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.