News 2018, No. 3
We haven't been here from some time so it's time for a bunch of news about UBOOT ... UBOAT? We'll explain in a moment ;) Let's start!
Our game is now renamed to UBOAT. We had to perform such change for a variety of practical reasons for our publisher, mostly because we will be able to more easily copyright this new title.
It's shocking, we know :) It becomes the same thing after a few days of looking at it though. We are going to change the name on all sites where we have our presence step by step.
We now have a finished model of Wilhelmshaven. It's a starting port for the player and it's also pretty unusual one. For these reasons we wanted to have it made in detail with historical accuracy. There is a shipyard, working water locks etc.
You could see a work in progress of it on the animation in the previous update.
In preparation for the release we heavily focused on performance this time. Our work machines now run the game at around 90 FPS, which is 50% more than earlier. Framerate seems to depend more on CPU, probably because of underlying simulation.
Aside from minor optimizations all around, we've implemented a full batching and LOD system for our characters that we discussed in one of the previous updates. Customizable characters are hard to render - each part of clothing has to be rendered separately and that's something what underlying hardware doesn't like. Speaking mathematically, 35 sailors, each with 7 customizable parts on average required 245 rendering tasks in the worst case scenario each frame. Our new system dynamically composes all their meshes, textures and skeletons into one thing at some cost of the memory so this problem seems to be solved.
Second optimization, but also a graphical improvement, is our own implementation of a scriptable render pipeline. It's a new feature that will officially be added to Unity later this month that allows developer to rewrite large parts of rendering code that earlier was in engine's domain. Our rendering methods so far had to involve a considerable gymnastic each frame to walk around engine's limitations. There was some unnecessary work that was mostly related to the composition of boat interior that has to be a static scene and exterior that is dynamic. Right now all that composition is pretty straightforward, increasing performance, removing some minor, previously unfixable artifacts and improving shadow filtering and reflections as an added bonus.
We've integrated a bit better navigation model into UBOAT. From now on position of the boat in the world is not predetermined and errors in its estimation will arise. If player won't have a navigator at his station for too long he may get lost and find ocean where, let's say, France was supposed to be.
There are no manually controlled stations (like sextant) involved in this process so far, but it's an open design and we may add such feature in the future. Definitely not before the game gets released though.
Balance reasons were the main motivator behind this addition as leader officers needed more stations to work on.
First off, regular sailors obviously always had a needs system, but related behaviours were fully automated and player's reponsibility was only to take care of food.. and functional toilets :)
Recently we felt that analogous system for officers, who are directly controlled by the player, would help us balance some aspects of the game. They now have a fatigue bar and in addition may occasionally eat to replenish some of their energy. Fatigue decreases their performance and increases chances for a trauma event.
This change allowed us to introduce more officers onto the boat with game progression and add more rotation on the stations. It also makes some events even more stressful than before.
We are pretty confident that this is an improvement, although some details may still change. Our goal is to keep this system as simple as possible to add a needed touch for balance and immersion without becoming important part of the gameplay.
We're starting to work on an intro to the game that will introduce players to their initial character. We were going to create it on the engine, but it's going to be faster to oursource it to CG studio with which we worked before.
We're preparing for the final voice recording sessions. We would use your help with technical German phrases in a matter of few weeks to avoid spending budget on sentences like previous "weichen stellen" that never gets old.
Funny fact: friendly member of our community, NileX13, recently found out that due to a small typo we had a valve labelled as (after translation) "less << hugs >> more". Therefore yes - some help would be much needed and appreciated :)
We started to cooperate with a sound designer and a second animator. They are both veteran developers that worked on major Polish titles and will certainly add much needed polish in their areas of expertise.
UBOAT has become a complex and innovative game and risk that there are critical bugs lurking around is just too high. For that reason, jointly with our publisher, we decided that there has to be a beta testing before our game lands on Steam. That means we will be able to meet our Q2 goal only partially.
Bug fixing is going to be the main purpose of these tests, but we are open to allocate a reasonable time for general improvements, if they turn out to be important. In particular we are interested in feedback about our distance and time compression mechanics.
Tests will be divided into two tiers. Tier I is going to be open exclusively for our Kickstarter backers willing to join, while Tier II beta testing will be open for everybody willing to help. Participation will be completely free in both cases. Signing up for Tier I will start during the second half of June, while Tier II will start a month later. Management side over this process will be handled by a dedicated team from PlayWay and we will provide you with all the details a bit later.
We hope that this compromise will satisfy you, our supporters. That solution will let you access the game still during this quarter, but also will help the game start with good reviews as that matters to us very much, considering the amount of work and passion that we invested into it. We hope that game will be successful enough for us to support it in long run after the release and hope that you understand the reasoning behind this decision.
Thank you for your continued support!
Deep Water Studio