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Fronterra Devlog #9

Character Development

For this update I’ve been focusing on characters, both in terms of visuals as well as gameplay behaviours. My ambition for characters within Fronterra is that they should be distinct from one another not only visually, but more importantly in terms of how they act. Ideally, all characters, regardless of faction, should have unique behaviours and interact with players and each other, in interesting and surprising ways. The ultimate goal being that you create a rich, reactive game world that feels like it would continue to exist if players were there or not. I’ve been keeping this in mind as I’ve been working on a number of enemies this week, and I want to talk about about the appearance and traits of three of them:



Madish is an aggressive melee enemy that I built on top of my base enemy from a few weeks back. They spawn as foliage in the environment amongst other, similar-looking plants, but when players, or other potential prey, get too close, they burst out of the ground and chase after their target. They attack by performing a powerful swipe with a stretchy, vine arm which not only hurts opponents, but also destroys voxels that get in the way, too. Madishes are able to leap high in the air and so they can be tricky, flexible and erratic foes, especially when they attack in groups.




Bullbugs are giant insects that roam the plains, grazing on plant life and generally remain placid unless provoked. They are usually accompanied by a number of infant bugs and will become enraged if they or their offspring are threatened or hurt. In attack mode they will charge at their opponent with great force, destroying any obstacles as they hurtle forward. The infant bugs behaviour is different to the adult as they scurry to keep up with their parent and will curl up into a ball and ‘play possum’ if they are threatened.





As mentioned previously, these parasites spawn as clusters of eggs. Anyone foolish enough to approach them without caution will be greeted by hordes of spider-like hatchlings who will leap onto their target, leeching their life away and causing other unwanted side effects. If careful, players can harvest these eggs and use them against enemies or as an ingredient in crafting recipes.


Here is a video showing the Madish’s behaviours in action:

Asset Creation

I thought it might be useful to also include some info about my process for making characters. I usually start with a (very!) crude sketch and I find it useful to be as rough as possible in the beginning; just get the idea down as loosely and quickly as possible.


Examples of some rough idea sketches

Then, I will either scan the drawing and refine it in Photoshop, or (more often) jump straight into Maya and start modeling. I go back and forth a lot between Maya, Unity and Photoshop, doing paintovers and refining as I progress with an asset.


I’m using Toony Colors Pro v2 for the character shaders in this project and keeping the textures to simple colours, patterns and gradients.


Hopefully I eventually am able to capture the spirit of the original idea and then I move onto rigging.

I am most definitely not an animator or a technical artist, so I use the (free) auto-rigging tool on mixamo.com for all biped characters that I make. It works surprisingly well regardless of a character’s proportions and the 1000s of animations on the site are super useful when prototyping character movesets. For non-biped characters, I try to find an asset online that has the same (or similar) skeleton structure as the thing that I’m making. For instance, the Bullbug uses the skeleton and animations of a pillbug asset I purchased from the Unity store! Once I have a skinned character, I can finesse the skin weights in Maya (if necessary) and then take the model and animations into Unity and start to hook it all up.

I hope this is useful info and will talk about further steps in the process in a subsequent post.

Next Steps

I’ve been creating and testing game mechanics, entities, biomes etc. in different builds and I think it’s time to try and bring as much of it together and see how it all is fitting so far. So I will be concentrating on merging my experiments into a single scene and discovering what (if any!) kind of game loop exists. Wish me luck!

Next post: MatterFormer #1

Written By

Nick Carver

Published in: Creative Spotlight
April 30, 2020