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The Zed Crowd

September 12, 2019

After last week’s big vid bonanza it’s something of a ‘techie’ behind the curtain blog today, but hopefully there’s enough to keep your proverbial up.

CROWD RENDERING

With the animated rotation tech front largely under control, we are now working on the next big ticket item we’ve been wanting to get in pre-IWBUMS.

Any good apocalypse needs a good healthy horde of ravenous undead. That said, please ignore the fact that all the above ones are bald. Call it a comeback I guess, or more likely a bug.

Zac’s current challenge is to be able to draw large quantities of articulated, walking, shambling, crawling, eating, and swarming zeds at a reasonable frame rate. Right now it’s okay-ish on a decent system, but wouldn’t stand up to a huge amount of zombie horde herding – which we know is a favourite pastime of PZ players.

Crowd Rendering is a collective term that involves a number of techniques that take advantage of the large numbers of crowds to make the process much more efficient.

To know where to aim, however, it’s a big help to have intimate knowledge of just how the PZ engine is performing, and where the hot-spots are. Toward this end, we are adding a Performance Analyzer module to AnimZed.

Instead of a general list of hot-spots from a broad sampling of the running game, this will allow us to see a sequence of frames and the story of each rendered frame from start to finish.

We will know what happens in the RenderThread and the UpdateThread, from start to finish, and will be able to measure the cost of each step, and validate the benefits of any optimization technique on a step-by-step basis.

Or, at least that is the hypothesis. The initial implementation is the bare bones required to get us some useful data. If it proves useful, it will be allowed to stay and get improved as we go along through the builds of the future – not to mention help us optimize in other areas of the game.

COMBAT IMPROVEMENT

A big aspect in build 41 has been the combat balancing. We wanted to make the one on one combat feel a lot easier, where fighting with groups would be much much more deadly.

This however has been too successful if anything, and we ended up with groups being SO deadly it was actually near impossible to survive a few fights with small groups, which ended up way too punishing even for ours, the most masochistic of gaming communities. (Sorry)

As such, due to the new animation system’s ability to allow animations to play only on the top half of the body, RJ has made a change that allows you to strafe while shoving and swinging your weapon.

The upshot now is this has added a whole new element to combat, instead of being rooted to the spot for the duration of the swing, the player has more tactical options for positioning. It still needs some further bug fixing and balance (we may consider applying some malus to damage when moving during a strike if it’s necessary) but overall it’s working really well.

OTHER STUFF

  • We’ve clearly got a lot of internal testing going on at the moment – and it’s spotlit a few issues we need to clear up. (Although they’re arguably not IWBUMS-delaying at the minute, so don’t worry about that aspect of it). A prominent one is looting not playing nicely with rotationals, and causing a ‘Robocop turn’ at the end of player pathfinding to cupboards, lockers etc. Elsewhere we’re polishing a lot of the changes between movement states and bickering about keypresses, toggles and other aspects of player input. All the fun of the fair.
  • Yuri is back on his work on improved fire visuals. This won’t be a part of the initial IWBUMS release, but we probably will want to be integrating it during the IWBUMS beta process – as it’s the last graphical overhang from the earliest days of PZ and currently looks ugly as sin on the new models.
  • Internal testing of the extremely WIP (many builds far distant) Louisville map went really well, with a good variety of buildings being felt and general city size seeming expansive. It has, however, also been fruitful in showing us that to ‘feel’ built-up then things have to be tighter on-screen – so we will be removing a lot of the parking lots we previously had in downtown areas, so it all feels more compressed. Radio silence, bar the very occasional screenshot, on our version of Louisville shall now recommence!

This week’s boardroom meeting from VOVKA. A general list of stuff added to PZ, and vids of features being worked on, is kept here – so you don’t have to plough through endless dev blogs for info. The Centralized Block of Italicised Text would like to direct your attention to the PZ Wiki should you feel like editing or amending something, and the PZ Mailing List that can send blogs like this and patch notes direct to your mailbox. We also live on Twitter right hereOur Discord is open for chat and hijinks too!

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