SITREP - 2, 2015

published Tuesday, 3 March 2015, 00:00 by ZPSPhyrefli

Hell Week design and building has started! This SITREP goes through some of the important basics we're working on to make Hell Week as incredible as possible.

The new SITREP is an ongoing progress report where we publicly talk about what we've recently been working on, and what we're aiming to achieve over the next few weeks.

Briefing - week ending March 6th, 2015

Wow it's been almost 6 weeks since the last SITREP, and what a crazy busy time it's been for development!

Update 17 was released on Feb 6th, and was closely followed by a free week on Steam. The Update was all about hugely increasing tactical movement options, bug fixes, and ensuring new players had a great experience when they first tried Interstellar Marines.

One thing that well and truly caught us out - in a good way - was the number of people who played Interstellar Marines during the free week. Even though we'd brought many extra servers online, and had even more servers held in reserve "just in case", we still ended up being temporarily swamped for a few hours. There were 4 waves of servers brought online before we were able to cope with demand, totaling over 600 additional game servers and more than 3000 additional player slots. Hair-raising, but exhilarating and tremendous fun at the same time! To give you an idea of how things went that week, here's a graphic from the Steam Charts website:

(Steam Chart for Interstellar Marines)

Steam Chart for Interstellar Marines

The total number of unique people who played Interstellar Marines during that week was a whopping:

189,000

The free week also allowed us to introduce Hell Week to the world - the next big step in Interstellar Marines' development. Who better to explain what Hell Week is all about than Kim, so if you've not already see it, here's the introduction video to Hell Week:

(Hell Week Introduction)

With work on Update 18 essentially complete, and just the last few bugs to fix so we can release it, most of us have moved onto Hell Week development. This is a large section of Interstellar Marines to build, and we need to ensure the technical fundamentals are in place. For this reason we're focusing on three areas to begin with:

  • Unity 5
  • Level Design
  • Server Architecture

(Niko converting Interstellar Marines to Unity 5)

Niko converting Interstellar Marines to Unity 5

When we were deciding who would work on Unity 5, and who would work on server architecture, Niko and Miki tossed a coin. Niko won Unity 5 conversion, and he's already making in-roads into converting Interstellar Marines to the new version of Unity. This is slow going though - our project is over 17gig in total, and Unity 5 is a large change to the Unity engine, so there are an incredible amount of potential obstacles. At best we expect 2-3 weeks before the conversion is done - it could possibly be several weeks more.

The potential advantages to Unity 5 are huge: higher FPS, better tools, better physics, improved graphics including global illumination. There is a lot that Unity 5 promises, but having moved from Unity 2 to 3, then 3 to 4, we're old hands at changing major Unity revisions - so we're cautiously optimistic until we have the process complete and see what the final results look like.

(Henry prototyping Hell Week zones)

Henry prototyping Hell Week zones

Once the conversion is complete, and we have access to a Unity 5 version of Interstellar Marines, we'll then be able to really let the level designers loose with their amazingly diverse ideas for the new environments in Hell Week. The team has already had in-depth design meetings, and have started prototyping various ideas for different environments.

Each Hell Week is planned to have 9 separate zones: 8 of which are open to players for the whole duration of the event, and the final, central zone, open at the end for the last few remaining players. Each zone will have a unique feel and environment to it, from Norwegian Highlands and Forests, to Siberian Winter and many others as well.That's 9 levels, each the rough size of Assault on Starcrown Aerospace, that have to be built and finished in under 2.5 months. It's a mammoth task the team are taking on, and they're going to be working night and day to achieve it.

We are hoping to release a pdf version of the first game design document for Hell Week to our Spearheads in the future. So if you are a Spearhead, keep watch for that!

(White board discussion about the server architecture)

White board discussion about the server architecture

Personally one of the most interesting parts of Hell Week so far has been working with Miki on designing the server architecture. We're going to need 9+1 servers per Hell Week game, with a lot more redundancy than we currently have in case a server goes down during a Hell Week. Designing something to achieve that is a fascinating process.

As a Producer a lot of what I do is to bring out the best in the the team - to formulate, extract and frame the ideas and awesomeness they have in them. The team members have the answer, or the best solution to a problem, in their heads - sometimes they just need a bit of help or guidance to get them out.

Miki will be building our server architecture. Getting it designed correctly, including what iterations we will build it in, is one of the most important parts of building Hell Week. The server architecture is the underlying foundation block on which the whole of Hell Week rests. No pressure then, Miki!

Finally, all of us would like to say a special thank you and farewell to Lukas. He was with us as an intern from September to the end of February, and was a huge help and inspiration during that time. We wish him all the best for the future, and hope he enjoys his new role. Take care mate!

I hope you enjoyed this SITREP - please let me know what you think.

FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME,
Paul (Phyrefli) & the team at Zero Point Software


Comments

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2 years, 3 months ago

WOOOOOOOH ENGINE CHANGE/UPDATE.
WOOOOOOOOOHHH HELL WEEK IS WORKING.
WWWWWWWWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH
SPEARHEAD STUFF.

I may not be capable of staying up late enough for U18, but at least I got this. Thanks guys!

See ya later Lukas, may luck guide you on your travels. (is that the saying? I'm rather tired)

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2 years, 3 months ago

Unity 5? Oo)

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2 years, 3 months ago

Can't wait to see what the Wargames will be like. I have a lot to expect... and a lot of bullets to receive from everyone alive in the servers.

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2 years, 3 months ago

Sounds great, and I'm looking forward to it! But how will system requirements change in relation to the engine upgrade? I'm running at a fairly old hardware setup (can't afford to upgrade it), which still copes well enough for decent graphics in SP, whereas in MP it has to be tuned down. Even then, there are the occational moment of client-side visual lag. Will the engine upgrade simply 'optimize' the digital communication with the analog computation achieving the higher FPS you are mentioning, or?

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2 years, 3 months ago

Nice. Thanks for the update

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2 years, 3 months ago

Unity 5! Yay!

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2 years, 3 months ago

Looking forward to PBR and global illumination in Unity 5!

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2 years, 3 months ago

Out of curiosity I believe I remember the prototype Interstellar Marines from 2006 was built on the Unreal Engine? And that you couldn't release it to the public because of the cost of the engine licence. Well as it turns out the Unreal Engine is now free (https://www.unrealengine.com/blog/ue4-is-free) so does this mean what I think it does? Or did you use a different engine and I'm just mistaken?

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2 years, 3 months ago

After reading the server swamping note, it reminded me of a discussion me and a few friends had during that same week....that we will soon need the ability to host our own servers, even if only private/locally hosted in order to play specific maps/difficulties faster and with simpler methods.

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2 years, 3 months ago

Awesome, looking forward to it!

-Templar Valor

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2 years, 3 months ago

@SpecBear I think that they would have to upgrade the unreal version of the game to the newest for it to be legal. They would also have to give away 5% of the income. It doesn't sound like much but when you're just getting by with the amount of money you earn then you really don't want to many other expenses.

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2 years, 3 months ago

Looking forward to the engine upgrade!

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2 years, 3 months ago

@Mtsmts they only have to pay 5% if they make more than $3,000 dollars (quarterly) off the game so if they gave it away as a free demo then they wouldn't have to pay the royalty.

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2 years, 3 months ago

Still concerned about this direction, dropping offline single player and so on. There is still no fun way to play IM offline due to a lack of supporting bots or checkpoints...

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2 years, 3 months ago

So, Hell Week is a one time event, right?

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2 years, 3 months ago

I should hope not, as they're spending a very large amount of time on it.

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2 years, 3 months ago

Unity 5?? Awesome!

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2 years, 2 months ago

How does this work?

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