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  • [GAME] [WIP] Republic Sniper

    Hey guys, I’m Patrick from MartianCraft, one of the artists working on Republic Sniper.

    For the past few weeks we’ve been posting Screenshot Saturday updates in the WIP forum for our game. We wanted to keep you updated on future progress through one easy-to-follow thread. Let's start with our previous Screenshot Saturday posts!
    Last edited by eXi; 05-05-2015, 06:18 PM.

  • #2
    January 10th's Screenshot Saturday post

    Originally posted by jeff_lamarche View Post
    Many months back, we switched from Unity to UE4 for our project, Republic Sniper. I wrote a blog post on the decision, which ended up on Hacker News and Slashdot and got a fair amount of attention.

    Our first few months on UE4 were really just spent learning. Once we started understanding the tools and engine code and had a feel for the basic process, we switched to an iterative approach, blocking out all of our levels to a powers-of-2 grid, and then continually testing the levels, tweaking them, and upping the level of detail with each pass.

    We're now starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and are ready to begin doing regular screenshot Saturday posts of our progress.

    We've been working on seven levels so far, with two others in very early concept stages. Today, we're going to show our progress on the first two levels of the game, dubbed "Training Day" and "Hangar".

    Training Day was the first level we ever worked on for Republic Sniper. It's a training and rifle range on a very large spaceship called the ERS Oberon. These screenshots actually represent our third version of of this futuristic shooting range. The first version was created in Unity and was a playable prototype and proof-of-concept. Our second version was done in UE4 and it's what our artists and level designers built to get comfortable with UE4's tools. We didn't pay much attention to playability or story while building the second version, though. This third version is part of our new, constant iteration approach. These comparison shots show where the level is now compared with the blockouts we did a few months ago.

    Republic Sniper is actually a small piece of a much larger universe we've been fleshing out for several years. Our story bible, scripts, and universe guide contain over a thousand pages of back-story, character history, and sundry details about technology, politics, and universe in general. We're not ready to share much of the Republic Sniper story yet, but to help set the stage for this first Screenshot Saturday, here are the first two draft pages of the Training Day intro cinematic.

    Training Day progress comparison: (click for full-size)


    If you're interested in seeing the previous version of Training Day, it's shown in the blog post linked above (or right here).

    Our second level, called simply "Hangar" is a cavernous flightdeck and hangar bay from the same ship. From a story perspective, this level was put in to convey the enormous scale of the ship to the player. The script and signage will tell the player that this is one of many hangar bays on the ship. To give you an idea of scale, the little red shapes on the hangar floor are people-sized scale reference models.

    Hangar progress comparison: (click for full-size)


    We welcome any feedback, criticism, or comments. Thanks!

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    • #3
      January 17th's Screenshot Saturday post

      Originally posted by jeff_lamarche View Post
      Continuing on with our commitment from last week to do weekly #screenshotsaturday posts, here's a few more WIP shots from Republic Sniper. We still focusing on the first two levels, "Training Day" and "Hangar". The first three images are refinements to the Hangar Bar level blockouts, including the Flight Control Room (first image), small craft parking loft (#2), and the "stair hub" (#3). The rifle range from the Training Day level is a multi-purpose area. Here (#4),you can see a blockout of it set up for urban combat training.

      Our levels are fairly large in scale for a mobile game, so one of our big concerns is performance, so another thing we did this week was add a whole mess of random walker AI bots to patrol one floor of the hangar bay. Fifteen of them. We've turned on FPS display for that level for this week's internal build and are paying attention to framerates across different devices. So far, the performance has been great on the later generations of hardware, though we're expecting to have to do some performance tuning for the older hardware (iPad 2, iPad Mini) as we get further along. It's too early to optimize yet, but it's never too early to know where our hot spots are likely to be.

      As always, comments, suggestions, and criticisms are welcome. Feel free to follow us on Twitter if you want WIP shots other than #screenshotsaturday.

      Thanks for looking!



      Bonus screenshot: hostile bot swarm! This is a PIE shot and definitely not approved for public use, so I'd probably be in trouble for posting this one if I wasn't the boss.

      The color of the bot's text and joints gives us visual feedback about each bot's current alert state to help us when working on AI logic. The color ranges from blue (not alerted) through green, yellow, orange, and then red (which indicates maximum alertness). Our bot character class has a number of options to let it communicate alertness to other hostile bots (nearby bots, bots within line of site, bots in same squad, bots within a certain distance, or all bots on level) and bots can optionally communicate the location where they last saw or heard something. The bots with yellow and orange were facing away when I entered the room, those that are red were looking at the door as I entered. Alertness if the biggest factor in many of our behavior tree decisions.

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      • #4
        January 24th's post

        Originally posted by jeff_lamarche View Post
        Another week, another ScreenShot Saturday and another Republic Sniper dev update.

        This was a challenging week. We love our in-house projects, but our bread and butter is our work for clients. Sometimes that means that our in-house projects like Republic Sniper lose resources because a client project goes into crunch time. That happened to us this past week on Republic Sniper. Art and level design continued as normal, but we got very little done on the programming or gameplay side.

        The most tangible progress this week (that I'm allowed to show) was the Hangar Control room. This room acts, basically, as the nerve center for the hangar bay, serving as both Ground Control and Flight Control. Up until recently, it wasn't much more than a few cubes, but now it's really starting to take shape.



        We realized this week, that GDC is just around the corner. Yikes! We've decided to really focus on the hangar level from now until GDC. For the last few months, we've been spreading work across several levels as we iterated. For the conference, we want one level at a higher visual fidelity so that we can demo it. If all goes according to plan, I'll have Hangar Bay loaded on an iPad or three while I'm out there, so if you're at GDC and want to see Republic Sniper on device, ping us on Twitter during the conference: @RepublicSniper

        We did a lot of concepting work this week, but I wasn't able to convince our artists to share any of that yet. I should have some of that to share in the next week, though, and I'm still holding out hope that I'll be able to follow up in a little bit with at least one bit of concept art today or tomorrow. Call it Screenshot Saturday Part 2 (or Screenshot Sunday).

        Starting next week, we should also start having higher-resolution, normal mapped, and textured models showing up in this level.

        Like last week, I'm sneaking in a bonus PIE image that my artists haven't signed off on. Last week, we threw a whole bunch of bots onto the Hangar level to test performance (worked great except on oldest supported iOS devices). Walking into the hangar substructure and having 15 glowing bots look at you and then start chasing you is actually kind of a surreal experience. If you're fast, you can get through the swam and get away, but if you dawdle, you're quickly surrounded by bots and unable to move.

        Fortunately (or unfortunately), our AI doesn't know how to shoot or go up stairs yet, so you only have to make it to the stair hub to be safe, then you can taunt the bots all you want.

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        • #5
          January 31st's Screenshot Saturday post

          Originally posted by jeff_lamarche View Post
          We had a great week this week. I think it was the fear of the rapidly approaching GDC that motivated us, but we saw a lot of movement on the hangar deck, which is our main focus right now.

          Our artists put a lot of work into setting up a detail and texture pipeline for assets, and our first textured and detailed asset rolled off the assembly line earlier this week, which was kind of a cool thing for us:



          Our catwalk and cargo/ship movers became recognizable assets in the blockout this week and, overall, the hangar just started looking a lot more finished.



          We also started blocking out (on a separate sublevel) a combat scenario that will happen on this map. We're not ready to give away too much of the story yet, but at some point, the ship gets boarded and Hangar Deck B-7 is one of the primary points of entry for Seditionist boarding parties.



          Earlier this week, ZBrush 4R7 with Keyshot integration came out, and our artists were just giddy about that. You'd have thought it was Christmas morning and they were eight. With the improved hard modeling tools, Alex started adding detail to some of our existing assets and doing preview renders with Keyshot. Here's a Keyshot render of the Republic Automated Defense Turret.



          As always, we welcome any feedback or questions. Thanks for reading!

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          • #6
            Some early mood paintings for level concepts, and the playable UE4 blockouts that resulted






            An early version of the initial training level for Republic Sniper, pushed through with textures and lighting. Runs smooth as butter on mobile devices.






            ...And a blockout of the same level with new ideas for the layout to the main training area

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            • #7
              Some more visual development work, now. We're creating many of the hero assets in Zbrush, which now has great Keyshot support, allowing us to quickly look dev everything from architecture to characters







              Some earlier visdev work on smaller props





              The same turret textured and in-game





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              • #8
                Lovely work. I really enjoyed watching the blockouts turn into the final versions. Keep them coming

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                • #9
                  So question for you guys at martiancraft -

                  Are you guys using some form of custom shaders with Unreal 4?

                  How are you able to get the performance that you are getting on iOS?

                  Could you go into some form of Technical detail?

                  Also mind giving some advice when targeting mobile?

                  Either way you game looks stunning so far.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by HeadClot View Post
                    Are you guys using some form of custom shaders with Unreal 4?
                    No custom shaders to date, at least in terms of writing our own HLSL shaders. We have a hand full of "Master" UE4 materials and then we use material instances on the actual models. While we haven't gotten into heavy texturing yet, I don't honestly foresee the need to write shaders. UE4's material system is pretty amazing and has let us move quite a bit of workload from programmers to artists. That could change - it's possible that we might want to do something that the Material system can't handle, but if I were a betting man, I'd bet on us being able to get this game shipped without writing a line of shader code.

                    Originally posted by HeadClot View Post
                    How are you able to get the performance that you are getting on iOS?
                    We avoid demoing on older devices.

                    I'm kidding, kind of. We haven't gotten to the point of optimizing yet, but so far, on the 5S, the iPad Air, and all later devices, we always 30-35 fps even on our biggest, most complex levels. Epic and Apple get the credit for that, not us. Trying to run current builds on the iPad or original iPad Mini can be a little painful, though. That's a problem for later in the dev

                    Originally posted by HeadClot View Post
                    Could you go into some form of Technical detail?
                    Sure, I'll try to include more technical details in my Saturday updates, which I'll be putting in this thread going forward.

                    Originally posted by HeadClot View Post
                    Also mind giving some advice when targeting mobile?
                    Since moving to UE4, honestly, the biggest challenge on mobile is coming up with good controls. We've spent a lot of time working on our move mechanic, and we're not done. You have to find a balance. You simply can't offer the amount of movement freedom you can with a console controller, so you have to choose which aspects of control are important to your game and which parts you can take away from the player somehow without hurting gameplay or immersiveness.

                    Historically, mobile has been very constrained in terms of computing resources. Devices never had enough memory, processor speed, or GPU cores to do what you wanted to do, so you had to compensate with all forms of cheat - special pared back shader. Our original Unity version had five or six completely custom shaders, all written trying to get the look our artists wanted at a decent framerate on device. We haven't really had those issues since moving to UE4, though, honestly. The shader compilers and render pathway automatically handle most of that for us. That, combined with significant jumps forward in mobile computing power, have made these traditional mobile issues less of a factor for us.

                    It is important to decide up front which devices you're willing to sacrifice to get the experience you'd like, too. While we'd love to ship Republic Sniper so it supports all iOS devices that Apple currently supports, we'd be okay cutting support for older hardware if we can't get the performance we want on those devices without sacrificing too much in the way of image quality of framerate. Android, which will likely be the second platform we ship on, is much more challenging in that respect. You can specify certain requirements, but there are so many devices by different manufacturers, running different variants of the OS, most of which are usually at least a year old, and many of which have been customized by carriers, running on different hardware architectures, that you're likely to have some devices that just don't run your game well if you make it graphically rich.

                    Originally posted by HeadClot View Post
                    Either way you game looks stunning so far.
                    Thank you, that's really nice to hear. Our art team is phenomenal and UE4 has been a great tool for us.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      It was great seeing you guys on the stream yesterday. The Republic Sniper is looking great. Best of luck!
                      Twitter - @JarlanPerez

                      [Released] Blueprint: Easy Dialogue System (BEDS)

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                      • #12
                        Because of Patrick's mid-week post for the Twitch.tv stream, we don't have a lot of new images for this #ScreenShotSaturday post, but the large bulkhead pillars have been retopo'd, normal and textured mapped and moved into the hangar bay game level. The upper part of the hangar bay is starting to feel much more complete and real. There are still lots of areas that need to be detailed and textured, but there's a depth and solidity staring to happen. It's beginning to feel like a real place, which feels really good.



                        For those who saw the Twitch.tv stream two days ago, we don't have a lot of new information to share this morning. We went into crunch time leading up to our visit to Epic, so I think we're decompressing a little right now. I know, at least, I am.

                        Speaking of the trip to Epic, it was fantastic. What a genuinely nice (and, of course, smart) group of people. Everybody we met, worked with, or talked to was just super cool. I was a fan of Unreal and Epic before the trip, but the visit may have tipped me over into full FanBoy mode. Just the fact that a gaming giant like Epic would roll out the red carpet for a team our size blows my mind. They made us feel like a partner more than a customer, and we had a great time. So, thank you, Epic (and Chance and Dana) for having us.

                        I fear there's no rest for the weary with GDC coming up in just a few weeks. We have a bunch more things we want to get done before the show. We won't have any official presence on the show floor at GDC, but I'll be out at GDC and will be happy to show people the game on device and answer questions or just shoot the bull with anyone who wants to talk. I'm also always interested in seeing what others people (especially small and indie shops) are working on, so if you've got a WIP you want to share, I'd love to see it too.

                        I promised more technical details, but I'm a little exhausted and hungover this morning, so I'm going to beg forgiveness for not starting more detailed technical stuff with this update. As always, though, if you have specific questions, technical or otherwise, we're more than happy to field them here.

                        Lastly, I want to thank the team, especially Alex, Patrick, and Thomas, for really digging in their heels and getting so much stuff finished last week.

                        Thanks for reading!
                        Jeff

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                        • #13
                          I've been pushing the team to post pictures throughout the week. It's hard to pry these darn unfinished shots out of our art team, sometimes, though. This is a modular catwalk system that Alex is working on right now. these are high-poly ZBrush models rendered in Keyshot. They'll be moving to retopo in the next day or two and should be in-engine by next #ScreenshotSaturday.

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                          • #14
                            Your guys art is epic!

                            Wish I had your skills

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by HeadClot View Post
                              Your guys art is epic!

                              Wish I had your skills

                              Thanks! Honestly, I wish I had these skills, too. Alex is a ZBrush beast. I mostly just put dents in red spheres when I try to use ZBrush.

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