Dean “Rocket” Hall during his Puja ceremony today, proceeded by a local lama. Flour is spread on each others faces, hopefully signifying the individual reaches old age. Rocket is completing this devblog from Everest Base Camp during his attempt on the summit of Mt Everest.
Devblog from Everest base camp!
I’ll start with a huge thank you to the DayZ development team who have continued development at a breakneck pace despite me being off living a lifelong dream to climb Mt Everest. Although the timing is poor for my sabatical, it is not something planned on a whim and involves non-refundable costs of up to $100k.
So here I am, at Everest Base Camp, 5400 meters, writing what I am sure is the highest ever devblog from the ground! This is largely able to occur because of Matt Lightfoot, the youngish looking chap who is our tireless Production Assistant. Both him and others have continued to send me progress updates and approvals, which I am accessing via a satellite connection.
Anyway, the important bit is the game. Ivan is now working a great deal directly on the project, and has been picking up the slack for some of the areas I needed to address which has been a huge help. Those from the community who wanted to get involved in writing are keen to get started, but the response is so massive that we are looking to put a structure in place to ensure community written books pass through some kind of editorial process. This community content, together with copyright expired books, will form the basis of hundreds or thousands of books that can be found and read in the world. There are no set timeframes for this, so please be patient.
Ondrej, our lead programmer, continues his work on moving DayZ into a server-client architecture, turing the entire architecture of DayZ into an MMO. Jirka is working on updating some of our steamworks integration, and fixing bugs associated with the massive inventory changes we implemented over the past month.
Bebul is working on our Radio implementation, allowing players to communicate using a basic radio, similar (but more simple) to the popular ACARS radio mod for ArmA2. Players pick up radios, and they can set a frequency and talk/receive text/voice from other players. The microphone or speaker can be turned on or off to allow players to use radios as a listening device. If the player has not crafted a headset onto the radio, then the output is public (either voice or text). The results are fantastic, and Bebul is now ensuring this all works properly in the all special cases during Multiplayer play.
Our team is working their way through the animation backlog, involving new zombie animations for the new skeleton, test melee moves for our new melee system, new animations for the new animals (such as the deer), and then onto player animations for the new skeleton, custom designed to feel more like a civilian rather than the trained soldier of ArmA2.
Mostly they are working on creating the interior data required for the AI zombies to pathfind correctly inside buildings. New road decals have been created by Mario for the roads so it looks like they have a damaged look to them, to give the world more of a feel like “the Road”. One of our big special new buildings is in game, and we will surprise you with some new screenshots of this in the next devblog!
Our team of artists recruited from the community have been hard at work. The new male character mesh is being prepared, in line with the new skeleton, as well as a new template for clothing skinning. The new M4A1 has been committed with proxies that allow our new attachment system to be utilized along with the crafting system. Also being worked on are a Gas Mask, Pilot Helmet, Mauser Rifle, pen/paper, mess tin, can opener - a huge amount of items are being developed while we wait for the programming tasks to be completed heading towards our first public release.
The excitement from the team is tremendous with all these fantastic new items, allowing huge crafting possibilities.
Seven towns have been remade by SenChi, overseen by Ivan, to alter the look and feel better. Bugs are continually being fixed and we have purchased new satellite data to improve the detail of the base map (looks much better in the distance with this new data).
I realize some people are upset at my departure from the project for two months to climb Mt Everest, but hopefully from this you can see the large team Bohemia have assembled behind the development that are continuing to innovate and develop DayZ Standalone in the direction of the game we all want. This is going to take as long as it needs to, we want to release our initial alpha under the architecture it needs to avoid hacking and security issues - this is the only remaining task stopping us from releasing the alpha. But while this task is being completed, we can continue with other activities.
The next devblog will feature some screenshots to demonstrate the progress, captured by Matt, but my satellite connection and tiny laptop cant cope with downloading the current build.
So, this is the devblog I write from Everest Base Camp, at 5400 meters! Tomorrow I am off to the Khumbu Icefall for training in fixed lines and ladders, big thanks to the community for their continued patience, and everyone at Bohemia who is pushing hard towards our DayZ standalone initial release!
Our development focus is 100% on core technology, the key architecture, and not on features (yet). A major stream developing assets also runs in parallel to the core development team.
Due to the success of the development so far, and the interest in the project in general - we decided we want to do things properly. This means we have been very bold with our architectural changes. We are moving to the server-client MMO architecture model. We are making weapons and items ‘entities”, meaning we can support customization and variables assigned against items. As discussed previously, this is a massive departure from the previous engine. In many ways, once this phase is completed - one could effectively say that DayZ is running on a new version of the engine. While the graphics may look the same (for now), under the hood so much is being completely rewritten.
Let me make this very clear, our foundation release (targeted for this year), is simply the beginning. We are committed to a period of development of at least 12 months beyond that. Our aim is to make this foundation strong, and use that time to improve the mechanics not through hacks, but through sound and quality development. Our initial build will test that this base architecture works.
I want to confirm the following:
Most settings will be forced server-side, such as gameplay and graphical settings (view distance, shadow distance, etc…). The exact nature of this and specific settings is very much subject to change, but this will be a significant departure from how it is currently with the mod.
Release will be on steam, using many of steams key features such as delta patching, VAC, server browsing technology. Patches to steam can be deployed by the click of a button in our build pipeline thanks to new technology developed by Steam, that is making our process extremely easy and exciting. We are very pleased that Steam is working with us so actively to make DayZ a great game and supporting us with quality features. I met many at the team at Valve at PAX, and really want to get them playing the game and getting their feedback to help in development. I’m incredibly thankful to people like Chet Faliszek (creator of L4D) who has been very supportive and helpful to me.
In using Steam for authentication, distribution, server browsing, etc… we are able to tap into their awesome resources in terms of scalability. The only hardware we then need to manage is the central database, which we already have some experience managing thanks to the DayZ mod. This means we can work towards avoiding the usual launch problems, by relying on the experience of Steam.
The controls have been completely rethought, using inspiration and design lessons from games such as Minecraft to make the player more engaged with their environment
Animations are being cleaned up to feel more responsive. This means trimming some transitions, so that you get quicker feedback from pressing the key to action (removing he “clunkiness” or “sluggishness”)
Player clothing is being implemented including: headwear, jackets, trousers, footwear, etc..
Weapons and items are now “entities”. This means they are more object oriented in structure, allowing weapon customization, degradation - the possibilities become endless. This is a major, huge, shift in engine architecture.
The Server controls character actions, a player’s client sends its requests and the server decides if this is possible. Our lead programmer in the company, Ondrej Spanel, is working on this currently. I believe this is one of the most radical changes ever implemented in the engine since Operation Flashpoint was released, and turns DayZ from an FPS into a true MMO.
A full-time map designer has also started work on ChernarusPlus now, redeveloping the world, placing new assets and buildings, fixing bugs, and creating new areas. This is in addition to the work done by Ivan and Maxell and will continue for the remainder of DayZ development.
The UI has been completely reworked, focusing on simplicity. We have studied games that we believe are leaders in this area, such as Minecraft, and are focusing on providing functionality without fancy complexity in this regard.
We have some outstanding former community members working on the project as paid members of the team. I hope to showcase their work and interview them on here for you, in the coming weeks and months. We are actively searching for more to bring them onto the team.
We are still working towards a target for an initial foundation before the end of the year. But we will slip this date if needed, we will not compromise the project for the short-term gain of meeting this date. The reasons for any slippage would be publicly discussed, and would most likely represent a failure personally on my part to plan correctly. We will be assessing the results of our major architectural changes at the end of next week, and reporting the results to everyone when we have assessed that.
Screenshots, videos, etc… will unfortunately have to wait. As they say, loose lips sink ships.
DayZ standalone will be based on a client-server architecture (more like an MMO), not the current ArmA2 architecture.
This blog post doesn’t contain any pictures, or videos, but I think it provides far more to be excited about. When I read many comments regarding the choice of engine, it can be very frustrating. Up there with the endless debates of what is or is not alpha, is the maddeningly uninformed arguments about what does or does not constitute a “new engine”. I see people say that DayZ is based on the ArmA2 engine, or Take on Engine, or even the ArmA3 engine. I have been joking with team members on the project, that if we were to focus on making shader updates and not change anything else, everyone would be proclaiming that it was a “new engine”.
This week saw our lead programmer outline a dramatic plan to change the face of DayZ and how it will hit the world at the end of this year. Simply put, the application will move into a traditional client-server relationship which the server makes most of the decisions. This is the common architecture behind virtually every MMO currently out there, and it will be DayZ’s architecture when it releases. How is this possible? Well, thanks to an extremely fortunate set of occurrences much thinking and some development had already occurred; the crack team of programmers behind Operation Flashpoint have been thinking about these things for many years. Combined, again, with the unique string of events putting me in the position to have the idea for DayZ, and everything to come together… one could be forgiven for thinking it sounds like fate!
Currently ArmA is running simulation calculations on all clients and on the server as well. Clients have the power to make changes to their world. When the world is as complex and changing as that which DayZ creates, it has created an environment where hacking and performance issues abound. This is not an issue with ArmA, this is an issue of the designer (me) making a design that far outreaches it’s foundations. It is a testament to the Real Virtuality engine that this is even possible. So, what we are doing right now is removing these operations completely from the clients and ensuring the server runs the world. DayZ does not require the complex array of player and AI interactions that ArmA does, so these are all gone. What we are left with is a very heavily optimized solution where the server “call’s the shots" so to speak.
For those with some understanding of such endeavours the significance of these changes will already be readily apparent. For those who do not, it is simple. we’re not just locking the application and data down any more, but we’re making the server the umpire. We’re ripping out everything not required and replacing it with an optimized solution that has players (the survivors) and AI (the zombies). Our zombies don’t need to conduct flanking maneuvers, they don’t need to reload their magazines. They are simple, and our architecture reflects that. Achieving this will be tough, as we are already crunching very hard. If this heavy optimization is as successful as it would rationally seem to be on paper, then we will be limited on player numbers not by performance, but map design. To ensure we are right, we will be running an architecture test at some point, soon.
(the title for this post is a quotation attributed to Alfred Korzybski, philosopher and scientist, and for those not able to understand the subtext - it is a light jab at those professing to know much about engines, and alpha’s, what exactly they all mean)
It has been a long time since we announced the standalone project, and much has happened. In many ways, DayZ is an “accidental project”, which brings about great opportunities for it but also with some real challenges. Most of the planning has to be done as it goes, with much of the project simply reacting to things that have happened. This is not a good way to start a development project.
Much of the effort has been spent establishing the project, getting the right people setup, a new build process, art pipeline working, contracts and agreements made, legal stuff sorted - all the stuff that is necessary to enable the project to work. During this time I completed a very heavy and protracted public relations tour - I could almost make a fulltime job simply out of doing interviews.
Now for a SCRUM style update:
What has happened
We have setup all the required pipelines to best push the project forward. The standalone engine we are using is a branch of Take on Helicopters, which itself is a branch of ArmA 2 Operation Arrowhead. We chose this because of its stability, ease of development, very achievable optimization, and the fact that our programmers are the architects of the engine - the very people who built it from the ground up over ten years.
Art has been very, very busy. Chernarus has been revamped, with bug-fixing and a great deal more buildings have been made enter-able with a very high standard of work involved.
For design I have spent much time listening, reading through the posts on the forums and the suggestion thread on Reddit. Some outstanding ideas have been gleamed from there.
What is happening now
Now the fun stuff begins, all the data from Bohemia projects is up for grabs - so I am going through and collecting the best assets from the projects and mashing the data together to get it loading into DayZ standalone. With this complete, the mod itself will be ported over and integrated. This then gives us a very solid basis for further development.
Our programmers have been reviewing the way forward on the critical issues, such as bugfixing, hacking, and security. These areas are proving straightforward areas for significant development as a standalone, and as a basis in the next few weeks we will have DayZ fully integrated, with all its required data, secured, and packaged. From here we can then test and begin the more exiting things.
Art is continuing with reviewing all the buildings, making them enter-able, and tidying up the interiors to make them look nicer. Once we have this done, they will look at making the environment much more authentic to the scenario (but first we aim for the functionality!). We are now commencing work on the redevelopment of the infected people (zombie) models themselves. This will be an exciting area of work for our artist who is dedicated to this task. Initially we will be producing male and female, I would like to look at the possibility of children infected - but there are technical (required new skeleton and baked animations), possible legal (rating issues), and even moral (shooting children) issues that need to be faced.
What is blocking us
Probably the biggest stumbling block, is me (rocket). I need to stop doing interviews and focus on making the game. Really, there is very little left to say - now it is up to me and the team to deliver this. Really, in many ways, this is our project to lose. We have great support from the community, developers, and the industry as a whole - it is up to us to deliver for that promise. I think we will, but the next month is going to be really telling for our project.
Beyond that, I simply need to push forward with the integration. Once that is done, I will post some content through on the tumblr so that people can see how the development is progressing.
That’s right, this is actually happening - DayZ will be developed as a standalone game, with me as project lead, by Bohemia Interactive. This is the fairy-tale outcome for a mod that many would have said impossible four months ago.
Development and updates of the mod will continue in parallel with the development of the game, so anyone who is playing the mod now will be able to continue to do so. The project will follow the Minecraft development model; fast iterations with the community alpha available for a heavily discounted price.
I realize people will have many, many questions - but we wanted to let everyone know the announcement now. Over the coming weeks, these questions will be answered. The game will have it’s own site, www.dayzgame.com and the mod will continue at it’s present link.
"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” - Winston Churchill