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Dreamfall Chapters is the long-awaited sequel to acclaimed PC adventure games The Longest Journey and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Dreamfall Chapters is the long-awaited sequel to acclaimed PC adventure games The Longest Journey and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
21,858 backers pledged $1,538,425 to help bring this project to life.

An update on Book Four and Unity 5

Posted by Red Thread Games (Creator)
56 likes

Hi gang,

Red Thread here, with a new backer update. But first, a quick summary of things you may have missed from the last couple of months:

  • Back in August, Ragnar posted the first entry in our new dev blog. You can read it here.
  • A couple of weeks ago, Quintin posted a second entry.
  • (We're trying to keep this dev blog regularly updated, so bookmark it to keep up with future posts.)
  • We released some mysterious new art from the upcoming Book Four to Twitter and Facebook — and revealed the title of our next episode: Revelations.
  • We also released an overview of Zoë's visual evolution through the first three episodes of the game.
  • (As always, in order to get the very latest updates, remember to follow our Twitter and/or Facebook accounts. We will continue to post occasional Kickstarter updates, but only when there are major news.)
  • (And, as always part two, if you want to remain completely spoiler free, don't click on any of those links and stay away from all updates: there will always be some 'spoilers', even though we try never to reveal anything that would negatively affect anyone's enjoyment of upcoming episodes.)

With all of that out of the way, here's a brief update on what's going on in production.

As of this week, Book Four is slightly delayed. The reason for this is our long-gestating port of the game from Unity 4.6 to Unity 5.x (we're currently using version 5.2).

This upcoming port is important for several reasons:

  • To improve frame-rate and overall performance.
  • To reduce memory-related crashes.
  • To improve our internal workflow with Unity's new 64-bit editor.¹
  • To open up for ongoing and future improvements to lighting, shaders and effects, and further performance and stability fixes.
  • To facilitate for ports to new platforms, including PlayStation 4.²

Although switching engines mid-production is a risky thing to do, during our initial investigation into the engine switch we were quite optimistic about the timeline. The game appeared to run well in Unity 5 and there were no massive issues with our own tools or third-party plugins. In addition, this felt like the perfect time to switch and move the production over to an improved pipeline before wrapping up the final two episodes.

Doing the actual port has proved more time-consuming and challenging than expected, however — and of course this is the case, because it always is. Still, we did not anticipate this work to delay the release of Book Four.

Why a delay? Due to the way our game is constructed, we've had to port everything. We couldn't just start with the fourth episode and patch the rest later: the whole game needs to run in the new engine. This has resulted in a ton of work for the artists, along with plenty of bug-testing and -fixing. Things like collision, lighting, plugins, shaders work differently — and with every major engine upgrade, there are new bugs, some of which we can't fix on our own.

Will the port be worth the wait? We believe so! This was a necessary switch, something we had to do sooner or later, both for obvious performance reasons (we're very aware of the issues some players have had) and to allow porting to consoles and other platforms. How much a performance boost players will see depends, of course, on their specific hardware and OS version. Hopefully it will make a significant difference, particularly to those of you who have struggled running the game.

How long of a delay are we looking at? No more than a couple of weeks — based on our own internal release date for Book Four (which was unannounced but imminent). We do need to release the Unity 5 port of the existing episodes first, to iron out all possible technical issues, before releasing a whole new episode filled with lots of new content. Doing both at the same time would be risky — our testing pipeline is already strained — and would potentially have a negative effect on the player reception of Book Four.

So when will the Unity 5 port of Dreamfall Chapters be released? It won't be long. We're testing right now, and fixing issues as they pop up. As soon as we're confident about quality and stability, we'll release a version to the Steam beta branch. Once we've had some eyes on the new code for a few days, and the community gives us the thumbs up, we'll publish that to the main branch — including GOG and the Humble Store — and all of our players.

Making a major switch like this mid-release cycle is not something we'd recommend to anyone, though the team has handled the transition admirably. We feel it was necessary and that we've made the right decision, though delays are never fun. The team's already busy wrapping up Book Four, and this has increased the strain, stress and workload — but we hope the changes will be noticeable and the improvements tangible, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts on the Unity 5 beta version.

We'll have lots more about Book Four in the coming weeks, leading up to launch — and the wait will definitely be worth the REVELATIONS.

Team RTG

P.S. Oh, and one last thing! Dreamfall Chapters (and Red Thread) was recently nominated for a prestigious TIGA Award for both best action/adventure game, and for best game with a purpose! The ceremony's in November, so fingers crossed for that.

¹ Working on locations such as Europolis and Marcuria using the 32-bit editor has been an exercise in frustration. Our artists and designers experienced regular crashes and extremely slow performance. The move to Unity 5 has massively improved our workflow.

² A lot of you have been waiting for the PS4 port, and this is not something that was possible with v4.x of Unity. The game is currently running well on our PS4 dev kits, though we don't yet have a concrete release date in mind. We're prioritising Book Four and PC/Mac/Linux first — but PS4 is next in line!

Comments

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    1. Missing avatar

      Stas Oskin on

      @Georgios Chrysikopoulos: I don't mind paying extra for PS4 port, just would appreciate not paying a full price again.

    2. Missing avatar

      AstralWanderer on

      Thanks for the response RTG.

    3. Red Thread Games Creator on

      @AstralWanderer: The Unity 5 version will work on both 32-bit and 64-bit systems. As always, we do recommend playing the game with a 64-bit OS, as this will allow for better memory management and stability, but it should work fine on a 32-bit OS as well.

      As for access to Red Thread Games being blocked, this is probably because of our hosting company's policies. We will look into it.

    4. Missing avatar

      AstralWanderer on

      While anything that adds performance/quality improvements is to be welcomed, some other projects (e.g. Wasteland 2) have stated that their Unity 5 updates are limited to 64-bit systems only. As a Windows XP user (no intention of changing due to compatibility, privacy, security and UI concerns of more recent versions) I would like to seek reassurance that 32-bit users will still be able to enjoy the updated version.

      As for the timescales, I'm surprised Book Four isn't being delayed more. Given the current stage of the plot (now at Zöe's first shift into Marcuria), we should be at the 1/3rd point (using TLJ and Dreamfall as rough references). So books 4/5 should be pretty substantial to avoid giving a "rushed" feel, plus some of the earlier books could benefit from refinement on the puzzle side (in particular, the part where Zöe has to use an Adbot to conceal access to a sewer grate is critically reliant on players remembering that Adbots project a full-height display - in such cases, alternative solutions should be available).

      Finally, access to redthreadgames.com is being blocked from many Tor nodes (with the message "Access denied. Your IP address [X.X.X.X] is blacklisted. If you feel this is in error please contact your hosting providers abuse department." (example addresses include 94.242.228.187, 109.163.234.4, 171.25.193.132, 5.196.72.199 and 35.0.127.52). Even if you are encountering issues from Tor nodes, blocking all access (even to view a page) is disproportionate and impacts legitimate visitors who wish to protect their online privacy. Please consider another option (blocking comments/posts should be just as simple but adding extra checks/tests would be fairer).

    5. Michael Hartmann
      Superbacker
      on

      @Stas: I think Georgios is correct. However this update will supposedly improve performance considerably, so you might finally be able to run it on your PC.

    6. Missing avatar

      Georgios Chrysikopoulos on

      @Stas Oskin: I think they can't do that because Sony (unlike Steam or GoG) does not give free keys to the game developers to distribute as they see fit. So, in essence they'd have to buy their own game in full price from the Playstation store in order to give PS4 copies to the backers who prefer the console version over the PC. That's my understanding of the issue at least, if I'm wrong please correct my assumptions.

    7. Missing avatar

      Greenfr0G on

      Thank you for letting us know, Red Thread Games - I realize it must have been a hard decision for you - either port the game now, for obvious technical reasons and face the disillusion of some backers/layers, or do it after the game is done, which would be less irritating for the players, but more technically challenging and time consuming.

      I think you made a wise choice - I am waiting for the whole game to be done and only then I will start playing, so I don´t mind having to wait a little longer, as long as it helps the game to be more coherent and polished.

    8. Missing avatar

      Greenfr0G on

      Thank you for letting us know, Red Thread Games - I realize it must have been a hard decision for you - either port the game now, for obvious technical reasons and face the disillusion of some backers/layers, or do it after the game is done, which would be less irritating for the players, but more technically challenging and time consuming.

      I think you made a wise choice -

    9. Missing avatar

      Stas Oskin on

      Will there be any upgrade plan to PS4 for backers?

      I was not able to play even a single episode, due to sluggish performance on my PC, and not looking to update it due to have all my (limited) gaming needs covered by PS4.

    10. Michael Hartmann
      Superbacker
      on

      @Maxime: I could be wrong, but I think the plan is to release Book 4 and 5 first and then add the extras like costumes and books for the library.

    11. Václav Kosán on

      It is seems reasonable. Fingers crossing and best luck to all in Red Thread Games.

    12. Maxime Girard on

      I'm surprised that Red Thread is so daring to do quite the change in mid-development. I'm quite happy with this desire to make things work and really go all out. I hope everyone is not only surviving, but also enjoying this challenging experience.

      Also, I recall outfits. Will we hear from them soon or only after book 5 ish?

      I just like outfits a lot is all :)

    13. Missing avatar

      Kim Ryser on

      I'm really glad to hear about the engine upgrade. Hopefully this improves framerate issues because the last chapter gave me a headache to play it was so choppy.

    14. Missing avatar

      f1ac on

      I hope 'shadow distance' slider upper limit will be increased. Also I hope sliders will appear for lighting and draw distance for different kinds of objects, as currently I can see objects popping in and out not so far away from camera.

    15. Valeriy on

      P.S. I forgot to mention inability to type in any non-ASCII characters (i.e. cyrillic etc.) in any of the entry fields as an icing on the buggy Unity 4 "cake".

    16. Valeriy on

      @RTG:
      Is Unity still a piece of garbage under Linux? From what I experienced with Unity 4 it was rather pathetic engine (mouse position error, games do not exit properly, PNG loading corruption problem on 64-bit versions) and of course OpenGL 2.0 only!

      Has something changed in Unity 5 or is it still being made for Linux with "Here! Take it and get lost, buggers!" attitude?

    17. Tomimt on

      I've been wondering now and then when you'd be porting it to Unity5 and now the answer has gone. I expect to see some noticeable speed improvements, as Wasteland 2 DC came just out and Unity5 has done wonders to it, not only from the improved shaders, but speed wise as well.

    18. Tom Kedem on

      I believe the transition to Unity 5 now is a good decision.
      Developing with outdated tools isn't fun, and even if it it's delaying release, I'm sure it would've delayed it even more had you decided to upgrade at a later date.
      Waiting patiently!

    19. Mika on

      Cool cool cool.

    20. Jeremie Lariviere
      Superbacker
      on

      Thanks for the update

    21. Missing avatar

      Andrew Crystall on

      Interesting - as a fellow game dev, and bearing in mind Adam Martin (T-Machine blog)'s comments on this, it's interesting that I see quite a few projects moving to Unity 5.2, after having not made the step up previously.

      To me the single compelling point would be the editor crashing one, I admit :)

    22. Jose Lopez on

      I don't mind waiting since I have plenty of other games keeping me busy. Also patiently waiting for Obduction from the creators of Myst. Thanks for the update!

    23. Christoph Zürcher on

      No hurry, I lost my saves after Episode 1 so I'm now looking forward to play Episodes 2 and 3 with the enhanced engine first anyway.

    24. Tomer on

      A painful wait, but I trust the team!

    25. Teppic on

      Sounds good to me. I'd rather wait a bit more if it means we get the whole game in unity 5.

    26. Stephan Vandenborn on

      Can't wait to test the beta branch, and this will be a good reason for me to rehash the story and create an unique path of choices, while testing where the improvements are :P

    27. Red Thread Games Creator on

      @Kevin Bell: You should see improvements, yes, but of course those improvements may not be as noticeable when the game's already running well. Unity 5 does open up for visual enhancements, however, including new shaders and lighting, and those will definitely be noticeable, going forward.

    28. Kevin Bell on

      If the game was already playing smoothly for me (which is was, but increased performance for everyone is a plus), will I notice any other improvements from the engine change?