We switched to the Unity Engine last year and in between multiple babies being born, team members leaving, marriages failing etc. (…this not all to one person I hasten to add) we’ve made really very good progress.
We have what we think is a solid multiplayer core working now that seems to be able to comfortably handle multiple clients and lots of random gunfire (a lot of which was directed at me for some reason …I know, unfair right?).
We don’t yet have a custom environment that we’re happy with for our final demo but we do have a number of off the shelf environments that are good enough for testing with at this stage.
Our initial pass at a player character (which was always going to be a placeholder anyway) was causing us some problems so we’ve ditched that are now using an off the shelf model with a mix of custom / stock mecanim animations (not shown here) – I’ll grab some screenshots as soon as I’m able.
There’s a bunch of other background stuff that I won’t bore you with and some other bits that are a bit more front and centre… an animated menu “fly-through” of an environment, realtime day / night cycles and dynamic shadows, dynamic weather and 3D clouds, camera shake, weapon “bob” when you move… stuff like that.
The initial pass that we did on the main theme music to the game got a refresh and a tweak when we purchased a set of high quality orchestral samples – more work is needed there but it’s definitely improving.
Just this week Andy has implemented game hosting from within the client – so whilst the dedicated server is staying (‘cos they’re awesome) it does mean that (particularly for testing) we can just host from inside the client and have everyone join that instead.
The hit list for what’s next is up for debate at the moment …we’re talking (but only talking) about a “simple” initial pass at some AI opponents (and there’s nothing simple about AI) and we’re also talking about (and again I stress *talking about*) chucking some hard-earned at a custom environment and a high-quality custom player character.
If you want to follow further updates (aside from what I put here) then by all means grab us on Facebook – there’s two groups we use.
One is a general Epoch: Incursion group – which you can find here.
The other is the group that we use for friends and family testing – membership is closed but you’re welcome to view what happens in there right here.
Amongst the myriad of “stuff” associated with a project of this nature (and size) and separate from the pure development side of the beast (and it is a beast) are concerns like marketing and “branding”.
It’s the branding side of the thing that has been concerning us this last week and I wanted to talk a little about that today.
Truth be told, I shudder when I utter words like marketing and branding. Not because of some deluded “right on” anti-attitude to such things. Quite the opposite actually, I actually kind of like those tandem concepts and I’m sucker for a good branded sell myself.
Thing is… they’re a huge part of life in the modern world and something that affects pretty much all of us everyday.
My shuddering is born from the realisation that we need to do this stuff ourselves and we need to do it well… in many regards it’s peoples first and most immediate contact with your product and if it doesn’t have the right feeling of quality or mystique or cool-factor about it then you’ve potentially lost that person before they’ve even looked at the game that you’ve spent years bleeding into.
She’s a cruel mistress.
Running through Incursion we wanted to have a consistent, recognisable piece of symbology. Something that ties into the over-arching storyline in the game, sets it apart and is something that can appear on any released assets, screenshots, websites etc. that fans of the game will recognise and identify with.
Something that will (eventually) immediately say “Epoch: Incursion” to them when they see it… again, this is as much for us as anyone else.
It very much falls into the bracket of “wouldn’t it be cool if…” ~ and we love stuff like that.
There is a specific plot point that is central to everything that happens in the game and we very much wanted that plot point to be a significant contributing factor in the overall design of the Incursion symbol.
Whilst the basic design has been there from day one (pretty much) we hadn’t yet thrashed out the specifics of it and so there’s been a very lengthy discussion flying around the company these last few days over the direction the evolution of the initial “how about this?” design might go and what we needed it to convey to those who may look upon it without fully knowing what it is.
We’re not quite ready to reveal the final thing yet… but we’re close I think.
The explosion in Kinect hacks has offered us up some further options in the area of affordable MoCap solutions.
Whilst the PS3 camera based solution that we looked at previously was certainly affordable, it’s big downfall from our perspective (right now at least) is the space needed for the performance capture area.
I’ve no doubt if one of us had access to a large indoor space we’d have been testing and testing until we had something usable but as things stand right now, that’s not practical.
Enter the Kinect.
One camera position and depth data capture …we’re scheduling early July at the moment for a feasibility test.
We’re not looking to get any usable capture data at this point. Just testing what we can get in a confined space and what the quality of that capture data is like. Once we know that we’ll have a better idea if it’s going to work for us and what (if anything) we can do with it.
I’ll report back (hopefully with some video) when I know more.
Where we’re at…
I’m often very reticent to blog updates on our progress, frankly to the detriment of all concerned. There’s a voice buried somewhere in my psychological make-up that insists that if I do one update then I need to follow it up 2 weeks later with a bigger one …and then a bigger one… and then a bigger one etc. and if I don’t I’ve somehow failed you, dear reader, and everyone else on the project. Ridiculous I know…
That same voice also expresses concerns around the fact that we can’t talk about a lot of what we’re doing at the moment, and I don’t want each update to essentially devolve into “Hey guys, we’re doing loads of stuff. We can’t talk about it… bye!”.
I’ll try and stamp on that voice more than I do currently…
The biggest noticeable changes of late have been in terms of “staff” working on the project. If you’ve looked at the About Us page on our website of late you’ll note that “Us” now features six named (and frankly hansom) individuals. We also have a couple of people working in the background more helping us with stuff like animation, music and business advice.
All equally hansom obviously.
Whilst myself, Mark and Andy are the originators of all this nonsense we have no formal training in all things game-dev and we were always acutely aware that there was a huge amount of stuff that we didn’t know.
Aside from the obvious benefits in terms of just being able to do more stuff that the extra manpower brings we’re also benefiting massively from the expertise that Craig, Michael, Darren and the others bring to the project.
It’s also given us a massive confidence boost as we’re seeing real tangible results emerging from our collective efforts now …and quickly to boot.
It has introduced an extra layer of frustration into the fold… in a good way (let me explain) …the more we do and the more we achieve the more apparent it is that we’d able to achieve so much more if only we were in the same room as each other for extended periods (or in the case of Craig even in the same country!).
Working over the interwebs has been hugely empowering and it has given us a start that we couldn’t of got without it but a distributed team that meets over Skype, IRC or occasionally in a pub does bring its own frustrations.
However… we punch on through as we always do.
The combined power of Michael and Darren has given Mark an opportunity to focus on just one or two things art wise whilst handing out jobs to the aforementioned superteam to focus on. The major consequence of that was immediate and apparent to the team internally.
Lots and lots of high quality usable assets in a very short space of time.
Andy now works very closely with Craig (as closely as Craig being in France and Andy being in the UK will allow anyway) and again the effect of Craig’s presence has been immediate and dramatic. Instead of having to code everything himself Andy is better able to focus on his dual roles as developer, all round technical guru and “do’er of things” for the company.
The motion capture experiments we did (in the village hall, see below) yielded results and benefits that we didn’t expect. The data that we got from it was not (sadly) usable but as a direct result of that day we were featured in a local newspaper …Michael Munroe saw the article and got in touch with me expressing interest.
I assimilated him into the EiKON collective in a heartbeat and he introduced me to his friend Darren who was likewise Borgified.
[nerd] Resistance is futile. [/nerd]
Operation MoCap: Update
For the moment we’re going with hand animations to get us where we need to be as the MoCap solution we looked at, whilst reasonably priced, is still too expensive for our meagre means and requires physical space that we just don’t have at the moment without hiring the village hall again (frankly).
In the future however (particularly with the improvements being made to the software) I’m confident that it will be a viable solution and I fully intend to revisit it.
The last time I blogged on here was with the sad news that Torque Powered (and the engine we were using) had hit a financial rock, closing the operating company.
I’m pleased to report that Garage Games rose again (in part at least) from the ashes of that collapse and is now operating again, albeit without some of its former staff.
I won’t lie to you… the collapse of TP shook us, badly.
At no point did I think it was going to stop us (in actuality we were off and running pretty much immediately …within 24hrs in fact) but… we’d put a lot of time, effort and money into the Torque 3D engine and the thought of suddenly losing the support of its mother company did cause us to re-evaluate our position and sparked off some long conversations about what was best for our own long term health… and we started exploring options.
We’re not yet ready to talk about what came out of that but suffice to say it is all good, very good in fact.
And finally… I’ve talked progress, it’s only fair that I share such progress.
We released these onto the Epoch: Incursion facebook page yesterday, please visit and “like” the hell out of it (we could use some eyes on this stuff) …more soon, I promise.
“by Eric Preisz · 11/11/2010 (1:00 pm)
Today, InstantAction informed employees that it will be winding down operations. While we are shutting down the InstantAction.com website and Instant Jam game, Torquepowered.com will continue to operate while InstantAction explores opportunities with potential buyers for Torque. We thank all of our past and current customers for their support.
- Torque Management”
Our first thoughts are with the former employees of Torque Powered and Instant Action. We’d like to publically thank all the guys there for their help, support and encouragment over the years and we wish them the very best for their future.
Our thanks in particular go to Donald Harris (@tallgamer) and Michael Perry.
As for us, it doesn’t change what we’re doing. It may change how we go about it but we’re waiting to see what our options are once the dust settles.
On Sunday the 10th of October 2010 three individuals from Team EiKON together with some supportive friends and family gathered at a hall in the South East corner of England with one collective mission… full torso, markerless motion capture on a shoe-string budget.