Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Off Grid Sprint Update 05.07.2017 - Modder-dod-a-ding-dong

We have spent the month hard at working putting together new changes to the game’s interface and the modding tools. We have also brought our wiki documentation forward so that it is usable because we have had our first modder working with us this month!

Our First Modder

We were lucky enough to be contacted out of the blue by Dominic who goes to college not far away from the studio and was looking for a place he could do work experience at a games studio. We jumped at the chance as many of us got our first breaks in life through being bold and asking
for work on a whim and we were glad to be able to offer the opportunity.

Dominic has been testing our modding tools and helping write up documentation on our wiki on how to use them this last week, but we’ll let him tell you what he has been up to…

Learning to mod Off Grid

Hi I’m Dominic and I’ve been working with the LevelKit for the past week
and it’s been a great experience. Thanks to the really helpful team and
the documentation on the Wiki, I was able to make a lot of progress –
more than I expected to do!

It was my first proper time using Unity so to start with I just created a simple level using the LevelKit assets: two rooms joined by a corridor. As the week went on I got faster and more confident with using the editor, so I kept expanding the level into more corridors and rooms and putting props to give areas some flavour.

Whilst developing the level I was also learning how to do some Lua scripting
to create the mission script which let me put more complex things into
the level like guards, working doors, and objectives. There were some
problems on the way, but thanks to Harry who was at hand to help, they
didn’t stay problems for too long!

Once I had a good understanding of the work process that went into using the LevelKit and making a level with most of the gameplay features, I started to work on the Wiki, adding to some existing pages which might have missed out some information that I had to keep asking about, as well as starting to create some pages which were tutorials for certain topics.  This is so that those future modders who won’t have immediate access to the Off Grid team’s help can manage by themselves.

All in all it was a really fun, helpful, and invaluable week, and I
can’t thank the team (and the pets) enough, they were super friendly and always willing to help me if I got stuck. Helping test out the modding tools for the game was very enjoyable and help was really accessible, not only from the team but also help on the Wiki too. So once again, I just want to thank everyone at the team for the week, and I hope that I can help again another time because I’ve had a really wonderful time and would love to do it again.

To round it up here is a video of the hidden room hack that Dominic made:

All this in just a week!

Harry’s been using Dominic’s invaluable feedback to improve the LevelKit.
Here’s some improvements we’ve made:

The build tool will now detect and warn if you’ve made changes since the last build, this makes it clear if it’s required to do a full build before testing.

We’ve added a bunch of items in Unity’s create window for adding Off Grid specific objects.

And the biggest change/update is that we’ve added networking support for LevelKit, this allows modders to test their missions on a running instance of the game. This means that modders won’t have to restart the game each time they want to make a change, and they’ll be able to test their script only changes in a matter of seconds.

AIn’t that grand

As well as working on LevelKit, Harry has been dedicating a lot of his time this sprint to our AI systems. Specifically setting up systems to allow the distraction of NPCs by the players actions. One example we’re using at the moment as a test bed is the distraction of a secretary by hacking into their printer. Once their printer is broken and spitting our paper onto the floor, they’ll break their normal work schedule to fix it, this will perhaps give the player a chanced to sneak into areas of the building their not allowed into 😉

This system is only the beginning of what we have planned, we want the AI to be completely reactive to the players action in the world and react accordingly. More to come!

UI to make your life easier

In this sprint we decided to finally build a few simple features we’ve planned for a long time to help the players be more aware of what their goals are in a level, and how to get there. Nothing game changing here, these are pretty much just the features you’d commonly have in a game, and we’d just decided to build the important game mechanics first and deal with polish and quality-of-life features after that…

All the information you need is of course given to you in the mission briefing and in conversations, but maybe you missed the important part of the conversation for some reason, or just forgot about it? Or maybe there was too much detail and too many instructions and you were left uncertain about what’s the very next step to do? No worries, we’ve got you covered now. 

ToDo or not ToDo
The first new feature is a Tasks list in your pause menu, listing your current & completed objectives, plus the main goals you are trying to achieve in the level. Not sure what to do next? Just open the pause menu and check the “Tasks”-tab! And we decided to also add in notifications to tell you when you complete an objective or start a new one.

…This all of course works perfectly with our Modding tools, in your mission scripts you can define if an objective should be displayed in this UI or not, if it’s an important task (which are all displayed to the player right from the start) and so on. The rest is then just automatically handled by us.

Where’s the keycard I need for this door?
“OK, now I know what I’m trying to do, but for some reason I can’t figure out how to make that happen. I must be missing something…”

Maybe it’s a keycard on a table you just didn’t notice as you ran through the room, or some device you didn’t realize might be network connected. Or maybe it’s just some random interactive item in the level that you can use for your benefit, but it’s not that obvious?

The second new tool is our new “Help” app. All you need to do is turn it on when you feel like you’d want a bit more help, and it’ll pinpoint any things you can interact with near you, with icons based on item type, and some extra information to tell you what you are looking at. Leave it on at all times if you like it, or if you’d prefer finding out things on your own just don’t use it, or use the Apps menu we talked about in the last Dev Update to completely remove the app from your AppWheel so you never have to look at it. There are many kinds of players out there and this hopefully gives more help for those who want it, without making other feel like there’s too much hand holding going on.

As a nice extra benefit, the system we built for this is pretty extensible, so we might find some other interesting uses for marking things on your screen… Some of the modern stealth games have started adding options for tagging characters so you always know where they are, and we just might give you an app for that some day.

Atmos and new sounds

We’ve been working on restructuring our audio setup to be more suitable for user-made content, with as simple as possible ways for modders to define the atmospheric sounds and the music events in their levels, and at the same time handling all the boring stuff automatically on our side so most of the things “just work” for you. The design for this is more or less complete, and we’ve now converted our existing levels to use the new setup.

It is really straight forward now to define the type of atmospheric sound and which of the music type you want to play (or not play) in the bakckground on your modded levels, whether through audio trigger volumes, or in Lua in the mission setup.

Going to Develop?

Don’t forget - if you’re headed to Develop next week and have an interest in modding, be sure to grab a seat during Harry’s talk!

If you have any questions about things afterwards - we’ll all be there and more than happy to chat.  We’ll be sporting our Off Grid t-shirts, so don’t be afraid to come say hello!

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