About the Programming Team

Now that you know a bit more about how the art team’s flow of work goes. I will attempt to shine some light on how the programming team functions. We don’t have a pipeline in the same sense as the artist because our work is based off of things that our design team feels is essential to the game. Which was originally the basic game-play mechanics for the game such as movement in the world and camera movement with the character and then continuing all the way to things such as shader scripting and our own character controller. Along with all the in between programming such as User Interface, Audio, character interaction with NPCs (AI), animation implementation and other things we do that I have forgotten to mention here. All of these can be split up into specific roles that we have on our programming team. So without further wording I’ll dive into our programming teams’ roles that we have, which may be defined differently for us.

Lead Programmer

The lead programmer of the team manages the rest of the programming team by assigning tasks to the other roles as they see fit, keeps track of current development of the game, and works with other other leads on the team to ensure that the game is coming together with art, design, and programming all in agreement so the development process goes more smoothly. The lead programmer also does programming as well, and normally has knowledge of all of their team members roles.

Graphics Programmer

Graphics programmers on our team consist of the programmers who work with shaders and lighting. The shader programming is done using in unity using CG(C for Graphics and some ShaderLab language and more than a few custom shaders have been created. Their uses include: water surfaces, waterfalls, depth masks, double sided planes for models, and an underwater distortion effect. The lighting on our team is not necessarily something needed to be done by programmers, but for our purposes it is. Lighting is just that, making our game have light so the player can see and it looks visually appealing, and it’s not as simple as turning  on a light switch as there are many options that affect lighting. These programmers have to work closely with artists since what they do visually affects the game and needs an artist’s touch.

surface water shader example

User Interface Programmer

Our UI programmers are the ones who implement any and all user interface aspects of the game. This includes our main menu, pause menu, underwater oxygen depletion, interaction prompts, and also included in this are particle effects. Since we are trying to use minimal UI elements our UI programmers for in game content have their work cut out for them and they are doing quite well at it. Along with graphics, UI programmers also have to work closely with artists especially with particle effects to ensure the best quality.

Underwater oxygen particle system in a non set dressed level

AI Programmers

For our team AI programmers, or artificial intelligence programmers, work on things such as our NPC mechanics and how the NPCs react to the player. Things they do include making the fish, bat, mole and eel move, and make all of those NPCs act differently towards the character. For instance the fish is not hostile and may even follow you while the eel hides and lunges out to attack the player underwater.

Audio Programmers

Audio programming is what  you think it is, implementing the sounds effects, and background music in the game so it works with all of the previously mentioned programmers’ tasks. And again since we are going for a minimal UI approach audio will player a large role in our player experience.

Physics Programmers

Our physics programmers are the programmers who work with the player’s character controller and in-game physics based events.The character controller is what allows the player to move the character, while the other physics tasks revolve more around underwater mechanics and also physics based rock movement. The last two thing being the most difficult to work with and hard to refine, but we’re getting there.

Generalist/ Game-play Programmer

The rest of what we do as far as programming is what I consider generalist or game-play programming which consists of refining our game-play mechanics, implementing animations, implementing puzzle mechanics, and overall bug fixing of previously made code. This role for us is more of a catch all role and includes every programmer on the team.

A look at our unfinished player animation state machine made with Unity’s Mecanim.

These are the roles each of our programming team members identify with in some way shape or form and many team members do more than one of these roles. Hopefully this told you a little about what we do, but if you want me to sum it all up: we make the pretty things the artists make move and/or work.

-William, from Strix Game Studio

About the Art Team!

So, we ran into a problem here, folks! We loooooove sharing with you guys, but we also hate spoilers. So while we have been quite busy, there is very little to show you without revealing some pretty major aspects of the game. Don’t worry, by our next sprint in two weeks, we will have lots to show you, including some great art and gameplay videos. But in the meantime, we are going to explain what our art people actually do all day. (aside from eating and shooting each other with nerf guns). Our team artists all tend to have specific things they focus on, like I focus on almost entirely 2D work like graphic design and texture art, but we float between other tasks that need to be done as well. What tasks you say? Well let me tell you!


The Pipeline:

All of these next positions are part of something called “The pipeline”, which is all the steps it takes to smoothly make art assets as a team from beginning to end. The pipeline is what keeps our team moving forward in art production like a well oiled machine c:

Concept Art:

Concept art is how every piece of game art is born. One of our concept artists will take the idea for an asset or character, and sketch out ideas for what it can look like, refining it until we have a final piece of art that will be used as reference for making the object.

Some mushroom concepts by Emily.

3D Modeling:

This is the core of the art we need for Everend, it is making the actual 3D meshes to place in the game. We use Maya for the bulk of the work, and will also go into zbrush as well, if an object needs a lot of detail. The person that does the 3D modeling will make the mesh, which is the polygons that make the object, and then they UV the object. The UV is all the polygons stretched out to lay flat, like a sewing pattern, to be painted on to make our textures. Sometimes the artist will paint their own textures when they are done UV’ing, but they also will sometimes send them to another artist to do the texture work!

Screenshot (64)


This is where the color, texture, glow, and other qualities aside from its shape are created. The artist will paint different ‘maps’ fitting the UV’s of the object, which will each add different features to the object. Every object needs color, which is the ‘texture’, and then from there the objects really begin to vary. Some have normal maps, which add bumps and added small detail, or glow that makes certain areas look illuminated, or maps that add shine and other fancy details.

Here is an example of some objects with all their textures applied!

 Particles (in some cases):

So pretty! Particles are the glitter, sparkle, and pixie dust of the level. They aren’t large physical 3D objects, but animated effects to add detail and character to the game. The particle artist (me) will make the textures and come up with sketches for what the particles will look like, and then work with the programmer in charge of particles (Gabe), to find out the best way to achieve that effect in game.

Particle Concepts
concepts for our particle effects, painted over pictures of the models

Rigging and Animating (for characters):

As you have already seen in Alex’s post, rigging is building the skeleton for moving the models for characters in the game. Once you have the skeleton, the character is posed and keyframed into the animations we need for the game. You can read all about this on our rigger/animator Alex’s post, where he explains the whole process!


Other Art Roles:

Outside of the pipeline, there is still a lot of other art to be made!

Graphic Design/PR/UI:

Graphic Design and UI art is used in the game for menus, buttons, icons, and other 2D pieces of art that are used to help communicate things to the player. Outside of the game, this artist also creates the business cards, pamphlets, websites, presentations, press materials, and all sorts of other printed materials that can be used to help promote and present the game.

Screenshots of the different social media sites we have created


Level Design:

This art isn’t anything you will see directly in Everend, but is vital in designing our game. Level design art is technical drawings that show the layout of different areas, how different puzzles will look and operate, and help concept how different levels can be arranged for the best play experience. Because this art is used to brainstorm ideas for level design, our programmers will also sketch out level design art as well! Level design art is mostly rough sketches and scribbles, but there are some nicer polished pieces we use for presentations and pitching our game.


Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you back next week, when we talk about the different roles on our programming team!




Happy Holidays!

Well, we did it, we have finished the first semester of our project! We are very excited that we have finished the semester. We just did a public play testing on the 14th, where the senior game design teams got to have our games played students on campus, who were attracted by the lure of both playing games and free pizza. We laughed, we cried, we broke our games, we found things that were working great, and we found things that made people want to throw the controller through the screen. But hey, that’s what play testing is all about. We had a great turnout and people enjoyed playing the games. As a group, we got a lot of great feedback for Everend from it that we look forward to working on next semester.

blog post

We also made an appearance at the fall game launch here at Stout to show some previews of what we have so far, and are excited to bring our finished game to the Spring Game Launch next semester on April 27 2016 starting at 7 pm. If you are interested in seeing the final project that we have been talking about, meeting Kaia, and helping her find her way out of the caves, then we really look forward to seeing you there! If you cannot make it to that event we will also be showing the game at the senior show on May 6th. We just went to this semester’s senior show to get ideas and what we want to do, and I found a few ideas that I think may be really fun. I hope to see you at one of these events, and I know the others in the group would be happy to see you as well.

Over this entire semester we have worked hard and we feel confident in what we have accomplished. The artists have worked hard and the game looks great. The programmers have helped the art take flight, quite literally in the point of Kaia, and have breathed life into the game. Being a part of this game has made me very happy. I worked on the lighting of the game and with the help of the artists we have given some very interesting light to the game. Over the next semester I will be working closely with the art team to get the lighting to be what we want for the game. Some of us are taking a short break for about a month to relax and unwind during our winterm, the semester that happens between the fall and spring semesters. Some of us will be working hard through that month to get a head start on the next sprint.We all are thankful for those of you who have been following our progress from the very start, and welcome those who are just starting to check out our funny little owl game. Your support means so much to us, thank you for all that you do. Overall I would like to wish everyone Happy Holidays from Strix Studios, we’ll see you again real soon.

Animations Blog

Hey!  Here’s an update on where we are at with the animations.  As of right now the only thing we have fully modeled is Kaia herself.  It took a little bit of hard work but I think I now have a good understanding of how I want Kaia herself to move.
I’ll be going over the research I did to bring this character to life.

To start I had to give Kaia her bones and controls so that I could move her anatomy just like an ordinary owl.  This process is called “rigging” and it takes a lot of time to get it right.  To keep it simple I’ll give you some pictures of the progress.

kaianorigHere she is looking so pretty. Now let’s take a look underneath the skin. 

CaptureEwww Gross!  I know right but this is necessary to make the character move.  I know it’s hard to see but each one of those small points is a bone, 98 to be exact.  Each one influences a piece of the Kaia’s body.  Once this was done we need to add controls to the bones cause no one in their right mind would want to move 98 separate bones.  That’s just crazy.  

w.controlsThere we go. So we took away the bones and now you can see only 28 controls.  Each one does something different.  I put a lot of control for the feathers because the animators like it when the controls are well designed and best suited for the type of animating you are doing.

Now to animate this thing I first had to become the owl.  So for a whole day I spent acting out how I would think an curious owl would.  Owls can’t move their eyes so if I wanted to look at something I had to move my entire head.  And if I wanted to move somewhere I would crouch down in a little ball and act it out.  If you think I would be crazy enough to do this in front of everyone you’re right!  We animators are pretty crazy but we have to get in character so that the animations reflect how we want them to feel.  During this time I also looked for inspiration on the internet from owls running in slow motion to watching the movie “Owls of Ga’hoole” like 13 times.  Great movie by the way.

So when you are making a game character you have a list of all the different animations you need to complete for each type of input you want your character to have.  I started with the most important ones so that the game would be playable as of right now.  That consisted of running, idle, jump, double jump, and glide.  There are many more that I have yet to do but I wanted to share with you what I have done so far.  

I hope that you are looking forward to the game cause I can’t wait either.  Right now I’m trying to figure out how an owl would swim underwater!  I’ll update you on that once I get it done.  Thanks for checking in and stay tuned for more!

Game Trailer and Poster

Bring on the feels! Here’s the very first trailer of Everend.

Our very talented artists Hue Vang and Mitch Clayton created this amazing cinematic and are currently making the final 3D rendered version.


This opening cinematic help players immerse into Kaia’s world. It gives an understanding of what is happening to Kaia and how the owl will progress throughout the game.

The beautiful scene really lets the viewer become engrossed in the story and create an initial bond with the protagonist. Right from the start, players can become entranced in the deep atmospheric cave system

Cinematic Storyboard:

pic2 pic3

Here are some great shots of our new cinematic!



Take a look at this excellent poster created by our outstanding artist and PR manager Megan Daniels!


We showed both the Game Trailer and our Poster off at UW-Stout’s Game Launch on December 9th.


The purpose of the Game Launch for some is to finally show off their finished games to their friends and the public. For others, it is an opportunity to present what they are planning to unveil in the future and show their current progress. The Game Launch has really changed over the past few years when we started. In the beginning there would be roughly 30 tables with several new games being shown off. And now we fill massive rooms with several hundred people showing off all the games that they have made over the semester, and even more coming to check them out! The event is a lot of fun and a great opportunity to see what is happening in the Game Design program.








Passerby’s checking out or website and trailer at the Game Launch.

The Importance of Sound Design

Hey, everyone! Phoenix here. In one of our previous posts, we posted a sound clip we recorded while we were in Crystal Caves. In case you missed it, close your eyes and take a listen:

(If the player is not working, download the audio file here!)

Really brings you there huh?

It might be something you take for granted while playing games, but audio like this is what really helps pull you into the experience. If you can, try sometime to play a game without the audio on and you might understand where I’m coming from.

This leads me into sound design for games. Sound in games tends to be a part of game design most people don’t consider as it’s something we don’t usually actively notice it while playing a game. This is because sound is a very subtle way of breathing life into the game, usually in tandem with action. It’s also a way of giving character to a game and to put things in context. A door can take on many different meanings depending on how the door sounds when it opens, when it closes, when it’s knocked on: you can tell whether it’s metal, wood, thick, thin… Kind of funny how much you can tell about something just from how it sounds. In tandem with graphics in animation, it can really make a game object convincing!

Not only this, but it can also provide players with information even when they aren’t looking. With so much going on in one screen, sometimes those little audio cues can help. For example, having a jump sound will let a player consistently know if their character jumped, even without having to look. With these audio cues letting us know what’s going on, it becomes easier for players to pay attention to other things in the environment or for players to tune into events happening in the game world. Audio certainly does a lot for players!

Now how does this tie into level design?

As part of the design team, I’ve worked closely with them to help develop some ideas for how the world is set up and how to help players build skills they’ll need later in the game.


This is an example of some of the level design I’ve worked on for the game. If you’ll take a look, you’ll notice on a few of the images I have labels such as “S: Waterfall.” This is what I use to keep track of what sounds we’ll need. While designing a level or even portions of a level, it’s important for me to keep track of potential sounds we need for the game so labels like these can help with that task. Every thing we add bumps up the number of sounds we need until we get a list something like this:

sound list

This isn’t even the whole list and it’s already quite a lot!

With so many different sound effects to include it’s important to keep track of them in a list like this. This ties into level design with keeping track of all of the features of a level, from environments to objects to creatures. When something is added into a game, more than likely it will need a list of sounds to accompany it. This can range from the short list the mole has, to the lengthy list the player has, to anywhere above that! By keeping track of what’s going on in a level or in a feature in the game, it helps ensure you develop the list of sounds you need. In the end, your game could have dozens or even hundreds of different sounds and it’s important you make sure the sound is there. The player is listening.


Hello everyone, just here today to talk a bit about the environments in Everend and show a bit of our inspiration for our levels and how we’re going about making them.

So for the environments within the game we broke up each of the levels to encapsulate an area of the cave. In order we are intending to have a water area, forest area, darkness area, fire/lava area, and a temple area. Not only to give the player a sense of progression, but also to show a wide variety of cave environments.

enviro 3

enviro 2

As stated in previous posts inspiration was taken from Crystal Caves in Spring Valley, Wisconsin. We have also taken inspiration from Hang Son Doong in Vietnam and Sintra Lake in Portugal.

In order to build out these environments we have taken the approach of creating and assembling the environments out of modular assets rather than build all of the levels from scratch, although several of the levels like the forest and temple levels will likely contain many assets unique to those locations. The modular approach gives much more flexibility with regards to level design and construction.


enviro 1

The un-textured “pillar” and “wedge” rock assets

So the pipeline for environments is pretty straightforward. First, the concept artists give the area a cohesive theme and look. Level design and gameplay teams decide on puzzles and how the area will be put together. Then the area is blocked out in unity while the assets are created. Finally the assets, animations, and puzzle mechanics are plugged into the environments, leaving it mostly complete.

We really strive to make the game’s environments feel immersive, from what we’re doing with the sound, to lighting, to the simple yet accessible and relatable art style. I really want the player to feel like they’re down in that cave.


-Zack, Strix Game Studio

Crystal Cave

As you have seen with some of our art from previous blog posts, our game takes place in an elaborate cave system. One of the most important parts of building an environment is having good references. Luckily for us there is a wonderful cave close by. In order to get the best and most realistic depiction of what a cave may look like we went and visited Crystal Cave in Spring Valley, WI. We had all of our art team come to make sure they each person could experience it firsthand, and have good visual representation of the cave in their head. Along with the art team we had most of the design team and some of the programming team come as well to help them get an idea of what we are aiming for the future of the game.

This is a great example of the many areas that can be found within the cave.

Research is a really important part of game design. It helps to get a greater understanding of how these environments function in real life, as well as giving us visual references. Even if your environment doesn’t exist in reality, it’s still important to look at what does. This helps ground your creation in reality. Our cave isn’t photorealistic, but starting with real geology and cave structures was important to make sure we abstracted it in a way that was easy to believe.

An example of a really nice texture resource.
This is an example of a paint over that was done for one of the small areas.

While at Crystal Cave we took numerous reference photos both to use as examples of how to build our environments but also as texture references. The cave itself is quite large with 3 different levels of elevation and is very winding, switching from very tight spaces to larger areas that are roughly 600 sq feet. The deepest part of the cave is roughly 75 feet underground. This is actually not that large, especially in comparison to the gigantic Han Son Doong cave system, which was an original inspiration.

There is a lot of variety in the looks of the rocks.
Another example of variety in rocks.

We made sure to take lots of photos from the the perspective of an owl, trying to get low to the ground instead of from the height of a human. There are ton of wonderful small little spaces within the cave, each with uniquely formed structures. The most notable feature is that these tight spaces are filled with lots of mini stalactites and stalagmites.

There are tons of areas just like this spread through out the cave.

While there we were able to get some really great panoramic pictures in the cave, as well as full HDR images. These images may eventually be able to use for lighting in the game. We would be using these HDR image as skyboxes. These skyboxes are large images that use the color information to light the scene as if it was the actually sky/ceiling.

An example of a Skybox, this is a full 360 view of the wedding chamber in Crystal Cave

While there we also ran into many small bats, as it’s getting closer to winter and they are coming to the cave to hibernate. We have bats in the game too, so it was helpful to be able to observe their behavior (even if they were fairly still most of the time).

Its very tiny but you can just barely see the bat in the center.

Our last task was to do some sound recording to absorb the feel of the cave. There is a real good sense of ambiance which we will use to help the creation of future music. Listen below to some of the recordings we did of the water drips within the cave.

Hue holding the mic for recording and trying to stay absolutely still.
Phoenix and Megan holding the cords to keep them off the wet floor and also trying to be super quiet.

Overall Crystal Cave was the a really great experience and we got lots of very useful references that we will be using heavily in future development. I also want to thank Crystal Cave for giving us time in the cave, If you want to see more from Crystal Cave you can check them out at acoolcave.com

-Mitch, Strix Studio Design Lead

Meet and Greet: Kaia the Owl

Our lovely concept artist Hue gave you a bit of a taste of what’s to come for Everend in his last blog post, and Logan told you about all of the awesome things you can do and how you can explore our game–but an important question remains: who?

Who are you?

As I’m sure you’ve come to gather from our URL, the title of this blog post, and concept art to date, the main protagonist of our game is an owl. No shocker there, but there’s much more for us to consider as designers about our character even once we have chosen a species. I hope that this blog post will provide you with some insight to our decision making process in developing the physical and mental design of our fluffy main character.


A real burrowing owl!
Photo by Richard Crook.

The first step in our character creation process was figuring out what type of anatomy we wanted to use. Owls might not seem like very complicated creatures but there is a very wide variety in anatomy, color, and size among their species. We knew early on we wanted our character to communicate a ‘young’ or ‘bouncy’ feeling, so we decided to model our protagonist after a burrowing owl. It just made sense that a burrowing owl would belong underground; as an added plus they are among some of the most expressive and tiny of their species. After deciding this, we set off on some preliminary ideating and sketch work.

Round One: Owl Sketches
Sketches by Hue Vang and Emily Dillhunt.

We learned a few things from our first round of sketches. We liked larger eye on our character, to help communicate a sense of youth and innocence, we liked a rounder, larger head with a short neck, and we preferred an owl that was more pear shaped with long thin legs. We also gave some thought to the character’s wings and how a feathered, fingerless arm might hold a torch, as well as tried out a few different accessories. As you’ll see in later revisions, the scarf stuck–as a team we liked how it added movement and flow to our character, and was also a nice way to sneak in some contrast in texture, material, and color. Knowing what we did from our first round of rough sketches, we moved on to some more formal concepting.


For the start of Round 2, we put our focus on finalizing the character’s anatomy, constructing a simple outfit for our protagonist, and we started to do some rough work with color. Taking what we knew worked from previous sketches our character became more compact with a round head and heart-shaped face. While not true to real owl anatomy, we drew in smaller, shorter feathers to act as ‘fingers’, so that our character could hold a torch with their wing and not have to hop around on one foot when it was active.

Our character’s outfit developed into a ragged scarf and simple leather bandolier for carrying torches when not in use. The next step was color. Everend has strong blue and green hues throughout, so we played with very warm colors to pull our character off of the environment and make them stand out.

Owl Faces
Owl head color and pattern studies by Emily Dillhunt.
Round 2 Owl Thoughts
Pictured: three early palette considerations for Kaia the owl. Concept sketches by Emily Dillhunt.


Round 3 was largely about small tweaks and edits to make Kaia perfect. Up unto this point no one had mentioned anything about gender for our character, but we liked the name ‘Kya’–it sounded very wild and predatory, almost like the call a hawk or other raptor would make. This was not very fitting for our character concept however, so one day when a team member spelled it wrong on accident as ‘Kaia’ the more feminine, softer looking form of the name stuck.

Kaia WIP Reference
Kaia’s near-finished character sheet. Art by Emily Dillhunt.

Having decided that Kaia our main character would be an optimistic, young female protagonist we went about making the final edits to her character. Kaia’s head got bigger, to make her appear younger and less predatory and drive home her innocent, spritely appearance, and then we moved on to making the final decision for her color palette. In the end we settled on a combination of all of the colors we had been considering, making her somewhat sunset or dawn colored. I personally like to think this choice was kind of poetic and fitting of her daunting journey–similar to the Egyptian sun god Ra who would travel into the underworld each evening and emerge victorious each morning as the rising sun to light the world, Kaia too is making a rather dangerous journey underground trying her best to reach the surface again.

Kaia's Final Look
The final Kaia. Art by Emily Dillhunt.

Kaia’s well on her way through another journey–the journey into 3D! She can’t wait to see you soon when you play Everend.

Kaia model by Hue Vang.

Emily, Strix Studio Art Lead

The Gameplay

We are attempting to blend a 2D and 3D experience with Everend. What I mean by this is the game looks like a 2D side scroller and for the most part plays like one; however, the character has full 3D motion in the world. The game starts with the player lost deep in a cave. They will travel through several levels solving puzzles and avoiding obstacles on their journey to the surface. The puzzles are based around a core set of mechanics, namely, fire, water and flight. The player has the normal set of abilities like jumping, swimming and interacting with objects in the level.

Flight, or gliding in this case, plays an important role in many of the puzzles. Not only is it a fun way of getting around in the levels, it can also be used to reach far off ledges and in some cases players can get a boost of speed or height using an updraft.


Fire can be used to boost the players gliding, scare off other creatures and can, of course, be used to light your path. However, the player must use their torches sparingly as they only last a short while and can sometimes be difficult to find. Fire can also be used to burn through roots and dead plants to reveal secret paths or shortcuts.


Water and caves are a dangerous combination; in Everend its dark depths contain strange glowing fish and other, more dangerous, creatures. To progress in the level the player may have to swim long distances while avoiding falling prey to hidden eel’s that make the dark water ever more dangerous. Sometimes water may be too deep or too shallow and the player will have to drain or fill a room to progress.


The player will run into other creatures as well. Animals that are used to the dark cave will be frightened by fire. The player will run into moles that are not inherently dangerous, but will attack if you get too close. They can be frightened into a corner with a torch where they will dig their way through the wall if possible. The player will also have to deal with bats that will hinder the player’s ability to glide by continuously crashing into them. The bats can be frightened in a similar manner to the moles, though they may need a little more fire to fully disperse.

-Logan, Strix Game Studio