Deadburg PC Update – October

The private beta is here!

Private Beta Test

Last night I started sending out keys for the private beta.  A small change from my last post is that you’ll need to friend the “reanimatedgames” steam account in order to get a key.  I’m checking the account periodically to accept friend requests and send out keys.

Beyond that, in order to participate you’ll need to join the following Steam Group.  All members of the group will be given a key they can use to install the game.  You will need a Windows PC and a Steam account.

Join the group here!

http://steamcommunity.com/groups/reanimatedtesters

Setting Expectations

This is the first semi-public test of Deadburg on the PC. It will have a lot of issues. I’m going to try to fix them as fast as I can, but the game will crash on you and it’s likely you will lose progress. If you want to have a smoother play experience I would recommend waiting for a week or so as the issues are discovered and patched up.

The game content is identical to the last patch Xbox 360 content. So you will not be finding new weapons/items in this build. They will be added in updates during testing, but right now the focus is on making sure the core game is stable on the PC.

There is no controller support in the current version. I’ve already heard from some people about that and it may change in the future, but right now it’s keyboard and mouse.

Issues/Bugs

If you hit a crash, found a bug, or just want to tell me why the game sucks, you can do so from inside the game. Simply hold B+U+G and you should see a simple UI where you can send feedback to me directly. Please use this as often as you like.

FAQ

Is there an NDA?
Nope, no NDA. If you want to share screenshots, videos or simple descriptions of the game feel free. I would ask that you mention the game is in early test if you do decide to share it somewhere, but I won’t be tracking people down if they don’t.

What’s Next?

The rough plan is to spend the next few weeks fixing issues with the beta and implementing a few new features to support further testing.  After that I will probably be dropping patches on a monthly basis, with possibly an “experimental” branch of the beta getting new builds every 2 weeks.

Deadburg PC Update – September

Hey Folks!

We’re getting close to the private test.  Here’s the big things I worked on this month.  Take a look at the end of the post for some information on when the private test will start.

Character Animations

So in my last post I mentioned some issues I was having getting the animations necessary for testing.  Since then Mixamo has been fixed and I’m now working on getting all of the animations working in game.  The process involves getting animations for all of the primary actions, which are generally movement.  And then animations for secondary actions, like holding objects or using them.  Then we combine those animations in game to show the character.  Here’s an example of what that will look like.

So in this case we’re taking a walking animation and combining it with an animation of holding a rifle.   I’m also moving the head up and down, so I can give a better idea of where the player is looking.  It’s not a perfect solution, but it allows me to animate the characters better without needing to have separate animations for each combination of object and movement.  The included animations will be for test only.  In this case you can see the stock animation deforms the wrist of the model pretty bad.

There’s one item missing from the above gif, the actual items.  That’s generally the final step in getting a working animation into the game, making sure all of items position themselves appropriately.  I’ve got a separate application I use to fine tune the position of the items on the character, which I’m doing as I bring in the new animtions.

 Bug/Feedback Reporting

Last month I showed the crash reporting system, but not every issue in the game will cause a crash.  I’ve added a bug reporting system in game to cover the other types of issues.  Simply press B+U+G at the same time to bring it up.  You can then give a short description of the bug and a screenshot will be sent along with it.  You can also just send feedback if you think something should be improved or changed.

Private Beta Test

So I can now announce that the beta test will start on 10/31!  In order to participate you’ll need to join the following Steam Group.  All members of the group will be given a key they can use to install the game.  All you need is a Windows PC and a Steam account.

Join the group here!

http://steamcommunity.com/groups/reanimatedtesters

Deadburg PC Update – August

Hello Folks,

We’re getting closer and closer to have a test build ready.  Here’s some of what I’ve been working on this month.

Character Models In Game

So last update I talked about the new character models.  This month was about getting them in game.  I wasn’t able to complete that process entirely, but we do have them rendering in game with the appropriate shadows/coloring.  The last issue to resolve is to get them animating properly per player input.  I was hoping to have this done already, but I’ve hit a snag with the system I’m using (Mixamo) that’s preventing me from getting all of the test animations I need.  Hopefully the issue will be resolved and I can get them in soon.  Note these will be test animations only, they will not be final.

In the screenshot below you can see one of the characters in game.

Steam Multiplayer Working

So the above screenshot was made possible by having two players in the same game via Steam’s matchmaking service.  This is an item that’s been in the works for a while, with bits and pieces being done.   This month I was finally able to put it all together.  It’s based on Steam’s P2P network layer, so it should be able to deal with routers and related issues without having to open up specific ports.  The goal is to replace this with a full Server/Client implementation at some point during Early Access.

Female Models

I got a question last update about female characters in Deadburg.  The work done on specing the models was done with female models in mind.  I’m not sure if all of the final animations/models for female characters will be done at the same time as male characters, but it’s something I’m working to include.  The closed test may not have a female model initially for example.  Here’s a shot of the female test model.  Again none of the current models/animations are final.

Crash Reporting

So I’ve mentioned this in the past, but wanted to circle back now that it’s implemented in the game and working.  Basically if the game crashes you should see a pop-up like below.  This will give you the option to send us information about the error.  It also includes some basic information about your system, like your CPU, GPU, RAM, and OS information.  It does not send any personal information or information that could be used to identify you or your PC.  You do not need to send this information if you don’t want to, you can simply exit out of the reporter.  The process of sending the information does not require your e-mail or any account.

Closed Testing Update

There are two “big” items in the way of the closed tests starting.  The first is getting all of the test animations in for the player character.  I know the Mixamo folks are working on the issue, but they haven’t provided a specific ETA.  The other issue is that there’s a good chance I’ll be moving here shortly, and if so I’ll probably want to get that done before starting testing.  So I don’t have to go dark for a few weeks during the move.  My goal is that the September update is announcing a date for the start of closed testing.

The closed test will be mostly open to any current fans of Deadburg.  There will be information here along with the various social media accounts.  And if you joined the mailing list you’ll get an update there.  It will be a closed test in that you will need a code from me to join, but as stated, everyone who wants one should get one.

I’ve been asked about the requirements for the closed test.  I’ve not finalized them at this point, but generally it should be fairly simple.

  • A Windows PC with a Dedicated GPU (Integrated GPUs may work, but I don’t have a test machine with them, you’ll still be able to participate in the test)
  • A Steam account with the Steam client installed.  This is how the test builds will be distributed.

Deadburg PC Update – July

Hello Folks,

Sorry for the late update on July.  I’ve been working on two related items.  The first is getting some kind of player model into the game so that it can be tested.  The Xbox Avatars are gone, so they need to be replaced.  I’ll discuss that process a little bit, and where I’m at currently.  The second part is working on a spec for the next big art item, which is animations.

Character Models

The work to replace the avatars is probably the largest part of the PC port, at least in terms of getting to a testable version.  The avatars offered a ton of customization, and while we won’t be able to match that with the Deadburg models, the aim is to enable as much of that as I can.  Right now I’ve got an early version of the characters animating using some stock animations.  This took a lot longer than I would have liked, but it should allow me to move forward with a test version a lot faster than if I had to wait for custom animations to be done.  I’ve also got the mesh recoloring working so we aren’t all running around with the same character for the test builds.  Here’s a shot of the test app I’ve been using to get the animations working.

The current character has 8 parts that can be swapped in/out and colored; head, hair, facial hair, chest, arms, hands, legs and feet.  This should allow us to have clothing that you can either customize pre-game or find in game (Depending on how much there is, and if clothing affects game play).  Note the current art is not final.

The models are animating/coloring in my test application.  Right now I’m working on getting these into the game, which is one of the last big things I need to finish before I can open up the testing.

First Person Animations

One of the more lackluster parts of the original Xbox release was the lack of first person animations.  Mostly this was an issue of the avatar models being difficult to animate, you needed specific versions of software that weren’t in use anymore.  In the PC version we’re going to have real animations in first person view.  A good chunk of this month was figuring out the spec for those animations.  This is always time consuming as I usually have to figure out how to use new pieces of software.  The goal is at the end I can go out to artists and give very specific details on the art I need and how it needs to be produced.  If I do this right then the art can be dropped into the game fairly easily.  If I do it wrong then the art might not work right, and in some cases must be discarded.

Here’s some programmer art showing the key features.  Basically we’ve brought back the separate parts from the full character model.  They’re just put onto a different animation rig for first person animations.  So the animations will be done for each weapon/item, and then the character arms/hands will fit into those animations.  It means I’ll be able to support all of the clothing options of the full character without filling memory up with separate models/textures for the first person assets.  In this case we’re swapping between different arm geometry/textures and different hand geometry/textures.

The spec work is basically complete and I should be able to begin the work of finding an animator to work with soon.

What’s Next

We’re getting closer to having a test version ready.  I’ve still got to get the character models into the game using the stock animations.  The first person animations will not be ready for the test version, but the old Xbox versions will be in.  Once the characters are in there’s probably a few weeks of fixing bugs/issues before we can do a test version.  Right now I’m targeting mid/late September for testing.

Animator Wanted

I’ll be looking to contract out some work on the 3rd and 1st person animations.  If you’re someone who would be interested in the work send me a link to your portfolio.  You’ll need to have experience using Blender for rigging and animation.  You can reach me at jeff@reanimatedgames.com.

Deadburg PC Update – June

Hey Folks,

Steam Direct

In my last post I mentioned trying to decide between Steam Greenlight and Steam Direct.  Well since then the choice has been made for me.  Steam Direct opened up for developers and I’ve got it setup for Deadburg.  This will allow me to invite people to test the game on Steam, and they’ll be able to download the game like any other Steam game.  It will also automatically keep those testers updated with the latest build.  In short it’s a bit step forward towards a working test version.

I should note, at release Deadburg will require Steam to play.  This is mostly a matter of convenience for players and myself.  Steam gives me a friends list, server browser and supporting features similar to Xbox Live on the 360.  If Deadburg does well then having a Steam-less version of the game is something I might pursue, depending on whether enough people want it.

Performance

I’m beginning to add performance options to the game.  The goal is to let players on a wide variety of hardware play Deadburg at reasonable frame rates (60fps is my goal).  Right now the biggest perf issue appears to be the new shadows system, which isn’t particularly surprising.  So I’ve added options to tweak the detail of the shadows as well as how “soft” the shadows appear in game.  Doing so I was able to get my laptop to run the game at 1080p at 60fps with shadows enabled.  There’s likely more optimizations that can be done, but it’s good enough for testing.

That’s all for this month.  I had to do an update for another project that ate a good chunk of June.  But I’m back full time to Deadburg for July and the main goal right now is getting a version that can be tested by you folks.

Deadburg PC Update – May

Hey Folks,

Sorry about the missed updates, let me catch you up on where we are now.

UI

So the Feb update mentioned a UI system that would help me build out the keyboard/mouse UI for the PC version.  There was actually a lot more work to do on that system since that update.  It’s a fairly normal occurrence in development that as you use something for a real product you can find the issues with the original design.

That said, after a good deal of work most of the UI has been replaced, and a fully mouse/keyboard native UI is in game now.  There are a few things I’m still working on, like the player HUD.  But the big pieces, like the inventory and menus are done.  There’s still more work to do on the look of the UI, especially in regards to graphics, but the bones are in.  This means that the game’s UI is basically ready for a beta test.

The big change you’ll see is the new inventory is a single screen, instead of multiple panels that you scroll through.  This is something I can do now that I can use tool tip style popups instead of having to render item information on the screen.  I can also scale the UI elements a little different to fit more stuff.  Here’s a shot of the current state.

GamerServices is Gone!

So the Xbox version of Deadburg was built on top of the Xbox Live service/technology.  On the code side this is done via “GamerServices”.  This works great on the Xbox 360, but it doesn’t function at all on the PC since Microsoft closed down the Games for Windows Live program.  In fact you can’t even run a game using GamerServices on a PC unless it has the XNA dev install.  This means it had to go.

The replacement for Deadburg will be Steam.  It gives most of the functionality of the Xbox Live system, and allows me to basically drop it in without reworking too much.  There’s still a lot of work to get the Steam stuff running at 100%, but as of last week I’ve been able to fully remove the GamerServices Xbox Live stuff.  This means the game could actually be shared/tested by people not using a development install of XNA.  It’s another step towards getting the game into your hands for testing.

Crash Reporting

If you played the game on Xbox 360 there’s a good chance you saw a blue screen at one point or another.  This happened if the game crashed for some reason.  Some of you were kind enough to send me pictures of these screens which I could then use to try to fix the issues which caused them.  Unfortunately there wasn’t an automated system for sending that information to me, so there’s a good chance I missed out on seeing all of the crashes.

Now that I’m working on the PC version I can do something about that.  I’ve put together a fairly simple crash reporting system that Deadburg will be using.  If a crash occurs you’ll get a pop up that will allow you to send data about the crash directly to me.  No e-mails/pictures required.  I can then see what crashes people are hitting, how often they’re hitting them, and hopefully respond to crashes much more quickly.

Steam Greenlight, or Steam Direct?

In order to start the closed beta test of Deadburg, which I’m hoping you all will participate in, I’ll need to get the game onto Steam officially.  Right now I’m using what amounts to a special test game that Valve created for developers to use.  It won’t really work for doing a larger test.

The question is to do Steam Greenlight, or wait until Steam Direct, it’s replacement, is made available by Valve.  The issue with Greenlight is that it requires more polish on the visuals/display side of things, since you’re asking random people to vote for your game.  I don’t think Deadburg is in a great position to do a trailer/promo reel at this time, so I haven’t put it onto Greenlight as of yet.  There’s still visual polish to do and some major things like first person animations are still missing.  That said as I’m getting closer to having a testable build then it’s something I may need to address if Steam Direct isn’t out by then.

That’s all for this update, thanks for reading and I’ll post more at the end of June!

Deadburg PC Update – February

Hey Folks!

Here’s a quick update on the PC release.

Animations

The Xbox version of Deadburg really had two animation systems in place.  One for the zombies and one for the Avatars.  This was due to how the animations were handled by XNA.  The result is that both were brought to a level that was “ok” but not great.  However since Avatar’s are Xbox only, they won’t be present in the PC version, which means all animations will be working on the same system/data.

The upside is now I can focus on improving the animation system and have those improvements apply to everything in the game.  A good chunk of this month was working on adding features to the animation system.  Some didn’t work out (Like mirroring animations), but others did (Like inverse kinematics and improved animation blending).  It’s still not ready for prime time, so the benefits of these changes are something you’ll see later on.

UI

UI systems are one of the more annoying things to deal with on the coding side of things.  In the Xbox 360 version I basically did stuff at a very low level, drawing individual pieces of the UI.  It worked well enough to get that version out the door, but it’s not particularly when making changes.  That’s part of the reason the UI in Deadburg is somewhat basic/no frills.

That wouldn’t cut it for the PC version, since we already need to rework the UI for mouse + keyboard.  So I’ve been adapting a system I built for another game to use in Deadburg.  This includes some nice features that makes changing/editing the UI a lot easier, and allows me to rip out a bunch of boiler plate code.  In short it should make the UI a lot faster to create, easier to change and ideally reduce the bugs in it.  It also means I can implement features that will add some flair/polish to the UI.

Here’s another teaser shot of some of the new stuff coming.

Deadburg PC Update – January

Hello Folks,

So what’s been happening in January for the PC version?

Bug Fixes

So the new render system I showed off last update had some bugs.  And normally I’ll punt that kind of stuff till the end, but I didn’t want them hanging over my head, so I decided to address them right away.  That took a lot longer than I thought it would.  But I can say most of the issues are resolved now.  There’s still 1 or 2 big issues that I don’t have a good solution for, but I think the current version could go into Early Access.

Player Character

The other item that I just started on last week was the prep/speccing out of the player character for the PC version.  Since the game will be releasing on Steam we won’t have access to the Xbox Live Avatars for player characters.  That means we’ll need something new.  The first step is specifying  exactly what I want that character to be before I hand that off to Liam to generate the actual model.  The spec stuff was finalized this week and he’s begun work.  It’ll probably be the March update before you see the result, since after he’s done I still need to get the model animated and rigged.

That’s it!  Not a great month, although the holiday did cut into it a fair amount, and I’m glad to have most of the render bugs fixed now, when the whole system is fresh in my head, as later it would have taken a lot longer.  Given that not a whole lot here is stuff you can see, here’s a teaser pick of some of the new weapons.

Web host move

Hey Folks,

Just wanted to let you know I’ve moved web hosts for Deadburg.com.  Also I’ve decided to kill off the old Forums, since they weren’t being used by actual players, it was just a bunch of spammers trying to post with bots.  I might revisit forums later once the PC version is up and running, but for now I think it’s better just to turn them off.

If you see any issues with the rest of the site please let me know, thanks!

Deadburg PC Update

Hello Folks,

I’ve been fairly late with an update on the progress of the PC version, so I want to give a quick peek at what I’m working on.

The Plan

Right now the goal is to get Deadburg into Steam Early Access on Windows next year.  Hopefully sooner rather than later, but there is still a good amount of work to do in order to make that happen, so I don’t have a solid ETA at the moment.  I don’t have anything to announce in regards to other platforms at the moment.   I do still want to bring it to other platforms (Like consoles) but until I have the game running on them I don’t want to announce anything.

What’s Happening Now?

So the current focus is updating Deadburg to take advantage of the PC.  Right now I’m focusing on improving look of the game, now that I no longer have to worry about getting it to run on an Xbox 360.  Two of the big changes you’ll see in the PC version are real time shadows, and dynamic lighting.

Real Time Shadows

One of the things I really wanted to get in the 360 version was real time shadows. The tall buildings/trees really don’t pop when they aren’t casting huge shadows over the terrain.  The PC version will include them, and I think it makes a pretty big difference.  Here’s a comparison shot from the PC version (Note this is still in development, so it may look different in the final version).

beforeshadows

aftershadows

Dynamic Lighting

One of the often request features in the 360 version was flash lights.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get a dynamic lighting system working without really harming performance.  The PC version now has a system enabled, so you’ll be able to have flash lights, and other moving lights, along with the static lighting in the game atm.  I don’t have a good screenshot to show this off, but it is in game now so I can commit to it being in the PC release.

Going Forward

I’m going to try to provide semi-regular updates to the status of the PC release.  If you want to be a part of the private beta (Which is still a ways off, but will be happening) then be sure to sign up for the mailing list.