And again we’re glad to welcome all our players! Project Genom is being actively developed and we strive to make it appear to you with all updates as soon as possible. But for now it’s not happened yet, so we propose to see what the Neuronhaze team did for the last week.
This week we continued testing the network load with subsequent continuous fixes. The main task this week was the completion of network replicas responsible for the data transfer between servers and clients. Most network lags of the current version arise even with the weak load and are often associated with replicas. There is also work on improving the client’s work with the database.
In addition, we keep on correcting AI, updated NPCs, and logs bugs. We write the functional for interactive objects in the world, in particular, the so-called “Eyes” — special marks in the world, which can help you get acquainted with the game world more deeply and also get special tasks or objects.
We continue working on the camp and its nearby environment in the radius of several miles in the open world. We set the base for all plot and additional quests so that they are not scattered randomly in an empty area.
The scientific camp construction kit was supplemented by some new elements and necessary unique objects. At the moment, it was transferred to the final low-poly modeling for the subsequent implementation of the game.
With complex objects, we modeled the transport for the rapid assembly and disassembly of the camp blocks. It’s based on an aerodrome tow truck, which is used for towing small starships on the Ark. We plan this vehicle to be controlled by players.
We also worked on the dungeons this week. At the current moment, we began reworking the Dump, which is known to all players who have completed the story to the third chapter.
As with all other locations, our main task is to improve the gameplay and the quest component. More logic, level design, and interest. The previous dump suffered from the abundance of useless spaces and bugs with falling under the textures and generally didn’t resemble a dump. Now it will be a real cemetery of unnecessary things, with its inhabitants, both hostile and peaceful. The player will meet new side quests, interactive environment, complex fights and improved graphics.
For those who are interested in development, we would like to say a few words about our way of creating such locations from the landscape point of view. Perhaps it’ll help someone.
For the open world, we use the complex landscape generation in the third-party software to subsequently takу the maps of erosion and slopes and transfer all this into the engine. In the engine, the data from the maps will be necessary for us to generate automatic coloring and vegetation. This process requires time and a separate development diary because the higher the quality of the generated world, the easier it’s to work with it and the better automatic generation will work on some parts of the terrain. For dungeons like the dump, where the landscape is also required, this process would be too energy consuming in our case, and at the same time not giving the required quality. In the big open world, we have freedom of action, and it doesn’t matter if the certain plot point is located three meters away from us or two hundred meters away, as we have a mountain in the supposed place. But in the small limited locations, we need total control over the process. To do this, most of the work on the terrain is done manually. We paint with necessary textures only where we need it, we generate and arrange objects very carefully. On the other hand, manual modeling of the terrain doesn’t give that quality of which can be achieved by using the popular World Machine. So we do a little trick. When we define the necessary appearance (choose whether we need mountains, valleys, fields, or canyons), we generate the required landscape in the World Machine.
After that, we don’t render it in huge resolution, we don’t take any maps and don’t waste time. We immediately go to the engine, where the landscape is modeled by hands depending on the dungeon storyline. But we simplify this modeling with the sculptural Copy/Paste function, which allows you to create a region (Gizmo) with the possibility of loading a map of any height into it. As a result, if we need a canyon slope, we load our generated landscape into the region, place the region at the desired point and squeeze out the required terrain section with the brush. In the end, the work is done quickly and qualitatively.
This week was marked by the final integration of the male character into the game. Now we make all the tests with the main character who’s got the new improved body and head.
Exoskeletons skinning for the female character is finished.
In addition, we created an initial set of five women’s faces for testing and customization. Many players asked for it. Now there will be different races in the game.
We also began working on the male faces modeling.
We started working on the full implementation of NPC life depending on the time of day. This means that non-player characters will do their own business and also go to rest at night. Some, on the contrary, will appear only at night. Of course, the main story NPCs won’t disappear even at night, depriving the players of the opportunity to take the task, but we’d like to hear your opinion on the secondary NPCs.
Which system would you like to see in the game?
The hardcore one, when some characters just leave to rest and it’s impossible to take the task until morning, or a more loyal one, where you can wake up or contact even a sleeping NPC?
And by the way, what is the most optimal number of game days expressed in the real days in your opinion? In other words, how many times during the real day should the day follow the night in the game?
New regular animations will help to make the NPCs even more alive. Five full sets of such animations arrived this week.
Every day we continue working on the game storyline. We improve and expand the main story chapters and also the side quests. We improve the quality of dialogues, logic and make the tasks more interesting. This week we’ve seriously improved and revised the fourth chapter, the completion of which will give players the opportunity to get their own cabin.
While the development is underway, the most frequently asked question is still the question on the update. Despite the fact that we’re constantly responding to give details on why the update is impossible right now, we still receive many comments on this topic. We really can’t specify the time, because we wouldn’t like to promise something we’re not sure of. We will try very hard to release the update in the first half of the year, but the complexity of the work doesn’t allow us to determine the exact time of the update release. As soon as we are sure of some dates, we’ll immediately notify about it.
Thanks to everyone who believes in us!
Hello, friends! Our first weekly newsletter was warmly welcomed by the game community, which is why we introduce the similar news format to be published on a regular basis. And now we’re happy to share the news of this week.
The project was moved to the new Unreal Engine version. Version 4.15 in addition to many pleasant little things will, in particular, improve the game performance due to the improved textures streaming. We’re constantly working on the game optimization, so these kinds of innovations by the Epic Games are very helpful.
As before, the main work is done on the network part. In general, works on the network will be carried out until the game release and will affect all components of the project. It’s quite difficult to describe the work done on the network, but we’ll try to highlight the most important stages. So, for example, we’re happy to announce that first load tests that took place this week among the development team were successful. These tests were an extremely important step, thanks to which we could move forward and also made sure of the new architecture’s working capacity.
The game world is constantly expanding with new elements and features. We try to work on the world by developing the general storyline in specific large play areas. For example, if we have a quest in which it’s necessary to run from point A to point B, we begin with elaborating these points, and the transition between them is changed and revived later. In the first report, we mentioned and showed several such points, in particular, the entrance to the Ark. This week, we added another major story zone of the open world. Everyone who has already managed to play the game could see a small field camp with tentacles by the exit from the Harbinger. Three stones, two NPCs, uncomfortable and illogical entrance a hundred meters from the Ark, as well as a unique opportunity to immediately jump into the high-level zone — courageous testers got through all of this. Now the camp is placed at a decent distance about 1.5 miles from the entrance to the ship, it has a logical structure, beautiful design, and is acquiring new tasks now.
In addition to the field camp, we began working on the scientific camp. Many remember the lonely big building under the Harbinger, proudly bearing the title of the camp. This zone didn’t stand out either in detail or in logic and was also boring in the gameplay. New build should significantly improve all the shortcomings of the old version, and we started with the working on the design of the camp.
One of the major tasks in the world design is the creation of man-made complex structures. There are different ways to do this, from modeling unique buildings to automatic generation. For ourselves, we have chosen a module approach to level design. This isn’t as spectacular as modeling unique buildings, and not as fast as the generation, but module approach makes it possible to achieve an excellent balance between beauty and performance rate.
The essence of this approach is to create separate large pieces of the structure, which are joined together by the grid. Generally speaking, we make walls, floors, and ceilings, and then we collect different variations from these blocks, adjusting the buildings for gameplay and tasks. Among other things, the chosen setting of the future world means using clear, logical, modular construction that is low-cost in production and building. This approach to the world design is the best way to show it.
For even greater visual diversity, various additional objects are superimposed on all these blocks. They are ventilating boxes, grilles, grids and solar panels. Also, the buildings are decorated with decals (inscriptions, paint, rust stains, dirt, etc.) directly in the game.
Similarly, we can partially combine the internal rooms. For example, a wall with shelves turns into a toilet room by replacing one object with another.
Of course, since these buildings accompany us through the story, we can’t completely leave them without unique game objects. But most of the work can be quickly and efficiently done with modules, which means that we will have more time for other game zones.
Skinning of the female armor is finished. We had to patiently adjust each set to the new anatomy of the woman character. Breast, thin waist, narrow shoulders, long legs — all this required a serious modification of the costumes. But now all 30 sets of armor are able to pick up the new animations of our girl. This means that the path to the feminine gait is fully open.
Another detail worth mentioning is the processing within the framework of game design, although this applies not only to the armor but also to all game items. We’ve completely redesigned the list of bonuses that players could see in the item parameters list. Now weapon won’t give bonuses to the armor and vice versa, the armored suit will not give the player a bonus to the damage, which will balance the game build even better.
Our stern and unbendable men aren’t left in the basket. This week the male character got a Low Poly model with texture maps and was transferred to the game. In addition, an initial set of hairstyles necessary for customization was immediately created for the man. Like the girl, the male character can have a different skin tone, hair and eyes color, and is also able to try on tattoos and scars. Make-up possibilities for the male characters are rather modest. A limited set of natural lip shades and no mascara. We stand for freedom of choice, so we’d like to hear your opinion: is the expanded makeup necessary for the men?
We continue expanding the animation capabilities for non-player characters. We added several packs of animations designed make the world alive and diverse. Game animations have an interesting feature that is difficult to be seen at the first glance, namely their number. For example, you can count only three animations in the image below, and you’ll be right. But in fact, to properly implement them in the game we require more than 20 unique animations. For example, in order to make a character sit on the sofa, it’s required to make this character reach it, stop by, turn in the right direction (depending on the side he or she approached the sofa), sit down, sit there for a while, stand up, turn around and left.
In addition to a lot of small fixes, as well as debugging logs, we created opponents with a distant attack from the ground zero. In particular, the Spitters that our players are quite familiar with now will be able to effectively spit acid without lags and FPS drop. A more stable, optimized and customized shot — this is what the opponents lacked in the previous version.
Answers to Questions
Over the past week, we’ve received a lot of questions on all the resources relating to both the weekly newsletter and the game. We tried to choose the most frequent or relevant ones and respond to them.
How much time does it take to write a weekly newsletter report, does it affect the development speed?
Answer: Collecting material and writing takes several hours of one person’s work. It has virtually no negative effects on the development speed.
When’s the update?
Answer: The project update is possible only with a full processing of the game architecture. Unfortunately, we’re unable to name the exact timeframe at the moment.
What will the graphics settings be in the project?
Answer: It’s still difficult to name all the settings, but they will definitely expand in comparison with the previous version. In particular, vegetation density setting, up to the complete grass display cutoff, has already become possible with the transition to one of the new engine versions.
When will customization be introduced?
Answer: Immediately when the new version of the project is released on Steam.
Why do you show different places in the pictures “Before” and “After” in the previous newsletter?
Answer: The world of the game has completely changed, the same places no longer exist. The pictures show the same places of the plot.
The week was productive, without surprises and incidents. The project team is cheerful and full of energy, the project is gradually moving to the stage close to mass testing and constantly improving. We’re grateful to everyone who cares about the project for your participation in its life. And we’re always open for communication, and also are happy with any questions and sensible remarks.
The time has come for the first weekly report. Last time we shared the news more than a week ago, so this first report will include information not only for the past seven days but for the entire period since the last update. We’ll try to elaborately describe why and what we are doing, and what we face in the course of development. We would like to note and stress that shown materials have the Alpha status and do not necessarily reflect the final quality of the product.
As before, we have the priority to the programming. If someone missed or doesn’t know what caused the current lack of updates, we remind you: legal issues and lags. Legal issues arose immediately, affected the software part, and cause a short and bright scandal, which we quickly settled. But it has strongly influenced our decision to rework the code. As Project Genom gained Early Access on Steam we were able to receive the funds necessary for development and also we were able to test the project in real conditions with a lot of players from around the world. It identified a number of problems with the network architecture. We could have patched the holes and released updates, but in the end, this would lead to a complete failure and shutting down the project. Each new mechanics overlapped the existing gaps, so the errors would multiply. With each new update, it would become harder and harder to deal with lags, and we would have concentrated on dealing with the existing gaps, not on the development while spending our players’ money on it. Realizing that going this way we’ll never fulfill our promises to the community, as well as driven by the legal issues, we have decided to do a major processing of the software code and extend the programmers staff.
The software part of the project, being one of the most global and complex problems, affects all aspects of the game and affects literally every frame. We can’t list every task solved over time, but we have tried to highlight the most important work done recently.
One of the most important tasks was the transition to the cloud-based Linux servers immediately scaling under the load. The current project version includes support for the dedicated Windows servers, which creates a number of serious problems with every players’ influx. Part of lags and crashes is due to them.
Another big task was the complete processing of the character controller that is ready and being polished. To a large extent, this has been done to optimize and reduce the number of unnecessary requests and stupid mistakes that load the current controller and create additional bugs.
We’ve completely rewritten traces, so shooting has become much easier and better. This, in particular, will increase the fire rate of certain weapon types and will have an impact on the maximum number of concurrent players shooting in the frame, and hence on the PvP.
Speaking on lesser character innovations we can note the stamina bar introduction that is spent in running, as well as the introduction of recharge rate parameter for the weapon. These parameters will largely affect the gameplay and create additional opportunities for balancing and building up a character.
As we have previously reported, we decided to completely renovate the open-world of the game, expanding and improving it on the basis of your experience while completing quests. This task isn’t the quickest and easiest, but we believe it’s extremely important for the game quality.
Recently, two important story dungeons that our project veterans remember in every detail have been completely redesigned. It’s the Digger Cave and the Infected Hive.
When designing levels we pay much attention to the walkthrough and history. Now we’re trying to implement the practice of the single-player games to the dungeons while keeping the Co-op in mind.More possibilities of interaction with the environment, more interesting side events, details, phrases, and sub-quests should give a completely new experience of the game. Dungeons are no longer place with the general storyline where the mobs spawn. Now they are small original worlds with its own logic and interactivity.
In addition to the dungeons, we have worked on the open world.
In the video below we’d like to share the future world scale, showing just a little piece near the direct exit from the Harbinger. This is an early version of this area without the final content and vegetation, but it is already can fuel the desire to have a quad because the size of this zone covers an area comparable to the half of the previous world.
We would not want to spoil the impression of the game by spoilers, and therefore recorded a short video showing some pieces of new locations, but not affecting the story or the walkthrough.
Large worlds require a lot of time and attention, and we decided on this extension just knowing that it will significantly improve the project keeping pace with the software part and not slowing down the development. The main difficulty when creating the world occurs in the early stages when there is a lack of assets to be arranged. The more work is done on level design, the faster the following work on new locations is done because we can use the already created objects again. We hope that in the future a positive trend in the rate of the game world expansion will be noticeable.
As you can see, we got rid of most of the plants from the previous version. We decided to switch completely to the plant’s’ generation through SpeedTree. This will preserve the unity of style, improve the quality of models, as well as, for example, will make it possible to use the general direction and force of the wind (a vivid example — Witcher 3: Wild Hunt). Each plant will react to the weather; if the wind is strong the trees will bend, if the wind is low, they’ll stand almost motionless. It’s not crucially important for the gameplay, but the visual image becomes alive and natural.
All high-level players will be pleased with the news that the characters can finally acquire a full seventh set of armor suits, which means that we’ll add a set of tactical and diversion armor for male and female characters. These sets will be included in the Demiurge assault armor set. In addition to this, we’ll add another full eighth set of armor suits with even higher level. Currently, we’ve completed the concepts for the Vampire tactical suit and the Dreadnought diversion suit.
This problem doesn’t have the highest priority, and therefore we’ll spend more time on the creation of game models later. It’s always better to have concepts and register a set in the balancing sheets.
In addition to the qualitative expansion of sets, we paid attention to the requests for quantitative.
To increase the interest and diversity, we decided to extend the current sets of armor by creating 3 variations with different parameters and quality. Different armor suits painting will help to distinguish the sets visually. The decision made it possible to increase the number of unique items up to 3000 and more, at the same time it doesn’t affect the game performance. Now it will be more difficult, more interesting and much more honorable to assemble or craft a full set of armor.
Speaking of armor, we’d like to immediately say a few words about the character. We promised to add the game character customization with the global update, and currently, we develop a visual base for this. We started with the processing of the character model. A male model was significantly improved, it received a more correct and beautiful anatomy. But the model is not yet transferred to the engine, since this task isn’t a priority, doesn’t require any armor or animation modifications and other works, and can be performed at any time in the short term.
The female character was completely redesigned and is already introduced to the game. All female characters finally have a womanly figure for which we create special animations different from the male character ones. We’ve already begun skinning the female character armor, this tedious process will allow all armor suits repeat new beautiful body of the protagonist, without breaking during the animation.
As you may have noticed, in addition to anatomy, the characters have got new underwear. Now it’s not more logical and practical (black cotton panties embarrassed everyone), but also is not just a picture on the model. This is a separate and independent model and an independent kind of costume that can be substituted for any variations in the future, from the strings to the closed laced swimwear.
Another important point in terms of the beauty of the image is a partial withdrawal from ‘Masked’ to ‘Translucent’ mode of material overlay for the characters’ eyebrows and eyelashes, and to ‘Dithered’ opacity for the hair. ‘Masked’ is a sharp transparency mask, meaning there either is a pixel or no, giving a hard edge. It works correctly with the dynamic lighting and therefore is the only possible for hair or foliage. ‘Translucent’ is a transparency mask supporting the translucency and beautiful borders, but adding serious rendering artifacts if the surfaces intersect. ‘Dithered’, in fact, blends the sharp mask pixels, blurring the boundaries. Balancing between all these modes for different hair areas, we were able to achieve an optimum variant.
Let’s return directly to the customization. At the moment, we created the possibility of changing the color of eyes, lips, skin and hair color shade for the future tests. We have also introduced the ability to add makeup to the eyes, tattoos, and scars.
We added 10 default female hairstyles.
Among other things, we added the possibility of selecting the muscle type from the usual build up to the athletic.
We continue to work on improving the NPCs. Their quality, number, as well as their capabilities, has significantly increased since our last news update. We’re gradually adding new animations for NPCs to liven up the world. Most of them are created with the motion capture system that allows characters to move realistically and nicely.
We gradually improve the opponent’s AI, as well as their mechanics. The important work done recently was the logs mechanic which analog can be seen, for example, in Borderlands 2. Mobs won’t be gathering in flocks waiting for the player in certain parts of the world. Some will actually walk around searching for food, but the majority will hide in their lairs, leaving them because of the danger or attack. This will improve the gameplay opening room for tactics while doing the clean-up of some lairs and will allow us to significantly enhance performance. The lesser is the number of mobs simultaneously appearing in the world, the fewer calculations of their status are required, therefore the total server load is lower. In addition, monsters getting out of their lairs to appear to be logical and beautiful. At the moment, the Diggers you know well successfully test the lair system.
At this point, we would like to end our first weekly newsletter, and once again thank all those who stay with us in spite of everything. We also would like to know whether you’re interested in this kind of information and how many technical details you want. Please tell us what features to omit and what should receive more attention. We hope that this format will become a tradition, we will shape and polish with you until the release.
Hello, friends! While Neuronhaze team is totally wrapped up in Project Genom development, you keep on constantly waiting for the news about the game. We are a small team that has a huge amount of work and extremely specific tasks to do, and that won’t allow us to keep you informed on a daily basis and set specific dates and time limits for various stages of development. In any case, the project development is in progress, and the closer we get to the first major test stage, the more frequently we’ll set dates and update you on the news.
In the meantime, there are a lot of players and no less a lot of unique characters waiting for the new Project Genom update. There will be more quest characters on the Avalon, and many noticed the absence of women characters which is to be fixed very soon.
Entropos, a state and a corporation all in one, whose residents make up the population of the Harbinger, gathered worthy representatives of mankind on the old Earth under its wing, paying attention only to the abilities and benefit of each individual and sweeping all prejudices aside. So even now you can assure yourself that the Ark’s population is multi-ethnic.
Another important feature of the Project Genom world is the mutants and the synths who will play an increasingly important role as you make your game progress. At the beginning, the players will be able to observe various mutation features or technological changes on the faces of some characters.
We keep working on the expansion and improvement of the game world. The first tests in the new locations will bring new emotions even to the Genom veterans. You may not recognize the places you thought you knew, the world will be bigger and more interesting.
We’ll try to make the world exploration a task useful to the player adding more possibilities, daily tasks, and unexpected encounters. The new game version will allow us to implement a lot of ideas. The ongoing work on improving the game plot and its quests is also very helpful in this perspective.
There is no doubt that adding new content is good. But, of course, we don’t forget about modifying the existing one. In particular, some big changes were made to the item balance. For example, we’ve added absolutely new parameters such as reload speed for weapons and cooldown speed for abilities. We changed the damage reduction formula improving the combat system. Damage resistance parameters which used to be the bonuses now are the armor parameters, and it will have the serious impact on the crafting system. We’ve also put a serious role behind the character speed parameter as it will affect the battle tactics and lead to choosing the equipment of a certain weight.
Character abilities are gradually expanding, and the newly updated Project Genom will include shotguns and sniper rifles.
We will also introduce the exoskeletons enhancing each player’s combat potential.
In addition to new ranged weapons, we will at last please the fans of head-on collisions and melee. In the new game version, Blades and Glaives will surely compete in the battlefield.
We are very happy to see how active our community is, and we are glad that you share your ideas, suggestions or criticism. The project lives in spite of everything and develops on a new level, although there is still so much to be done. We believe our top priority is to fulfill all the promises made during the whole project development. We are grateful to all who trust us and waits for the project to be done as much as we do.
We inform anyone who would like to support the development on about the latest discounts in Steam Store.
Some extra attention should be given to one question often asked by the concerned players: how will the so-called ‘Google tax’ impact the prices. The answer is in no way. We won’t change the game price for players from Russia or any other country due to the additional 18% tax.
Good luck and see you in the world of Project Genom!
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?