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March 16, 2015

Welcome to the second part of the great Russian PZ question-o-thon!  First, however, the usual ‘current build housekeeping’. We could really do with a snappier title than that…

31 continues to have fixes and changes thrown at it, and we will look to get it released as soon as possible. However, there are a lot of big balance and game progression changes we’ve put into it, and on one hand we want to make sure we don’t make a lot of people grumpy when it is released, but on the other want to separate out more ‘don’t like change’ complaints or misunderstandings from real balance issues we need to address, as the general direction of the new skills and trait systems are something we feel important and a big step in the right direction, and don’t want to dial back changes that will be complemented by the upcoming skill / recipe update (people’s reliance on carpentry, for one). This one may take a while to graduate, we’ll see how it goes, but as soon as it does we’ll get Desura out there too.

Now, onto out second bout of questions from the good russian-speaking PZ survivors of this world. These Mondoids have been fantastic for us, as previously we hadn’t quite realised the extent of the good work put in by Oneline and the ups and downs that the community had faced before it reached its current size, stability and inherent ace-ness. So if you’re a Muscovite and Vladivostockian (?) or anything in between we urge you to visit and  and join in the fun.

  1. Are we ever going to know what has happened before the outbreak fell upon earth? It feels impossible for everyone to turn into zombies suddenly, since the infection takes at least a few days to turn their host into one, according to “standard” sandbox settings. [Fedor Ushanov]

WP: My radio and TV broadcasts should be going into the game, I’d imagine, in Build 32 or 33 to provide a little back story and something to tune into while going about your survival business. For the first seven days in any case, after which point transmissions will become a little more sporadic. The ‘everyone’s suddenly a zombie’ issue certainly provides a challenge, as it does in an awful lot of other zombie/plague fiction, but I’ve spoken to two specialists in real world outbreaks and pandemics at London universities and I think we now have many explanations (many false, one real, some plausible, some not) to hint at and play with while you listen in on the world going to shit.

  1.  Was there a reason to replacing the old exhaustion system? (Sergey Malkovich)

LEM: Yes, pretty much. In playing the game, and watching others play, we noticed that all that the exhaustion ever did was stop gameplay for 5-10 seconds before resetting to as if it didn’t exist. It didn’t really lead to any interesting choices or considerations beyond ‘I should stop running now for 10 seconds’ or ‘I should back away from these zombies for 10 seconds’. Watching zombie clear-outs on YouTube were frighteningly drawn out and dull – which it shouldn’t have been happening. The new system uses energy more like a commodity or resource that the player can use wisely or waste, and this feels much more interesting.

  1. Q. Will there be military among the NPCs and, if yes, will they behave any different from the normal citizens? Will they interact with the vehicles – when they are added in, of course? (Evgeniy Karpenko)

LEM: They are certainly planned / desired, and if they are added they will for sure have differing AI and interactions than normal citizens. At this stage though the NPCs are so long coming that we don’t want to promise anything specific more than survivor NPCs until they are done and out there.

  1.  Will there be Steam Achievements?

LEM: Yes there will be, for sure. However, we didn’t think the majority of people would appreciate us spending all the time coding the achievement code when there were many things we still need to do that we’ve promised since day 1, as much as we appreciate many do want achievements. Also we can’t plan for what functionality we’ll one day have to tie achievements to, so it seems wise to leave this until the final lead-up to 1.0.

  1.  Will you add voice chat to multiplayer?

LEM: We will certainly try! We still plan to get Steamworks integrated properly, that’s kind of a must for 1.0 (but is tricky due to the whole java thing), and at this point we could explore the possibility of VOIP communication. The thing stopping us doing VOIP at the moment is the same difficulties that make multiplayer a bit of a chore to set up. To use VOIP we need NAT punch through so clients can talk to each other directly, or the port opening required would get really silly.

  1. Q. Are there plans to be able to sever your limbs? [Alexander Vasilyev]

LEM: This is something we’d love to do, and now we have a dedicated animator it is a lot more plausible with the 3D models. However, It just gets a bit tricky with trying to retain compatibility with the 2D only system. Just know that it’s something we feel is an important last ditch attempt to save your character (with a tiny chance of not bleeding out) so will do all we can to get it in there.

  1.  Will there be romantic relationships between players and NPCs? (I’ve found a lot of jewellery but never understood what they were there for.)

LEM: Probably not. We’ll leave these kinda things for mods! We will always make such things possible in the modding, if at all possible. However, its likely we’ll have a lot of preexisting relationships. It’s a must to be able to run into husband / wife / brother / sisters in NPC groups. Maybe its even something the player could pick in character creation.

  1.  Are there ideas on picking zombies off from a higher place? I’ve always dreamt of picking zombie heads off from the window of a second floor.

LEM: Yep this should be possible, it’s more a bug than a missing feature at the moment!

  1.  About the NPCs. Will they be as advanced as everyone expects? Will they create diaries and be capable of making any kind of relationship with you and other NPCs? It’s just that many, many games like these have NPCs comparable to mindless, soulless bots and it’d truly become a great instalment if NPCs are this advanced. (Sergey Gamanin)

LEM: ‘Advanced’ is a loaded question. We’ll make them as advanced as we possibly can, and may subtly cheat to accomplish our goals to make up any remaining distance the NPC intelligence can’t deal with alone. NPCs will form relationships with you and each other, and these will be altered by events that transpire in-game. This kind of stuff is not the behavioural AI stuff we’ve demoed in the previous videos but more ‘soft-scripted’ branching story event chains, so while it may seem ridiculously ambitious – if you look at Crusader Kings 2 you’ll see a rather clever way of handling all this character driven stuff that we’ve been heavily inspired by. (Of course it’s still bloody ambitious, hence the WHY NO NPCs still. Aggg. We’ll get there though. :))

It’s essentially a combination of behaviour trees defining the NPCs movement and moment to moment decision making, while the NPCs main ‘story’ and moral choices / decisions etc are played on a higher, simpler world model involving character traits and relationships, with events modifying these and triggering dialogue. The difficulty comes from fitting all these together! The level we’re aiming for is higher than in any game we can think of, truth be told. We may not hit the height we are aiming for but as they say ‘shoot for the stars, hit the moon’. We won’t be satisfied or release until we have something we think the community will think is worth the wait. This is why it’s taking so damn long.

  1.  How is the map development going on? What are your plans on it’s overall size and how far do you plan to develop it in terms of territory? (Alexey Leshyov)

RNG (lol): Map development continues apace, with almost all of the road/building layouts and vegetation leading to the City of Louisville (from just North of West Point) in its “first draft” state. That’s currently 85+ completely new and unseen cells, a lot of which will be more dense with buildings than any cells previously seen (excluding its surrounds, Muldraugh is 9 cells, for comparison). The overall size of the map should end up being somewhere between 1000 – 1200 cells (only including south of the River) which equates to roughly 100 square kilometres. In terms of territory, after the Louisville outskirts are complete, it will be on to the city of Louisville itself, and then South of Muldraugh towards the army barracks.

  1. Very important question to me – can we expect high rise apartments and office towers, higher than existing 8 floors? (Pavel Kotov)

LEM: It’s possible we’ll have to increase the building sizes for the inner city. There are performance ramifications to consider though (it used to be 16, we actually reduced it) so we’d have to consider some alternative methods so increasing it would only impact performances in those areas. It’s easier said than done because you can’t take for granted the height of the world from area to area. In short – we’d very much like to and will look to, but even if we did it we’d use it sparingly, and it would unlikely be 50 floor buildings.

  1. Will you ever add cellars into the game, 2.5 meters under the ground, able to hold optimal refrigerator temperature of 0-5C even in the hottest summer days? I don’t care if it takes a huge loads of resources and 5th level of carpentry to create, because it’s a very, very important and valuable thing. Also, will yoube able to keep your food outside during winter temperatures to freeze it? (Maxim Ilyin)

LEM: As above it’s feasible and we’d like to, but presents technical challenge as the engine and tools and everything are built upon the assumption that floor 0 is the ground floor. There are potentially ways to change this, work around it even, and its definitely something we’d like to do, but we’re being careful of making promises we can’t end up keeping. There are certainly plenty of other things we have to do before we could consider something like this. The outside temp in cold weather being used as refrigeration is an interesting idea we should look into. Depends to an extent on Kentucky weather how feasible this would be.

That’s pretty much it for this week! Before we go, would just like to say a big LOVE YOU to all the wonderful people we met, first time or not, at Rezzed. You’re all super.

Today’s header image is courtesy of Lament. If you’ve got that newsletter feeling, then click here.

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