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!