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Welcome to the second edition of my blog.
I'll start by answering a question asked by Misha on lost-alpha.com. He asked :
Misha : - ...describe your feelings when you joined the development team for the
first time and was able to try out Lost Alpha. What were your first impressions
of the project?
I wasn't an avid follower of LA before joining and so did not really understand the details or state of the game, I just looked over the new features that were implemented. I was excited that we were able to dig through the source and read the developer comments on some of the features that I had previously implemented in IDA pro. When I first started the game, there was an atmosphere of abandonment, emptiness, more so than the "old stalker" and because I did not follow all the news , I thought that it would feel like the "old stalker" as in the Paradise Lost mod, but got something completely different and personally, I like this atmosphere more.
Now, let's talk a little about the current situation.
As we said before, we are replacing trees on all levels, and this is near completion, only one map remains to be edited. Then we will start to recompile all maps in high quality. Regarding the engine and scripts, February - March was not much fun as there was a sea of bugs. Now the severity of the situation has softened with almost no script bugs and just a few engine bugs. There is also still quite a lot of work to be done on the render and just general polishing. Bugs in the render are the most serious as debugging them is complex and most causes at this stage are unknown. We did, however, manage to fix some real annoying bugs, like the water surface, which was vibrating and LOD issues where vehicles and rocks would disappear when we approached them. It was a long process. We have had these render bugs since late March!
Meanwhile vintar, dezodor and loxotron have started working on filling locations with objects to minimize their emptiness IE: various boxes, loot, anomalies, camps and other items. Previously we concentrated on the main storyline only and decided to only fill the maps with anomalies and extra camps, lairs, and collectibles when it was finished and tested.
As for my current work on the project, griph00n and I are working on updating the global renderer to fix the current bugs and add new graphical features ( support DX10, DOF, corrected SSAO ( for now SSAO does not look quite right) , etc.). Since the work is really indepth and complex, it is unknown how long it will take and whether we will have time to implement as quickly as we would like. Time will decide ;)
Other additions / fixes include:
- A member and good mate of our team optimized the game, speeding up the game and SDK by 10-20%.
- I have long wanted support for stereo sound, so I can listen to music while playing :) Well, after this message, we finally had to do it:
I first tested a song by Metallica which played perfectly in stereo. Later all ambient music was included in stereo support (without the use of the two tracks and edits to the left column , as before).
- New HUDs were added. The player may at any time change the interface, such as the old build style to another interface made by Cromm Cruac, which is pretty modish. New hud includes new trade, search, inventory, and chat windows, as well as new icons.
- Support has been added for scopes on widescreen monitors so the texture is strongly stretched.
- At any point in the game you can change the text language without any problems. In SOC, the language was changed on one line in one file in the archives of the game. Because of that, you can see separate Russian and English versions of the game. Now I hope this will be avoided.
- Lots of trivial bugs were corrected, sometimes they were even funny:
By the way, I forgot to mention, I have been asked many times if the actors body will be visible in first person view. To clarify, yes it will be. If you change your suit then it will change on the body as well. Moreover, the actors shadow has been implemented in dynamic lighting (in one of the screenshots you could see it), which adds a bit to the atmosphere and makes us feel that we are playing as a complete person :) I have not, however, been able to make these features work simultaneously due to the limitations of the render and other factors, so now the player must choose between either displaying the body or the shadow of the protagonist.
At one stage there were two members of the team who did not get along well, and an altercation occurred. To distract myself from all the controversy, I decided to do some animating, because a lot of times I tried to start, but failed. I gained some knowledge and advice STRIFER animated, for which I am very grateful. Shortly after posting the first blog, I posted a video with updated AK - 74 animations to get some feedback (those who missed it can see it here : Youtu.be). At first I just wanted to remake the reload animation for the weapon , while studying 3DS MAX. However, I soon began to rework other animations. I Made new weapon animations for show/hide, run ( based on animation from build 2571, modified and revised) , and fixed some animations for other weapons. The reload animation, due to lack of time, is currently, let's say , not very good, so it will be disabled for now. I also made the missing running animations for binoculars, grenades and bolts (also added a new funny idle animation for bolts ). I will slowly make some additions to other weapons.
I think I will end this edition there :) When will the next blog be? I do not know, we are very busy with the game now. Until next time, so long!
I decided to make a blog about Lost Alpha, where I'll tell a few of my thoughts about the project. If the readers find it interesting, then maybe there will be a continuation.
If someone doesn't know who I am, I am one of the programmers working on Lost-Alpha.
First, I wanted to answer the most frequently asked questions, which Russian users asked and later I will speak of my role in the project, plus some other interesting info.
It's not so. To make the company interested in the project, it needs to be good quality. We haven't achieve that so far, but we have the "to-do" list from GSC and we are working on fixing the errors.
Most likely that will not happen. Such things happened to SoC because of THQ, or GSC themselves. We have a totally different situation and THQ has nothing to do with it. However, "feature cut" may happen closer to the end of development of the project sadly. It's difficult to avoid this. "Feature cut" happens to almost all games, this even happened to "Metro Last Light", despite this, the game was quite good.
It's not so easy. Let me explain in detail what bugs we have/had and why it takes so long time.
The engine bugs:
I'll give an example of the most common bugs which we
had in November and how we fixed them. At that time, there were 3 main bugs which
had to be fixed, since they prevented players from completing the storyline (few of those bugs were written in GSC's to-do list):
1) The gulag bug. It caused the game to lag very badly. I think it's clear that a game should not lag like that. We were searching for the reason for a few months and finally found it by complete accident. The reason wasn't so clear and it was impossible to guess that the reason could hide in that file.
2) Script system bug. To say truth, I don't remember what that bug was about; it was fixed in January.
3) Bug which interfered with storyline completion. We called it "the ladder bug". First, we thought that the bug is random and the game crashes "when it wants". Then we knew that when we walked through a particular level, the bug appeared regularly. No one had that kind of a crash on the Internet with any other S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game. The log said that some object was incorrect, no more information was given and generally the log was very strange. I decided to add information about the object into the log, and the log then reported that there was something wrong with one of ladders. And here it began... we tried to move the ladder to a more correct place, remove and add new since the last ladder's parameters could be broken (we couldn't remove the ladder since it was necessary for the storyline). We tried to remove AI map there, but there weren't any changes in the log. Once I noticed that the log told me that there was something wrong with an anomaly, which didn't have a sphere form, but rectangular, just like a ladder. After removing the ladder and the anomaly the log reported about other rectangular formed anomalies. It was very strange, we puzzled over this for long. We removed all the anomalies and it didn't help, but when I removed all the spawn objects, the game stopped crashing. We spent ages digging in the codes until I found something real useful in debug mode. We found out that GSC had made a mistake in the engine in "lamp object class", which, because of overflowing of one value, was making one part of the game get stuck with one of object related operations. There is such bug in SoC, but I don't know if there is such a bug in CS or CoP too. So, when I removed all the objects from the levels, the lamps were deleted too and the bug disappeared. But it's still a mystery why the log was reporting that there was something wrong with the ladder and rectangular formed anomalies.
I found a few of such bugs, but thank God, they weren't so critical and it wasn't so hard to fix them.
Now I'll explain about script bugs and why they appear.
During the long development of LA, many people joined and left the team. Usually good scripters and programmers want to work on their project using their own script system or engine. The script system binds all the game's scripts. So, during script system replacement, it's easy to miss some script or think that a script is not in use. So the script will be left in the old script system. Later it will be completely forgotten by game designers and regarded as useless. I saw unfixed scripts in the script system from the year 2010, which were made by barin - scripter at that time. Not to mention that every script system has "special" parts, which new scripters may not fully understand or understand incorrectly, which will cause bugs and freezes in future. Since I joined the team, the script system was replaced twice, which increased amount of bugs in the scripts. You may ask "Why don't you work with one script system all the time?" Simply because a scripter finds it more comfortable working with his own system, when all utils tools are accessible and scripts are called as you want. Well, when a scripter disagrees with a system's methods and thinks that "this and that shouldn't work in this way, but in another", this is one of the reasons why bugs appear. Plus silly mistakes in scripts and configs - no one is safe from that.
For now we have random bugs, which are hard to track. Now, I guess, it's easier to understand us and why it's so hard and takes so long.
Actually I didn't want to answer this question, however I'd like to answer so there will not be similar questions in future. Some trees, which were used in Lost Alpha, were taken from builds, so the trees were low-poly and had bad textures. When we decided to replace the trees, we decided to not only change the textures, but to change the models too. So, count how long it will take to replace all the trees in 3D editor, then check every tree/bush in SDK, test compile for each level, full geometry check, and then recompile on max quality. There is still much tree-related work to do.
Seems like I answered every frequently asked question. If this information in blog form is OK for the readers, then I`ll probably continue and give more info, for example what I'm working on at the moment or worked on before or just other general information.