Hi there, and welcome to a new article.
It has been a long while since the last time I wrote an article about the game and a lot has happened since the last time. Some of you may know thanks to the comments and posts we shared on our social media during that time, but this time I want to share what has happened in the last months with all of you.
Let's start first with some explanations behind our 3 months hiatus between last article and this one :
Changes in the team
As you know, for a good part of last year our team got reduced from 4 members to just 2. We did our best to keep the project going and after a bit of a rough start we found our footing again and pushed through a LOT of work. Dozens of models, textures, scenes and maps were developed for the different episodes of the game, the whole voice acting stage was finished as well as the script and the story for the whole game, the character designs and monster designs were also finished and ready for production and our work was moving at a good pace despite our growing workload and the requirements of our normal, full-time jobs.
Things changed as the year came to an end. My teammate, who also happens to be a close and dear family member, became ill and his health took quite a heavy hit. It was a very stressful time full of grim predictions from doctors and many different studies and appointments that took most of our time. In January he had a complex surgery who left him fine but in a delicate state. After this scare and due to several personal reasons, he has been unable to rejoin to work and will be unable to come back to the project for a very long while, Despite still helping occasionally with some 3D art and ideas, since November last year the game has become mostly a one man project.
This, of course, made development of the game a very difficult task that became at one point too big to handle. However and after these months of reorganizing everything in my life to be able to keep developing the game on my own without too much of a hit for either the game itself nor my own personal and professional life, I am coming back here with news and again adding new features and progress to 3:00am Dead Time.
Now that I am working on the game mostly on my own and have to make progress on all aspects by myself, updates may take a bit longer to be posted and shared. I am a programmer after all, so most of my work is by its own nature a "behind the scenes" task. However, I am also making a lot of work on the gameplay and network aspects of the game so I will try to bring you updates and videos on those ends soon :)
Now that we are up to speed with what has happened internally in our team and the reasons behind this waiting, let's go to the main part of the article : the updates and news!
The game's core,
our Game Development Framework
During the last 6 months or so I have been busy developing a very complex collection of tools to make the development of 3:00am Dead Time (and future expansions/titles) a lot easier. It is called "PIDI - Game Development Framework" and has been constantly expanding with new assets and tools and everything I find out I need while developing the game.
The last months have been particularly good for its development as I have been making progress in many important areas of the game. One of the latest additions has been a new tool called PIDI - FilmAI.
This tools lets us create a dynamic camera whose behavior is partially or totally controlled by an AI and whose algorithms always try to get the best shots. Complex effects such as hand-held camera movement, dolly shots, procedural transitions and wipes as well as dynamic resolution, targeting, tracking and avoidance are all handled by the AI.
Another tool I've developed is a highly improved gameplay controller with support for inventories, health bars, item management, input handling and automatic network synchronization through LAN and Steamworks with just 1 click.
You can see some of these tools and several others in action in this video :
Besides this, I've also worked heavily on a brand new deferred pipeline based on Unity's own PBR models but reworked from scratch to support very complex lighting calculations and models. This allows the game to render dozens of high quality characters with detailed materials mixing skin, hair, eyes, clothes and much more in just a couple of drawcalls, giving the game a much higher performance.
The skin and hair shaders have been developed during a long time using tons of different references, from hundreds of pictures from real human beings to several articles on advanced renderings from games like Uncharted, the rendering model I'm currently working on keeps being improved with every new version. Here is a video from a slightly old iteration (February)
The next iteration of this renderer will add support for dynamic weather effects (snow, rain) as well as translucent cloth rendering and more complex skin materials with support for wounds and dirt.
The next steps on the coding side are to add further support for more gamepad models and to tighten up the controls to make the gameplay smoother and better. The next big tool to add to the framework is a modular, node based AI system I've been working on, to make it easier to add dozens of AI agents that can interact with the player and among themselves,which is a very needed aspect of the game for later episodes.
The development of 3:00am Dead Time keeps going as fast as I can manage, but I thank your support and understanding since the internal situation in our team has changed so much and the workload I am facing has grown exponentially. Right now the priority is quality and a great, memorable and scary experience. That's what I am aiming to deliver to all of you once the game is ready.
Thanks again for reading, feel free to ask in the comments below any questions you may have about the game, and until next time :
J. P., from Irreverent Software