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Status Report - Week of 15 Sept 14

Security.

This is the topic of this week’s status report. As we move forward with development on DayZ past 0.49 and into 0.50 this is one of our primary focuses. Throughout our Alpha and Beta phases the core engine that powers DayZ is created. During this process new engine functions are introduced, deprecated functions are removed, and the general nature of how a great deal of systems operate can completely change. Within normal closed development this would not be an issue, however developing DayZ in the open and updating the primary branch with any reliable frequency can leave us vulnerable at times.

Individuals focused on identifying, and exploiting vulnerabilities during the development process -will- find holes. No amount of closed testing within a time scale that allows us to update the primary branch with reliable frequency, and keep to our target of a two to three year development cycle will stop this. However, Early Access does offer us an unparalleled opportunity to identify, and address potential vulnerabilities with how DayZ functions prior to the 1.0 that traditionally we would never have. Vigilance as these vulnerabilities are identified, and addressing them is critical to the stability of DayZ 1.0, and will serve to make the final product that much more of an enjoyable experience.

That said, over the next month these are our security goals.

  • Purge of the stable branch hive 
    • The intent here is to purge existing large volume magazines and legacy items from the economy
  • Working with BattlEye to deploy a new, more comprehensive method of detection
  • Closer collaboration between our internal hacks/exploit team and VAC
  • Addressing at an engine level current methods of rapid player position updates
  • Rolling out private shards for player rented servers with our game server provider partners
    • Private shard servers will offer the additional protection of server administrator level bans, password protection for private shard servers, and whitelist support

As 0.49 rolls out to stable branch today, the most obvious change with this update (aside from the stable hive purge) is the move of the initial persistence feature for rented DayZ servers to an opt-in selection with each game server provider. Given that consumer data, and player storage is such a valuable and key feature to DayZ, and still very early we want to ensure that the system is a physical choice each game server administrator makes. While this system is refined, each game server provider operates a last known good fail-safe for servers opting in to persistence that will restore the storage from the last successful startup in the event of any unforeseen failure. Moving forward into 0.50, we intend to move persistence from this opt in system to all stable branch servers.
Brian Hicks / Producer

Chris / Lead Artist
Character Art:

Since my last report, we wrapped up on bugfixing some of the character art (for now anyways) and began working on medical scrubs, a prison uniform, and some new women’s clothing. Yes, soon you will be able to don a skirt as you mow down zombies, fulfilling that weird fantasy we all have.  Work continues on the new civilian zombie and so far it’s looking quite nice. I’m looking forward to getting some feedback from the fans about him.

Vehicles:

The base vehicle model will be finished this week and we have begun working on the various parts which players will need to find in order to repair and maintain a working vehicle.

Weapons:

We’re polishing up the AKS74U and the SVD of old, since we’re closing in on a centralized economy to regulate the number of them on the map.  The MP133 and Lever action are waiting on sounds. A new weapon you can expect in the not-to-distant future is a Steyr AUG. One of my favorites.”

Standup Notes for the week of 15 Sept 14

Art:

  • Prison uniform
  • Medical Scrubs
  • Female clothing
  • AKS74U and SVD polishing
  • Steyr AUG model
  • Civilian Airfield structures
  • Leather craft able items
  • Vehicle components

Design:

  • Bugfixing
  • Vehicle component & servicing design
  • Implementation of waterproof containers
  • Design on snares/traps
  • Implementation of drowning on player
  • Implementation of prototype wildlife trap

Animation:

  • Various reload animations polishing
  • Rifle aim walks in progress
  • MP133 reload animations
  • Zombie movement design & prototyping
  • Motion capture session
  • MP133 reload config

Programming:

  • Bugfixing
  • Server/Client crash triage
  • Door reimplementation & bugfixing
  • Game control redesign implementation
  • Remote player movement enhancements
  • Security triage
  • Security on player location updates
  • Zombie behavior & AI
  • Sound-over-network enhancements & optimization
  • Player respawn/connecting fixes

Status Report - Week of 08 Sept 14

Focus for the development team over the last week has primarily been on resolving server and client crashes discovered during internal testing of 0.49. Rather than address the crashes with a potential hotfix after the update (given the impact of the associated central hive reset and the steps taken to address the more prevalent duplication and abuse methods) the choice was made to unlock the update from our regularly scheduled maintenance window of Wednesday and rapidly iterate upon experimental. 
What does this mean for the average chernarusian survivor? We will be pushing rapid updates to experimental and iterating 0.49 until the build is in a state ready for stable branch. We believe this will only be a matter of a few days. When the build is ready for stable branch we will work with our game server partners to bring stable branch offline, and update steam.

Additionally, the programming and design teams have been working together to investigate and resolve several key cheating and bug abuse methods including but not limited to:

  • Server/Character force re-initialization
  • Rapid micro player location updates (slide/glide teleporting)

Community interest in exactly how the northern regions of Chernarus will be developed has been ongoing, and after discussion with Senchi our Lead World Designer we’ve put together a rough guide for the development of these regions.


As you can see looking at the map above, the environment team has a clear plan for developing the north and inland regions. When work on the northern corridor has completed the environment team will begin revitalizing existing legacy villages and towns throughout the map.  This means that once the villages and towns of the north listed in the above image are completed, the team will begin renovating the original Chernarus towns and villages to bring their look, feel, and layout more in tune with the reality of a post-apocalyptic world.


Lastly, this Friday will be the first of our now weekly dev streams on Twitch.tv. Head over to twitch.tv/dayz at 18:00 GMT +2 this Friday and members of the development team will be playing DayZ and answering questions from the chat. — Brian Hicks / Producer

Peter / Lead Designer

"This week there has been ongoing work on advanced weather impact, which is being expanded, partially rewritten and tweaked to provide better utilization and feeling. Also newly added mercury thermometer comes in hand if you are unsure about your body temperature. The prototype of the dynamic events system - the UH-60 gets company from the eastern camp, the well known Mi-8 helicopter. A few new items were added recently from the PAX showcase, such as the stun baton and balaclavas and they will be available for public in next experimental version. As well hunting will be expanded with the useful snare trap shortly.


We are currently focused on cleaning and redoing configurations for all doors as their handling was fundamentally changed in the game engine. Improvements which will be noticeable at first is the easier interaction with them - forget about nightmare which door to choose from action menu to open those you want to while you are standing near to more of them as now it takes into account what your cursor is aiming at and it’s not proximity based. The second welcomed change is related to the audio side - sounds of doors opening and closing are possible now and are already plugged in and you can really tell difference. (Although the variation in sound effects are not quite there yet)

More sounds will come later for example for locked doors because with recent door improvements we can finally start working on barricading. We have already done some design outline and analysis toward barricading mechanics -  to allow you to take existing structures and occupy them for your needs. First thing to come will be (un)locking the door’s lock with a lockpick which will be expanded with different padlocks and even combination ones. Later the wooden planks, nails and other material come to use in combination with tools which gain other purpose aside from melee only.

Keep your ears open while looting… see you in Chernarus folks!”

Chris / Lead Artist

Character Art

Since the last update, the biggest change with character art has come with the creation of a new base body type with is ~10% more slender than the previous. It is more fitting for somebody surviving in a harsh environment and will help reduce the number of clipping errors between clothing/player bodies. Because of this and recent changes to how characters are assembled and to their animations, we have been doing a lot of bug fixing. Unfortunately that means pausing the creation of new items by some of our artists to fix the worst of these issues immediately, however, we’re mostly past this and will begin again on some new clothing “sets”. Work on reshaping other items to reduce the severity of clipping will be ongoing.

Weapons (or the AKS-74-and-U)

Many of you were happy to learn about the AKS-74U and many asked me on twitter and on the DayZ forum which caliber it will be chambered for.  Surely, we would not add a 5.56mm AKS-74U, right? I mean, they never *really* made a direct AK100-series equivalent for the AKS-74U after all.

Well, you’ll be happy to learn we are, in parallel, working on art for 5.45x39mm ammo. In other news, The MP133s animations have been finished and are now pending sounds and the lever-action repeater is ready to deploy, following implementation by design. 

Vehicles

Friends, I am happy to report that we have officially begun working on the art for our first vehicle. Until this point, our working prototype has been an old vehicle from ArmA2 but now, we are working on a brand-new V3S with many of its components (i.e. wheels, doors, etc…) separated into different meshes to work in a similar manner as weapon attachments.”

Standup Notes for the week of 08 Sept 14

Art:

  • V3S Transport Truck
  • New civilian zombie
  • NEAF civilian hangar
  • New 55-gal drum
  • Derringer
  • AKS74U
  • 5.45mm ammo
  • Radio Cassette player
  • RGD2 smoke (white, black)
  • Waterproof packable bag
  • Waterproof backpack

Animation:

  • Bugfixing
  • Grenade, chemlight, flare related animations finished
  • Repeater reload animations done
  • Throwing animations in progress
  • MP133 reload animation in progress
  • Arming/Disarming animations polishing in progress

Design:

  • bugfixing
  • configs and scripts for new items
  • added mi8 for random spawning
  • advanced weather impact on player
  • reconfiguring doors and adding sfx
  • barricading mechanic outline
  • ​finalizing new controls

Programming:

  • Character and inventory items duplication fixing
  • Melee combat tweaking
  • Shotgun shooting over network fix
  • Door reimplementation (now in internal testing and bugfixing)
  • New gamecontrols
  • Forced reinitialized players
  • Desync issues
  • Better sound over network
  • Central economy (type related cleanup and respawn, dynamic tweaking)
  • New basic zombie behavior
  • ​Partial reworking of respawn / cleanup system according to required type-related implementation

Status Report - Week of 01 Sept 14

As work progressed on dialing in the remaining critical issues with 0.49 (eg: Body temperature variations, duplication bugs, etc) the programming team has continued iterating upon our centralized loot architecture, as well as the major tasks such as ongoing work on replacing the renderer, replacing existing door mechanics, and the entire list covered in the stand up notes below.

Lets take a quick look at the distribution of ammunition, and the top 10 items that currently (as of 0.48 / Stable Branch) spawn. Please keep in mind this is very, very rough data. As we iterate upon the system, we will introduce more granular control over the quantity of each type of item that spawns, and what location in the world they are allowed to spawn in.



Looking at the above image, you can see that the highest quantity of spawning items is easily canned food goods. As we push more on the survival mechanics, and the centralized loot control - we’ll see these item quantities begin to drop, and hopefully the amount of base survival items such as fishing hooks, rope, burlap sacks, and tools increase.



It is interesting to see the high quantity of ammunition such as 357 Magnum, and Shotgun so prevalent currently. We expect this data to shift greatly as we focus on supporting the -chance- for magazines to spawn with weapons. (Note: Chance, not all the time - but given the randomness of every weapon spawning across Chernarus, at least a few should have magazines and or clips)

In addition to this, the production, design, and environment teams have discussed the issue of player spawn locations - and the lack of traffic through the classic DayZ cities such as Chernogorsk, and Elektrozavodsk. The initial push to restrict player spawning in these regions was tied to the design of the Chernogorsk area, specifically the new tenement structures and the Balota airfield. As we move towards fully implementing centralized control over the economy this will become less of an issue. With this in mind, the Balota airfield as been redesigned and a new, further inland military base was created.
As 0.49 hits stable, players will begin to spawn all along the coast from Chernogorsk, to Novod. The reaction to this will be monitored, and the spawns will be adjusted accordingly.

Finally, as mentioned on twitter, the team has identified a bug with the game server that we’ve noticed being exploited on stable branch. This bug is related to character/server initialization, and is a top priority issue for us. - Brian Hicks / Producer



Chris / Lead Artist

Character Art

The firefighter helmet and SPOSN backpack are finished and are being tested currently in-game so they should be showing up  in experimental shortly.  We’ve begun working on the first new civilian zombie in quite some time and are looking into expanding the number of zombie heads for models so that they’re not quite so repetitive. We’re also working on some waterproof containers to keep player’s gear dry during the frequent rain experienced on Chernarus. Work has also begun on the craftable player gear and items related to that system.

Weapons

The Rossi R92 is finished being animated. We’re just waiting for sounds and then it’ll be good to go.  The animators also began work on the M133 earlier this week so it won’t be too far behind the repeater. Something a bit newer is an AKS74U which is a work in progress by one of our talented artists and I, in my spare time (of which I do not have much), have begun a labor of love – a Derringer pistol. I was also happy to hear that the cattle prod and stun baton are functioning. Finally players will have an alternative to using lethal weapons to temporarily incapacitate other players in unsafe situations, rather than simply kneecapping them.

Environment

Not a whole lot new here. We’re continuing work on the civilian airport structures to replace objects at the NEAF.  Mario, one of our senior artists began doing some planning for the long-abandoned prison complex which will be something worked on in between higher priority tasks and will take quite some time to finish.  We’ve also begun discussing ways to introduce some visual variability of the numerous small villages since they contain mainly the same, rather small, number of house models. “

Viktor / Lead Animator

"In the last couple of weeks we were busy with various bugfixes. Besides small gestures and bow related polishing we have fixed some major issues like players falling after drinking bottle, taking item in hand while handcuffed and other. One of new additions is the possibility to run up and down stairs. This was mainly a programmers task since it had to be changed in the engine.

After we added running while restrained we focused on crouch restrained player. Now there are two crouch restrained poses - one after someone forces you to restrain and one when you move. Yes that means we introduced restrained crouch walk, so you can take your captives with you anywhere now.

Another big area we started to improve by the end of august are zombies. First we are still in process of designing and preparing for the new advanced AI. We’ve discussed and designed the new zombie AI with programmers and designers but it will take some time until we see it in the game. Until then we have added a few small improvements. Now there are different zombie runs, walks, idles. That means if more zombies are chasing you, each will move different. We already have some more ideas that will significantly improve the experience.”


Standup Notes for the week of 01 Sept 14

          Art:

  • Firefighter Helmet
  • New civilian zombie
  • SPOSN Backpack
  • NEAF civilian hangar
  • New 55-gal drum
  • Derringer
  • AKS74U
  • AK101 retexture
  • M4 Drum Mag
  • Pack of cigarettes
  • Skate helmet
  • Bottle of voka
  • Dime bag
  • Range Finder
  • Leather wallet
  • Radio Cassette player
  • RGD2 smoke (white, black)
  • Waterproof packable bag
  • Waterproof backpack


    Animation:

  • Bugfixing
  • Grenade, chemlight, flare related animations
  • Zombie variation animations done
  • Bow animations polishings
  • Repeater reload animation in progress


    Design:
  • General Bugfixing
  • Script/Config work for additional weapon types
  • Vehicle classification prototyping
  • Vehicle component prototyping
  • Horticulture design/bug fixing


    Programming:

  • Sounds for melee weapons
  • Melee combat tweaking
  • Door reimplementation
  • New gamecontrols
  • Inventory bugfixes
  • Throwing items fixes     
  • Dead zombies disappearing fixes
  • Code cleaning and optimizations
  • Loot statistical data collecting
  • Graphical representation of statistical data
  • Type related loot cleanup

Status Report - Week of 25 August 14

image

Over the last week the team has been working on finishing the final tasks for 0.49. Included in this work was an extensive code merge from the team in Bratislava, focused on navigation mesh, animal AI, horticulture, and animation system changes. Due to this merge, we’ve decided to push the 0.49 update out by one week (to allow for a strong QA pass before the update)
0.49 represents a large amount of work that will not be immediately visible on the user side, but allows us to start tracking statistics on player data and item spawns, as well as the mentioned work on animal AI, horticulture, melee system redesigns, and the central loot economy.

Experimental branch will be updated this week as we look to expand testing on 0.49 before the stable branch update. Additionally, BattlEye will begin broadcasting a message every hour warning users of the upcoming stable hive reset that comes with the 0.49 update.
As 0.49 will bring persistent storage to all stable branch servers it is important that those who rent DayZ server instances make sure to check out the backup policies of their respective game server providers to ensure an easy recovery in the event of any unforseen issues with your instance.

Starting in September, several new initiatives to increase transparency and accessibility into the development process will be rolled out, including the dev team twitch stream schedule located on devhub.dayz.com. (twitch.tv/dayz)

Peter / Lead Designer

"As I mentioned last week, the initial implementation of horticulture is prepared but using placeholder assets and it will need some attention from the programming team. I personally feel this system can have a lasting change on how many people will approach Chernarus. Imagine being independent of inhabited places with your own grown crops, meat and clothing from hunted animals.

Expanding on that vision there was a lot of talk recently about craftable leather clothing across the dev team and it seems it will became large part of the fashion in DayZ. Possibilities will be broad from crafting plenty of unique items from different hides or to produce tanned leather for more generic looking clothes with optional dyeing them to different colors.

What recently got so much love and I’m very happy with the outcome of that effort is the melee system which was refactored from the base by our programmers. You will be pleased especially with cursor and swing hit detection which are so robust that there’s no way to miss your target unless you are too far away or have something with eyes. We will do our best to plug in the swing detection back as soon as possible so you can finally enjoy melee as it should be. We hope to have this included in the 0.49 update next week.

Also worth mentioning is the advanced weather impact on player character which is very close to be released and has made some great progress on utilizing possibilities of our environment.

So don’t forget to keep yourself warm and dry… see you in Chernarus folks!”

Mirek / Lead Gameplay Programmer

"Our core focus this week has been on server optimizations and improving melee combat hit detection. Both of these issues are currently in internal testing and if everything checks out, we will deploy it on experimental servers this week. We’re also continuing on our new doors system (interacting with doors in a way that makes sense, rather than proximity to the door) and new game controls, but it will take some time to complete both of these changes. I can safely say however that for example interaction with doors is definitely improved. It is now impossible to open doors from higher/lower floors, you now interact with doors by looking directly at them.             

A major update came in from the Bratislava team (thanks to Marek Zeman) for pathfinding, so a good amount of issues with zombies clipping through doors have been addressed.”

Chris / Lead Artist

"The Lists of Lists:

Last week, Peter and I met many times to discuss some long-term plans related to many aspects of the game and what art assets would be needed.

I’m getting pretty excited now since we’ve planned out concepts for new zombies, settled on DayZ 1.0’s weapon list (melee and firearms), created a preliminary list of assets needed as vehicle attachments and parts, and began to discuss with Chernarus legend, Ivan Buchta, how we might improve the visuals on the map.

We also had the pleasure of spending a couple of days at the studio’s office in Brno where we met with members of our team in Bratislava to solidify plans for craftable clothing and defined the set input resources, crafting object, and crafting outputs which the art team will be required to make.

As well, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Take on Mars project lead, Martin Melicharek, who gave me a tour of the Enforce engine’s graphics, particle FX, map tools, and art pipelines so that I can understand a bit better what to expect when we switch to the new renderer as well as give us the opportunity to request some improvements or additional features for Enfusion. Its pretty fantastic for this old-school ArmA modder to see.

Character Art

The MASKA-1Sch helmet, balaclava, and firefighter uniform are now done and have been passed to the design team for configing into the game. I would expect they will end up in experimental next week. Work continues on a firefighter helmet and a SPOSN Tortilla-inspired backpack to complete the Eastern-block SPECOPS uniform.  It looks great with the SMERSH vest/backpack combo.

Environment

Work continues on the new civilian airport hangar and building models and we have begun to plan out with our map designers, which other types of new buildings and objects we should make a priority.

Weapons

The Rossi R92 is being animated and should be out soon and I received word that the MP133 is also ready to be passed down the assembly line of anims, sounds, and cfg. I realize that the release of new guns is perceived to be quite slow but this is because we generally assign them lower priority compared to other, more important tasks being performed by the multi-disciplinary team required to finalize one.

We’ve also created a few more melee weapons as well as the first art assets related to non-lethal weaponry given to the designers to play with. ”

Standup notes for the week of 25 August 2014

Programming

Reintroduce network optimizations
New melee combat mechanics and fixes
Door reimplementation
New game controls
Central economy
64bit server optimizations
Navmesh update
Code cleaning and optimizations
New basic zombie behavior
Better sound over network

Design

Advanced weather impact on player character
Plugging in new implementation of melee system
Config and scripts for new items/gear
Config and scripts for new animals
Craftable clothing design
Central economy setup
General bug fix

Animation

Throwing animations
Zombie run variations
Player restrained animation extension
Zombie AI/combat/animation design
Digging animations

Art

Balaclava mask
MASKA Helmet
Firefighter Uniform
MP133
Rossi R92
Crafted Clothing art design proposals
Vehicle parts/attachments models
Non-lethal weapons
New Zombie concepts
Firefighter Helmet
SPOSN Backpack

Plan for release of 0.45 to Stable

Originally we planned to release the 0.45, currently on experimental branch, to stable today. However feedback from experimental identified a flaw in a newly designed system to handle player movement. This causes the server to, when faced with complex geometry, come up with a different acceptable pathing result than a client. When the server and client have differing states, the server “wins”. Therefore the place your client lets you go gets “reset” and you warp back to your position.

This is very frustrating as I am sure those testing on experimental will know. We know exactly the problem that causes this, it’s not a bug in a traditional sense but a problem with the approach we used. Currently that approach is being rewritten.

What we did do was merge in some changes to 0.44 that enhance security. There are some loopholes in the game that have not been utilizing our client-server architecture and we will continue to work on these to reduce the impact of hacking and exploiting in the game.

Please report any issues with the game to our feedback tracker.

The challenge and saga of Zombie Pathfinding

This devblog will be focused on describing the progress with one of our biggest issues: Zombie Pathfinding.

Development Priorities and Pace

Our major focus has been on establishing the architecture, both in the team and in the game, in order to deliver best in the future. This involved us drastically increasing the size of the team working on the game. This had a severe short-term impact on our progress as our existing team had to devote time and resources to training and planning. The new zombie pathfinding is a good example of this approach beginning to produce results.

Some examples of future major changes coming as a result of this new focus:

  • Entirely new rendering system (allowing potential upgrades to DX10 or DX11, ports as well).
  • True multithreading / multicore for servers and possibly clients.
  • Completely new animal AI that mirrors an actual animals behaviors.
  • Redeveloped “action” system, replacing the mouse-wheel scroll action system.
  • Complete refactoring of the inventory system. While not a big change for users, possibly allows some more advanced systems to be implemented and better performance and less bugs.

Background

Zombies have proven to be one of the most difficult to develop components of the game. When we were developing the game we realized that in the time we had, we would need to work within the parameters of the AI already in the engine. In the engine, AI is calculated on a “per agent” basis, with some caching for things like targets (shared target info, etc…). In the mod, this was dropped in favor of calculating visibility and target info on a “per player” approach. This meant that zombies in the mod were simply pawns, activated by players moving around.

In addition to behavior problems we also experienced problems with pathfinding and collision for the AI. We were getting the engine to do things that it was never designed to do, especially regarding interiors of buildings. We attempted to refactor these solutions to accommodate our changes but, as can be seen by playing the current build, they fell short of our expectations. In the end we decided it would be easier to develop a new approach from scratch.

The Challenge

There are many exciting solutions available for pathfinding, it’s fairly standard fare in the video gaming industry. Our problem was not unique, but our situation was: our world is very big yet it requires the same precision as a small one.

The team devoted to solving this decided to use navigation meshes. The serious problem it presented, though, was how to generate these meshes, with nearly 2 million objects on the map doing it by hand would not be an option. So a method was devised to split the world up into grids, and then raycast at a precise interval and generate chunks of navmesh. This is all done during the packing process and “baked” out into data that can be read by the server and client. This uses the wonderful approaches outlined in the open source navmesh project Recast and Detour.

The Results

I spoke to Martin Slavkov, programmer behind the solution, to help me outline the result with some screenshots.

Generating the Navmesh (view Imgur Gallery of generation)

image

A small program was developed to read through the world, load all the objects, and then work its way through tracing billions of lines to calculate the ability to move. This then works out not only where outside you can walk, but inside as well. It gives great precision while still working for a very large scale world both indoor and outdoor. Having a unified solution for pathfinding makes implementation much easier.

Use in-game (view Imgur Gallery of navmesh in action)

The engine is then able to load the chunks in as it needs. It does use some memory (around 600mb extra, maximum), but it only loads the chunks it needs. However as we are moving to 64-bit on the server side, this reduces any potential issues with memory.

image

Performance optimizations can be very significant. Currently the team are working on parallelizing the AI pathfinding function so it can operate on a separate core. With all new functionality we are developing in this way, unfortunately that means that it can take longer for us to develop but the results for performance can be massive.

Previously two different systems were used for navigating AI. The exterior one handled navigation around static and dynamic objects, and an internal “path” system was used for building interiors. This involved artists defining paths that AI could follow. We had to drop this interior method because of the massive performance issues with large numbers of agents.

image

In the screenshot above, you can see a path between two red points. Because the system is now unified it means that more efficient (and more natural) pathfinding solutions are available to the AI, at a fraction of the performance cost as before.

Report from the Lead Artist, Chris Torchia (View Imgur Gallery of new art)

I’m happy to report on the loads of content which will soon hit experimental servers. Recently the Prague and Bratislava studios had our first meet and greet so I was able to get a first hand look at all of the ongoing work by the artists and animators on our new animals. We have a basic implementation of prototype animals that will be swapped out by our Bratislava artist’s work which is looking incredible!

Improvised fishing tackle and a carp were created, which players will be able to catch in ponds. We have also created some filet models which you will eventually be able to cook. This will all add up to be a literal game-changer. Speaking of animals - we also met Big - the office pet tortoise in Bratislava. Hm, that gives me an idea…

Our character artist is further expanding with the addition of a new large-capacity police vest to go along with our ОMON-inspired Орёл uniform. We have also started working on EMT, Firefighter, and finalizing the Gorka uniforms.

Fireplaces, Hunting, And being a lumberjack!

We pulled fireplaces and hunting from the previous update in their state at the time, we felt they would hinder gameplay not enhance it. The extra time has been spent improving gameplay aspects and also identifying how we can better support it.

The build to experimental will show the basic structure of how this will work. Chopping wood from trees now gives logs, and after a certain time, the trees will be “expended” and fall over. Tree cutting is done by holding an axe in your hands, and using the mouse-wheel action menu. This is a prime example of why we want to remove the mouse-wheel action system. Instead of this, we envision you simply hitting the tree with the axe and being rewarded with wood - but that is for the future.

Fireplaces can be upgraded with stones, which are recovered from the ground around rocky areas or by hitting rocks with a pick-axe. Fireplaces can be crafted by making a “fireplace kit” out of items such as rags and kindling. Kindling is recovered by searching the forest floor for sticks. All these scavenging aspects need more refinement as part of a new action system, but they’re exciting changes that will pave the way for more complex systems such as horticulture.

Bratislava Team Visit (view Imgur Gallery of the visit)

We visited our team in Bratislava -  they have a TURTLE!

The next update

Our current targets have us putting out builds to stable once a month, a huge inspiration for approach we aspire to is Prison Architect who do this very well. We have no set timeframe for experimental releases, these are done to assist us with preparing for stable releases.

Above all else, it’s vital that people appreciate several things:

  • Different tasks take different amounts of time
  • Priorities for tasks are built around what is needed based on dependencies, not what is most needed to satisfy the game design
  • Scheduled builds are targets, not absolutes. We will delay and postpone builds where we are not confident in their status.
  • Devblogs are no longer scheduled weekly, and are done as often as we can to provide background for our progress.

The Final Word

This is an extremely exciting time for us all as we come out of two months of very aggressive growth. We’ve expanded the team a great deal, taking a huge risk in doing so. That risk is paying off, and we’re excited to see the massive impact that the pathfinding and collision changes will have on the DayZ experience.

Experimental Branch saw many changes in 0.44, which have been released on stable. Two very important changes were improvements to multiplayer netcode and an entirely new mouse control system that removed the previous one based on mouse acceleration.

We’re now continuing our work optimizing and bug fixing, while others in the studio work towards new functionality for hunting and survival.

Respawning Loot Experiments

We have been gathering a huge amount of metrics around loot spawn and distribution from the experimental servers, culminating in a test of an engine based loot respawn system last night on experimental. Out of this we identified some very significant optimizations we can make to how loot is managed, and also identified how we can make loot respawn.

These changes will flow in over time as we are planning to do this in iterations. Most important for us is to allow loot to respawn, even just at a basic level. Once this is done we will focus on persistent items (backpacks, tents, potentially even all or most items). Finally we will focus on globally managed loot.

Graphics Optimization and the Renderer

Work has commenced on disconnecting the renderer directly from the simulation. This would then free us to change (or even replace) the renderer much easier, allowing greater optimization and new functionality such as better particle effects. We have no timeframe for this completion no any specific goals beyond preparing it for future goals, but it’s exciting for us to start this work.

This work will offer us the potential for future very significant client FPS optimizations, such as better scene management, to solve issues people experience such as low FPS in cities.

Network out-of-sync problems

We are also looking at various out-of-sync bugs and other issues posted in the dev tracker. A great deal of progress was made on some issues with the 0.44 patch, so we encourage those having serious network problems to try out the game now with the new update. Many of the remaining issues (such as rubberbanding) are related to low server FPS that will be fixed with performance optimizations.

64-bit Server

This is now fully compiling and ready for test deployment. We are currently scheduled to test this deployment on experimental next week. While it is unlikely to improve performance of the server, it will remove memory limit problems we previously experienced (particularly with the growth of ragdoll and physics in general on the server). It’s also a huge milestone for us in other areas of work focused on making the dedicated server environment much more robust.

From the Lead Artist, Chris Torchia

I’m really happy with the direction of the artwork in DayZ and have to point to my great team of artists who make it happen. Its been another busy week for us and I can’t wait for you guys to see all the new content on the way.

Character Art

We just finished a basic police uniform inspired by some combination of Russian DPS and our local Mestská policie (affectionately known as the Hicks Unit for their enthusiasm with issuing tickets to our own Brian Hicks). We’re starting to play with OMON-inspired riot police uniforms but its a bit too early to show anything. We’re also working on a GORKA-E uniform in multiple patterns and we’re hoping to pick up the pace in this department as we welcome a new full-time character artist to the team. 

Environment

The team would like to focus now on some signature objects to spice up the vast environment and make the new explorable areas more unique.  We’ve just finished a new office building and will start an ornate municipal building which will serve as a land mark in a new large city being constructed by the map design team.  This city, called Novodmitrovsk, will have an industrial zone and is very close in size to Cherno or Electro but located in the north of our terrain.  We’ve also created a ‘graveyard set’ of various objects so the map designers can enhance the gloomy atmosphere.

Animals

Our Bratislava studio is wrapping up the first batch of animals requested by the game designers. The studio’s own animators and programmers will soon begin work on animal AI and animations to deliver an authentic experience for our players. We’re also working on a prototype fish model and an improvised fishing pole as requested by the designers. As an ourdoorsman myself, I’m really looking forward to seeing these survival features develop. 

Weapons

The venerable AKM is nearing completion I don’t want to be held to a specific date for when it will be released to experimental but it won’t be long.  I just tested out the PSO1 scope with a 75 round mag dump.  What have I done? I’ve created a monster! Also, we’ve completed a pistol that I think will give players some new gameplay options. It fires a .30 cal rifle cartridge and comes with a long eye relief scope. We’ve simply taking to calling it the Longhorn.

Animations

Viktor, our animation lead reports that his team was focused mainly on bug fixing in the past week. Many new hand poses were added for items so the player is holding them properly. They’ve also been working on reload animations for the P1 and Longhorn pistols, and AKM. At the same time, the programmers did a great job for allowing synchronization of animations between the bowstring and character hand.  It will also sync across the network since we feel its important for other players to know when the bow is drawn and when its at rest. It’s been a pleasure to see this develop over time and its only going to get better.

A very busy couple of weeks for the whole team has just ended. Everyone has been preparing for our next big update, scheduled for sometime this month. Some highlights outlined in this post.

Guaranteed Updates

As previously mentioned we want to move from the current situation where the client and server “spam” messages at each other, hoping that some of the messages get through. Because they can’t be sure, the updates have to be sent again and again. This is believed to be the major restriction from breaking the 100 player limit. We anticipate this will be appearing on experimental servers next week, and then onward into the update for this month.

Fireplaces

We’re ready now for our final implementation next week of fireplaces and the ability to light flammable objects on fire. Many visual updates and changes to the engine have occurred as part of this and we’re now making the mechanisms for players to decide where and how to make fires and how to light items on fire.

Physics and Throwing

We will be deploying this to experimental next week to gain some more feedback on its implementation. Progress on ragdoll has been steady although this is unlikely to be in experimental next week and will be ongoing for some time. A new animation system and animations have been made that allow you to “power” up your throw, the same system is used to allow you to draw your arrow when firing from the bow.

Player Mouse Control

Many players have outlined how much the mouse acceleration/controls need to be modified. Players head (view) will move instantly with raw 1:1 mouse feedback. Weapons may “lag behind” depending on how heavy and cumbersome the weapon is. For example, players with a pistol will be able to turn around and fire much faster than a player with a M4, or a chainsaw.

This represented a great deal of work and the complete replacement of the old system, therefore some bugs and plenty of tweaking are expected.

These will be deployed to experimental next week for more player feedback.

From the Art Team: Chris Torchia, Lead Artist

We’ve got our team working in so many different areas its hard to write a small summary of all the work.  

We’re wrapping up our part with archery and have a nice looking improvised bow and crossbow to release soon. Our animators have been spending time in the mocap studio to get accurate drawing, firing, and reloading animations for them and its looking great.  

Our new studio in Bratislava has been hard at work making some of the new food items which were shown by Dean at Rezzed as well as create all new wildlife models and we’re hoping the combination of archery, wildlife, and campfires will create a unique survival hunting experience for our players.

As for firearms, the P1 pistol is complete and configured in game. The same is true for the AKM but we need to spend some time polishing some of the rough edges before adding them to the loot tables and pushing to public. We’re finally going to implement stripper clips with the mosin and sweep through and tweek some of the firearm cfg values. As well, a little project I’ve kept under wraps is nearing completion. The first SMG in DayZ game will soon be ready and I hope you all will like it.

For character art our talented artists have created a couple new player heads for more unique looking characters which we’ll add in soon.  As well, we’ve made a Soviet-style officer hat and the tracksuit!  Next up, we’ll look at police, EMT, and firefighters.

Lastly, our environment art and map teams have continued to create new, interesting buildings and objects, as well as expanding the number of explorable towns, with the addition of Karmanovka – a town containing over 3000 objects!