Here is the retrospective of 2017 as promised, it took me a while to write this post, I know its 9th already and new year thing is kinda over by now, I just wanted to finish writing the Blender animation addon first, didn't wan't to break the flow so to say, sowwy!
Here is a list of some of the big things we did past year, in a somewhat chronological order (I wouldn't say it's exact, but its close.. At least its how I remember it). Those are the bits of the puzzle called game development, some finished, some not, but all coming to the future releases.
The past year was quite a ride, some goods, some bads, but we still had a truckload of progress! Aside from talking about accomplishments, we also did a lot of funny derps and bugs (fixed 'em of course) that are too priceless to not include into this retrospective. This is the true behind the scenes look, funny bugs is what game development is truly about xD.
Year started with us experimenting and prototyping the new movement system that looks good, easy to animate, and, most importantly, feels very nice to play with
Joy of a finally working movement system
With that, I had ideas to make certain hard-to-design places of the game change perspective to a more top-down view (fixed camera is always easier to design levels for), such as inside buildings and caves. With that in mind we prototyped path-following cinematic drone cameras akin to platformer games, lock-on combat, and some other ideas taken from MMOs and mobas, but it all was rejected in the end in favor of a system that adds a full freedom of motion and aiming anywhere. That decision is not without eventual sacrifices in content though, but it makes the game play and feel that much better.
Old aiming/camera idea that was thrown away
Major design goals and overall direction of the game were defined in the release of the video, where I explain a lot about how the game is going to be in the future. Before that the game had rough general ideas, but nothing was set in stone.
Funny "predatory wall" bug with climbing
First playable map "Serenity" planned and outlined, it's not yet done, but at least we have something to strive forward when we come closer to the beta releases.
*waddle* *waddle* *waddle*
A team member joined, he helped with some things, made the code tidier, introduced a few very useful core features... But sadly he was the reason why a lot of internal drama began happening, lots of hours wasted on pointless arguments, personal spaces violated, all kind of nonsense happened (It's good you weren't there to see it all happening). In the end we asked him to leave, which was a big relief for me personally, but damage (a lot of it) was done, and it's sad that we couldn't co-operate, because, despite everything, we appreciated having his skills to help with the development.
Movement/animation system was complete.... Well almost, flying and skiing is still something left for us to do. Climbing on any cliff and surface was especially challenging to make right without glitches.
Technical whiteboard sketches
We made two big updates and and released up to date pre-alpha versions, it's not much I know, but it should get easier once we don't have to constantly break our game in order to add new core features and then spend months repairing it. That's why next alpha release is so important, it's going to change a lot about how we work and update the game.
HUD was redesigned (a few times). But it's not final, another redesign will be soon, because gotta make sure its absolutely perfect!
Making sure strafing works instantaneously
A whole new weapon system designed and coded: equipping guns, customizing, going into combat mode and firing them with different modes. Still lacks artist touch, but it works!
Ballistics and bullet drop off
Camera camera, camera... You have no idea how much kamasutra we had with the cameras to make them work and feel just right. In the end we decided to make it as simple and functional as possible. And now it feels great, no input lag, it's literally always on-point.
A very expressive camera boom pole illustration by Hopfel
Improved inventory system: it's now much better and expanded, added support for various item types, such as ones that can be slotted as weapon mods, or ones that can be used by the player directly.
Current look of inventory window
Water shader was re-written from scratch and now the game has one of the prettiest stylized water graphics I've ever seen, and yes I'm a bit too proud of it :}
Having fun with a beach ball in water
We did our first public multiplayer test with Patrons and people from our Discord server. It resulted in many crashes but we fixed them all thanks to everyone participating and providing invaluable test information!
Crafting by combining two nearby items
Crafting and item metamorphosis systems were done, so items will not only react with the environmental hazards, such as open flames, they can also be combined together... Like with weapons, no real art and models to prove crafting really exists at this time, but it is here, hidden in code, waiting it's hour to be unleashed.
Item exploding into other items when heat damage is applied
Sergal models, both male and female were almost finished, only textures and internals are remaining.
Animation gone wrong pt 1
Finished a long overdue project for Cyberiguana, who was also a high-tier Patron, thus his fully custom character will be in the game :}
Cyberiguana model render
Finished Hizathri species, including their skeletons, internal organs (different for male and female), and muscles . They will appear in the next build.
Made a master-material for all the characters and clothing in the game, it features very in-depth color customizations, skins, dirt effects, wetness effects, blood, protective shield ripples, disintegration, and pretty anime eyes!
Current example of the character art quality
Chat system is on its way, for both players and NPCs to use. It is also useful for inputting commands and cheats for all testing purposes.
Animation gone wrong pt2
Our own (simple) physical simulation system, that works well over the network and will be useful for ragdolls later on.
Secret fetishes discovered in UE4 engine code
Weapon projectiles, damage regions, and bullet ballistics (travel times, spread, and drop off). Those will give us and ability to make all sorts of ranged, melee, and magical abilities and weapons.
Homing projectiles test
Damage types! In our game damage is considered to be "elemental influence", be it heat, electric charge, or physical impact. Players, objects and items all respond to those damage types in their ways. For example if you were to fire a laser, while other players might take damage to their shield due to the heat, a slab of raw meat would turn nice and roasted.
Rigging in Blender, obligatory tail testing
Action system was complete. While sounds easy and generic, actions enable players to interact with the world and objects. For example when approaching another player, you can activate a scrollable list of all actions you can perform on them, and yes that includes naughty stuff you're all waiting for :}
Input spam, a hilarious thing to do in many games, not just ours
Tons of optimizations for network, login-logout, authorization and account creation, improved level loading with support for sub-levels (entering an interior for example), level-region system and reduced distant actor ticking.
Severe network "rubberbanding" desync bug fixed
Knowledge tree UI prototype, still very early in development, but eventually it will be the in-game progression to unlock new technology, items, weapons, characters, etc...
Mockup Knowledge Tree nodes being procedurally placed on the UI
Started rigging and developing custom animation tools for Blender, allowing every modder to author new animations for the game without any of expensive programs.
It is a lot indeed! But as a conclusion, I'm going to mention some of the things that we're intending to finish up this year, as soon as possible.
- Finishing up everything, putting it in Alpha release.
That's going to be a major milestone.
- Making final animations
Finishing up the rig in blender and making the final animations for Hizathri and other bipedal-upright species, such as Sergals and many more. Aside from regular locomotion animations, there will be first social interactions between characters!
- Character models
Having just Hizathri is nice, but there will be at least one more species plus hairstyles, and clothing for them
- New environments
Enough of test-maps with dev-grid textures, it's time to make some interesting and beautiful places.
- New items, weapons, and other content
Since we have the whole inventory system, it's time to show its true potential.
- Starting with sounds and music
It's a bit too quiet without it, don't you think?