Development Update #16

Hello Citizens,

For over 3 months I’ve been silently crunching away this update and finally, it’s time to share it with the community. I know that our previous developer updates haven’t been as exciting as you’d like, so I felt the need and the burning desire to work on something big that would surely start bringing back that hype we’ve been losing over the months. This update also marks a new era in the development of Mankind Reborn and things are gonna start getting a bit more serious from now on, a bigger budget has allowed me to start investing more money into the game, from asset packs to contractors, I’m looking at hiring a level designer in the upcoming weeks, so I can finally return to coding, which will speed up the game’s development substantially as I’ll have someone focused entirely on building levels 5 days a week. For 2 years we’ve had over $1000+ in asset packs readily available and the game hasn’t had a proper map built out with these assets, it was essentially sitting on a pile of money that wasn’t being used. I decided to take a break from coding and focus entirely on level design for the remaining months leading up to this development update, because we desperately needed to have some nicer visuals, considering the amount of money donated so far and the little we had to show, in terms of visuals. This is the level of quality that I’ll be taking the game towards, starting from this development update and upwards.


PS: Props to Litheius who built out the amazing track in the video below, he will be joining the team as our composer!


Union City has been completely rebuilt from scratch, we desperately needed a good looking playground that could cement that cyberpunk identity, it took a lot of hard work, lots of money for the asset packs and long hours to get this level to where it is now and not only does it look good, but it plays really good as well. All meshes being rendered in the level have been through an optimization pass, which includes 4 LODs (Level of Detail), optimized collisions and only specific meshes in the level are casting shadows, plus the entire level is divided into multiple chunks and loaded/unloaded seamlessly using an efficient level streaming method. 

Right now Union City is composed of downtown and an underground area, each with their own set of content. Both of these levels are split into even smaller levels, allowing players to move between levels and turning off those that aren’t being rendered, this system will allow us to built massive worlds, composed of smaller levels stitched together. These early optimizations were prioritized because I know the game’s performance hasn’t been the best, also most of our community don’t have high-end rigs, so I made sure to tackle optimization as the level was being worked on and this method will be followed for all other levels to ensure a smoother gameplay experience.

The goal for this current iteration of Union City is to serve as a nice looking testbed for all-new gameplay content that’s gonna be developed in the upcoming months. The level has everything from a market, personal and faction real estate, mining, production, player apartments, PvE content, contracts, events, prison, etc. Other maps will be receiving massive overhauls as well, enhancing their visuals and adding more locations for content. I’m looking at acquiring a new level designer shortly, which will greatly increase the output of content in the game, as I had to take a long break from writing code to focus on building this new iteration of Union City (I just want to write code pls).

I have started the first iteration of in-world real estate, players will be able to purchase property with in-game currency (Union Credits), these spaces exist in the actual game world (not instanced) and will offer the owners benefits depending on its type, currently, there are over 44 individual apartments and around 15 private storages for purchase.

Private storages allow owners to have an additional regearing spot behind a shield door and apartments allow owners to place furniture and other helpful features such as a bed, which heals the player when sleeping, a kitchen to cook food, storages, and other interactable things. This is still very experimental, so please keep in mind things will likely change as we test these features in upcoming playtests.

Instanced apartments are still planned, but there was a need to experiment with in-world properties to see how it changes the social dynamics.

I saw how inefficient our backend code was during our previous playtest, the cloud code execution time was too high, which means it calculated too much on the web side once the player sent the request (I’m not a backend programmer, I just write gaem code pls), this wasn’t much of an issue for US players, but players from outside the US experienced a wide range of backend issues, from storages/inventories getting deleted or having items being swapped around worlds.

The new code is a lot more efficient and less intensive than before, this decreases the amount it takes to communicate between the game servers and the backend servers. This upgrade, in combination with the local caching of items done in the previous playtest, should decrease the chances of losing progress due to backend errors. Also, a layer of abstraction has been made between the backend code and the game code, which will allow us to easily change backend providers in the near future since our current provider doesn’t seem to have a bright future ahead.

The interaction system has been completely redone and made much more efficient and modular, this will allow us to add all kinds of interactions in the world, think of Deus Ex or Hitman games, our goal is to add a big layer of interactivity with the world, being able to turn lights on/off, flush toilets, turn off faucets, interact with terminals in multiple ways and a lot more. We can take any object in the game and add as many interactions as we want. Accompanying this new system is a new interaction widget, which auto-populates based on the interactable actor’s information, it fills both input interactions and non-input ones (descriptions, player factions, ranks, etc). These changes make the interaction process smoother with less screen clutter, as the widget auto-adjusts based on the interactive actor’s bounds.

You can now place any item from your inventory in the world, the deployable system has been extended to support items and will be getting more generic in the near future, which means it can support a wide array of meshes, heck even a building system. This will add a nice layer of roleplay into the game, as players will be able to place any item freely in the world. How many cups of ice will you be able to fit in a small round table? We’ll find out once the memes start to show up on discord during the next playtest, did I just leak an ice in cup item?

The crosshair needed to be replaced asap, it was one of the first features implemented in the game back in its early prototype phases during 2017, since then it hasn’t been touched. There were multiple methods of approaching this, either assigning specific crosshairs for each weapon or allowing players to customize their crosshairs, the second option was more fitting for the game, as we want most of its aspects customizable to cater to our player’s preferences.

You can now select from a pool of over 50 different crosshairs, altering its color, size, transparency, dot only and if you want a static crosshair, you can disable the visual spread on the crosshair when firing. Eventually, this will be revisited in the future and we’ll allow players to create their own crosshairs by selecting different modular pieces, but that will require a lot more work than the current system.

Weapon spread and recoil has been revamped, these new changes will change the pacing of combat and add an additional layer to the aiming and boosters meta, the way it works now is that your first shot, in any weapon, is 100% accurate, even while running or jumping, your weapon will start getting more inaccurate the quicker you fire, accuracy will reset slowly when not firing, aiming now provides better bonuses to your accuracy by reducing recoil and spread applied, plus you recover accuracy a bit faster, but at the expense of being a slow target, which means you’re likely to get focused and take more damage during fights.

This adds a new layer to the combat, as it changes up playstyles, booster selections, plus it rewards accurate and patient players. Semi-auto rifles are harder to manage now in close range combat, requiring players to add a bit more delay between their shots to ensure a 100% accurate shot, they are meant to be used properly while aiming. Automatic weapons are a lot more efficient now and suitable for close-mid range combat also they previously didn’t have first shot accuracy, now you can effectively burst fire autos and poke players in mid-long range, also some weapons have had their stats adjusted due to this change.

This also means that the booster economy will see a change, players now have to decide if they want more accuracy at the expense of less speed or health regen, which are the most meta booster stats at the moment, it also applies to the item mod system coming in the near future, players will be able to mod their weapons to increase its accuracy and make it more efficient for their playstyle, but at the expense of other stats, such as heavier weapon weight.

This might concern some players but really not much has changed from the core combat, you just have to pace your shots (Which is something most good fighters do already), aim more, or stock up on neurofinil boosters and accuracy mods, which decrease recoil and spread. Before you think it’s related to the Cone of Fire patch in FoM, it’s actually more in line with the bloom mechanics in Halo: Reach, you can be moving at 110% speed and jumping and still have perfect accuracy, as movement doesn’t influence your accuracy, only firing and aiming does.

Now if you land a headshot that kills an enemy, you will be rewarded by a nice crunchy pop sound and visuals, as your enemy’s head explodes and chunks go flying everywhere, this makes headshot kills more satisfying and rewarding. We will be adding more gore to the game as we move further in development, we want Mankind Reborn to be more visceral and intense with its violence.

The chat system has received some improvements, it now fades properly depending on the activity and now you can see chat messages on top of the nearby players (Styling seems quite familiar…). There are a few additional changes planned for the chat system, mainly making it more modular by making the channels less hardcoded, which will allow the creation of new channels (private, groups, custom channels, etc) and make them a lot easier to manage.

The item slot system we’re using hasn’t been changed much since the early days, mainly just the visuals, back then I never expected MR to turn out like this, as it was just meant to be a small FoM combat test to share with a few people from the community, so most of the early code (character, items, inventory, storage, weapons) was written very poorly and “hardcoded”. The way item UI slots were created was quite bad and slow to execute, as it literally creates an item slot using the container’s max item amount, so if the storage holds 1000 items,  it creates 1000 slot widgets in a single for loop, which caused a massive slowdown during the initial map load (Yeah that’s really inefficient lol). 

I tried to fix it last year, but ran into some complications with an engine bug that duplicated item slots, which was a few weeks before one of the 2018 playtests I believe, so it never got addressed properly. The old code was refactored entirely and now slots are created and destroyed depending on the current amount of individual items in the containers, this has improved the initial map loading times and UI performance by quite a lot, plus loot containers don’t lock up the game now when being opened. This also allows us to begin implementing storage and inventory upgrades, as it was the main blocker due to the max slot count not being able to change when the game was being played.

The action bar received some nice requested tweaks as well, you can now switch your weapons a lot quicker since it was moved over to the client, it should be a lot more responsive now, there are a lot more tweaks planned to make the action bar a lot more responsive and support newer item types, in the gif below I switch my weapons rapidly, back then you had to wait for the server to confirm you changed your weapon (Yikes!).

The way weight was represented in-game has changed, instead of using grams, it’s now just a Weight unit as our intent with the weight system is not realism, but to force players into deciding what they should be carrying, as carrying too much or using heavier gear will make you reach the weight limit quickly, which slows you down depending on how much weight is over the capacity limit. This name change should communicate the weight system more efficiently as some items might weigh too little or too much to what they should realistically weigh.

Finally, after months of promising a roadmap here it is! I had to sharpen my Photoshop skills to prepare this roadmap image, not bad! During this development update cycle, I started to brainstorm on all features we’d need to finally reach alpha. I decided to reduce the scope of the game at the moment since it’s been just me doing all the game development inside of Unreal Engine 4. In the upcoming months, we’ll be doubling down on the fun aspects, which is what Development Update #17 is all about, adding a lot more repeatable content in the world to increase the fun factor and offer players more things to do, on an individual level. Update #18 will implement more player-driven mechanics, including more faction mechanics, an overhaul to the character customization, with new and better features in the character creator and a proper clothing system, an emote system is coming as well as there’s a lot of bought animation packs that need to be put to use, pronto. By Update #19 we should be reaching alpha, my goal is to get there by Q1-Q2 2020 if things play nice in the upcoming months.

During alpha, I’ll be taking a step back from additional new features and will be fleshing out all the current systems that we’ll have by then, making sure that the current gameplay experience is as enjoyable as it can be, by then our prospect Backend-As-A-Service providers should have their systems ready, so we can finally start moving out from GameSparks and into PlayFab, Epic Games Online Services, Zeuz. io or Spatial OS Backend Services, as you can see, there’s a lot of options, which is why I’ve set this on the backburner, a lot of our MMO & faction features rely heavily on a proper backend provider and our current one doesn’t seem to have a bright future ahead, which means investing time into developing the systems now will not be the best option. I plan on stepping up on my BizDev skills during this phase and start looking for ways of getting more money injected into the game, so we can finally start scaling up the team and have more people involved, instead of a one-man game developer army, which has been the case since the beginning.

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