ACE Tuesday #06 "Highlander"

Greetings, everyone!

I wanted to apologize to the half of the planet that is already enjoying their wednesday. IT’S STILL TUESDAY HERE, OK? :jubilant:

In all seriousness, sorry about today’s delay! But here it is, better late than never, right? :merry:

Today’s episode is quite simple! We’re talking all things Highlands! Well, not all… But almost all!
Without more delays, here it is! Hope you enjoy it and make sure to leave your thoughts! :heart:

Transcription from the video:

  • Hello, everyone! Welcome to another ACE Tuesday!
    I’m sorry if I sound a little bit worse than usual this week, but I’ve had an exciting weekend which might or might not have been my birthday and as such I’m still a little… in recovery.

  • That said, let’s go on with today’s video! This time around I’ll be talking about something that is rather simple but makes a lot of difference and is definitely one of the major additions of ACE: The new biome and home of the dwarves, the Highlands!

  • Now, you’ve probably seen a lot of them in the previous videos - and we also talked about some of the new things coming with it… But now that it is almost feature-complete and has gone through a handful of tweaks, I’m confident that it is a good time to showcase - one by one - all the features of this pretty biome and ancient home of our friends, the dwarves!

  • The highlands in our mod were highly inspired by the scottish highlands, both realistically and fantastically. This inspiration is not exclusive, however, as we also brought in several ideas and colors from different places. As you can see, the terrain is highly uneven and far more mountainous than the previous biomes, having small patches of flat land surrounded by tall cliffs rather than the mountain ranges and vast plains we’re used to. Additionally, the Highlands have a lot of water. All of this is meant to encourage a more underground or spatially-aware gameplay, overcome logistic challenges and play around with the new water tools and mechanics.

  • So, let’s start with the highlands flora!
    The most basic tree of the highlands - quite common on the lower levels - is the birch tree. Birches have a wider range of canopy color variations even inside the same season - not to mention their very recognisable trunk patterns - making them quite a sight to appreciate.

  • Next to the birch trees we also have the Yew trees, which are very famous for their thick and sturdy trunks and their prized wood for furniture and weaponry. Yew trees are also an oddly shaped tree, which allows for interesting visuals and placement. Being an evergreen, Yews will actually display their colorful fruits during autumn instead of going dry.

  • And finally, as you go up the hills and mountains of the highlands, you’ll encounter the Highland Pine. These mighty, tall and ancient beings of the forest are dramatically inspired by the Scot Pine, a very important and symbolic tree for Scotland. Reaching higher than regular pines and able to thrive alone, these will spot your landscape and give you beautiful, distant sights of the highlands!

  • Another very important plant of the new biome are the vines. Vines will have a special behaviour unlike any other plant in the game, and will serve as an interesting gameplay element for this difficult terrain while also being connected to the more natural side of dwarves. They will be able to spread - not indefinitely, of course - but also up and down. And as you can expect, they’ll function as ladders! They’re not yet quite in, however - pretty much one of the last missing features of the biome.

  • When talking foraging, we definitely start with the cherry bush. This new shrub is basically the same as a berry shrub and will provide pretty much the same levels of sustain for the early game - and tasty recipes for the end game like cherry tarts or pies. Although cherries are usually associated with, well, cherry trees - there are a couple of cherries that grow on shrubs like the plum cherries or the dwarf cherries. So, there is kind of an inside joke there. Dwarf Cherries… Since they’re are dwarves, it’s just cherries… Heh… Sorry.

  • Other than the cherries, early game will also see a lot of use for the chanterelles, the forageable mushroom widely available across the Highlands!

  • For herbs and flowers we have the Moonbells, which are beautiful little flowers with a natural moonlight glow on their petals. They’re very coveted for interior light sources since they do not produce smoke.

  • The Marblesprout is a very unique flower that can be tamed and grown. It has interesting properties that, once dried, will harden and calcify - becoming a hunk of marble! Marble is the equivalent of gold dust for mason furniture. We’re adding new tiers of “ornate-like” furniture to the potter and the mason, something that seemed lacking considering that wooden furniture can be made so pretty and exclusive! For that, we created marble and the bone clay, used for potter’s porcelain.

  • As a replacement for the source of early game fiber, we have cotton! Cotton can also be tamed and planted by farmers, becoming a steady and resourceful source of fibers just like silkweed is. But definitely more fluffy!

  • And finally, as shown before, the Highlands have its own special collection of wildlife. Most of them are variants of already existing creatures, part of our effort to increase the diversity of the game - every biome has its own version of most animals now, like gazelle for the desert instead of deer or longwool sheep for the arctic. Exclusive Highlands’ creatures are the grasshopper and the Ladybug.

  • But we also have some interesting variants around… The red squirrel. Gray raccoons. Gray bunnies. This cute blue and white DuckDuck. Deer and Caribous are moose here, both bucks and cows. The Highland Boar. Bighorn, fluffy sheep. Pastel-colored cute poyos. Oh, and here is something cool. A couple of weeks ago, after the Dwarven-themed ACE Tuesday, someone suggested the Final Fantasy approach for dwarves. I felt a bit bad because I really love Final Fantasy but completely forgot about their dwarven approach which is indeed pretty cool! We went down a more traditional fantasy road for their visual, but I felt like I needed to do something for this person, so-- hey! Here’s another cool animal from the Highlands. And no, that’s not what you’re thinking. Here, it says Ostrich. It’s an OSTRICH, ok? It totally is.

  • And last but not least, we have a big and sometimes bad new resident to Stonehearth. Another member of the “Forest” faction, this creature shall be available in all biomes, usually as an invading enemy although it can be found on the wilds, and is a creature that every medieval or fantasy game definitely need! Very kindly and nicely offered to us by Team Firefly - we changed the model some and will probably tweak some things here and there… But here they are, bears! And yes, the black bear in the highlands is not a coincidence. I’m looking at you, Brave!

  • Thank you for watching and I hope you’ve enjoyed our little ride through the Highlands! Feel free to ask anything you want and subscribe and follow us on our media channels to always stay tuned for more ACE news! Good bye!


Hey Dani and the ACE team, your Highlands Biome is looking really great with all the new plant models and animal variants! I really liked the Choco… er Ostriches :wink:


The long coat sheep are amazing. I love all the animal variants! Great job, ACE team!


Just in time for my busride to work, awwyeah
Edit after watching: congratulations dani!

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Who in their right mind enjoys a wednesday? Unless there is as delayed ACE Tuesday of course. :smile:

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Very nice :smiley:

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My only concern about this new biome is the cpu churn from inaccessible enemies. Hopefully the skeleton crew can get that bug ironed out and we can truly enjoy the terrain.


It’s the most pressing issue code wise, yes.


This is so awesome! Love all the creative flora! The vines, the mushrooms, the marblesprout all have their own unique niche! Also love the – ahem – ostriches, and the biome background on the embarkation screen with the beard! I definitely want to do a full dwarven highlands playthrough once ACE is out. Might stream it too.

In the meantime, a couple suggestions:

  • The bear model needs some more polish, I think. Because it’s so large, the imperfections are more apparent, and it looks very different from most animals in SH, who have detached feet and stubby legs. I’m sure you folks are steeped enough in the SH art style to get it to blend perfectly, but if you need help, you should poke the dev artists.
  • I like the idea of the yew trees showing fruit in autumn, but I worry that this amount of contrast will stand out too much next to the regular trees and introduce some visual noise. When we were working on seasons, Allie had to put a lot of thought into choosing colors judiciously, so they would evoke the idea but not drag the player’s attention away from gameplay-impacting objects.
  • For the cherry bushes, I noticed they are brown in autumn. If they change color with seasons, the model variant will conflict with the harvestable/empty model switch, unless of course you have custom logic to account for that.

My only concern about this new biome is the cpu churn from inaccessible enemies. Hopefully the skeleton crew can get that bug ironed out and we can truly enjoy the terrain.

I remember we investigate numerous reports of this happening, both internal and from players, when I was on the team, but couldn’t get a reliable repro for it on the 1.0 codebase. If you can reliably get it to happen (i.e. a save that loads and always chugs, and removing an enemy or building a ladder solves it), please post a thread and tag me.

Oh, and happy birthday, Dani!


Hey everyone :merry:
Thanks for all the messages!

Indeed this can be a worry - however I remember @BrunoSupremo pointing out somewhere that after some of his testing/magic, he found out that “the less” space the pathfinder actually has to cycle through, the better it is for performance. And as we all know after some last/recent changes from TR, entities stop trying certain things after failing some times (like pathing) so they don’t stuck and burn on endless cycles of trying to path to the player (or vice versa) if they - for some reason - spawn out of reach. Of course all of this might be just my bad memory - but at least in testing I haven’t seen any performance issues because of the Highlands terrain so far. Enemies do tend to spawn closer than usual, though… Extra challenge? :wink:

Yes, this is… Totally yes. YES. Not only the model, but also the animations and so on. Team Firefly kindly offered us their model/animations - which is pretty awesome! - but in the same way that this was good, it might also have been crippling on the other hand. We wanted to change some parts of it but are now stuck on it and I’m starting to think that perhaps it would be best to just try to tackle a new bear from scratch, perhaps even using the wolf skeleton (which is basically used by a lot of animals) and can look good, maybe. We’ll see :merry:

There seems to be some sort of “distant rendering” thingy that actually makes the fruits disappear when the camera is far away - not sure if a feature or an issue, probably on the engine/rendering side of things so I never really looked into it. But it works with other things too, like the birch tree trunks (they look plain white from a distance - as if they had “distant imposters”) so that has been “helfpul” during testing to make them look not so busy or dirty. But indeed can be an issue. I’ll take note of that and will ask about it when we have more people testing :smiley:

That was perhaps some awkward light during one of the scenes, because they actually have no seasonal variants :open_mouth:

Thank you! :merry:


This look amazing so excited about this whole ACE project :heart_eyes: :grin:

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