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Project AFTER
February 21, 2015 - de3Sol

The "It's Been So Long (where the hell have you guys been)" Update

Yes, it's been a while. We may not have a lot of people following us anymore, but I owe it to all of you to give an update, especially after getting us this far.

First off, what happened in Fall 2014?
After summer ended last year, I didn't have a lot of time to work on the game, and following that it was a busy semester for everyone. That said, I did squeeze in a little bit of work here and there. So the game has had some changes, all of them good in some way or another.

The last time the terrain system changed, we got smooth terrain and a terrain system whose memory usage rivaled, no, it destroyed your web browser: lower memory usage, hands down. As we've found out over the year 2014, that point in particular has caused its own set of problems. As such, I've been going through and writing up plans for a new system combining the new and the old.

The terrain is the backbone of the game. It controls everything. I mean it too. At the basic level, it controls what gets loaded, where the physics simulation area is, when to center the game engine back around origin, who lives and who dies – okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea. It's the root of the game, and if it doesn't work well, it quickly becomes the root of all problems. That's funny, because the terrain has this variable named root and – yeah, never mind.

The point here is I've been putting it off because I don't want to deal with tearing out the backbone again. I can't quite pinpoint the cause of my laziness, but I think it's something like anxiety about needing to put in multiplayer when the terrain gets reworked.

Before, we mostly had some voices that myself and another person on the team voiced. Thanks to some wonderful and truly charitable volunteers that I am immensely thankful for, a good amount of the characters in the game now have voices. The quality varies, but you can probably expect the type of delivery between cheesy and terrible that is very close to my heart.

If you hate those kind of lines, go ahead and complain. Enough and I'll begrudgingly have VA's perform lines again while muttering to myself that your soul is dead.

Wait, you don't want to know more about what I did, and instead want to know what other team members are doing? Well shoot. FMF100 (Speck) is working on debuffs and cutscene backbone. Meanwhile, ChiefMasamune is writing more dialogue, adding unnecessary fun things to test the Lua implementation, and working on his own projects and life.

A lot of complaints were about speed. I've improved it. The rendering has come a long way in a year. It's not up to par with the big name engines, but with some of AMD's tools, I've been able to track down a bunch of the bottlenecks. Ironically, some of these bottlenecks still haven't been solved on AMD hardware. However, I'm happy to say the main “big-scene” bottleneck called animation has had its bandwidth halved and performance increased.

I came to the decision to fork the forward rendering and deferred rendering into two separate projects instead of trying to sync two systems that now have radically different behavior. Yes, the deferred rendering uses for the forward rendering system for a ton of things. However, it's become so specific to its usecase, it can be barely be considered the same thing anymore.

As such, the game has been moved entirely to the deferred rendering. In today's technology, this drops support for pretty much nothing. When this project was started, there were certain pieces of hardware that couldn't run a deferred rendering system. Over the last four years, with the advent of high-specification integrated graphics, and capabilities expanding ridiculously fast, the need to target old hardware has fallen by the wayside.

The system itself is in the works. Currently, it is a separate project, a multiplayer C++ framework with the goal of automatically sizing packets and syncing tables when needed. That said, I am eying RakNet, but the problem with that is licensing costs on consoles. The cost for licensing on consoles is so high it'll probably end up just being dropped as an idea.

You can tell that it's still early with this, but the framework works great over LAN.

I know I said we were going to put up a Kickstarter for our game last year, but the plans for that ultimately fell through. That said, this is still under discussion. The main point is that I personally take issue with using it for this project. Putting a game on Kickstarter is a sort of promise, and even with how much work and years poured into this game, I personally don't know if a promise is something I can commit to yet.

Single life forever.

I have said that when a Kickstarter is up for the game, that I'll say it. That's still true. I would plaster it all over the place, even try to talk to people in person. I'll make sure that everybody interested in AFTER will know. It's a massive commitment, and as a recently graduated nearly-jobless twenty-something year old, I can't afford that kind of commitment.

We're an extremely small team. It takes a while for things to get done. I realize that as time goes on, this kind of game is just going to get more and more dated. However, I'd rather it get done right than not at all.

More to come later, probably.

June 2, 2014 - de3Sol

First off, AFTER has been Greenlit! Much rejoicing! Thank you to everybody that commented, gave feedback, and showed their support. Now, a much needed update.

Currently, the cutscene, dialogue, and quest systems are under heavy work by other people on the team. All of those systems are at the state where their Lua integration and interactions with each other are being worked on.

I've been looking a lot at the feedback at the graphics. While the style isn't going to change a whole lot, I felt it was time to clean up some of the character models to the best of my ability (which isn't much). As one comment mentioned: we could use a professional artist. For us, that's a dream scenario. We don't have a lot of money to spend on hiring or contracting people, so we're stuck with the engine coder's – that's me – 3D art abilities.

In addition to the whole artist issue, AFTER runs on a custom engine that was created from scratch by yours truly. The artwork pipeline is not an issue, as it was created very early on in development, but within the past five months, the engine's renderer, object hierarchy, physics and animation layer, sound system integration, and terrain engine all had to be rewritten, some of them from scratch. There hasn't been a lot of time to really focus exclusively on graphics, since all of those engine parts needed some oiling to run, and I wanted to focus more on gameplay.

However, since the engine has been more or less stable since the beginning of May and gameplay mostly decent, I've been pouring a lot more time into the 3D models. There's also been complaints about the animations. I how know awkward and silly some of them look and I'm working on those too.

I don't take the criticisms personally. Please keep them coming! We may not reply to them all, but we do read them and take people's opinions into account when making decisions.

May 24, 2014 - de3Sol

We will not be holding our Kickstarter campaign this May. We're pushing it back to June, for when we have more content so that donators may feel more confident.

There are multiple factors that contributed to this, but it comes down to we messed up on our time table. Development is taking longer than expected. Engine issues cropping up, voice actors running into their own issues, or just a ton of work to do. In addition, it turns out we are going to need a larger Kickstarter campaign than we previously anticipated. In response to that, we both desire and need to craft a gameplay trailer that absolutely proves our worth.

In the end, it mostly fell to our - rather my - overestimation of how much we could do. I apologize to everyone that is following the project, and I pray we won't disappoint you again.

May 3, 2014 - Speck

Hey everyone! I figured that as a one of the developers for this game, I should actually post something and give a short run down of what’s happening. The initial responses we've had to the game is very exciting to see, and were really glad that people have taken an interest in the project. As of right now our game is obviously in the early stages, and people have been asking about a lot of different things.

I’ll start off by saying that things will be a little slow for the next week, as two of us are in the middle of finals at university. The next weekend we are on break, and will be able to devote more of our time to bringing in regular updates. This might have seemed like an odd time to put the game up on Greenlight, but we felt that it would give us some time to look at what people thought and find things that we might want to focus on.

This doesn’t mean we haven’t been working on anything though. Currently de3Sol has been working on optimizing the engine to get rid of the low frame rate people have been seeing in the trailers, adding some NPC behaviors, and generating ruined buildings on the map. Chief Masamune has been trying get a dialog system to work, and has been writing some dialog to actually go in it once it’s done. I’ve been working on adding in some basic skills for the skill tree and have also been writing some basic starter quests for the different classes.

We have also been checking the comments frequently, and looking at what people were most put off by or what they really enjoyed about the game. One of the big things seems to be the graphics, and from what we’ve seen so far, it’s kind of a love or hate it response from the people who have mentioned it. It’s something that we developers are going to have to talk about, but I will say that it will be something most likely handled later on. This is because of we want to focus on fixing things that are more detrimental to the game play at the moment, which brings me to the next issue people have mentioned. As for the GUI, we are currently talking with someone to see if they would be interested in making a better one for us.

The framerate in the video, we have to admit, is bad, and definitely want that to get fixed as soon as we can. As I motioned above, de3Sol has been working on fixing this issue, and he has optimized the game to run faster. We’ll definitely be working on this for most of the development process, doing fine tuning and what not.

People have been confused about if the game is going to be single player or online only. This wasn’t clear in our description, as we only mentioned online multiplayer as planned and didn’t mention singleplayer at all. As it is right now, you will be able to play this game either single player or multiplayer. Single player and multiplayer will include all the same features, the main obvious difference being you can play with other people.

I would like to thank ever one who has taken a look at our project and given feedback to us. We really appreciate the support, and it definitely is helping us move this game forward.

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