As we plough on towards Beta, let's ask the team what's on the horizon.
Welcome to our monthly sneak peek at the cogs that keep Iron Harvest moving forward. This month we asked our team to report in and tease what they’ve been working on as we plough on towards Beta.
The Iron Harvest team is growing; welcome The Iron Doctor!
He’s British, experienced with Indie game development, recently received an actual doctorate in the sciences and has a huge passion for gaming, sci-fi, fantasy and history. He’ll be keeping the community growing and be one of your primary contact points. Ask him your questions, show him cool fan art and put him to good use.
Thanks to you we’ve have had a lot of feedback from Alpha 2 and some interesting questions have been asked about how we will move forward. Therefore, we’ve updated the FAQs on Kickstarter and the backer’s Discord channel. We hope this will continue to be the best way to get answers to your immediate questions.
The Kickstarter FAQs can be found here
We have taken the multiplayer servers offline. A big thank you to everyone who played and contributed during the extended Alpha 2 multiplayer test period. While it’s a shame to be offline, this gives us a chance to process your feedback and data. We’ll be back as soon as we have more to share with you.
Let’s collect the intel, and when it's ready, we’ll be seeing you again on the battlefield.
I spent a few days in Munich with Julian. We visited Deep Silver and talked to a bunch of very capable people about marketing, servers, collector's editions, QA, localization and a thousand other topics. I also finished writing the Rusviet campaign and started working on the Saxony campaign.
I presented Iron Harvest at GDC and Pax East (and met some of you awesome people there). After that I worked on project plan adjustments and organized the voice recordings. We’re going to record the first voices later this month in Poland and early next month in Germany.
I've been working on project optimization so that we can have more efficient workflows in the future. Together with the other producers of the project, I am making sure the administration of the project plan is as smooth and clean as possible. Not an easy task with such a huge game with so many different elements.
I’m new to Iron Harvest and I have spent most of my time getting to know the project and everyone involved. I am getting to grip with an overview of the asset creation, because a lot of assets from many different sources come into the project and one has to keep track of everything ;-)
I’ve been coordinating with the game & level design team in the creation of all new content. We have been making quite some progress with regards to the heroes, a few new units and of course new multiplayer and campaign maps for you!
Over the past month, I’ve worked mainly on our hero concept. This includes general questions as well as very specific ones. For example, how will veterancy work for heroes? How do they get unlocked and revived? In addition, each hero receives their own set of abilities and is effective against different types of enemies. Their abilities are especially interesting since they are intended to support the hero’s role, look and feel, while also enhancing overall gameplay.
I've been working on several features: As you may have noticed, we have an early version of a veterancy system implemented now, but there's still a lot planned. We will be fleshing it out further in the future. We've just implemented the system that will handle unit and notification voice lines in our studios internal build. Now it will undergo testing to ensure we give players enough feedback while not overwhelming them with information.
After listening to your thoughts, and plenty of discussion within the team, we have determined how we want to implement hero units and what their gameplay roles will be within each faction. Though this is still very early in development, you can expect more news about this in due course. We will be making strides to reduce the feeling of clunkiness when controlling units, particularly mechs. This should especially make slower units much less frustrating to play with.
While managing all the other programmers, I also worked on new gameplay features such as map buildings that can be occupied by squads of human soldiers. All the buildings on the map that you can destroy with your mechs in the latest Alpha 2 can be occupied in the games next released version. That will open up more interesting strategies because right now map buildings mainly serve as navigation points and as a line of sight blocker. Soon, every map building could host a deadly veteran gunner squad that rains down terror onto your precious machines. And to counter this, we expect more havoc and destruction on the battlefield as you try to get opposing squads out of their building.
I’ve started to investigate an alternative to our current navigation and spatial reasoning implementation. Right now, Iron Harvest is using visibility graphs for pathfinding. Their main advantage is that they are easy to implement, and they quickly provided us with something to work with during the prototyping and alphas phase of the game. But by now we have a growing list of features we would like to add that are not possible with the current implementation. One of our main grievances is that performance scales badly with increased map complexity. A different approach would be based on a triangulation of the pathable space that can be adapted locally when obstacles get destroyed or built. There are a lot of 3rd party solutions and academic literature to review, but it looks like we’re going to write from scratch something tailored to our specific needs. In the screenshot above you can see the first baby steps of something I hope to develop into a fully featured spatial reasoning library that will allow us to overcome all the current limitations and implement some new great features we have in mind. For example, if the detour to avoid an obstacle such as a fence or wall would be unacceptably long, infantry could vault over them or big mechs just crash through them.
I have spent countless hours in profiling tools to locate performance problems. Performance optimization contains three main areas: CPU, GPU and memory. To reduce CPU usage, we optimized code and assets to reduce the amount of computation that is done with every frame and optimized the rendering to minimize draw calls. GPU utilization depends on the amount of geometry we are rendering and shader complexity. There's still plenty of work to do in this area but for now we have added some quality settings to reduce GPU usage. Memory-wise we had to refactor a lot of code that is executed each frame to minimize memory allocations. This reduces the amount of lag spikes caused by garbage collection. Furthermore, I upgraded the project to Unity 2019.1 which was released in a stable version just a few weeks ago.
I’ve been busy working on the dialogue system for Iron Harvest. There is now a way to properly organize and manage all our in-game and cutscene dialogues, as well as export them to be translated into different languages and used as a script for voice recordings. I also created a small handy tool for fancy in-game camera tracking shots to be used for trailers and content for presentations.
I've been on vacation, but beforehand I did some research on how to split our one large Unity project into smaller projects that are easier to build and maintain. While doing that I also discovered a way that could enable our community to build their own custom maps! So far this is only a theory, but stay tuned ;)
I am mainly working on extensions and improvements to our internal scripting-logic, which is used by the level-designers to work on the campaigns. The main goal is to create a flexible toolset that allows the designers to implement every aspect of the various missions. Currently, I take care of extensions that affect the animation and visualization of in-game sequences. Furthermore, based on the feedback of our level-designers, I am implementing new mission- goals, triggers and conditions and fixing bugs in the existing ones.
Currently, I am mostly working on developing, supporting and improving the software tools our game designers and level designers use to make their work easier. The biggest part of this was my work on the editor used for scripting our single player campaign. The editor needs to be able to display many different operations, from spawning units to checking victory conditions in an organized and extendable manner. When there is time, I am also fixing as many bugs as possible and working on parts of the code that need some improvements.
I recently started to work a bit more closely with the game and developed a first prototype for a benchmarking system. It will help us to evaluate different builds of Iron Harvest more easily in the future. This way we'll prevent performance problems from sneaking into our game when we're adding or changing features or content.
I worked on a client-based player color system. The player's color will no longer be set in the map settings when starting a match. Instead, each player can define in the settings what color the player, the allies and the enemies should have on their system. If you want, you can even set the same color for multiple allies or enemies (for example set the color of all enemies to red and the color of all allies to green). I also worked on playing unit shouts when certain events happen. For example, the units should play a voice line when you give it an order or when it finishes conquering a resource structure. There are also some notification shouts, for example when you lose a unit or when a structure is attacked.
After receiving bug reports from our backers (through the in-game tools or via our discord), I tried to get to the bottom of why these things had happened. I was successful most of the time! I also automated Iron Harvest, so the game would play itself non-stop to see if our game would survive a really long gaming session. As mentioned in a past DevBlog, it is technically possible to play over 200 matches back to back, in a single session! I was asked to take a screenshot of a “funny bug”. But, out of principle, I think bugs are unfunny, so I will give you a screenshot of a mech army I can spawn at will.
Production of new units and characters is continuing at full speed. This gives me time to create new environments, like mountains and lake-land areas, for our level designers to use.
Inspired by the Masuren landscape in Poland, I created two asset kits including objects like boats, nets and tools for the farm and fishing village area. The texture work was done with one 1k texture atlas consisting of tileable patterns combined with uniquely baked objects for each set.
During the past 2 weeks, I worked on creating the eye-shader in Unity from scratch and getting it to a final state. I also made some progress on making block-out models for the Rusviet structures. I did some promotional art and researched cutscene development in Unity. I am going to test out a couple of these approaches this week.
I've been working mostly on the character-related assets, for example a adult male, female, and boy farmer as well as statues and a cavalry horse. Firstly, I block-out the major forms and usually multiple versions of whatever it is I’m working on. I then refine the model until it has a certain amount of detail, this part is called high poly creation and I then “retopologize” the model to reduce the polycount.
I’ve done some paint overs for new mechs and Rusviet buildings. I’ve also been heavily involved in the design and development of the last heroes and characters. We’re down to less than a handful!
They are our 3D outsourcing company and are working on the much-anticipated new units and characters. They just finished all Rusviet-Soldiers and are now mainly working on new cutscene characters, new hero units and the first Rusviet mechs!
I’ve been working with Robert, one of our 3D artists, to plan and create assets that will be used in different levels and environments of the game. This requires a constant back and forth of feedback with our level artists while we perform the first visual pass for all new levels.
This month I created more first-draft concept maps and I’ve extended other more familiar maps. I’ve designed a new scripting tool that defines events and triggers them at certain times. I have also prepared all the in-game dialogues for language localization.
I‘ve focused on the campaign of Iron Harvest. A lot has happened since we created those maps, so I did quite a lot of work updating them using the new tools and assets we now have. Apart from polishing them, I also started properly scripting many of the events and missions that you will encounter! This involved talking a lot with our programmers to make sure the scripting process works well for everyone and gives us the options we need.
I’ve been working on several maps including the challenge map, some single and multiplayer maps, and a small little map that can be used as a playground and testing area. Besides the whole level design process, we are working hard on our scripting tools so we are able to deliver an amazing gameplay experience. Furthermore, I’m managing external level designers and level artists. We are working closely with extremely talented people from all around the world, including some that are directly working with us on single and multiplayer maps. We are looking forward to showing you more of it.
I’m currently living in Uruguay, but I’m working on the multiplayer maps for Iron Harvest. Our latest Iron Harvest map is meant to provide a base for solid competitive gameplay and deliver a canvas which will allow varied tactics to emerge. These environments are one of many examples of how we are creating new unseen settings and locations for the world of 1920+. This map focuses on the diesel punk theme of the land being taken over by a relentless oil industry, which has damaged the environment with oil spillages. In the map itself there’s this big oil-swamped river that provides high mobility areas for mechs. Meanwhile the village is more welcoming of siege based and infantry-based fights. Overall, the map is meant to provide players with a balanced canvas where they can take advantage of the terrain by setting up their own strategies and machinations.
I’m from Stockholm, Sweden, but lived in Germany for 5 years while working at Ubisoft. I’m currently working on my first Iron Harvest campaign level. The landscape features a castle above an old picturesque village with surrounding farmlands. My current focus is mostly researching other similar levels and learning how they are made in Unity, using third party tools such as Vegetation Studio Pro for nature and roads. Vegetation Studio generates materials, foliage and even forests based on areas, big or small, defined by the level artist.
Since I started my internship in March, I have done some research for the occupation of buildings and documentation of various level design tools that we are using internally for Unity. Right now, I’m helping with the designing and scripting of campaign missions. We are working quite closely with the programmers to improve our scripting tools, so we have more options to design action sequences.
My main concern is getting everything up and running for our cinematics production. I'm currently laying out the first couple of scenes from the Polania campaign. Once done, we'll be able to test new workflows with motion capture being the big new one. We will implement this rough animation so that every other department (Lighting, VFX etc.) is able to follow through with their own preparations.
I've been working on the run and walk animation concept for a new mech, working title “Rebel Leader”. It was a challenge to find a good compromise between the movements of a gorilla and a mech. I also added new life to “Wojtek“, our fans' favorite bear.
My focus has been on bringing the world of Iron Harvest even more to life with animations for various fauna and farm animals. As well as this, a new Rusviet unit arrived and – most exciting – a new mech. One hell of a scale and with some serious strength behind it. We’ll see, who stands a chance against it.
During the past few weeks I´ve worked on some new visual effects. One of them is an effect for bullet casings that is triggered by some mechs after they’ve fired. Right now, I’m working on another effect that prevents parts of destroyed mechs from just “plopping” away. Instead they will dissolve and burn down over time.
I’ve been setting up and testing our motion capture studio. It’s been a lot of fun and will add new life to our animations. This has also involved updating rigs and streamlining our motion capture pipeline for our Iron Harvest cutscenes.
I've mainly been working on our asset pipeline and improving the general speed of things, such as our animation export tools. I've also been involved in improving the rendering performance of the soldier units, so more units can be drawn on screen with less of a performance hit. Developing the map-stroke prototype was probably the task I had the most fun with. It allows our mission designers to record drawings and markings on the overview map in a natural fashion (using a digital-pen) and have those played back in the same way during a mission-briefing.
I've mainly worked on some upcoming units and mechs, building rough blockouts and adding small adjustments to existing designs to make sure that their mechanical structure (joints) can achieve the pose and silhouette we want them to achieve.
As you can see a lot is going on as we gear up for the next update to be released in early June. Our multiplayer servers will be back online once we are ready for new testing and have completed the transfer of our server infrastructure over from Amazon Web Services to Google. We’re looking forward to sharing with you the beginnings of our campaigns, new maps and voice recordings.
As always, we enjoy receiving your feedback, so join the discussion on any of our social media channels and tell us what you think about what you’ve seen here.