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Posted by SkyLoader on Aug 9th, 2013
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.