As we wrap up 2016, we'd like to take a moment and look back on what has been done so far, and what is to come. 2016 has been a pivotal year for DayZ development, both on the public Steam branches, and internally. For those who haven't followed development closely, lets start with the changes that have made it to Steam this year.New Renderer:
Anticipated for a long time coming, 2016 saw the introduction of the new renderer for DayZ onto Steam's stable branch. An ongoing task throughout DayZ's development, this update to the engine powering DayZ was one of the most complex changes for the development team. The legacy renderer was originally intertwined with the engine side simulation going back to the earliest dayz of Real Virtuality. Seperating this, ensuring that no core systems or mechanics were broken, and introducing the new renderer technology to DayZ while ensuring a 1:1 visual fidelity was the base goal for introducing this to Steam. With the addition of volumetric fog, and the massive improvements to client frame rate the whole team was elated. 2016 took that one step farther with .61 tackling the issue of dynamic lighting and shadows, finally removing the thorn in the side of night time gameplay by preventing light sources from ignoring structure geometry, players, and so much more. Add into this dynamic lighting changes to .61, and light sources such as camp fires, flares, and more finally became viable for night time survival. Randomizing attachments, loot spawned in containers, and on infected:
Dynamic Spawning of Infected:
Throughout DayZ's development we have spawned a large amount of infected globally, spread throughout the world in an effort to reduce the meta-gaming and systematic learning of the mods script based trigger spawning based upon player proximity. Unfortunately, this led to us never really creating a feeling of dread or danger from our infected, as while they massively outnumbered players - they were spread throughout a huge 256km2 landmass. Utilizing the dynamic event system that powered things like helicopter crashes, and police car spawns to increase infected density in cities, towns, and villages that are within the 1km network bubble of players has reintroduced that long missed feeling of the infected citizens of Chernarus being a true threat within gameplay. While server optimization moving forward into beta will allow us to slowly increase these amounts, as well as beta itself allowing us to continue to improve the threat they offer - 2016 saw a reintroduction of a core element of DayZ gameplay. Network Synchronization Improvements:
As long as DayZ has been on Steam, one of the most frustrating bugs for users to encounter has been the seemingly random breaking of legs, death from running over a small rock, or experiencing crippling desync within a player versus player encounter. Our gameplay programming team introduced with the first builds of 0.61 an architecture change on how our client/server networking communication occurs. Addressing approximately 90% of all known issues related to client/server position desync, and finally putting a nail in the coffin of the sudden "broken legs" while navigating larger structures. In addition, overall client/server communication throughout gameplay was improved, and a significant improvement of responsivity was the result. While beta will see continued iteration and improvement in these areas, this is arguably one of the largest and most impactful changes to the playability of DayZ Early Access, and we think you'll all enjoy it. Predator AI:
Talked about initially in the early years of DayZ development, 2016 saw 0.61 introduce the first of DayZ's predator AI in the form of wolves. Known to roam the northern and far western reaches of Chernarus, wolves have introduced an off-road threat present even when no other players, or infected are to be seen. Traveling in packs, and stalking vulnerable players these enemies have quickly become a reason to save your shotgun ammo. Eden Sound Engine:
Thanks to close cooperation with the fantastic team working on Arma 3, the DayZ development team were able to introduce the new audio technology that powered the Arma 3 Eden update. Allowing the DayZ Audio team to begin work on expanding the impact of sounds of gunshots within Chernarus. Beyond just proper volume attenuation, this update allowed a massive injection of immersion and paired with cooperation of the gameplay programming team, a much needed focus on addressing issues with gunshot sounds playing for all players, and a fantastic side effect of drawing players towards each other through gunshot sounds resonating through the hills and valleys of Chernarus. Moreso in 0.61 than ever before, the choice to fire a weapon in Chernarus has become a multi faceted one. Concerning both attracting large numbers of infected, and the unwanted attention of other and potentially more dangerous players. Moving into Beta and onto 1.0, this technology will allow continued improvement in all areas of the DayZ soundscape.
Server Login Queue & New Server Browser:
At the tail end of 2016, 0.61 saw the introduction of both the first iteration of our new server browser, and the much requested server login queue system. The new server browser is the first step towards our drive to properly presenting the official, vanilla experience as the first thing new players see, and will continue to evolve as we move into beta. On the ease of use side, the new server login queue removes the need to hammer that connect button, and beyond that - addresses critical vulnerabilities present in previous builds when large amounts of players try to connect. A huge gain for server side performance (and thus stability, and playability) the server login queue was originally slated for beta, but pushed up to address server stress after the 0.60 experimental push.
As exciting as the changes that made it to Steam are, even more work was done internally behind the scenes that aren't quite ready to hit Steam. Lets take a look at the things that were done behind the scenes internally on DayZ development in 2016: Design Team:
Its no secret that the development team halted the addition of new mechanics, weapons, and most content on the old SQF language, animation system, and so on. While work pushed forward on mostly engine, and infrastructure changes (as well as the design work required to properly configure them), the design team have been hard at work on both moving over all of the gameplay systems written in the old SQF scripting language (Approx 90% completed so far!), as well as creating and supporting new mechanics flagged to come in our beta milestone such as electricity, base building objects, and more! Animation Team:
The animation team has had a mountain of work in front of them for 2016. From working hand in hand with the programmers responsible for creating DayZ's upcoming new animation system, to collaborating with designers and artists on all of the required new animations for new content, mechanics, items and so on. Not to mention redoing all the animations for existing gameplay mechanics, and items created on the legacy system from 0.28 to 0.60. With progress examples including but not limited to:
90% of all required animations for our Beta milestone completed
44 Weapons redone (Each about 10 anims per weapon)
24 new weapon unjamming anims (2 anims each)
2 New Vehicles (Approx 35 anims each)
2 New Gestures (Approx 9 anims each)
30 New Combat Anims
24 New Action Anims
1,744 Adjusted, Refined, and Exported Anims
As we move past 0.61 in the tail of the year, and the bulk of the team is focused on our beta milestone, their work internally has paid off extensively, as the team can now begin working with our final animation system and the fruit of their hard work over the last year finally begins to make it to the main DayZ internal branch. Sound Team:
Over 2016 the SFX team have been working hard collaborating with gameplay programmers, and support from the Arma team to introduce our new audio technology, as well as hand in hand with Art and Design teams to further the depth of audio simulation across the terrain and inside the buildings of Chernarus. From everything to new ambient SFX, infected audio, user actions audio, and so much more.
Within 2016 the Audio Team were able to complete over 95% of all new player sound assets, introduce new gun SFX tied with the new audio system, internally complete new ambient sounds, prepare for additional improvements on melee SFX, and focus on new vehicle sounds in preperation for completion of new audio technology support for vehicles. Beyond that the team has plans for improvements to footstep sounds, and foley SFX based upon player gear as we move past Beta and into 1.0. Art Team:
The art team is leading the charge into beta, and over 2016 has created a large amount of new content for the beta milestone. Including, but not limited to the CR 550, Mini Uzi, OTs-14, PKM, PP-19, Scout, PB 6P9, Saiga 12, Improvised Fence, Electrical Generator, Watchtower, Crop Duster, ALICE Pack, Recurve Bow, Biohazard Showers, Metro Police Station, Civilian Sedan, over 20 new characters for the new player/animation system and so much more! 2016 also saw significant improvements to the layout and structure of Chernarus as a whole, with extensive map changes and redesigns throughout the year such as the cities of Cherogorsk, and Elektrozavodsk, as well as villages like Tulga and Staroye, and railways throughout the country. In addition, they wrap up the new year working on finalizing the revamped "Chernarus HD" wilderness with the environment team for 0.62. Engine & Gameplay Programming Team:
DayZ's Programming teams have had a massive amount of work on their plates for 2016. With a massive amount of the technical responsibility of preparing for Beta and 1.0 milestones, they've tackled the implementation of the new renderer, iterative improvements including dynamic shadows, improving client side performance, supporting increased view distance for light sources, and much more. Beyond that they've taken on introducing the new sound technology from the Arma team, addressing legacy peer to peer issues from Real Virtuality, Transfering ownership of every entity within the gamespace to the server, transfering to fixed time step simulation (which helps address synchronization of player position enabling much more reliable server responsivity to player input), Removing legacy mechanisms in player simulation and entity updates (allowing the simulation of more entities in the same frame), Introducing the first 64 bit client builds to Steam, Improving physics and vehicle simulation, implementing dynamic AI spawning, introducing the server queue system, and focusing a significant amount of work on the new player controller, animation system, and damage system. With even more plans for impovement, and optimization in these areas moving into the new year.
In closing, 2016 has been a difficult but fruitful year for DayZ and the development team. We've overcome many obstacles, and the successes we have achieved have been a huge step in the direction we'd like to go with DayZ. The support of the community, and engagement through our official forums and feedback tracker have been a massive assistance in the march towards Beta and 1.0, and we couldn't be more excited to share that journey with you all.