My name is NikZ, I am the CEO and founder of QI Games. You will probably recognize me as the voice from the development vlogs or various other social media platforms.
We know that the wait for us to resume development has been a bit of a long one. For those who don’t know, we paused development in January to reorganise and ended up extending through February. This allowed us to fully flesh out our plans so that when we eventually restarted development we would have all of the tools needed to hit the ground running.
However, we didn’t want to hit the ground running without a solid plan, hence why we elected to take some extra time. There has been a lot of change at the studio over the last few months. We have brought in some new staff members that are experienced in the games industry to help us get Dead Matter shipped. I have personally brought in a good friend of mine, Stephen Swires, to serve as the Principal Gameplay Programmer on the team. He brings loads of industry experience such as work on shipped titles such as Insurgency Sandstorm.
I have faith that with Stephen onboard, along with the other talent that we’ve brought into the studio over the last few months to assist with both production and development, that we are on a solid path forward to a release.
WHAT HAS QI DONE TO ENSURE THAT THIS NEXT PLAY IS A SUCCESS?This is a question that we’ve seen asked in the Discord more than a handful of times. I figured that it would be good to address this with a few simple points to help clear up confusion and to recap what we have been up to in terms of the organization side of things.
To learn more about our organizational period, we recommend you check out the previous two blog posts here and here.
- Our team structure has been overhauled to prevent people on the team from becoming a linchpin within their role.
- We have switched to a more modern game development pipeline for source control. We are replacing Git with Perforce since Git was a massive pain point for non-programmers on the team.
- We have moved to an agile workflow using Jira rather than using Notion to track tasks that often had different structure or a lack of structure between different teams in the company.
- I have written a new GDD for Dead Matter that takes the following into account:
- Early Access - Everything in the GDD was specifically targeted for Early Access, this is so I had enough time to flesh out mechanics as well as detail them.
- Downscoping - We reached the decision that it would be best to deliver a deliberately smaller set of features and content that is of a higher quality, rather than delivering a large set that is of a lower quality.
- Fundamentals - After playtesting and finding out what other games in the genre do well, as well as what they don’t do well, we ended up with a set of goals for our fundamentals. We have a strong desire to nail our fundamentals above all else.
- Key Differentiators - As seen in both the old Vlogs and our original promotional content, there are a lot of features that I want to bring to the table with Dead Matter to help set us apart. We still have a strong desire to bring forward the key features that helped set us apart in our early days.
- Same Page - Our game design document is currently over 160 pages long and has gone through multiple revisions. This is because our GDD serves as a way for the team to stay on the same page and for there to be clarity that permeates through the team.
- We have moved our leadership core to be in-house in Calgary so that we have accountability from our team on-site.
- Appointed a Head of Studio to help on the management side of the company so that I can focus on deploying my skill set and time where it is needed.
- Appointed a CFO to take over the job of managing our financial resources.
WAS ANY DEVELOPMENT HAPPENING DURING THE PAUSE?To alleviate any confusion that our community may have with some of our previous posts I wanted to reiterate what the pause meant in terms of development. To keep things simply, all development was frozen, except for the following.
- Our design leads ran two one-week long prototype sprints to identify any glaring issues with our prototyping process.
- One sprint had minimum support from code to try and see what our designers were capable of doing with the existing toolset and documentation as a sanity check.
- One sprint had support from a programmer that is relatively new to the project to try and see what the design team could put together with more code support.
- We used this process to address some of the play issues that they were able to touch on with minimal intervention from our programming team.
- We had two programmers that were active during the pause, mostly focused on ironing out issues with the following aspects of the game.
- Multiplayer - Resolving any issues that would block iterative development of the next patch.
- Performance - Especially on the server, performance was a bridge that the team needed to cross.
- Website - We launched our new forums as well as our new website which required some work from one of our programmers.
- Bug Resolution - We wanted to clean up 0.7 as much as possible for iterative work on 0.8, major crashes have been addressed on client and server side.
- Player Spawning - Code implemented the map-based spawning system for the second sprint, this also serves as the foundation for an in-game map to aid player navigation.
- Client Performance - Code started work and achieved a prototype with the goal of replacing our interior lighting, our previous lighting system consumed over 2.5ms on an RTX 3090 which is likely worse on older video cards.
- We also had our animation lead clean up issues that are related to weapon animation as well as preparing documentation for 2022.
HOW HAS DEVELOPMENT BEEN LOOKING SO FAR?Now that we’ve put our plans together, it’s time to finally talk a little bit more about development. We had our first sprint planning meeting and everyone is gearing back up.
Things will likely be a bit slow to start as this is our first update after coming out of the aforementioned two-month pause.. That being said, I believe that with the planning we’ve put into the next update, I can safely talk about what you can expect from us.
The first big thing to expect is that we are going to finally releasing our next update with multiplayer support. This means that 0.6 will be moved to the Legacy branch on Steam. This should help clear up a lot of confusion with the versioning. We will also be bringing our official dedicated servers back online for 0.8 which is the next update we will be pushing.
We’re focusing on the following for 0.8. It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of our Level Design work is going to be heavily concentrated on the part of the map containing the Exshaw Community. This means that there will be minimal work done on the world outside of our area of focus. Our reasoning for this decision is as follows:
That all being said, the overall goals for our update as well as some of things you can expect to see are as follows. We’re trying to be blunt as possible with how this looks moving forward.
- It’s easier for us to iterate on a concentrated area of the map. Full stop.
- We want to nail the feeling of a town, the area surrounding the town, and the large section of highway that is present in the tile.
- Not only do we want to nail the feeling, but also the sense of play within our world. We feel that this part of the map is a perfect opportunity for us to iterate and execute the feeling of play.
- We are currently in need of Level Designers! Thus we need to be realistic with the team that we have. If you are interested in joining up then please check out qi.games for information on all of our available positions.
There are other details that I’ve left out but what we’ve mentioned above should help illustrate what we are going for with this update. This update will affect a small area but the area it affects should have demonstrably better gameplay. If the game feels much better to play in the Exshaw Community and the surrounding area then we will know for sure that we are heading in the right direction.
- Multiplayer via Dedicated Servers - we want multiplayer implemented to test and iterate in an environment similar to what we will eventually ship Early Access with. We wanted to establish our baseline for multiplayer as soon as possible and this is the best path for us to do so.
- Weapon Animation Cleanup - We want to clean up any issues that are related to weapon animations so people aren’t having to fight bugs in order to stay alive in the game.
- Map System - We are implementing a map system that should allow for players to much more easily navigate our world.
- QI Lighting Engine - We are officially going to be replacing our old interior lighting solution with a new lighting system that offers solutions for both indoor and outdoor scenes in the game. This should hopefully result in improved client performance.
- Vehicles - Vehicles are likely going to be removed when in a multiplayer setting so we can bring their performance up to spec. Vehicles will still be available in Singleplayer.
- Static Vehicles - We want to bring a bit more interactivity with static vehicles in the world for 0.8, this also includes vehicles having unique license plates for increased immersion as well as small-scale landmarks for people to more easily find one another.
- Player Spawns - We’ve been prototyping some changes with player spawns that we hope will encourage players to explore. You will finally be able to select a spawn location based on what you’ve explored for when you respawn.
- Combat - We want to nail some of the feedback related to combat when both dealing damage and taking damage.
- Infected Spawning - Currently our infected spawning has a few bugs that hold it back from functioning correctly. We aim to clean these up so that players can clear areas out properly.
- Looting and Scavenging - Last but certainly not least by a longshot, we are going to be working on systems related to Looting and Scavenging. We aim to add elements in the world that players will have to deal with in order to get their hands on some loot.
- Most houses will have alarm systems that you will need to be on the look out for when prowling for loot. You may have a small window of time to try and find an alarm code if you’ve accidentally set off an alarm.
- Backyards will contain some supplemental structures such as detached garages and gardening sheds that may contain useful items.
- There will be a few unique puzzles for players to try and solve in order to get their hands on some tasty loot, such as needing to find a physical note in the world for a passcode to a container.
- Looting overall has been receiving a lot of love including better container placement and better loot tables, as well as making civilian weapons easier to bump into.
- Commercial buildings may be heavily locked up, requiring players to find alternative access routes.
- Commercial buildings will have fire alarms once again, allowing other players to create obstacles or allowing players to dive into a building, flip the alarm on, and then run away to try and get away from the infected.
- Lockpicking will be making a comeback though we will be reducing the amount of locked containers in the world while also enhancing the reward for successfully opening a lock. Players will also be able to lockpick certain doors open.
That’s pretty much it for this update. We’ll continue sliding back into our regular update schedule as development is finally spinning back. We will be sharing our progress reports with our community via our blog.
Before this is fully wrapped up I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to the community for being by our side during this long journey. It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride where I have been personally challenged to grow not only as a developer but also as a leader within the company, and most importantly, as a human being.