Production reports resume post-summer break!

The team enjoyed a partial break between summer classes during the week of April 27th up to May 18th. But just as the game development industry never rests, neither does the Drifters team, and those weeks were spent making major improvements, additions and changes to the games. This week marked the return of status reports and with that we begin our ongoing weekly overview of how the game development is progressing. The clock is ticking with only 5 weeks left before the game needs to be in a playable, near gold master state.
The first major addition to the game has been the exhibits, with over 30 pieces added to create the "Instruments of Death" collection that's currently on display. The interior has been slightly redesigned with a new bridge crossing from one side to the other in the upper level, new textures, and better lighting. To create the proper lighting the environment had to be split into 12 separate pieces, each uniquely lit with over 80 individual lights to bypass Gamebryo's lighting limits. The resulting effect is stunning and not ambiently lit like most environments. The lighting is also being reconfigured within the Maya models, as it needs to be lit properly for use in the cinematic as well.

With the Voltron rig ready to assemble, the artists have been working on many texture variations on the geometry used to create 3 unique NPC body shapes - Agnes, Maria and Howard. With 4 pieces to each rig and multiple versions of each piece, there's a huge number of combinations that can be created by the design team using the Character Builder tool. Currently, the design team loads the tool, flips through the various pieces until they build a model that looks correct, and can save it as a unique NPC.

Then, using their Path Builder tool, they can assign that NPC a unique path within the environment, including pauses and animations, essentially creating non-repetitive, natural looking crowd interactions to further add to the need to blend in with the museum-goers in order to avoid detection as a Drifter. To better create all this content, "strike teams" have been created to handle pathing batches so no one person is burdened with doing all the work.

A new user interface has been created for the main screens using an exterior shot of the museum. No longer a static image, the new UI is animated and has effects as the user interacts with various menus and choices.

The four Drifters are shown on the character select screen and they are starting to get personalities of their own through new animations and designs. The team's most recent mocap session produced over 40 new animations for combat, some unique to each Drifter and some generic.  The Drifter models have also changed, no longer a skeletal-armor style, but now they resemble more of a full body suit.

Drifter Vision has also received an overhaul with a new temporary glow map serving as a base for the final product. Instead of just desaturating the environment, the altered perception resembles glowing runes on the walls and objects, with the glowing accentuated on Drifter-related items within the sight of the player. The Drifter form of their character is also shown, and their animation for walking changes slightly to a stalking motion.

In regards to the previously mentioned cinematic, the shot lists are done, layouts and camera placement is in progress, and the script recorded. As soon as the environment is ready and everything finalized, production can begin with a mid-June target set for completion. A final voice acting session is wrapping up this week, with most of the already recorded dialogue in the cleanup stage.

In the non-visual realm of things, the programmers have been hard at work refactoring their code to produce version 2.0 of the game's build. Many of their changes allow for smoother networking and easier integration between the values created from the producer tools and the game engine. In testing, users are now able to input a player name for the multiplayer, join or host a game, and wait in the lobby to see other players. The tools are all working with XML, allowing live changes to be made during gameplay. An internal script was also written to control the number of NPCs and their starting placement at the initial load of the game. Another major addition to the control of the NPCs was the inclusion of a behavorial steering script which will detect when 2 NPCs are going to collide and adjust their paths to avoid each other.

With the programmers hard at work finishing their internal overhaul of their code base, the artists churning out great designs for the characters and museum exhibits, and the producers developing the audio and NPC behavior, Drifters is shaping up to be a highly immersive game experience.