Loftian Skies: October, 2022

October 12th, 2022

Hey everyone, and welcome to another issue of Loftian Skies! In this post, you’ll be getting two months worth of updates in one, and we’ve got some pretty exciting updates to share! So buckle up, and here we go!

Table of Contents

  1. Roadmap: How We Got Here, & The Path Forward!
  2. Growth: Community & Team Growth!
  3. Updates: August & September
  4. What’s Next?: What to expect from the next update
  5. How to Help: How can I help and be more involved in Loftia’s development?

1. Roadmap

The first question that everyone has upon finding out about Loftia, quite understandably, is: where are we at in development, and when will the game become playable?

1.1 How We Got Here

Just before we jump into where we’re going, let us first set the stage and give some context on where we’ve been and where we’re coming from. The diagram below summarizes our progress nicely, from the beginning of the project up until the present:

As you can see, we’re still quite early on in our journey. The journey of game development, especially for one as ambitious as Loftia, is long, stressful, and chaotic, but we’ve made a ton of great progress in recent weeks, which we’ll share with you later in this update!

1.2 The Path Forward

Now without further ado, here’s the rough draft of our roadmap leading up until our KickStarter campaign early next year! As always, game development is an incredibly arduous and chaotic process, so whilst this roadmap is our best attempt at estimating the journey ahead, we must emphasize that this is a draft roadmap, and changes may occur.

Parts of this roadmap are intentionally vague, as there are many aspects of gameplay that we’re still not ready to talk about publicly.

As for when Loftia will become playable for everyone… our honest answer at this point is, we really have no idea! We’re currently charging full steam ahead to build out a small portion of the game that can be tested in a pre-alpha state, and used as a proof-of-concept to gain more funding and build out the rest of the game.

2. Growth: Community & Team Growth

Over the course of the last 2 months, our team has grown, as we’ve had Mat (3D artist) and Luqman (game designer) come on board. We’ve now have all the team members we need for the near future as we continue to build out the initial prototype of Loftia, and likely will not be hiring any additional staff until 2023. A belated welcome to both Mat and Luqman! 🥳

On the community side, it’s been a rollercoaster, one that seems to only go up! Towards the end of September, some of our reels on Instagram showcasing our vertical farming concepts started gaining traction, opening the floodgates to a whole bunch of people joining our community on Discord, and following us on Instagram. Since the last update, our Discord community has grown from 400 to 1,300 Loftians, and our Instagram following has exploded from 200 to almost 15,000 people!

From the depths of our hearts here in the Loftia team: thank you for your support! We’re so overwhelmed by the positivity and interest being shown in our little project, and it really gives us so much energy and motivation to see such a response.

We’re also growing a following on our other platforms, too! Our TikTok follower count is just over 3,000, and we’re almost at 1,000 on Twitter. Follow us on all of our platforms to get all of our upcoming updates! You can find them all at the bottom of our homepage:

On that note, we just wanted to acknowledge that it’s been a little quiet on our side in terms of updates and content in recent weeks. The team has been working incredibly hard on a bunch of things that are very foundational, but also difficult to provide visual updates on. Most of these streams of work are close to completion now, meaning we can move onto building out features that we can share updates on more frequently!

3. Updates: August & September

Over the course of the last 2 months, we’ve been hard at work learning the ropes of Unreal Engine as a team, and building out a new prototype of Loftia on it. Alongside that, we have also built out the server-side architecture to support large numbers of players, and overhauled the game design from the ground-up, amongst other things.

As mentioned, whilst these areas of focus have been incredibly important and foundational, they were all unfortunately not particularly flashy or easy to provide updates for. However, here in Loftian Skies, we’ll break them down for you as best as we can!

In the following sections, we’ll do a short dive into each of the three main areas of focus we mentioned above. They will introduce the concepts and required context, and discuss in some detail why each area was demanding on development, and our progression through them.

3.1 The Switch to Unreal Engine

In our previous update, we discussed in detail the decision to shift away from the browser to Unreal Engine. This change has proven to be every bit as demanding and arduous as we expected, but after months of hard work, we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The main driver behind the decision was the pursuit of higher quality graphics, and in this regard, it’s really paid off. The difference between the browser version and the Unreal Engine version is incredible:

Note that the Unreal Engine screenshot is simply a test level with placeholder assets. More screenshots and screencaps to come soon!

The switch to Unreal Engine meant that we were forced to start over, as there exists no easy way to port over the work we had already done in the old engine. In the past 2 months, we’ve been doing a ton of learning to work with the new engine, and re-implementing a bunch of features. We’ve now completed implementations for:

  • character login
  • character movement
  • NPC chat
  • inventory & items
  • multiplayer & networking: This feature is particularly time-consuming, as it is linked with every other feature in the game that involves multiple players.
  • moving back and forth between different regions in the world, via portals
Here’s a snippet of multiplayer and map-changing in action, from early September.

None of these features above seem especially exciting to write about by themselves. However, they’re foundational – without these core features, it would be impossible to build out the rest of the game. Now that they’ve been completed, we can move onto the more exciting mechanics and gameplay elements that you’ve all been waiting for: vertical farming, foraging & exploration, other progression systems, and much more!

3.2 Server-Side Architecture

You likely have heard of the term “server”. In short, whenever you play a multiplayer game, your computer or device needs to connect to another computer, somewhere in the world, that controls everything about the in-game world. That computer is the server. For some games, for example, Stardew Valley, multiplayer works by having one of the players “host” the game, thereby turning their computer into a server, for the duration of the game.

In massively multiplayer games, that method doesn’t work. Amongst other reasons, most people do not have computers that are capable of hosting hundreds or thousands of other players. So the servers for these types of games are special machines built for this purpose.

However, even these powerful “dedicated servers”, as they are called, are unable to handle the huge numbers of players that simultaneously play these games, at least not by themselves. The game must be written in a way which allows multiple server machines to share the load of players, with each machine managing the connection for several hundred or a few thousand players (depending on the game). We refer to the way that this part of a multiplayer game is engineered, as the “server-side architecture”.

Server-side architecture differs from game to game, depending on the type of game, and decisions made by the companies behind those games. We’ve spent the past 2 months building out our own solution for the servers for Loftia, and have implemented an architecture that will scale into the thousands or even tens-of-thousands of online players.

Random screenshot of some small, obscure MMO that no one knows about

If there are any software engineers or computer science whizzes in the room, give us a shout-out in the comments if you’re interested in a more technical blog post covering the problems and challenges we encountered in this space, and we’ll do a write-up about it later on!

3.3 Game Design

If you ask game developers what the most challenging part of developing a video game might be, some might say engineering and solving the inevitable bugs that appear along the way, whilst others might find difficulty in rendering aesthetically pleasing graphics that will make their game stand out amongst the sea of games that are out there today. For us, it’s been game design.

What is game design? Rather than answer that question ourselves, we’ll point you at this short but sweet article that explains it exceptionally well: “The Door Problem” of Game Design

The process of game design, like any part of game development, is an iterative one. From the very beginning, we’ve had an idea of what Loftia’s game play will look and feel like. But like any idea, it’s only valuable when it’s clarified and executed upon. At the very beginning during Loftia’s inception, we fell into the trap of underestimating the gargantuan effort it takes to design a game from the ground up, making sure that all the mechanics were not only fun and engaging, but unique and balanced; that different game systems integrate well with each other, and diving deeply into each feature and giving it the care and attention they each desperately need.

So in these last 2 months, we’ve spent countless hours together in heated discussions and debates, in an attempt to piece together our many game concepts and systems. We revisited many of our initial assumptions, tearing them apart, making many new discoveries and completely throwing out and redesigning multiple features within the game itself. We had put out an ad for a game designer, but it wasn’t until we were well into the process before we managed to find Luqman. With the addition of an experienced game designer, the process has become much more structured, and we’re now continuing to make solid progress.

What a typical game design session looked like, before Luqman joined.

We recognize that this section may be a little abstract and lacking in concrete examples. We unfortunately aren’t at a point where we’re ready to discuss any of the core game features in detail just yet. But if you’re interested in hearing more about game design, with some examples of decisions we’ve made for Loftia, leave a comment and we’ll make future posts with more information!

4. What’s Next?

This edition of Loftian Skies was a little information dense, and text-heavy. Thanks for making it through all of that! It also didn’t feature all of the amazing progress we’ve made in terms of screenshots and video recordings, because we just wanted a little more time to build upon the game further before releasing them to the world. The good news is, the next edition will be out in early November, and it’ll contain much more footage from the game. So stay tuned!

We’ll be spending the next month or so continuing to build out the vertical farming feature within Loftia, as well as beginning prototyping of other activities including foraging, energy harvesting, and more. (What’s energy harvesting, you ask? Well, that’s also something we’ll explain in the next update!) Additionally, the world of Loftia has already started to take shape, and we’ll be introducing and potentially screenshots or footage of some areas within the game as well.

5. How can I help?

Some of you have been asking: How can I help, and be more involved in the development process of Loftia?

Firstly, again, thanks so much for your support and energy! To be completely transparent, we’re not entirely ready to truly go public yet, in the sense that we’re still so early on in development, and there isn’t as much to show as we would like.

So for now, all we’d like to ask of you is to hang out with us on our Discord and our socials, continue checking in with us every now and then, and keep an eye on our continued development! If you have any suggestions or questions, feel free to leave them as a comment on this blog post, or shoot it over on Discord in the #suggestions or #questions channel.

In a couple of months, we’ll have built out much more of Loftia, and have some amazing gameplay clips that you can show your friends or socials to help spread the word! And there’ll probably also be some pre-alpha testing keys up for grabs, too.

That wraps it up for the October edition of Loftian Skies. Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

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