Weekly Newsletter [#1]

Introduction

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

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.

World

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.

Armor

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.

Character

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.

NPC

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.

Opponents

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.

Conclusion

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.

Development Progress News

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.

Characters

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.

Levels

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.

Balance

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.

Equipment

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.

Conclusion

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.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/389040/

 

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!

Project Genom Offers MMO-Fans a Future of Freedom

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.

blogAssets%2F2017%2FJANUARY+2017%2FProject+Genom%2FProjectGenom_1-770x433-c8bf2febc5934cc84ebb390fa347d7c6ca75f106

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.

blogAssets%2F2017%2FJANUARY+2017%2FProject+Genom%2FProjectGenom_2-770x433-7088b85508a3994b996eff695a02be3375ceeed3

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.

blogAssets%2F2017%2FJANUARY+2017%2FProject+Genom%2FProjectGenom_3-770x433-4a4bb2c7fe85fe0718c62cf0751c70eef16379f0

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.

blogAssets%2F2017%2FJANUARY+2017%2FProject+Genom%2FProjectGenom_4-770x433-d4618996e3e5341567868aa6a4197a609e2e7fb8

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.

blogAssets%2F2017%2FJANUARY+2017%2FProject+Genom%2FProjectGenom_5-770x433-bc2be30cbcb6881e37973b9017d9493b146bdb53

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?

That’s how we do.

News from developers

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.

Locations

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.

 

NPC

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.

 

Map

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.

 

Interface

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.

 

Quests

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.

 

Software Part

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.

 

Social Life

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.

Holiday Discounts!

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!

Discuss on the forum

Update 0.6

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.

To discuss on the forum