exciting process in the near future!
We are excited to share some new art with you. Our art team has created what we internally call our GDC Art Showcase. It displays a collection of works-in-progress from a test level that incorporates the use of paint overlays to assist in creating the desired art style and direction of the game. With the addition of August Hansen, our new Art Director, and some outside conceptual help, this project has been taken to a whole new level. As the project moves forward in the coming months, we aim to further explore the art direction to capture the desired visuals that appeal to our target gaming demographic.
These images showcase captivating in-game activities, such as mechs in battle, utilizing their special abilities and performing unique movements like wall runs, wall climbs, and contextual jumps. Other features include the cat hangar, which portrays the union between the mechs and cats, displaying that they coexist in the same world.
In an effort to produce the best possible results with the existing geometry, adjustments to the images have been made through simple yet effective tactics, such as increased lighting for more dramatic shadows, increased contrast and color saturation, improved surface texture appearances, and a newly painted sky and clouds. Furthermore, some new elements, like explosions and other visual effects, have been included to provide a chaotic and thrilling experience.
The UI for this project is designed with modernity and futurism in mind. It contains a dark color palette complemented with bright accents, bold fonts, smooth shapes, and simple icons. This interface was constructed to be both intuitive and straightforward to make information retrieval easy and efficient. Interestingly, this UI concept was based on an idea of what a cat-made interface would look like. This can be seen through the cartoonish cat-themed icons and marks, in addition to the fun and playful design that follows a cat-like style.
We are excited about the progress so far and expect to showcase our final art style and direction in the next few updates!
Our design team has been instrumental in delivering features that have helped to ensure a successful showing at the GDC!
Signature Locomotion — The highlight of our GDC experience (and the game) is the Signature Cat Locomotion system. Players can navigate Nekovia by pouncing, vaulting, and wall-running through the world, using their mechs as spiritual extensions of their feline agility and cat-like reflexes. With a core set of locomotion features in place, the team can now focus on expanding the movement repertoire and enabling players to creatively chain moves together while shooting their rivals. Although the system is easy to learn, it is difficult to master. We can’t wait to see what top-tier players will be capable of!
Obstacle Course — Our signature Cat Locomotion needs testing grounds for players to learn the system. For GDC, we built a simple but effective proving ground for players to navigate, with our Obstacle Course. This gameplay level offers a set of challenges for players to learn and practice their moves, challenging themselves to get from points A to B as quickly as possible. In the future, we’ll extend the obstacle course to include advanced combat moves to challenge players and help them hone their skills in a safe, low-stress environment.
AI Mech Skin Editor — With the hype of AI technology, we couldn’t help but conduct a brief experiment in Nyan Heroes. Using the power of text-to-image diffusion models, we have created a system that allows players to quickly generate a variety of bespoke textures and patterns for their mechs. Write a prompt in-game and plaster your mechs with a texture of your choice! Self-expression is important to us, and we will continue to experiment with this in the months to come.
Our Engineering team has been working hard to expand and improve our tech stack, tooling, and infrastructure support. We’re excited to highlight two major developments that showcase our team’s skills and dedication: the upgrade to Unreal Engine 5.1.1 and the integration of the Blockchain Wallet.
First, let’s talk about the Unreal Engine 5.1.1 upgrade. Our Engineering team upgraded our Unreal Engine version from 5.0.2 to 5.1.1, which took us a total of 2 months. Thanks to our advanced GIT-based source control setup, we were able to minimize the impact on development time, with only 6 working days of interruption. We completed the upgrade in parallel with core game development, and the integration back into the main branch was a straightforward process that took less than a working day.
We’re thrilled with the results of this upgrade. It has helped us take full advantage of the latest features and performance improvements of Unreal Engine, allowing us to create even more immersive and engaging experiences for our players.
Secondly, our Blockchain Engineering team delivered a fully native and integrated wallet into Unreal. This is a native Solana blockchain wallet that works natively on PC and the Unreal Engine, with no need for Web2 interfaces (no need for a Web browser, or other Web2 layers such as node.js, etc.). This native integration allows us to provide a seamless onboarding experience for players, whereby they have full local custody of their wallet, but don’t have to worry about the complexities of managing it. With the wallet now fully integrated, players can select any one of their Nyan Heroes NFT as their game avatar.
We’re excited to see how this integration will enhance our players’ experiences in our games. In the upcoming iterations, we will be exploring rewarding players with tokens based on their in-game performances. It’s worth noting that all current blockchain work is being done on a Solana Dev Net, which allows us to experiment and develop safely on-chain.
At the beginning of 2023, our production team has been focused on implementing crucial procedures, tools, and pipelines to improve our efficiency. In March, we proudly displayed our game snapshot at GDC which was a great success! Additionally, we switched to using Azure DevOps for project management, which required some preparatory work to ensure standard practices were followed. We also configured ShotGrid for content reviews and delivery.
Upgrading to Unreal version 5.1 helped us establish standard procedures for planning, scheduling, and tracking our tasks, resulting in optimized workflow, tools, and pipelines, as well as our build pipeline.
We expanded our team with several new hires, including an Art Director, Senior Gameplay Animator, Sr. Network Engineer, Sr. Combat Designer, two QA testers, and a Network engineer. We warmly welcomed these experienced professionals to our team.
Finally, we conducted a feature breakdown and created a roadmap for the Alpha phase to properly plan our project and teams for the coming months.
It has been a busy quarter for us, as the team is slowly returning from GDC. We have reached some major milestones that we are excited to share with you in the coming months. As always, thank you to our community for your continued support. As a young studio, we are constantly learning as we grow. We have accomplished a lot in the little over one year that we have been around, and there is much more to come. Thank you again and meow!
About Nyan Heroes
Nyan Heroes is a free-to-play hero shooter that combines fast-paced, competitive gameplay with a real-world impact. Developed by a remote team of seasoned game developers and powered by Unreal Engine 5 and blockchain technology, Nyan Heroes pays homage to cats and offers a AAA multiplayer experience with epic mech character classes, thrilling cat-like movements, and unique gameplay abilities.
Learn More: nyanheroes.com