Hey guys. We're nearing our official exit from Steam Early access, and this progress update focuses on two things: online multiplayer and story
Online multiplayer has been a big challenge for us. Because of latency, doing melee combat online is never easy. Doing it in a game where a player can easily move 3 meters between data sends (30 data sends/second), presents even more of a challenge.
Fortunately, thanks to some really clever latency compensation algorithms, we're now at the point where two teams of 8 people and hundreds of cars can all occupy the server at the same time and have a really fun gameplay experience.
Our final goal is to support 32 person servers. The main roadblock right now is bandwidth limitations - how much data the server is forced to send. As you add more players, this goes up exponentially. We're confident that with some more data optimization, we can achieve this, though 32 player support might come in a post-release patch.
We'll be releasing an alpha version of the online game to you guys very shortly.
We've finished writing the Road Redemption script and are in the process of hiring voice actors. All told, we're looking at 5 main characters (you, your mentor, the leader of all of the game's 4 gangs, and the ultimate antagonist who everyone is chasing).
Our goal with the story has always been to provide context and meaning to the game's campaign mode without getting in the way too much. We think what this accomplishes that goal.
Below is an email we've been sending out to gaming news sites to help spread awareness about the once-in-500 years Louisiana flood and how it's impacted the region, and unfortunately, the development of Road Redemption:
The developers of the videogame Road Redemption (www.roadredemption.com), the Road Rash spiritual successor, are sad to report that the game's development has been stalled by to the record flooding in Louisiana.
Road Redemption’s developers are based in Baton Rouge and New Orleans Louisiana. The flood devastated the region, damaging over 40,000 homes, including the home of Jason Tate, studio co-founder and senior programmer
“We hope to have the whole team back to work on Road Redemption as quickly as possible but right now our priority is making sure that everyone on the team, and their families, have a safe place to stay,” said studio co-founder Ian Fisch. “We hope that all of our kickstarter backers and fans will be understanding in these tragic circumstances, and if they’d like to help they can visit www.braf.org to make a donation.”
Road Redemption has sold over 100,000 standalone copies since launching on Steam Early Access in late 2014.
Road Redemption was originally scheduled to release on PC on October 15, 2016, with PS4 and Xbox One versions slated for Q1 2017.
Due to the flood, Road Redemption’s transition from Early Access to full release on PC platforms will be delayed until at least November 2016, with console versions suffering similar delays.
If you haven’t had a chance to play the Steam version of Road Redemption recently, last week we uploaded a new PC, Mac, and Linux version of the game that’s a complete overhaul of just about every element.
Everything from physics, to controls, to camera angles, to lighting, to AI, to weapon balance, to missions, to the GUI, is completely revamped and improved.
100,000 COPIES OF ROAD REDEMPTION SOLD
We generally don’t talk about budget issues here, but in light of so many people bringing up the $4 million budget of Mighty Number 9, I think it’s appropriate.
The fact is that videogame development is more expensive than people realize. Consider a team of 10 people working full-time on a game:
Assuming each of these 10 people is earning $36,000/year. This means you’re paying $360,000 in employee salaries alone for a single year. Then you have to rent enough office space to accommodate 10 people. If this costs, $3000/month, then that’s another $36,000. So now we’re talking about $400,000 for a single year.
So when we’re boasting about having sold 100,000 Early Access copies of Road Redemption, many of which were sold at a discount, you should understand that this revenue isn’t making us rich - it’s keeping us afloat.
We regret to inform you guys that we’ve indefinitely postponed Road Redemption development for Xbox 360 and PS3.
Wii U support is being evaluated in light of Nintendo’s focus on their upcoming NX console.
Trying to make a 3d action game (as opposed to something like Candy Crush) on multiple platforms with disparate technical specs is not an easy thing to do. It’s my opinion that attempting to do this significantly hurt the overall quality of Mighty Number 9.
Fortunately, we never attempted to create versions of Road Redemption for Vita or 3DS, which is, in my opinion, why Mighty Number 9 ended up looking significantly different from its alpha demo:
Its final art design looks to have been dictated by their lowest-spec platforms.
Of course, there are plenty of Xbox 360 and Wii U games that look graphically comparable to Road Redemption (to the untrained eye), but graphics are only one element of the equation.
Road Redemption features CPU intensive elements like physics and AI. It also uses a heavy amount of RAM for its large levels and big textures.
In terms of CPU, the Xbox One & PS4 are far more powerful than the other consoles. From a programming perspective, this often means that we can make code that’s simpler and more straightforward, which means it’s faster to write and easier to debug.
Could Road Redemption be made for Xbox 360? Possibly, but it would be much more time consuming and expensive.
Here’s a quick example of how performance constraints have made our code more complicated: in Road Redemption, when you ram into the side of a car, a bunch of sparks and debris appear at the point of impact.
If performance wasn’t an issue, an easy and clean way to make this happen would be for the code to create a brand new “collision debris” entity at the point of impact. The entity would includes a light source, a bundle of debris particles that take into account gravity and the force of impact, and an accompanying sound effect whose volume modulates based on the speed of impact. Creating a brand new entity like this is only one or two lines of code, and isn’t likely to cause any bugs in the future.
Unfortunately, creating a brand new entity is a CPU-intensive thing to do. Even on PS4 and XboxOne, you’d want to recycle the entity you had already created the previous time a bike rammed into a car. Recycling entities like this requires writing code to keep track of the entity, including the light, and all of the debris particles, and the sound effect. It requires writing code to reset the the positions of all of the particles and the brightness of the light and the base volume of the sound effect whenever the entity is recycled.
This ends up being hundreds of lines of code, which means that it’s another potential source for bugs, which means that this costs extra time and money.
The weaker the CPU, the more little optimization tricks like this you have to write into your code, and the more expensive it becomes to maintain.
In terms of RAM, Xbox One and PS4 have 8GB. Wii U has 2GB (though 1GB is devoted to its OS) and Xbox 360 has 0.5GB.
Having less RAM to work with doesn’t just affect the look of your game, it affects the level design itself.
Remember all of those sequences in Gears of War, where, in the middle of a level, Marcus Pheonix is forced to walk around at a snail’s pace?
That’s because the Xbox 360 can only fit a small fraction of the level into its RAM. While Marcus Pheonix is slowly walking, the next portion of the level is being loaded into RAM. The entire level has to be designed around RAM constraints.
I can only imagine what a bind these CPU, GPU, and RAM constraints put on the Mighty Number 9 team. They promised a game that would run on an Xbox One and a 3DS (ARM CPU, PICA GPU, 0.1GB of RAM). I’m sure there was incredible internal pressure to cancel these lower-spec versions and focus their limited resources on the higher spec platforms. Obviously, we feel like this is the best course of action for us.
ONLINE MULTIPLAYER PROGRESS
On a brighter note, work on the online multiplayer mode is progressing well, and we plan to have a beta version (which you guys will all be included in), by mid-next month.
At the moment, the multiplayer mode is focused around gang vs gang races, with all riders human-controlled. Two gangs race against each other, and the winner is determined by the time to cross the finish line and takedowns along the way.
One feature we like is that when someone crosses the finish line, they don’t just sit around waiting for everyone else to cross. Instead, they’re free to drive around the map, taking down members of the enemy team.
In terms of matchmaking, we’re working on both dedicated servers that we host ourselves and the option for users to host their own games. For user-hosted games, we’ll make sure that a game will only appear on the server browser if that host can actually accept incoming connections (their port forwarding is setup correctly). We’re also working on a system to ban hosts who close their game in the middle of a race.
One thing that’s important to me personally is making sure there’s a good amount of play time between map switches. So, like in Counterstrike: GO, you’ll play a number of rounds on a map before switching to the next map.
For all the backers that purchased tiers that include having an avatar or character in the game, we will be contacting you in the coming weeks to coordinate your custom in-game assets!
Hey everyone! We admittedly need to do a much better job providing updates on our development progress, so today we’re announcing an improved plan to keep everyone informed. Starting with this update, we plan to provide more regular Kickstarter updates which will showcase our progress and the development leading up to the impending completion of Road Redemption.
For those of you following us on Steam Early Access, you’ll know that we haven’t made any updates since December and may be worried that we’ve stopped working on the game. Quite the opposite is true! Since January we have been focused on improving nearly every aspect of Road Redemption, and this has required us to rebuild a lot of systems before uploading a new build to Steam.
Although we have taken longer than we hoped to complete the game, we are dedicated to making the game that we promised. We've recently added more developers to Road Redemption, and we’re working hard to finish the great game we envisioned in our original Kickstarter pitch. In the next month or two, we should be ready to upload a new build on Steam so you’ll be able to see our progress!
Here’s a list of things we’ve been working on:
Improved bike driving and physics
Revamped enemy AI
Entirely new user interface
New weapon upgrade system
Unlockable bikes and riders
Better missions with greater variety
Updated levels with more routes to drive
Improved visuals of enemies and vehicles
Several new enemy types including challenging late level enemies
Splitscreen co-op improvements
Our current plan is to finish development of the PC version by the end of this summer. As we march toward that goal, we’ll be releasing several new builds on Steam Early Access to show everyone our progress. This will include a beta version of online multiplayer. For console fans, please know that we are also working toward releases on Xbox One and PS4. We’ll make more announcements about console plans as we get closer to release.
Today's kickstarter update features the new improvements we’re making to the user interface. This includes a complete visual overhaul. Check out the screenshots below!
We’ve also vastly improved how our user interface works when playing local co-op. Each player can now choose their own unique bike and rider! We’ve also revamped the store to allow each player to make their own purchases and uniquely gear up. This is especially important with our new weapon upgrade system - each player can now choose which type of weapon they want to focus on. We hope this will improve the local co-op experience for everyone.
Stay tuned next month for another update on our progress featuring more of the latest additions to Road Redemption.
Our friends at King Crow Studios making Quest of Souls
Our friends and fellow Louisiana based game developers, King Crow Studios, have recently launched a Kickstarter project for their 90s inspired shooter RPG called Quest of Souls. Some of our team has been helping with development, and we’ve partnered with Quest of Souls to include a Road Redemption bundle as one of their reward tiers. If you back this tier, you will encounter a unique speed-obsessed character called the “The Stag” and you’ll receive the Quest of Souls biker background! (The main Quest of Souls characters riding cool motorcycles...yes that includes Toki the corgi!)
If you haven't played Road Redemption recently, we've made a lot of improvements to the current Steam version. The game's better in a lot of ways, and I encourage you to check it out.
Road Redemption's Story
The majority of scripted story sequences in videogames suck. I don't think that's a controversial statement.
It's always strange to me to see gamers turn up their noses at lowest-common denominator sitcoms like Two and a Half Men when the majority of humor found in videogames doesn't come close to that low bar.
Similarly, plenty of gamers wouldn't be caught dead watching a CW drama like Beastly, even though the writing, acting, directing, cinematography, and scene composition are far better in those shows than what you typically see in videogames, even those that are story-focused like The Witcher 3 (a game I really enjoyed when it wasn't being dragged down by its boring cutscenes).
Basic filmmaking guides will tell a director to "show, not tell" because movies are a visual medium. At a very basic level, this means you should be very judicious with the amount of information you convey through dialogue, and instead try to convey as much information through body language, facial expressions, lighting and shot composition itself. For an example of this last point, directors will often use an extreme long shot, where your protagonist is barely more than a speck on the screen, to convey the idea that he's insignificant and powerless compared to much larger forces at work. You see a lot of this in There Will Be Blood, specifically in the beginning. Another example is conveying the idea that a character is hiding something by lighting him so that his face is obscured in shadow. Basic stuff.
Further, screen writers attempt to keep the viewer engaged by utilizing conflict between characters to create drama. This is especially important for otherwise-boring exposition scenes that are necessary to tell the viewer basic information about the world. For instance, in Mad Max: Fury Road, when the main antagonist discovers that his concubines have escaped their prison, he doesn't simply receive this information in a report from one of his lackeys. Rather he enters the concubine's prison himself, where he has a dramatic confrontation with their caretaker, who opposes their enslavement. The information that the concubines escaped is conveyed via this dramatic and interesting scene.
Another technique film-makers will use to make these information dump scenes more interesting is to present the viewer with compelling visuals and action. There will often be multiple things happening in the image simultaneously (foreground, midground, and background). Actors will be moving around, interacting with objects as they talk, rather than just standing still. You can see this in the scene in Back To The Future where Doc explains the basics of time travel to the audience, and sets up the 88mph requirement that the viewer needs to know for the movie's climax.
Doc could have simply told these rules to Marty over coffee, but instead, we get a dramatic scene with Doc's dog in the time machine, and both characters almost getting run over.
So how does this compare to videogames?
The vast majority of videogame cutscenes get all of this stuff wrong.
Your average videogame cutscene involves two actors standing completely still. The camera frames them in the most efficient manner possible, and goes back and forth between characters in a standard shot, reverse shot sequence. The player is given nothing interesting to look at. The dialogue generally involves the non-player character conveying information to the player. There's virtually no conflict or drama in the scene. There is often very little information conveyed compared to the number of words used (I'm looking at you Metal Gear Solid series).
The best thing that people can say about these types of cutscenes is that they aren't laughably bad or that the acting was competent. In other words, the cutscenes helped reinforce the idea that the player was in a real place, rather than take him out of the world, as really bad acting or writing will do (I'm looking at you, Resident Evil).
But if that's all these cutscenes are accomplishing, creating a better sense of place, then they're truly a waste of the player's time. You don't need long-winded, boring, drama-free cutscenes to make a world feel real. Going back to Mad Max: Fury Road, the movie itself has very little dialogue, but the world feels like a real place. Same with our introduction to the Hobbit's shire in The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Rings. Same with the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars.
It's up to us as gamers to hold these videogame cutscenes to the same standard we hold our movies and TV shows. We can't let game creators hide great gameplay under mountains of tedious and boring story telling.
Thankfully, to a large extent, I think we're doing just that with our purchasing habits. If you look at the big successful hits in the last 5 years of gaming, you see games that eschew these scripted story segments entirely. Games like Minecraft, Rust, Ark, WarZ, The Forest, and Space Engineers let the players construct their own stories rather than simply follow along someone else's poorly-written script. More than any other genre, games like this seem to represent the future of gaming. Instead of trying to mimic movies, they're trying to simulate experiences (struggling to survive on a deserted island, creating a space station, etc).
So where does this leave Road Redemption?
Well, we're not trying to do something like Minecraft, but we aren't planning to bog you down in cutscenes either.
Road Redemption's story will provide the player with a larger context as to why he's moving from one section of the map to another, who he's fighting, and how the game's various biker gangs relate to one another. There will be strong, well-defined characters, and interpersonal relationships between them.
We're taking our story presentation very seriously, and we plan to do it in a way that's always compelling to the player. Since we don't think it's wise to spend development funds on cutscenes that would rival Spielberg or Abrams, or Zemeckis, we're going to present most of the story to the player during gameplay. We think that's what most Road Redemption players would want anyway.
We think doing it this way is how you guys would prefer to spend your time. We know that you have a lot of entertainment options. We don't want to present you with a 5 minute cutscene with the quality of a high school-play, when you could be spending that 5 minutes watching Nightcrawler on Netflix, or ideally spending that 5 minutes enjoying intense balls-to-the-wall action combat motorcycle racing gameplay that you can't get anywhere else.
So in conclusion, Road Redemption will have a strong story with interesting characters. It will motivate you to want to finish the game's campaign. But we plan to deliver it in a minimalist style with a focus on sharp conscise writing that elevates the experience rather than dragging it down.