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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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The Weekly Dead 14

Hello Survivors!

I’ve managed to escape on a mini vacation and it’s probably the only vacation time Geoff will ever give me! So I’ll be keeping this one short!

This week, more optimization!

They’ve all gone crazy with power.

Richard, Chaoss, Atle and Grant are collaborating to optimize all the things! They are taking a 3 prong approach to reducing memory use. That means all textures, zombie level of detail and animations and all sound clips are being reduced and resized.

Tree popping (or lack there of) has been greatly improved. In this video demonstration of the effect, each tree level of detail has been rotated at different angles to emphasize fading. In game, it will appear smoother and even less noticeable, if you even notice it at all.

Grass now uses unified normal shading and has 2 distance settings, giving us a giant performance boost on the system.

Grass quality in the settings menu causes an immediate refresh so restart is no longer required.

We’ve also got leaning implemented. The ‘Q’ and ‘E’ keys let you lean around corners and peak out slightly. A much more improved version of leaning will be coming in a later build.

Bunny rabbits are also getting placed in game. Rabbit Season is a go!

Dane is getting started on the Flakvest texture.

And just in case you missed this:

That’s everything for this week!

Linger on, Survivors!

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The Weekly Dead 13

Hello Survivors!

Friday has arrived once again. This week the team is all about optimization.

Chaoss has been taking a look at some of our textures and clearing out the over sized ones. He’s optimizing the hell out of our building shaders while adding on high-performance detail textures. This means that we’ll be able to reduce most building textures by half, which will result in TDL using about half the video RAM it previously used. This also means that when you’re very close to a texture it will actually look more detailed than before.

He’s also working on a second building shader that uses a 2-texture system. Overall large open spaces will use much less VRAM which means higher fidelity as well.

Another system Chaoss is implementing will be a dirt-to-corner system per material that uses another channel in the Ambient Occlusion map to add dirt or grime in corners and edges. Buildings will not only look better, but they will save time when designing them and they will no longer be limited by size or layout based on tiling artifacts.

To the left is the new building shader and right is the old one. Using a 512×512 map stretched over a 12m x 12m surface. The new building shader is built with deferred compatibility and it keeps instruction count super low. With this shader, we are currently at 17 instruction count, the old shader used up 243. This will not only reduce video memory usage, but should also help with spawning times of new objects.

That’s a huge difference. Less is always better.

We’re also working on some other shaders for other things.

Scene Creator – Watertower
Michael is hard at work on the new TDL Scene Creator, a tool we’ve now dubbed “Watertower.” This tool is used to quickly create 2D overhead zone layouts that the world generator chooses at random and combines to create the environments you see and explore through in the game. As we mentioned in last week’s blog, the use of this tool will vastly upgrade the amount of zone variety and types of zones you come across. It should look something like this.

Feel free to draw up (or show overhead photos) of zone layouts on the Survivor Creations forum! Zones are about 700 by 700 meters in size, so aim for that scale. We’ll be taking the best ideas and implementing them into the game. Here’s an example from SirCabbage, on the forums.

But that’s not where we’re going to stop on that. At some point in the future, once the tool is a bit more advanced and user-friendly, we’re going to release Watertower to the public and allow you to create your own zone layouts and send them to us for adding into The Dead Linger. We’ll let you know when that draws closer.

Renders and Things
Dane has a few more armor pieces in the works for us this week.

Jeff’s car is getting one heck of a tune-up. Still heavily a work in progress, but it’s already starting to take form.

That about covers this week!

Linger on, Survivors!

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The Weekly Dead 12

Hello Survivors!

This week’s blog is pretty meaty. We hope you’re hungry!

Zombie Models
Richard has officially finished coding the Siren. He’s now working with the artists to get our new zombie models in, complete with randomized clothing.

They’re creating a massive new system for zombie variety, clothing customization, and crowd variation in general. We’re talking new animations, new LOD meshes, new animated LOD meshes, you name it! Our current zombie model is pretty bare-bones and, well, the same. That’s changing, and it’s changing hard.

The Wardrobe System
One of the many things Richard is currently working on is a clothing setup system for NPCs of any kind, be they zombies in Build 15, or other NPCs, such as soldiers, later on. We call this system “The Wardrobe” (patent pending.) This system uses XML format to set up the clothing on a given NPC, either picking a specific piece of gear, or a huge list of gear. For the majority of zombies, they will pick one of dozens of shirts, pants, shoes, and more to create massive variety.

Here’s an example showing some soldier NPCs.
No two zombies will be identical – at least not very often, and less and less often as we add more clothing content to the game. This allows us to set up specific types of zombies as well (i.e. “Riot Zombie” wearing full riot gear) with as much (or as little) variation as we please. Randomization is the name of the game here, and this isn’t even accounting for some systems we have planned later, such as randomizing blood spatter and limb damage.

Visible Clothing
But let’s get down to the fun part; pictures! Grant has been busy getting all the current clothing rigged up to the human model, which includes male zombies and the male survivor.

The survivor model update will probably be pushed back slightly, meaning new zombies will definitely come in Build 15, while the more intensive Survivor model and new survivor animations still require some extensive work for both third and first person viewing.

As for the zombies, we’ll definitely have much more to show you regarding zombie variety next we meet.

Scene Editor
Michael is currently working on a “Scene Editor” that allows us to create dozens (or even hundreds) of variations for any given zone or sub-zone. That means any one on the team can go in and easily set up 30 different farms you can come across in game, including unique loot spawns, zombie spawn points, Siren positions, and a whole bunch more. As we add to this system, we will have total control of what an area looks like without our programmers having to lift a finger. In the picture below, the blue and purple squares on the right and left represent the corn fields’ shape and size.

When this system is fully done, you should see huge amounts of additional variety in all the zones you encounter. The best thing you can do in game development is give as many tools as possible to the designers and artists, so the programmers can work on the code in peace and designers and artists don’t have to bother the programmers in their bubble of fancy math stuffs. Hence, the Scene Editor, and as shown earlier, The Wardrobe.

Warehouse Progression and Modular Systems
The warehouse went through a few awesome changes. Chaoss replaced the brick texture for a MUCH better and more realistic one.

The side sections of the warehouse are completely modular; it can be changed, flipped or stacked to create a ridiculously huge warehouse out of different sections. With a modular system, one type of building can yield in dozens of variation and potential encounters.

We’ll be doing this same modular system with the current suburban houses, farmhouses, construction houses, office building, and pretty much ALL THE BUILDINGS in the future. Some of the current buildings are already set up for it while some of them are not. In the not-so-distant future, we’ll be redoing some of the older buildings, such as the Suburban Homes and Swerts to better match our current standards for artistic quality and modular design layouts. Of course, that’s not to say there aren’t new things coming as well. Chaoss is steadily working through a list of “street props” as well as some new and revamped food items both for better readability, and to give you more options to satiate your hunger in the apocalypse.

Ambient Occlusion Rework
Chaoss has created a better global preset that will eliminate bright or dark seams, noise, compression artifacts, and lighting calculation errors. Currently each AO (Ambient Occlusion) map has settings which can break the lighting on dynamic objects, making them too bright or too dark in different buildings.

No more of those strange squares or incorrect light bouncing off of objects! This also means zombies shouldn’t have strange lighting in dark places from time to time.

Wildlife Renders
Dane has a doe variant for us, as well as finished up the boar. He’ll be handing those over to Grant for rigging. Keep in mind, these are currently shown here *without* the fur shader Chaoss has planned.

Screamer Zombie
Some more of Dane and Grant’s work. Our latest zombie model: Screamer. You’ll learn more about her later.

HM Typical
Jeff’s car is beginning to shape up nicely.

TDL Lore
Last week we recovered a journal with some pretty strange stuff, the last entry was titled “The Meatwagons.”

Dev Quotes
Geoff sheds some light on his thought process for the latest lore journal.

Hyst: I appreciate the time taken to produce lore like this, but of course I have one key complaint I’d like to share :).

I don’t think referring to real world locations ties in well with the game, because in the game world they make no sense, especially in a generated world. In fact, even referring to fake locations often won’t work due to the fact that everyone’s world will be different.

I’d like to see it more generalized, just talk about highways and maybe geographical features, but don’t name them. It would be OK to add in references to things that are or will be common to all worlds, like names of stores and such, or entire towns if they are going to be dropped into our games whole, basically anything that will be universal. Still you’d need to be careful, not go into too much detail. Focus more on the other stuff, not locations and routes and such.

Zag: I’ve actually spent a really long time debating this. You’ll notice some people (FrayinDaCloudz posting just above you, for example) really enjoy the real world references and locations. The problem with doing vague locations is that we can’t bring the idea into the real world. It will always be stuck in your mind as these vague, fictional locations. Much to my chagrin, we already have a bit of a reality-disconnect with our current zone names and places you come across (though that will improve as our world generation becomes more detailed.)

If we mention a store in a journal, for example, we might mention a Leland’s Grocery Store in a place that doesn’t actually have the fictional chain. If we mention a road (Let’s say Van Dyke) then people local to the area know it’s a road there — one that spans about 34 miles north to south. If that’s too specific for you, I’m not sure you’ll ever be satisfied with any amount of vague description.

Obviously these are fictional events and fictional people, and any relation to real-world locations or events are coincidence. If someone is offended if we say their entire town was wiped out by the zombie apocalypse, I’d be really surprised as well.

I think it’s safe to say journals will continue to reference both real and fictional locations. (Original Post)

Radio Chatter
We wanted to spoil you guys with a bit more soldier radio chatter. We’re up to about 800 unique lines of solider chatter with 9 different voice actors.

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You won’t see or hear the soldiers in 15, but we have more voice actors and radio chatter to tease in the near future, and we’ll reveal more about the soldiers themselves as they approach in the coming Storm.

Oh! Don’t forget about the wiki for helpful stuff! And if you consider yourself a knowledgeable survivor, help others out by filling it out!

That’s everything this week! Oh, and this…

Linger on, Survivors!

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The Meatwagons

This journal entry contains strong language.

        This is the journal of Jordan Henson Moore from Warren, Michigan. This is written on March 14th or 15th, 2016. I believe it’s a Tuesday but I’ve had spotty consciousness and it’s been raining for at least two days.

        I’m going to leave this message here. I left it in an obvious spot so that I know someone – someone alive – would find it. Clearly you have. Please read this. These may be the last words I write in this life and I want to make them count. I’m hopeful that we’ll cross paths, though. I’m probably still nearby. Heading north up Van Dyke after I finish this. Trying to get away from the cities, maybe get into the hills or farmland or whatever the hell is up there near Flint. I have or had some family up there. If you see me, I’ll be the one with the limp. It’s not a bite, I promise.

        Lost a hell of a lot of blood, but I think I’ve stopped it for now. My foot hurts but I’m not even going to deal with it until morning; can’t even move my leg right now and I don’t dare uncurl from this spot with that fucking thing just around the corner. I have to warn anyone traveling through here. Hell, traveling anywhere. We made thousands. I never thought I’d encounter one under these conditions.

        Please read this. Please read this.

        In early 2012 I picked up work as a contractor for Armstrong as a machinist. They hired me right out of UMich. Had barely finished my BEng and they stuck me right here. I worked on a bunch of vehicles for their line, mostly that heavy police shit, and I think I helped make a bumper for the Archwood line. Anyway, later that year we scored the M1177 contract from the US DoD. Simple enough, but they kept using weird terminology in relation to the platform. A lot of terms like “domestic capability” and “crowd control.” It had this gas deployment system, so that made sense, but it wasn’t police commissioned. DoD, certified them for Army use. Kinda mixed up for an 18 tonne IFV platform, don’t you think? Like somebody was drinking heavy and drew up some weird looking thing and then got his drinking buddy congressman to approve it.

        You don’t know the half of it.

        Well, you probably do now. I’m surprised you found quiet time to read this with those things sitting around out there. I counted three of them from here to 8 Mile Rd. Not together, they’re all spread out, on their own. I thought I saw one shoot at another one. God knows what the fuck they’re thinking, but if it’s anything like my state of mind, it isn’t good either. But let me finish this.

        Here we’re working on that front-end frame, supervisor comes over chatting off about the good we’re bringing to the world. Some dumbass pep talk. Told us this is for a peacekeeping op going down in some African shithole called Brundi or Bajundi or something. You gotta understand why I was staggered at this; the M1177 had weak-ass armor. It’d stop small rounds, maybe even big rounds, we put like 3 inches on it, but the thing just didn’t make sense. I’m sitting here working on these bigass sheets of steel, wondering why I’m cutting out a massive hole for these windows on this big fucking outcropped nose compartment. Who the hell is gonna sit in that willingly?

        Well, we know now, but at the time this was just… This thing is gonna fall apart the moment someone hits it with an explosive, and here we’re thinking this the entire time we’re building it. Whatever, I get my paycheck, they can do whatever awful programs they want. Not the first time they spent billions on a pile of cow-dung.

        And god I wish it were that simple. If it was such a fucking bad machine that would be one thing, but it’s not. It’s so good at what it was made for, and it all became so god damn clear when that shit went down in Idaho. I heard they deployed them before that, but they never talked about. You couldn’t find shit on it. They hid EVERYTHING about its deployment up until the September Incident. I worked on an instrument of mass murder for 4 solid years of my life and I didn’t even know it until that week. And what, six months later… Now I’m sitting here hiding my ass from them.

        Hindsight is perfect though. Crystal clear. It was … I think end of 2014 we started work on these white ones for the DOVRAC contract. “Medical Variant” and at least they were that. They called them White Rhinos because of that awful shape on the front, and you know, there’s no way the program would’ve stayed. I was just waiting for someone to complain that we killed her son by designing a rocket-catcher on an APC. Just waiting.

        But there goes hindsight, pounding in my head like the fucking guns. It made perfect sense looking back. They built these things for domestic conflict. There wasn’t any at the time, but there as hell is now. It’s not made to stop terrorists or Iranians or the Chinese or whatever bad guys we have that week. It was made to stop civilians. The fucking dead people walking around and the fucking living. They mounted this 50 BMG on the top with one of those wired systems. It’s all remote. The guy inside can eat a fucking bag of chips while he guns down crowds of people. It chews everything up. Shreds ‘em. Shredded my leg, that’s for goddamn sure.

        And the speakers blasting, and blasting, and looping, all hours of the day and night. The poor, crazed shitstains inside won’t even shut it off. That message has been playing for days. I have it MEMORIZED.

        I’m done writing. Good luck out there. I’ll be making my way north up Van Dyke, but first I’m gonna wait for the bastard in the one outside. He can’t stay in there forever, right? They rolled into the town, they need supplies. I’m gonna wait for him, and when I see him, I’m going to take him out, and I’m going to find his buddy, the one driving that fucking meatwagon, and I’m going to take him out too. And I’m going to take that Siren, and I’m going to turn off those loudspeakers, and I’m going to get a good nights sleep. And then I’m gonna head up north. Gonna head up Van Dyke.

        Then I’ll be the one in the Siren.
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