Ancient Aliens: Environment Art

Today I wanted to share some of the environment art the team has been building for Ancient Aliens: Severed Skies. We are really fortunate to have nine (yes nine!) artists workings on the project – 3 experienced industry vets and 6 art school grads who have been eager to practice their skills on a serious project. I’m thrilled by the working relationship the artists have developed – progress has been fast and steady over the last month under the solid leadership of Stephen Philpott, our art director.

Egypt Aliens

Stargate-esque reference art


South Park – my favorite Egypt color reference!

While the alien spaceships are definitely the keystone on which the game puts most of its aesthetic weight, building an environment that is true to the setting, which includes a variety of ancient civilizations (in this case Egypt), will really clinch the tone of the game.


Egyptian Buildings – Untextured WIP

Egypt Building - Textured WIP

Egypt Building – Textured WIP

For the upcoming demo version of the game, we are using the UV scrolling technique to bake the 3D environment onto a 2D texture, and have that image scroll downwards to simulate the player’s upward movement. As such, the environment assets need only be readable from a distance.

Market Stall WIP

Market Stall WIP

Above View WIP

Above View WIP

However, as with many aspects of this project, we are taking a high-to-low fidelity approach; that is, we are building high fidelity assets (within reason) and baking them down to smaller files and textures as needed. This will allow us to easily upscale if we choose to port to PC or consoles down the road. There are other advantages as well: we can potentially use the assets in cut-scenes or during story beats between missions, and we are freed up to have the player fly very close to the ground from time to time.

Environment Art

Egyptian Building WIP

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these early works-in-progress. I’ll keep posting about the progress of our environment art as it comes together into a cohesive backdrop. Expect to see vast deserts, sprawling cities, quaint villages and ancient relics, including of course the iconic pyramids, the Sphinx, and other recognizable landmarks. We plan to add an alien twist to these locales, of course: it was Ancient Aliens who helped build them after all!

Next up: spaceship art!


Unity Scene Diff Tool

Greetings fellow Unity developers,

As you may have come across, text diffing and merging Unity scenes is not so easy.  Having a Unity scene be diff-able and merge-able is necessary for multiple team members to be able to edit it at the same time without losing changes.  Most teams either deal with this by letting only team team member at a time edit the scene file, or by buying Unity Pro ($1500).

Even with Edit->Project Settings->Editor->Asset Serialization set to “Force Text”, here’s the type of diff you can expect after changing a single value in your Unity scene.  The scrollbar shows how long the text is!:


Some solutions to this have been made, and sold on the Unity Asset Store.  My team tried two of these solutions.  However, neither of them just worked out of the box, and they were both extremely clunky.  It would have been more work to get these solutions to work for our team.

So, I figured out how to fix the problem with a simple Python script.  The Unity text file has lots of entities, which look like this:

— !u!196 &5                  <– (THE ENTITY TAG)
  m_ObjectHideFlags: 0
    agentRadius: .5
    agentHeight: 2
    agentSlope: 45
In scenes of moderate to large size, Unity basically randomizes the order in which it saves the entities.  So my Python script just sorts the entities based on their tag name.  Afterward, you get a much simpler diff:


The script was surprisingly easy to write.  Since it’s in Python, it works on both Windows and Mac, which is important since some of our team works on each platform.

Hope this tip works for you!

Aaron Smith
Chief Technical Officer
ZeroPoint Studios

September Crunch

October is a big month for ZeroPoint Studios, and September will be full-crunch preparing our first game, Ancient Aliens, for upcoming events. The first big benchmark for our studio is IndieCade – more a celebration of indie games than a professional conference, IndieCade has always been a really fun, laid back opportunity to talk games with fans and devs alike. This year’s goal is to have a working level of Ancient Aliens in a presentable state, so that I can start showing it to people and build up a bit of hype. For the first time I will also be attending the indieXchange summit, which is advertised as a matchmaking opportunity for indie devs (it sounds good in theory – this year I’ll find out for myself if it’s worth the steep ticket price!).

Our goal is to have 6 enemies ready for the demo level – 3 “organic” ships, similar to the Zerg from Starcraft, and 3 “tech” ships, aesthetically kind of a hybrid of Terran and Protoss, to continue the analogy. Each enemy can be absorbed by the player ship, modifying the player’s weapon in a unique way, kind of like Kirby’s inhale ability. Our game allows two of these modifications to stack on top of each other, creating an interesting design challenge in determining how these mod combinations should function. Making this feel fun and intuitive will make or break the game, in my opinion, and peoples’ reactions during IndieCade will be a very useful test-case to see if we are on the right track.

Later in October is the Gaming Insiders summit in San Francisco – a trip that seems well worth taking as there are some great guest speakers on the docket. This will also be an opportunity to show people an even more honed version of the demo level, and hopefully get some expert critiques (my assumption is that only serious devs will be attending said event).

To close out the month is the Indie Game Festival submission deadline (Oct 19). Ours will of course be a work-in-progress, but submitting will be a great exercise in creating a holistic package, a vertical slice of gameplay that exemplifies what makes our game fun and different from other scrolling shooters.

Stay tuned to find out how these events went down, and also to hear more about the next huge company goal: the Ancient Aliens Kickstarter!

And of course, much love to my amazing team for carrying the standard forward every step of the way. Everyone has gone above and beyond with their professionalism and quality of work, and continues to do so on the promise of a dream. This project wouldn’t exist without them. Thank you guys!

Creative Director
ZeroPoint Studios

ZeroPoint Business Cards

                         ZeroPoint business cards came in the mail! Huzzah!