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StreamZed III

October 3, 2019

Okay so first off, here’s the ways this week that you can inspect our work on Build 41. TWO WAYS, in fact.

Number one: streamer Drunkonlife has a stream scheduled for Friday (tomorrow) at 10AM CDT / 4 PM BST – international timings seen here. His Twitch channel, meanwhile, can be found linked here.

Number two: Project Zomboid regular Mathas has also had access to the new build and his first video from it can be found below.

As will be seen in Drunk’s stream, and as can be seen in Mathas’ vid – especially with some performance chugs towards the end – there are still some bugs to iron out.

Overall, however, these early testers seem to be having some fun – although Mathas clearly didn’t know about the new ‘sneak’ button so we need to flag that up a little more!

DIFFICULTY

A quick note on difficulty – as it was a hot topic in the comments beneath Cromulent Archer’sYouTube vid. We have been very insistent recently that we want to make the game harder – which is why bites from behind are more fatal, why three or more zeds can pull you down to the ground etc etc. This was the original ethos of PZ, our ‘Dark Souls hard’ Survival mode, and we don’t want to compromise on this.

However, there have been valid points from fans of combat in previous builds that not everyone wants to play with such lethal zombies that discourage combat most of the time. As such, we’ve been brainstorming the best way to cater for everyone – and have landed on a play-styles concept inspired by the amazing game Rimworld.

Survival will remain top of the list on the game selection screen (but will be renamed ‘Survivor’), which will then be followed by ‘Fighter’ and ‘Builder’. These names aren’t final, but in essence Fighter will provide a more combat friendly balance: still challenging, but with risks of combat balanced closer to Build 40 for those who want to get their frustrations out on zed heads.

‘Builder’ meanwhile will cater for those who want a more chilled experience: building, farming and exploring without too much peril from the zombies themselves.

We hope that this will calm the fears of those who like to play the game with different play-styles, and to whom our hardcore Survival/Survivor mode is something of a turn-off.

(It also shouldn’t go unsaid that we plan to have the current public version, 40, available as a Steam beta and to be known as ‘PZ Classic’ – so if anyone ever fancies going back and having a play with the old game they always can.)

HIGHER RES MODELS

Since we introduced the new animations, we needed to make a change to allow characters to interact with each other better. Before, 3D characters were rendered onto off-screen buffers, shrunk down and drawn in place in the tile world just like the age old 2D character sprites.

This meant that characters could never interact in a 3D space in the way that 3D characters should. For 41, we changed the system to render the characters directly into the world in isometric 3D space. This change can allow for example, a character’s arm to be around another character’s neck: something that would never be possible before.

This, however, came with a downside: we used to be able to render characters larger, and shrink them down when rendering them in place, to obtain nice anti-aliasing. While the character animations and clothing look a lot better in the current streams and vids, they were a bit more ‘bitty’ and pixelly than before. Aspects of it still didn’t look great despite all the other improvements.

As such, and as mentioned a few months ago, one thing we’ve been working on is to fix this. We demo-ed it earlier, but unfortunately it was so bug-ridden that we up until now we didn’t truly expect that it’d make it into the first rounds of IWBUMS testing. We’re hoping now, however, that this will not be the case.

It’s all about zoom. Since zoom was first introduced, it’s worked in a rather inefficient way: using way too much texture memory and potentially causing additional strain on some people’s machines. Zooming used to work via creating an off-screen texture for the game world, and scale that texture in and out as you zoom. Therefore, at further out zoom levels you’d be often effectively be rendering 4k resolutions on one set to 1080.

These vestigial remnants of really old code were holding back the game in various ways, particularly because the 3d character’s resolutions were limited by the resolution of this zooming texture,exacerbating the character pixelation described above.

As such, in a side-branch to the current internal test build, we’ve pulled out all the zooming code, and restructured the way zoom works: now zooming all the tiles properly through opengl’s projection systems.

Now, there are still some things to resolve: implementing mipmaps and a few other things to avoid any shimmering when zoomed out, filtering changes to avoid blurriness and so on. However now our rendered characters are not bound as before, and we can render higher resolution characters that are generally more pleasing to the eye and should hopefully reassure the few people who pointed out issues with the characters in build 41. [Ignore the brightness difference here by the way]

Note this particular example still looks pretty good on the left, however on more complexly coloured and patterned clothing, this resolution often led to characters looking a lot less pleasing. This increased resolution, as well as looking much smoother, will allow us more scope for character customization and detail, such as tattoos and other things we previously deemed we didn’t have enough resolution to do properly.

This week’s image from a Frenchman rather too pleased with his zombie zoning work, but it is pretty cool yes. 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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