August 15th 2015
Today we’d like to give you a more in-depth peak behind the curtain at the sometimes dirty and confusing aspects of game development. The week after a major demo like Gamescom is always hectic and fraught with issues. When we make demos like that we lock down development streams so that we can focus on stability and last minute fixes. When we unlock the streams and merge changes back into our development streams… things break, builds break, people break (just kidding about that last one; the Gamescom demo energized us all!)
This week was no exception, and is in fact a little worse for wear because of 3 distinct demo branches from Gamescom, as well as a live release of AC patch 1.1.6. So, most of this week was administrative code clean up and getting things back into shape to make regular builds and regular playtests with the developers. The UK team got one good playtest in this week, so for the most part we were focused on fixing broken things that had been fine the week before.
Moving forward, we have finished the big Gamescom merge this week and are going into next week starting a staging merge in order to get the FPS, PU, and AC modules back into one development stream. We expect that we will be continuing to grapple with these challenges through next week. While these ‘growing pains’ may slow us down, they ultimately will allow us to make faster and better progress in the future.
Todd Papy, the FPS design director from F42 in Frankfurt is at the Illfonic studio this week to work with the designers and engineers on some key gameplay features. Jason Hutchins, the Senior Producer from ATX Austin will be joining Todd at Illfonic next week as well, to work on the upcoming release plans and the changes we want to make to a new game mode we will release on the Gold Horizon map. Expect more info on that next week!
Here’s what we did this week, and what we’ll be working on into next week.
Fixes were the order of the day this week, largely because of issues caused in the merge. Many of these were specific to weapons: grenades not blowing up when you’re killed while cooking them, magazines not re-attaching to weapons after reloading, magazines swapping not appearing visually and an issue with the Arclight (laser pistol) battery display not working when a second client joins (likely because of ongoing network optimization work.) All resolved now! Other fixes included a default weapon selection bug, an issue with prone movement breaking with ADS, a crash when being killed during a reload and an issue with the ragdoll not playing after being killed (players would just stand back up!)
Beyond fixes, we worked on cover tweaks thanks to feedback provided by Todd Papy during his time at the Illfonic office, improving interaction with ammo crates (this had become inconsistent, likely due to the merge) and implementing a v7 loadout for game-dev so animators can test their new re-target work. We also kicked off work on the slide mechanic, now being re-implemented.
There was a good focus on the P4AR, with implementation, testing and tweaking of the selective fire mode (single, burst, auto) happening this week. This included work on the UI display and its respective text. We also added per-stance overrides for weapons positioning and investigated an issue with gadgets that was likely caused by the merge. Cleanup was performed on fall damage, and we generated a graph so that designers can make sense of the formula for future tweaking. The team fixed a bug that was allowing players to switch fire modes while firing, and re-enabled turn-in-place for remote clients. We deprecated a custom hit reaction RMI so that we can enable a different version. This addressed a bug with hit reactions not playing on clients (only on the server) which is now fixed.
There isn’t much to report this week, save that several things that we had working last week were broken because of the integration. We’re fixing those up so we can get back to new UI development!
Our artists, who were less impacted by the stream merge, continued their weapons work in earnest. They addressed material changes on the P4AR (pictured last week) and finished updates to the Devastator D12. Last week you saw an image of the D12 that had some glowing goo in the magazine. The goo is gone, and we’ve made some other changes to the art; check it out in this post! We also started making changes to the sniper rifle based on feedback, and you can see the latest version in this post. The environment team at Illfonic is ramping down their work on Gold Horizon for the FPS release; the remaining tasks include exporting props with collision updates and cleaning up scene files for handoff to the Foundry 42 team that will be one of those building future modules for Squadron 42.
The animation team created some new temporary animations to allow for cover tweaks, necessary this week so we could work with Todd Papy as a proof of concept. These included smaller steps when shifting left, right and back and a step out and hip fire. We changed all weapon pivot points to match up with the right hand parenting and started a magazine check animation for the new reload mechanics (we’re implementing a tactical reload with one in the chamber versus emergency reload of an empty gun.) We conducted a review of the new mocap data and started a fix for vent interaction animations which were having issues.
The big news, of course, is that we started retargeting all FPS animations from the v5 rig to the v7 rig, which began this week. This included creating a file for retargeting pistol animations, exporting all CryEngine animation files, re-rigging the microwave cannon for retargeting, retargeting the pistol set (exported and checked in!) and retargeting the stocked set. Back in Austin, Tech Director Sean Tracy and animation lead Bryan Brewer lent a hand with the No Weapons animation set for v7 this week.
The big question is when we will make the company wide switch from the old rig models to the new ones. That will, as I mentioned earlier cause some legacy assets and scenes to break. This is a very good thing, as we’ll be on the new (albeit not thoroughly tested) rig for all modules. We’ve been developing on different rigs for most of this year. This is an exciting switch! Things will break, but we’ll take the hit now and make the fixes so we can move forward.
Remember those 3000+ animations we mentioned last week? We are just now starting to burn those down. Retargets are largely finished, now we are on to the NEW stuff on that list. Again, it’s a big task and animators and engineers from all studios are working on it.