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Lost Story: The Last Days of Earth
March 17, 2016 - Source CatE

Dear friends and fans of the Half-Life universe!

Winter is finally stepping back and spring is taking over, which means that we are happy to present our new Dev.Log! Initially the topic for this article was supposed to be a part of Dev.Log №3 prepared for the «Indie DB - 2015 Indie of the Year Awards» contest, but due to numeral reasons we couldn't talk about it in our previous Dev.Log. But as a saying goes - everything is happening for a reason. Now we have more time and a small remark has grown into a full developer's diary so big that we had to split it into two parts!

As for the topic of the diary, we've already given you a hint in our question to you: «What common is there between a foggy day and a 15 sm. wood screw?». Surprisingly we've received a lot of different answers: silly ones, funny ones, strange ones and deadly serious ones of course. Unfortunately none of you were right, even though some of you were very-very close. :)

And now, drumroll please… What common is there between a foggy day and a 15 sm. wood screw? The correct answer is - both of them help in creating a soft dissipated color used in creating of a photogrammetry. As you may have already guessed, the photogrammetry, or specifically content created with it, will be our current topic. The first part will be dedicated to model creation while the second part will be about the materials.

But first of all, let's start with theory for those who has never come across such a term before. Photogrammetry is a scientific-technical discipline that reflects shapes, sizes and locations of certain objects based on their photo-imagery. There are two basic types of photogrammetry: Earth mapping (also applies to other space objects) based on the photo images (photo-topography) and solving applied problems in architecture, construction, medicine, criminalistics, etc. (ground, applied photogrammetry).

In case of 3D graphics this term usually means a process of creating a 3D model of an object and information of the color of it's dissipated reflection (simply put - color of the object) based on various photos of said object from different angles. Usually the process is automated and takes several steps with the help of special programs, but the quality of the final product mostly relies on how well made were the initial photos.

Why the photogrammetry?
At least because it's interesting :) We've already conducted several experiments on photogrammetry of some objects and got some experience in this field of work and now we would like to put the potential in good use.

We'll tell more about the main reason. Lost Story will take place in various vast locations where the player will have to travel dozens of kilometers and it was quite obvious for us from the beginning that most of the time the player will traverse through open landscapes out of cities.

The appearance of natural locations is based on three basic factors: sky texture above the player, ground texture under the player and models of animate and inanimate nature surrounding the player. And here we've stumbled upon a problem: how can a small team realize these factors and get the highest quality possible during the release of the game? We'll talk about the sky in later Dev.Logs, right now we would like to focus on the other factors.

So we've began to go through possible variants. Creating usual low poly models and phototextures is a quick way, but the result is in poor quality, especially on natural objects. Creating handmade high poly models for each tree stump, rock or bush makes a fine quality products, but it is nearly impossible for a small team to make it in a short period of time. It will take dozens of models to custom craft.

As a result we've decided to conduct an experiment - to use photogrammetry for creating natural textures and models and to find out about possible problems with such method. Another reason for such experiment was to check if it really can be helpful in creating high quality content with using minimal team resources.


December 18, 2015 - Source CatE

Dear friends and fans of the Half-Life universe!

Today we will tell you about our new system of controlling friendly NPCs!

Perhaps, not everyone remembers the old system from Half-Life 2, so we'll start with talking about it. During the game the protagonist was always accompanied with two types of companions. The first type was the unkillable story characters that always were following the protagonist and sometimes were involved in scripted scenes, even if they were overwhelmed by enemies. The second type was the faceless dummies from the Resistance that were dying as fast as they were appearing. Both types of the followers were constantly jumping in front of the enemy's bullets and mostly couldn't navigate right during the level, and players couldn't even control them. The squad could recognize only two commands: «follow the player» and «go to a certain point». It was a very simple and thus a convenient system that has brought some diversity into the gameplay. However, knowing that the AI was not perfect and had it's fair share of problems at the time (we've already covered these problems), we couldn't leave the AI as it was. Another factor of the uselessness of the AI companions was that they were no more than the cannon fodder.

The new command system
Taking everything said into account, we are ready to present You the advanced AI control system! With it's help you'll be able to give commands to specific squad members individually. This system will be useful for solving puzzles, taking the tactical advantage over the battlefield, lockpicking doors, safes, Combine consoles and much, much more. Thus said, Your companions will no longer be mere «cannon fodder», but Your comrades and squad mates. They will help You and do Your bidding and not just mindlessly run around You without minding the enemies and blowing up on their mines and dying by their bullets.

The system was initially created for controlling the dog follower. The main aspect of such system is solving puzzles by giving specific commands to Your allies to interact with certain objects on the level. After activating such «tactical mode» time would slow down and intractable objects would highlight for You. The system is context-based. To give an order for Your companion, simply aim at the specific object and click the LMB. The command mode would end automatically and Your companion will interact with selected object. For instance, if You'll choose the closed door, the companions will open in. If You'll choose the ladder, the companions will use it to climb up or down. If the companions are able to interact with certain objects in more than one way, then by clicking on the object a specific wheel menu with choices of action will appear. We liked the concept so much that we've decided to spread it for use on other friendly NPCs as well.

Aside from interacting with objects during the puzzles, Your comrades will be able to interact with the environment during the combat, for example You'll be able to mark cover points for Your companions or activate deadly traps for Your enemies. The standard HL2 commands remain here the same: «follow me», «go there» and «cancel last command». We really hope that this feature will expand the gameplay possibilities for the game universe as a whole. One thing we all should agree on is that companions are more memorable when they are useful and don't constantly jump in front of the bullets. :)

Here's a link to the demo video which depicts the command system on the test map:

As You can see, we've made a huge success in developing such mechanic despite such feature being unique for mods and games for the Half-Life universe. Of course similar systems exist in other games and they've been there for a long time already. We are studying the work of the other developers but we do not deny that we may have missed something. This is why we will be happy to know Your opinions and remarks concerning our work and additional actions that could be implemented in our system. :)

Conclusion & main menu meditation video
In conclusion we would like to bring You another exciting piece of news. We've prepared a small surprise for You! Specifically: a small video from the main menu of our game. You can also hear the main theme composed by our Alexey Khem (aka Alex Package). Rain makes everything better, enjoy Your meditation! :)

Next time we will share some information concerning a particular interesting topic which will be supported by an unusual for our format media-content. We hope that You'll enjoy our surprise. :)

And that is all for today! Don't forget to share Your opinion concerning our Dev.Logs and the development of the project. Your opinion is very valuable for us and motivates us!

And don't forget to vote for us on IOTY 2015! (:

Your cold hedgehogs in shades from
Rock Path Collective

December 8, 2015 - Source CatE

The year of 2015 is coming to an end. The christmas holidays are coming and many of you are already probably making preparations for them. This is, obviously, one of the best times of the year when everyone come together and spend time with their friends, relatives and close people.

It turned out to be December as our best month to sum up the results of our work so far, as well as give you some info concerning our plans for the upcoming year.
This is why we are finally ready to present You our third Dev.Log, which will be our final one for this year and it will be published in three parts!

Each part will summarize specific topics which are closely connected with core gameplay elements and game mechanics of Lost Story. For a long time our team could not decide on how much we can reveal as of now. Since the third Dev.Log is going to be divided into three parts, we've decided to split topics into two groups: "New additions to combat system and stealth walkthrough possibilities" and "Friendly NPC control system".

As you may have noticed, we will not be talking about the actual plot any time time soon. Such material requires much more preparation and attention. But don't you worry. We don't want to follow the Hollywood "trend" so popular lately: we are not going to spill all of the story-related information beforehand, but we will be able to share some detail in the future.

The first topic for today - "New additions to combat system"!
As you may have remembered, we've already covered the combat system before, and we've told you about testing it with some NPCs, using the shooting through walls. This time we'll go deeper into this topic and we are going to tell you about another feature that we've been testing, which is...covering system! With...destructions! But do not be afraid, no rolls here. This is a first person Half-Life after all! But we all do love...




On Source…

Unfortunately, most of the destruction elements during the last 5 years in games were created based on the pre-rendered animations. Of course, such animations may look amazing on big buildings or big objects, but such destructions cannot be applied to smaller objects, like cinderblocks, walls, shelves and other smaller objects, that we want to destroy so desperately during the shootouts.

It seems as we could calculate lots of variants for object destructions that would depend on the direction of the applied damage and record them in the number of animations. But, however, it would not add the realism to the game, and creating such animations for each cover model and setting of every model would be a dreadful and choring process that would only waste time.

Despite that we have a solution that Valve had implemented for wooden tables, boxes and other physical objects. To implement this in the game, we will split the models into certain parts/segments. Such system will help us in keeping diversity among the covers per location and having a realistic destruction system during the fights. Nevertheless, implementing such feature will take some time. But once the tests are complete, we will certainly let You know!

We will attach the video from the test scene where you can see this combat system and AI changes in action. Enjoy! (:

The second topic for today - "Stealth Gameplay Possibilities"
Our main goal is to create a system that would let the players to evade certain fights by utilizing stealthily approach if they want to. For a stealth walkthrough the players will presented with special settings as well as a special radiolocator that catches the frequencies of the enemies and mark their location on the device's screen.

We are also working on adapting the AI for the stealth portion of the game. As You may already know, the standard enemy AI is highly irritating calibrated for creating stealth levels without using lots of scripts. As of now we've managed to "smoothen" the AI a bit and re-create it so that the player could use covers and dark spots on the map to stay hidden. In the future we will teach the AI to react to certain sounds and dead bodies and to raise the alarm if needed. You will be able to stealthily kill enemies and hide their bodies as well. (:

Speaking of stealth walkthroughs, one thing that comes to mind with such topic is boring linear pattern of the levels. We understand that. And during the levels with the ability of a stealth walkthrough, the players will be presented with a multitude of ways to execute.

Despite the stealth on Source being skeptically acclaimed, it is more than executable. The "Underhell" project has proven it already, and stealth system was one of the core features of the game. We believe that developing the stealth mechanics may greatly vary the game experience in the Half-Life universe.

That is all for today. Now You know about the first group of the main gameplay elements of Lost Story. In our next Dev.Log we will tell You about the additions to friendly NPC control elements as well as answer some of the popular questions that are being frequently asked.

And don't forget to vote for us on IOTY 2015! (:

Your cold hedgehogs in shades from
Rock Path Collective

October 25, 2015 - Source CatE

Today Lost Story: The Last Days of Earth makes an appearance in the second issue of What The Headcrab podcast[]!
This is the new podcast hosted by Phillip Marlow at the Run Think Shoot Live web-site[], also known as Planet Phillip.

The aim of the podcast is to tell about as many Half-Life related news in 20 minutes as possible!

The show is divided into 5 topics: ModDB, GameBanana, Reddit, YouTube and miscellaneous. During each topic Phillips gives a quick recap of the changes: updates and new products appearing at said resources.

You can also suggest the next topic[] for Phillip to review on his next podcast. Perhaps Your project or favorite mod will be featured next time! :)

Rock Path Collective.

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