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.