Hello Miners, We’re trying this “Below Decks” series as a way to share more moments from the studio, and give a look into what’s under development. In the future, you can expect some bigger stuff and proper sneak peeks, but we’ll start with something light for this one. Hope you like it. :)
-GSG_Aaron (new content writer)
The rogue wiggler It’s a Tuesday afternoon in August, and Harpa’s focus for the day is troubleshooting the upcoming sausage hat. The sausages are simply too wiggly.
Harpa Ellertsdóttir, 3D Artist at Ghost Ship Games, is making a new hat for the dwarves. You might not call it a hat by any conventional definition, but the dwarves will be using it as such. It’s a metal bucket with a leather chinstrap, and a big bouquet of sausages flopping out the top.
But making the perfect wiggly sausage hat is easier said than done.
“Right now the sausages are very stiff. They used to be a lot more floppy,” she explains. She’s fine-tuning the hat’s physics setup using Unreal Engine. She punches in some numbers in the model’s properties, and the sausage links go limp, drooping down over the rim of the bucket. She resets the physics, then tests the individual sausages to see how they behave. Each one jumps when she clicks it, responding with a playful little bounce. But one sausage starts misbehaving.
“These ones are wiggling fine, but this one’s wiggling all on its own. It was wiggling normally before, which is concerning,” she says.
Christian Øelund, Senior Technical Artist, rolls his chair over to her desk to help troubleshoot the rogue wiggler. In Maya, they adjust the sausages’ properties for Dampening and Stiffness. But this only makes the rebellious sausage even more wiggly.
“I’m getting hungry looking at this,” Christian says.
“I’m not, I hate sausages,” Harpa says. She used to work at a gas station back in Iceland. “I had to do 12-hour shifts there, and every day I would come home smelling like hot dogs. It’s like my past is haunting me through this hat.” The 'Sausagebucket' hat as shown its final form, with its bones showing, and with physics colliders visible.
Coding the right amount of wiggle Everybody knows you don't want your wiggly sausage hat to be too wiggly. But where’s the sweet spot?
When it comes to silly hats, Harpa’s approach is to make things as jiggly as possible, without causing problems. Wiggly elements shouldn’t clip through the dwarves’ beards and armor, nor should they completely freak out and defy physics in certain situations.
To ensure that Deep Rock Galactic’s wiggly hats behave “normally”, each hat goes through a rigorous testing regime.
On her second monitor, Harpa runs the prototype sausage hat through these trials, testing every situation it’ll meet once it’s in the dwarves’ hands. She cycles through all the armor models, to make sure there aren’t any stray sausages causing clipping issues. Then she cycles the test dwarf through different animations: dancing, getting downed, reviving, pressing a button, shouting “Rock and Stone” – and notes how the sausages respond. Somehow, the rogue sausage from earlier has fallen back in line.
Structurally speaking, this isn’t a very complex hat, but the wiggly sausages make it a bit of a rascal. ”Programming the physics makes this hat a little finicky. Not all hats are like this,” Harpa says.
Each new hat crosses at least five different desks at Ghost Ship Games, ping-ponging around between artists, art directors, QA testers, and the Founders. All told, Harpa estimates this sausage hat represents about 12 to 15 hours of work. LEFT: Our muse. RIGHT: Two slappable, wiggly palm trees from the Space Beach Party.
What’s so funny about a jiggly sausage? Deep Rock Galactic certainly isn’t the first game with wiggly hats, but we do our best to contribute to this proud tradition.
As Harpa sees it, these jiggly elements are fun because they look a bit broken, but in a purposeful way. It’s hard to be serious when you’re wearing a floppy hat. She pulls up an image of a wacky waving arm inflatable tube guy, the type known to flap around in front of auto dealerships. “This is like, the funniest thing ever. It’s peak comedy,” she says.
Generally speaking, Deep Rock Galactic is at its wiggliest during seasonal in-game events, when the Space Rig gets special decorations and the dwarves get new hats.
Among all the wiggly items in DRG, Harpa gives special historical importance to the inflatable palm tree, introduced to the Space Rig during the summer 2022 Space Beach Party.
When designing that tree, she recalls a “eureka moment” in a conversation with Lead Artist Jacek Oczki that has since inspired the crew’s approach to wiggly bits.
“He saw the model for the palm tree, and was like, ‘Cool, but can you slap it?’ After that, everything’s been a lot more jiggly and slappable.”
The jiggly 'Sausagebucket' hat will be available during this year’s Oktoberfest 2023 celebrations
aboard the Space Rig. The party kicks off this Thursday, September 14th, at 13:00 CET
.Rock and Stone!
-The Ghost Ship Crew