Hello, this is a huge infopost regarding many topics of the overall development infrastructure and our plans to retain the playerbase and their loyalty – and as much info as I can physically cram within those two things as I possibly can. These are very important parts of a long-term effort in making sure we have the right tools to work with, and to ensure we have people that actually play and continue to play the game and our gamemodes for the foreseeable future. There is, of course, no telling what will actually happen until it’s experienced, but I think it’s healthy to share and familiarize you guys with how we see how we need to do things. There is also a good amount of things we just simply have to wait for for a few months, so we are talking to other tasks in the meantime until we can work on the bigger stuff and push a release. Is what it is.
Retaining The Playerbase
Before I get into the super technical stuff and lost a majority of you, I’ll start with the more social aspect of our efforts. A lot has to be done to make sure we have a great game to be made – but most importantly making sure we have people who want to play it and have our respect, by us giving it to start with. The most simple start to this is the fact that we will never leave you guys in the dark, even if we get in hot water, we have and will suck up our pride and look forward. There is no need to let moments define us. Ultimately, there is no way of knowing how things will play out, but we are making sure we have all the avenues we can cover, well, covered – we are gonna control what we can, where we can.
Sales are the start, but not the answer to all problems. We need to initially get you, the player (and others, of course) into the ropes of playing the game and turning a profit after our expenses. There are many factors at play here, such as losing your playerbase to short-term things like flip-flop refund people, people losing interest, and alike. We intend on facing this by working hand-in-hand with communities, creators, and getting outlet through the game press – ant ultimately striving to find any reasons is to their happenings, so we may be able to improve ourselves to keep it from happening.
Content Updates / Multiple Gamemodes
Another big way to face keeping interested is by our gamemode and update plans. Each gamemode suits different playstyles for people who want to mix things up to different players who simply play different things. Having more options = more people that want to stick around and/or try the game. to start with.
On the same note, we will always strive to add more content to the game, host player-wide events, fix outstanding issues, and prevent technical issues from ever making it through the gates where we can. We want to build a sub-culture rather than being an empty shell.
Mod Support is a MUST for keeping players around long-term. And we are doing it in a non-segregated way to suit the fact of us launching on several stores and alike. We are big advocates of enabling people to create their own content without having to make their own games – being able to focus on fun and creativity. This is not something we are going to ignore. We even plan to go as far as curating content that we believe should just be in the base game (while making sure it’s game-ready and optimized, whatever it may be).
With as much as we intend on packing into the game, optimization in itself is a go-figure. We will always make sure things are as optimized as they can humanly be for the scale we want to bring this game to. We want to make sure people with even low-mid end can still at least play the game with their buddies until they can afford to upgrade.
On the note of s**t hardware, we also plan on console release for Blackout and onward so even people without good computers can play on their consoles with everyone else. Epic Online Services is deeply enabling this for us. We are already on Xbox Live publishing, but we will most certainly have the others settled as we near their needed time. Gotta stick to the basics.
Over the time we’ve spent withdrawing and taking a harsh look at the reality of the project, we decided on investigating around, finding assets, plugins, middleware, software, and alike we feel would serve us best long-term. There was also a recent GDG talk what went on YouTube explaining how in his personal experience, how fundamental good tools are for efficient (and quality) development.
Here is the following image that I took from the said video (numbers are % of efficiency):
Needless to say, great tools and resources to work with, especially in such a cumbersome and huge project of ours we decided to undertake, is detrimental to the quality and efficiency of making it. A lot of these tools even opened new ideas and things we can do for the project, really opening the doors into making this a feature-rich, quality game in the future as we pass through when we have more people to work within our efforts.
Middleware & software at our disposal short-term and long-term efforts.
Unreal Engine 4
There are honestly no words to describe how great UE4 is for us and our plans. It is a great graphics engine with a ton of useful tools, enablement of mod support for the future, a lot of room for third-party integrations, open-sourced code, and so much more that we are very fond of.
A lot of what’s great and can be used here is pretty common knowledge but is definitely a worthy mention of the list. For being a completely free-to-use engine, it does a lot of good for us and provides a lot of room for in-house optimization.
Epic Online Services
Epic Online Services is basically a metaphorical UE4, but for online services and infrastructure – but also fully free. We were originally using Gamesparks (now owned by Amazon as AWS), but Gamesparks also has a pay-to-use monetization method, whereas EOS covers all avenues Gamesparks does (and then some), but for completely free. Another game in the same genre as us, ‘Ready Or Not’, has also ditched Gamesparks for (seemingly) similar reasons.
Epic Online Services covers cross-platform: inventory, achievements, matchmaking, parties, support ticketing (reporting), comms, analytics (for us), and alike.
Yeah, we’re using a lot of stuff from Epic Games – this makes it so these three big things can be covered by the same contact. Having one contact when in need of help between UE4, EOS, and EAC really makes things more orderly than having to go to several different agents under different companies – especially when you consider the significance of these three items and the frequency of their need of contact. We believe there is a reason other games in our genre use it (Insurgency, Squad, Post-Scriptum, SCUM, World War 3, Last Year: The Nightmare), in addition to the fact that a lot of the players we want in our game already use it and are familiar with it.
We personally have good experience with it, it isn’t too performance-heavy, minimized false-positiveness, and alike. Even in the worst-case, it’s absolutely better than nothing.
WWise is audio-based middleware where we can make advanced audio systems without having to hand-make everything. WWise has its own application in addition to a UE4 plugin where we can create audio including effects, environmental reaction to audio, synchronization to animations, music mixing, and alike. It saves us a load of time rather than having to make everything by hand in C++, Blueprint, and alike – it is all UI-based that generates our needed audio content for integration into its usage.
Discord Rich Presence (Client)
DiscordRPC will be a pretty big part in building organic awareness of the game, people seeing other players playing our games on Discord profile cards is more effective than you may first think. It will show an invite to our server, game store page, and alike – making it so one player having our game has a bigger opportunity to eternally spread around without anyone having to say anything.
We will also be using DiscordRPC for joining friends, spectating, in-app invites, and alike! Lots of cool options are offered for free by Discord for mutual benefit.
Well, this is mostly built into the engine for clothing physics, destruction, and alike. No telling where we will or won’t be using it. We will definitely be aiming to have Ray Tracing as a graphical option in addition to possible Nvidia Shadowplay integration for moments and alike. We’ll see!
Xsolla is a payment method provider in addition to our anticipated launcher framework. Games like Dauntless, Escape From Tarkov and alike have used Xsolla’s framework for their launchers. We have had Google Hangout calls and have an agent assigned to our game for both our pre-purchase page in addition to our launcher if we end up using it. Very neat!
Although, for the time being, we have no use for it that immediately serves us.
Not really something needed right away, but we intend on using this for outdoor environments to truly make them pop and feel immersive for gamemodes like the Story Campaign and Recon. They provide a material creator, 3D scanned meshes for cities and nature, and alike we can utilize with their middleware and plugin.
Example of usage:
This is what we will be using as an alternative to the Steam Workshop once we come around to opening up the full ModDK on the Epic Games Launcher. This plugin/software is very great for us so we can have non-store-dependent mod distribution and management for us and the user. We have been working with these guys (DBolitical) to make sure we will have all the account integration, engine (UE4) SDK, and alike aligned for when we will need it in the future.
DBolitical, the creators of mod.io (and ModDB, IndieDB, and alike) is also a potential funding partner in the near future to support our long-term efforts.
As for now, we have no use for mod.io, but we will have more rigorous efforts with it for long-term release.
Nothing really of use of us right now, if not even if it comes down to it, but we do own a couple of licenses for this in case we ever decide to come to it. IKinema is an Inverse-Kinematic (IK) solution for game design. We already have our own bipedal IK solution for the project, but we may use IKinema for quadrupeds and alike down the line. IKinema also has a nice solution for VR full-body simulation called Orion, so, if we ever come to native VR integration, this may be our next go-to with IKinema.
For now, this is just on the backburner.
TrueSKY is a realistic weather simulation for the skybox with volumetric clouds, day/night cycling, and alike. It is one of those things where it doesn’t really matter in a game like ours outside of very super specific parts. We plan to utilize it for open levels within the story campaign, Recon, and other various cinematic sequences and gamemode segments. This is an example of us caring about making the most out of small things.
One specific example of a small, but effective use of this is flying into the facility as an MTF squad on a helicopter with thunder rolling and the clouds flying low during a Blackout event.
Advanced Locomotion System
Excuse the low quality, this is due to downloading and editing YouTube videos.
ALSV4 will be utilized in the near future when it is complete, it is a bipedal animation base with IK integrated straight into it for foot placement (stairs, slopes, etc), in addition, to support for additive animations for upper body, so no need to make full-body animations for different items, just the arms, and torso by layering it on top of the locomotion itself. One of our head developers is working with the creator directly to ensure the maximum usability for when it comes out, as for now, we are mostly sticking to things unique to our project like interaction, basic AI, and alike that we can add onto the system when we are able to.
To summarize, we are doing this so we can have a decent amount of quality bipedal features without having to work on it just by ourselves, rather focus on things that we need on top of that. We also may be working with the creator of ALS in the future for more animations on top of the ones already provided (that will be unique to Ascension), as he is a talented animator that’s worked on games like Splitgate: Arena Warefare and has a good taste for making things look nice and authentic. Not confirmed, at least until we get closer to a time when we’re ready to do so.
The Gameplay Abilities System was created by Epic Games for their own titles like Paragon and Fortnite: Save The World, but they opened it up to everyone. I do not know how to fully describe it on my own, outside of the rough knowledge given to me by my Lead Developer, but here is what GAS has to say about itself:
“The Gameplay Ability System is a highly-flexible framework for building abilities and attributes of the type you might find in an RPG or MOBA title. You can build actions or passive abilities for the characters in your games to use, status effects that can build up or wear down various attributes as a result of these actions, implement “cooldown” timers or resource costs to regulate the usage of these actions, change the level of the ability and its effects at each level, activate particle or sound effects, and more. Put simply, this system can help you to design, implement, and efficiently network in-game abilities as simple as jumping or as complex as your favorite character’s ability set in any modern RPG or MOBA title.”
I’ll be honest, I mostly started this list to talk about ALS and Gameplay Abilities. But, we do have several other small plugins for making life in the editor more efficient and (sometimes) more fun for us. We simply need to focus on the art itself when it comes to the limitation we have in numbers and funding for the time being, so having things that aid us in having quality systems and functionality without having to do it completely ourselves is a huge blessing. Middleware, software, and engine plugins really make this game possible, no doubt about it.