Iron Harvest DevBlog #25 - May 2020

  May 29, 2020     Iron Harvest

Working hard on your post-Beta feedback, sneak-peeks and console news!

News: No Compromises! Consoles Update!

It has been 2 years since our successful Kickstarter Campaign in April 2018 and we are getting closer and closer to the release of Iron Harvest 1920+. With your help, we were able to collect invaluable feedback from the closed beta. We’re trying to incorporate as many ideas as possible - again we want to thank you for the amazing support! Also don't forget to say hi on our closed Backer Discord Channel. There you can share your thoughts directly with the team and the community.

If you've already claimed your early supporters game, please also join us in our Backers-only Discord Channel for all the latest news, info and discussion. You'll find the link here. 

During our Kickstarter campaign we promised you that we will not commit to any compromises for any version of the game (Windows/PlayStation/Xbox). Each platform will get all the love necessary, and things look very promising. The closed Beta runs smoothly, and the feedback you guys gave us was overwhelming. The control schemes for PlayStation and Xbox are also up and running and we are continuing with internal testing. However, with the global Covid-19 pandemic raging for over 3 months and the resulting change of workflows, things got a little complicated.

Let’s rip off the band aid - To release the game simultaneously on Windows and consoles on September 1st we’d need to forgo many of the things which we promised you. For us, such a compromise, to force out the console version, is not an option. To give the game all the love it needs, and you deserve, we unfortunately have decided to postpone the release of the Iron Harvest 1920+ on PlayStation & Xbox Versions until Q1 2021. The Windows version releases unchanged on September 1st, 2020.

The console versions are very important for us and we strongly believe that with the extra time we will all get the outstanding console RTS we all are waiting for.

Also influenced by the current Covid-19 regulations are logistical problems we are facing concerning the physical Kickstarter rewards. Rest assured that every eligible Backer will get a digital game key on release day, however with our physical rewards production we are currently looking into possible delays that might occur due to the government lock-downs in various countries. We will do everything possible - however, we’ll have to wait for further Covid-19 pandemic developments and regulations. We’ll always keep you updated!

Info: Post-Beta, What’s Everyone Working On?

Jan (Game Director)

I’ve done tons of stuff in preparation for the release like discussing trailer ideas and ideas for other marketing assets. Besides that, I am testing a lot, giving feedback to our game designers, level designers and programmers regarding the feel of the game and the balancing.

I’m also working on the story / progression of the Kickstarter bonus campaign. There are many balls in the air at this point and there is a lot of stress involved, but I’m still super motivated because of the positive feedback we get! Thanks for that!

Julian (Executive Producer)

Creating a dense battlefield of 1920+ feeling requires a lot of mixing and effects.

My focus right now is to synchronize our development with the publisher, balance creativity with business. Orchestrating our team with Jan and Nico to precisely hit all the beats on the publishing side from Age Rating to Marketing is a big challenge.

Tied to my living room and not being able to see all our partners at GDC or E3 is sad, but we are giving our best to expand our network to create cool new opportunities for Iron Harvest. The upcoming months will be BIG with a lot of cool stuff going on, so stay tuned!

Besides all that, I am also the Audio Director of the game. I have the great pleasure to work with Adam Skorupa, Krzysztof Wierzynkiewicz and Michal Cielecki from Music Imaginary on the music for Iron Harvest. So far, we have created around 1½ hours of music for the game and the mix of classic orchestra and industrial synths really shines and creates a unique soundtrack. Working with artists and choirs of all 3 representative nations from Germany, Poland and Russia is a great creative journey. Adam is also working with me on the weapon sound design, creating an authentic diesel-punk experience for every unit. My long-term buddy for SFX Clemens (since “The Book of Unwritten Tales”) created a lot of new unit animation sounds, tons of engines and scene atmosphere. Also mixing the over 1 hour of cinematic video material and processing thousands of VO files for radio and other effects.

Nico (Lead Producer)

The entire team is working hard, pushing the game towards the finish line. Our implemented production logistics paid off and we made a lot of progress in the past months. 

The Corona pandemic brought a lot of challenges that we had to tackle if we were to keep the production as smooth as possible. In my role I have to talk to a lot of team members on a daily basis and right now I have more Skype calls in a week than in the last year combined.

We now started polishing all areas of the game and it’s really cool seeing everything coming together right now.

Marilena (Assistant Producer)

My usual duties continue to keep our project plan on track. I manage the outsourcing system; help coordinate our art department and assign tasks. All while identifying constraints and working to resolve them together with the team. Even though we are currently working from home, our internal communications methods have worked out well and I’m happy with how we have adapted to the new challenges.

Tessa (Junior Producer)

Currently, I am working on the KING Art internal management tool. During the development of Iron Harvest we have discovered many limitations and room for improvement, so we are currently adapting and improving it to be ready for the next big projects!

Max (Lead Game Designer)

As always, I have been busy arranging tasks within the game design department and coordinating our efforts with everyone else in the Iron Harvest team. Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at gamepad controls for the Iron Harvest console versions. I’ve also set up the first set of achievements (for consoles and pc) and started crunching the numbers on a lot of the metagame elements. Finally, we have been taking a close look at all your feedback, evaluating the improvements and changes, as well as prepared everything for upcoming feature updates of the game! I hope you are all excited for what’s to come!

Dominik (Game Designer)

Over the course of the last month, the problems and challenges facing the games balance has changed a lot. With all units and features narrowing down to their final state, a lot of edge cases came up. For example, discrepancies between abilities that work perfectly fine in multiplayer, but tear any campaign map apart.

In addition, we made our first steps towards collecting and evaluating telemetry data. For example, the win ratio per faction, damage dealt by each unit type and whole lot more. This, combined with your feedback, will help us to improve balancing further and will become an invaluable tool to find the optimal solutions to our balancing related problems.

Elliott (Game Designer)

This month I've been working on localization: helping translators ensure Iron Harvest is released in multiple languages upon launch.

I additionally worked on submitting forms to the various ratings boards across the world so we'll know which age rating Iron Harvest will have! 

Between all that, I worked together with Francis to fix a long-standing issue with Victory Point bonuses to prevent exploitation. Read his entry for more information on that!

Otherwise, I've mostly been fixing minor bugs and begun looking at how we can polish our units further to make them feel even more awesome!

Francis (Game Designer)

This past month, Elliott and I have been hard at work creating a prototype able to crunch the numbers on the effects of different victory point bonus systems. The current implemented system has (some) positive impact on matches, but it’s exploitable and this is something we really needed to address. Something we’ve finally found the time for. We have been analyzing the full extent of the system's current effects and comparing it to a "no bonus" system and different new proposals. A new design for the system has been picked and will now be implemented into the game!

Furthermore, I have been looking into everything to do with playing Iron Harvest with a controller, finding the current issues, and researching & designing solutions

Philipp (Lead Programmer)

Most of my time was spent busy managing our awesome team of engineers. I try to come up with a good plan for whom should do what and when. We always have plenty of issues, ideas, improvements, and obligations to juggle with and it is not always easy to decide on what would be the best route to further improve the game. But, when I sometimes take a step back, and try to look at Iron Harvest from a greater distance, I can clearly see how much it improves with every week of effort we put into it. I hope you can feel that too when you have the chance to look at the game (again).

Thomas J. (Technical Director)

Following your Beta feedback, I’ve been working on improving the responsiveness of infantry units. To allow players to feel like they are really in command of the war effort, their units should be able to abort their current action and work towards their new goals as soon as possible. This is especially important for units that are designed to be slower, like the MG infantry, which is powerful once setup but takes several seconds to deploy and redeploy.

Arne (Programmer)

The past month was quite different at KING Art. Firstly, we had to make sure that the workflows we used to have at the office still worked with all my colleges and myself working from home. Especially, getting out daily (or sometimes hourly) builds to the team was quite a challenge. On the other hand, I was working on getting the Iron Harvest client ready to meet all the requirements of the console platforms, also quite challenging!

Lastly, I am right now working on making sure that the Iron Harvest online services function without a glitch, so you can play your multiplayer matches, get XP and level-ups. We have quite some cool features planed that will arrive soon and I am making sure that all these things don't crash our servers when it is used by thousands of players.

Lukas (Programmer)

As well as the game being on PC-Steam and GOG, I've been working on consoles and different PC stores. We want the game to eventually be accessible on as many platforms as makes sense for our game. No exclusivity anywhere. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of fiddly details to work out for each individual platform. It’s frustrating work, but it’ll be worthwhile in the end.

Chris (Programmer)

I've worked mostly on the A.I. and adjusting it to the needs of the level-designers. I improved the configurability and the performance especially for the campaign maps and made sure the level-designers can implement the A.I. within the structure of the specific Levels. 

To improve iteration-speed, I tried to adjust our internal tools to give the level-designers the up most freedom to configure and customize the A.I., as well as debug-Tools to better understand the decisions it is taking and which tasks are tackled at certain points in time. Otherwise, I’ve worked on general bug fixes and improvements regarding scripting, tools, and overall game play mechanics.

Patrick (Programmer)

I've spent the last month mostly fixing bugs and supporting our level-designers. As a part of that I've improved the sequence-system that we use to stage and script the single-player missions. It now causes fewer delays, and is way better suited for skipping cutscenes, which is why we will now enable the skipping of cutscenes for players in a future update to Beta.

Janek (Programmer)

I’ve been working on a plethora of different things: For instance, on the possibility to play the campaign co-operatively, on the localization of the game's texts into different languages, implementing a way for players to choose and configure their favorite hero and some call-in reserves in multiplayer matches. All exciting stuff to come.

Iron Harvest in traditional Chinese

Christoph (Graphic programmer)

I‘ve made the environment more interactive: Vegetation now has a dynamic wind system with changing directions. Trees and grass react to explosion shock waves. Grass can be burned or trampled down. The terrain becomes beaten by craters, burned earth and oil spills. Units also leave trails in the snow. 

I also made performance improvements to make the game run faster. For example, I altered the rendering pipeline completely for destructible buildings. Shadow lengths are pre-processed, and dynamic occlusion culling discards all hidden parts from rendering, such as interiors of buildings and fronts that are turned away from sight.

Thomas B. (Programmer)

I implemented a music system that can crossfade between two similar music tracks with different intensities. This can for example be used by our scripters to make the music more intense when a battle is starting without interrupting the music. I also fixed some bugs regarding shouts, savegames and other things.

Alexander (Programmer)

I have been working on implementing and improving (fixing bugs) several different abilities for heroes and mechs. Working closely with the designers and animators to make the abilities function like they imagined.

Anh Tuan (Programming Intern)

I am an intern starting to get to grips with this cool project. Currently, I am working on implementing a redesign for a better player experience and fixing some bugs.

Stefan (Art Director)

Over the past weeks I’ve been busy adding, polishing, and finalizing vegetation tools and assets, so our level artists have everything they need to finish the campaign maps. I’ve also worked on more visual polish and fidelity like systems for rain, snow, and cloud shadows to breathe even more life into the world of 1920+. I even found some time to experiment with some of our “nice-to-have” features, For example, a system for different mech skins!

Robert (3D Artist)

The cutscene asset production was one of the major parts that kept me busy during the last couple of weeks. Because it’s quite spoiler heavy, I am unfortunately not able to show too much detail, but you can have a glimpse at some of the assets which will be placed in these cutscene environments. Besides that, I was also creating gameplay assets for the end-maps, polishing some of our existing assets and designing some propaganda posters, which is always fun.

Michiel (3D Artist)

We have been making huge leaps of progress in our cinematic cutscenes. The basics for all of them are done – environment, animations, effects, lighting, etc. Which now leads to putting all our focus on fixing and polishing to make them look even more awesome. On my end, I’ve been mainly organizing the environments, creating lighting for all the scenes, remaking and improving character textures, and some work on shaders. We also started making bi-daily reviews of our work to instantly seek and solve major issues since so many overarching disciplines have to work together while not having the comfort of being able to sit next to each other.

Sebastian B. (3D Artist)

I’ve just joined the team and during my first month I worked on unit renderings for the in-game U.I. as well as for marketing and press releases. It’s exciting to be a part of this team and help to bring the world of 1920+ to life.

Youri (3D Artist Intern)

I also recently started at King Art as an art intern. Over the last two months I've worked on environment assets for the game and for the cinematics. My favorite one so far is the bishop's throne for one of the cinematics.

Sebastian G. (Level/3D Artist)

This month, I took the time and created some eye-catching cover images for each of our beautifully crafted maps, highlighting their unique visual features and tactical elements. Check out this shot of a rocket research facility . . . and that’s all I’m saying about that ;)

Dirk (Level Designer)

I have been working on the scripting of my maps. If there were tests that found bugs, I fixed them. By playing the game on my own, I also adjusted some small things like the balancing and tempo.

Magnus (Level Designer)

The past month has been a wild one. I have of course been using your feedback to both fix problems in our current maps and prevent them occurring in future ones. Speaking of which, I have also been very busy finishing up and balancing several other campaign maps. During this process, I worked with our programmers to further improve our scripting and A.I. tools for all involved in the level design process. In the breaks in-between all of that, I went back to my beloved multiplayer maps, both continuing work on some that we can’t show you yet, and starting to think about potential future maps for our post-release plans!

Why yes, all of this makes total sense and I am in complete control of the situation, thank you very much for asking!

Stijn (Level Designer)

Like most of the other level designers I have been focusing on polishing the campaign maps. Often, this is the least glorious stage of level design because it involves fixing bugs, implementing small final features, polishing cutscenes and testing. Lots and lots of testing. But in the end, it is all worth it because it leads to better maps for our players!

Justin (Game and level Designer)

Besides polishing and bug fixing the snowball fight and deer hunt tutorial, I continued my work on some other very exiting campaign maps. I worked on the design of some NPC Units and their features. I created some special encounters and created more interesting narrative beats throughout my maps. I can't tell you much about them yet, but we are working on some great content, especially for the grand finale ;)

Sabrina (Level Designer)

I spent these past weeks with debugging and tweaking of my campaign maps. The tickets keep coming and I’m just trying to keep up with them. We’ve also got some new features for scripting. The new A.I. is still a bit wonky, but I’m sure that it will make for some fun campaign maps when we release them.

Thomas D. (Lead Animator)

I'm happy to announce that we were able to finish motion capture and lip sync for the cinematics earlier than anticipated. That leaves us with a couple options to explore. We can either spend even more time on polishing cinematics that are still rough around the edges and create more content, or - which is more likely - we shift animators over to the gameplay department and make the best game possible. It's rewarding to have a close to functional state, to be able to see how everything plays out after years of development and at the same time it helps us notice things that still require an animator's attention.

Rahel (Animator)

Together with the code in-game animation department I have been working hard on getting responsiveness of infantry onto a nice level. We know this was a key piece of feedback from the Beta community and we’re always looking to improve responsiveness. This also involved polishing animations and working on some new units for later release ;)

Theresa (Animator)

Adjusting camera movements and motion-capture in our cutscenes has been my domain for the most part of the last month. Tweaking here, polishing there, trying to really get those characters across. But little did I know of the world that would open up soon after: Lip-syncing! Now, that the voice actors have been chosen, all those shots are really coming to life. And it’s truly astonishing how much the dynamics in a scene change when you get to show expressions on top of the acting itself. So, my current work and personal goal is to grant each and every one of them, no matter if hero or villain, what they truly deserve: Some fine, hand-picked facial expressions!

Vladislav (Animator)

I’ve been supporting the cinematics team wherever I could, as well as animating a new boss and secret hero unit!

Valentin (VFX)

During the past month, I placed a lot of effects and destruction simulations into our cinematics and in-game cutscenes. This was the first pass and involves placing existing effects into the scene and adjusting the timing of the effect. The next step for this will be finalizing the effects, adjusting the simulations and make everything look awesome!

Currently, I’m polishing all unit and structures effects and I’m adding a lot of new ability effects. There’re going to be great!

Felix (VFX)

Since January, I've work half time in the VFX department whilst finishing my bachelor’s degree. Lately, I've been working on lots of effects for our rendered and in-game cutscenes, unit and building effects, mainly regarding their destruction and explosions! It's a very rewarding feeling being this new in VFX and seeing your effects in prominent roles in the game and not just barely noticeable or placeholder thingies. Home office hits me hard on the productivity and it's extra exhausting staying focused, but I think we’ve all managed it very nicely. See you next time!

Thomas P. (Lead Technical Artist)

I’ve been simulating cloth and Anna’s hair for our cutscenes to make them look good. This way her hair and jacket will move and flow more realistically. I’ve also been fixing and tweaking various stuff here and there. There are so many small things that on their own might go unnoticed, but together, really make a game shine.

Yuhuang (Technical Artist)

Lately, I've been working on the finishing steps of rigging cinematic characters. I've updated the grooming for our cinematic characters, as well as adding mechanical details to mechs that will appear in cinematics. Other than that, it's mainly fixing newly found issue.

Matthias (Content Manager)

Among other things, I’ve been taking care of implementing and maintaining assets. This includes keeping our assets up to date with new features implemented by other teams, importing and removing assets, as well as trying to keep our project in a somewhat “clean” state. Something more “solid”; I recently completed an overhaul of our bunker variants, which required some re-structuring regarding their IDs and configuration to support varying tiers and equipment.

One of the bigger upcoming implementations I’m tackling right now is our “Room Service”. Basically, this involves one or more rooms for garrisoned buildings, allowing units to stay in a partially destroyed building longer, as they are able to switch into an intact room, should theirs be destroyed.

Thorben (Quality Assurance)

I’ve been happily swamped by all your feedback and bug reports since we released Beta. So, thanks for that :P. I’ve been coordinating between our various QA teams and devs as we filter through and prioritize the most urgent bugs. You can find me , or Will, on our Backers-only Discord channel if you’d like more one to one help with an issue your having. 

Will (Community Manager and QA )

I’ve been enjoying the writing and coordinating of DevBlogs such as this. With the release of our Beta, there has been great content to communicate and interest to engage with. I continue to take care of our Backers-only Discord channel, streamlining our communication channels and responding to all your feedback in whatever form it takes. Your input keeps us on our toes, and this is why I love indi game development. I also get my hands dirty by investigating your bug-reports, which can be tricky to replicate, as well as, coordinating between the relevant programmers and designers. Exciting times ahead, and so I look forward to all that brings. 

Alejandro (QA Project Manager)

I have been part of the early milestone approvals between King Art and Koch Media/DeepSilver. Since then, and until release, the testing team and myself are going to sweep over and over the Polanian, Rusviet and Saxony battlegrounds to spot any enemy bugs that we can.

Matěj (QA Lead)

I make sure our QA specialists have all the tools and answers needed to test the game reliably. We're reporting every little bug we can find to make sure we can deliver the best version of the game that we can.

Vojtěch (Jr. QA Specialist)

My job is to test the game builds using various techniques and make sure everything runs as it should. If I encounter any issues, I investigate them thoroughly, which allows me to report the bugs as accurately as possible. Reported issues are then sent to the dev team, which helps them to create the game everyone will enjoy.

Luis (Jr. QA Specialist)

Normally a game is meant to be enjoyed and to provide a nice experience for players. As part of the QA team we are meant to "break it", so players won't have deal with those "nastsy little bugseses". Sometimes they're obvious, others we must flush out, which sometimes means trying to do everything the game doesn't want us to. Sometimes "the bugs fights back". hehe...

Tomáš (Jr. QA Specialist)

I am part of a QA team, which means, that we are making sure the game runs as it should, by play-testing the game and correcting what's wrong. Since my Warcraft 3 and Warhammer 40k days I developed strong ongoing passion for RTS games, now continuing with Iron Harvest.

Martin (Jr. QA Specialist)

To my mind, QA testing means making the game as good as possible from the technical point of view. Our team is constantly trying to take one more step – to make the game an enjoyable experience for the player (and to have some fun along the way). I think that the developers have done a really good job. With Iron Harvest the community of gamers are up for a rocket ride.

Klára (Jr. QA Specialist)

I’ve been testing the game for a few months now and it is very exciting to watch the game grow and the story unravel. With every update, we look forward to new features that we then tested and made sure they worked well. We may have even played the game for fun after hours in the office! :) We especially fell in love with the mechs, who are adorable and deadly at the same time, and each of them has a distinct character. I am sure the gamers will have a great treat to look forward to (I know I do).

Ema (Jr. QA Specialist)

Like the rest of the QA team, I spend my time with the game playing it over and over and over and reporting any issues I encounter. My favourite aspect of the game are the various mechs - I find them very charming, and I'm sure the players will agree!

Tobi (Public relations manager)

Deep Silver and I are very busy, but in a different way to expected. Unfortunately, due to the Corona epidemic, most of the events we planned to go to this year were cancelled. It’s a shame, not only because we wanted to show the game to everyone out there, but we of course also wanted to high five ya’all. Despite this inconvenience, the team still tries to come up with new solutions and ideas. Let me tell you a secret, we have something really cool planned for this summer, so stay tuned for that.

The release of Iron Harvest is around the corner, which means that we are entering the hot stage of finishing, polishing, and submitting the gold version of Iron Harvest. For the publisher this also means preparing stores all around the world to “list" their game and try to establish partnerships – for instance with hardware manufacturers. In the end it is all about exposure and getting the word out, because what good is a game, if you can’t find it and/or buy it once it’s released, right?

Marketing and PR tries the same thing. Let the game shine! Together with video production they are currently working on several videos they’d like to release in the next month. Not only are we going in depth with the different factions and their pro’s and con’s, but the team is also thinking of something like a beginner’s guide. We’ll see 😊.

Anyway, everyone is extremely looking forward to the release of Iron Harvest, but as they say in game development. The last 10% are always the hardest – so fingers crossed!

Ronald (Lead Product Manager)

I'm focusing on the overall project plan and adjusting it, as necessary. Therefore, I'm also heavily involved on the contractual side and the milestone process. I liaise between our several internal departments and first parties.
Having previously released many titles, the most recent being Metro Exodus and Kingdom Come: Deliverance, I'm guiding my production colleagues with my experience to avoid any issues along the way.

Lena (Product Manager)
I have many different tasks. Together with two other colleagues we are handling the communication with first party, the age rating, the packaging and much more. We are in close contact with the guys from King Art and we are working together to make a great strategy game. The release of Iron Harvest is getting closer and we are really excited for it!"

Christoph (Product Manager)
We are working very close with the developers from the beginning of a new game until even after launch. Essentially, our main objective is to ensure the best possible release for a title and team up with the developer to support in various fields. My focus for Iron Harvest is primary in technical fields covering all tasks towards First Party platforms and different technical solutions.
Like what you see? Click here to Wish-list us on Steam, you’ll know immediately when we release and if a pre-release version of Iron Harvest becomes available. 
Looking Ahead

If you read this far, congrats :), and you can see we are crazy busy. Within the next months or so you’ll hopefully be seeing the fruits of the above labors. We’re going to have a lot to show you and whet your appetite for. You can expect a Beta update as soon as we have one stable and ready. When we have details, we’ll be sure to let you know.

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