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Weekly Report: A step into survival

Another week for the team pushing towards a stable release. We considered releasing a version to stable branch mid week during maintenance, however there were still two serious issues to fix. The first was related to the testing architecture not being suitable for the large number of servers we were supporting on experimental, and the second related to the invisible zombies and players.

Invisible players and zombies

Fixing the invisible players and zombies was a product of moving to the client/server architecture but retaining some legacy aspects of the architecture. To solve this we have been hard at work continuing to revise the way the game works. A workaround we have implemented is that when desynchronization occurs between client and server, now the server will enforce the players new location by ignoring the clients reported position and teleporting the player to it’s position.

What occurred was that sometimes the straight path to a location was blocked due to desync on the server, i.e. the path on the server was different from the path on the client. This could result in players getting stuck in walls on the client (or server) and issues occurring.

Fireplaces and Emissive Improvements

One key area for our survival focus has been cooking and the ability to make fireplaces. In order to do this we have created a new system for dealing with “emissive” textures that allows us to implement a mask for emissive, as seen in the picture above the result can be very stunning. This has been combined with heat haze to produce some excellent results. Players will be able to make normal fireplaces, as well as upgrade them to makeshift ovens such as below:

Our designers are now working with our art team to implement all these changes so that players are going to be able to hunt and cook in order to survive in the DayZ landscape.

New towns in Chernarus

Our map team has been very busy, here are some sneak previews of some new areas that are coming in the next update:

New Weapon Content

Our art team have been extremely busy while we work on fixing the bugs associated with our current build. Focus is currently on supporting the designers with their survival features, such as the craftable PVC bow, fireplaces, and cooking. However we have also continued the excellent work done with weapons models, here are a selection of pictures below showing progress.

We’re nearing completion of the AKM and the model was a true labor of love by @artguyharry.  We’re working on staging the model now so its compatible with the attachment system and we really hope to bring variety to the possible configurations. By default the AKM will have wood furniture but we also noticed a great deal of customization in the AK civilian market and wanted to bring some of that more modern flare as well. A side-mounted PSO scope is being developed in tandem which players will be able to mount AK-pattern weapons.

Mouse acceleration and player control

We have been changing the way the player controls their character to improve playability. There was an issue with mouse control that affected many users of high DPI mice which we have now fixed. Changes to character turning should now also be consistent with how freelook works, which was taken from ArmA3. So we hope that this will improve the situation for players although we have more work planned on this.

Physics and Arrows

Continued work on our physics engine means that not only is throwing now nearly complete (it is now functional at a basic level), but it also means that ragdoll is very close to being a reality in experimental branch. This will open up many areas of development.

Work with the bow and arrow has come along very well. Bolts and arrows can now stick into their target, whether player or the ground, or an object. Additionally, animation changes means that we can now make the drawing and firing of a bow look better than ever before improving the versatility of our “gestures” based animation system.

Animals, collisions and zombie pathfinding

We now have an entire team, based in Bratislava, that are working on animals, collisions, and zombie pathfinding. This is a longer term task as it will require new thinking and new ways to fix the problem. We’re excited to see what the team can bring in the coming months.

Persistent Loot and objects

This was close to being implemented fully when we discovered some issues with the central server architecture that would becoming more serious for performance if we went live with it. These are being solved now and we expect to be trying some of those performance optimizations on the central server this Wednesday.

Where is the new build?

We are committed to not releasing builds onto stable to introduce new game breaking bugs. Now that we’ve fixed those bugs, we’re internally verifying and fixing any new bugs that have been introduced. We will do an unscheduled update the moment we are confident we have a suitable build to release

What is next for the future?

Once the current build is stabilized we want to finish up on our “survival” push for the month. This means hunting and cooking finished and process on our “survival combat” which involves the bow and arrow, crossbow, improvised weapons, and thrown items. In the more distant future we’re already planning for vehicles and barricading systems.

We look forward to finishing our work on the current build and having it out on stable!

Here is our latest Dev blog created on the 24th February 2014.

So what’s in the Dev Blog?

Lighting improvements;

We are working on improving in-game lighting, not just from a visual perspective but also from a game play perspective, to improve playing at night.

We have enabled light sources such as flashlights and pistol torches, to emit light during the day as they previously haven’t done. However we still have to do some HDR tweaks

Physics;

This is an area we have wanted to put in for a while. We have added physics middle-ware, which allows us to add throwing items to the game but it also enables us to look at ragdoll and how the characters move within the world.

This is still fairly early days with physics, but we are getting much closer to having something that we can implement into the experimental branch with stability.

Containers;

We want to add world items that are lootable such as refrigerators that can store items, so they can be looted and the items within them can be interacted with.

Bow and arrows;

One of our programmers has been working on bow and arrows, in the video we show a very early work in progress clip of it. So far progress has been fairly quick with good results, so we are looking forward to seeing how this progresses further.

Animations;

Animations team has been working hard on getting new transitions and new methods of wielding melee weapons. This is still a work in progress.

We have moved away from our old way of how the animations were working which caused left handed swings. This restricts how the melee attacks are performed. As the hit detection is done from the item position this allows player to be able to easier work out where they are going to hit. This is still very much a work in progress but we hopeful and we look forward to your feedback.

New map updates;

Our map team has been working with artists to add new buildings into game and fixing collision issues with buildings. We have added police stations and new health center buildings across the map as well as improving preexisting towns. 

We are currently working on ensuring that all buildings spawn loot as this is a big issue at the moment.

Weather;

We want it to be almost like an antagonist, we now have rain and weather is properly synced across all clients so all players experience the same weather conditions. Rain will also currently make your clothes damp and then wet, but at the moment this doesn’t really have much effect but in the long term but we definitely want to expand upon that.

Hunting and cooking;

We have dedicated a whole group of artists programmers and designers with experience with hunting games, that are dedicated to working on animals, their behavior and hunting. To maximise the element of survival, our current sprint is focused on cooking and campfires.

DeSync;

One of the big areas people have been reporting is DeSync, we have been working on this directly this is due to the amount of bandwidth DayZ is using because a lot of the messages to do with the inventory are sent via non-guaranteed messages. So if you or someone nearby you has a large amount inventory items, all these messages will be spammed as the server can’t guarantee the client has received them. We have a couple of hot fixes in place but our long term goal for this is to have a guaranteed message system. So the messages are only sent once and not constantly. This will be an ongoing effort.

Zombies;

Zombies are an area of active development, we want to increase the amount of zombies. Tied with this we also want to improve their collision detection indoors. This will be one of the task of the new team will be the hit detection of zombies. We are also actively working on the zombie respawn mechanics, using some of the optimisations that we used with player respawns. 

We want zombies to be a good experience so they don’t spawn directly in front of players, this is what is taking the time, as we want to do it properly.

Persistent objects;

We want to have some objects have persistency throughout server respawns, such as backpacks, paper with written notes one and eventually when we bring barricading in, wood and wooden barricades and keeping it’s exact location in so far.

Vehicles;

Once we have achieved these objectives we can then look at vehicles as implementing vehicles too early could very easily upset the balance and impact other game play areas. When we do implement vehicles we are likely to start with slower vehicles such as  bicycles. Then we will look at more complex vehicles, where we can have many more degradable parts such as batteries or spark plugs.

Highest Devblog update in the world

image

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.

Programmer Roundup

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.

Radio Implementation

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.

Animators

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.

Internal Artists

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!

External Artists

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.

Map Design

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).

Conclusion

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!

Anyone who wants to follow my Everest exploits can do so either through my Tumblr (Rocketkiwi), Twitter (rocket2guns) or via the Adventure Consultants Dispatches.

We’ve gone for a reasonably quick and dirty video blog this week, mainly because things have been very busy for us.

Inventory System

One of the biggest improvement areas has been the inventory system, now almost ready for a public display. This new inventory system supports crafting, interchangeable clothing, degradation, tracking, weapon customization, and much more. It’s really a revolutionary system for us and we’re extremely proud of the results that Jirka (our programmer assigned to this) has achieved.

Crafting

Not touched on in the video, but what we will be showing soon is the basics of how users can interact with items in the world - this is the next step in development of our inventory system beyond where it is now. This is not a traditional crafting system, but one that encourages  layers to explore the ways in which items can be crafted.

Zombie pathfinding

In the video, towards the end, some before and after footage of work on the zombie AI pathfinding. Not only has this changed the role, threat, and speed of the zombies - but it has also yielded performance improvements. The increased accuracy of the zombies movement allows their movement to be slowed down to more sensible values, in line with those of the players themselves. We still have some other avenues to explore in this regard, but we’re very pleased with the results so far.

Mass zombie spawning server side

Now all zombies are spawned directly on the server and their movement is governed directly on the server itself. This has allowed us to provide increased security and hack prevention mechanisms by disabling functionality at the client level. It also means that zombies no longer “pop” in and out of the world, previously used as a mechanism to tell if someone was in the area. It also paves the way for us to allow migrating zombies and zombies traversing open areas in search for their next meal.

We still have some way to go in performance, the initial tests of 4000 zombies spawned reduced the server FPS to 4. After performance optimizations this increased up to 21. We’re now confident we can have the server FPS back up to 30+ with maximum numbers of zombies in the near future.

Expanding health system

Health is extending far beyond just blood, into a system that incorporates health, blood, and consciousness level. How these are all interrelating will be touched on in its own devblog in future. Some of the exciting developments coming include longterm play effects such as poor diet affecting your long term health levels. All this translates into the importance of a longterm plan for survival of your character, and we’re sure the role of medical specialists will become very important - hopefully emphasizing social interaction opportunities.

Chernarus Expansion

This continues at a huge pace. The two new villages in expand Cherno and provide it a true city feeling. Also expanding is the top (north) map area and the continued development of our large-scale features being added to the map. More to follow on this! (we can’t wait to show some more of this!)

Loot spawning

Finding loot now involves scavenging inside of vehicles, looking for items stuck between furniture, prying open car boots, or strewn in the wasteland itself. Consuming your bounty now results in rubbish, such as empty cans after consuming your beans. This is no mere gimick, because your trash can be used to track you.

Conclusion

There is a great deal more that can be covered, but we’re really deeply in the thick of development at the moment and we just wanted to get something quick and dirty to all those waiting for standalone. We know that you want it released, and we know you want to know when this will be - but we’re 100% committed to making this a great game, and that means we are making sure to do things properly. We’re happy and confident about the progress, so it’s one foot after another and soon we’ll be at the finish line.

Ivan is back!

The last two weeks have gone extremely fast for us. As many will have noticed, we didn’t do a devblog last week. While the aim is produce an update every week (scheduled for Friday), the reality is that development will always have priority over our devblogs - and there has been a huge amount of real work to do on the project!

To celebrate Ivan returning to assist with the tean; Ivan, Matt, and myself held a design meeting in a rather unusual setting - we went from a hike around a lake area in the Czech Republic. We got some excellent idea’s - and we’re all thrilled with the great concepts Ivan has been bringing. We look forward to including Ivan on our next video blog.

Project Team Expansion

One of the biggest changes in the last week has been the expansion of the project, both in scale and scope as well as with personnel. We’ve been getting more and more people involved, both locally and externally. Many of these people are from within the community. We hope that these people will be able to assist us in really pushing the game to its limits.

Multiplayer Testing

Our internal closed testing has been continuing, and then pausing, as we identify and fix crashes and other issues. The vast amount of changes we have made require meticulous testing. We’re hoping to begin our first large-scale capacity testing next week (assuming we have a stable enough build). This will involve us working the server over with around 50 people initially, then working up to 150 and beyond to obtain metrics as to what limitations we will have.

Architecture Developments

Our lead programmer has been continuing the revision of the entire engine multiplayer to operate under the server-client MMO model. The results have been outstanding, and it is going to radically change the product. As these changes are made we are filter them onto the approach taken at other levels, ensuring everything is moved from being done at a client level to being done at a server level.

We have been experimenting with some novel approaches  such as not having loot spawned at the server level, but having it spawned at the database level - therefore negating the ease with which loot tables could be produced and allowing us to conduct a form of economic regulation to item spawns dynamically. I think the end result, however, will be a mixture of the two approaches due to performance requirements.

Character Development

This is the absolute core of our current design efforts. As such, you can see some new screen shots of the new ethnic heads available for female characters. We want to allow characters to be fully customized and reflect the players story as they are going along. This has included some fantastic ideas inspired by the community. Until initial release, the vast majority of our efforts will be with expanding options for developing and customizing your character.

Inventory system

Based on feedback and development, changes continue with this area. It’s starting to operate really well. Our programmer here, Jirka, will eventually move onto the crafting system. He has been wanting to move onto this for some time, as it is a personal area of interest for him.

As part of the inventory system, we have started detailed work on the attachment system. Like the customization of characters, we want to allow maximum ability for the customization and development of a players weapons. As part of this, all weapons being introduced into DayZ are being redeveloped from scratch at extremely high detail. The work being produced so far is outstanding! This means that, on release, there will be less weapons in the standalone - but it allows us the ability to continue each week to release content updates with new weapons and items.

World development

Massive areas are changing here. Ivan Buchta having returned from his time in the Greek Prison has been a huge asset to the team, working with our world designer SenChi (designer of the Ironfront worlds) to redevelop Chernarus. I have included some low-detail screenshots taken by SenChi showing some of his developments.

Art development

New clothing, items, weapons, buildings, “special areas” are all the foci of art development. We are greatly expanding our team of artists, as we have hundreds of new items we want to include in the world.

This week’s blog is pretty light on detail and excitement, but the pace is such that pausing to write about it is taking too much time! Overall, each week is proving to be more exciting for us than the last.

#AskDayZ

Part of a regular feature we will be doing is to take peoples questions on twitter (hastag: #AskDayZ) and facebook - Matt will select a few and we will answer them.

Will we be able to host private (hive) servers? (Christian Haschek)

Private servers will be supported. The issue of private hives (central servers) is still an open question. Initially the answer is definitely no, as we need to concentrate the database centrally so we can continue development and change it regularly. There is a wider issue of regulating both the economy of DayZ, in terms of controlling item spawn, and ensuring a balanced approach. I think it comes down to a question of timing, much like with the mod.

There be any new features in the first version of the standalone or it will be the classic DayZ (Martin Rangelovwill)

The experience will be entirely new. There is virtually nothing that has been directly ported from the mod, everything has been redone. This wasn’t our original intention (hence the December deadline) - but it has evolved this way. We’re all glad it has!

End Game content - Other than the mad max mods to cars, what other endgame solution is there other than everyone becoming bandits, the forums have made mentions and suggestions of random events like raiding a c130 crash site or setting ambush to NPC convoys, What do the dev’s have in store for us? (Rhys Fiander )

Endgame is an open question, and is something we will look at later once we have got the basics where we want them (player customization, controls, animations, zombies, loot spawn, attachments, disease, hacking, etc…). I’m personally not a fan of NPC’s but we have been keeping this available as an option for development. I kind of think  using NPC’s is cheating in this context. I am sure we can come up with a more creative way of doing these kinds of events, working directly with the community.

Dean: will you being adding other food and drink types (Ross J MacGregor)

The list of planned items is huge. A reasonably small functional set will be available initially, then new items and weapons during weekly updates.

Are you working on other ways to indicate hunger, thirst, temperature to achieve a more minimalistic HUD or getting rid of it completely and instead use sounds and such ? (Jesper von Hundhufvud)

The current situation is “no HUD” and we hope to keep it this way, demonstrating through the use of sounds and animations. We do need to add options for those with hearing impairments and we will look at those options too.

Did Dean get a date in the end or was it a romantic evening for one? WHY DID HE NOT TELL HER HOW MANY LAMBORGHINIS HE WILL HAVE?! (Regan Bamfield)

It was a very romantic evening for me cleaning my sneaker collection (I’m a total sneakerhead), so no - I did not get my date in the end! No matter how many Lamborghini’s I promised!

What will be the pricing on standalone? (Dylan Panda Belisle)

It is still to-be-confirmed. However, to put it in perspective, I want a higher price than nearly everyone else in the company. So we’re not talking an expensive product. Released now, I am confident people are getting more than required value from the product.

Will you continue pursuing/developing the humanity system? have you made/felt the need to make any changes? (Daniel Yacoubian)

I think this will continue to be developed throughout the life of the product, it will be a very subtle art to get it right.

Will the number of zombies be increased, or should we expect a similar amount? (Kyle O’Dowd)

Yes, expect the numbers to increase as they are controlled directly on the server independent of player locations.

@Lirik - Will there be character slots or will it be limited to one survivor?

Initially, just one live character for each player account. We store a huge amount of data for each character, so we need to limit it.

@Biddaman - From what we know about next gen consoles so far, would Dayz be possible to run on those machines?

Personally, yes I believe it would be technically possible. Some of the consoles will be easier than others. There are some issues with requirements for publishers which are really annoying, and I have been frustrated in the past with some of the rules required that force some weird design changes in games (I don’t like tutorials!).

@zSc0pe - Will there be changes with the chat? I would like to be able to type or talk to friends in game without the whole server knowing

We’ve started development of a basic radio system. If you’ve played Space Station 13, you’ll recognize this system. More to follow on that. And love the songs by the way!

@jerry_hopper - Will the squadXML be overhauled,2 achieve more interaction ‘outside’ the gameserver? or will there be some API which taps in dayz?

API is something we, longterm, want to look at for nearly everything - considering the outstanding creativity within the community. In particular I think it is best to allow the community to develop its own player profile statistic sites. But this is something that will come much later in the year.

@Ray23estRay - If there will be any further map releases for DayZ in the future,will they be released as DLC content for money? 

We are starting our planning process for this, but we don’t have any idea how we would monetize it. There are issues with the DLC model we would want to avoid. We’re hoping we will be so successful in sales, that we can just release as a free content update.

@TheBeehawk - What kind of vehicle customisation [sic] is planned?

I have only basic ideas on this currently, essentially functioning similar to the weapon attachment system we have designed. If your car has a missing or damaged door, take the door off another car. But of course, if they are different colors, you’ll see that. Each part also has various damage states, so we end up with GTA-esque damage visuals.

@Chernoeb Will there be different servers with different weapons. Example: One server has DMR’s while another server has no DMR’s

Not initially. Either loot will be entirely controlled centrally by the central server, or it will spawn based on loot probability tables, or (most likely) a combination of the two.

@poopthought - Do you have any malls, hotels, prisons or bigger hospitals planned for the standalone?

Yes!

@EvanLutes1999 -   Will there be the old weapons from the mod, new weapons, or a mix of both?

New weapons, based on the old weapons.

IAsh - How many clothing varieties should we expect?

Once released, expect new content every week. We are planning hundreds and hundreds of clothing varieties.