Weekly Newsletter [#21]

Introduction

Greetings, friends. July 28 is on the way. On this day, we’ll launch our test servers marking the start of the first major test of the updated project architecture for the first time in the last 8 months of development. There were plenty of posts about our work, the obstacles we faced in 2016 and the reasons for postponing the update release. Nevertheless, we still receive questions on these topics. We clearly understand that the players express their interest and their fears, that’s way we’d like to once again tell you about the state our project is in and about our team.

Where’s the Update?

At the end of 2016, we were left unfunded without any economic means and without our leading programmer, as a result of an unpleasant story, widely covered by various gaming media. When a key specialist leaves the team during the launch of early project access it could be a fatal blow to a small team without any external funding. When it happened, we had no possibility for further rapid development of the software part. At that very time, we faced a number of critical problems in the released version, which were revealed only when our players massively flooded the servers. These errors couldn’t be promptly corrected without a programmer knowing the code. As it turned out later, some critical network errors could not be corrected in a short time generally.

First days after the launch showed precisely that our project ceases to work normally even with a relatively small load. Our online peak was 1223 players, after that, all game servers began to crash every 15 minutes. We had to get the servers up and running manually. If we restarted the server and another player sent a joining request, a new copy of the game zone was created, and this cycle repeated itself until the memory was full. In order to provide at least some amount of game functionality, we had to launch a round-the-clock duty — four testers and our community manager continuously monitored the servers on a 24/7 basis.

At this time, we searched for all opportunities to continue the project development. As a result, we focused on two most acceptable options:

  1. To create new content, expand the servers’ capacity and hire new people to operate them. In addition, we had to find the programmers who could at least partially understand the code of our previous employee and patch the most critical holes. If we chose this option, sooner or later, we’d have to shut the project down due to critical bugs. But it would definitely give us an opportunity to keep the project alive for a little while.

  1. To rewrite all project software from scratch. This option would take about the same amount of time as trying to parse and understand the previous code, but it would allow the sustainable project development. The main difficulty of this option was hiring expensive programmers and the inevitable negative reaction of our players since it would be technically impossible to develop and update the current version of the game on Steam.

We never really considered the rest of the options, such as selling the company or dropping the team and trying to make the most of our dying project.

We were able to make the right decision thanks to the players’ feedback we received about the Early Access. Despite the huge number of bugs, lags, and daily server restart, you warmly accepted the project. Many players supported us and purchased the game never launching it. Moral support, encouragement and financial help allowed us to choose the second and the most complicated development option, completely rewriting the game code and suspending the updates of the current version but thus giving Project Genom an opportunity to someday become an excellent game with a bright future ahead of it.

During lengthy negotiations, at the end of November 2016, we managed to attract two talented programmers who already had experience in online games — Dmitry Volodin and Maria Chernykh. Since July 2016 Alexander Blintsov successfully worked the as a blueprint programmer and in November he decided to stay with us. In addition, Andrey Gertanov, our leading animator, assumed a number of different complex responsibilities and tasks related to the animation blueprinting.

Rewriting the game code has become our major task. We realized that it’ll take a considerable length of time (with no possibility to predict the exact amount) and that now we have time to improve the project in other areas. With reports on all the past tests, lists of wishes and ideas that were expressed by the players, we determined the most important game components that needed improvement. It was impossible to introduce new mechanics while the architecture was being developed, that’s why we reworked and improved the existing ones, from the opponents’ animations and item balance to expanding the in-game world and configuration of the of the interface. To do so we provided full-time jobs for a number of our part-time employees who did piece-work, as well as hired new talents who are able to engage in modeling, level design, and game design.

As a result, over the past 8 months of work, we managed to create the basis for an updated project, including the following:

  • Created a cluster of Linux servers that start up the game zones automatically.
  • Created an authorization service.
  • Integrated Steamworks SDK into the game.
  • Set up a build server to build the software project and game servers.
  • Set up a new version control and workflow system.
  • Implemented a web interface for real-time server activity monitoring.
  • Created a PostgreSQL database and connected the database to the game.
  • Implemented a launch of individual and group instances for players.
  • Implemented the open-world switching between servers with no delays on loading.
  • Implemented a new character customization system, including headwork with open helmets, different races, dozens of tattoos, hairstyles, and scars.
  • Created a dynamic day and night cycle with the atmospheric density, sun, fog and many other parameters.
  • Implemented a new mob agro system designed for different roles that players can take in their group.
  • Implemented a new AI for the Digger mobs with unique skills and a possibility of crippling enemy limbs.
  • Created unique particle systems for skills, shots, hits on surfaces, Diggers’ special attacks, and lair destruction.
  • Created physical assets for armor and mobs.
  • Created physical materials for different surfaces.
  • Implemented a new AI for Raiders. Now they can use grenades and take cover.
  • Implemented an autonomous NPC life system with a huge number of behavior point types. Now NPCs can walk around the Ark and go to sleep at the certain time of the day. Our team has also done a lot of work on optimization as the simulation of more than 300 Ark inhabitants gave resulted in a huge load on the server’s processor.
  • Created more than 50 unique NPCs.
  • Reworked the Digger Queen boss mechanics.
  • Implemented a new interface with additive positioning adjusting to different screen formats.
  • Reworked the anatomy of main characters.
  • Added bones to the humanoid skeleton for facial expressions and implementation of head reskinning done to a number of characters.
  • Created the character equipment system.
  • Significantly reworked materials and textures for armor, weapons, NPCs, and mobs.
  • Implemented more than 3000 armor and weapon data assets.
  • Created a new combat system;
  • Completely rebalanced the items. A number of unique gameplay items was expanded more than 3 times.
  • Increased the open world up to 60 square miles (100 square kilometers).
  • Created new biomes in the open world. Each biome has a unique objects, materials, textures, and plants.
  • Reworked the following instance location: Ark, Prologue, Raider Sanctuary, Arena.
  • Created the following instance location: Digger Cave, Dump, Infected Hive, Renegade Research Camp.
  • Created a huge number of new environment models.
  • Rewritten over 200 quests, including different ways of finishing them.
  • Added new main and additional quests.
  • Added hundreds of dialogues between NPCs.
  • Implemented the world and object exploration system.
  • Created a basis for the character-NPC dialog system.
  • Completely reworked character controller system and its animation blueprint.
  • Created more than 400 animations for the female character from scratch.
  • Created designs for the new mob type, high-level armor, and special equipment. Now special equipment has a deeper role in the character development.
  • Created necessary animations for the character wielding shotgun and character wielding sniper rifle modes.
  • Implemented the localization system (localization is not yet available; the game is in Russian).
  • Created animations for all Diggers and Hounds from scratch taking their gameplay features into account.
  • Created many new animations for non-player characters.

At this point, we are working on the character progression system — experience gain, level ups, skill trees functioning. We’re also working non-stop developing the world, game content, and game design. Implementation of an updated quest system will be the next major task for our programmers.

Implementing the network architecture took a lot of time and even now most of the time our leading programmers are still fixing the arising errors. At the moment, we are at the Technical Alpha stage with a ready basic network infrastructure that we wouldn’t show to our players if we were a large studio. But in reality, we create the game with your support, and you should be able to observe all the project development phases and stages. That’s why we report you every week on the work we’ve done so far, and that’s why we’re going to launch the PTS testing on July 28, when everyone will be able to see our work and will also help us to update the current Steam version of the game as soon as possible. We understand that a part of our audience will have a strongly negative attitude towards the current Technical Alpha. Many won’t read this text and with the in-game warning that we will show for all wishing to participate in the PTS. Many won’t read our Newsletter #16 dated June 19, 2017, where we listed all items that will be included in the PTS version and would still wait for the complete project with space travels and PvP. Many don’t read three different warnings on the store main page, in addition to weekly similar warnings in the news, in which we express our recommendation not to buy the game it if you expect a full-fledged finished project. Our main task is creating a good game and fulfilling obligations we gave to the players who believe in us and stay with us.  The vast majority of our players are so competent and patient that they help us constantly improve ourselves. We don’t want to mislead and deceive such people and we actively continue to develop the project. We welcome everyone who wants to taste the rawness of the early stages of development to take part in the PTS on July 28.

We will share all Instructions for accessing PTS in a separate post on the Steam page, the official game page and in social networks on the day of the PTS launch — July 28, 2017.

Thanks for staying tuned and helping us make the project better!

Now, we can proceed to the traditional Weekly Newsletter on the work done over this week.

Software

We’re still fixing flaws of the software part. This week we dealt with a lot of the network and controller flaws, including very complex and serious error of the switching between the servers.

Character progression mechanics are now being actively developed.

We completed our work on creating the basic artificial intelligence for Raiders.

World

The team is still working on the Infected area. This week, we finished a rather laborious process for laying roads on the ground. Roads will have a huge impact and determine the further development and design process for some sections of this location.

We reworked the Renegade Research Camp.

Character

Our team is still engaged in the creation of the mech model.

Opponents

We created all the necessary basic animations for the Digger Queen boss.

This week, we started creating the nests’ animations.

We started modeling Trogs. First of all, we decided to rework the existing Trog model, improve its anatomy and mobility. Also, we’ll take into account some technical features that will simplify the skinning and animation process, besides we will add fur.

Diggers received all necessary effects that we created. These effects include shots, skills, hits effects and limbs rupture effects.

This week we reworked the Digger, which didn’t fit well in the open world environment. We also created and added the destruction effect to the Lair.

Conclusion

Our team is in good spirits and we have confidence in the bright future of our project. We’re waiting for July 28, and we hope the current game status and the forthcoming testing of technical alpha will be taken seriously. The first PTS is very important for the project. During the PTS, you and we need to test the new architecture soundness, test the network part, transitions between the servers, database performance and create a list for the further game world optimization. We will give details on the most important aspects of testing for those who want to help with bugs testing. For those who are just curious and want to peek at the updated world, we strongly recommend leaving any feedback about your first impression on our forums. Describe what you liked and disliked, what you expect to be in the game as soon as possible and what can wait. This will greatly help us in further development.

And, once again, we want to remind everyone considering purchasing the game that it’s still in its alpha phase, and we don’t recommend buying it if you expect a full-fledged finished project. Purchasing the game now you support the development and have an opportunity to see its early stages. If you want to enjoy a full game experience with the maximum number of game mechanics and no critical errors, we advise you to wait until the game enters the beta testing phase or even later. The nearest PTS will also be the alpha version and won’t present the game in its final state.