Friday, 4 November 2016

Is this the penultimate update?

Time appropriate greeting, earthlet!

So I'm starting to get excited, there might only be one more kickstarter update before this thing is actually finished! If you want more regular info on what is going on you can follow on twitter @tuskygames or faceblab 

 So it’s time to let you know what’s been completed since the last update - In pictures

So in the last post, there was a picture of the "verybigship" - the baddies cruiser, but I wasn't happy with it so got a new one.

 The level 12 boss is done. Here's a bit of a gloomy shot of it:

There is now little ship for the heroes.

 Couple of new baddies; a floaty bot

 And one with a working name of "Merv":

 Redid boss 1 so now it uses little robots to power a shield. Also his hammer is on fire and sets everything on fire.

 So other than that all of the levels are pretty much done bar 1: the final boss. That should be wrapped up in the next week or 2. We've been doing lots of re-recording as well. We have Bonetopick (the main villan) and his underlings down, as well as a few other parts like the lift, scientist and computer. Lots of thanks to everyone who has given their time for that - It's going to be great to hear it "in situ".
So what I'll be working on next is the final Boss fight. Then I'll start on the 4 cut scenes. There are also a lot of other things like finishing off the options menu, save & load etc. We've also made a start on some media for the store page and getting a proper trailer together which should be fun. The current trailer is over a year old now and no longer a fair representation of the game, so I'm very keen to get that updated.

 In terms of go live date: I am confident that by December there will be a full, cohesive & playable “thing” ready for alpha testing. However are 2 main items that might cause a delay to actually going live. The key one is animating the cutscenes, which at the moment is a little bit of an unknown in terms of how long the might take. So once I have got through one I will have a better idea about if the timeline is still realistic. The other potential cause for delay is any issues and feedback raised from testing. I suspect that there might be quite a few suggestions to implement once there are fresh eyes on it - so again that presents another bit of an unknown.

 Testing is going to start from early December whilst the cutscenes are finished off, so at that time it will become more clear what is left to do. As such I have decided to move the original launch date from December to February.

 Sorry :(

 But that will ensure that there is plenty of time to test, refine, get a steam store page up and that kind of thing. It’ll make sure the game has at least some polish and isn’t launched without being refined. I especially don’t want to go down the route of launching something that is not finished and call it an alpha release.

 That’s all for now.

 The BioStation Drone

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Dev Blog Update!

Howdy there space station fans.

What's new? Here's what's new:


I'm targetting completion of the game in December - Q4 2017 is the date listed in various places like steam and indieDB so I do want to try and hit that. There isn't much in the way of "contingency" time left in the timeline, though, but I think it is achievable.

Voice recording  

After months of attempting to find suitable times and means of getting the script down we finally got it done. There are still a few parts to fill in but at least at this point there is full voicing for the script. Once the talented sound engineer has had his way with the files then I can drop them into place within the levels and start on the cutscenes!


The main cutscene models are getting there. Here's the dastardly "Admiral Bonetopick" in front of his vessel the "SS Verybigship"

Upgrades system  

You now earn biobucks from your space station related antics. You spend them on various upgrades including, but not limited to, increased max health; a machine gun; a rocket launcher; and a spell that makes the enemies fight each other.

Battle music  

At the moment most of the background music is quite serene and suits general exploring or puzzle solving. However the game has frequent combat bits. It was clear that it wasn't suitable to have some relaxing dreamy music playing when you were frantically trying to blow things up. So what will happen now is that when combat starts the music will shift up a gear and suit what is happening a bit more. Alexei has got started on that and should have them completed in the next couple of weeks.

Sound effects  

Playtesting the game up till now has been an eerie and silent experience, but no longer! It is full of explosions, footsteps and pew pew noises.

So that's in in terms of progress. It's actually a little bit more than I had planned to do which is encouraging for meeting the completion date. In September the key goal is to have the last full level completed. Also there are a lot of details that need to be filled in on some of the levels, since the initial set up was done in somewhat of a "broad strokes" way in order to have the structure in place.

 That's all for now!

 The BioStation Drone   

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Building the beam bunny

Today I thought I'd share an image diary that goes over the process I took in building the "beam bunny".

Following initial front and side view sketches I started on the head, adding vertices to follow the contours from each angle:

After completing the head I followed the same approach on the legs and body.

Finally added the arms to complete the model.

Following that came the process of adding some animations, texturing and importing into the engine, and here is the completed beam bunny:

Monday, 6 June 2016

The challenge and reward of third person shooting

So a decision I made early on was to allow that the player play in First person or third person perspective, with a free moving camera to look. It's basically lead to having to develop 2 different experiences. However I have now decided to remove the first person aspect entirely. So I'd like to share some of the many issues I encountered with third person, (in case it helps or is of interest to anyone) and how I came to prefer it over first person.

The initial reason behind the idea was that first person is easier for shooting, and third person easy for looking around the environment for clues, navigating platforms and other general puzzle solving activities. Well initially the shooting mechanic was entirely physics based so it made sense. In other words if you pressed fire then a bullet object would be generated that went in the direction the player is looking. It's clear with this method what the bullets are doing. The only problem with that was: It was absolutely terrible and aiming that way was a tedious chore.

As such this was revamped to have a more traditional shooter feel, which I talked about previously. Basically whatever the reticle was pointing at would become shot. Simple. This was a big improvement. It worked perfectly in first person but in third person it became a colossal pain.

So what were the issues?

1. Obstructions: In first person if you are behind a wall then it is clear that you cant see a target behind the wall, so if you press fire looking at a wall, the bullet will hit the wall. But as a player in third person, When you are looking at your reticle which is pointed an enemy, You press fire expecting the enemy to be peppered with bullets and die - but you might not have noticed that you are behind a wall.

At first I didn't worry about this, and just made it so that your shot would hit whatever was under the reticle regardless of if the player could see or not. It became clear however that this would make the game ridiculously easy, because you could just sit in some cover, impervious to enemy fire and gun them all down without taking a shot. The solution was to draw 2 lines, the first one from where the camera is looking to what is under the reticle (i.e. what the player wants to shoot), then drawing a line from that point to where the player object is in the scene to see if they can see it. If they cant then show the "disabled" red reticle. The player can still shoot but the bullets bounce off whatever is blocking the players view.

2. Visual feedback: Since the "gun" can be behind the player as they move around, and pretty small compared to the first person version, so you cant immediately tell what gun you have selected.

In Escape from BioStation you only get one gun with different abilities you can buy so it make life more simple, and was a case of adding clear Icons to the UI which inform the player what ability they have selected

3. More Obstructions The player being in the way of the gun and what you are looking at and want to shoot proved to be a giant pain for a few reasons: Detecting whether a shot actually hit anything required that you trace from the gun to the target, except if the player is facing the camera then the first thing in the way is the player... also you need to make sure that the shooting effect is set behind the gun and player.

I haven't applied the real solution here, which would be to have the player pointing their weapon over their shoulder. In Escape from BioStation I am going with the excuse of "It's a magic squirrel, of course it can shoot backwards" which is a bit of a cop out to be honest. Maybe if I ever do a sequel I'll sort that out. An interim solution I tried was to have the squirrel rotate in the players hand to look the right way but looked terrible in practice.

The shooting effect was fixed by having another point that adjusts itself in the scene relative to where the reticle appears to be for the player on the camera, and having the bullet effect go to that point.

Once the issues I list here were resolved I found that the combat situations had become lots of fun. Some of the benefits of third person over first person are that you have clear feedback on what is happening to the character in the scene. For example if you are being hit in melee from behind, you can see straight away without needing to turn around. Or if you get knocked down this is obvious because you see it happen, but that doesn't really work in first person, unless you add in some limbs that the player can see the character getting back up which I don't really fancy doing. The other, and greater advantage in terms of game-play is that you can view a scene safely from cover without needing to expose yourself. This is good for planning a strategy ahead of combat, or taking cover from a hail of bullets and checking for when its safe to return fire, or if you want to fire off an ability you can duck into cover and watch the ensuing carnage!

There were a lot of challenges to overcome to allow the player to fight both in third person and first person, but I think that the third person shooting works really well, and I prefer it to first person, which has lead me to the decision to actually remove the first person element altogether. I found that it detracted from the way the combat had come to flow, probably largely due to the fact that I had kept playtesting in third person and reluctantly went into first person as an afterthought to fix any bugs that had appeared.

About the BioStation and exploration

This post is to provide a little background on the eponymous "BioStation".

The BioStation is an ancient planet sized construction in space that surrounds a small planetoid. It's exact function, at least at first, seems quite mysterious. The whole thing is populated with all sorts of odd creatures and robots, which the player discovers as they explore. They will also discover that there are some enemies and traps on the station that need to be overcome.

Essentially the idea is to avoid spoon feeding all of the background to the player in its entirety, and instead provide the feeling that they are in a vast city sized orbital station that contains endless possibilities and exploration. This was largely inspired by the (also eponymous) "Red Dwarf" where you were given the impression that the few inhabitants had this massive, city sized ship at their disposal, and if they explored it for long enough they would come across some kind of adventure. The only difference there being that Lister was usually too lazy to bother to go around any of it.

Escape From BioStation will be quite a linear game, so it wont be true exploration like you might get in a sandbox style game like knights of the old republic or Mass Effect. So there wont be enough time to see all of it. Nor will there be a full catalogue of what the station contains. This will hopefully encourage the player to imagine what might be there and increase their immersion and engagement in the various environments that they will have access to.

It is also for this reason that the exact history of the station, as with much of the surrounding universe in which the story takes place will, for the time being, largely be left up to the imagination of the player.

That being said it is not an excuse to simply not bother with these kinds of details. There are a number of hints and references to what is / has been going on in the wider universe. Hopefully this should create a more immersive environment that engages the player.

Development Update

It's been a busy few months working on escape from biostation, and it's hight time I let you know the latest!


As per the most recent survey the squirrel was embellished with a bullet belt. He has also has something of a makeover with fur.

Lots of other models have been tweaked, such as the station, which is being worked on at the moment, and Rob himself.

Work for level 9 (9 of 18) is underway. The levels have now all been planned out to tie in with the script. It is looking likely that the December delivery is still achievable, pending any huge complications.


As previously mentioned the script is now finished and soon will come the job of recording it.


More tunes have been in production, and they are sounding great. The majority of the soundtrack is complete now, however there might be some fiddling with it and some final tracks added later in the year once the game is nearing completion. 

And the Results are in!

It's been a busy social week for Escape From BioStation (aside from continuing developments, obvs!).

In a twisted moment of madness I decided to start 2 polls at the same time.

Question 1

So if you read the last post you'll know that at the moment the shooting mechanic has been the recent focus, and now is almost complete. It has made it a lot more engaging and enjoyable! One thing that remains is to have a point where the squirrel should reload. But that lead to the question: surely it won't work like a normal gun, can it? How and where will the clip be placed... Oh dear. Not that. So I came to the conclusion that it would be a wonderful opportunity to have the input of the kick starter backers.

The new feature will go into production soon, and will probably be in a demo-able state next month.

Question 2

Something that I needed was some T-Shirts to give away as fabulous prizes. Everyone loves fabulous prizes, don't they! Well rather than coming up with something by myself I opened this up to the awesome chaps and chapesses on the twitters and  facebookses.

That poll is also closed now. The winners were all notified. so an artist is doing some sketches now of what the garment will actually have on it. Once they are printed they will all go off in the post.

There are going to be lots more in the way of freebie competitions - so make sure you you are following on twitter and have liked on the facebook page if you want to be in with a chance to win those (link in the right).

Until next time!

The BioStation Quiz Drone

Making the combat more fun

Something that I have been working a lot on lately is making the combat more fun

Essentially I was not happy with the fights,  they felt very clunky, primarily because I had intended the game to be a puzzler first and a shooter second - but it was clear that the fighting mechanic needed to work well. So this has got an overhaul.


The actual mechanic of shooting stuff didn't feel fun. You would press fire, and after a small pause where the squirrel would flap his arm an acorn would arc in whichever way you (the player) were looking.It was tough to aim and slow and didn't feel right.

Instead of that there is now a more familiar "fps" vibe - there is a reticle so you can see where you will be shooting and you can just hold down fire and machine gun stuff. It's a lot more satisfying.


Up until now these guys have been pretty stupid. All they would do would be to run towards you, shoot from time to time, so they were about as tricky as an enemy in a 90s shooter. The new improved AI has them using cover, dodging and working as a team. When idle it will also be possible to mess with them by creating a distraction and sneaking past - so enemy encounters will be a lot more engaging.


To compliment the above, you can now zoom out into a third person view to help with jumping about on platforms and such, and then zoom in to first person for when you want to shoot at things!

That's about it for now!

Take it easy

The Biostation Drone

The game is Greenlit! My thoughts on the process

I'm pleased to announce that after 66 days on steam, Escape From BioStation was successfully greenlit.

It was an interesting process, which began with an inauspicious spurt of "yes" votes, followed by a very pronounced flatline after a week. This was probably my fault as the page was sorely lacking having only a few images and not even a video. This was a huge blunder. After around a couple of weeks Escape From BioStation had received around 300 yes votes. The amount of unique visitors to the Steam page was at best one a day. I estimated that getting into the hallowed top 100 would require 1000 - 1500 yes votes at least. The game was clearly in "Greelight Limbo".

This was my understanding of the process, so whilst disappointed I was not necessarily concerned. However I did get a feeling that I would need to draft a press release along the lines of "1 year in Greenlight - my tale of woe".

So during this time development on Escape From Biostation continued steadily, and I did everything to ensure that the game was able to receive any positive interest it might get (short of paying for advertising). This involved responding to comments on the greenlight page, posting new videos / screenshots of game footage as soon as there was something to show off; and adding announcements to let visitors know the game was still being worked on. This had some success, in that I could see that the percent of people voting yes was going up (having started at a lowly 20%), but the all important unique visitors was still a pathetic trickle.

After around 50 days a friend of mine suggested approaching some external groups and sites to increase exposure - which I thought would be a good idea. So they went off and got on with this for me - allowing me to focus on devving. Their work did yield some interest. The largest amount of interest came when a demo of Escape from BioStation was included in a greenlight bundle on Groupees, which ran for a few days. Soon after that it was also mentioned on the who's gaming now website. Following this there started to be a marked increase in new visitors. The percentage of these visitors voting yes increased too - being more like 75%. As a result of this the game's progress towards the top 100 games went from about 25% to 80% over the course of about a week and a half - so very suddenly the exciting prospect of getting to the top 100 seemed a reality.

At 66 days I got a very unexpected email letting me know that the game had been Greenlit! I think at that point the game was about 85% of the way to the top 100, so this came as a bit of a pleasant shock. My understanding was that the powers that be in the Valve camp would only scour the top 100 to decide on what games they would include. My friend suggested that the reason for this might be that it was the sudden surge of interest that they liked. Perhaps this is true, I'll never find out. What I secretly hope is that someone at Valve heard about the game and loved it so much that they were following it's progress with keen interest so that they could give it the greenlight as soon as the possibly could.

In any case I am delighted to announce that Escape from BioStation will indeed be coming to steam in 2016. For any that might be in "Greenlight Limbo" reading this then I hope that some of my experiences might offer some tips.

Bosses, Kickstarter and Groupees

Good day to you space station fans!

So it's been a while since the last update but that does not mean that nothing has been going on... far from it! Here is a rundown:


The kickstarter campaign was successfully funded! It did end up being a bit of a photo finish but it was a big relief to have made it. This funding will be start going towards a few things so looking forward to sending updates about that to all of the backers.


The first of three boss levels has been completed. This guy is called the hammer titan, and is a bit on the big side.

As well as that one big update was that the unity engine had a major version update to 5, so naturally that took a huge amount of time to get up to date. There has also been a new UI added with health and a score for "nuts and bolts" which will be cool because you'll be able to spend them on upgrades. Also have been improving all of the existing levels and started on level 5!

Groupees & Demo

We have a demo of the game now - which is basically level 3. This has been included in a groupees bundle, here:

It's a snip at four bucks so get involved! This is helping a lot towards steam greenlight as more people are finding out about the game. The demo will of course be going up here as well, although ahead of that there will be some work to make it as cool as possible :)

Well that's it for now, but there will be more updates soon!

The BioStation Drone



Well its been a productive couple of weeks, so I thought it was high time I let you all know how we've been getting on.

Greenlight: The game is 15% of the way to the top 100. That might not sound like much it's only been a few weeks so am very happy for the hundreds of yes votes it's got so far. If you haven't yet (and are able to) then please show your support over at  href="

The game itself is making steady progress. The largest improvement is a system of collectable goodies!

These collectables will do a couple of things. First and foremost they will give you points! Everyone loves points, right? With them you'll be able to buy upgrades like:

  •  Better ammo
  • Tougher skin
  • Speed upgrades
  • Increased rate of fire
Work on the ammo types is already complete with normal, electric, and fire ammo flavours that all deal different damages.

The other thing that some collectables will do is show you data logs from the missing crew, and they will sometimes give you clues on what to do in a particular area.

Something that will start being built very soon is a "hub" level. This will allow you to go in to any level you like from one point. The hub will also have a shop where you can spend your hard earned points on upgrades!

Development of the new AI is going slowly as it is quite an in depth system. It'll be worth it in the end to ensure that the combat is as engaging as possible.
We are now at the propotype stage for level 5, so following this we'll know exactly all of the elements that will be needed. these can then be created and put together. That should be complete in a couple of weeks.

If you have already backed on kickstarter then once again THANK YOU (sorry for sounding like a broken record!) There is some way to go to our goal. There is still over a week to go, so we'll be on the campaign wagon to make sure we get there :)

Soundtrack, Level 5 and Greenlight!

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Hi all,

Well it's been quite a buy few weeks dearest reader!

What's happened, I hear you ask? Well for starters work on the soundtrack is underway. Quite excited to be working with Alexei Zakharov on this, who is known for his work on the "X" games,

Although it's still early days we have gone live on steam greenlight, so if you haven't yet then please do go over to there and give us a big old "yes" vote!

There are some lovely new skins for the new models that have been created in substance painter. Whilst they look good there is an issue with that in that some of the older models will now need a make-over in order to get them up to scratch. Screenshots to follow...Level 4 is mostly complete and work on the first Biodeck is underway for level 5. There is a new station model for the BioStation itself which looks pretty cool now, you can see a small part of it here:

A few shiny improvements will be made to the AI, using a more robust system as there was a bug where if more than one baddy was in a similar place they would appear to jostle and fight amongst themselves to get to some invisible point before actually trying to fight the player! So funny as it is to watch,that will be fixed, and pathing will be much better.

That's it for now, many thanks again to all who have provided support. Still a way to go yet but fingers crossed!

The BioStation Drone

Ze Site! She Is Born!

Welcome to the new site for BioStation*!

So without further ado here is a bit of a progress update.

Development has been coming along steadily, 2.5 months in now so very pleased with where it's got to. For level 4 there was some work on a zero gravity area, there is a little video over on that there facebook of an EVA jump, this is a central point in the level though so don't watch it if you don't want spoilers!;set=vb.807652959283429&amp;type=2&amp;theater

Work on that is pretty much complete. So level 4 is just waiting on the last few models being finished, rigged and skinned.The approach to skinning may alter a little as some new software is being trialled to use - and it looks promising.

Looking ahead there is also a new friendly robot being built for a "biodeck" level. It's codename "goliath".

We're up over 10% now for the kickstarter campaign which is AMAZING and I'm so grateful for all of the support so far in just a few days. If you have not yet backed, why now? It's so easy! The page is here:

That's it for now!

* Ok its not called just "BioStation" but I get fed up of writing the whole title every time. Leave me alone!