Friday, 11 May 2018

Writing Competition Winners

As you may remember we held a writing competition last month. We had a huge number of entries (well over 1,000) so it took us a bit longer than we had planned to go through them all.

The vast majority of the entries were really good and it was incredibly tough deciding on the winners.  However Ian (Xaelath) and I have finally managed to decide on the winning submissions.

The winners and their entries are:

Armand H,  Police Transcript & DOD Letter

Tsvetoslav S, Horologist

Oliver C, Diary of Tim Newman 1-3

Jesus K, To Maria Santos

Joule P C, Newborn Baby

Vincent N, I told Bill not to bring the .22. 1-4

"Lucian", Flight Transcript & An Essay on the Degree of Consciousness

"BrightsideGuy", Necrophilliac's Note

"Jack", 3 Entries: Notes from Jack/Elizabeth

Abel O, Chili Con Canine

Nadera M, The Stew

Jordan B, Filth outside my door again

Stephanie H, Photographer's Diary

T.S. Eleanore, My Sweet Little Child

"ClockworkCookie", The Beasts 1-4

S. D. Kang, Because she was Penny to me

Jessica N, Mary-Ann


Well done to you all! I really can't wait to put these pieces into the game.

If you are one of the winners you should already have received an email from us detailing the next steps. Unfortunately, if your name doesn't appear above, and you haven't already received an email then that means you were unsuccessful. Even so, thank you very much for taking part and don't give up on the writing! We may very well hold another one of these competitions soon :)

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Dead Frontier 2: Tendril Boss, Concept Art & More!

Boss Teaser
So today I was messing around with some ideas for segments we could use in the Dead Frontier 2 trailer, and this was one of the first things I came up with. I thought it looked fairly neat on it's own so figured I'd post it up here for you guys:




If you're unfamiliar with DF1, this is a Tendril; the second most hated of all enemies due to her rapid speed and hard hitting tentacles. I'm pleased to say that we're bringing back this loathsome creature as a boss in DF2. She is pretty much finished and ready to go into the game. I must admit I'm not looking forward to actually fighting her though!

Release Woes
So I know back in January I gave you guys a bunch of options on what we should do with the planned release date. You wanted me to delay the game until it was properly finished, and not launch as an Early Access title. Giving myself the extra time was a *huge* help, and the game is definitely a lot better for it. However I still don't believe it will now be fully feature complete by our Summer deadline. 

I've weighed up the options and I've decided that I don't want to delay the game any further. The truth is I work so much faster when I have a bit of pressure, and another extension might just allow me to slip back into my usual, slower pace. Not to mention, I'm so hyped about the game that *I* can't wait to let you guys in so I've got someone to play with :-)

So the release will be Early Access on Steam. However that doesn't mean it'll be a broken buggy mess either. We will still have gone through an alpha testing period to iron out most of the problems first. My goal is to have a nice, polished core game game loop for everyone to enjoy at launch. I will then get to work on the less critical features such as clan systems, competitions etc.

Writing Competition Update
A big thanks to everyone who submitted an entry for the writing competition. Unfortunately because we've had so many entries (well over 1000) it's taking Ian (Xaelath) and I longer than expected to go through them all and do the judging. I suspect we'll probably need another week or so to pick the final winners. If you're one of the lucky ones you will receive an email from me with details on how to go about getting your prize.

Patreon
Since I've been bombarded with so many messages from people wanting to support DF2 financially, I've setup a Patreon page here:

I don't want you guys to feel obliged to do this, honestly we do already have enough money to complete the game and the most important thing you can do to help us is: play it, write a nice review on Steam, tell your friends about it etc. But if you're still feeling the urge to send us some pennies it would allow us to spend a bit more on launch advertising (which can make a big difference).

Discord
We've recently setup a Discord server for Dead Frontier 2. This is quickly becoming my favourite social platform as it allows me to communicate with players/fans in the most convenient fashion. If you haven't already joined please follow this invite link. I'm online a fair bit there so if you have any questions feel free to drop in and ask.

https://discordapp.com/invite/QwvjvQW

Other Development News

- After making some optimizations to the multiplayer system I've decided to increase the player limit per instance to 8. This should help to make the game feel a bit more like an MMO.

- Our server company recently had a sale at their Singapore data-center,  so I went ahead and snapped up one of their machines. Now anyone from East Asia or Australia should be able to get a decent ping.

- I'm SUPER HYPED about this game now. It's gotten to the point where it's hard to get any actual work done because all I want to do is run around with a shotgun and blow zombie heads off. I can't imagine how awesome this game is going to feel once I've got some of you guys to play with. 


Concept Art
Here is some of our enemy concept art. These pieces were made by Greg Taylor and Milen Kalachev. Please note that not *all* of these designs will be in the the final game. Can you guess which ones will make the cut?














If you'd like to stay up to date with DF2 developments, please sign up to the mailing list, like/follow/subscribe/wishlist us on social media (especially Steam!). All those lovely links can be found here: http://deadfrontier2.com :)

Thanks for reading!
-Neil

Friday, 30 March 2018

Dead Frontier 2: Potato Mode, Servers & More

Potato Mode
Ever since I posted up the first screenshots of Dead Frontier 2, one of the most common questions I've been asked is "will my PC be able to run this?". Since the screenshots are fairly modern and shiny (in my opinion anyway) it would be easy to think that DF2 is only going to work on rigs sporting the latest graphics cards, and that people with laptops or slightly older hardware would be left out.

However one thing I've always insisted on throughout my 15 year indie game development career is that my games should run on the most machines possible. So in the last week I've been working on providing as many graphics settings options as I can. You can now literally enable/disable just about every feature of the 3D engine. If you're not well versed on all the different technical details, I've also added some general profiles for different types of hardware.

One of those profiles is "Potato Mode" which pretty much disables everything. I'll warn you, it doesn't look pretty, but I think it's an option worth having for those with weaker PCs.


Based on my recent testing with these different modes, I've now lowered the minimum system requirements to:

OS: 64-bit Windows
Processor: Intel Core i3 or AMD FX
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: Radeon HD 8550 or equivalent
DirectX: Version 9.0
Network: Broadband Internet connection
Storage: 5 GB available space

These are pretty much the exact specs on my own budget laptop that I bought almost 5 years ago. To be honest, while running in potato mode I suspect that game might even run on something much weaker, but I'm loathed to suggest lower requirements than this until I've been able to verify them first hand. I'm hoping that during alpha testing we'll get an idea how it works on some truly awful hardware =D

Servers
Another big thing I've done since the last report is setup all the final servers for the game. The DF1 open beta launch was a huge disaster, and that is something I'm hoping to avoid this time around. I am expecting there to be up to 20,000 players online in the first day DF2 is on Steam, and I need to make sure we can accommodate all of them.

Using locust.io and 13 different cloud instances (virtual machines) I simulated over 40,000 concurrent players on the servers. And whilst the loading times did increase slightly, I'm pleased to report that the game was still very much playable and fun. This is honestly a huge win for me, as it was something I was really worried about. It's good to know that if necessary, we can handle 10 times the load that we had for DF1.

For multiplayer, we currently have servers in North America, UK and Poland. I am eventually hoping to add more in South America and Singapore so that everyone can have a nice low ping. However the reality is that bandwidth costs are something like 15 times higher in those areas, so it's only something we can afford to do if the game proves popular in those locations.

General Progress Info
I'm happy to report that my motivation to work hard on DF2 is sky high. One reason why I've been taking so long to get this report written is that I've just been so focused on getting the game done ASAP. At this point all I do breath, eat and sleep DF2.

Just to make you all aware, these features are still missing from the game:
- Clan System
- Competitions
- Item > Item Trade
- Outpost Attacks
- Barricading

My plan is still to complete them all by summer, but for now I am focusing on making the core game (looting, hunting zombies, boss fights, missions, leveling etc) as fun and addictive as possible. If it comes to it, I would much rather release a fun and polished core game, with some features missing, than a boring feature complete game.

That's pretty much it for now, but figured I'd leave you with a couple more random screenshots I took over the last week:







If you'd like to stay up to date with DF2 developments, please sign up to the mailing list, like/follow/subscribe/wishlist us on social media (especially Steam!). All those lovely links can be found here: http://deadfrontier2.com :)

Thanks for reading!
-Neil

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Dead Frontier 2: Writing Competition

One thing I've always liked in games is the ability to find various notes, journals and books scattered around which contribute towards the atmosphere and develops the lore.



Dead Frontier 1 did have a handful of books you could find with neat little stories in them. However I regret that we didn't have more of them. For Dead Frontier 2 I'd like to change this, and have a far greater variety of these. Whilst I enjoy writing things like this, the truth is I won't have time to make many of these on top of my other programming and design work.


So this is where you come in! 
We're looking original pieces of creative writing set in the Dead Frontier world. We'll be accepting submissions until the end of April. We'll then choose 10 pieces to be put into the final game (or more if there are a lot of really good ones!). Those pieces will be immortalised forever in Dead Frontier 2, the writer will get their name in the credits and they will receive $50 USD via PayPal for each piece we accept.

Rules:
  1. The piece must be set in the Dead Frontier universe IE the zombie apocalypse. Please no flying unicorns or star destroyers etc. We're not going to nitpick over small details though, and we can always edit out little things that don't quite fit. DF2 is not set in Fairview, but it's fairly close so you're welcome to reference things from DF1 if you wish. The general backstory can be found here if you need a refresher:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jR2KKJ4jw34
  2. It should be in the form of a journal, report, set of notes, book, or something a player might realistically find lying around. Don't write it in the form of an actual story/novel :) If you need some examples take look at these:
    http://deadfrontier.wikia.com/wiki/Diaries
    http://residentevil.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Diaries
  3. Don't make the piece too long, otherwise players probably won't read it. We're probably talking about 150-300 words each.
  4. You can submit as many entries as you like. You can make each entry a separate piece of work or you can chain them together to make a series for the player to collect. You will receive $50 USD for each piece we accept.
  5. Please write in English with good grammar, punctuation and spelling.
  6. Try to be creative! The more unique your piece the more chance we'll choose it. We don't want to end up with 100s of "oh no I'm a zombie, itchy scratchy" pieces :)
  7. Keep the tone dark and serious as much as possible.
  8. It must be your own, brand new, 100% original work (although you are of course allowed to use other things for inspiration etc)
  9. If you win you must sign a short contract with us, which basically allows us to use the work in the game.
  10. You must be 18 or over to enter.
  11. We're just looking for simple pieces of text to add atmosphere. Please don't plan out complex missions or cut scenes etc to go with them

Email all entries to [email protected] with the writing directly in the email as we may not be able to open some types of attachment. Please be sure to include your full name, address (for the contract), PayPal email and name you want to use for the credits (either your actual name, a nickname or a username). If you are accepted your name/nickname will be published in the game credits, but we of course won't publish any other details about you. If you do not have a PayPal account we can always give you Dead Frontier credits instead.

If you'd like to stay up to date with DF2 developments, please sign up to the mailing list, like/follow/subscribe/wishlist us on social media (especially Steam!). All those lovely links can be found here: https://deadfrontier2.com :)

Thanks for reading!
-Neil

Sunday, 18 February 2018

DF2 Gameplay Video, Steam Page & Release News

Steam Page
I'm pleased to report that our Steam page is now live:
http://store.steampowered.com/app/744900/Dead_Frontier_2/

The main reason we've done this early is that it's important for us to get a lot of follows & wishlists on Steam, as this helps to make the game more popular once it's released. So if you could log into your Steam account, view the above link and then click "Add to wishlist" that would be really helpful. It's probably a good idea to do this even if you are already signed up to the mailing list, or are following us on social media, because unfortunately there is no guarantee you'll always see our news (due to spam filters etc). The Steam system is much more reliable at reaching players.


Gameplay Video
As a requirement for making our Steam page live I had to post a game-play video, so I've made a very quick sneak peek. Hopefully this will give you guys some idea of how the final game will look and feel. As always though please remember this is not final, and I do expect that the actual game will be even better than this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlWqkzsM20o&feature=youtu.be


Release Date Change
If you remember last month I asked the community about the best course of action going forward. I was slipping behind schedule and the April 2018 release date started to look a little hard to hit. I got an overwhelming response, and by far the most popular option was to delay the release and try to have a much more complete game on launch. So that's exactly what I'm doing.

The new target date is Summer 2018, ideally July. That should give me plenty of time to complete all the core mechanics. I apologise to all those who were really looking forward to playing in April, but I really think that waiting a bit longer will be well worth it in the long run.


Progress Report
Since the last post I've made a lot of improvements to the game. Combat, especially melee is feeling much nicer and I've added a lot of active abilities such as dodging, kicking, sneaking etc. In terms of features the missions, boss & NPC systems are now complete. I've also pretty much finished the UI and menu designs.

It was actually quite a relief to know that you guys weren't going to rage about a delayed release, and as a result I'm no longer "rushing" which I feel has meant that the quality of my work has improved.

If you'd like to stay up to date with DF2 developments, please sign up to the mailing list, like/follow/subscribe/wishlist us on social media (especially Steam!). All those lovely links can be found here: http://deadfrontier2.com :)

Thanks for reading!
-Neil

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Dead Frontier 2: January Progress Update

Unfortunately I don't have a whole lot of meaningful progress to report today. The normal cocktail of the kids being off school for the holidays, Christmas gatherings, a bout of the flu and the all our company & personal accounts being due in January basically left me with no where near as much time to work on DF2 as I had planned. Although I have made progress in many areas, I haven't gotten to the stage where I feel comfortable enough to mark them off my checklist as "done". I can tell you that I am currently working on the noticeboard/mission system and I hope to have it totally complete before the end of this month.

Still as time rolls on I have to admit that the April 21st launch date is starting to look a little shaky. I still have a lot of features to implement and even once those are all finished, there will still be a lot of work to do in terms of setting up the final server machines, load testing, play-testing, balancing and marketing. The way I see it there are a few possible options:

Option A
I launch publicly on April 21st no matter what, as "Early Access". Any features that are missing at this time will have to be implemented post release. I believe this is easily possible, but means that the initial game will have less to do. It also means that it will take a lot longer for the final features to be implemented, as I will no doubt get sidetracked with other issues (cheating, abuse, balancing, bugs etc). Some early players may lose interest too quickly and leave before they see the game in it's final form.

Option B
I launch the closed beta on April 21st, inviting a good chunk of people (perhaps 2000?) but not everyone. This is similar in some ways to Option A, but because it's not a huge amount of people there should be less distracting issues to sort out. I should be able to get the final features done much quicker, whilst also learning some valuable information about the game. Downside is many people will still be unhappy as they have to wait. In addition videos/streams of early bugs and issues may cause people to lose interest in the game before they even get to try it.

Option C
Delay the release until it's properly done. This should in theory give us the best game possible in the shortest amount of time. My current thinking is that an extra 2 months would be more than enough. However even this cannot be guaranteed and I am aware that shorter deadlines do make me more focused. I definitely don't want to become the next Star Citizen, delaying the release for a year or more etc.

I honestly haven't decided either way yet. What do you guys think? I'd be very interested to hear what you all think in the comments section. As normal I'll be keeping a close eye on these for the first few days and will do my best to reply to as many of them as possible.

So this post isn't just a bunch of boring, ugly words: behold! Shiny concept art & new logo!



If you'd like to stay up to date with DF2 developments, please sign up to the mailing list, Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to the Reddit forum (probably the best place to ask questions). All those lovely links can be found here: http://deadfrontier2.com :)

Thanks for reading!
-Neil









Saturday, 9 December 2017

Dead Frontier 2: News & Early Sceenshots

A Big Thank You
Before I begin I want to say that since we announced Dead Frontier 2 we've had a hugely positive response. Everyone seems so excited about the new game and it's given me a huge boost in morale. I'm now more determined than ever to make this game the best it can possibly be.

I want to say a big thank you to everyone who read our announcement, and especially to those who took the time to leave comments. It really means a lot to me that the community is still behind us, even after all these years.

Interior Areas
So ever since I announced DF2 I've gotten my head down and started grinding away at getting our interior areas ready. I'm pleased to say that after roughly 6 weeks these are now finished, save a few minor bugs. We have a total of 13 building types, and each of these can have literally trillions of possible layouts (actually a lot more than that, but my brain doesn't understand numbers any bigger than this!)

Dead Frontier 2 does not make used of *any* fixed scenes, absolutely everything you see is generated by the computer. We have a few reasons for doing this, but the main ones are:

  1. Fixed areas are costly in terms of time/money to create, especially if you want a large world. For a small team like us, it could add literally years of work.
  2. It's easier to expand the game world with random generation, making updates easier.
  3. Playing the exact same layouts over and over will get boring, regenerating them every so often helps make the game feel fresh and exciting.


This is very similar to how the old Dead Frontier 2D used to work. Essentially we give the computer a set of walls, doors, windows, furniture and decorations, and then let it randomly place them based on certain predefined parameters. So for example, a bathroom would likely have tiled walls, tiled floor, 1 toilet, 1 bath, 1 sink, and then a few optional bits and bobs like toothpaste, toothbrushes, hair products, carpets. We then chain these rooms together depending on the building type. For example a house will likely start with an entrance hallway, that can then link to a living room, a kitchen, a dining room. Going upstairs will usually have bedrooms and bathrooms. Using parameters like this you can get quite realistic results, without having to physically build anything yourself.

The downside of this system is that is does take quite a bit of time to setup all the different furniture, decoration and wall types. From there defining how each building will be laid out can also take quite a while. There is also the issue of testing and tweaking. Every so often the computer will generate something that just looks wrong, so you have to keep adding extra conditions to help prevent those situations. A lot of you may remember things like this happening in DF2D. Luckily I've put a lot more work into this version, and the result is miles better than we had back then.

I figured I'd give a list of tasks that I have completed, and those that are still being worked on in each post so you can get an idea of how development is going:

Complete:

  • Looting
  • Inventory & Items System
  • Trading
  • Menus
  • Account System
  • Character Creation
  • Skill System
  • Leveling System
  • Weapon System
  • Enemy System
  • Interior Generation System
  • Final Exterior Areas
  • Final Interior Areas
  • Puzzle System
  • NPCs
  • Player Avatars (programming complete but waiting on some art to finish)
  • Multiplayer
  • Basic Vehicles
  • Security



TODO:

  • General Gameplay Improvements (more blood/gore, more interesting/rewarding combat)
  • Advanced Enemy System (ambushes, special attacks etc)
  • Advanced NPCs
  • Advanced Vehicles
  • Bosses
  • Noticeboard/Missions
  • Outpost Attacks
  • Clan & Friend Systems
  • Leaderboards & Competitions
  • Music/Atmosphere System
  • Final Cosmetics System
  • DF1 > DF2 name reservation and transfer system
  • Steam Integration
  • In-game purchasing
  • Bug fixes :)
  • Final UI Skin
  • Final Item Definitions
  • Final Skill Definitions
  • Final Map Definitions
  • Final Weapon Definitions & Setup
  • Final Enemy Definitions & Setup (waiting on some art)
  • Final Outposts


The list as it stands makes it look like I've still got tons to do, and will never be finished in time. But in reality most of the tasks in the "complete" section were very big & complex, whereas most of the TODO list are much shorter tasks. A lot of ground work has already been done to make implementing these final features fairly quick. Still, I admit I may be cutting things close, and it is *possible* that some of the final features will be missing at launch.

Early Screenshots
This morning I went ahead and compiled a bunch of game-play screenshots, showing off some of the new areas. Note that most of these are missing enemies. This is because I am currently in the process of setting up the final enemy models (before we just had placeholders). I do have one type finished though, which is the one you can see below :)









If you'd like to stay up to date with DF2 developments, please sign up to the mailing list, Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to the Reddit forum (probably the best place to ask questions). All those lovely links can be found here: http://deadfrontier2.com :)

Have a Great Christmas and Happy New Year!

I'll have more news for you in early January. Thanks for reading!