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The Weekly Dead 21

Hello Survivors!

Geoff has a bunch of things to talk about this week, so I’m handing the keyboard over to him.

Here’s what’s coming up;

1) Watertower is basically done. We’re taking today to get some bugs tidied up and then it’s pretty good for me to use and create a bunch of new zones (mainly farms) for Build 15. You will see a lot more zone variety in Build 15.

Where do we plan to go with Watertower? Everywhere!

Well, more specifically — Steam Workshop. While Watertower is ready enough for me to use on Build 15, it’s a little bit harsh at times and you have no way to test your scenes you create without our internal tools. One of our goals over the next few months (taking a side-seat to furthering build development and the like) is to get Watertower working better and more user-friendly, getting a 3D view available for it so you can fly around your scene as you build it, and finally, get it so we can upload scenes to Steam Workshop from within the tool. Once we have that ready, we want to throw it at you.

We took someone (resident 3D artist Chaoss) who had never used the Watertower tool before and he created a zone. This is the result. This took him exactly 60 seconds to create in Watertower.


2) Steam Workshop support is just about ready.

Dec has begun creating a Steam Workshop Uploader tool for all of your juicy content. It’s mostly a fancy file and file manager uploader that will allow you to create, edit, and update your Workshop creations. This will all be available completey for free once Steam Workshop is released. While Workshop is not officially up, you can start to familiarize yourself with the plan by visiting the TDL Workshop Guide I have spent a few days getting ready. This is a WORK IN PROGRESS and is not final. If you want to get started on creating content, you are more than welcome to. Just keep in mind that Steam Workshop is not actually active yet, so this page is kind of coming at you from the future! Oooooh! Spooky! Because Halloween.

3) Build 15 is kicking my eyeballs in their collective butts.

Chaoss has spent a huge amount of time getting all of our buildings re-processed buildings ready for both Towns in Build 15 and Cities in Build 16. Buildings can now appear in Towns with 3 to 8 floors, and in Build 16, a whole lot more. The new look of office buildings makes them look… Well, like office buildings!

Along with some new HDR effects, some ‘frame interpolation’ (a fancy word for a very subtle motion blur) and a lot more furniture and props inside houses, we’re quite excited to bring you Build 15 in all its glory.

4) Props, Props, Props!

Since I hate paying people to make tiny props like toasters, microwaves, radios, televisions, and all those other “real world props” that you see in every realistic game, we’ve picked up some very large asset packs that we’re processing into the game over time. (We have about ~1000 “boring world stuff” 3D meshes sitting in the queue for processing right now to get dirty and ensure they match the style.) I’d like to take a moment to let 3D artists know that if they plan to create items for The Dead Linger — please create cool stuff. This came up on the forum the other day in a discussion.

If you really want to make a basic couch or a toaster, I won’t stop you, but we’re looking for content that breaks the mold and pushes the gameplay forward. Unique melee weapons, cool guns, fun vehicles, awesome buildings, and sweet clothing! If any 3D artists want to get content into The Dead Linger, please create awesome stuff! We’ll handle the boring ‘filler’ content with our highly efficient systems we have in place.

We are really looking forward to opening the door on Steam Workshop. We have seen some really great survivor creations already, and we’re hoping to provide you with some tools to really get them in front of us and allow others to vote and comment on them in the Workshop. Coming soon!

5) Speaking of coming soon… When is Build 15 coming out? What’s after that?

Build 15 is a very long build. It has been months. Many months. It’s a lot of content, and a lot of preparation. We are setting up every system, every content-creation pipeline, and every performance aspect of The Dead Linger for very rapid build releases. This is taking up the majority of our time. It’s like pressing all the startup buttons and switches for taking off in a helicopter. Gryo-stabilizers, check. Fuel pump, check. Helmet strapped on properly, check. Rotaty things rotating properly, check.

You can tell I’ve never actually flown a helicopter, but The Dead Linger is about to take off. Here’s some new stuff we have tightly scheduled into the next few builds. We aren’t kidding about the preparation we’re doing, and we are very confident in it. Likely all of this will happen before 2015 arrives.

  • New zombies, of course! (Coming in 15)
  • New Survivor player models, completely overhauled first person movement, hands/weapons, and camera system
  • Openable cabinets and drawers to find loot in
  • Improvements all around, especially to framerate and multiplayer.
  • Steam Workshop Support with some tutorials on item-creation and proper tools to upload and manage your creations
  • Watertower tool released to the public for free, so you can create zones in TDL! (or at least very close to ready)
  • A bunch more wildlife (Rabbits coming in 15, Boars and other things coming soon!)
  • Adding a HUD-based Visibility system, along with Zombie AI improvements to make it easier to be sneaky when you rightfully should
  • A big sound overhaul — meatier sounding firearms, more sounds on things that should have them, stamina-based sounds
  • Some new musical tracks
  • Hostile NPCs, both vehicular (Sirens) and on-foot
  • City zones with massive office buildings. Currently working with a modular floor system that will allow buildings to be any height. The ones in 16 will probably be about 30 floors, brimming with the undead and fully furnished interiors.
  • Rain and storm weather
  • New buildings and tons of world stuff, like sheds in yards and more stuff to do in forests
  • Massive overhaul to the way the world is laid out. “Meta-Zones” wil lbe implemented to make populated areas or wilderness areas feel 100 times more realistic. Also a way better implementation of the road system to make sure you can travel the world via roads, like you can in real life.
  • Road signs and town names
  • Weight system for inventory items
  • More weapons!
  • PvP FFA mode (separate and optional from the Coop Survival mode)
  • Quarantine walls (World Borders that the host can set to contain the action in a smaller area, if they so choose)
  • Water & Boats
  • Some secret stuff we don’t want to talk about yet!

You should see the first car added at the very start of 2015. Prepare yourselves.

Artwork time!

Art Stuff

We’re just going to leave Dane’s spooky sniper here.

That about covers everything this week.

Linger on, Survivors!

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The Weekly Dead 20

Hello Survivors!

Build 15 is taking longer than expected. That’s pretty expected, of course.

One of the main reasons is due to major efforts we’re undertaking right now in getting our “Scene Creator Tool” (also known as Watertower) ready for rapid development.

What is Watertower?

Watertower is The Dead Linger’s scene creator tool. This tool is built in Unity, and allows us (and eventually, you) to create zone layouts for The Dead Linger from a top-down perspective, very quickly and with very little hassle. The way The Dead Linger’s world is laid out is that when zones are generated, the zones pick a layout of that zone type to place inside that zone. This layout determines where props are, where fields are, where the main road is, where zombie spawns are, where player spawns are, and so on. As you may have noticed, the farm zones have exactly 1 layout in Build 14. It’s kinda lame, and it really hurts that feeling of exploration and variety. That is changing very soon, and that is why Build 15 is taking a bit longer. This will be worth the wait.

Why is it called Watertower? Does it only place water towers?
Some of our long-term survivors already know exactly why, but for everyone else; the water tower has always been a very iconic structure in The Dead Linger. It was one of our first every added to the game as we tested size, scale, and view distance in the early alpha builds. It’s also been a bit of a running joke – an older world generation bug caused towns to sometimes spawn with 2, maybe even 3 water towers inside them. Oops.

So what’s it really do?
Watertower quite literally allows us to place every object into the world the exterior of buildings. We want this tool complete enough to mass produce a ton more layouts so you encounter new environments and a whole new world of variety. This will result in a massive change to the way The Dead Linger’s world looks and feels as you travel through it.

Will it be a top-down 2D editor forever?
Nope! The reason we’re creating this tool within Unity is that we can actually tie it to The Dead Linger and import all of the models and meshes for 3D editing of scenes. The tool will start in its current 2D form, and we will add a 3D view option later on to allow you to view and edit your scene in real time as you create it.

Here’s a tiny sneak peek of Watertower!

Will I be able to use this tool to create my own zone layouts and submit them to you guys?
Yes! As for when, we’re not entirely sure yet, but we will definitely let you know as that approaches. We want to make sure the creation, testing, and submission process is extremely user friendly, or at least friendly enough that the majority of users can create a scene with very little effort. This will likely integrate with Steam Workshop in the future.

How much longer until Build 15 is out?
Hey, that’s not a Watertower question! But to answer that — we don’t know yet. Watertower needs a couple days of work to get where we need it, and Build 15 itself has some stuff we’re still working out as well. We do NOT expect it to run through the middle of October, but such is the way of software development.

Since we overhauled the main enemy in the game (I’m of course referring to the zombies) with a brand new clothing system, brand new rig and animations, an awesome new LOD systems, and a bunch more changes on top of that, it takes awhile to polish up and make sure every change we made didn’t break something else. A very big set of systems has gone into Build 15, and that should be clear by the development time. We are also tying up some loose ends so that when we switch to our more rapid development cycles, all of our internal systems can keep up. A lot of that is ‘under the hood’ and nothing we can show pictures of. (Believe us, if we could show pictures, we totally would. We love pictures!)

Will other builds take this long? I need my fix, man!
We are still very set on having 16 and onward be much quicker builds. We predict 15 will be the last ‘mega-build’ for a very long time.

On to the artwork!

Art Stuff

Dane has made some goggles of the night vision type.

Ryan is putting the finer details on the traffic lights.

Here’s the upcoming Visibility icons for the in-game HUD. We’ll explain those when they’re added (and yes, it will be optional.)

Jeff has the texture of the car coming along and Chaoss has spent loads of time getting buildings ready for randomization in Build 16. We’ll show all of that when it’s ready!

Survivor Q&A

We seriously loved answering all your questions last week. So Survivor Q&A is here to stay in it’s own little section of the Weekly Dead.

Q: Will there be something extremely rare and useful which you can search for? (e.g. diamond-effect in Minecraft) – @Ch3sh4r
A: We have lots of rare items in the game, but we’re leaving most of them for you to discover. There are some weapons and gear out there that are quite coveted, or only found in very specific places. We’ll be adding a lot more of these types of things over time and we’re working out ways to progress and improve your gear with the right tools.

Q: Will wider roads (i.e. 6 or 8 lane highways) be added near the same time as cities? I wanna recreate that classic TWD scene :D – @satchel_kachel
A: We have an entire interstate system in the planning stages right now. These are very long distance, multi-lane roads that will stretch across the entire world, including exits, rest stops, and more. Those will be coming a bit later and aren’t directly part of cities. When we do implement the Interstate system, you should be able to travel from one end of the world to another, simply by following these roads.

Q: So there was talk of being able to submit logos for t-shirts for @thedeadlinger, could you do the same for building graffiti? – @Gruntdonttoot
A: Yes, this is planned. We’ll let you know when all kinds of survivor creations will be open for submission, ranging from t-shirts to graffiti, to models, buildings, and more!

Q: Any ETA on better guns/mechanics? – @CynnicalScout
A: We are reworking the survivor model, including the first person arms, in Build 17 (as is the current plan, subject to change, of course.) This will include some changes to the way guns and aim-down-sights behave. We have more gun changes planned, such as bullet trajectory/bullet drop in the near future.

Q: When will you let us be able to build with other material types other then the ones we have now? – @viper131
A: We have a bunch of barricading objects coming up on The List here. We will be adding some metal barricading objects when welding is added. That will be around the same time cars come in, since we’re dead set on allowing survivors to deck their cars out with “Mad Max” modifications by welding parts to the vehicle.

Q: How soon can we expect to see upgrades to the current barricading system? I look forward to using nails on my barricades. – @KohiSparkleman
A: We want to take some time to heavily improve barricading from it’s current, basic state. This will be happening in the near future as it is one of the core components of crafting and survival in The Dead Linger.

Q: When do you plan for interiors of buildings to look realistic? i.e. better prop placement more props random floors etc – @Alex_J_Wade
A: Really soon. Really, really soon.

That’s everything this week!

Linger on, Survivors!

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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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