Windborne Interview with Michael Austin

I snagged some of Michael Austin’s time in the middle of a crazy, crazy week to discuss Windborne. He is the Chief Technology Officer of Hidden Path Entertainment as well as the lead designer / project owner for Windborne. On the Hidden Path forums he is known as Echo. Hidden Path’s site heralds Austin as one of the few experts in the world on Xbox 360 CPU architecture, and his resume includes Call of Duty 2, CS:GO, racing games, and many others. Hidden Path is pretty well known in the PC indie gaming world for their amazing tower defense game Defense Grid, which Austin also lead in design. None of these are social sandbox games.

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Origin of Windborne

Austin said that originally he was messing around with voxel engines, and he found a cool way to do smooth voxels with hard edges. Hidden Path was already looking for another game they could self-finance instead of more work-for-hire jobs. Everybody became really excited about the potential of this simple idea of moving around the voxels in Austin’s prototype engine. That is how Windborne began.

I pushed Austin on Windborne being a completely new genre for Hidden Path. He said with Hidden Path’s history they are more interested in creating “fun, compelling experiences” than sticking to any one or two defined genres. The creative genre has been in Hidden Path’s dream pile for some time, and Minecraft proved that there was an incredible market for the genre. The path they wanted to take in their creative game was to have a very immersive world on top of the creative elements.

They wanted the creations and mechanics of Windborne to provide meaning. There should be a sense of wonder. That was Windborne’s elevator pitch. Continue reading Windborne Interview with Michael Austin

[Windborne] World Traveler Update

Last night after a full day’s ride of the devs chugging energy drinks and sacrificing woolies to the gods of a bug-free launch, the first major update appeared for Windborne. Unfortunately the gods do not want woolies being sacrificed and the update is not without bugs. Things will get fixed, but the crux of the update is live.

The first thing that everybody should notice is the new lighting model (now with sun). I did not expect this change, but I know the past week where I’ve been working on my subterranean desert temple (screenshot has old lighting), I’ve been thinking the darks aren’t dark enough. There are no need for torches (ala Minecraft) beneath the surface since the ambient cares for all. Now, things are bit darker. There is more contrast (screenshot has new lighting). A good change.

The other functionality changes of note are that the first-person hands give way when players walk around the world. I feel like the devs directly responded to some of my feedback regarding trying to get the large material orbs out of the way while I explored. There’s a third person mode, which is nice with the new character generation. So good stuff, but let’s get on to the meat. Continue reading [Windborne] World Traveler Update