SITREP - Week 7, 2014
published Saturday, 11 Oct. 2014, 00:00 by ZPSPhyrefli
Get up to speed on how development is progressing after the release of The NeuroGen Incident, and discover what team members are working on.
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 October 10th, 2014
Wow, it's been over a month since the last SITREP! The last few weeks have seen us release our largest update in a year. The NeuroGen Incident's gestation proved to be extremely difficult, time consuming and exhausting, but after a few weeks of more regular hours the team is back on track and working on a combination of Update 14 and The NeuroGen Incident updates.
We had originally planned to release The NeuroGen Incident on September 18th, and when we explained to Steam how large this update was they kindly agreed to put us on the front page (this was before the changes to Steam which were released on Sept 22nd). Unfortunately we did not hit Sept 18th, despite the team's best efforts, so we had to delay by a week. This wasn't a decision we took lightly, but the map was running at an average of 15FPS, with lows of 2-3FPS, so there was no way we could release.
Kim had already spent the previous week sleeping in the office, and many of the team had been working insane hours. For the next week Kim again slept in the office, and was joined on several nights by other members of the team such as Benjamin, Lukas, Henry and myself. We simply could not miss another deadline, so we worked until it was done.
(Kim being videoed by Jonas)
The release of The NeuroGen Incident is a dream come true for Kim. This is the first time we've released a full coop experience for Interstellar Marines, a game whose main pillar is coop. Kim's waited a decade for this, and he is massively relieved and happy the map and mission have been released.
The first week after the release Kim, and the rest of the team, carried on working on updates for The NeuroGen Incident. Originally we had planned to call it v2, but after testing we were not comfortable with giving it that name as we didn't feel it had enough new features to be called a "v2" version. However we did all agree that it was an improvement on the live version, so we decided to release it on Friday 3rd.
This week, and next week, Kim is working partly on update 14, partly guiding Lukas, Jess and Henry as they work on adding co-op to existing maps, but mostly on the design phase for the major update we'll release in December. I'll talk more about that In Closing.
Henry has worked exclusively on The NeuroGen Incident for the past several weeks. He was a pivotal part in the level creation, working side by side with Kim, Jess and Lukas to complete the map and make it as awesome as possible. Henry has spent the first half of this week continuing to work on some of the remaining areas where The NeuroGen Incident can be improved, such as the waypoints, and as I'm writing this has moved on to updating and improving the PAX demo (or to give it its new name, Nucleus). We're retro-fitting the PAX demo with some of the new systems that were created for The NeuroGen Incident, as well as giving the map itself a lot of love. We may release it with Update 14 in October, but there's a strong chance we'll probably release it with the November update.
Many interns are placed in very junior positions, some are literally treated as errand boys. Henry, Lukas, Niko and Marcus have all been thrown in at the deep end, and it's testament to the quality of TGA that they've all performed admirably, instead of caving in under the pressure.
(Miki looking super snazzy! (OK, he did pose for the camera a bit ;))
We have received a lot of praise for our unscripted AI, and all of that praise needs to be directed in one direction: Miki. He has worked almost non-stop on the AI for the past several months, and it's deeply exciting for us to simply watch them wandering around an environment, reacting to various stimuli and deciding what they're going to do based on Miki's coding. We've seen many YouTube videos where players have been genuinely scared because the bots have come at them from a weird direction. Even we get the same thing! Each one of us has played through The NeuroGen Incident many, many times, but it's still extremely eerie to be walking down a corridor and hear a door opening and closing in the distance because a bot is wandering around, investigating the area.
For this update Miki has adjusted the bot behaviour so they no longer spend so much time looking at walls, and also actively move away from corners. He has also added the first part of a waypoint system which the level designers can use to provide a path for the bots. Now this may seem counter-intuitive - why would you want to add a waypoint system (scripted) to an unscripted bot? The reason is so the level designers can add patrol paths. Say, for example, there was a guard that was defending a certain area, and just like a real-life person it goes through a patrol path. If it encounters an enemy, or sees something it needs to investigate, then it would move away from that path and go into purely unscripted behaviour.
(Niko working on adding Steam Achievements into the player profile in-game)
One of Niko's many tasks for The NeuroGen Incident was the Steam achievements. There were some issues with them when we released, so he's been working on fixing the existing ones, as well as adding new ones for Stronghold and Operations, which will have co-op and singleplayer modes added in Update 14. The image above shows your Steam achievements in the Profile tab in the main menu, which is something Niko has already added to our internal build.
In our current internal build all the achievements, except the Kill all CTRs one, have been fixed. As we're adding co-op to two new maps in this next update, we decided to remove the Kill all CTRs in The NeuroGen Incident achievement and replace it with three more: Kill 100 CTRs in Realistic, Kill 500 CTRs in Realistic and Kill 1000 CTRs in Realistic (we may change the numbers in the achievements before they're live). This will be tallied across all maps. So if you kill 50 CTRs in realistic on NGI, then a further 30 on Stronghold and 20 on Operation you'll hit the first achievement.
Niko has also been working on the final elevator. It works much better than it used to, although it still does not work 100%. We're going to continue to look into various ways around this to improve it even more.
Like most births, The NeuroGen Incident was a long, arduous, exhausting but ultimately amazingly fulfilling experience. We now have a co-op experience in-game, and that's such a relief! Finally we can give you a taste of what we've been promising all this time. The NeuroGen Incident does still have some issues, but we're gradually working through them, with most of the big ones either fixed or mitigated, and many of the lesser ones being worked on. The one thing we cannot do anything about right now is the frame rate drops in certain areas. The way of dealing with this is to stream in various parts of the map when they're used, and when we have that tech in place we'll retro-fit it to The NeuroGen Incident.
The NeuroGen Incident also taught us a lot about the best, and worst, ways of development. We've made several structural changes internally, with the most obvious being how we develop updates. We're hoping this will result in updates which are on-time and better tested. To ensure this happens, rather than delay an update because a particular feature is not finished, we'll include that feature in the next update. If you've watched the producer diary at the start of this article you'll note Ronnie is working on the melee for marines. If that's ready on time, it'll be in the October update, but if not it'll come out in November's update.
And that brings me nicely around to what our updates will look like for the rest of this year. Here's the plan:
- October - Content Update (2 current maps retro-fitted for co-op and SP + other features) - estimated release Oct 22nd.
- November - Content Update (2 current maps retro-fitted for co-op and SP) - estimated release 2nd half Nov.
- December - Content Update (2 current maps retro-fitted for co-op and SP) + Major Update (to be decided, Kim is drawing up the design doc now) - estimated release mid-Dec.
The whole team is currently working on NGI fixes and the October content update. Once that's out, we'll split into two teams: one team will work on the Nov and Dec content updates, the other will work on the major update for Dec. In this way we can bring out regular new maps for you guys to play co-op on (the content updates), and we can also work towards more long-term goals (the major update) such as the movement model, or stamina, or new weapons, or the PDA etc.
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