The Tale of How Trophy Lodge Came to theHunter

Preamble

Trophy Lodges have been on our agenda for ages. When I say for ages, I really mean for ages. The very first mention of it on the forum goes back almost to the beginning of theHunter, year of 2008. Since then suggestions of some sort of trophy room have been popping up regularly, both in the forum and in our surveys where they always ended up in top tier of the most desired features. Despite this, the idea of the trophy room kept being moved down on priority list in favour of less daunting features. It felt like too huge an endeavour for a small and lean team as ours has always been, so the risks of commencing on such an adventure have been outweighing the expected rewards, and the trophy room post-it kept being put aside, time after time. Until December 2016.

Brainstorming

Trophy Lodge - first draft

Trophy Lodge – first draft

Back then we gathered together for one of our brainstorm session to nail down what we would be working on in the upcoming year. Those sessions usually happen twice per year and are fun (and sometimes slightly crazy) discussions where everyone throws in ideas and we all talk tech, feasibility, community reactions and many other factors that need to fall together for a new feature to make its way to the roadmap. That time our 3D artist Mattias drew a fireplace with an antler rack above on a post-it and showed it to us as a first concept of a trophy room. Although usual concerns being brought up (Can we even do it on our engine? How long will it take? Where can we cut corners? Shall we take a “lighter” approach?), all of us got super inspired by the image of a cozy “room”, filled with gorgeous animal trophies and memories that are unique for each and every player. We looked at each other and said “what the heck, let’s do this, and do it right”. And so it began.

Design

patrick_enz

Patrick Enz, Game designer

The work, as usual, started with putting the vision into design, compelling and comprehensible both for the team to work on and the players to follow. Our game designer Patrick took a first stab at it in January 2017 and it took at least a month of team brainstorms, multiple amount of changes and adjustments before we all felt that we have something we could work with. During those early meeting sparks would fly, not once but often our lead programmer Roberto would have trobertos_book_noo flush his infamous black book with the huge NO sign on it (when the rest of us went a bit too wild in our imaginations), but in the end we all managed to achieve something we could unite behind and what is, more or less, what you see released today, although we ended up changing, adding and cutting quite a few things as the development progressed.

From a game design perspective the biggest challenge was coming up with a gameplay loop that felt right and true to theHunter, which would encourage players to get their trophies taxidermized. With Patrick at the steering wheel we broke the whole design into small pieces and discussed how to tackle the amount of rooms, how it will all work in multiplayer, how to solve the placement of trophies, what to do with the indoor lighting, something we have never had in theHunter before, and other stuff. In general, in the game design we tried to find the balance between offering our players as much freedom as possible in using this feature while maintaining a strict gameplay framework which would make it possible for us to implement it technically. One example of such balance has been the decision to go for pre-set plaques and platforms and divide all our existing animals between them.

Trophy Manager - Design

Trophy Manager – Design

“My favorite part with working on this amazing new feature”, Patrick says, “was when we finally were able to add taxidermied animals to the Trophy Lodge itself. It sort of felt like playing The Sims again but with a hunting mindset. Being able to place melanistic variations of animals all around my lodge gave me a satisfying feeling since melanistics are just awesome. Otherwise having the honor to create the initial representation of the lodge was an amazing opportunity since I saw it as my first step into the deep and complex field of game design itself.”

Art

mattias

Mattias, 3D artist

johan

Johan, 3D artist

In the meantime our 3d artists Mattias and Johan started to work on the concept art for the Trophy Lodge itself. There were simple drawings picturing the layout and general look and feel. The initial plan was to create two different styles at the release, but due to time limitations we had to focus on one, the Classy style.

Mattias created a mock-up model of the entire lodge in the game to get a sense of scale and try out how animal trophies would fit. This was our first challenge, and in the end he had to increase the initial room space several times, because trying different animal sizes really made the room look small. Some of the antlers are huge!

Once the mock-up was nailed, Mattias and Johan made a long list of art assets that would be present in the room and assigned each of those priorities. So, walls and floorings would be on top of it, whereas the whisky and cigar corner, something all of us really wanted to see in the game, was cut due to time constraints.

Trophy Lodge - First sketches

Trophy Lodge – First sketches

After all the assets were finished the artists ran into another curveball. They had to re-furnish the room, trying to make it large enough for all the big animals (they were taking the largest animal per species as a benchmark) and look cozy at the same time. The most challenging task was definitely to scale the lodge correctly. Mattias and Johan had to go through several different mockups of room layout and size before it finally felt good. And even after they started asset creation they had to go back and scale the room further. Always larger.

The final step, if one doesn’t count bug fixing, was to create a “bake” for the static light, which is making a black and white texture with lighting information. After that it needs to be applied to the scene; the furniture, the walls and floor. This really helps everything go together better.

Trophy Lodge - Icons WIP

Trophy Lodge – Icons WIP

When asked about his favourite thing about working on the Trophy Lodge, Mattias says, “The best part was a certain point in the development when I felt we really had something going on; and that was when we made a small video for an internal presentation! Every visual bug was sorted out and it really felt like we had a chance to get it right. Work-wise I also appreciated working with rendering the lights for the room.”

Animation

Moe

Moe, Animator

From the animation side, Moe’s task was to pose all our existing animals on their respective plaques and platforms. Sometimes it was challenging to fit some animals with large antlers on their large wall plaques while still maintaining a good looking pose for smaller antler and animal variations, as those plaques are very versatile and can fit smaller deer to larger ones. That’s why when placing your trophies with huge antlers on the wall plaques, you would need to be smart where to mount them.

In the beginning we decided to go for just one pose per animal to save some time and work, but about a month ago Moe suggested we try to add support for multiple poses to make things more versatile. Our programmer Patrik tried it out and managed to get it done in a couple of hours, that’s why now you are able to switch between 3 poses per animal, and some of them have 5.

Client code

Roberto

Roberto, Client programmer

Patrik Andersson

Patrik, Client programmer

robin

Robin, Client programmer

 

 

 

 

 

When we started to work on the Trophy Lodge we knew that it would bring a lot of technical challenges, and it did.

The first problem we needed to solve was the Trophy Animal system. Specifically, how to reuse the most from the animals we already have in the game, being able to recreate the very same beautiful antlers, at the same time saving as little data as possible on the server side.

As this entity is something new for our code (we have items, animals, critters, all with their own specifics, but nothing that would combine characteristics of both animals and items), we had to create a new one. In the end we managed to create a new kind of item – TrophyAnimalItem – that bring all of this with it, saving only a few magic numbers for the antlers and avoiding to change anything in the current animal and population system. Patrik did an amazing job creating a dedicated loading system for the TrophyAnimalItems, making it easy to expand and maintain.

Along with the new type of item came the way of managing the Trophy Lodge itself with all the trophies and the dynamic plaques. Roberto and his team created a file where the designer and artist would bind the plaques and platforms in the settings with the real object in the game, managing to enable only those that are actually used. All of this is then synced with the back-end and the new Trophy Manager interface that Luna created.

At this point we had to establish communication with the server to be able to update the status of the lodge with all the animals at their right places with their right textures and poses if one leaves the Trophy Lodge. To do this, Roberto and Luna decided to create a .json file with all the information about the animals in the lodge. When the game client loads the lodge it sends the request to the server about the updated lodge data and then recreates the trophy animals with all their poses on the fly.

trophy_lodge_work_in_progress

Trophy Lodge – Early stage of development

To place your animal in the Trophy Lodge you need to be able to taxidermize it, so Robin created a smart system that manages communication with the server, the interface and the way the client stores the data for the animals we harvest. We had to make some changes to the harvest flow, specifically in the trophy shot system, but in the end it was absolutely worth it.

When everything for a real Trophy Lodge experience was in place code-wise, the client programmer team focused on the multiplayer functionality, like the synchronization of the position of the players, so that different players can be in different lodges at the same time without clashing together or seeing each other. We ran into a whole bouquet of issues here, both related to fast-travelling and collision hiccups, but in the end, with a lot of effort and passion we managed to nail them, hopefully all 😉

As always, there is stuff that could be improved and things that we could add but we laid out a very solid foundation and are really happy that we managed to solve all the tech challenges which, historically, is something that has been holding us back the most.

Backend code

luna

Luna, Backend programmer

Luna’s part in the project has been quite significant too. On her plate there were:

  • Server (both engine configuration, tracking taxidermy data and tracking lodge data)
  • Game UI (lodge selection and trophy manager, as well as linking things with the client)
  • Launcher (fridging functionality)

The main issue was time, and the amount of things that needed to be done. Thankfully, Luna managed to maintain a good pace and get everything finished and polished up a few days before our planned release date.

For the Game UI, we decided that starting fresh with a new codebase for those particular UI panes would be a good idea, it was a lot of fun making those from scratch with more modern code and a new way of working.

Beyond that, the server bits were rather interesting, it might not look like it, but the server has to do a lot of work and tracking behind the scenes to make sure everything stays consistent and everyone gets their trophies.

Result

trophy_lodge_final

As you can tell from the above, what we are hyped to present to you today is the result of many months of hard work by the whole team. Sometimes we didn’t know whether we would pull it off at all, sometimes we ran into a brick wall and had to engage all the creativity we had to get out of horrible situations. Some things got waived and scraped along the way, some things were added, some things were left out for future iterations, and we really hope we will have them one day soon! All in all, we are extremely proud of what we have achieved as a team and we hope you will use the Trophy Lodges, fill them up with your proud trophies and feel the love and care we poured into it.

Future

We hope that the story of the Trophy Lodge in theHunter doesn’t stop here. We already have some plans for some future iterations and additions. What are they? You tell us! We are looking forward to continue developing this awesome feature together with you.

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Baiting System Overhaul

Background

For quite some time many players have been reporting issues with the baiting system in theHunter, chief among the symptoms being a lack of activity at bait sites. Although not an opinion shared by everyone, it seems the general consensus among the active community is that the system was altered and “broken” at some point. Some players still enjoy acceptable and in some cases generous yields at their bait sites, while others have no such luck. This inconsistency, especially for those adversely affected, has cast a shadow over the value bait sites add to the game.

Overhaul

The good news is we have spent a great deal of time reworking the system and are pleased to introduce brand new, simplified baiting mechanics. We consulted a small panel of trusted advisors from within the community during the game design review process and we feel that the new system offers a balanced and reasonable compromise. Please read this document carefully as it contains important information about how the new baiting system works, how it compares to the old system, and what players should expect in terms of results. It is important to emphasise at this stage that the old system generated far more baited animals at bait sites than Expansive Worlds ever intended from a game balance perspective in the original game design. For that reason, players should not expect the new system to be comparable.

brown_bears_1

The “Good” Old Days

The activity at a bait site in the old system was determined by a lot of variables, most of which the player had no knowledge of, or control over. For example when a feeder was placed in a reserve, the client determined how much of the attraction zone (imagine an invisible circle around the feeder) overlapped the spawn map (imagine invisible patches on the map where species can spawn) for the species in question. The result was a figure from zero to 100, based on the percentage overlap. So if approximately 75% of the feeder overlapped the spawn map for that species, the maximum attraction level that feeder could ever reach would be 75. That is just one example, there were many other variables involved, making the system utterly complicated.

Simplify

One of the objectives when setting out to rework the baiting system was to simplify it. Not only to make the experience for the players more consistent and hopefully more enjoyable, but to make the system easier to debug, maintain, and further develop in the future. To simplify the system, some important decisions were made which have changed how baiting works now. We understand that some players may have preferred a more complex system which had a lot of unknown variables resulting in unpredictable behaviour, but it is our hope that the new system will offer better value without removing all of the challenge from baiting.

Attraction

The new system no longer has any concept of attraction, formerly a number between zero and 100. A feeder now has a status, and this can either be “active”, “inactive”, or “penalty”.

  • Active: The feeder contains bait and is capable of baiting species.
  • Inactive: The feeder may or may not contain bait but is incapable of baiting species.
  • Penalty: The feeder is currently disabled because a baited animal was shot at the site.

info_popup

When you place a new feeder in a reserve and add some bait to it, the initial status of the feeder will be inactive, for a period of 4 hours (real time). During that four hour period, the feeder will not bait any animals. After the 4 hour “warm-up” period, the status of the feeder will change to active and two things will happen; the bait will start to deplete and the feeder will be capable of baiting animals.

If you let a feeder run out of bait, the next time you add bait the 4 hour “warm-up” period will start again. This can be avoided by keeping feeders topped up with bait at all times. Topping up a feeder which already contains bait does not restart the “warm-up” period. A feeder that is kept topped up with bait will always remain active and capable of baiting animals.

If you shoot a baited animal near a feeder, a 30 minute (real time) penalty is applied to that feeder. During this time the status of the feeder will change to penalty, and the feeder will no longer bait any animals. After the 30 minute penalty period, the feeder will return to active status and will start baiting animals again. The penalty cannot be circumvented by ending the current hunt and starting a new one. In a multiplayer game, only the host can invoke the penalty by shooting a baited animal at a feeder.

feral_hogs_2

Bait Consumption

This aspect of baiting has also been simplified. Bait is now consumed in a constant linear rate, whereas before it was determined by the attraction level of the feeder. The bait consumption rate is 10 units every 24 hours (real time). That means a full feeder will run out of bait exactly 5 days after being topped up.

Location, Location, Location

The location of your feeders still matters, and for that reason we have simplified this process too. Now, if you attempt to place a feeder in a location where the corresponding animal does not spawn, you will not be able to and will receive a message to this effect. This is to avoid a situation where a feeder generates no activity. This does not mean location becomes irrelevant. Some locations will still generate better results than others. This is when it becomes important to discuss locations with hunting buddies and fellow community members.

feral_goats_2

Expected Numbers

For most players an important question now will be “how many bears or hogs can I expect to see at my feeders now that the system has been overhauled?”, and the answer is, it still depends on location. The new system has been written in such a way that results should be more consistent. If you place a bear feeder in the same location as your hunting buddy, you should see pretty similar results in most hunts. There will always be variations in activity due to the random nature of the spawning system which theHunter uses, but in general results should be more predictable.

feral_hogs_1

Existing Feeders

If you have an existing feeder and want to start using it again, all you have to do is add some bait. Depending on the current location, you may want to consider moving it if you feel the area is not optimal. Once you add bait to an empty feeder, remember the 4 hour “warm-up” period will start and during this phase the status of the feeder will be inactive.

If you already have feeders with bait in them, please remember that the new system is now in place and consequently, you may notice differences in the rate of bait consumption. This is particularly true if you have a feeder in a bad area which previously resulted in a low bait consumption rate. The result is a possible drop in bait in some feeders. This is not a bug and is to be expected in some cases. Unfortunately this is unavoidable but should balance out in the long run.

Technical Overview

Roberto (our lead client programmer) and I were tasked with the baiting system overhaul, and neither of us had any idea how the previous system worked, or what would be involved in beating it into shape for the new design. As is the case with many things in theHunter, it was far more complicated than it perhaps needed to be, and everyone who had ever touched the system before had either left the company, or left the team to work on other projects and probably forgot the words “baiting system” forever.

Björn Öjlert, the original game designer now working on theHunter: Call of the Wild, kindly gave us valuable feedback on how the original system was supposed to work, which helped us understand the reasoning behind some of the existing code. Needless to say though, it was still akin to wading through porridge, at least in the beginning.

The baiting system, from a technical perspective, is essentially a combination of interactions between client and backend. When you start a hunting session, the client requests information from the backend. Included in this data is information for each feeder on that reserve, including a series of timestamps (when the feeder was placed, when bait was last added, and so on), information about how much bait is in the feeder now, how much bait was in the feeder after the last fill, and more. During the hunt, any interactions with a feeder by the player (e.g. moving a feeder, placing a new feeder, filling a feeder, shooting a baited animal at a feeder) result in calls to the backend API to update the data for that feeder.

When you open the launcher and view a reserve map on which you have a feeder, a similar API call is made to the backend to obtain information for that feeder, which drives the mouse-over pop-up box containing the feeder’s status and bait level.

code

Final Thoughts

As with any change to a system which has been in place for a considerable amount of time, we acknowledge that these changes will evoke various reactions. Some might find the new system too simple; others might welcome the change and consistency. We endeavoured to find a compromise and we are happy with the results.

From a development point of view, we have made good progress and taken a big step forward in terms of understanding how the baiting system works. Very little of the original backend code remains, and what exists now has been optimised. We now have a solid platform upon which we can build in the future, and one which made adding the goat mineral feeders far easier than it would have been with the old system.

We can now, without any shadow of a doubt, say “the baiting system works exactly as designed”. We hope you enjoy the new system.

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Hunter Score 2.0: Technical perspective

splashcreen_hunterscore2

Last week we released Hunter Score 2.0. From a backend perspective, this was the biggest change we’ve had in quite a while, and it touched quite a few systems. For those that don’t know the details from a game design perspective, please refer to Alena’s post.

In this blog post, I will discuss what has been done from a technical perspective.

Preamble: theHunter’s server architecture pre-Hunter Score 2.0
Before I can explain how the new architecture looks, I would like to go over how the old (and current, mostly, see further) architecture works and is set up. We’ll do this back to front, meaning we’ll discuss the layer the furthest away from the player first.

– _Storage_: The SQL database: We use google Cloud SQL to store all the data related to the game, nothing special here, Google takes care of our database, it’s mostly stable.

– _Caching_: Google App Engine’s managed Memcache, with 10GB of dedicated memory.

– _Servers_: Google App Engine (PHP and Python): This is where it gets more challenging. We use Google App Engine to serve the website, as well as the API for the game. The website is a mix of PHP (inherited from the olden times before Expansive Worlds and Avalanche Studios owned theHunter) and html/css/javascript. The API servers meanwhile are written in Python 2.7, both the PHP and Python code are running on App Engine, and connect to the Cloud SQL database and memcache.

– _Cloudflare_: Cloudflare provides an additional layer of caching, it will cache static files such as images, html, css and javascript files, so our web server does not get swamped.

– _Website/Launcher_: The html/css/js served by the web server will be rendered by either your browser, or the game launcher. It is a single page app built using pretty old versions of marionette/backbone frameworks(the ones released back when the website was built).

Challenges
There are several pieces in this stack that are posing challenges for us in the dev team, the main one being the current server/web stack.

– These old versions of marionette and backbone are incredibly verbose and troublesome to work with, making any web changes slow and hard to test.

– The App Engine servers have no unit tests nor automated integration tests, this makes them prone to breakage, especially with the weakly typed languages that are being used.

– The servers have no sane error checking, making it impossible to tell the difference between a user sending an incorrect request and genuine server errors, this makes logs dramatically less useful than they should be.

– Database consistency was not considered during its development, meaning that errors can sometimes cause data corruption, which burdens both the players and our support team.

– Much of our static game data (such as which achievements are available to players, which animals spawn where, etc.) are stored in JSON files. While this is a practical format for developers, these files are most often changed by the game design team, this leads to occasional breakage whenever a single comma or quotation mark is forgotten.

What we’re moving towards
With the release of HS 2.0, we made the first steps towards improving on all this to move towards a more stable server architecture. The idea is that we will minimize the amount of changes made to the Python/PHP servers and instead start building on a new server stack, written in Go and hosted on Google GKE (Google Container Engine: A Managed Kubernetes cluster).

How does this improve on our problems, and why aren’t we just fixing the current servers instead? Well, I’m glad you asked, there are several reasons:

1) The main and most important reason is that, to fix the current servers, we’d need to rewrite them anyway, a lot of individual pieces are poorly designed (from a technical POV) and exhibit unexpected and undocumented behaviour in many cases. Writing new pieces and making sure they are well documented and don’t exhibit such undocumented behaviour solves this issue.

2) Weak typing and lack of unit tests: Python and PHP are both weakly typed languages, combined with the lack of unit tests, this makes any large refactoring or change extremely prone to breakage and passes the whole burden of ensuring correctness for any change onto the QA team, this is not sustainable. Rewriting piece by piece from scratch and making sure we have good unit tests coverage and use a strongly typed language for the new pieces solves this issue.

3) This allows us to move static game data to an administration panel, much easier to use by the game design team.

Upgrade approach
We are not going to be rewriting the whole server stack in one go, this would take months if not years, and would completely stop development of new features.

Our path forward consists in rewriting piece by piece as we make new features, the first step in this was made with the release of HS 2.0, we’ve moved the achievement system from JSON files to our administration panel, we’ve made an administration panel for ranks, and we’ve written an entirely new server for all of it that is now hosted on kubernetes. The new achievement and ranking system does API calls to our new servers written in Go, which are hosted in a kubernetes cluster on Google Cloud.

Compared the the Python servers, we’ve already noticed a huge increase in stability and performance compared to the old, the logging is also much better and they have full unit test coverage.

Hope this was of some interest to you. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask! I am looking forward to working towards a more stable and faster theHunter experience.

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Status Update

Howdy hunters,

It’s Thursday again and it’s time for another status update. Today we’ll be mostly talking about Its Majesty Bison, let me just go through a couple of things before we dive into that: so, on Tuesday we released Tobii Eye tracking integration which will literally let you play the game using your eyes; if you missed that, you can update yourself here. Some players have been running into problems with the latest patch, if you are one of them, installing vcredist 2012 from here should help. In the meantime we’re working together with Tobii on resolving the issue that cause this and will keep you updated on the progress. Our apologies for this inconvenience!

Yesterday we also released the new Canada Goose decoy – the lighter and more efficient version with flapping wings, ideal for those who like moving their set-ups around and enjoy flexibility. And yes, there is also a bundle with those, offering a nice discount.

Now, let’s cut to the chase. A lot of speculations about the bison have been circling in the community since the announcement of this species, so I’ve been bugging the devs here with the questions for the promised behind-the-scenes. Our game designer Daniel, artist Simone and animators Ryan and Dick, who have working with the bison the most, have been really helpful (save an occasional grumble ;)) and generously shared lots of top notch information – read on for some great stuff, including WIP images and even some animation videos!


 

Behind the scenes – Bison

 

bison1

Daniel, game and level designer:

Q: So, why bison? Why was it chosen as the flagship animal for the new sub-arctic reserve?

A: Because it is such an iconic animal. We wanted to add a bovid to the game for a while and seeing that is was one of the most wished for animal types in the latest survey we decided to go for it with this new reserve.

Q: Did you have any concerns about introducing the bison?

A: Well, the history of hunting bison is perhaps one of the worst examples of overhunting in history and many still associate hunting bison with mass slaughter. Because of this we thought that the choice might be very controversial but so far we have only received positive feedback. Bison hunting is done in North America (although under very controlled circumstances), so we have no ethical qualms with this choice, but we are happy that the decision was well received. Besides, the Evergreen Hunting Reserve is after all a fictional place.

Q: Which species is the game design based on?

A: The design is mostly based on the Plains Bison but, like with many other species in the game (Moose, Reindeer etc.), it borrows a little from other subspecies. In this case that subspecies is the Wood Bison. However, in the game it is simply called Bison.

Q: Will there be something unique about hunting bison?

A: Bison are ill-tempered and fearless. Bring First Aid Kits on your hunt.

Q: Some community members are eager to know whether it will be a herd animal, like a reindeer?

A: No, it will not migrate through the reserve like the Reindeer but behave more like Elks do in the game.

Q: Can you already show us how the bison looks in the environment?

A: Here is a WIP screenshot of a small bison group pour vous: bison2

Simone, 3D Artist:

Q: Where did you take the inspiration when modeling the bison?

A: I took “inspiration” mostly from photo references, the first thing I did was searching on Google for high resolution photos in order to understand the anatomy, proportions and so on.

Q: What was the main challenge?

A: The main challenge was the fur. The bison has at least 3 different fur patterns, short, clumpy and long, all of them are really difficult to replicate with our current tech.

Q: This is the first animal in theHunter with “real” fur, can you tell us more how you’ve managed to achieve this?

A: I used what we call the alpha plains technique. Basically, I use a pre-made Photoshop texture containing all the hair style I need and then I apply that to the alpha plains placed on the bison’s mesh. Obviously, I didn’t place all the polygons (alpha plains) one by one (not all of them), I took advantage of a tool in Maya called XGen to groom them.

Q: Are there plans to “dress” the existing animals, such as bears, into the fur?

A: I can say that we are experimenting with different solutions to address that problem and the new sub-arctic reserve with bison is a good playground for us in this matter. We are working on a better rendering quality and improved pipeline in order to get it done in a decent amount of time. I think, once we’ve figured out how to do that in the most efficient way we can consider applying the fur to the old models as well.

Q: Can you share some very first mock-ups of the model?

A: Instead of box modelling in Maya I usually make my mock-ups in ZBrush because I can shape the overall shape quickly having a decent result. So here you go (the images are work in progress):

bison_screenshot_1

bison_screenshot_4

Ryan and Dick, animators:

Q: When working on animations, was there something particular you wanted them to communicate about the bison?

A: The great thing about bison is that they have a powerful presence about them, but under their seemingly calm exterior lays a wild and fickle temperament. When working with the bison it was important to convey both their grace as well as their menace in order to represent this unpredictable nature.

Q: What was the most challenging thing of animating the bison?

A: When working on the animations for the bison the most important thing to consider is their sheer bulk and strength. Bison are massive, powerful animals, but despite their lumbering presence they can actually be quite fast and agile.

It was important to convey how heavy they are without it looking like they are struggling under their own weight.

Q: Can you share a sneak peek at some animation?

A: Here you go:

Hope you’ve enjoyed this short sneak peek at how we work on the new species. In the meantime, please don’t forget that we’re still collecting suggestions for the reserve name here. The thread will be open until the end of August, 31st.

Happy hunting!

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Behind the scenes of theHunter: Primal – Design

We know that there are a lot questions, speculations and general ramblings going on about the upcoming theHunter: Primal game. In order to address at least some of them, we’ll be doing a series of short “behind-the-scenes” interviews with the developers who have been working on the game. Today our game designer Björn is answering some of your questions about the game and world design.

Which dinosaurs are going to be included?

The initial release will contain three classic all stars from the cretaceous period: Utahraptor, a medium sized, cunning predator that hunts in packs. Tyrannosaurus Rex, a brutal 6 ton predator that fears nothing, and last but not least, the lumbering tri-horned herbivore Triceratops. We have plans for additional species as well but we are not willing to discuss these right now as there are still some details to work out.

utahraptor

How much science has been involved in their design? Can you tell a bit about the research you’ve made?

We’ve approached these species as we would any species for theHunter, trying to learn as much about it the real deal as possible and finding ways to incorporate this knowledge into the game design. The result of this is that, unlike others in the entertainment industry (yes, you Hollywood), we’ve decided not to ignore the last 20 years of scientific research, which means that our creatures pack things like feathers and are 100% GMO free…

Of course, with species that went extinct millions of years ago the information on many characteristics is a bit sketchy, so we’ve had to resort to more creative guesses than we’re used too. The research is harder but it also allows us to focus on the characteristics that make sense for the game. For example, in cases where there are several conflicting theories about a specific detail, such as raptor hunting techniques, we can select the one that creates the most interesting (i.e. horrifying) experience for the player.

t-rex_with_feathers

How will the dinosaurs behave?

Each species has a unique behavioural pattern. For example, the T-Rex will more or less charge you on sight while raptors are more cunning and will coordinate attacks as a team. Mr Trihorn, on the other hand, is a herbivore so it will choose flight over fight unless seriously cornered.

Can you tell a bit about the world of Primal?

The game is set on a yet to be discovered exoplanet with the environment mysteriously similar to the Jurassic/Cretaceous period on Earth. We’ve tried to approach the world design with the same amount of scientific detail as we did with our dinosaurs. I believe that this aspect of the game is fairly unique, as you will not only be able to experience realistic prehistoric creatures but also the environment they inhabited. Personally I find walking around in this environment to be a really cool and alien experience, as some species of flora that we take for granted in the present world, such as grass and deciduous trees did not exist back then, when ferns and pines dominated the biosphere.

world

Is it going to be a background story?

The lore of the game is something that we want players to discover themselves as they explore the world, the only thing I can say right now is that it is a very hostile and brutal world that very few venture to by a choice of their own and that dinosaurs may not be the only threat you’ll have to worry about…

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Introducing HunterMate Apps

App Selection

There are now a total of three different apps to run on the HunterMate and to accommodate for this we’ve created a new App Selection Menu.

How to launch an app:

  1. Hold the G-key
  2. Move the mouse in the direction of a desired app
  3. Press the left mouse button to launch

How to close an app:

  • Press the G-key at anytime to close an app

Environment Camo App

2014_10_camo_app

The environment camo app is a new free tool that can be used to learn in which areas your environment based camo such as the Sneaky 3D and Ghillie outfits are active.

Legend:

  • Green – You are wearing an environment based camo item and you are in an area where it provides camo
  • Light Grey – You are wearing an environment based camo item but you are not in an area where it provides camo
  • Dark Grey – You are wearing an item with no environment based camo

Note that species-specific camo such as the B&C Outfit is counted as items with no environment based camo. These are active everywhere, thus there’s no need to include them in the app.

Bust Through

Since we now have a way to select multiple apps again we’ve brought back an old friend that should be familiar to most veterans of the game. The HunterMate mini-game “Bust Through” is now available via the App Selection Menu and free to all players of theHunter. To add a competitive touch we’ve also added an all new leaderboard for this game on the website.

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Introducing Climbing & Falling in theHunter

2014_9_climb_gear

Why climbing?

When we design a new species for the game we strive to add as much unique gameplay around it as possible, preferably inspired by real life characteristics. One of the most distinguishable features of the Alpine Ibex is their ability to scale almost vertical walls and already in the beginning of the research process it became clear that this had to be included in the game to make the species justice.

This, coupled with the fact that Ibex are not known to respond to any lures, puts the hunter at a great disadvantage. Climbing evens the playing field by allowing agile hunters to follow their prey up even the most difficult slopes while adding an all new type of outdoor experience to the world of theHunter.

Do I have to climb?

Climbing is as much a requirement for hunting Ibex as lures are generally for other species. In other words, it makes it easier but it is not required. Most of the reserve, including the high areas where Ibex roam, can be reached by walking and climbing should be viewed more as taking a shortcut than a requirement.

How Is It Done?

Climbing Gear Characteristics:

  • Creates permanent climbing paths
  • Rated for 2 safe falls per climbing season
  • 75% of deployed units are recovered on dismantle

How to deploy:

  1. Add a couple of Climbing Gear to your field inventory
  2. Find a suitable rock wall, look for extruding stones in vertical cliff areas
  3. Equip your Climbing Gear & click the Use Item Button (Left Mouse) to deploy
  4. Note that deployment cost is dependent on wall with taller walls costing more units

How to climb:

  1. Walk up to your deployed climbing path & hold the Use Environment button (E) for options
  2. Select “Enter”
  3. Use the Move Forward & Move Backward buttons (W/S) to move up or down
  4. When you see a balance bar use Move Left & Move Right (A/D) to keep the balance arrow centered
  5. If the arrow go too far to any edge of the bar you will fall, the first couple of falls in each climbing season are recovered by the rope but eventually the rope breaks which lead to a fatal disagreement with gravity. Note that falling and breaking the rope does not affect the wall. Climbing gear can only be lost through dismantle
  6. Once at the other end of the wall press the Use Environment button (E) to exit

How to dismantle:

  1. Walk up to your deployed climbing path & hold the Use Environment button (E) for options
  2. Select “Dismantle”
  3. Note that only 75% of deployed climbing gear are recovered on dismantle due to wear & tear

Is there a reserve limit for deployed climbing paths?

The amount of climbing paths that can be deployed in a reserve is only limited by the amount of available deployment spots which in Val-Des-Bois is about 20.

Fall Damage

In addition to climbing we’ve added another new feature requested by many players for a very long time. Basically it is about addressing the immersion breaking superman ability of the hunter to survive falls from any height without any of the bone breaking consequences one would expect from such an event in real life. While this has worked well in most areas of the old reserves, simply due to the lack of places to fall from, it became more of an issue in a mountainous reserve such as Val-Des-Bois.

Unlike climbing, this will affect gameplay in both the new and old reserves, however, as mentioned above, there are not that many places to fall from in the old reserves except extreme areas such as the hangbridge ravine on Logger’s Point.

Being knocked out from falling follows by the same procedure as similar features such as animal attacks. Once knocked out you can choose to use a First Aid Kit to respawn at the spot or respawn at a Tent or Campsite.

Tips

  • Mastering the balance act of climbing can take a few tries. It’s recommended to bring a couple of medkits or place a tent near your practice wall for quick respawns.
  • Be easy on the keys when balancing, holding too long can tip the scale over to the other side and lead to acceleration towards epic disaster
  • While you need to focus on the balance bar while climbing don’t forget to check for the “exit wall” icon in the right corner of the screen as you approach your destination
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Ballistics Tweak

Yesterdays patch included a major revamp of trajectories, damage & penetration for the following weapons:

  • 300 Rifles
  • .30-06 Rifles
  • 8×57 Rifles
  • .308 Rifle & Handgun
  • .270 Rifles
  • .243 Rifles
  • .357 Revolvers
  • .44 Revolvers
  • .454 Revolvers
  • .50 Cal Muzzleloader Round Ball
  • 12 GA Shotgun Slug
  • 12 GA Buckshot

Kinetic Energy

The primary change for all these weapons is that they now use kinetic energy derived from our advanced trajectory system as the basis for their damage & penetration calculations instead of the old legacy system of linearly reducing velocity that did not take into account things like air resistance, bullet shape and weight.

This system has been applied to most new weapons since the release of the 9.3 Rifle, but until now there has not been enough time to convert the old weapons, as a lot of research and experimentation was needed to make sure we got things right.

Air Resistance

While this change mostly affects damage & penetration due to the fact that all weapons already use the advanced trajectory system for things like bullet drop, there have been some additional minor tweaks, primarily involving adding more precision to how air resistance is calculated. I expect that it will be mostly noticeable for large calibre weapons such as handguns, slug & the muzzleloader, although as zeroing has been updated to compensate for the changes in bullet drop it may only be noticeable at very long distances.

Rifles

Penetration and base damage mostly remain the same as before for most rifles as they worked fairly well with the linear system, however, you can expect somewhat more base damage from .300 & .270 rifles, which in turn means quicker deaths at the cost of trophy integrity (better reflecting calibre & bullet weight).

Handguns, Muzzleloader Round Ball, Slug & Buckshot

Previously these weapons had very high base damage and very low penetration. This has now been reversed to reflect how they commonly work in real life. The result is that poorly placed shots become less lethal while well-placed shoots are more likely to result in things like double-lung shots vs. permitted species. It also means that it should be easier to get good trophy integrity values using these weapons as this number is dependent on base damage.

Legacy Weapons

So, are all weapons now converted to this new glorious system? Sadly no, all arrow based weapons still use the old linear system as well as both 12 GA & 20 GA birdshot. But, the good news is that I am currently looking into converting these weapons as well and that by doing so we may finally be able to address some of the realism problems that have been plaguing these weapons since they were first introduced to the game.

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Turkey hunting receives an overhaul

Today we’re introducing a couple of significant changes to turkey hunting, with a new “locator” caller, turkey decoys and tweaks in the species’s AI. Our game designer Björn has put together some notes for you, make sure to read them through before grabbing the new lures and setting off for Settler Creeks or Whitehart Island.

Decoys

decoy_turkey_female_01_256 decoy_turkey_male_01_256

Turkey decoys work a little differently than the previously released waterfowl decoys. While the latter ones are primarily used to get high-flying flocks to land, the Turkey decoys are in the first place applied for attraction and distraction purposes.

The attraction component is similar to that of scent and callers, however detection is affected by the birds’ field of view, which means that they need to be fairly close to, and have an unobstructed view of the spread to have a chance of being attracted.

While this can be considered a serious downside compared to the traditional “Box Caller”, there are some very nice advantages to using decoys.

Turkeys stay longer at decoys than they do at a call location and, since they do not require active engagement from a hunter, decoys can also be used to draw the birds away from hunters rather than straight to them, which naturally decreases the chance of detection as they approach.

The final and possibly most important advantage to using decoys vs. a caller is that in addition to attraction they also provide distraction. Birds attracted by decoys are highly focused on their target and thus are less likely to detect hidden hunters. This can be thought of as an additional camo bonus being applied to hunters for as long as a bird is at the decoy site.

The attraction and distraction effect stack over multiple simultaneously detected decoys up to a maximum of three.

Locator Caller

caller_turkey_01_256The turkey locator caller functions in a similar manner to that of the Pheasant caller. The call sound does not attract Turkey but creates a chance of a response from any male Turkey in the area, which in turn allows the hunter to track it down using the corresponding audio clue on the HunterMate.

Response chance is tied to the score of the individual, with higher scoring Turkey being less likely to respond than low scoring individuals.

Turkey AI Adjustments

Most animals in the game get more spooky and thus harder to hunt the higher they score. This creates a nice relationship between effort and reward, when skilled hunters can increase their chance of better trophies through the way they play. Turkeys have never been a part of this system but this has now been changed as a part of this Turkey flavoured revamp. Higher scoring males are now somewhat more spooky while females and low scoring males remain at the previous difficulty level.

A Final Advice

Since decoys are detected visually, Turkey have to be fairly close to notice them. To increase your chances, try using the “Box Caller” as a means to get them within visual range of the decoys. Decoys always override all other lures, which means that they will forget about walking to your call location as soon as they’ve detected the decoys and leaving you to focus on taking that epic shoot with your favourite close range weapon…

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Changing roles

As mentioned in the status update earlier this week, we have had some new people joined us lately, one of which is still to be announced officially – this person is Pim Holfve, who as of yesterday joined the team as new CEO, taking over after me. But don’t worry – I’m not leaving – I merely change my role to CTO of Expansive Worlds, to focus solely on, what I do best, the technical development of theHunter. In turn this means that going forward there will be more time and resources available for development of new game features, improvements, web, infrastructure, and other technical goals we want to achieve.

As for the CEO role, I leave it in Pim’s much capable hands. Read more about Pim in his introduction post here.

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