Trans Canada Highway | Closed Alpha Work In ProgressHey Survivors,
It’s been a month since we’ve given an update on Dead Matter. As some of you may know, we’ve recently changed the frequency of our blog updates to once a month. Moreover, we've become slightly more tightlipped about the game’s development. To be transparent, the reason why is because we are trying to be more selective about the information we share with the community. Not that we don’t think it’s worth sharing, but because we want to present features, updates, and changes that are in a playable and presentable state.
Essentially, we’ve been putting the cart before the horse for a long time, and this process isn’t the best method for providing accurate or useful information. It’s more exciting in the short term, but in the long term, it can lead to pain points. Going forward, our regular monthly blog post will go in-depth into our development progress. Of course, when we get close to an update, we will have additional blog posts giving in-depth information on the changes coming to Dead Matter. By following this formula, we hope to give far more interesting information that is both relevant and accurate to the final product.
Additionally, we’re working on getting new methods of showing off Dead Matter going, including a return to vlogs. These projects should start showing up after the next Closed Alpha Update later this year.
Migrating To Unreal Engine 5Speaking of moving forward, we have an exciting announcement today. We’ve officially migrated the development of Dead Matter to Unreal Engine 5. For those unfamiliar with the game’s development, we have been using Unreal Engine 4. By upgrading to the latest edition of Unreal Engine, we have access to a more efficient and cutting-edge game engine. This means that our team of 34 artists, programmers, and designers has access to next-generation technology. There are a lot of benefits to switching to UE5, but let me address a few of the immediate concerns you might have.
Migration QuestionsThe first concern you might have is that switching to Unreal Engine 5 might increase our development time. The short answer is no, this migration does not affect our development velocity. The transition to Unreal Engine 5 took our lead programmer a few days of prep work, and the migration itself took less than a day. Of course, there are a couple of minor bugs that had to be ironed out, but migration was not a herculean task. Additionally, since this was an engine migration, our previous work remains intact and by no means does upgrading the engine mean that we’ve started from scratch. As I will explain in more detail later in this blog, the small price of migration gives us access to a far more efficient engine that will make the rest of development much faster.
The next question you might have is if we plan on using any of the tentpole next-gen features that Unreal Engine 5 has, like Lumen, Metahumans, and Nanite. We’ve got some exciting news to share about these technologies. We’re currently using Lumen, World Partition, starting to migrate to Metahumans, and beginning a preliminary look at using Nanite. I will elaborate more on what and how these technologies are being used in the section below.
Finally, you may be wondering how long we’ve been developing on Unreal Engine 5. We’ve been using Unreal Engine 5 since the middle of June. This engine upgrade was an important goal of ours to hit after we released our 0.8 closed alpha update. 0.8 was a benchmark for our studio because it marked a sanity check for our development team and the beginning of a new era of development at our QI Games.
Benefits of Upgrading To Unreal Engine 5
Lumen is a global illumination system that uses a software-based ray tracing system to light game worlds. In Dead Matter, we are now using Lumen to light our entire game. On top of lighting, Lumen also handles reflections, which adds another level of realism to this lighting system. If you want to learn more about Lumen and how it improves the lighting in Unreal Engine 5, watch the video linked above.
Our reasons for switching to Lumen are based on a few factors. First off, it’s a far more robust lighting system then the one we were using on Unreal Engine 4. The lighting in Dead Matter now has a realistic and deep feel. The other advantages to using Lumen include a smoother world building pipeline where lighting is not time consuming for our level designers. Also, Lumen offers more bang for the buck in terms of performance.
Of course, we want to show off how this system improves the look of Dead Matter, so check out some screenshots showcasing the power of Lumen.
Exshaw Refining Plant Interior Lit Using Lumen | Closed Alpha Work In Progress
Trans Canada Highway Lumen | Closed Alpha Work In Progress
Exshaw Quarry Lumen | Closed Alpha Work In Progress
Seebe Quarry Lumen | Closed Alpha Work In Progress
The first benefit, as I alluded to earlier, might not be the sexiest to anyone besides developers, but it’s one of the main drivers for the migration. It’s World Partition, an improved level design pipeline. World Partition is a whole new system for saving Dead Matter’s massive open world. Using it will increase the development of our open world by using a system called One File Per Actor. Simply put, this system allows multiple designers, artists, and developers to work on things simultaneously, meaning that they can observe changes in real time. Therefore, our teams are much less likely to step on each other's toes and avoid overwriting other people’s work. This truly is a game changer for development (pun intended).
From a player's perspective, this development tool will improve Dead Matter’s performance since World Partition handles loading in world cells more effectively. Additionally, for players using the latest generation of NVMe SSDs, CPUs, and GPUs, this means that load times will be noticeably reduced. When it comes to open world games,World Partition is a key tool to helping us realise our vision.
We're also on the verge of using Metahuman. Metahuman will greatly increase the fidelity of our player characters, infected, and potential NPCs. It’s a powerful tool for our artists, and it’s something we are in the early stages of implementing. So for our Closed Alpha testers, it is unlikely that you will see this implemented into the 0.9 build, and they will more likely first appear in the next update after 0.9.
What We’re Looking Into But Have Not Started Using
We’re looking into Nanite but have not started using it in development. The benefits of using Nanite are noteworthy, particularly the potential performance gain when loading in highly detailed assets. For our artists, this system can ease their worry over polycounts. For our players, this means that they can experience higher fidelity assets without sacrificing performance. Again, we have not implemented Nanite into Dead Matter, but it is something we are flirting with. If we decide to go forward with Nanite, it will likely appear in an update after 0.9.
What Does This Actually MeanWhat does this mean for you? Well, what this means is that our team can work far more efficiently on Dead Matter’s massive open world. Also, by using Unreal Engine 5’s World Partition system, we can more efficiently render our detailed open-world game. Additionally, it will mean faster bug fixes, patches, and improvements. For us, a studio making an open-world game, this was our primary motivator in migrating to Unreal Engine 5.
There are plenty of other benefits that come with Unreal Engine 5, including better performance, improved graphical fidelity, and access to next-generation technologies. This means that we can continue to work on Dead Matter longer and ensure that the game is supported with the latest and great tech far into the future. That means that our dream is for the game to continue receiving support long after launch.
Wrapping Up The MonthOur studio is grinding out the next closed alpha update on our journey to an early access launch. We will share more information on that update when we get closer to releasing it. For now, stay safe and play some games with the people you love.