Hi everyone, and welcome to the first Dev. Diary of 2017.
The last five months have been quite an hectic time for us as a team. From the IndieGoGo campaign to our biggest involvement in social media, the auditions process to find the perfect voice talent for the game, the Steam Greenlight process and an abundance of technical and design challenges made all this time the busiest we have had in the past years. Let's recap what has been happening behind the scenes in the last two months since our last formal development diary.
BRINGING THE GAME TO LIFE
THE STORY, VOICES AND CHARACTERS
In Irreverent Software we are old school gamers. Being a small team of four people, with half working in the art department and one carrying the technical aspects of the game, the work overload can be very taxing at times. However, and being old school gamers, we knew what we wanted and what we needed to offer for our take on horror games. We wanted a full story with rich characters, deep mysteries and loads of atmosphere. During last year we carefully wrote and rewrote (and for good measures, rewrote again) the main script of the game, a ~300 pages story that will take the players to many different locations and situations, to meet deep and unique characters.
But having the story was just the first half of it. We always knew that the most important step for the story to work was to get the help of talented actors and actresses who would make them leave the paper and come to life on the screen. After a careful and very long auditions process, we finally assembled a cast full of passionate and very talented voice actors and actresses who would mark the characters with their very own voices and emotions. And today, as January nears its end, Episode 1 is almost fully voiced and the work is already going on for episodes 2 through 6.
But moving the game away from the design board and the pre-alpha demo towards a full game, ready for Early Access and Steam also implied many technical challenges and improvements needed to be done.
IMPROVED GAME, WITH A NEW VISION
One of the first things we wanted to do for the full release was to completely revamp the look and sound of the game, improving its graphics and atmosphere. Most of the funds from our IndieGoGo campaign would be destined to this end, as well as to highly improve the gameplay. After the IndieGoGo campaign finished without reaching its goals, we still used the funds collected to that end, but the failed campaign also implied that changes and choices would need to be made.
The hard decision we had to take in the aftermath of our campaign was to remove, at least temporarily, all Linux support from the game. The tools and resources we have are limited, and rather than develop two feature-limited and reduced versions of the game, with the Linux version being a severely limited port due to our lack of newer compatible hardware and the time this porting would take away from the main development, we decided to focus for the time being only in the Windows version. This will allow us to implement all the features we envisioned from the beginning and, although slower than we expected, add all the graphical improvements as well.
This decision has already paid off with very good results. In the last two months we have made great progress and bigger achievements for the future of the game than anything we expected in such a short time.
PROGRESS IN THE ART OF THE GAME
On the art side, all the character and prop models have been drastically improved, in many cases completely re-modeled and re-textured. The scenery has also been revamped making a transition to HD textures, full PBR rendering, advanced PostFX filters and the possibility to take advantage of many DirectX11 features on newer PC's while keeping a high quality look with good performance on older PC's running on DirectX9.
Each episode, due to its length and amount of locations, requires not only several unique characters but a few hundred props as well, many of which are completely unique for the given location. Given the amount of detail we are adding and the limitations of our equipment that need to be worked around for each one, this process can turn a little long. However, right now, much of the content for Episode 1 is already finished and being introduced into the game.
TECHNICAL PROGRESS IN THE GAME
Here is where most of the progress for the last months has been made. A game of the size and scope of 3:00am Dead Time requires a lot of different tools to make our work easier. Besides this, the workflow for the game as it approaches the release also needs to be optimal, allowing us to provide updates, fixes and new content easily. Full integration with Steam, full multiplayer support, full integration of the voice acting...the list goes on and on.
There are several areas that have seen lots of progress since early December.
- Characters - Our programmer has made a custom tool that allows us to lip-sync all the performances of our voice actors in little time, while configuring procedural gestures and emotions in the character models, to make them behave in a more believable way. Custom IK solving software, custom emotion based AI, extended physics integration, hair and cloth physics for the characters, etc. are all either added or finishing their development.
(DPerformer, improved version 1.0)
- Multiplayer - A full integration of Steamworks Network functions has been made, and a system has been put in place which takes complete and automated control of all the game instances either in a LAN or Online match by syncing, updating and controlling the messages between them.
- Modular game creation framework - A full, complex framework that allows us to easily create new code snippets to be added after release to anything in the game, be it a new location, a new character, a new gameplay mode or just a new graphical option.
- Custom skin, eyes, hair and clothes shaders with PBR and tessellation support. Our custom shaders have been tested in low-end PC's to guarantee maximum performance.
- Input - A source of some complains during the demo phase, we have replaced Unity's Input system with our own implementation which allows full support for Gamepads (Xbox and most generic USB ones).
- Custom dynamic occlusion culling solutions for bigger performance.
- Improved our custom made localization libraries.
- Physics based interaction with the environment (doors, pick-ups, items, etc)
- Improved first and third person perspectives (cinematic perspective is also being improved for an extra "movie-like" feel)
- Improved settings manager
- Subtitles manager (WIP)
WHAT LIES AHEAD
The plan for next month is simple, we will keep developing our core technologies and frameworks as we keep adding the content to the locations of Episode 1. During February, extensive work will start to lip-sync all the voice acting performances to the respective characters and we hope to begin closed testing of this Episode on the first half of March. Once all the components are in place, the work for the following episodes will be easier and the wait should also be shorter.
We hope you liked this Development Diary, it was a really long one, while we keep working at full force and speed in this game and hope to see you by the end of February with another recap.
Thank you very much for reading, and have a great week :
The Irreverent Software Team