One of the many roles I fill at Amstad Digital is writing code for Unreal Engine along with game optimization and assembling blueprints. We have lots of exciting projects going on so I would like to write about two of them.
Fight'n'Flight (working title we abbreviate as FnF) is a VR shooter that we started working on in the second quarter of 2018 right after the release of Burning Bridges. Up to four players are able to fly around and shoot at each other in a free for all style game in some pretty stunning environments. We have been taking our time during the development of this game due to the sensitive nature of VR development so it will be a while longer before this is playable. For the most part we have had successful internal testing sessions but there are a few obstacles that have slowed us down over the last year.
First biggest hiccup is smooth replication. I haven't made myself throw up yet but got pretty close during the early stages of multiplayer replication when creating the characters. Sure, UE4 has some really nice default replication systems but as soon as I turned on lag simulation over 45ms it was like I was on the end of a paddle ball toy. Well thanks to some replication trickery that isn't well documented (and only available in C++) that got sorted out.
The next hiccup is an art direction that doesn't cause VR sickness. Believe it or not, something as simple as a color palette choice or room layout can cause sickness. We have settled on a few level settings that work but it takes quite a bit of time to get them at a stable frame rate.
Lastly is third party integrations; I am all for using plugins or an add-on that can make things easier for everyone. We have had a few integrations that started nice but devolved into needing them removed along with a few others that were a problem since day one (looking at you WWise). Long story short, we are not using Steam for our online services as initially planned but SpatialOS instead. The good news is that SpatialOS solves a ton of problems that I was concerned about with hosting and costs but with the downside of needing to rewrite matchmaking and server browsing code (I will take that trade).
FnF has been one of the most difficult projects I have worked on not because of the game complexity but the amount of buried UE4 features I have had to learn to get it running smoothly.
10/10 - Would lose my sanity again
One thing that I have learned is burning out on a single project is terrible. Even a full year after releasing a certain title, I get nauseous opening the project. Being the only game programmer (at time of writing) means that I have a ton of work to do without exhausting myself. That's why I have lower priority projects to work on.
This game is in the infancy of development stages, we have most of a game design document completed, maybe one or two bits of concept art, but we know exactly how the game will function. This will be the first game we work on that will have a large advantage from using SpatialOS and the Gameplay Ability System in UE4. For now I don't have any screenshots or concept art to share but I will when I get some. The main reason I get to say something about this project is that the universe that this takes place in is also the foundation for a few future projects (and le boss really likes it).
The story concept is that you are among a group of criminals that the ruling federation on earth sends to unknown planets to determine how hospitable they are. If you manage to survive and complete the tasks given, you get to return home. If not well...
Disclaimer: All information and artwork is subject to change and is copyright of Amstad Digital. Any resemblance to real persons(living or dead) and existing products is by coincidence. Opinions of the author do not represent the views of the company.