Dev Blog 1/7-1/14
This week was the week of visual improvements and fixes. Moving forward to the new version of Unreal 4 (4.18.2) from our old version (4.17.2) meant a massive amount of bug fixes, code re-writes and asset management. On the bright side, this brought us a far better in- model physics system to work with, a lighting system with great improvements to both quality and usability, and a myriad of small changes across the entire engine that make everything we do both prettier and more sustainable.
In addition, we moved on to the final step of our prisoner model workflow which involves flushing out the animations for the prisoners and finally putting each prisoner onto their very own skeleton so that they can be appropriately tall, short, skinny, and fat. This means a massive amount of retargeting animations, but in the end, it will be well worth the cost.
More content is on the way in the form of a new monster. Our art team has been hard at work on a kabuki-themed demon using our new toys, Substance Designer and Substance Painter, to compliment Blender and Photoshop. In addition, we have started to rework Slit Mouth to really capitalize on the parts of her that were more successful than originally anticipated. On the flip-side of the coin, our playtesting has shown that her dismembered friend is not having the desired effect, so No Legs is being taken back to the drawing board for a top-to-bottom rework in the more distant future.
A new monster also meant a whole new set of sounds. In addition to working on an entire array of noises, alerts, and ambiance for the new monster, final decisions were made about music implementation. What was once a few ambient tracks playing throughout the day will now be a heavily situation-based score that moves with the monsters in the level to provide both a strong direction to the game and a clear ambient feel.
With the new engine, we also took a new pen to the map, redoing all of the foliage for the game, sprucing up the textures on the ground, and making the barriers at the edge of the level more natural than they were before. The grass in the level is now less obtrusive to help with visual noise, the trees are more evenly dispersed make the forest feel more realistic and be easier to walk through, and the lighting system was completely overhauled with the new engine. All of these changes were also great strides for the performance of the full project and allowed us to configure the scalability so that people with lower-end computers had the option to trim the trees a little. This leaves only building touch-ups and partial retexturing to be done on the level as a whole before it is in the final version, and puts us within arms reach of an early-access-ready version of the game
On the narrative side of development, we laid the groundwork for a complete overhaul of the level. Personnel changes coupled with unsolvable issues in the old concept meant a complete rewrite for our side characters stories. While all of us have our hopes high for what this will mean in the long run, in the short run we are trying to come up with solutions for entering an early access with fewer side-character narratives than originally planned, though we are pleased to, once again, have a firm narrative footing with a strong roadmap for progress.
In the next week we will be revisiting our conversation about bugs that need fixing and greatly expanding our play-testing to help control and balance content. The discussion of when to release the game at a firm date, and how to strategize the lead-in on social media will come back. This process has been ongoing for months, but as we get closer to the finished product, we are forced to make very difficult decisions about which features are necessary. This will make a huge impact on our plan for the next few weeks, and form the next set of tasks for QA.
All in all, the improvements this week presented several interesting challenges, but also gave way to developments that heavily invigorated the team and got them really excited to play and release the final product.