Thursday, 20 June 2019

Sprint Roundup - 20.06.19 - Information Underload

We are back with another Sprint roundup! Loads of progress to tell you about and a lot of great stuff to poke and test out in the newest build if you are a First Access backer, so let's get to it!

Working on Information Underload

Now, bearing in mind the game is still pre-alpha - one of the most frequent pieces of feedback we get from first time players is a sense of information overload, and that it takes about 20 minutes of play time to really break though and "get" the game, but once there they love the depth.

Information overload

This is unsurprising seeing as the demo level that we show people drops you in the mid-game in order to give enough of a tech demo and playground, and has very little tutorialisation in it, other that some dense walls of text to set the scene for those interested.

Many people who bear with it really get a kick out of the moment when the game "clicks" for them, it can be quite rewarding to feel the pieces slot into place as you work out how Off Grid mechanics can be used and combined to your advantage, but it's not optimal that it takes so much perserverence to get there, and this is something we have always hoped a good opening to the game would help solve.

In steps our first pass at tutorialisation!

The Workplace

This month we have been working on some new content that we want our First Access backers to give some feedback on. It's not the very beginning of the game and it's opening, but it is the first full level and in the core story missions and so should set the player up with the basic Off Grid tools and teach them the core mechanics without too much confusion.

We'll try and avoid any spoilers here, but as mentioned earlier we are looking to ease people into the mechanics and reduce information overload. It's meant to tutorialise the features you need to get started digging into Off Grid, and so we specifically made it a relatively safe environment without too much challenge to make it easier for folks to explore and experiment with the meachanics we are trying to teach.

Finding your tools


There are a few new mechanics in there, and some nice draft sequences for rooting your phone and getting your tools, but we are really keen to hear if this helps the the game "click" earlier for people...

A lot of this is still under development and things like the Secretary neutral NPC are still being worked up and dont behave as intended yet, but we want to get a sense of how you feel about the pacing / challenge in this level and whether it gives you a better feeling for the extent of the tools available.

If you are part of our FIRST ACCESS backers from the Kickstarter then please grab your key, take the new level for a spin, and give us your thoughts in the Discord (link)

If you backed us at that level and haven't claimed your First Access / Pentester key from the Kickstarter yet then please get in touch, we are relying on the feedback of those early backers and the more of you there are the better. You should have an email from us with the steps you need to take to do so.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts!

More character work!

We have been busy beefing up the gestures available to NPCs and the modders making them! Using a mix of preexisting animations and newly sourced animations we have added lots more generic gestures to the animation controller for NPCs, all of which can be called through the Lua API. Check out the ever growing list here: 

The Gestures page on the OFF GRID wiki

Have any suggestions for useful gestures? Ping us in the Discord or make a suggestion on the public trello board:

The First Access and Modding public Trello board

Come on in and contribute!

Who dis?

We have been busy getting the rest of the IRL hacker characters made, some surprise reveals on the way! Can you guess who is wearing a tshirt with a simplified version of the milliways logo?

 
More people, more hair.

We've been adding new LUTs into the project and now all characters will have their own unique LUT, meaning we essentially have the variations for all NPCs in the game pretty much covered now!

 AI

Again, sprint work was focused on AI. We needed a method of an AI appearing mid level, but spawning an AI would have required a refactor of many systems. Instead a solution where AI could be paused/unpaused made sense, meaning an AI could 'leave' by being paused or 'join' by being unpaused. As a result we can now hide AI in cupboards if we need one to appear later in the level. Also slowed AI replanning when they end up in situations where there is no valid plan.

Tracking down a rogue AI

Other significant recent work is adding more things to level saves; saving app status, and AI state. These both proved important in getting a working build out.

BUGS

In the last sprints we ran into some pretty weird and complicated to debug issues, which is why it's taken us a while to get a new build out. But after few weeks of testing for every possible and impossible reason for the problems, we finally got things up and running again.


Profiling

We had a build breaking bug in the form of ghost Lighting data included in Common level, which is essentially a scene that loads in most of the systems alongside the scene that has the individual level's content. That is fixed!

We also has some mad things happenning with NPCs glitching. Turned out we needed to make sure all movement from animations is applied even when framerate drops below FixedUpdate rate, and is applied only once. That is now fixed!

It's kind of hard to even complain about the bugs we had without getting too technical :
we should make sure to create simpler bugs in the future. Or at least ones that are more entertaining to explain! ;P

In the latest game and Levelkit build : 

So, what can you expect to see in the next build of the game and modding tools?
 
Content (Level Design and Art) 
  • More generic gestures in the animation controller for NPCs. Added these to the list of Gestures that can be called through LUA.
  • New unique LUTs in the project and listed for use on the wiki.
  • Workplace Level:
    • (Hopefully) a full pass at tutorialising the early game
    • New mission objectives and gameplay in the Workplace Level with a nuetral NPC who gets angry if you go into off limits areas.
    •  Edited down  conversations and modals to give enough information to learn new tools but not seem like a wall of exposition (feedback on this from you First Access folks would be great!)
    • Replaced and bunch of deprecated stuff with updated implementations of features (e.g. removed old SMS single messages in Workplace and replaced with single-message variant of conversations)
Controls and UX
  • Tweaks to movement speed and control, simplifiying the bledtrees now means easing between animations as the character moves around should now feel more accurate (still in progress)
  • Running - the player now walks by default, holding "B" or "Space" to jog and tapping the same button to then sprint in a short burst while you have the stamina to.
AI 
  • Added Pause/Unpause for agents. Means that AI can stop and start as progress is made through a level, simulating joining/leaving.
  • Defined NPC/Guard type for sound in the character table. When enabled, and audio work is done, will allow for different voices for different agents.
  • Reduced planning when agents are unable to achieve any of their goals.

Modding and Lua API additions 
  • Added a global app folder in mods, allowing mod apps to be used across the game.

Bugs fixed 
  • Fixed NPC movement issues (make sure all movement from animations is applied even when framerate drops below FixedUpdate rate, and is applied only once)
  • Fixed build issues caused by ghost Lighting data included in Common level.
  • Added Mission Lua API calls for checking if objective is active/completed
  • Loading item images from both mission & common folders
Other 
  • Save System - Save agent state, and app status (needed for new build).


If you haven’t already - be sure to wishlist Off Grid on Steam - each wishlist makes a big difference to us, and we really appreciate your support!

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Sprint Roundup - 30.05.19 - 'Fluttery' will get you everywhere

It's that time again: here is your regular sprint round up of development! Read on to find out what we have been up to...

"UI the long face?"

As promised as one of the stretch goals in our Kickstarter campaign, we've now added our in-game short message social media app, which we've decided to call "Flutter."

Some 'fleeting' in action
Similar to our existing SMS system, it sends procedurally-generated messages using the profiles of non-player characters in the levels. In addition, it sends messages from the rest of the people in the the game world. PLUS we've made it Lua-scriptable (even more so than the SMS system is), and added support for sending custom messages, both from our own game systems and from Lua scripts. So, the messages the player sees can actually provide some useful feedback about something you've just done in the mission, or reflect on some previous choice you've done during the game. They may also help explain what may be going on in some NPC's AI mind at the moment...

In other words, we made social media that can tell you more about the world outside of the building you happen to be in, and about what all the people around you are doing and thinking at the moment.

The tracing UI has moved!
To fit the app on the user interface, we moved the network tracking info around and did a proper design (you might have seen some screenshots of the previous temp stuff we had in our previous dev blog post).

While we were at it, we also did some balancing for the network tracking cost and data view range (and how that fits with the app use cost and everything else).

Level Design!

We have been working up a new level, created a full pass of a Workplace level with a neutral and more complex NPC, objectives and tutorialisation. Then we realised that it was all a bit too much crammed into one early level and so went back and thinned it out in order to simplify the player journey.
New neutral NPC behaviours
The tutorialisation aspect included creating a sequence for rooting the player's phone and installing new hacking tools. It's just a start, but this sequence is gonna be nice!


We have been implementing some of the most recent editions to the AI . We got the office worker agent script reacting nicely to the player in custom ways and made use of the AI's ability to send and react to data in Workplace, controlling doors using AI's newly found ability for sending data in actions, and a bunch more.

In the course of all this there was some balancing of the difficulty to be had. The idea for the mission is to have something that sets up and tutorialises the basic mechanics, and you want players to have a degree of safety while experimenting with these, however you still need some jeopardy to motivate and challenge the player. We added a second floor you need to sneak through with an additional guard so that you have some space on the floor below to learn and play. Then we added a guard to be spawned and woken up on the sending of data by another NPC.

And finally a lighting pass to make it all start looking a little nicer, although this did also lead to the discovery of a significant bug that took quite some work to squash...

Characters on the move!

We got every character in the game using the new LUT system and the new Rigging system including blendshapes for their weight. This means we have a good pipeline for adding new characters and animations work well between all characters.


We’ve made some changes to the Player Prefab which allows for other characters to be the player rather than just Joe. You can make mods as Jen now! Aaaannnnd.... characters are steadily becoming even more customiseable! There is now a library of Hair, Hats and other Head accessories that work between all characters, it’s a case of finding the right size item for the character and drag-drop it into the ‘HatHair-Parent’ object in the character prefab. We still have some work to get these accessories to be something a modder can control but we are getting there!


We also did a big pass on the animation assets and attempting to make more generic "gestures" available as a library. All animations that exist in the game have been documented. This gives us a good idea of what we have, what needs to be fixed so we can use it, and what we will need going forwards. More news on what that will make available to modders soon!

AI

As ever, a heavy focus has been on AI. A significant aspect of this was the AI Explorer, our tool to examine the current status of any agent. This contained a lot of information, but without much context. To try and give modders a helping hand, we've added some extra 'hints'. So whereas before we listed the current goal, we now list all of them, with attempts at explaining *why* higher priority goals are not achievable. Similarly, for actions. Our AI is not exactly simple, by its nature, but this has already proven to assist in understanding why expected behaviors are not taking place. AI Explorer is also now available in LevelKit, where previously it was a dev only tool.

Documentation can now be generated from any source file, rather than just Lua API code. This should increase the amount of pages on the Wiki; it was previously so easy to think "I will document this feature later", and then fail to. Not any more!

AI coming out after a sleep in the closet
AIs can now be paused/unpaused - this allows for agents that cease to have a use after a certain point in the level, or who need to appear part-way through a level. Examples of such behavior would be a character that needs to leave the building/area, or a maintenance engineer that appears only when the player has caused a particular amount of havoc.

The final notable AI addition is that they can now react to data that they receive. This works in a similar way to reacting to other outside stimuli - compare the data with personality, and see what results come out. It's another way of influencing AI to do different things than normal and create different gameplay experiences. Two guards with otherwise identical goals, but differing personalities, would react to the same data in two different ways and create decisions and obstacles for the player to overcome.

In the latest game and Levelkit build :

So, what can you expect to see in the next build of the game and modding tools? Remember that bug we hinted at earlier? About a lighting pass? Well it was essentially build breaking, and poor old Pontus spent the end of last sprint and the beginning of this one trying to track it down. We can with relief tell you it is now fixed but it has come far enough into this sprint that we decided it is best to just hold the build off until the next one is due in a couple of weeks. We'll give you full post-mortem of the issue in the next post too, as we are certain Pontus will need the catharsis / therapy of getting it off of his chest!

So.. what can you expect in the NEXT build in a couple weeks time?

Content (Level Design and Art)
  • A new level we want some feedback on!
  • Worked up full pass of Workplace level objectives and tutorialisation
  • Created a sequence for rooting the player's phone and intalling new tools
  • Got office worker agent script reacting nicely to player in custom ways
  • Made use of the AI's ability to send and react to data in Workplace
  • Added a guard to be spawned and woken up on the sending of data by another NPC
  • Added remotely controlled doors using AI sending data in actions
  • Added a second guard to the top floor of the Workplace level
  • Lighting pass on the Workplace level
  • Change Character colors LUT shader to black to white for Smoothness
  • Re-Rigged all existing characters, including blendshapes
  • Finished cleaning up all Hacker Characters from the Kickstarter and rigged them
  • Added hair, hat, and head accessories to fit all sizes of characters
  • Re-rigged and re-textured Player character and made it so different characters can be the Player
  • Documented all existing animations
Gameplay and Mechanics
  • Replace old SMS stuff with single-message variant of conversations
  • Conversation Queue
  • Mission info popups for multiple missions on same map tile
  • In-game "Twitter" short message social media
  • Balanced tracking time/cost/NetPoints use mechanics
  • Small stuff. Inventory UI refreshes automatically on item use. ObjectWithScreen component is useable by modders in Levelkit. Occlusion culling baking is optional in Levelkit and can be left out when working on a level or testing things. Fixed IK weight blending on NPC hands. Lua API support for adding/removing NetPoints to/from player
  • Loads MOAR tweaks and improvements to the player character controller!
Controls and UX
  • UI popup for selecting between available missions on same map tile
  • UI menu stack handling in map+main menu
  • Re-designed the network trace/AppPoints UI
AI
  • Explore AI receiving data affecting Agent state, etc
  • Document AI sending data
  • Updated AI Explorer to better expose more information- look at whether it can be in LevelKit?
  • Added 'meaning' to AI Explorer - trying to explain what states relate to what actions, and which goals are achievable.
  • Added a toggle to pause/unpause AI - useful to have Agents that can appear later in levels (AI cannot be spawned mid level, currently).
  • Agents react to data they are sent, as per their agent definition. So sending data to Agents can change their state/stats.
Modding and Lua API additions

  • Moved AI Explorer to LevelKit and added connectivity, meaning that LevelKit users can see some of the functionality we have (but static, as it does not update dynamically).
  • Documentation extended to be generated from any source file, table documentation added.

Pretty busy time as you can see, more coming soon, along with a new build for you FIRST ACCESS folks!

If you haven’t already - be sure to wishlist Off Grid on Steam - each wishlist makes a big difference to us, and we really appreciate your support!

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Sprint Roundup - 14.03.19 - Doors of Perception


It's that time again! Here is your regular sprint round up of development! Read on to find out what we have been up to in the last few weeks and if you are one of our backers on the FIRST ACCESS level, what you can expect to see in the latest build update!



Content (Level Design and Art)

  • Created new Character LUTs amd some character variations (as seen above!).
  • Cleaned up on the geometry of the IRL hacker and activist characters.
  • Setup new system for door prefabs
    • Wow this was a big one, but one we have had our sights on a while - the doors and door frames all now conform to sane dimensions and make use of the new nested prefab system in Unity meaning doors and their variations are infinitely easier to create.
  • Lots of work on an early level and tutorialisation of rooting your phone and glasses, and the hacking tools you have to install and learn at the beginning of the game.
  • Some more scripting of interactions with a more neutral NPC than the fairly intolerant guards you meet in other levels.


Gameplay and Mechanics

  • New mechanics for data view trace time & app use and costs. Hopefully this will sort out some of the pitfalls of the old trace time system and instead turns that into a proper game mechanic. Plus the changes give us a way to upgrade player abilities throughout the game while keeping things balanced. We'll test this a bit in action and will then tell you more details. 
    • This also came with some visual prototyping  with Josh Ge's ASCII art and animation editor REXpaint (as you may recognise from his game Cogmind) to try and get an ASCII art / homebrew software feel, we are still playing with this, but it's a nice start:
Prototyping visuals with Josh Ge's REXpaint
  • Added support for using physical inventory items (and the Lua API for scripting what the items do).
    • This helps evolve the game's  "adventure game" like elements
    • This allows for finding and using items which can be scripted now to do pretty much anything. We have yet to add a "combine items" button, but watch this space. Mini crafting system here we come! :0
Speaking of 'adventure game like elements' - Rich talked a little bit about this on the retro gaming podcast last year. One of the host's, Ben, described the game like this:

"Its kind of like an adventure game that is then set within this 3d stealth game - which gives you more fail states than 'well I'm too stupid to figure out this puzzle'.

You can listen here around the 1hour 30min mark.

Modding and Lua API additions

  • The above point to do with physical item inventory comes under Lua API too of course.
  • New scene hierarchy in the Template scene in generated when you create a new mod LevelKit to give a guide to help keep your mod scenes tidy and

Other

  • Fixed NPC prefabs to have the correct navmesh area tags so that NPCs would use stairs again!
  • Lots and lots of small stuff about doors. How their logic is set up, how the player and NPC's unlock them, and making sure they open away from the character instead of hitting you in face etc...
Testing doors!


If you haven’t already - be sure to wishlist Off Grid on Steam - each wishlist makes a big difference to us, and we really appreciate your support!

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Sprint Round Up - 30.01.19 - The FIRST Sprint of 2019


Hello hello, here is your regular sprint round up of development through January!  Read on to find out what we have been up to, and if you are one of our backers on the FIRST ACCESS level, what you can expect to see in the latest build update!

Content (Level Design and Art)

  • Work on workplace level design and early game tutorialisation, mission scripting and character conversations
  • Wrote some new AI states, goals and actions for a nuetral NPC character (using our new moddable, data driven AI behaviours) 
  • Worked on existing geometry in the Workplace level to get it closer to a completed level
  • Paper sketches of new level designs
  • Started grey-boxing on new levels 
Greyboxing a new level

Gameplay and Mechanics

  •  Design work for data view & app use cost changes

Controls and UX

  • Added a crouching first person camera:  the look from point is no longer parented to the rig, which improves camera targeting
  • Reworking of character controller and camera to give finer control
    • Now players have better control of jogging and sprinting both on controller and keyboard and mouse using Space/ B to jog, and repeatedy tap to get a sprint burst 
    • Crawling animations and controls have been fixed to work properly and feel nicer
    • There is a crawl sprint too!
  • Turn animations and transitions in blend trees have been sumplified for better control overall but smoothing and polish is needed still for smaller movements (some finer turning / control has been lost and is to be fixed in next update)
  • Started converting various UI elements to better font rendering and animation systems
  • Support for displaying controls as icons in middle of text in the UI
  • Rebuilt the AppWheel UI to better handle adding and removing apps
Converting the UI to Text Mesh Pro

AI

  • AI function to prefer or avoid particular devices.  Example:  the coffee offer message, sent to a guard, will reduce the cost of the UseCoffee Action, meaning that Guards prefer that Action and will go out of their way to use it rather than alternatives.
  • Added an optional personality requirement to have actions that are only runnable if an Agent has a particular interest (or not!)
  • Added stats to the Agent definition
  • Added generic actions to the Agent definition
  • Added responses (to other Agent's actions), adjusting Agent stats
  • Added reactions (stimuli in the world can thereby adjust Agent stats, based on personality)
  • Added an audio attribute to actions in agent definitions, to be played when they are performed

Modding tools and Lua API additions

  • Added support for loading apps from your current mission (as opposed to the global Apps folder, or app mod)
  • full screen modal window, 
  • Updated gizmo icons in LevelKit
  • Correct scale & rotation for bounding box when editing mission triggers etc.

Bugs fixed

  • Fixed a shader problem introduced after updating Unity

Other

AND:  WE MADE THE BRIT LIST!
http://www.kotaku.co.uk/2019/01/11/games-of-2019-british-games 


Thanks for reading, look forward to seeing you next time!


If you haven’t already - be sure to wishlist Off Grid on Steam - each wishlist makes a big difference to us, and we really appreciate your support!

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Happy New Year from Semaeopus!

Happy New Year

2019 is here and we are thrilled to welcome it!  There are so many exciting things to come in 2019!

Before we move head on into the new year - we just want to pause and reflect on all that came our way in 2018.

We did a quick recap in our December newsletter, but upon reading it back, realised we missed out some seriously significant moments. 

Without further ado, here are our highlights of 2018:

1.  Rich and Sarah attended GDC for the first time - an eye opener!

2.  The team demoed at PAX East as part of Figs and Co!

3.  Made our print debut with a double page spread in GamesMaster magazine 

4.  Semaeopus was named as part of Creative England's 2018 CE50 cohort
 
5.  Attended EMF Camp with a base at Milliways!

6.  We brought a fun new artist on board - shout out to Sophie! 

7.  Rich started streaming and we launched our DISCORD!
 
8.  Gave talks at GameDev Camp and IndieCade
 
9.  OFF GRID was featured in InsideIntel, a modern art show on privacy put on by the CIJ

10.  Spoke at  Sweden Games Conference, and won the Indiecator award in the form of a giant cheque!


11.  Ran a successful, overfunded Kickstarter campaign​ - hitting the first stretch goal! 

12.  Announced the line up of real life hacker characters to feature in OFF GRID!

13.  Semaeopus won the first ever UK Games Fund Smart Studio Award
 
14.  Kicked off our new and *exclusive* FIRST ACCESS programme


WOW.  What a year 2018 was!  Thank you to each and every one of you for supporting us and helping us make all of this happen!

...and now it's on to 2019:  GOOD THINGS ARE COMING!

We wish you all the very best in the new year!

THANK YOU!

The OFF GRID Team

If you haven’t already - be sure to wishlist Off Grid on Steam - each wishlist makes a big difference to us, and we really appreciate your support!