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The Weekly Dead 19 – Survivor Q&A

Hello Survivors!

Geoff Keene here. (You know, project lead on The Dead Linger, and design director of Sandswept Studios, and that guy who does the dev vlogs and whatnot.)

It seems in the industry right now there’s a lot of super-scary news and general worry going around about “Kickstarter crashes” and “Early Access failures.” Due to the rug being pulled out from under various other projects that were Kickstarted and/or are available on Early Access (Spacebase DF-9 being the most recent example here,) everyone is just about losing their minds and remarking things like: “Gee, I hope The Dead Linger doesn’t do what some unrelated title did!”

Well, yeah, I suppose any car is capable of crashing, but we’re not the driving that car. In fact, in most of these examples, we’re not even in a country driving on the same side of the road.

More to the point.

Apparently the thing to do as an indie developer is to write a blog post reminding everyone that we here at Sandswept are doing great and will not be running off to Hawaii with your hard earned cash, or burning down our studio (as virtual as it may be) for insurance money. Besides, if I were to do that, I would go live in the mountains. With a bear.

Named Sasha.

Anyway, so that’s what this blog post is. A reminder that we’re not going anywhere, much to the chagrin of our most dedicated trolls. (Sorry!) We’re not dead. Not even close. Most of us are working 6 to 7 days a week to get the next build ready. We just grew by 4 staff in the last couple months. In fact, we’re doing pretty damn well indeed. We hit our peak player count with the release of 14, and expect to hit something similar or greater with Build 15.

Not releasing an update for 2 or 3 months doesn’t mean we’re dead, or going to cancel the project. Not even close. This past couple of weeks there has been a definite spur of “I hope this game doesn’t die” posts, and I’m telling you right now that’s just not happening. Stop posting silly stuff like that. It’s silly. We’ve been keeping everyone in the loop daily on Twitter, Facebook, and the forums (yes, even the horrific monstrosity that is the Steam forums.)

If you weren’t worried before, keep it up. The support and feedback helps us build a better world for you to survive within.

If you were worried, stop. Seriously, it’s giving me a hernia.

Sandswept is gonna kick so much ass before this year is out, and we’re gonna keep kicking ass well through 2015. You’ll see.

Now group hug!

Survivor Q & A

Okay. Now that the super serious Zag-note is out of the way and we’re inching closer to the release of Build 15. We’ve decided to make this Weekly Dead about YOU guys! Our lovely, humble community.

We know you have questions and we have answers. A lot of them:

Q: New animations? Climbing in window animation? Because new zombies? – @Greenhunni
A: The new zombie models are receiving a whole slew of new animations, including more walk cycles and sometimes raising their arms when they get close. We’ve retooled all the climb-up and climb-over animations to work better in more situations. We still have some AI work to do on when and where zombies climb, but all of that looks better, more realistic, and more varied than before.

Q: When will we see zombie drops (if that’s planned) I’d love to rip a hand gun off of a dead zombie police officer. – @SecretMountainT
A: In your current version, zombies have a small chance to drop an item. As for dropping gear they’re wearing, we’re still refining how that system will work. We don’t have any plans for “loot containers” as you might see in certain other RPG-type games, so we’d like all lootable items on zombies to show up on the zombie. (i.e. if a zombie drops a rifle, it will have a rifle slung on its back from its previous life as a survivor, or a riot helmet might pop off when you kill the zombie and that can be worn.) Things of that nature are in the works.

Q: When will there be a completable objective added?
Right now the guns in FP look small and offset compared to other FPS. Is this purposeful or due for change? – @xkCALBx

A: We have some game types planned, specifically for PvP, but The Dead Linger has never been about completing an objective. There is no “Find the Cure” mission. The Dead Linger is about surviving, adventuring, and thriving in the ultimate zombie apocalypse. The goal in The Dead Linger is to survive. There are many, many sub-goals within that, such as finding food, collecting wood, getting to the next town, looting a house, or building something. The combination of that alone creates dozens upon dozens of goals. We have a lot more features coming to add to this, and before you know it, you will have thousands of possible things to see, do, and explore in the world.

The survivor model (both in first person and third) has some issues currently and will be undergoing a complete overhaul very soon. We started out trying to do something different with the guns (essentially simulate ‘hip-firing’, whereas most FPS games have the gun right up in your face constantly.) This didn’t quite turn out how we’d hoped, so we’re going to definitely retract a little towards more standard FPS appearances, while keeping our own personal touch on that. All of the work done in Build 15 with the zombies and zombie variations translates directly to the new survivor model and survivor customization as well. We’ve also designed the new survivor model to show your body and legs while in first person. You will see this come in on Build 17, according to the current plan.

Q: Will certain zombies be “special” as in is there a way to decrease the amount of bio-hazard zombies? I feel like there should be less of them and more of the standard citizens? – Connor Moran
A: The current screenshots you’ve seen are a first pass at “variety balance.” Some of the screenshots had a lot more biohazard suit zombies per citizen mainly because we’re just testing the system. We plan to do a final tweak to spawn rates before 15 goes live, and we may hotfix some tweaks after the fact as well. This also applies to any type of “unique” zombie, such as the riot gear zombies.

Q: When will we be seeing female zombies? – Adrian Adams
A: Female zombies are due alongside female survivors. The art is currently in the works, and we’re currently undergoing some testing to figure out the best method for rigging clothing to her. (The biggest issue is that we can’t necessarily use the same skeleton as the male zombies and survivor, so we’re trying some things out before we commit all the way.) Either way, she’s in the pipeline and will be arriving in the somewhat near future.

Q: Will the zombies get different face wear in this build? Or was it just placeholder for screenshots? – @CynnnicalScout
A:If I’m understanding this question, you’re asking if zombies will be wearing different face items? Yes, sometimes, and certain face items will also prevent that zombie from ever biting. Zombies can be found wearing all sorts of items — whatever you might imagine a survivor or victim would be wearing when they turned.

Q: What build do you plan to add water? Besides the new zombies, what else is coming in build 15? – @SoldadoMiosso
A:Water is currently planned for Build 19, which, given our new build schedule coming up, should be pretty soon.

Quite a bit! An entirely new main menu system, better performance, leaning, and a bunch of other cool things! Keep in mind that much of the work we’ve been doing is now distributed across two builds, so 16 will be coming soon after 15, and contain many new features as well. We’ll talk about that more after 15 is out the door.

Q: Will there be new guns? – @thehacker200034
A:We have some new guns in the works, yes. Keep in mind, as with all kinds of items, our plan is to add more variety to the game for years to come.

Q: Will certain zombies be found in certain areas like farmer zombies? – @viper131
A:Yes, in the future. Our system we just made for zombie variation is completely set up for it, but specifics like this probably won’t be in 15 just yet since we have quite a few other things to do before that.

Q: Any plans for fat lumbering zombies? – @tonysathre
A:The new zombies do support different weights, but there is also a “fat” variant in the game currently, which does double damage to barricades. You may have seen this postal worker (more variants coming soon) during your travels.

Q: When is Build 15 coming out? (Asked by everyone)
A:When it’s finished. Which should be within about 6 days.

Art Stuff and Things
Chaoss improved our window shader a bit. Here’s a quick GIF of it in action.

Dane’s cow is… Well, it’s a cow. There’s not a lot to say about it. Moo.

As well as some various Harbinger head gear.

And some military-grade night vision goggles on the way.

Ryan’s getting some (work in progress) texture on the traffic light, almost ready to fill the streets with!

Michael is spending a good bit of time getting our zone creation tool ready for mass deployment, the results of which will be seen in Build 15, or 16, depending on what’s done before we launch 15. This is going to be a really big change to the game that won’t quite make sense until it arrives. The game’s environment variety is about to get a massive upheaval, in a very, very good way.

Tons of polish and improvements going to the zombies, and a lot of optimization. We’ve managed to get about 200 zombies on screen while maintaining above 30 FPS, thanks to some physics computation and zombie LOD tricks. We’re spending quite a bit of extra time on ensuring the frame rate stays up and the game runs smoothly for you. That and multiplayer are some upcoming focuses we’re going to be hitting pretty hard over the course of the next few builds.

That’s everything for this week!

Build 15: VERY SOON!

Linger on, Survivors!

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The Weekly Dead 18

Hello Survivors!

We’re in for the final stretch on zombies this week.

Level of detail, animations, and shaders are in place.

The team is now working to tidy up all the loose ends.

Clothing Shaders
Chaoss’ clothing shaders will allow us to color most clothing, meaning more variety, and the possibility for dying clothes later on.

Shaders will also include different levels of blood stain details on clothing. Logo is placeholder, but just an example of “logo” mapping on our shirts and clothing. We may allow survivors to submit their own (non-copyrighted) t-shirt logos in the future.

Art Stuff
The holster on the Harbinger uniform are now textured and ready. It’s currently cosmetic, but we’ll see if that remains to be the case.

Dane is also getting started on this scary looking Harbinger gear.

Jeff thought we needed two cup holders. So there it is! Oh, and a bunch of other tweaks and additions to the interior detail. The car is officially ready for UV and texturing. Next time you see it, it won’t look gray.

Parker has some ‘quarantine wall’ concepts for us. These are one of many types of boundaries you may encounter in the future. We’ll have more on that later.

He also drew some accessories for the launcher, such as the ammo pickup and the HEAT projectile it fires.

We have some new loading screen art in the works by an artist named Jonas! He’s responsible for the grasslands and forest loading screens, with more on the way. Here’s the new picture you’ll see when loading into a farmland zone in Build 15.

Between all the crazy shader and texture work he’s been doing, Chaoss made a couple quick improvements to the farmhouse, including a couple more rooms on the lower levels and a creepy attic.

Sandswept 2.0
As mentioned last week, we’re overhauling all of our Sandswept and game-related sites, both for better cleanliness but also in anticipation of some upcoming Sandswept IPs.

Here’s a little preview of our forum changes.

The current plan is to preserve all existing forum usernames, emails, and passwords. We are not sure about posts yet, but we’ll let you know as that gets closer.

The Dead Linger’s site is getting a new look too. Here’s a small tease.

Let us know what you think of these changes and be sure to drop us any website feedback or suggestions you have in this thread here!

That’s it for this week.

Linger on, Survivors!

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The Weekly Dead 17

Hello Survivors!

This week starts off with a message from TDL Design Director, Geoff Keene:

I’m just dropping in to give you a note about some changes coming to our build schedule. Have no fear! All these change mean you’ll be seeing some content much sooner than we had planned instead of leaving you waiting for so long. In our on-going efforts to condense builds down into smaller, more rapid cycles, we’ve split Build 15 into two parts in order to get the new zombie models and some other features out and in front of your faces sooner. Here’s the new schedule for the next three builds;

- Build 15 – New Blood [Coming Soon!]

  • New Zombies with clothing and variety (see the last Weekly Dead for more information!)
  • New Main Menu System
  • New Wildlife: Rabbit
  • Leaning/Peeking around corners
  • Lots of bug fixes and tweaks
  • A few other small features!

- Build 16 – Sirens of the City

  • Siren NPCs
  • Cities
  • Modular Buildings
  • A bunch of world props (street signs, yard objects, hobo dens, etc.)
  • Some other tiny stuff

- Build 17 – The Storm

  • New Survivor Model
  • Harbinger NPCs
  • Weather
  • And a whole bunch more!

Okay, I’ll give the microphone back to Jenny now.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about this week’s other happenings!

The team is setting the stage (and by stage I mean Level of Detail) for our zombie variations. They’re working on getting all clothing entirely lined up and completed with the zombie models. Meaning smooth animations, no choppy bits and our zombies looking fresh.

Like this poor soul.

Art Stuff
Dane made some more details on the new Harbinger uniforms.

Ryan is working on traffic lights!

Jeff has the HM Typical ready for texturing!

And here’s a concept of the Harbinger AT Launcher that Parker made.

Website and Sandswept Forum Changes
We have major plans to re-design both website and forums soon. Our plan is to make navigation functionally and aesthetically better and we’d like your suggestions on changes you’d like to see.

Let us know in this thread!

A lot of changes this week. I know it may be a lot to take in, but as they say: “nothing ventured, nothing gained!”

Linger on, Survivors!

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The Weekly Dead 16

Hello Survivors!

Let’s zombie crawl right into what’s happening this week.

This is a work in progress of our zombies with clothing, varying skin colors, and some other nuances you may notice. The lighting is not final and these pictures don’t include all of the specular and normal maps, but it’s getting much closer to what you’ll see in Build 15. We’re predicted to have zombies finished by next week so we can move on to the final features for Build 15 and get it out the door to you guys!

Skin Tone
This image shows some of the skin tone variety you may find, as well as a nice close up of the new detail on the zombies skin.

The clothing these guys are wearing will have significantly more variation and look dirtier with matching shading, the current clothes you see are still being worked on.

The Big Picture
Over the last month (and many months of preparation and artwork before that) we’ve been building a system that supports the following features on our zombies AND survivors:
- Clothing, helmets, backpacks, everything showing on the characters
- Realistic skin tones
- Randomized blood spatter
- Randomized wounds (infected holes and the like)
- Different face textures
- Different facial structures, such as nose sizes, cheek bones, and so on
- Thinness and fatness
- Clothing colors, such as t-shirts coming in a wide range of color instead of all being black
- Underwear and sock color (I’m serious.)

And a whole bunch more! These are things you’ll get to see on zombies both in 15 and shortly thereafter, as well as things you’ll be able to customize on your own survivor. There’s currently no reason you shouldn’t expect to be able to customize your survivors weight, height, skin color, eye color, underwear and sock color (still not kidding) and facial features. We predict you’ll start seeing some of that pouring into TDL over the next 2-3 builds.

New Animations
To answer a common question, the new zombies also have brand new animations. You’ll notice that some of the zombies raise their arms as they near their prey. That’s a thing.

Dev Quotes

Sneaky Skeleton: Nice, so this means they’ll be spawning with random in-game clothes? Will they be in any way influenced by location?

Geoff: Yes, we have them set up so we can do location-based stuff, like uniforms, but we won’t have any examples of it in Build 15. It will just be very random and varied.

We’re also now set up (in the future) for thin/fatness of a zombie, hair, randomized gore, and a whole bunch more. Really, really massive leaps in terms of zombie (and future survivor) customization just happened over the last month. (Original Post)

Studio Growth
We’re very excited to announce that in the last month the Sandswept team has grown by 33.33334%; two new programmers, a new 3D artist, (RIGGER WARNING!) and a character rigger have joined the team. We’ll share who these fine individuals are in a future blog post.

We also have an upcoming announcement regarding some additional Sandswept endeavors that we’re undertaking, but we’re going to keep a lid on that for just awhile longer. That will probably be mentioned briefly here, but primarily over on our main blog and Sandswept twitter page, so be sure to follow those as well!

Linger on, Survivors!

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The Weekly Dead 15

Hello Survivors!

Say it with me: Optimization!

There’s a lot happening with the inner workings of The Dead Linger this week. Just about everything is undergoing some pretty heavy optimization. (Still!)

Chaoss has been tweaking away at everything he can get his hands on.

SpeedTree shaders are now fully optimized. Trees now include their own ambient occlusion, making terrain occlusion obsolete. This means faster loading and less generation.

Suburban houses are getting some serious optimi-awesome. Level of detail is being re-done, AO maps are being reduced, and exterior textures are being compressed.

Prisons are also undergoing the same optimization methods.


Out Of The Blue

Chaoss is giving our skies are getting a huge face-lift. That includes: the moon, sun, clouds and stars. Geoff will be working on a star map to give the TDL skies accurate constellations.

Zombie Wardrobe Variations – WIP

Currently, Richard, Grant and Chaoss are working together to have our first set of zombie clothing variants spawning in game. This is heavily a work in progress of the wardrobe system, and as you can see, we’ve got some missing/odd textures on the current set of testing assets.

Should be completed around next week, so we’ll show off more of this in that blog closer to it, and probably some very nice close ups of the new zombie variation as you’ll see it when Build 15 is released.

Dane and Jeff are up to cool things as usual.

A very specific set of military gear is just about completed. We’ll reveal more about that in… Well, in a bit. You may recognize this from some soldier concepts we dropped awhile back. A bunch of the military helmet variations are coming next.

Jeff’s sedan received some dashboard and engine work! There’s a few more modifications to make before it’s ready to final mesh polish and texturing.

You may want to shield your eyes for this next image. Here’s a sneak peek of our new survivor model.

(I warned you.)

The new male survivor is coming probably around Build 16, along with tons of new visible survivor clothing, an overhaul in the first person arms and some other stuff of that nature. Big, big stuff in the works that’ll you’ll see more and more of over the next few weeks.

We’re currently aiming to release Build 15 around the middle of September, and you know that’s definitely what will happen because we’ve never missed a deadline in our lives.

Linger on, Survivors!

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