THE NEW STABLE BUILD

Wow, what a week!

So this week we moved our experimental build over to the stable branch. We’d like to say it went smoothly, but the transition was a little rough. A few large bugs slipped through the net and took us by surprise. It’s amazing how many things can pop up even after 2 months of solid testing on the experimental branch with no problems! Ironically, most of the problems were caused because people were able to run the game too well! But we’re glad to say it’s all sorted now.

We have received a lot of criticism on the new update. It was mentioned in the patch notes, but it’s worth mentioning again that this stable update is only a midpoint to some big upcoming changes so it might not look the prettiest at the moment.

 

Other News

We’ve hinted at a lot of smaller features that we can incorporate now that the world isn’t quite so procedural. One of those is the new global illumination in Unity 5. Basically, the new system allows you to pre-compute or ‘bake’ the lighting data and then use that data to calculate approximate indirect diffuse lighting based on the sun light’s position in real time. We’ve only just started playing around with this feature, but the results look promising —

GI Tests

 

We also have a new character artist, Tito. Tito has previously worked for Ubisoft on projects including Assasins Creed, Farcry 4, Splinter Cell and more. We’ll keep you posted with any progress on that front :)

We’ve got big plans for the next major version of the experimental build. We’ll be switching to our new tester island which is in it’s early stages. Obviously this means the procedural generation will be removed and exploration will be limited, but it will give players a chance to kick the tyres. There will also be new vegetation that really takes advantage of the new foliage shaders I wrote a while ago. And if all goes to plan, we’ll have the new ocean system in as well. This will be rough around the edges as some features aren’t officially implemented yet and we won’t be spending too much time on band-aids, but it will still be a good opportunity to play around with it and get an early indication of any problems we might have in the future.

We would also like to update the stable build with the new foliage in the meantime, as the old foliage is looking a little poor at the moment.

So it was a difficult week for us community-wise and the bugs stalled development a little, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. A lot of good things are in motion :)

 

Stay Alive!
:: Beam Team

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EXPERIMENTAL BUILD 0.04.E4 …AND SHINY THINGS

The latest experimental build 0.04.E4 is now live. See the patch notes here —
http://steamcommunity.com/games/313120/announcements/detail/79161486321144821

This will hopefully be the last update before pushing it out to the stable branch, so if you have any issues, let us know on the forums here —
http://steamcommunity.com/app/313120/discussions/7/

 

Here’s what’s been happening lately :)

Crafting

I mentioned a while back, before the upgrade to Unity 5, that we would be coming back to the crafting system. With the existing crafting and building system, we’d been getting concerned that we were reaching almost a saturation point or limit to the physical dragging mechanic – basically ending up in players just piling crap into a pile and crossing their fingers that the right combination would appear… It became apparent that this problem would only get worse with any content that we added. We needed to rethink…
So in between things, we’d been brainstorming and came up with a new crafting and building system concept. We’re pretty pumped about it as it should allow a lot of freedom and best of all, it’s essentially an evolution of the mechanics that exist now and what make Stranded Deep unique. The best way to describe the new building system is free and open building. You will be building your tools and building components now. You won’t be necessarily limited to a “foundation” or “wall” prefab. With our proposed system, if you want a foundation, you’ll have to build it from pieces. If you want to place walls, you’ll have to prop it up and fix it so it won’t fall down. It will be a universal system that will carry through from the building system to the crafting system. You will be able to choose your blades, handles and fixings, all affecting the properties of the final crafted piece.  The goal being to diversify the appearance and functionality of the unique structures and tools you create.

 

Terrain and Vegetation

The new terrain system is also coming along. We’ve been mocking up test islands, playing with different methods of authoring all the maps needed (height, splat, normals, etc) and nailing down the features we need in the shaders to render it all. It’s all highly a work in progress at this stage —

Large_Islands

We’ve got a lot of assets for the environment being worked on at the moment so it will start to take better shape once they come back and get placed in the world.

Proper PBR terrain textures are also in the works —

RockScreen2

…along with new trees and foliage being worked on too. Here’s an example concept spreadsheet of potential vegetation for Stranded Deep that is then modelled in SpeedTree —

wSD_sketches_trees a01v1-1

 

Ceto

We’ve made mention that we’re looking into a new ocean system as well. A Unity forum member by the name of ‘scrawk’ is creating an ocean asset called ‘Ceto’ (named after a Greek sea goddess) for the Unity community —

Ocean29

Please note that the terrain pictured in this screenshot is not from Stranded Deep! It’s from Unity’s ‘Blacksmith’ technical demo.

It’s still early in development but we can’t wait to get our hands on it when it’s ready for beta, and we’ll be implementing it on our experimental branch as soon as we can. As you can see, it’s looking fantastic, and best of all it lets us focus on other aspects of the game.

 

Other Bits

There’s always lots of smaller things we’re working on in between the bigger features… Unity 5 has a nice new feature called ‘reflection probes’. Reflection probes render and store the environment around them in a cubemap which can be used by reflective materials. If you combine reflection probes with a screen-space reflections post-effect it really adds a nice bit of eye-candy —

SSR Preview 2

When the new terrain system is finshed we will be able to create a nice system to bake multiple probes around the world for high quality reflections at a minimal cost, with the screen-space reflections filling in the gaps. It’s all a work in progress at the moment, but there is a basic reflection probe for the sky implemented in 0.04.E4. Screen space reflections aren’t ready for release yet, but these features will be worked on, improved and implemented as time allows.

We do understand that it’s hard to visualise the progress when so much is happening behind the curtains, so hopefully this blog post helps a bit! :)
That’s it for this update :)

 

Stay Alive!
:: Beam Team

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EXPERIMENTAL BUILD 0.04.E3

We’ve just released the latest experimental build, 0.04.E3.

Two large bugs have been hanging around on the stable build, one being the unusually long loading times for OSX Yosemite users, and the second being the more recent NVIDIA driver upgrade causing consistent crashes.

The upgrade to Unity 5 on our experimental build has fixed these problems and improved performance in general. So in between working on the terrain and coop, we decided to push forward with this update and will be testing it’s stability in the next week or so as a candidate for a stable release. Bug reports are handy, so if you find any post them here on the steam forum here —

http://steamcommunity.com/app/313120/discussions/7/

Everything else is progressing nicely. Unfortunately, a lot of it is pretty boring to read about. We’ve been running a lot of test projects for coop gameplay, testing the best ways to sync everything between players, ai, etc and the larger island tests are also looking promising.

We’ll keep you posted :)
 

Stay Alive!
:: Beam Team

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JUNE 3RD UPDATE

Another week, another post, here’s what we’ve been doing lately :)

 

UI

If you’ve opted into the experimental builds, you probably know that all the UI has now been ported over to Unity’s native UI system. It’s all functional, but not complete. A lot of animations and effects are missing.

I had a fun issue the day of uploading our latest experimental build. I had finished porting over all the UI and went to test it in the standalone build. The menus were not appearing or they were at random locations on the screen. I managed to fumble around and start a new game, and then quit back to the main menu. The menus were now appearing correctly. Huh?

Unity’s UI system has an option to render a UI “canvas” as a screen overlay, through a camera or in the game’s world space. We’re rendering our UI elements as a screen overlay so we don’t need additional cameras or culling layers for them. In the main menu scene, there’s no need for a camera at the moment – it’s just the menus. What’s not immediately apparent is that if you don’t have ANY camera in the scene, overlay canvases will not render correctly. A Unity tech explained that without a camera, the screen overlay canvas has nothing to “overlay”. Uhh.. makes sense :P So chucking in a dummy camera rendering nothing was enough to trigger a clear and tell the canvases to overlay that and do their thing. It was an odd one, and I’ll put it down to a long day, but the 0.04.E2 build ended up being released a day later because of it. It happens.

Graphics

A lot of materials were broken with the move to Unity 5 for the experimental branch. Don’t be surprised if you see objects with incorrect specular, missing normal maps or odd colors. Anything that’s meant to be glass or transparent will also display as a solid color as we haven’t gotten around to writing a glass shader compatible with the new lighting model. Handling materials in Unity 5 is also a bit buggy, which hasn’t been helping. Bug reports and repro projects have been submitted, but no news so far.

Speedtree

As mentioned in recent posts, we’ve incorporated Speedtree into our workflow with the move to Unity 5. It comes with its pros and cons.

It’s fantastic for our early access workflow to have full control of wind parameters, LOD’s, billboards, ambient occlusion, and texture atlasing inside the one program. Before Speedtree, this process took much longer and relied on a number of different programs, which in some cases had worse results and made it nearly impossible to make fast edits without repeating the whole process again.

Speedtree is great software but it could definitely use some improvements with its Unity integration, such as the lack of physically-based shader support and nit-picky duplicated material exports. We’ve also had issues with getting funky results for vertex normal directions for leaf meshes which we’re looking into.

Coop

We’re starting to look into coop. Co-op isn’t a high priority on our list as a feature – we’ve always said that we’re focusing on a solid single player game first – but we’re going to be rewriting a lot of existing systems, so now’s the time to get the basics implemented as a lot of the new systems will need to build on it. Basically, if we don’t lay the foundation for co-op now, we’ll end up needing to rewrite a lot of code to support it, or even worse, tack on or duplicate existing functionality for coop gameplay.

There are some problems and choices to be made. If you’ve played the game, you’ve probably noticed that Stranded Deep relies on a lot of physics, picking things up, throwing them around, etc. In general, physics and networking is a pain. We’re still looking into it, but there might be some compromises and changes. Right now we’re running tests and looking into the best way to synchronise everything.

Terrain

The world in Stranded Deep is currently procedurally generated and infinite. This has worked great for development; features have been easy to add and everybody has gotten around to testing them. Soon though, we’ll be creating a large hand-crafted tile-based world. This will allow us to slowly “create” the world as we progress, adding a new tile with a new island or landmark as that part of the world is designed. There will be small tropical atolls dotted around the world (similar to now) and larger, more interesting islands as landmarks, where you might prefer to setup camp.

We also have plans to implement world building tools for the community. So potentially, you would design your tile’s terrain externally in World Machine, etc and then import your terrain data and create your own island tile with our provided tools. Other users would then be able to download your island and assign it to a free tile in their game. It’s in conceptual stages at the moment, but that’s essentially the idea.

 
Larger islands and coop are two of our most requested features, so we’re pretty excited to be working on both of them :) Between the new terrain system and coop, this is where most of our time is going. So hopefully you can understand that the next experimental build might not be released until we have something that’s playable. But we’ll always keep you updated on our progress on our blog :)

 
Stay Alive!
:: Beam Team

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First Experimental Build

So we’ve moved over to Unity 5 and onto our first experimental build :)

For instructions on how to opt into the experimental builds, see here:
http://steamcommunity.com/app/313120/discussions/6/613958868350181331/

The builds are only for 64-bit Windows and OSX operating systems. We’d love to get feedback on whether the move to U5 and some changes has alleviated loading problems (10-15 mins) for Yosemite users.

There’s also now a dedicated experimental sub-forum here:
http://steamcommunity.com/app/313120/discussions/6/

I mentioned in the last update, that we were doing a lot of custom stuff in Stranded Deep. Well the upgrade broke a lot of it! :P We had a few problems that delayed last week’s release. There’s a problem with the way we manually batch our materials through code with Unity 5. The bug has been reported but for now there’s no item highlighting. We also had a collider related problem with the new physics system that borked the yellow raft, so enjoy your free wooden one :P

One of the things we wanted to address with the upgrade to Unity 5 was the UI. In particular, the UI performance. The system we were using previously was great, but a bit of a performance hog. Unity now have a nice native UI system now. So last week was spent getting up to speed and switching over to the new UI system. It’s much better for performance, as it should be being built into the engine, but the feature set isn’t as comprehensive as our old UI system. So a fair amount of time had to be invested creating controls and widgets for the new UI that we used previously. A lot of time was also spent making sure it was setup in a manner that’s nice and scalable for the future. If anything needs to change or be added, it’s a simple matter of dragging a new control or group in and it will automatically layout everything correctly. So as of 0.04.E1, the main menu is running on the new UI. All of the in-game UI is yet to be converted.

You’ll see there’s a few pre-emptive settings in the audio menu. These will be implemented when we take another pass at the audio system. Unity 5’s got a few new audio tools we need to check out.

We’ve just started to integrate Speedtree for better trees and foliage. One of the things that’s not immediately apparent about the Speedtree integration in Unity is that there’s no official physically based shader set for them. So you have a great scene full of shiny PBR materials and trees that stand out like you know what. All the trees and foliage look horrible right now. We’re on it and trying to get it sorted out asap.

All in all, we’re seeing a nice performance boost with the upgrade. We’ve moved to a fully deferred renderer now. Garbage savings from new UI system and the new multi-core physics system is helping smooth things out too. Freeing up all these precious milliseconds mean we can spend them on more important things like effects, more complex AI, etc.

We’re also finalising plans for the new terrain system and world. We’re really excited with where it’s all heading. It’s also going to be perfect for community mods. We’ll be filling you in in a future post once we’ve got it all figured out.

So that’s it this week, till next time!
Stay Alive!
:: Beam Team

 

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Experiments

As mentioned in our last update post, we’re going to be running a new ‘experimental’ build alongside the stable version of Stranded Deep very soon. We’ll keep you posted when the first experimental build goes live (hopefully next week sometime) and we’ll post some instructions on how to opt in. But for now, we thought we’d update you with some details of the immediate plans.

The first thing on the experimental agenda is moving over to Unity 5.

One of the biggest sales pitches of Unity 5 is the new fully deferred renderer and physically based shading. The switch to a proper deferred renderer will be great, but unfortunately not as easy as pressing the “upgrade” button. There’s a lot of custom stuff going on in Stranded Deep which was necessary to get the most out of the engine we’ve been working with. If you’ve been following our blog posts for a while, you’ll know that we are already doing physically based shading along with various other effects like faking skybox global illumination and a lot of different depth techniques for our effects. So in visual terms, the engine upgrade won’t really do that much for now. But hopefully later on we can integrate even more graphical features like dynamic global illumination, screen space reflections and such.

There’s a few new features that should improve performance though. The physics engine has been upgraded both in speed and the quantity of objects it can handle. Stranded Deep uses a lot of physics so this should be a great improvement. There’s also the new UI system that we’ll be transitioning over to. We haven’t had much of a chance to look at it, but hopefully there’s some performance to be gained. The current system we’re using has some annoying workarounds and a fairly significant performance overhead. Every bit counts :)

After we’ve ported over, we’ll get back into the guts of the game. The construction system was in the middle of a rework before the last hotfix so that’ll be high on the list. We’ve got a lot of great ideas for new systems and they all centre around the theme of scavenging. We really want to incorporate more scavenging for more unique structures and tools. We’ll fill you in with more details when we get to these, but here’s a few teasers of some concepts —

construction_ideas_2a

construction_ideas_2

There’s a heap of other systems that will be getting re-worked as well and we’ll keep you informed as it happens. Starting from this post, we’re going back to fortnightly blog updates as mentioned in the last update. If you’re not keen on trying out the experimental build first hand, this will be a good way to keep up with the progress of the game and see what we’re working on.

That’s it from us for now. We’ll have a hotfix coming out soon for the stable build and then stay posted for further info on the new experimental builds.

Stay Alive!
:: Beam Team

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Update 0.03.H2

Hi guys,

Hotfix 2 for version 0.03 (0.03.H2) is now live. See the change log here: 

Now, this month’s update is a small one. It’s probably the least content we’ve released in an update so far …and there’s a reason for it.
We had to make a big call for this update. We were working on some big systems this month and last week we realised we weren’t going to get them done for this update. So we’ve had to pull a lot of content from this update. This highlighted a bigger problem that’s become more and more evident as the game’s development has progressed under Early Access – working to a monthly build has been very prohibiting. Our monthly builds need to be stable enough so that you’re not losing you’re progress every update. It’s just not fun playing a game in pieces. But at the same time we need to move forward and the things we want to move forward with are going to break the game …a lot. What to do? Well starting as of this update, version 0.03 will remain the stable build and in the next few weeks we’ll be starting a new experimental branch that players can opt into. The experimental build will be just that, highly experimental. It will allow us a lot more freedom in development and will allow you to see more immediate progress of the things we’re working on. Because you won’t be seeing that progress reflected in the stable build which most players will be playing, we’ll be going back to fortnightly blog updates on our website how we used to, to keep you up to date with what we’re working on. And of course we’ll be uploading the experimental builds if you want to check it out.

  • We have a lot of big things planned. Some of them include:
  • Moving over to Unity 5.
  • Reworking the terrain system.
  • Reworking the ocean – Better and bigger wave animations and more complete buoyancy.
  • Reworking a lot of behind the scenes for co-operative game play.
  • Incorporating a proper player model with shadows and animations.
  • Creating an actual audio system.
  • A new loot system incorporating proper scavenging mechanics.
  • Improving the construction system to build on the new scavenging system to create more unique structures.
  • A tool crafting system – scavenging different handles, bindings and blades to create unique tools and weapons.
    Improving the weather with procedural cloud cover and better weather events.
  • A map editor and modding tools.
  • Heaps more…

We’ll be posting a blog post in the next few days with more details and concept art on what we have planned for the above so stay posted.

The main point of all this is that we don’t want Stranded Deep to turn into an early access game where you come back in a few months and updates time and it basically looks like the exact same game – a game where “progress” is made every month, but nothing really changes or grows into something better. It’s been a hard call to make this month, but we know it’s the right one. We have big plans and are pretty excited so we hope you’ll understand and support us as we do that :)

We’ll post an announcement soon with more details on the experimental build.

Stay Alive!
:: Beam Team

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Update 0.03

Hi guys,

Version 0.03 is now live. See the change log here: http://bit.ly/19hbUP7

If you’ve been following on the forum, we’ve mentioned in a few threads that a lot has been going on internally. We’re reworking a few things at the moment and focusing on laying a solid foundation for the future of the game. So while that’s happening, things around here are pretty busy and we might not have a chance to communicate as much as we’d like. We know that can be unnerving and some developers have let EA users down in the past, but we want to reassure people that we’re just as excited and committed to this project as ever :)

We’ve got a lot of feelers out at the moment to help cover some areas that we don’t specialize in. Our animation and audio systems are admittedly terrible and bulky. Neither of us are animators or audio guys, so we’re looking at hiring someone to completely overhaul these systems. We’re also on the hunt for some concept artists and illustrators to help expand our vision for new craftable tools, building structures and tropical environments to find and explore.

In the coming months, we’ll be looking into improving existing features and implementing more new features. We’ve been thinking about a skills tree, but we have no idea how we’re going to pull this one off how we’d like at the moment. We really don’t want a big bulky SKILLLS MENNNU! ..but it would also add a great way to progress and be able to improve your character’s abilities. So we’ll put our thinking caps on for that one.. We’ll also be looking into creating floating structures like house boats and better rafts. It’s been on our list for a while and seems to be a regularly requested feature. There’s also the more “behind the scenes” systems tied into the survival aspect of the game, like more advanced temperature and stamina systems. The systems are actually there and functioning already and are quite advanced for a game, we just need to implement them more fully with the player and environment. An engine upgrade to Unity 5.0 is on the list as well. We’ve got a tonne of ideas and couldn’t hope to cover them in this post, but there’s plenty of good stuff that we’ll be sinking our teeth into and gives you an idea of what we’re looking at.

But for now, the March update is here with Sea Forts, multistory building, some UI gameplay changes and plenty of bug fixes. Performance is also generally improved. Enjoy :)

 SeaFort_005SeaFort_001 SeaFort_002 SeaFort_003

 

Stay Alive!
:: Beam Team

Update 0.02

Hi guys,

Our latest 0.02 update recently went live which was shortly followed by 0.02H1 hotfix! You can see the change log here:

Heres a couple of screenshots showcasing some of the new (mostly underwater) content.

Planewreck

ReefShark

Stingray

Turtle

 

 

 

New Website – We want you!

We have always wanted to upgrade from our blog page and give Stranded Deep a dedicated website. If you are a web designer and are interested in working with us, drop an email at contact@beamteamgames.com with the title ‘Web Design’. We would love to see what ideas you have for our website and any relevant work you’ve done previously.

 

Updates

Its been an interesting last couple of weeks. Stranded Deep has done amazingly well and grown quite a following in such a short amount of time which has been very overwhelming! We have both decided that its very important to take some time to regroup and figure out what our priorities are with what we want Stranded Deep to become and the best way to achieve that.

Updates are likely to come monthly as anything less can be really restricting to our development. We know players will agree that they’d prefer much larger and meaningful updates monthly than random ‘bits n bobs’ weekly. This timeframe doesn’t include hotfixes, which we can release anytime to address issues in between updates.

We’ve also launched a trello board for some of the public development you can follow between updates https://trello.com/beamteam 

 

Thats it from us this time, busy busy busy!

Don’t forget you can follow us on twitter: @BEAMTeamGames And also on the steam community board: http://steamcommunity.com/app/313120/discussions/ We love hearing from you.

 

Stay Alive! :)
::Beam Team

CHECK IN

Just thought we should check-in to let everyone know we’re still here again! The launch went great and we are overwhelmed by the support and fantastic community that Stranded Deep has! Thank you all so much. We’ve decided to take a small break from the normal website updates while we put our heads down and focus on punching out as much content as we can in these early days. We’re also looking into a more dedicated website, so we’ll keep you posted on that one.

In the meantime, you can always chat to us us on twitter: @BEAMTeamGames And also on the steam community board: http://steamcommunity.com/app/313120/discussions/ We love hearing from you :)

 

Stay Alive!
:: Beam Team

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