Here are all the current Blog Updates posted by 22cans.
(See also Video Updates)
The Run upto Christmas 20th DecemberEdit
This is the last update for 2013 and what a year this has been. It’s common to make up an end-of-year list and I’m no different. This time last year we were moving into the final hours of our Kickstarter campaign and my stress levels were finally able to return to normal; both backers and pledges were still coming in thick and fast. We posted an open invitation to everyone in the neighborhood and beyond to come down to the studio for a small celebration (which we ended up broadcasting live for the world to see http://www.twitch.tv/22cans/b/349947383]link skip to 11 minutes 30 seconds). In January we came back to the studio and each got given our own obsessions to focus on and after the prototype we built the development of GODUS started in earnest. Then only a mere five months later we released our first Alpha to our Alpha backers and the feedback we received from that was invaluable. While our Alpha was around 200MB to download, the Beta which we announced at PAX and launched on 13th September came in at 650MB. That’s a mere nine months after development started in earnest! While there is still a lot of work left to do (Followers, Living World, Connected Worlds, God Powers, the list goes on and on) we’re pretty happy with how it’s gone and despite popular belief, your feedback does get taken into account by all of our designers. No doubt 2014 will be just as crazy and exciting, with new updates to GODUS for PC and Mac, a mobile and tablet version that will be going into Beta and of course the LINUX version at some stage. And don’t forget Bryan once the ‘Connected Worlds’ become active.
http://22cans.com/images/updates/U2/P1010122.jpg People gathered at our studio in December 2012 for the countdown
The team has been working on and finishing their latest sprint this week, which focusses on polishing existing features and of course expanding on the Follower behaviour, the new timeline and Leash. Earlier this month, we all took the afternoon off and met up at Peter’s place, where he had cooked us a truly lovely Christmas lunch. I have to also admit that some of us enjoyed a little tipple before we made our way there, but it just made everyone very jovial. Gary, Russell, Paul, Peter, Tim, Jemma and Peter (there’s two of them!) were the cooks for the morning but unfortunately not one of them had realized that a turkey needs quite a bit of time in the oven and so lunch was delayed by a tiny two hours. They should have had a spreadsheet with it all planned out on there, nevertheless the turkey that was served was absolutely delicious and very moist. Something had gone wrong with Peter’s (in)famous bread-sauce though as it resembled more of a gooey slop-mix and so wasn’t served. Brussels sprouts, carrots, red cabbage, perfectly roasted potatoes and of course gravy plus cranberry sauce (without strawberries) were put on the table. This time last year more than half of the people at the table were there enjoying a Christmas lunch together and it was absolutely amazing to do it again and with a few new faces too!
http://22cans.com/images/updates/U2/540350_10152750428801029_651225823_n.jpg It was rather cosy around the table for our team Christmas lunch
The team are still working tirelessly on the game (Sprint 5 finishes today) but yesterday when the power went out for a brief two and a half hours everyone remained (in a dark office) waiting for everything to be sorted out. Card games came out, candles came out and overall the mood was quite jovial. Then when the power came up everyone stormed back to their desks to continue coding, making art assets and generally doing what a developer does best.
http://22cans.com/images/updates/U2/candlemeeting.JPG The team used candles to light meetings when the power went out
Now, I was keen to continue this update talking about the new Follower system and the animations that go with it, unfortunately Dimitri (code) and Tim (animation) have both started their end of year break so that’s a no-go. However, one new piece of information I’ve learned is that the Leash which was shown in video update #35 actually replaces the Totem! Let me go into a little more detail about it;
While the Leash serves the same purpose as the Totem it does behave in a very different way. Firstly, you hold the left mouse button and then drag it it onto a Follower or Abode which will activate the Follower Leash. If you continuously drag it then you will draw a path which will fade off shortly behind the drag point. Upon releasing the Leash at any point, all affected Followers will immediately travel to that destination where they will look for something to do, similar to how the Totem worked. The line disappears once the mouse button has been released. Now if the Leash is released on an activity such as a building plot or farm field, then that activity will glow or show to indicate an objective. Otherwise the end destination of the line will glow as a small circle. Followers who are traveling to a destination while under the spell of a Leash will have a unique glow effect so they can be easily distinguished from other Followers. Clicking on one of them will make them snap out of the Leash mode and they shall look for a job applicable to them before going back to their previous behaviour. Shaking the mouse pointer will deactivate the Leash completely which is very akin to how it worked in Black&White and just feels great.
http://22cans.com/images/updates/U2/earlyLeashWIP.jpg This is an early WIP concept for the Leash
Holding on an Abode (felt tent etc...) as it’s Leashed will display the occupancy slot in that specific abode, combine that with Follower types and behaviour I spoke about in a previous update and you can to see that Builders, Farmers, Miners, Traders and Breeders for example all will react differently to possible scenarios that this offers. If you then throw in the items of the world such as trees, rocks or belief bubbles and combine it with the Leash behaviour and Follower behaviour you can see how much gameplay this offers all of a sudden...
No doubt we will be sharing much more detail about the Leash (and more) in January 2014, for now all of us developers are returning to our families (abroad and in the UK) to spend some quality time together and look back at the year gone by where we’ve laughed, cried but most importantly were able to release GODUS on Steam Early Access and receive so much great feedback to work with in 2014 that GODUS is going to be the game of the year, next year, I believe!
Darkness Falls 12th DecemberEdit
At this time of year, the sun sets at four in the afternoon in the South-East of England. There’s a certain dreariness about the entire situation when it gets dark this early but what makes up for that is working on one of the most popular games on Steam Early Access. These updates are written for you, our community of players and fans.
On Monday when the sun had already set and I could feel a slight tremble set in from the excessive amounts of coffee drank that day, Peter and I sat down in one of our cozy yet spacious meeting rooms. The topic of discussion were updates, or rather the lack thereof. Our last video update #34 was from 25th October and we’d gone pretty ‘dark’ since. The team have been sending in short updates about their work on Twitter (GODUS Dev Says) but not everyone sees those all of the time so it wasn’t a viable solution to our communication with you. It’s not that we don’t want to release an update but it’s just so damn hard. So hard to make all these systems that the programmers have build, work together.
Peter agrees that we need to post more updates to our players that aren’t necessarily him standing on a soap box...not only do those take quite a bit of time for Jack, Peter’s focus is mostly on doing what a designer his calibre does best; designing. There’s also only so much you can cramp into a short video. We’ll continue to do them but to a lesser extend. So what we agreed is that I’m going to keep my finger on the pulse in terms of what’s going on and post my impressions, the latest gossip and drama right here (hopefully with images). Heck, we might even get guest developers blogging too!
Peter and Jack spoke in the last video update about how they want to completely revamp the timeline and Follower behaviour. The latter is especially significant seeing how it’s what makes the idea of a living, breathing world a reality. It’s pretty sad right now when you build a beautiful land in GODUS, allow for some wicked city- planning, and then none of your Followers do anything with it. There has been so much talk on the forums about what Followers could do and obviously the team has always been planning to expand this part of the game. That’s where Dimitri comes in. He’s a part Greek who codes like there’s no tomorrow. He’s also renowned for being a complete menace! Even though he’s our resident HR representative, when it comes to Health&Safety it’s a completely different matter. Let’s just say he’s quite liberal if it comes to that but I wouldn’t be fair if I also didn’t mention he’s a highly focussed programmer. According to Gary, our Lead Programmer, Dimitri owns this problem completely and couples it with his open mind that’s required to ask questions and utilize other people’s experience. These two elements are essential when tackling the big problems in game development. He also mentioned some expletives which aren’t really fit to be repeated so I’ve omitted those...
http://22cans.com/images/updates/20130730_195936.jpg Dimitri the day after...
However, as Gary puts it, simulation software is inherently complex and GODUS is no exception. Getting the behaviour to feel real but be controllable and not too expensive (in terms of memory) is an enormous task, with many situations where these conflicting goals collide in often bewildering ways but if anyone is up to the task it’s Dimitri. Luckily for us he’s up for taking on crazy complex code.
Doing this is not for the faint hearted, after one of the most intensive and far reaching coding tasks of the entire project, shortly after video update #34 was shot and released, Dimitri checked in a container full worth of code, which completely revamps and reinvents the simulation of all living things in GODUS.
http://22cans.com/images/updates/earlyfollowers2.png One of the earlier Follower systems
It was so exciting, gathered around Dimitri’s desk, anticipating how this new world would look and feel alive. He compiled the game, booted it up, we all watched as the first two Followers were born. They raised their heads, looked around, and then promptly fell flat on their and died. It turned out that the balance variables that drive the world were not balanced with this new system. Now that Dimitri’s system is in we started to realise its full potential and the guys have been working on that non-stop. The designers have now a world that is full of Followers that react to situations around them, and that have basic wants and needs (or at least in the code). This AI is akin to the AI that drove the creature in a game called Black&White (personal favourite of mine) but instead of working on one character it works on thousands. The knock-on effect of such a powerful system is huge. Tim our animator is working hard to make the animations show off such complex behaviour, Russell needs to go back and re-author all follower SFX, Code wise there’s a lot of systems that plug into this system, and test... well, just how do you test such a diverse world? The reason why we haven't released GODUS since V1.3.1 is simply that the new system is so far reaching that it affects every aspect of the game and the guys need more time to get it ready. There’s also been a tidal wave of feedback that we’re looking into as well as analyzing game analytics.
We thought we’d get V1.4 out with the new Followers and Timeline but it wasn’t meant to be. Like I said, it’s pretty hard getting all these systems to work together and there’s no point releasing a version we know is going to cause more hardship than pleasure. The forums would be fuming! So it’s heads down for the team, to get it to a state where Peter, Jack and Jamie can start playing again. There are loads of new Follower types and how they look in the works, and our art director Paul with the help of Sara have been drawing concepts for Followers throughout the different eras. I’ll save those and their animations, 3D models etc...for a separate blog entry but will leave you with this nice teaser image for now.
I’ll be back with more updates on the development of GODUS and hopefully some more gossip on the team too, so stay tuned. If you want to learn more about the Followers and their simulation then read the following Q&A;
Sam: Dimitri, what are you coding and why? Dimitri: I am implementing a brand new system which drives, animates, networks and persists followers. The followers have gone through many iterations and the existing system has been refactored many times to work with these iterations. However, the point came where it was not able to give us the functionality and robustness we were after. Knowing now how the followers will interact with and react to the world we took the decision to design and create a new system which is dedicated to supporting this behavior.
Q: Why is the Follower simulation such an amazing system? A: The new system is attractive for several reasons, followers will feel more real, they will react to anything that happens around them, and how they react will depend on several factors like their ethnicity and more importantly how much stamina they have left. The other key advantage of this new system is that it is completely data driven. This gives the designers and animators the speed and flexibility they require when balancing and testing new game features. The new system also concentrates on performance, and the ability to have many more people simulated in the world.
Q: Can you tell me some of the behaviours players can expect from this new system they didn't already see in previous iterations?
A: Followers can gain jobs and during their jobs they may become tired and decide to go home to rest. Once rested they will return to their job and carry on working. Depending on a Followers fear level they may choose to run over and help put out a fire, however, they may just not have the energy to tackle the fire in which case you will see them run away to safety.
Q: How do you approach coding something like this? A: Getting a full understanding of exactly what the designers where looking for in the system was the most important step. After this I was able to spec it out and identify any core issues. Once this was done and corrected I was able to build the basic framework and test it, and from there I took each portion of the system and implemented it.
Q: When and where do you code best? A: Afternoon/evening time, either at home where its quiet or using music to drown out the loud voices around me.
Q: Is there anything else you can say about coding the Followers behaviour? A: Its a rather large system and it cobwebs out to just about every other system and so there are always new problems to face, but it is very exciting, especially when the followers transform into fully animated characters (for a few weeks the team will have to put up with followers that are rendered as a dot, an arrow and text describing the action they are doing)