Just for fun, for Halloween Tommaso drew a costume for the Omniframe. “Neko-frame” is a cute, pink Omniframe with cat tail, paws and ears. It’s perfect for candy gathering missions this Halloween!
While this isn’t a real frame design (except, perhaps, as a cosmetic option? Would you like one?), the frame does highlight that we’ve started work on customization options for the Omniframe prior to starting its 3D modeling. This was not a part of our deliverables for this milestone, but was needed to make sure we “built the model with customization in mind.” Consider it a bonus collection of art work (we won’t be modeling these options or adding customization in game until a future milestone).
We took a little of the extra budget you guys provided us and explored eight different customization areas. We also designed an example of what a “light” and “heavy” version of the Omniframe might look like.
The light version of the Omniframe (“Codename Sly-Dancer”):
The heavy version of the Omniframe in Hard-driver covered mode (“Codename Bison”)
The Omniframe can be cosmetically customized in eight areas (note these are just cosmetics, except for weapon pods, not craftable upgrades with stats):
Head with optics
Shoulder weapon pods
We think we will be able to get a tremendous amount of variations out of the Omniframe “look” with these areas. Selling cosmetic options for these areas (except for the shoulder weapon) should provide one good stream of revenue for the game to support the costs of our zero-monthly-fee online servers.
This will be the last blog entry on this website before moving to a new, dedicated site for Em-8ER, the new name (still pronounced “Ember”). We changed the name to avoid confusion with the mobile game and the Steam game currently on the market. Em-8ER is the planetary designation of the world where players will be at war with the shape-shifting Tsi-hu.
While we are currently behind on production, we just completed the modeling of the THMPR and will have a grand unveiling of the model on the new site next week. We’ve also invested in the logo for the game, which will also be unveiled on the new site.
Now that the modeling of the THMPR is done, we can move on to to rigging it, animating it and importing it into the Unreal engine, as well as texturing it in PBR based materials using Substance Painter and Substance designer. More information on our updated production schedule will be posted next week as well.
Thank you for your support and your patience while we ramp things up! We have more exciting developments happening in Em-8ER that we’ve not yet announced but that we’ve begun to develop thanks to your extra support! We’ll be sharing these as update on the new site as we complete them!
Two things with this update. First, I wanted to say it’s been an incredible blast to be working on the game. I’m so excited about the setting (Massive Planetary Warfare), the Kaiju theme, the art direction, and the incredible new tools for game development. It’s all thanks to you, and I’m super grateful to have this chance to make Em-8ER.
Second, I wanted to update you on the team’s efforts:
– Joe has been working on the THMPR high-poly model. Some of you have caught his live-streams where he uses a program called zBrush to create the mesh. ZBrush is like digital clay you can push and pull to create your model. It’s pretty amazing to watch and I suggest you pop in on one of his next streams to see for yourself.
– I’ve been working with Warren on the characters for Em-8er, starting with the female. Character modeling will be an upcoming fundraising milestone but it’s important we lay the ground work beforehand. I gathered a large number of references and notes together while brainstorming more about Reaper culture and the terraforming process (you’ll see why this is relevant later). Warren has turned around the first draft of rough sketches and it’s already looking really good. We’re going after a mix of realism and stylization. I’m a bit tired of the “cartoon hero” look so many arena shooters are doing these days. I want to make sure Em-8er stands apart, visually.
– Tommaso and I are about to embark on some refinements to the Omniframe. Specifically, we are identifying which parts are customizable and starting to break it down in preparation for modeling. The Omniframe art asset exe is the second goal after we’ve created the THMPR. This will make sure we have all the customization points considered when we build it. While customization is not a part of this milestone, we want to make sure the current model will support it when we get to that point.
– Art pipeline. I’ve been doing a deep dive into the Unreal Engine, starting with the art pipeline. Since this is an art asset milestone, I want to make sure we’re fluent in getting assets into the game. Unreal is an incredible engine, and I wish we had it on some of my prior games. The new Physically Based Renderer is a great advantage not just for looks, but for speed of creation. I’ve been working with creating materials with a program called Substance Designer and importing them into Unreal. Using Substance Designer is way to create PBR textures procedurally, instead of using photographs or hand painting.
– Server research for the future game. While not part of our milestone (and no multiplayer planned for even the playable mockup), we need to start looking at how we’re going to create a server that can handle an online shooter with the scale of a planetary wargame. On Firefall we learned that our lag compensation model hindered our ability to give creatures great AI and limited some of the things we could do. I’ve been working with a new programmer on the team on some of these issues and we are currently in a long research phase that will last 4-6 weeks. If this works out, we may have a new person joining our team!
That’s it for now. Our immediate goal is to show you a complete THMPR model, and then move on to texturing it and importing it until Unreal.
As for physical rewards, please forgive us as we concentrate on the digital ones first, as these are most important to the game. 3D prints and books will take some time to manufacture, and we want to make sure we complete the digital model of the THMPR before we start printing even just a part of it. Again, once we have the model, expect 40 days or so of manufacturing time.
We’re excited to announce that Warren Louw is joining the team to help design and illustrate the characters for EM-8ER! You can see his art in the featured collage image on the blog post. Character modeling and customization in a future EM-8ER playable mockup funding goal, but we’ve used some of the extra funds to start this process early.
Warren is a well known illustrator who’s work has graced the covers of DC Comics and ImagineFX magazine. He’s well known for his beautiful females and crisp illustrative style.
Did you catch that? Thanks to your incredible support on the last milestone, we will be creating BOTH male AND Female characters for the game! Personally, I’m thrilled we will be able to offer more options to player and I thank you once again for making this possible.
Meanwhile, JoeSolo is hard at work producing the model for the first 3D test print of the THMPR model, which will be mailed to Gatestrider and Max Kahuna backers. We expect the printing production run to take 30-50 days due to the speed limitation of 3D printing and hand painting the Max Kahuna rewards.
Work also continues on developing the Unreal client. We have a basic framework up and running, but we’ll need to wait for THMPR to be game-ready and rigged for animation before importing the model into the whitebox test level that will ship with the art-preview EXE to backers.
The Tsi-hu human nickname contest is also proceeding smoothly. We’re impressed with several of the submissions and your vote participation has been outstanding.
Finally, we are working on finishing up the forum titles for all backers. We do this via e-mail address, and where the e-mail used for Indiegogo and the forums differ, we have to manually contact backers to establish their forum name. Thank you for your patience!
If you’d like to see more of Warren Louw’s work, you can find him here on DeviantArt:
Wow! What an impressive second fundraiser for EM-8ER (Ember, our massive planetary wargame). Final stats are:
$23,353 raised of $5000 goal
Fully funded in just over a day
DOUBLE the number of backers than previous milestone
Now its time to buckle down on the work. After credit card and IndieGoGo fees ($2300 or so) It will take some time (15 days) for funds to clear (21 days for Paypal), but that won’t stop us. We’re either currently working on or about to move onto:
Adding backer forums names by end of week
Ordering plastic for 3D printing
Wrapping up modeling of the THMPR (high poly nearly done)
Test printing torso for rewards
Create low poly game mesh for THMPR
Texturing THMPR with Substance Designer
Creating 1st draft of Vision Book
Getting our Unreal Engine framework in place
And much more!
Backer reward delivery will start with forums badges, which should be up by end of this week as we process the list from IndieGoGo. Plastic will also be ordered this week and a test print made of the THMPR torso. Once that is approved we can move to printing all the 3D bust rewards. At about 2-3 print per day, max, we’re looking at 30-50 days of solid production to get these done and shipped. We also have to hand paint the 5 Max Kahuna prints, which will be fun!
But while our printer is whirring away, we’ll be working on the Unreal EXE sample of the THMPR and having it made game-ready, rigged and animated (a small set of anims: walk, drill, etc., no combat yet). We’ll be looking to find a contract animator to help us with this in the coming weeks.
I’m super excited about EM-8ER. Thank you all so much for your faith in the vision. We look forward to making this game a reality with your help.
We’ve reached over 20k in funding! To celebrate, we’re releasing a new image for the design book. It’s THMPR vs Kaiju, the creature that will attack the THMPR when it returns to base during your escort. You’ll have to help it fight off this big beastie as you escort your THMPR back to base. (post-KS feature, not for Playable Mockup)
Milestone 2 – 400% funed, 8 days left
For this milestone, we wanted to raise $5000 to create:
Finishing the THMPR model, texturing it and adding shaders
Creating a couple basic animations: a simple walk, simple drilling
Importing it into the Unreal Engine to allow you to trigger its anims
Create a 20 page PDF and soft-cover, illustrated design vision book
Milestone 3 – Omniframe modeling unlocked
When we reached $10,000 in funding, we were able to fund Milestone 3, to be completed 1-2 months after Milestone 2:
Model the Omniframe (without character)
Texture and add shaders, rig it for animation
Import it into Unreal, create a movement demo of jetpacks/gliding
Use of Additional Funds
In an event that surprised us all, and without any asking for more money or having stretch goals, the community managed to raise another $10,000 for a total of $20,000 raised. This is amazing, and we are very grateful for the support.
We’re using some of the funds to help create additional necessary concept work (some of which will also be featured in the delivered design vision book). These concepts include the Kaiju mini-boss for the THMPR, a better drill arm inspired by the fan art that we loved, and adding a hand instead of bear-trap claw to the THMPR.
As we plan out future fundraiser milestones, we’ll use these funds towards reducing the cost and fundraising of each additional milestone. For example, if we need to raise another $10,000 for character customization and modeling, we could use some of the reserve to reduce that goal to $7000. We’re likely to spread this out over several milestones.
The remainder, around 10%, we will save in reserve for unanticipated future needs.
No Stretch Goals This Milestone
You’re gotten us ahead by more than we expected! As a result, we won’t be announcing any stretch goals or asking for more money. We just want to deliver what we promised and to do our jobs well.
It’s been a swift and incredible journey to go from a humble petition to reboot Firefall (and create a new, unique style of multiplayer game), to a over 600% fundraiser, a website, forums, concept art and thousands more signatures.
The fans have shown incredible support for creating an MMO that never got a chance to launch: a open world, horizontal, go-anywhere, dynamic event driven game based on resource collection, customize everything, and open war against an alien race. Basically what Battlefield 1942 or 2142 would have been if it was turned into a bigger concept. A game that my World of Warcraft team wanted to make after WoW, and that was attempted by Blizzard with the now defunct Titan project (whose remnants became Overwatch).
We have the idea, we have the hard lessons learned with Firefall (and Titan) that will allow us to avoid all the past mistakes and focus on what worked and worked well. But how do we get from here to game? How can the fans help make this popular idea a reality?
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” is an old proverb. But we’ve taken it to heart here. We’re creating a process for crowdfunding that is similar to what publisher do for games: milestone based funding.
The problem with most crowdfunding is that it is billed as a one-time event, where backers pledge and wait years before seeing any results. A blind fire, hope and pray method for large projects. Milestone based funding, on the other hand, breaks up the goal into smaller pieces, delivered quickly. Each milestone is evaluated by the ones funding it before the next is approved.
We are doing this for crowdfunding. We’re taking our game, Ember, and dividing its funding and its playable deliverables up into small steps. By delivering tangible, game advancing goals that backers can judge for themselves, we can build a trust, a momentum, and a growing game step by step. You, the backer, will get frequent updates that let you decide if we are on track and growing the game.
Backers can do this for as little as $1 to participate, all the way up to larger rewards and perks. You won’t wait years for the results, as we plan to deliver milestones at least every two months.
The first milestone was:
* Launch a community and forums for Ember (DONE, and thriving!)
* Create key concept art (DONE, Thumper, Omniframe and Alien Tsihu DONE)
* Prepare for 3D modeling of THMPR (DONE, orthographics completed)
We completed this milestone in record time and with very high quality equal or better than larger game studios. We exceeded 600% funding and used the funds to create all the key artwork we needed to start developing the game.
You’ve shown the demand is there for this game. The petition did its job and the fundraiser showed you were serious about Ember.
So what’s next?
We’re Committed. We’re Building the Game.
We’re going to build Ember. We’re going to make it real with your help. You’ve show we can do this, and we’ve shown we can deliver with our first, out-of-the-park, milestone.
Now we need to start the second milestone. And the secret is we’ve already started! Modeling of the THMPR has begun, and we’ll post some video soon when we release Milestone 2 funding goals on IndieGoGo.
I believe in this so much that I’ve started to fund the second milestone out of my own pocket, and we’ve started building it, confident you will be there with me. So let’s do this.
Here’s a sneak peak of what we’ve been working on:
Let’s Build a Playable Mockup
The ultimate goal of the current milestones is to build what we call a playable mockup. The mockup is meant to demonstrate the potential fun, marketability and playability of the game. We’re going to take one encounter, the iconic “thumper” encounter and build it to a high degree of polish in Unreal Engine 4.
In the playble mockup, backers will be able to suit up in an jetpacking, gliding, Omniframe with a default loadout of weapon and abilities. They will be able to call down a THMPR MEK-A and start mining for resources while waves of xenomorphs and the Tsihu attack to try and stop you. When the THMPR is finished it will run back to a target area where you will have to escort and defend it along the way. When it reaches its destination, the resources will be deposited as your “score” and the mockup will end.
This mockup will only be available to backers, but backers will be allowed to take screenshots and stream it to help build public support. This support will be used to fund our main Kickstarter to launch the company full-time.
Playing the Mockup in Just a Few Milestones
We’ve broken up the ultimate playable mockup goal into several funding steps. We may split or combine these steps into various funding goals depending on momentum and complexity.
Develop Key Concept Art – DONE
Model the THMPR mining MEK-A and get it into Unreal 4 with PBR shaders. Create and illustrate “vision book” that will define and guide the game’s development. (This will be the current funding round).
Model the Omniframe and player Character and get it into Unreal 4.
Model the Tsihu and get its shapeshifting working in Unreal 4.
Build a playable mockup using the assets we built in prior steps. Players can thump, pilot Omniframes, and fight Tsihu using the Unreal Engine.
We are going to try to get each goal done in 1-2 months from completion of funding. We do this by actually starting on the next goal before the last one completes (as we have with the THMPR modeling), and by taking on additional part-time staff. We want to deliver rapidly and keep the momentum up.
These mini-goals will be on IndieGoGo, until:
Have Playable Mockup, will Kickstart
Once we have a playable mockup of the THMPR encounter, we will prepare and launch our largest goal, a Kickstarter to launch the company that will build the game, full-time. By using screenshots, videos and streams from YOU playing the mockup, we hope to build enough momentum for a very successful kickstarter and start a real live game company, together.
Step 2 Funding goal and campaign will go live on Monday, Aug 29. Hold on to your butts, its going to go fast!
On a toxic, fiery world designated as EM-8ER, also known as “Ember,” Gatestrider reaper teams encountered humanity’s first sentient xenomorph.
We know they call themselves the “Tsihu.” The reaper teams that endure their constant attacks have a more colorful name for them.
Our first contact has been anything but peaceful. It’s all gone to hell. Every mining operation, every excursion triggers more and more of these attacks by the Tsihu. Anybody who has ever tried to talk or reason with them has never had the chance to get more than a few words out before being slaughtered.
They have a language though. We hear the phrases “Zha ryuon muon” and “Tasa hekita” repeated often. Linguistics is on it. They think “zha” refers to loop, and “muon” some kind of fabric, or binding. “Hekita” seems to mean some kind of deterioration.
Is it war? Not yet. If it weren’t for the technological ruins and resources on EM-8ER, our reaper teams would have simply left. Instead, what we have here is an opportunity. The Tsihu aren’t really *here*. They are phasing in and out in crackles of lightning and electricity, as well as much of the native xenomorphs. We think it’s temporal-as in these creatures are from another time. An earlier phase of the planet, perhaps, if you can believe the readings.
We need to keep a lid on it. For as long as we can. Every team here is in agreement. The riches and alien technology of this world would be enough to start again. Maybe give us enough edge to tell those Enshigi* bastards to fuck off.
But first we have to figure out what the hell the Tsihu really are, and how to beat em. They shapeshift. If they’re not in humanoid form shooting at us, they are suddenly morphing into huge creatures that are tearing our omniframes apart hand to hand. We think they go feral if they stay too long in “beast” mode. We’ve seen some in chains and some kind of holographic tagging or restraints. These are always the most violent and destructive ones.
We need to claim as much of this planet as we can before word gets out, and build up the means to defend it. It’s all right here, everything we need.
Garrack – Firstclaimer of Ember
* The Enshigi – humanity’s most enigmatic and advanced colony. They hold the Gatestriders home system hostage in retaliation over a disputed sector of space where the Enshigi have forbidden any entry or exploration.
Just a little teaser for the alien art, which is complete. The main post with full art will go up in the next 48 hours or so. This alien has unique gameplay components not found in most games.
Meanwhile, this is a teaser of the art. The alien race is the first sentient Xenomorph encounter by humans. Ember will be “first contact” with these aliens, who turn out to be none too friendly. As the game progresses, you’ll learn more about them as the game builds more towards open war with this race.
No name for them yet, but maybe we’ll have a community event to name them after the main post goes up!