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Progress Update and Technical Overview

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Jayty

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Hello everybody

I thought I’d give JB a break and write an update for you all with some of the more technical points of the development that I handle.
Some of you have raised the question of why our last update video (the item showcase) said “coming this December” and I figured I would lay out some of the technical reasons why that didn’t happen. I'll then go into a little more detail about what I and the rest of the team have been working on. We missed that “December” release for a number of reasons and I’ll kick off with those.

Reason One
We’re a bit dumb. The video should have said “coming soon” however, we had been talking about a December release internally. We also believed it to be possible at the time but we’d not really set it in stone. As you all know, we’re a small development team and don’t have someone dedicated to video production and so on. We put the video together, passed it between the relevant people who worked on it and off it went to Youtube. I’m pretty sure that a few days after it was released we realized that we’d been a little silly being so specific on a date.

Reason Two
The main technical reason that December didn’t work out is the fact that we’ve faced, quite honestly, some technical issues that we didn’t anticipate. As most of you will know, this is our first production and we’re still figuring things out as we go. The most important thing, I feel, as a small development team is that we’re able to manage, scale and work with the project as freely as possible once we release on Steam. It’s vitally important for us to be able to hotfix and implement large updates without it causing the whole operation to stop as we just don’t have the team size to dedicate developers to this task. It’s so important that each and every one of our team can fix/implement new features and instantly push those changes. Otherwise, we’ll be swamped and not able to keep up once we’re on steam.

The project has reached over 50gb (this isn’t relevant to the download size of the game) and takes huge amount of management to stop it getting out of hand. This naturally makes producing new servers and clients for both windows and Mac a considerable job! Our server creation pipeline is 100% automated and it has been for some time. Any developer can update the project via source control and approximately 1 hour 17 minutes later there is a fresh server waiting to be connected to for testing without any time spent manually building and deploying it.

The clients are a slightly different beast and I’ll explain why. Most importantly, we need to consider that we require both Windows and Mac builds (don’t worry linux people, we haven’t forgotten about you) to accurately test the clients. We also need Steam integration to accurately test the launch process/authentication related functionality and that the client builds contain significantly more data than the auto deployed servers since those are heavily stripped to improve build times/performance and only require a Linux build (currently). As of December, about 50% of our client automation process was automated. This was definitely the part that caused the most headaches and took the longest. Honestly, we were going to do the other stages manually since they’re not actually that significant in theory. All that was left was 1 button press, a few simple files to move, followed by some command line stuff to upload those files to steam and then just a few clicks to make them active within Steam. The issue with that is that the whole process combined was taking ages just for clients when we need to be testing real builds in fast succession. There’s only so much in editor testing you can do before you need the real thing, launched through steam, authorized through steam and readily available.

I just wasn’t comfortable releasing the game on Steam (even if it was to just backers) when I knew realistically that we couldn't produce updates at the pace that will be required and without it taking up too much % of the team’s time when we’ll all be needed for fixing and producing new content. The process absolutely had to be 100% automated just like the servers and release or not, that’s what we decided had to be done.

Solutions
I’m happy to say that things are mostly resolved at this point with the client build process. The procedure is almost fully automated with only a few small kinks to iron out at this point. We’ve employed a number of different methods for automating the steps along with making use of Unity’s built in asset bundle system. This essentially allows us to only build the parts of the game that have changed from build to build. I don’t have any exact numbers for how long the builds are taking at this time but I can say, with confidence, that we’ll be able to produce new hot fixes and content implementations at our pace and with almost no time having to be spent on pushing those builds out to all of you. I've included a few screens of the parts of the automation that can be visualized.

Client stages for Windows, MacOS and Linux and asset bundles.

Server stages with stripping and asset bundles.

OTHER INTERESTING STUFF
Server Administration

Of course, we’ve not only been working on these automation issues and as always we’re ambitious about everything we’re implementing. One of the biggest things that has been worked on is the range of tools that will be accessible to server admins. We truly believe that you, the backers and supporters of STN, are the backbone of the game. Providing you with the tools to properly administrate your servers is super important. There’s loads we still want to do but as a base, they will be a strong implementation of the tools you may require if you decide to run a server. This is something we hadn’t planned on initially for release.

Server Control Panel (AllGamer)
The AllGamer Panel is designed to give server administrators full control of their servers in a fast and secure environment. The panel has been designed alongside Survive the Nights. We're super happy with what AllGamer has created. The panel is easy to use and simple to navigate. It features a full API for remotely controlling your server (If you're into that kind of thing), full server start/stop/restart functions, a detailed configuration editor, full local backups daily and manually, a detailed task system for scheduling events, and a server console. The panel is currently in beta testing to smash out any bugs and add some highly requested features. Underneath are a few pictures of the panel in it's current state but features are still being worked on and appearances could change.
Server front page

Configuration section

Permissions and user groups

Tasks

Backups

Modding
Something else awesome that has come from the reworks for the client automation and asset bundle stuff is modding preparation and file restructuring. It’s not going to be in the early alpha builds but we’ve geared everything up on the project end for modding. We’ll be making a public Unity project available in the future with the ability to mod the game based on all skill levels whether it’s using Paint to change an item of clothing or adding some wacky new feature. It’ll include clear documentation and more importantly, a simple export and implementation pipeline so that anyone can do it. If we could open up the world of game design to just a few people, we’d be over the moon. Making STN a truly community driven project is something we’re hugely passionate about! A game for the gamers by the gamers.

Interaction
Something we’d always decided from the beginning was that STN was going to be about interaction with the world. Implementation of course takes time and we’ve almost got what was shown in the original concepts in (not everything but that’s because we decided some stuff wasn’t practical or required in a real game scenario) with a lot of additional features planned. What has been added in addition is a new a type of interactable which is much simpler from an implementation perspective but allows us to greatly increase the amount of world interaction possible. This new type essentially makes anything we want to be “searchable” with a scenario based chance on receiving something back. For example, rain water barrels and dirty water sources can all now be searched with varying chance of receiving water back dependent on when it last rained, if it’s currently raining or whether someone else has already searched and found nothing more recently than it last rained. Berry bushes are now also forageable and you’ll have to learn for yourselves what bushes drop poisoned berries and which are safe to eat. It’s not gonna be in the name or description. I won’t go into detail about every object which uses this new system but overall this has greatly increased the amount of simple interaction around the world which really brings things to life and costs almost 0 overhead. During backer release, we’ll look towards the community for new ideas when it comes to world interaction.

Environment Design
A massive part of the zombie genre for us is the ambience the surroundings provide. A huge amount of work and tweaking has gone into the feeling of the environment. From carefully hand place design to gloomy dynamic weather, everything within the play area has been tweaked to give that calm but scary post-apocalyptic zombie feel. We want your first moments in the game to feel like you’re the protagonist in a major zombie blockbuster and that survival is the number one goal at all costs.

Other
Steam achievements were added to serve as a simple tutorial. Simple xp/leveling has been added and will be expanded on in the future. We’ve also added visible weapon shadows to player’s backpacks. We’ve greatly improved particle systems, reduction in spatial jitter, damage effects (including falling), a simple time based search system and working fall damage…finally!! More stuff that’s been added are zombies that dynamically seek the safety of shadows during the day and come out during the night, a bunch of new animations, a ton of new and reworked models among countless other things that the team has been working their arses off on.

Summary
To bring this update together, I’d like to say as always that we’re working as hard as we can and we’re doing the best we can to produce the zombie game we’ve all been dreaming of. We’ve made mistakes along the way but we’re dedicated to doing things the way we feel they should be done and we appreciate every single backer and member of the community who is behind the cause. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to be able to take this journey without the need for investors and publishers and it’s allowed us to absolutely listen and implement the features that get suggested to us by all of you. We’ll continue to work as hard as we can until the game releases, at which point you’ll all be the first to hear about it.

From the whole team,
Sincerely
a2z
 

fresh1026

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This is good this means were one step closer right? also I was wondering if I wrote up a lore for fun were would I post this?:)
 

JB_

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This is good this means were one step closer right? also I was wondering if I wrote up a lore for fun were would I post this?:)
I'm working on a dedicated thread and perhaps a general cleanup to the community content section! Personally really looking forward to the lore section.
 

Jonnerz

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Initially, once things are stable we'll be releasing server files.
Not a fan! We have our own dedicated server, so this really sucks. AllGamer also only have one or two locations (Dallas and Amsterdam), will they have any more locations upon release??
 
Thread starter Admin #15

Jayty

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Will we only be able to rent servers from AllGamer?
At first yes. We've been partnered with AllGamer for a long time and they've always provided a service better than others we had experiences with (I'm talking way back when we did our Minecraft stuff). We know they'll be reliable, efficient and definitely well priced.

Moving to the future however we've spoken internally about releasing the server files so that the community can run their own servers however this will NOT happen before we're happy with server performance and security. That way we can protect the player experience :)
 
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Jayty

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Not a fan! We have our own dedicated server, so this really sucks. AllGamer also only have one or two locations (Dallas and Amsterdam), will they have any more locations upon release??
We do realize that it's not the best scenario for everyone and as JB and I mention above, this will change in the future. I do believe AllGamer plan on expanding location based on location demand.
 

Num47

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What? No. We can't stop here. This is bat country.
I had to read that twice just to remeber the first bit I read...

Nice update devs, can't wait to break some shit.
 
Thread starter Admin #18

Jayty

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I had to read that twice just to remeber the first bit I read...

Nice update devs, can't wait to break some shit.
Haha sorry about that. So easy to get carried away and really I only scratch the surface of what I could talk about. A video devLog will show more feature based stuff sometime soon.
 

Archamedes

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thank you for your time transparency and honesty. I hate when there is a big gap between update posts, but I know the reason why. I keep hoping I'm going to wake up to that email saying my key is waiting so i can get in there and live stream my first steps into the unknown
 
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