Weekly Newsletter [#6]

Introduction

Greetings, friends! We’re ready to share our progress over the last week on the Project Genom development with you.

Software

We’re working nonstop to improve project’s network part and the game base. This week we fixed a serious issue that didn’t allow localization to work at all (we debugged the localization dashboard that duplicated targets every time the path was changed or engine was restarted).

The team fixed the controller bug when the character’s legs were bent at angles far beyond reason and law of physics not to mention physiology. Another fixed bug allowed air walking. We also fixed the issue with shooting sounds heard by the whole server regardless of the distance between the player and the sound source.

We continued working on and testing the functional points of interest (“Eyes”). Our programmers rewrote the mechanism of interaction with them and introduced the timer mechanics (progress bar filling for complex interactions).

The dialogues and NPC mechanics are being improved. This week we added the gender-based mechanics division for NPC points of interaction. Despite the differences in anatomy and animations it allows us to fully introduce  NPCs of both sexes that can use the same point of interaction (for example, sit on a sofa).

This week, we created the basic set of surface physical properties (Physical Material). It is essential for interaction with different materials in the game. For example, different sounds of walking on metal and concrete, unique traces and effects from shots fired at glass or water. Physical properties were assigned for 2500 materials.

World

This week, we started the creation of a major plot dungeon for the fourth chapter. Raider research camp, developed under the Almer auspices, whose technologies we can see and even test directly at the location. The camp located is high in the mountains side by side with the Almer territories. In future, they will be very difficult to reach.

The first miles of the open world are coming closer to the final base version. We’re working on final technical improvements. Several load levels are created for all objects for the purpose of optimization. Collisions for complex objects are also being corrected.

We’re getting closer to the final stage of modeling objects for the scientific camp.

Character

The concept of a new type of high-level armored suit with an active protection system is complete.

NPC

We continued working on unique plot non-player characters. Bodies are being fixed and remodeled according to new proportions and animations. We’re improving faces and materials.

This week, we added several new NPC animations.

We also corrected the male character posture (fixed what looked like the hump and embarrassed players for a long time).

Opponents

Digger mobs were transferred into the engine; there are major changes in comparison with the previous game version. We assigned special behavior and combat tactics for different types of Diggers. The team incorporated the functional for interactive points located on mobs and allowing to benefit from their weaknesses. For example, now you can shoot off the Female Digger’s abdomen  causing severe damage and depriving it of some abilities. In addition, enemy’s visual model also changes (Female Digger is still alive but continues fighting without a part of the body).

This week, some opponents received physical properties. It allows to improve visual impact in combat and add behavioral features in the future. For example, when a shot hits Digger, its body reacts to the hit twitching in accordance with physics.

Conclusion

By the end of the week, we can certainly say that we’ve done the major part of the work on creation of main large dungeons as well as the basic set of objects for most locations. In addition, the initial pack of animations for non-player characters is almost ready. It’ll allow us to move on to the female character animation.

There’s still work to be done on the network and the basic game mechanics; this task is our priority.

We’d also like to remind everyone who suggests buying the game that it’s in the alpha stage. So we strongly recommend not buying it if you expect a full-fledged finished project. We advise you to wait until the game enters the beta testing stage or even later if you want a full game experience.

Weekly Newsletter [#5]

Introduction

Neuronhaze team welcomes everyone on the pages of our weekly report. Many of you asked for some information on different mechanics, robots, skills and other game features.  We’d also like to share this with you but in these reports, we primarily write about what we did last week. If working on the skills wasn’t our task, we can’t promise anything or describe something like that in our Weekly Newsletter. When the work on the code processing will include these mechanics, it will necessarily be reflected in our reports. Until then you can always find our plans for specific mechanics at various official game sources.

Software

Last week, the project moved to version 4.15.1, this led to a number of small fixes to the engine. Anyone interested can always read on the official Epic Games resources.

We continue working on the network. Now we’re stabilizing interaction with Linux servers. Our main task is the network stability at high loads and maximum optimization.

A full-fledged dialogue system was introduced in the game. Earlier there was an opportunity to give only one of two answers to a question. Now the communication with NPCs goes to a completely different level. Full-scaled branched dialogues with different answers and different reactions to them should make the game process even more interesting. It also clears the way for more complex and interesting communication mechanics, for example, special answers at different times of the day, different reactions depending on the relationship with the character, unique answers due to some world events and so on.

In connection with communication system improvement, the quest system has been reworked, because dialogues directly affect the quests. Various complications, branchings, and additional mechanics allow creating more elaborated quests. Finally, we begin to see the variability of quest completing and the non-linearity that we’ve been looking for.

World

This week we completed the Dump dungeon. We added various new zones, an arena for the boss battle created with due regard to the enemy characteristics, as well as two settlements with enemies and civilians. The total area of the updated dungeon amounted to approximately half a square mile. We’ll make the final touches as the mechanic and quests are introduced into the dungeon.

The creation of basic alien vegetation was our main work on the open world.

First, we created the necessary texture maps based on the concept you saw in the previous report.

The next step was the generation of high-quality grass, bushes, and trees assets in SpeedTree with the use of created textures.

After that, ready-made assets were thoroughly implemented into the existing nature of the world. To do so, we had to update the landscape shader, adding a few additional layers of alien grass generation, adjusting the presets for this generation, and adding large trees. In addition, we applied the method of vegetation colorization when working with the landscape. This method was corrected for the alien flora.

For colorization, we create a special texture color map that plants use to correct their own color scheme. For example, as the grass surface smoothly mixes with the drier earth, the growing green grass will gently turn yellow as the earth dries out. The same thing has become relevant for the smooth transition of greenery into the extraterrestrial grass of violet shades.

We continue creating the scientific camp game models, which are necessary for the final assembly of some locations.

Character

We started working on the concept art with the next type of high-level armor.

This week, we completed the female heads skinning, now they are fully integrated into the game.

We also did lots of work on the character’s hairstyles and beards skinning. Skinning the beards was especially tedious. There’s a big difference in facial proportions and shapes of different races and character types, so it’s impossible to use one universal beard model. It was necessary to manually adjust beards for each face creating unique models. Eventually, we created over 50 beard types.

We created two basic facial and body tattoo styles for male and female characters. It’s essential for us so that we’ll be able to implement the full customization in the game and test it as soon as possible.

And, by the way, we want to remind you that we really appreciate your activity in groups and forums. Your ideas and comments help us have the better understanding of what you’d like to have in the game. This applies to both the main mechanics and such trifles as tattoos. What types of body marks you prefer, what would you like to see, what style of tattoos, in your opinion, is most appropriate in the future — all such questions form the basis for our further work, and we’re always glad to hear your opinion on any such topics.

Conclusion

The network is still our priority. We can’t proceed with various game mechanics without a full-fledged and well-functioning network part of the project. The game world also requires lots of attention, as its size makes our artists literally work without a break.

For the time being, we don’t mention the ongoing work on the game design in our Newsletter, as at the current moment, most mechanics are created and repeatedly tested. Now we’re at the stage of continuous improving and balancing of each individual component.

Overall, evaluating this week we can say that development goes as planned and the first updated Project Genom tests are scheduled for the first half of the year.

We’d also like to remind everyone who suggests buying the game, that it’s in the alpha stage. So we strongly recommend not buying it if you expect a full-fledged finished project. We advise you to wait until the game enters the beta testing stage or even later if you want a full game experience.

Weekly Newsletter [#4]

Introduction

Hello, friends! It’s been a week since the last Newsletter, so it’s time for another one. But before we start, we’d like to remind everyone who missed or paid no attention to our news about updates. At this moment no game updates are possible for technical reasons. We understand that updates are far better than news, but we won’t be able to update the current version of the project until the code is processed.

Software

Leading programmers of the project continue working. They spent most of this week improving it and fixing the flaws revealed by the recent testing. There is no point in tackling with new tasks and expanding functionality over existing errors until the game stability reaches the proper level.

There also were numerous improvements done to the NPCs and artificial intelligence this week. Non-player characters and opponents should be paid special attention, as they are important elements of the gameplay.

Some minor changes were done to the interface. We improved the tooltips with enemy info and added HUD elements for logs.

World

We continue developing the large Dump dungeon. This level is gradually expanding with new unique details, interesting story events, and mechanics. To date, our progress on this level is over 70%, so its completion will require a few more days of work.

This week, we almost finished working on the first several miles of the game world, but it’ll take a couple of stages before the final design variant is agreed upon.

Up to date, we’ve done the work on the selective filling of the main interest points.

We’ve completed the stage of detailing improvement and creating smooth transitions between the earth and other surfaces by decals overlapping.

Another small yet important step was the work we’ve done creating rivers. Crossing the rivers will diversify possibilities of moving around the world and open up opportunities to introduce some mechanics.

This week, we completed creating and generating the basic vegetation in the landscape. It’ll help us do the further level work much faster.

The game takes place on open spaces of Avalon, a terrestrial planet yet not totally Earth-like. Although the conditions are very similar to our native planet, but there are some significant differences in evolution, and the basic vegetation now lacks some characteristic alien features. In this regard, we began creation of a layer with unique Avalonian plant species.

Avalonian plants, like the ones on the Earth, are suited to absorb red and blue sunlight spectra due to chlorophyll. That’s the reason for the green vegetation predominance. The chlorophyll-free photosynthesis is being gradually forced out of this world because of its extremely low efficiency. At the same time, there are small differences in Avalonian evolution, as a special radioactive mineral — arcanium — is present on the planet, and it helps some forms of vegetation to survive. High levels of anthocyanins add the characteristic violet and red color to the chlorophyll-free plant, and the arcanium molecules add bright pink color and even phosphorescence to a number of species.

Character

This week, we’ve created the concept of high-level armor for male and female characters. In addition to the increased stats, the new armor set will be distinguished by a unique feature — active protection complex. Thanks to a number of low-range antigravs, small armored plates will be levitating at a low distance from the main suit, thus making the character look more handsome, at the same time providing cover from blows and critical hits in the back.

This week, we’ve added basic male character heads for different races with full skinning.

For customization, we’ve introduced ten initial beards and mustaches for the male character.

NPC

18 new animations for six different actions were added for non-player characters.

Storyline

At the moment, five story chapters have been reviewed and improved, now they’re waiting for partial proofreading and translation. This week, we continue working on some side quests making them more interesting. New quests are also being written.

Conclusion

There were no memorable or very specific moments this week, just the usual development. Neuronhaze Team works hard to make the project better, greater, and deeper than ever. We thank everyone for your feedback, discussions, suggestions, and criticism. It really does help us!

We’d also like to remind everyone who suggests buying the game, that it’s in the alpha stage. So we strongly recommend not buying it if you expect a full-fledged finished project. We advise you to wait until the game enters the beta testing stage or even later if you want a full game with all possible experience.

Weekly Newsletter [#3]

Introduction

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.

Software

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.

World

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.

Character

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.

NPC

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.

Storyline

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.

Conclusion

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!

Weekly Newsletter [#2]

Introduction

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.

Software

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.

World

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.

Armor

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.

Character

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?

NPC

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.

 

Opponents

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. When will customization be introduced?
    Answer: Immediately when the new version of the project is released on Steam.
  5. 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.

Conclusion

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.