Dev Update: Steam, Worlds, MMO, Style – 1

The pulse of iteration

Our general and overriding development process with Oort Online is to iterate the game as rapidly as possible. This means favouring releasing many small steps frequently instead of waiting long periods between larger updates.

We want to get prototypes of new features into your hands quickly so that we can then see how everyone responds to them. Is a feature fun? If not, we still have a chance to make improvements before we’ve locked the game into a particular direction.

We also want to gradually add polish throughout the entire game. This means improving everything from the visuals and audio to the stability and performance.

Sometimes the pipeline for features can be quite long. This means that we can be working on a feature for quite a while before the first version is made public. This is particularly relevant when we’re still putting major structures and systems in place.

When we’re planning the development of the game, we try and make sure we cover everything somewhere: big, small, new, iterations, assets, polish, performance, stability, etc.

It’s been a while since we’ve done any sort of significant feature update (just a few minor fixes.)

The purpose of this post is to make sure that you know what we’re focused on, why, and most importantly that we’re working crazy hard.

Oort Online for Steam

We’ve had many requests for a Steam version of Oort Online. The main reasons given are:

  1. Wanting to have Oort Online in their Steam library.
  2. Not wanting to use PayPal to buy the game.
  3. Wanting a native desktop version of Oort Online, instead of a browser version – specifically to make YouTube capture and Twitch streaming easier.
  4. Expecting improved performance between the native and browser versions of the game.

Amazingly (and thanks to the Oort Online community) we blasted through Greenlight in only 5 days. Not bad.

Since then, our #1 priority has been preparing Oort Online for a Steam release. As ever, there is more to it than you would imagine.

1. We’re making sure that the CPU intensive parts of the game, specifically the conversion of the voxel world into meshes and the physics representation take advantage of multi-cores in your machine. If we didn’t do this, the performance of the game would be really bad when you first start (and then made any changes to the world.) This is the critical feature that we’re waiting to have ready before releasing on Steam. But it’s steadily getting there.

Below is a screenshot of the physical representation of the world after it has been generated on another thread.


2. We also need to support the Steam authentication and ownership services. This means that when you buy Oort Online via Steam, the game can confirm this with the Steam services and automatically give you access to the live servers.

Below is a screenshot of the native launcher.


3. We need to make sure that every player who already has Instant Access will get a Steam key for Oort Online. Not hard, but something we need to do.

4. We’re also working on 8 (ish) new worlds that we’ll put live when Oort Online is released on Steam. We have some video footage of these worlds that we’ll hopefully share soon to wet your appetite.

World Builder Upgrade

We’ve been using the world builder tool internally for the past few months, and we’ve also had a small group of daring (thank you!!) players causing havoc with it. This has generated a long list of feature requests and bug reports. Because Oort Online is a single universe that will be created out of hundreds (then thousands) of crazy cool and original worlds – this tool is really important to us. We’ve been working to make it even better. It’s possible (not a promise) that an updated world builder will escape next week.

New features include:

1. A new distortion noise combinator – allowing you to distort a noise function by another noise function. (Think noise function Inception.)

dev-update-1-world-builder-8 dev-update-1-world-builder-6 dev-update-1-world-builder-7

2. A new type of noise function called Cell Noise. These allow us to explicitly expose Voronoi cell noise and grid cell noise. See the shots below. Then some scalar cell transformers to work with the new cell noises. As usual – best to play with this stuff rather than trying to wrap your head around it – unless you don’t mind your head flipping inside out.

dev-update-1-world-builder-3 dev-update-1-world-builder-2 dev-update-1-world-builder-5 dev-update-1-world-builder-4

3. Adding support for having per biome cave, distortion, drop and shrink noise functions. Caves used to be a global property of the entire world, now you can also control them per biome. Important if you want to create huge hollowed out volcanoes – say.


4. A helpful collection of GUI tweaks: zoom now centres on the mouse, node positions and open / closed state is serialised, better auto-layout (we could hardly have made it worse), and a collection of other user control improvements.

5. World block colours can now be controlled in the GUI! No tinkering under the covers in the serialised form. Expect to see more world features gradually exposed.


Everyone who has Instant Access is welcome to play with the builder and create some worlds. If you want to give it a try – email us.

Persistent MMO

Until recently when you walked through a portal to jump between worlds or restarted the game the state of your player (mainly seen by your inventory) wasn’t persisted. We’ve gradually been working on adding support for this. In short, this turns Oort Online from a collect of semi autonomous worlds into a unified MMO. Not hugely visible – but an essential building block for the game.

On top of this persistence foundation we can now continue the development of the crafting and inventory systems, and even player or clan permissions on your beacons. So, as you can see it is an extremely important part of the overall game.

Grappling Hooks

We’ve teased this a few times and they’re almost ready to escape. The grappling hook is another example of the physical nature of the Oort Online world. Expect to see many more ways of manipulating and navigating the environment as the game develops.

Art Style

At the simplest level there are 4 stages of art development for the game.

  1. Concept Design
  2. Style Translation
  3. Asset Production
  4. Effects, polish and POST

The concept design is presented on and in the project trailer videos. Before we jump eagerly and adventurously onto asset production, where we create everything from creature models to all the block textures, it’s important we do step 2.

The Style Translation entails us taking the concept art and working out exactly how it translates into the game. Ultimately it’s a combination of technical and artistic effort. What is technically possible? What is visually bold, brave and amazing? What is the art style we intend to use across the game so that it looks stunning and lives up to the concept designs? What is the rendering and shader cost of achieving the target style? What is the production cost? Can we make all the assets quickly?

You may have seen us comment a few times that all the art assets in the game are currently placeholder.

We have a stretch goal of replacing the current block textures with a final set in time for the Steam release. This set will define the look of the art in the game – so we want to make sure we get it right. Iterating the art style later in the project is unbelievably expensive (from a time perspective) so we really need to get it right from the beginning.


Hopefully you can see that we’re working smartly to create a truly amazing game. We’ll continue to release as often as possible, and in between we’ll keep you up to date with progress reports like this.

Any questions – fire in the comments below.

Any ideas for the game – fire them at the forum.

For everything else – fire them @playboundless.