Development Update 8.1.16
We are delaying our Steam Early Access release by 3.5 months, from end of August to mid-December.
Even though we desperately wanted to stick to our original timeline, we've determined it best to head to Early Access with more content and more polish. Delaying until December gives us plenty of time to achieve what we want.
This was a tough decision, and we apologize to any who are disappointed by it. We will do our best to make up for it by coming to Early Access with something we will all be proud of in December.
This decision was informed by playing our own game for the last few months, listening to and observing our testers, and getting plenty of emails from supporters asking that we take our time and not rush things.
If you are one of the roughly 800 folks who backed at the Early Access level, you will still be receiving your Steam key on August 31st and are invited to participate in our ongoing closed testing.
We are now planning on releasing development updates once a month as we go through the rest of our closed testing phase continuing into Early Access.
In our last update we showed you a teaser of our new character models. Today we want to show the final results, and a bit about how we got there. It was a long process that involved many people, many skillsets, and a little bit of ingenuity.
World war 2 soldiers all wore standard issue uniforms, which were designed to be simple, functional, and mass producible.
Because the uniforms are simple by design, we felt getting the details of the uniforms exactly right was paramount, like the look and feel of the fabric, the placement of buttons and pockets, and the natural variations and discolorations due to wear and tear.
To achieve this we started by renting cinema grade costumes from Angels in London, a company that has been providing the best costumes to major productions (including Saving Private Ryan) for over 175 years.
Some of you are probably familiar with Photogrammetry, the process of translating photos of a real object or person into a digital model. The concept is pretty simple though the underlying technology and skills required to turn digital scans into something useable for a game are anything but.
We partnered with Ten24 studios in Sheffield, a company that specializes in the capture and processing of 3D scans. You get the best results when you have many high quality images with consistent lighting and Ten24 has a rig comprised of 170 DSLR cameras that all snap at the same moment, the perfect setup for full body scans.
The next step is getting someone to don the uniform. This lets us capture a real face to go along with and the details in how the fabric actually hangs off a real person.
Each scan creates 10-15 gigabytes of data, which must all be processed by the photogrammetry software which can take almost a day. At the end, if you had your setup and lighting all perfect the software spits out a rough, but extremely detailed 3d model.
This model however is nowhere close to ready for use in game, it contains several million polygons and a fair amount of noise that must be cleaned up. This is where the real work begins for our character artist.
Building the model
First we clean up the character and add an extra detail and proportion pass. After that, we create a game-appropriate version of the mesh and model all of the detailed geometry, like buttons and clips in.
After unwrapping the mesh and baking all the details down, it's time to texture. We remove shadows, adjust colors, add dirt and give each material its own property so that it reflects light correctly in the Unreal Engine 4.
After about 3 weeks of this, we’ve got something ready to go in game. Pictures are worth more than words here, so here are a few shots, all images below are realtime renders of the in-game models taken in UE4.
No surprise, we are pretty happy with the final result. Getting to this point was a lot of work, and there is still some more work to be done to actually bring these new character models to life via rigging and animating. We are also working on a system that will allow us to swap new heads on our existing uniforms to get more variation in a cost effective manner.
When we started out – this was purely an experimental venture but it has definitely paid off. Photogrammetry allows us to capture a million minor details that make our new characters feel a bit more human. We made this investment because we want to up the immersion factor in Days of War, and characters are a major part of that formula.
A huge thanks to Ten24 and our massively talented character artist for making it happen!
We hope this demonstrates that we are taking our time to do things right. Next month we will be showcasing our environment work in our new map, Carentan.