The scope and ambition of Project Genom is impressive. What were your main goals at the beginning of development?
AS: Game development is a constant battle between dreams and reality. We started with the clear understanding that we would need to keep expectations in check, but an MMO with action gameplay and robots seemed like a fun yet challenging project to take on.
Our first tests were fun, but simple prototypes with just 20 people running around, shooting, and jumping off cliffs. A sci-fi setting was unanimously approved as it’s still relatively rare for the genre, despite the huge potential audience. From that initial concept, we increased the scale and began designing the core game mechanics of Project Genom in earnest.
Players’ expectations in MMOs are constantly evolving. How have some of these changes influenced the creation of Project Genom?
AS: Every project has the potential to bring new ideas to the industry that become incredibly popular and shouldn’t be ignored. So, we do keep an eye on gaming trends, especially in online gaming, but at the same time we do not cling to the ideas of others.
Of course, we are always happy to consider the ideas that our players contribute, and some have already been added to the game. Due to our never-ending desire to improve the project, including the implementation of players’ ideas, Project Genom has already evolved from its simplistic roots into a more complex MMO with a huge variety of gameplay features.
However, despite the urge to constantly improve and change various game features, there’s one extremely important point that we can pass along to younger teams; no matter what your aspirations and ideas are, sometimes it’s necessary to draw the line. Otherwise, the game’s development will continue forever.
Why did you choose to use a system of skill-trees for character progression versus more traditional classes?
AS: One of our key desires was to always give the player a true sense of choice, whether it’s through dialogue or character development. A class system is easier to use, but at the same time, it’s very restrictive. When you launch a game for the first time and you’re faced with ten different classes, you look at them, and think, “Wow, some of these look really interesting, but I have no idea how they actually work!”
So, you select the same, familiar class you’ve played in other games. We never liked this arrangement. How can you choose between two unknowns? That’s why we decided to give players the opportunity to develop their characters based on personal preferences and shape their experiences over time.
Can you give us a few examples of unique character builds players can create with this system?
AS: Generally, there are no limits. It all depends on your desire, time, and planning. The easiest way is to create a character in the traditional framework, such as a tank, DPS, or healer. But, you are free to combine all possible skills. There is nothing to stop a player, for example, from creating a character that uses a combat robot to deal enormous damage while effectively healing allies at the same time. Or, you can create a sniper with stealth and heavy armor skills, so you have better survivability even if you’ve been spotted.
Of course, it’s extremely difficult to create any sort of universal soldier, requiring a lot of effort and energy in order to acquire all the right skills, and even then there will be disadvantages and weaknesses to that character.
Are there options available to players who prefer a less combat-focused experience and how might those players fit into the overall world?
AS: We’ve always taken good care of the players who don’t want to kill everything that moves, though it’ll take some effort to keep progressing without combat. Project Genom will have complex crafting, resource, and market systems that will allow people to develop characters even without completing the quests. You won’t really know the world and you won’t feel the thrill of fighting in a combat robot, but you will be strong in other aspects.
Global events seem to play a major role in Project Genom. How do these work and how might they shape a player’s story?
AS: Global events will be added to the game as the project develops, and we expect them to be of great interest to everyone since they affect the well-being of active players, the main plot, and even the appearance of certain locations. Additionally, everyone will be able to participate in them from the very first hours.
One example centers around the seasonal migration of medusas, as tons of these small creatures set out in search of new homes. When you find one, you’ll be able to crush it mercilessly and receive a reward. Then again, the bigger a medusa nest grows, the greater the reward for destroying it, so you might even want to hide it from other players. At the same time, the nests attract some of the planet’s more unpleasant inhabitants, and once peaceful areas can become flooded with aggressive fauna.
Can you tell us about exploration in Project Genom and what sort of worlds players will be able to reach?
AS: Every player begins the main story on the surface of planet Avalon, where they begin developing their skills, plunge into a complex web of characters and events, and ultimately decide where their loyalties lie. Along the way, players will assemble their first spacecraft, allowing them to leave Avalon behind.
Eventually, we plan to create an extensive space environment with the potential for free exploration, base constructions and trade. Adventurous players will be able to uncover new resources and unique artifacts and encounter new enemies and other players in battle.
Players will be able to develop their ship’s crew and master pilot skills, as well as buy and upgrade ships to be able to reach new stellar systems as the main storyline continues. Each planet will be unique with its own characteristics and challenges, such as low temperatures that require something more substantial than common armor, or an atmosphere requiring a special, protective suit.
How big is the team working on Project Genom?
AS: We have ten teammates constantly working on the project, and a few more people that assist with the completion of one-time tasks. In addition, we have an exciting community of great people whose contributions to the project deserve recognition along with the developers.
Why did you choose to use Unreal Engine 4 when creating Project Genom?
AS: It truly untied our hands, finally allowing us to implement all of our ideas, all those feature that we wanted to create or were forced to cut in previous years of development. On top of that, Epic Games has a huge and responsive community with lots of available information and good support, not to mention the Blueprint visual scripting system, which saved us lots of time. And, of course, UE4 allowed us to push the graphics to the highest level we could.
Have there been any features of Unreal Engine 4 that you found to be especially useful or even surprising during development?
AS: Almost everything about the engine is surprising. It’s free to begin using, for one. Everything is well-documented and the asset store is great. One of the most amazing UE4 features is certainly Blueprint, allowing virtually anyone to create systems that would otherwise require years of low-level coding knowledge. It’s impressive. You wouldn’t want to go without a programmer when working on a large-scale project, but such tools are a salvation for small studios. The shader system allows anyone to perform miracles of visualization in real-time. And, among other things, constant updates are a joy for developers.
With so many different environments, character options, and gameplay features, what sort of challenges have you faced when managing the scope of development?
AS: When creating a MMO, balancing is obviously a major challenge. With such a large, open world and so many variables, it’s difficult to calculate all the possibilities for certain events. At the same time, balance is one of the most important components of an MMORPG, and a small team could easily spend all of its time playing and testing all these variables instead of moving forward with development. So, here we have another example of how our community has made this project possible, and we send a special “thank you” to everyone who has helped out by testing fixes and sending feedback.
Performance optimization is a crucial part that ends up being a double-edged sword. Despite the seemingly limitless possibilities of the engine, we have to constantly restrain ourselves in terms of beauty. There are so many times when we could implement a stunning shader, increase the polygon counts, or add an amazing particle effect, but we know that we shouldn’t. When you feel you owe your community the most visually impressive experience you can deliver, but you also want it to be as accessible as possible, it almost becomes a moral dilemma.
You recently launched via Steam Early Access. How has that experience helped to shape the direction of Project Genom?
AS: Time and finances are always the main enemies of any small studio. If you can’t hire the talent you need, you end up with a team of people all trying to fulfill multiple roles, resulting in either a drop in quality or a development cycle that stretches further than intended. Launching via Steam Early Access and having the early financial support from players allows us to complete the project as soon as possible without sacrificing quality.
Just as important, the project has been warmly received by audiences, which gives us hope that we’ve chosen the right direction. And, the fan interaction keeps us motivated as we rearrange priorities according to players’ opinions. If people want to have melee combat now, why shouldn’t we add it earlier than planned and save less important features for later?
Hello to everyone who loves to shoot an alien or two! Neuronhaze company warmly congratulates you with the upcoming holidays and wishes you all kind of success, both in games and in the real life. And we want to share the details on our current work on the Project Genom with all who miss the news already.
To begin with, we would like to announce that the works on the Harbinger location are complete. We have updated the details and materials for all shops, passages, transport parkings, warehouses and other ship areas which are now waiting for the players. In the future, some small changes will be made to particular places like adding vending machines and signs, as well as you will be able to participate in the opening of the “Lame Moth” strip club.
More recently, we have announced that the game world is increased up to 100 square kilometers. We did so not only because we rework the network part but because we have desire to make the game even better. The old location was abundant in various natural zones yet was too straight and obvious, and when the transport was added it has become clearer that its size is rather too modest. The renewed Avalon will soon be able to please you not only with the beautiful graphics, vast open spaces and new quests, but also with the performance improved through the load balancing. Now beginners won’t have to hang around with the veterans, performing different tasks in one tiny area of the planet, and Quads will become even more valuable.
At this point we begin to upgrade all old Avalon zones, starting with the most basic upgrades designed to significantly improve the gameplay and make the game more intense and mature, and ending with the new elements of the game environment.
When we updated the game to the latest version of Unreal Engine 4.14, we received new shading opportunities and understood that some reflection features have changed. This allowed us to significantly improve the visual component of the character skin and hair shaders. It also resulted in remaking the NPC faces, as their triangularity sometimes made the eyes bleed in the past. As well as, we improved the clothing materials to correspond with the overall quality.
When working on the new character faces, we immediately made facial animation possible for every resident of Avalon. This option has been successfully tested and will be added as the project develops, but it is safe to say that one day the faces of your heroes and the NPCs will come to life.
Another important feature that you will be able to find in the game very soon is the NPC day and night cycle. The updated locations of the planet will gradually come to life in the daytime, the NPCs will start to move around and go about their business. At dusk, many NPC will go home to rest. This doesn’t mean that at night the world will die out, no. At night we will have a completely different life — new NPCs, new quests, special events and opportunities, as well as a unique fauna species, will be waiting for you under the cold stars of Avalon.
When Genom veterans read about the game world expansion and the NPC movement, they will certainly grab their chests. Everyone still has vivid memories of no map marks and how maps were confusing and didn’t coincide with anything, and to find the quest NPC you had to look round every corner and turn every stone for hours. By popular demand, we paid special attention to these issues, and as the result, we decided to create a full-fledged 3D map of the locations.
This will able maps to be updated as the world grows, to keep track of everything, even the moving marks, clearly indicate the number of stories in buildings and at the same look as closely to the game world as possible.
The character abilities extension is not far off, and the closer we get to this moment, the more significant is the attention we have to pay to the game interface. We’ve made a lot of work to revise almost all game windows. Sometimes these changes were minor, and sometimes the windows have been changed completely. The HUD has also been totally with your wishes and critical remarks taken into account. The interface has become easier to use and more responsive to changes in display aspect ratio and resolution. Now we have no display cutoffs or elements shown over other elements, and we’ve reached the maximum readability of the information.
Some serious improvements have also been made to the game quests. We’ve added some new interesting quests and reworked the existing ones. You will have more obvious and logical decisions, meaningful conversations, new unusual tasks, greater interactivity. We’ve tried to add up as many dynamics in the game as possible and remove useless running between NPCs wherever we could.
The most complicated and extensive, the most important and critical part of the work is in progress. Very soon we will have the first closed beta testing of the new network architecture. In addition to increasing the network stability and eliminating lags, the new software part of the project is designed to eradicate all flaws of the old version, from the inconvenience of the radio using to the inability to throw the object out from the inventory. After successful testing, we will move on to the next stage, expanding the game possibilities and adding all the mechanics you can see in the official trailer.
We dive into the project development, yet sometimes poke our heads and tear our eyes from the displays to observe the events happening in the world and the industry. Many of you have already noticed that Project Genom took part in a couple of contests taking place, and even managed to vote for the game. Those who missed this news, small but very important for the project, can still participate and vote for Project Genom (or help our competitors =D)
One of the competitions is held at http://event.mmosite.com/gameprize, where we, thanks to your support, have already managed to enter the Top 8 and compete with the gaming industry giants we madly respect. The 2nd round stays open until Jan 4, 2016, and we’ll be pleased and grateful if you vote for Project Genom.
The second competition to which we were invited by the organizers is Ukrainian Game Award that will be held at the GameDev Conference 2017. The qualifying first stage of the competition voting will be held from Dec 28, 2016, to Jan 12, 2017, at the conference website http://gamedev.lviv.ua/project-genom-uga2017.
In addition to the interesting competitions, we are glad to inform you that Steam has allowed us to take part in the annual Steam Winter Sale, and you will be able to help Project Genom development buying the game and all addons at a discount of 30%! If you haven’t made up your mind, we remind you that the project is in its alpha version. If it’s important for you to get a full game and enjoy it to the full, we strongly recommend you to wait until the beta test or the project release not purchasing any early access kits now.
Neuronhaze team once again sincerely thanks every member of our wonderful community and each tester separately and congratulates everyone with the upcoming holidays. With you, this year was as bright and fast as a flash and marked a new life to the project! Thank you and see you soon on Avalon. Let’s make Genom together!
Dear friends! We’ve finally released update 0.6, with bulk of the game content and systems significally changed. Its going not that smoothly we want it to be, and some features got delayed until later versions, but we sincerely hope you will LOVE new Project Genom.
Here is the list of changes.
March is coming to an end but the update planned for this time will arrive a tiny bit later. We do apologize for the delay.
The past few months we’ve been working hard on the update and now we’d like to show you what Genom will be like in the nearest future.
We have almost completed updating locations that constantly grow in number and scale:
We keep working on a new character controller which will be featured in a separate video soon with the demonstration of all ins and outs:
The character development system has been redesigned entirely, as have been those regarding equipment, trade, skills and stats, but there is still plenty to do in terms of improving the look of the graphic interface.
We’ve added such parameters as armor energy output and weapon energy consumption, necessary to efficiently use skills that you will have to keep an eye on when constructing your build.
Over the past three months more than a hundred new quests and interactive events have been created, most of which have already been realized. We have also redesigned the majority of the existing quests that now have up to 4 ways of fulfilling tasks and many new game mechanics. To complete the 4 chapters of the game storyline you will have to spend at least 40 hours.
Our starting location has expanded threefold and serves better to immerse you in the game right from the very beginning.
We continue our work on quad bikes, buggies, gliders, manipulators, wings, mechs, covers, mounts and pets. We are working on the details of the new close combat system, space, the construction of a spaceship and personal items, prototypes concerning the resource extraction system, crafting and item upgrades. We are expanding the game world and filling it with new characters and dangers.
With your help, we’ve even managed to participate in voting on the names of game groups that will be called syndicates.
We once again apologize to those of you who have been waiting for this update and we are grateful for your support. Very soon, a new and improved Genom will be made available to founders.
Our project grows and matures, as does our team. There’s a lot to do yet, and only with your support we can make a truly living and breathing universe!
Today we would like to tell you more about the character progression system.
In the new system all information about your character is located in one window – the Genom window:
A character has 12 paths of development, which are the following:
Each path has 6 skills and is a separate window with many nodes that can open new character features. Every new feature that you acquire impacts only one specific skill.
There are also 6 character organism systems:
Each system encompasses a certain set of organs.
Each organ can undergo mutation, be replaced with a synthetic analogue or developed to a human level.
Developing an organ along one of the paths allows you to get new organism features:
While traveling around the world, a character may get infected with a disease or otherwise damage any of the organs. Once an organ is infected, all features related to the organ become inactive. If a character is not healing, a disease may progress and affect other organs within one system. Also, the higher the stage of a disease, the more difficult it is to find a cure. But disease is not necessarily a bad thing. If you manage to steer the progress of a disease in the right direction, the organs of your character may develop new features.
The game will soon see a new character development system, inventory, animation, updated graphical user interface, levels, quests, transport and skills.
We thank you all for your support and we believe that only together we can create a truly living, breathing world.