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First look: Shrapnel’s sigma storm a “dark, ominous event”

A sigma storm arrives in Shrapnel's sacrifice zone.

When burning fragments of a meteor rain down inside Shrapnel’s sacrifice zone, the studio behind the blockchain FPS would naturally like players to be terrified.

But they would also like players to feel excited by this influx of valuable space rock, known as sigma, that is so central to the game. Check out the video below for a look at the incredible visuals in store for players during this event.

Sigma is the resource Shrapnel players fight to collect, so the meteor showers (“sigma storms”) that deliver it are a key gameplay moment.

To understand more about Shrapnel, see the Polemos interview with Neon CEO Mark Long.

To ensure the necessary mix of joy and dread at such a moment, Shrapnel studio Neon say they are firing up every detail of the experience, right down to the trajectory of the minute pieces of soil propelled into the air at the moment of impact.

“We’ve got a lot of additional lift coming from the FX team, and the tech art team and the engineering team to throw 10 times as much meaningful stuff at [the storms] as possible,” Neon’s chief creative officer Colin Foran said in a recent YouTube update. 

“So when you’re in that moment, [it’s] like being at Ground Zero when a bomb goes off.” 

“The more we layer onto it, the more exciting, the more cool it turns out to be,” he said.

The debris that flies out across the sacrifice zone when the sigma hits the ground is not just a simple explosion animation.

Soft-body modelling

The effect will be generated at a minute level by building out the particles and ribbons that fly out as the sigma burns and splits on impact, as well as the individual chunks of the ground it hits. 

The rocks are solid objects, but the dirt will actually transform as it travels through the air in a way that resembles how real dirt deforms like a soft-body substance.

This kind of detail is further complicated in interaction with the game environment, with different impacts having different looks.

Foran said that players need to understand immediately how to take advantage of what’s happening. 

“So much time and effort now has gone into how we can make [a sigma storm] feel cinematic and dramatic and arresting, but also to make sure that we’re accurately giving information to players so they can say, ‘Okay this insane thing just happened. This is where I am. This is where my team is. This is where we need to go now. We’re going to rapidly re-strategize around that’.”

Shrapnel won’t launch until the end of 2024, and playable access so far has been limited to Neon’s inner circle and a small number of community VIPs, but Foran said it has quickly become clear that a sigma storm could be what differentiates Shrapnel from other games.  

“It’s turned into this very ominous, very dark event, at a scale that I don’t think we expected.”

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Polemos staff

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