Happy Halloween Survivors,
October flew by, and our team at QI Games has gotten a lot of work done for our next Closed Alpha update (0.10). This update is a milestone update for our team as it’s the first update that we get to really put our own thumbprint on. We’re still dealing with technical debt, but we’re also quickly iterating on improving gameplay. We will have more information on 0.10 and its release to our Closed Alpha backers in the coming weeks.
We also recently announced that Dead Matter is available on the wishlist on Steam. I highly encourage you to wishlist Dead Matter if you want to be the first to know when Early Access gets announced and when it releases.
If you’re interested in additional context to the content in this blog, please check out our September Blog Post and our most recent Vlog.
That’s enough housekeeping. Let’s get into the fun part. I’m going to invite a few of our team members to talk about the work they’ve been doing on Dead Matter. I asked our Audio, Design, Code, and Art teams to contribute to this blog.
There’s a lot of cool stuff to learn about Dead Matter’s development, so read on.
AudioWelcome to the Dead Matter audio update. My name is Dave. I’ve been fortunate enough to work in games for the past 20 years. I was brought on to Dead Matter in October 2021, and a lot has changed over the last year. It’s been a fun ride, but not without its challenges. Working through the Audio systems technical debt has been a long process but I’m excited to share some of the changes that we’ve made.
The biggest change is our transition from the built-in Unreal Audio engine to a piece of middleware called Wwise. You have probably seen their logo on the splash screens of countless games. The benefit of using Wwise over other audio systems is it allows us to make complex audio and design changes without relying too much on our coders for implementation. Once this system is fully operational, we can save our programmers time on implementing audio changes. It’s a complex and powerful tool, but it gives us options that would be difficult or impossible to create on our own.
Wwise encompasses audio playback and effects but also has a system to make the sound environment more realistic. For instance, if you move from the outdoors into a house, you should be able to hear the sounds outside, but they will sound softer, and at some point, the sound will fade out completely. If you close a door, that should change the soundscape instantly. This tool also allows us to apply convincing reverb to the environment.
The most significant change is the overhaul of the entire soundscape. There are new player, weapon, UI and environment sounds. We are keeping some gun sounds that are fan favourites, but other sounds are changing to more accurate and impactful sounds. The ambient soundscape now has day/night cycles and will change with the weather. Moving items around in the inventory, using items, and interacting with the world all have new sounds.
We have created a detailed impact system that uses a matrix that determines what object is hitting another. For instance, firing bullets into wood will sound different than concrete. Or, if you hit an Infected with a hammer, it sounds different than hitting it with a bat. This audio impact system will also present itself in our footstep system. It uses the same material determination to play sounds that reflect what the player or Infected are stepping on and if they are walking or running, as those sounds are different.
We are working on iterating the Infected sounds. Right now, the sounds are mostly a placeholder. The challenge is to make them sound human but corrupted. One thing that won’t change is the different states of the Infected. If the Infected hear something, they will be in an alert mode, and make sounds that reflect that. Once they spot the player, they will make different sounds that will let the player know they have been detected. When the Infected decide to attack, they will scream and run toward the player. Of course, there are attack, pain, and death sounds. The ultimate goal is to have a good variety of Infected sound sets; so the player doesn’t develop “wallpaper” syndrome, which is where a sound is heard so often that it just passes unnoticed.
Lastly, we are working on putting in the music from our wonderful composer Alex Brandon. You might know from Deus Ex, Unreal Tournament, and The Stranger VR. For the short term we will be putting in music for ambience and triggered tracks for certain areas.
I hope you enjoy the audio changes coming to Dead Matter. Take care and stay away from the Infected.
Medical SystemHey everyone! Some news from the Design side of the team about the revamp of the medical system.
We converted the rest of the old system with our gauge system. Now, base stats of the character like Health, Blood, Stamina, Nutrition, Hydration, and Weight will use this gauge system.
It will allow the design team to have better control over balancing and using this system, which should, in turn, create unique challenges for our players. All of our gauges in this system can receive inputs (damage, status effects, temperature changes, etc.) from different scenarios, be it players using a weapon or an item, interacting with the environment, or just the way you play.
For example, if you run out of stamina too often, you will start having an exhaustion status that will negatively impact your speed or make you unable to jump or vault. Drinking coffee or an energy drink can help you inhibit this kind of fatigue for a short time.
In the same way, if your Hydration or Nutrition gauge is empty, you will encounter negative health debuffs. If you have too many negative debuffs, you will receive a status that will penalize your character. If you don't address these penalties, a worse debuff will replace your current debuff status. These worse statuses will continue until you address these penalties or until your character dies.
In the end, we want to have a lot of different systems that can give players different types of inputs; from taking damage (health, slash, blunt, fire), consuming items (hydration, nutrition, drug, alcohol), environment (wet, cold, heat). Every input should have an effect on your character for better or for worse!
Thank you for reading, and stay tuned for the next design upgrade!
HUD ChangesHi everyone!
I'm a designer working on the UI overhaul of Dead Matter. There's still a lot of work to do with the UI, but one of the first components we've addressed this month is the Heads Up Display.
The HUD redesign uses less screen space and consolidates all the information in one part of the screen, so there can be less eye movement when comparing values of the different vitals on screen (Health, Blood, Hydration, Food, and Apparent temperature).
Also, the vitals that naturally decay (Food, Hydration, Temperature), are presented in a circular form. This circular form helps to communicate their natural tendency to decrease over time. Time is an essential factor in any survival game, and the player needs to fight against that for survival. With these HUD changes, we want to convey that sense of a countdown.
On the other hand, Blood and Health don't decay naturally in Dead Matter. Therefore, they will retain a rectangular shape on the HUD.
Combat and Sprint Stamina bars now also use less space on the screen, but they're more visible because of the color and opacity choice.
Additionally, when you aren't holding a firearm or melee weapon, a semi-transparent center reticle will be visible on the screen. This reticle prevents motion sickness and also helps the looting experience. It's a subtle change, but it makes interacting with the world much more intuitive.
That's a brief glimpse into some of the initial UI changes. Stay tuned for more information down the road, and Happy Halloween.
I’m a junior programmer, and today I'm reporting on what ended up being a very productive month for the looting initiative. There have been several improvements to the Dead Matter loot system, and it’s starting to affect how the game feels.
First came the ability to loot vehicles. There are a lot of abandoned cars, SUVs, and Trucks around the map, so it was a perfect opportunity to introduce more places for players to find some neat stuff, especially from police cars.
Then it was time to work on looting bodies. Killing a bunch of zombies and players is fun, but it’s not nearly as fun when they don’t drop any loot. Now, bodies aren't decoration anymore; when you kill an Infected or Player, they’re marked with a lootable gravestone that sticks around for 5 minutes. So now you can hunt down a group of players and take all their stuff, just like you’ve always wanted.
Also on the list were changes to containers. We noticed that it was hard to tell which containers were lootable and which were just props, so I put an outline around all the lootable containers within range of the player character.
With changes to the outside done, we turned our attention to how the loot is revealed in the UI. Looting makes up a good chunk of the game, so we wanted it to feel more exciting. I nerfed the length of time players have to wait for each item to reveal and then hooked up an animation that one of our UI designers made for the actual reveal. I don’t want to give away too much, but I can tell you that there’s more of a POP than there used to be!
We have done a lot of work, and it seems like we’re coming to the end of our loot initiative. There is still some polishing to do, but we’ve already made a big difference in the time we spent on it this month.
When 0.10 comes out, let us know what you think!
We’re always open to hearing feedback and ways to improve.
Environmental Art LeadHey Everyone,
This month we’ve been working on a mix of things, from working on more new locations to improving existing ones and everything in-between (sometimes literally).
To make travelling through the wilderness more fun, we’ve done work on the terrain, created more natural and man-made pathways, increased the height variation, and created a few new locations to discover as you explore.
These map traversal changes will make travelling between key locations much more interesting, and help make the wilderness appealing to explore by itself.
We’ve also been hard at work upgrading some of our buildings in the game to function better with Lumen and Nanite. In turn, these building changes will improve the lighting and performance in those locations for a better overall experience.
Technical ArtistHey survivors,
For the last month, I've focused on creating a new River Tool and River Water Shader for Dead Matter. The goal was to improve the visual quality of the rivers and make the workflow for the Level Designers and Environment Artists much easier.
The River Tool is complete, and the river water shader is nearly finished. I'm currently testing and optimizing both the tool and the shader so that they will be ready to be used. Rivers in Alberta are known for their unique look and feel, and we're confident that our new tool and shader will help to capture that while also giving the survivors a more immersive experience. Immersion is key in Dead Matter, and we'll continue to strive to make the game world as believable and realistic as possible. Our team is dedicated to providing the best possible experience, and I think our new river features will help us take another step in the right direction.
Some short technical information:
The River Tool was built using Houdini and allows the artists to place traditional Unreal Engine splines while the tool handles all the heavy lifting like geometry generation, UV creation and scaling, flow map generation, normal direction, river velocity and material assignment.
The River Water Shader uses a flurry of Unreal Engine's dynamic material functions to create a realistic and believable water shader. The shader also takes into account things like depth, flow, light absorption, reflections, collisions and more to produce realistic results.
We're all extremely excited to see the new river features in action, and I'm confident that our team will help to take Dead Matter to the next level. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more updates!
ConclusionThat’s a wrap for our October blog post. We’re excited to share our work with our Closed Alpha testers soon.
Remember to wishlist Dead Matter on Steam.
Stay tuned for more news.