Saturday 11 November 2017

Off Grid Development blog 8.11.2017 - Changing Times!

The times-they-are-a-changin.’  New horizons, a shake up, big things happening - this has been a heck of a sprint!


Completely unaware of our social media surroundings, Rich managed to spend a good portion of this sprint during October whiteboxing and completely miss the whiteboxing trend on Twitter that was #Blocktober! Nothing nearly as fancy as the timelapsed art passes from the Naughtly Dog team on how they constructed key hero sequences in the latest Uncharted, but we do have a new building for the intro scene in the player’s apartment. If you haven’t seen this yet at a demo I won’t give away any spoilers, but this level is where your hacking journey begins!

Indies Unplayed

We were extremely fortunate to be asked along to Indies Unplayed at Secret Weapon Loading Bar in Stratford. It’s always great to show the game and get player feedback. Many thanks to Lauren Francis

for having us along, it was a very cool little event and we had some really inspiring titles along side us. Below you can see a player learning the setup to our hero’s story in the intro cutscene we are currently making playable.

We got to play some fun new indie games and catch up with some old friends too, including old chum Tim Constant, who we last saw at Nottingham Gamecity in 2013!!!
Tim is working on a very cool dystopian job sim.  It’s a
#PapersPlease-like game, where you play an immigrant bouncer in a post-Brexit apocalypse:

‘Settings’ it up

It’s been quite short and quick sprint, so there are no new amazing game features to talk about from Pontus. But as promised, our settings system has now evolved from a bunch of background systems and code into an actual menu. With some actual settings you can adjust!

The graphics will definitely need more work, but the plan is to fill in more options and then do a second pass on the artwork and layout to make sure everything works well with the content. For now, everything is functional at least.

Web work

Apart from that, things were polished up in the web side, with some imrpovements and additions to our wiki and to automate our newsletter. That’s going to make our life easier, and hopefully also help any players/modders to find the right Lua API and instructions for how to set things up in LevelKit in the future. I would say “go and check it out” but there’s not really much interesting things in the wiki yet, at least unless you are one of the lucky ones who have access to our builds and the LevelKit already. In which case, you of course should go and check it out to get you started testing how to create your own content for the game!

No funny bugs fixed by Pontus this sprint, and no interesting game design work either. But there definitely will be next time, he’s already spent the past few days with XMind open for plotting some pretty big changes for the game…

Mod testing

This sprint Josh, our modding and level design intern, challenged himself to build a level using the modding tools. The aim was to learn how to build a typical level with a focus on the Lua scripting side of things rather than art, and then take those learnings and see where he could fill in the gaps on the wiki that he found wanting.

We’ll let him tell you a bit more himself though:

“So I started out by blocking out the map that I wanted to create. Once I had the basic level that I was happy with I got stuck in with the Lua scripting with which I managed to learn a great deal upon completion of the level.

One of my favourite parts of creating the mod was the conversations, as it was super simple to create but also great fun generating branching dialogue between characters.
Following this, I began work on a guide to building a level mod which has been added to the wiki.This is something that I felt would be important for potential modders to have to help make the modding experience more accessible.

This also resulted in a few new pages being created to explain some sections not covered on the wiki yet, such as the ability to add characters to your level. This is a very exciting and interesting feature which will allow you to create many gameplay elements, from conversations to patrolling guards.

I also had the pleasure of testing the new ability to upload mods to the steam workshop using the Level-kit tools.

Shortly after that it was decided that we should create a mod level that people can download that would demonstrate some of the pre-made devices that any modder can essentially drag and drop into their own mod. It will also be playable which I will turn into an interactive tutorial of how these devices were made to help new modders create their own from scratch.”

Farewell Harry!

Harry had his last sprint with us this month as he is moving to join the development team at Unity, but we made sure he had time to part with a gift for any of our followers who are devs interested in making their games moddable too.

In his time on the team, Harry’s done great work pushing modding in Unity 3d,
and so we’ve open sourced his work on the Lua framework that makes Off Grid moddable, enjoy!

Out with the New in with the Old ;)

And with our youngest team member Harry heading to Unity we have gained the wonderful Steve Allen in his place. Steve comes with a bundle of  AAA and Indie experience, so much so that he qualifies for ‘industry veteran’ status, and we are pumped to have him aboard the good ship Semaeopus. I’ll stop rambling and let him introduce himself though:

Hello! I’m new here. I’ve joined the Off Grid team as a programmer, though will no doubt stick my nose in elsewhere. I’ve been programming games for, well, rather a long time, and am really excited to be part of the project. There’s lots of interesting stuff that still needs to be done and it’s already been a welcome change from the larger, corporate games I’ve been working on over the last few years. And who knows, next time I write one of these updates I might have done some work! - Steve

You’ll hear a lot more from Steve in the coming sprints, he’s already made good strides into impletmenting and extending new features in the Lua API for modders to play with, so watch this space!

Fixes and additions:

Harry’s last couple of weeks were also a great opportunity for us to dig into some of the bugs in our backlog that haven’t been top priority, but would be welcome fixes with a little effort. We had a fantastic flurry of small fixes from the team, with Harry leading the charge.

Main game:

Messaging with CryptoChat

We setup a small notification to say that a character is typeing while you are waiting for them to respond to you in a conversation. It’s essentially a ‘Smedley is typing’ animation much like you’d see when using a messaging app like whatsapp or imessage.

We also and fixed the pause time between messages, which just needed a little finessing to feel more real
And most importantly, we set up ‘B’ to skip single messages instead of all of the incoming messages from another character.

Include Mods in use, in save games

We now have save games recording what mods you have subsribed to so you can progress with your mods intact!

Saving NFC

NFC data is now being saved correctly.

Trailer video

We fixed a strange long wait at the end of our trailer that had been bugging us.

Player Phone

We fixed a bug to do with interactions when the player phone didn’t appear when doing swipe interaction or scanning things.

Stuck Running

We had a somewhat funny but awkward bug in our animation state machine where the player can get stuck if you were crawling and spammed the run button while getting up - the player would get stuck running in circles!  That is now fixed ;)

Look around you

The player character’s look-at IK needed more restriction on target height so that you didnt look at interesting objects on the floors above or below you.

Invisible walls and soft bathroom sinks

Lots of missing colliders were fixed.


UV Warning

We updated asset importer post processing script to warn about missing normals and UVs on new models. This means as you are modding and making new geometry, the LevelKit tool will tell you if it is missing anything that could cause a later error.

Mod Content structure

We re-structured level directories so that the content a modder makes is in a neater structure.

Non Steam works / DRM free mod exports

Added Export as Zip option to build tab so that you can upload your mod anywhere for anyone (with a copy of the game) to try it out.

That’s all folks

Lots of big things happening so we’ll look forward to catching you next time.

Pontus, Rich, Sarah, Steve & Josh