Friday, 16 March 2018

Marching on to the US of A!

Hello!  We’ve got a whole lot of fun stuff coming up and it’s been a busy few weeks moving the game forward and prepping for all of these exciting things to come.

We’re headed to the US very soon - we’ll be attending GDC in San Francisco all of next week.  It’s the first time any of us from Semaeopus have made the trip over for GDC and we’re looking forward to it.  There’s going to be a few opportunities to get your hands on the latest build during GDC week:

  • If you’ve got tickets to the SOLD OUT(!) GDC Experience Mixer on Wednesday 21st you’re in luck!   We’ll be there ready and waiting for you to play.
  • We’ve got a few ‘pitch up and play’ events in our schedule, too - follow @OffGridTheGame + @RichMetson on twitter for updates on when and where.
After GDC, we’re headed to PAX East
in Boston from April 5-8th
and Off Grid will be showcased as part of Figs & Co

We can’t wait!  If you’re attending, stop by, say hi, and play the game! Rich, Pontus and Steve will all be there ALL FOUR DAYS with our lastest demo at the ready. 
Now, on to all the juicy details on what we’ve been up to and what you might just see while playing the new demo…

Cracking the passwords

Maybe you’ve read the last two dev blog posts, and remember that we’ve been working on collecting social profiles about in-game characters? Nice way of keeping track of the people you’ve met during the game… though of course it’s a bit more than that.  As in real life, such personal information can be used for all kinds of sinister purposes, like social engineering, and identity theft as well. Or, for guessing all kinds of badly chosen passwords and bypassing security questions for different services.

And that’s the last bit of the puzzle for our social profiling, at least for now. We’ve changed our Lua API a bit so now all the network-connected devices in the game can have specific owner, and configured to have passwords that can be guessed if you have collected enough personal information about the owner.

To make things a bit more interesting, if you have almost but not quite enough metadata about the device’s owner, you still have a chance of guessing the password. And to make sure the player never needs to blindly try every device, we made the targeting UI display some helpful information when targeting a device, telling you straight away if it’s worth a try, or if you already know the password. Or have no idea about the owner and you’d better just leave the device alone and look for a some more information.

To make this work, we modified our remote connection app, and also added new UI that lets the different apps display their own window with some custom content (modder-friendly, of course) on the screen.  And then we used those to set up a password cracking app that uses the collected social profile data automatically.

(The devices still also have the old fully scriptable access check in place, so it’s also possible to configure them to give access based on any files in your inventory, a specific piece of information about a character, time of the day, or really just about what ever people can create with Lua and our modding API…)

Hunting bugs before GDC & PAX East

The rest of the sprint was filled with solving a long list of bugs and annoyances from the game, all the small things that we’ve noticed during the previous times we’ve had people playing the game.  Most of that isn’t too interesting, but there was one worth mentioning:

Early ‘unauthorised’ access

In The Apostle level, we’ve had a laptop with key files to access all the doors in the building hidden in the basement. During EGX 2017, we noticed that one player was actually able to target and hack the laptop through the walls and floors way earlier in the mission than we had planned. The obvious solution would of course have been just blocking it somehow, maybe only connecting the laptop to a network once the player has started the objective for it. But that wouldn’t have been fun, or realistic would it?! We wanted to ensure that players intuitive enough to notice devices that could be hacked early as a shortcut were rewarded…

Instead we decided to just make sure the mission doesn’t break and still makes sense if someone happens to do this. So we added some new conversations that are triggered in this situation to explain what the player would have missed by skipping few objectives, and then we just let the player take it from there naturally. So now there’s a quite a different alternative progression through the level, which most will probably never find, but those who do can be proud :D

To do this, we realised we needed a few more ways for all the different Lua scripts to work together. They are sandboxed each into their own virtual machine, and can’t talk between reach other directly. So we added new features to our Mission API to allow people to store some custom data there, and access it from other scripts as needed. Simple thing, but allows endless amounts of interesting uses when creating missions and devices!

New assets and a makeover for the Apostle level

With some expos and demos coming up, we’ve been working on creating new props to flesh out our levels a little more, some of which have made their way into the latest build. Josh spent some time set dressing and doing some level tweaks, replacing some of the old whitebox
geometry with the new assets he has been creating. The main focus was the
delivery room at the beginning of the Apostle level, and the basement server room, both of which look much more lived in now. Here are some of the props that have gone in:


A  major acheivement has been getting the Intro scene into the engine (anyone who has played the demo so far will know that there has been a placeholder animatic made of rendered stills for #QuiteSomeTime).

Rich and Steve worked tirelessly to iron out some fairly fundamental kinks in Unity’s Timeline tool, and with some not insignificant effort, managed to get a combination of mocap, custom events, Wwise audio engine calls combined with Unity audio, a video playing in the middle of it, and the whole thing to work within the frame work of our Lua defined missions. Phew! It’s exhausting just typing it out!

We’ll look forward to you checking this out soon at a show near you!

AI’s need coffee too

We did a good amount of work making the guards react to and use a variety of devices recently, recorded some new mocap and plugged that in, too. Steve worked on the AI and setup some new gestures for guards so that they can use the device as it should be used (dispensing a nice hot cup of coffee), but also so that they can be caught off guard (no pun intended) by a hacked machine that has been setup to spew steam or chuck coke cans at them (or whatever other amok state a device might have).

As with any new feature though, we have managed to create a bug or two… Above you can see a guard that’s more interested in finishing their coffee than chasing the player (which kind of fits the whole premise of the game really!).


Remember this?  When we won the trophy at Bonus Stage last April?  We sure do!

Well… Bonus Stage is back for year two alongside the London Games Fesitval and is now accepting entries!  Be sure to enter by 23rd March.  Rich was asked to help organise it this year, and of course he agreed - it is a great indie showcase that we’re proud to have been part of, and now support!

That’s a wrap for this sprint - look forward to seeing you at GDC or PAX East!

The Off Grid Team

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