This week's article is slightly different than usual, as we'll be focusing on an important announcement.
A few weeks back, you'll remember us announcing our upgrade from the free CryEngine SDK to the 'Engine-as-a-Service' (EaaS), a paid subscription to the latest version of CryEngine.
You may also have heard that this upgrade came with a few setbacks, which at the time were somewhat frustrating, but we were confident that we would eventually overcome them.
Now, though, the reality of the situation is very different.
A number of severe engine bugs have shown up, breaking hundreds of hours' worth of hard work, and there was (and remains) little sign of proper fixes from Crytek any time soon.
These setbacks managed to halt our progress to such an extent that, unfortunately, we had to find a more viable alternative than CryEngine.
We have now chosen to use the Unity engine to develop Hearts of Oak.
We understand that this decision may leave you with a lot of questions, so please watch the video below and read the following FAQ for more information behind the engine change.
Here are some of the points covered in the video, detailing what's being worked on now and what will be done in the near future:
- Functioning ship with opening/closing gunports, basic buoyancy and detailed physical proxies
- Simple ocean waves with deformed mesh in foreground, texture based waves in background
- Simple ocean shader with transparency based on terrain
- Short camera controller for character navigating the ship in first person
- Time scaling, also affects physical interactions
- Very basic quest and dialogue systems
- Write a less expensive cloth renderer for sails, and to receive shadows
- Import functioning guns
- Create ship movement which responds to wind object
- Dynamic weather system
- Implement segmented terrain system
- Dynamically render islands from heightmaps
Engine Change FAQ
Why are you abandoning CryEngine?
Unfortunately, it's mostly down to the quantity of bugs that made it very difficult to progress with development, and the disappointing lack of support from Crytek to fix these bugs.
Switching to the EaaS set us back by several months' worth of work because of the bugs and undocumented changes it introduced, which needless to say, did not go down too well with our developers who were paying for the subscription.
Why did you choose Unity in its place?
Initially, we chose Unity as a temporary solution to the CryEngine's progress-halting bugs. The plan was to flesh out as many game mechanics as we could, and transfer the code back to CryEngine once the bugs had been fixed.
However, the more we used Unity, the more we noticed its potential.
It soon became clear that the content pipeline to get assets into the engine was vastly quicker and more efficient in Unity, and that our programmers had much more freedom to implement the exact features we wanted. We also liked the modular nature of the engine, with a wide variety of addons available to help speed up development.
In a space of a couple of weeks, we were able to replicate a few months' worth of CryEngine work in Unity, and by that point it was clear that we could make this game happen in a fraction of the time by switching to Unity outright.
I thought you said you were committed to CryEngine?
We were committed to it, but it seems CryEngine wasn't committed to us, if you will. If the EaaS hadn't set us so far back in development, and if the bugs were fixed and new features properly documented, we probably would have stuck with it.
Are you sure this is the best choice?
Rest assured that we're making the right decision for the good of Hearts of Oak. Our developers are now more enthusiastic than ever, with the enhanced flexibility and workflow of Unity giving us great confidence that this engine will help us make Hearts of Oak a reality.
But CryEngine looks so GOOD! Can Unity replicate those visuals?
Yes, CryEngine looks better than Unity out of the box, but with very little work we're already well on our way to making a test level that looks quite close to CryEngine. We're confident that we'll have something just as good later in development.
Don't you need Unity Pro for fancy graphics?
Technically, yes we do. It's quite expensive, but we do plan to raise funds to help pay for the licenses. More details on that below.
I thought you weren't going to raise money for Hearts of Oak?
There are a number of things that forced us to reconsider.
Firstly, apart from the Pro license, there are numerous paid addons that would aid the game's development significantly.
Secondly, we have received offers of donations from some people over the past few months, so we decided that accepting donations to cover the aforementioned costs would be a sensible idea.
To be clear, we will only ask for voluntary donations, and we plan to use this money to pay for licenses, addons and other development costs. As we remain a non-profit team of volunteers, we won't pay individuals to contribute to the game.
We will, however, keep strict control on how the funds are allocated. We will only provide funds for software licenses to team members who have earned our trust, and only if they need that software. We'll also be sparing with the engine addons we purchase, so no matter who donates or how much they give, the money will be put to good use.
How can I make a donation to the project?
We'll have more details on how you can donate soon.
That's all for this week. We know it's a lot to swallow, so don't hesitate to contact us on our forums if you have further questions.
We'll return to the usual update articles very soon, so keep checking back for the latest development news!