Iron Harvest DevBlog #18 - October 2019

  Oct 25, 2019     Iron Harvest

What’s our Dev-team working on?

News: Iron Harvest out in the field!

Tobi and our friends from Deep Silver had a great time at the Poznan Gaming Arena in Poland. High-5s were given, jokes made, and the latest game version demonstrated.
We’ve seen long queues, enthusiastic feedback and this amazing Cosplayer who looks like he literally just stepped out of the game.

Fan-tastic cosplayer who came to our show at PGA19

We’re also looking for volunteers to be part of our demonstration at G-Star 2019! Please get in contact if you’re in Busan, South Korea, between the 14th and 17th of November. In return for your help we’ll give you a free ticket for the whole gaming convention and you’ll get exclusive access to our game.

Wish-list us on Steam here. Even if you intend to play it on console, consider this an important vote of support for the development of a better game. Also please ask your friends to do it. 
Info: What has our Dev-team been doing?

As we race towards Beta, we think it’s a good time to check in with our development team and see some highlights of what they’ve been working on this past month.

Jan (Game Director)

I’ve mainly worked on the cut scene cinematics. We have about 80 minutes of cinematics in the game and we had to make final text adjustments, find the perfect workflow and the animators needed feedback on their blockouts, mo-cap shots and finished animations. I also started thinking about the Kickstarter stretch-goal campaign together with our writers/game designers.

Julian (Executive Producer)

Time is running out to upgrade your game edition and secure the physical assets

I am coordinating the production and marketing with Deep Silver and helped to get our new producer Nico up to speed. Everything that will be super awesome on the shows in 2020 must be organized now! The Kickstarter/Pre-Order physical production is also on my list. Backers with the “You in the Game” Tier will receive an e-mail soon and the upgrade program must end when I start the physical productions.

I will be in Korea at the G-Star show and will have meetings with potential business partners for the Asian territories!

Nico (Lead Producer)

A big part of the team is currently very focused on the development of the single player campaign and we are streamlining the processes around that. We are also working hard to get all game-play units from all factions into the game, so stay tuned, there is great stuff coming up.

Marilena (Junior Producer)

I am always working to keep our project plan up to date so that we have an overview of our progress and can identify bottlenecks. I also do the budgeting for orders, which are sent out to our external providers and communicate feedback to them. I am also the protector of our naming IDs for different assets, since it is important that we stick to a proper naming convention to prevent confusion. Whenever something is on fire in a department, Nico and I solve it!

Tessa (Junior Producer)

Primarily, I worked on process optimization in our internal management program. Representing and optimizing processes and pipelines is incredibly important in producing and takes a lot off the team's shoulders. I also work with the other producers to keep all the features and assets on screen and often work on project planning and asset tracking.

Max (Lead Game Designer)

I have been busy checking all the new minor systems and trying to optimize them. We already decided on some tiny adjustments, that hopefully create a big improvement towards game-play. I have also worked out the few remaining features and units that will hopefully really round up the whole experience for you. I cannot tell more, but you can get excited!

Dominik (Game Designer)

I'm certain there's a logic here. . . there must be!

I’ve been working on improving a bunch of small features. It start's with an analysis of the current situation and a concept of how to tackle the issues without losing the positive aspects. We, of course, want to improve the user experience, but the game also needs to remain/become fair while also expanding upon the interesting decisions players can make. It’s a tough, but interesting, balance I try to make.

Elliott (Game Designer)

Who knew AI is such a complicated business?

I've been busy restructuring our AI for an overhaul we have planned for the near future. Put very simply, our AI will be made up of three core layers: A high-level layer determining which goals the AI will pursue and when, a mid-level layer coordinating groups of units to achieve those goals, and a low-level layer controlling individual units. This low-level layer will allow AI to react to threats such as grenades. AI is a very complex topic, especially within strategy games. If you have more questions about the methods we use, drop by the Discord channel and I'll be happy to explain!

Philipp (Lead Programmer)

As a Lead Programmer, I try to keep every other programmer busy with the most useful tasks and talk to other departments to make sure they are all not hindered in their work. I also keep on implementing new units and their special abilities. I can tell you that some are special indeed. For me, that is sometimes very conflicting. At first, I get very excited by the cool ideas and designs of the units. Then, I think about the work that must be done to implement that special abilities and I panic a little. But in the end, when everything is in it's place for a very special unit or ability, I'm excited again. Awesomeness always wins!

Thomas J. (Technical Director)

I've made progress on two big changes to the software architecture. Both changes are meant to improve the performance and smoothness of the game. One long term goal is to replace the navigation system with a better one. The challenge here is to quickly adapt to changes in the obstacle set (e.g. new buildings, destroyed walls) without the need of extensive (re)computations. The other set of changes aims to make the simulation and visualization of the game so independent from each other that they can be computed on different CPU cores. If this succeeds, we will be able to use modern multi-core hardware much more efficiently and so improve game performance significantly compared to what we have currently.

Lukas (Programmer)

During the last few weeks, I've mostly worked on getting the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One builds up and running. This included: upgrading the version we use, improving our benchmark system, working on the way we package the assets and having a look at the game’s performance on the different platforms. I also spent some time on gamepad controls, especially on implementing a new concept on how to build new units.

Janek (Programmer)

IH is spreading so localization is taking on re-newed importance. 

I worked a lot on getting our localization systems up and running. We also support non-western languages, like Korean, now! I'm also implementing the campaign progression systems, campaign screens, the ability to play cinematic cut-scenes and a lot of user interface reworks (especially regarding how to navigate in the UI with a gamepad).

Arne (Programmer)

I've been working to improve our build pipeline. Currently, it might take up to 2-3 hours to create a new version of Iron Harvest. This makes iterating and testing quite troublesome. Hopefully, when I’m done, this can be brought down to a build that takes no longer than 20 minutes to create.

Patrick (Programmer)

This past month, I have mostly been working on implementing the train and rail system for our single-player campaign. This was a very interesting experience, requiring special attention, because of the way the train moves along the rails is very different from the movement of all our other units. We also needed a system that automatically detects the rails placed by the level designers and converts them into a structure our game-logic understands. I think the players will really enjoy this feature, because it’s not every day you get to control an armored war-train in a strategy game.

Chris (Programmer)

I was mostly busy with implementing everything scripting-, AI- and behavior-related. I work hand in hand with the level-designers to give them the most flexibility to script the campaign-mission and set-up cool cut-scenes. I'm also implementing/improving the specific behaviors units are working with (e.g. patrols and waves) to make them react to the player in an intelligent manner. Furthermore, I am adjusting the AI to work within the campaign-missions as well and improve the overall performance.

Christoph (Graphics Programmer)

Improving performance!

The opulent forests and meadows in Iron Harvest caused one of our major performance bottlenecks. Therefore, I have implemented a completely new rendering solution that transforms and maps the entire vegetation cover into the graphics memory before level start. An index table allows for fast access of each single plant. By leveraging the GPU's ability for parallel processing, and rendering only what the camera sees, instanced rendering now performs better. Furthermore, I made improvements to vegetation shaders, LOD-blending, shadow rendering, and the wind system.

Lars (Programmer)

Graphs, we love graphs

I am currently working on documenting and improving our business tools. As our asset production pipeline is now operating at full speed, we need to make sure that our process management tools can keep up. Another tool, that has been in a prototype phase for a couple of weeks, is now operational. As you can see in the screenshot, we use it to track and collect data from our benchmark test map and draw multiple visual graphs with it that we can view directly in the browser, even if the benchmark is still running!

Thomas B. (Programmer)

I mostly did preparation work for save-games. Furthermore, I worked on some things to improve performance and optimization of the game.

Thorsten (Quality Assurance)

I am still looking for bugs and things that break inside the game. Occasionally, things can still break, as new features get implemented or new things get tested out. Long story short, everything I can find will find its way to the person that can eventually fix it. Programmers, mostly :)

Stefan (Art Director & Lead Artist)

Mother, is that you?

I’ve been finalizing the design/blockouts for the Rusviet factions’ base buildings and coordinated our external concept artist and modelers through their production. I’ve also been overseeing the visual side of our ongoing performance improvement efforts and the setup of our cutscene production pipeline, which is now running at full steam. Right now, I’m finishing up the designs of each faction’s special unit and when that is done, I’ll be devoting myself to put polish to our vegetation and implementing various feature request by our level artists (e.g. a battlefield biome).

Robert (3D Artist)

Castle! No landscape would be complete without one.

I've been working on modular architecture, such as the Stronghold asset kit. Furthermore, I created a bunch of decorative assets like cars and backyard props for the urban themed maps.

Hendrik (3D Artist)

Even in 1920+ nothing beats impressive facial hair!

I’ve been mainly working on a tool that lets the level artists easily draw out streets for the urban environments in Unity. In addition to that, I’ve been working on the hair for the cut-scene characters using a procedural tool I wrote to create the hair cards and one that generates their textures. That’s a mighty beard to challenge even that of Tobi’s!

Michiel (3D Artist)

I've worked on creating new train assets as well as overhauling the old train wagon textures and models to a higher quality standard. Additionally, I went over several other assets, in-game and cinematics, to proof and improve the textures. We’ve made some advances in the cinematic department, and internally, we have been busy organizing our pipeline for a more efficient workflow.

Arfri (3D Artist)

I finished 3 new assets, the armored train, cannon, and cannon support. My tasks mainly concentrated on refining the models on top of the blockouts done by Michiel. For the train cannon there was a lot of picking of parts and design elements, and then replacing or improve upon them. After every design element in the model starts to function and work together, I then start working on the high-poly mesh, which basically adds smoother edges, bolts and rivets. After that, I optimize the meshes for an in-game version, which has a much more workable geometry and is fairly low-poly. Then all that’s left is the UV mapping, normal baking, texturing and the export. That’s it! ;)

Daniel (Level Designer)

I’ve been finishing my work on another 2 vs. 2 multiplayer map. It is a very versatile map set in a rural area in which a massive airship has crashed and our factions are fighting over the resources it scattered. The game-play is changing a lot based on where you are starting with your teammate and offers different approaches to the victory. The map went through lots of iterations, but we're happy with the final result. Now, I will focus on the next cool multiplayer experience!

Valentin (VFX)

I’ve been working on a lot of different stuff lately. I started implementing effects for the abilities of different mechs and especially for our heroes. Additional to that, I’ve made a lot of progress in the destruction of the Rusviet mechs and will soon be done with their visual effects. I also started working on destruction simulation and effects for the cinematic and in-game cut-scenes.

Maximilian (Lead Level Designer)

It's not just in the fields, these battles are going street to street!

Our first city map posed quite a challenge, since it consists of a lot of buildings which can be entered and used for tactical combat situations. Also, line of sight is a major topic if you have units in the streets between tall buildings. Furthermore, one of our greatest and most fun features, the destruction of buildings and environment objects, puts a lot of stress on performance. This needs to be considered in the concept of the layout and the game-play walk-through.

Dirk (Level Designer)

I’ve been focused on all the campaign maps. I start by scripting, implementing and testing game events. Often, bugs are found which I need to resolve. We test any new features we devise for maps by retrofitting older maps. It’s a long and fun iterative process, but we think you’ll be pleased with the results.

Magnus (Level Designer)

During the past weeks, I have been hard at work on many of our campaign maps; adding enemies, events, cut-scenes and starting to balance everything out. Things are coming along nicely, now that most units and features are ready. Some of the campaign maps are already a lot of fun to play. I’m excited and I hope you all look forward to trying them yourself!

Justin (Level and Game Designer)

I’ve been working a lot on our scripting system for all our campaign maps, especially on the behavior of units. We improved many scripting workflows and implemented a lot of new features in collaboration with the programmers. Besides working on scripting and staging for some campaign maps, I also blocked out new levels and worked with Daniel on an all new multiplayer map!

Thomas D. (Lead Animator)

For the most part I'm smoothing out our cinematic animation pipeline, tracking dependencies for our in-house animators and trying to make sure they are able to work with as few interruptions as possible.

Sarah (Animator)

I’ve been producing and coordinating animations for cinematic production. These will bring the story of Iron Harvest to life through our in-game cinematics.

Vladislav (Animator)

During the past few months I have been focused on animating the movements of Olga, her tiger, Gunter and a lot of destruction animations for mechs. This has been very interesting and exciting, and so I’m looking forward to seeing them in-game when they are finally ready.

Theresa (Animator)

Over the past few weeks I have been working on the cut-scenes for the first campaign. Now that we’ve added all the motion-capture, the groundwork is done. However, to make it stand out there is still a lot to do! Postures need to be refined, fingers animated, shots corrected and much more. Polish, polish, polish.

Rahel (Animator)

The in-game animation department has been working on the Rusviet mechs to get them ready for implementation. We also animated more hero characters like Gunter’s wolves Tag and Nacht, Olga and her tiger Changa. And some of us are working on a little unannounced surprise.

Marina (Animator)

A woman and her bear, it's an unbreakable bond.

I’ve been working on in-game cutscenes animations, which are necessary to tell the story within missions. These animations need a lot of communication to get them working properly and smoothly. Though it requires a lot of technical stuff, research and actual animating, it’s just part of the job. I have a lot of fun going through all the stages of creating the in-game cutscenes.

Thomas (Lead Technical Artist)

I’ve been rigging new units and checking the work of our external suppliers. I also had a lot of fun destroying new mechs with our VFX artist and making sure their death animations are spectacular. I’ve also been fixing a lot of small animation bugs here and there.

Dennis (Technical Artist) and Matthias (Content Manger)

Matthias and I teamed up to do the groundwork for the cinematics project inside of Unity. We needed to come up with workflows which allow the different departments to work in parallel on more of 80 minutes of cinematics. During that process, several new tools were developed that enable us to iterate faster while integrating and finalizing the cinematics. This helped us get the best results possible. We are making good progress preparing all the cinematic scenes and passing them to the different departments. The first results have now reached a state which comes very close to our vision.

Yuhuang (Technical Artist)

I’ve been finishing up some character's cinematic lighting rigs. Other than that, I was rigging the animal companion for some of the heroes, plus some left-over work for the Rusviet faction.

Tobi (PR and Marketing Manager)

I, the one on the right, had the great pleasure to meet players at Poznan Game Arena 2019. With our Publisher Koch Media we shared an amazing booth with other great titles from the family. While the public had the chance to try the latest Iron Harvest Alpha3, I showed one of the first single player missions to media and influencers. Look out for their reviews coming soon! It was amazing to see how the huge interest among the people was and we hope to see you guys again soon. FOR POLANIA! (or any other faction you want to fight for)

Will (Community Manager)

Aside from writing and coordinating DevBlogs such as this, I’ve been creating varied social media posts that keep you up to date with development highlights, events and little added extras. I also have the pleasure of taking care of our Backers-only Discord channel. Here, I happily discuss the game and digest your valuable feedback before forwarding it onto the appropriate developer. In addition, I help with quality assurance by investigating your bug-reports, trying to replicate them and coordinating with the programmers. As an old gamer, it’s exciting to see behind the scenes while the game is growing and taking shape. I can’t wait to share with you more, so I hope you’ll follow us on our social media channels!

Felix (Student assistant)

If you wrote to us a private message on Facebook, or had to open a support ticket, chances are high that I was the one answering you. Besides working in customer support, I recently started helping in the VFX department. In the past few weeks I worked on awesome new healing, burning and shocking effects. Refreshing or humiliating the puny human soldiers! I’m still new with to all this VFX stuff, but I’m making steady progress and have had a lot of fun messing around with the digital people.

Join the conversation in our Backers Discord Channel for all the latest news, info and discussion. You'll find the link here. 
Info: EverSpace 2 Kickstarter

Check out this trailer for EVERSPACE 2; a cool space looter shooter being developed by our friends at RockFish Games. As a fellow north German Indi game developer, we have a great relationship with these guys and know that their Kickstarter campaign is worthy of support. With your help, we know they will be able to deliver on their plan for an open-world space shooter with deep exploration, sophisticated RPG elements and an engaging sci-fi story. To support their vision, check out their Kickstarter campaign here and help them reach their goals.

Looking Ahead

As we approach the end of the year, I hope you get some sense from the dev’s texts above that there’s a lot in store for you and exciting times ahead. 

Stay tuned, and we hope to see you in Korea!

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