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The Derelict Station

Hello everyone! It’s been a while since the last post and there’s a lot of stuff to catch up on!

I finally have a new video of the Police Station map for you all! Some of you will probably recognize a few of the areas displayed and how much it’s been expanded upon. This map took longer, and I mean WAY longer than I had originally anticipated to fix up. This was the first map I ever built in UE4 (ages ago) and had constructed most of it out of BSP because I was still using the workflow I did from UE2.5. Though BSP has its advantages, I would find out later that it did not work well with the dynamic lighting system I had implemented so every map after this one was created 100% out of staticmeshes.

When I came back to fix this map a couple months ago,  I had to actually go in and replace every single piece of BSP one by one. I couldn’t convert the BSP structures to staticmesh because the building was of a modular nature so I had to line up the new staticmesh walls with the BSP walls, scale and shape it as needed. To say that this was an excercise in tedium is an understatement.

Another thing I forgot was that over time I had changed the scale of the other maps to accomodate the changes to the playercharacter’s size and height. Just imagine the forehead-slapping moment when I realized that I would also have to rescale the entire layout of the map and its structures and realign every single decorative mesh as well! The good news is that this is the only map that I had to do this to. Whew!!

There have been a few changes under the hood to make things run faster and it’s much more optimized than before but despite my best efforts, do remember that there is still a ton of shit going on and that all lighting is dynamic so you will still need a fairly strong computer to run it smoothly. I’m using the same PC build I got in 2015 and it runs alright so hopefully most people won’t have a problem with anything after then.

You can check out the video here:

I also have a weapon video uploaded in case you missed that one:

I’ve changed some gameplay mechanics that didn’t work as well as they did in my head and even added a couple suggestions from the community. I won’t go into depth here about each change I’ve made but if you’ve joined the Discord channel you should have some idea.

Speaking of the fan community, a great fellow by the name of Jonathan Sheridan made a very indepth video about the Out Of Hell mod! And when I say indepth, I mean it’s a thoughtful examination of the lore, backstory, artstyle, atmosphere and just way too many other things that I could list here. It’s a detailed, insightful video and now includes an english translation so I highly recommend you check it out! You can watch it here:

I am also in talks with a composer to create a custom soundtrack for Out Of Hell and I’ll let you all know how it turns out as soon as I can. I don’t want to use stock music anymore (turns out the stock music song I used for the intro was also used in the game Manhunt! I never played either of those games so I never knew until a kind person pointed it out) so I started the search for someone that could create the style that I’m after. I’ll post more information about this soon!

Though I’ve mentioned in the past that the goal for release is Halloween 2022, I’m already getting a bit nervous about that date. Considering how long it took me to fix the Police Station map I’m just afraid I’m going to run into some other problem or issue that’s going to eat up time (and I’ve run into several already) Since I also want to spend a few months on testing, that essentially gives me about 9 months from now. I’m going to keep hammering away like a madman and while I’m going to remain hopeful, I do not want you to get you hopes up if I may need to extend the date later on so just an early heads up!

That’s it for now folks, if you want to kill some time between updates remember to drop into the Discord channel and lurk! I usually make small updates there and it also enables you to yell at me to hurry my ass up in realtime! 🙂

The Weather Is So Miserable…It’s Perfect!

It’s no secret I love everything Autumn, especially the weather! I’ve tried my best to capture what it is that I percieve to be the visuals and “atmosphere” of Fall weather. It’s such a unique mood and I’m still surprised that it isn’t used more often in games.

I just uploaded a video of one of the early levels to show some rainy atmosphere. I could add a few more effects to it but as it stands I think it gets the idea across. I’m getting over 60 frames despite all the particles being spawned so I’m really happy with that. I find that I have to keep myself in check these days because I have a tendency to throw caution to the wind and go really overboard with effects. I don’t want this turning out to be the same slideshow as the mod version!

I don’t have much to report other than I’m still hammering away at the Police Station level (it’s a lot of work fixing that map) but I haven’t run into any problems with it; it’s just time-consuming. I also fixed a bunch of monster AI bugs that have been haunting me for months so that’s a huge relief.

One thing that I actually spent a lot of time doing (and re-doing) was the voice acting portion. There isn’t much of it but I actually found it a lot more difficult to perform than I thought! Sometimes what you think that you hear when you speak into the mic sounds a lot different when you open it up on the computer for editing. I recorded everything using my phone (which isn’t as bad as you would think) but a while ago I had set up a little recording space in a storage room of mine. Over the weeks I moved stuff around and when I came back weeks later to record some more voices, the sound came out way different (more hollow sounding) So I had to set up another room, re-recorded all the voices so the quality stayed consistent and kept the room exactly the same incase I need to record more down the line. I definately have a newfound respect for all voice actors now!

I’ll try to get a video of the Police Station up next. See you soon!

All Part Of The Process!

What an interesting little phase this is! I always expected to make changes but not this many. Some ideas I had sounded really great on paper but in practice it didn’t work out for one reason or another. I’ve had to remove things (some unexpectedly) and added other ones in. It is what it is you know!

One thing I originally wanted was to have ragdoll physics when a monster died but for the life of me I can’t get it to look good! In the mod I was able to have them just fall over as a ragdoll but not look too silly. Now, monsters flail and flop, limbs stretching into impossible positions or the entire corpse just rocketing across the map! It all just looked way too goofy so I decided to stick with plain-old death animations and a dissolve effect upon death.

Aiming down the sights (ADS) has now been removed. Initially I wanted players to have a “ready” stance and that normally the left mouse button would be used to examine things, open doors and interact but when you hold the right mouse button to ready your weapon or aim down the sights (if it was a firearm) the left mouse button would then fire/attack. I had issues with the toggling this mode in that if you spammed the right mouse button, it would completely mess up the order in which you fired or interacted if that makes any sense. For those that know Blueprints, I did try delays and booleans but it still happens sporadically so I removed it. Besides, I’ve never been a fan of ADS myself; it just seems like an extra step in the way of you wanting to fire/attack. Besides, isn’t that what the crosshair is for, so you don’t have to aim down sights? 😀

I also tried to code some functions to close down the inventory screen or any other screen if you got attacked. So for example if you are reading a journal entry and an enemy comes by and smacks you, the journal would automatically close. I got it somewhat working but the inventory screen in particular produces some toggling issues and a bombardment of accessed none errors.

I decided to just bypass it and leave that feature out so if you are reading something and get attacked, you’ll have to manually back out of it (which is just a click of the mouse anyway) Maybe I should have just sold this as actually being a realism feature! Imagine you are so engrossed in what you are reading that you just don’t want to put that journal down even if you are being clawed from all directions! 😉

I nearly axed the inventory management/dropping items because of a bunch of little bugs and issues.

In the end I was able to save it and the only 2 issues that remained are: items getting dropped into holes/cracks or unreachable places and items sometimes “sinking” into level geometry making retrieval impossible. I overcame these two issues with the following bug fixes:

1) If you drop something into a hole, you’re shit out of luck so be careful where you drop your stuff!

2) I increased the collision size of the items to prevent them from disappearing into the environment. For example, a small key will no longer have accurate collision that is the size of that key. The invisible collision will now be the size of a bowling ball so the key may appear to float off the ground a little bit but that prevents it from sinking into other geometry. I don’t have a more elegant solution for this.

I’m also currently fixing/cleaning up the Police Station map and oh man, this has been an absolute pain. It was the first map I fully built in UE4 and so the environment it is made up of mostly BSP. After that map was finished I built my other maps out of modular static meshes so going back in and replacing all that BSP by hand with static meshes is not the butt-clenching good time that it should be but it’ll get done.

I’m sure I left out a few things that I can’t think of at the moment (only because there were so many things that needed to be changed) but everything else is progressing very fine indeed! The first few levels are genuine nightmare fuel and some of the visual sequences that I had been holding onto in my head since 2013 have transferred nicely onto the computer screen.

There is a particular scene involving a Manipulator demon that I had playing over and over in my mind and I remember years ago wondering how on earth I would pull it off when the time came but the good news is that I did it and it looks even better than I had hoped!

Trucking Along!

Hey everyone! Just wanted to drop a small status update!

I ended up making some audio changes to the menu screen, made a few other tweaks to it and completed the tutorial level (I hate describing it that way but can’t think of anything better to call it)

It all turned out pretty good and I spent a week and a half just tweaking, crafting specific parts to it and finding and eliminating bugs. It’s much, much better than the first couple of levels in the original mod and nowhere near as confusing to navigate! Lessons learned!

I’ve also been making some voice recordings on my phone for placeholding purposes but they actually turned out really good after I cleaned them up in Audacity! When testing comes and no one says that the voices sound like muffled farts, I may just keep them in! It saves me a ton of money renting out a recording room for an afternoon.

I was also checking out Fiverr.com for some voice talent (I don’t need much but what I do need is very specific) but so far I haven’t gotten any responses to my queries (which seems strange)

Technically, I have enough to release a small demo right now that would establish the art direction, quality, atmosphere I’m trying to capture and the kind of gameplay you can expect but I don’t know if I should. I think it’s still too far away from the final release so I may hold off. Even the tutorial level will shock a few people with some of its content but if you see any of it now, I’m afraid it will have lost it’s magic when this releases next year. I’ve made a concerted effort to terrify players this time because in my opinion, though the mod had its creepiness in places, it wasn’t actually scary.

I’m just in this weird situation where I’m so damn giddy that I want to show off what’s been done but I also don’t want to spoil anything! Aaarrggh!

What’s On The Menu?

The main menu and almost everything attached to it is complete! There were a few challenges to overcome underneath the hood but I’ve got all the features working properly and bug-free! You can check it out right here:

I tried to have the camera crossfade with another camera but I couldn’t figure out a way to do it but the fading to black does the job. And for some reason the mouse cursor doesn’t show, even though I set the option in OBS to record the cursor! *headscratch*

This is only the second time I’ve teased some glimpses of “Hell” and the next time I’ll show it is when the trailer hits. I really do not want to spoil much but sometimes I can’t contain my excitement. Just know that the Hell(s) that you’ll come across are really, really messed up!

I have an odd fascination with different types of “environmental horror” I guess you would call it? As scary as it can be being chased through a dimly lit forest by blood-thirsty monsters, or exploring a dilapidated sewer surrounded by shadows, how much scarier would it be to be stalked through an undescribable hellish nightmare realm by demonic entities? *shudder*

Now it’s onto the intro movie and tutorial level!

Approaching Endgame…

Wow, if I could sum up this entire month from the the last post until now, it would be this screenshot:

Isn’t that great? It’s been nothing but error after warning after error.

I assumed that the animation process itself was going to eat up most of my time and getting it into the game should take mere seconds. It has been the complete opposite with all animations taking relatively no time at all and getting the stuff into the game and working was the real time sink!

Here’s an example with this error screen:

IMPORTED BONE TRANSFORM IS DIFFERENT THAN THE ORIGINAL.” Alright, so I take that as meaning something got fucked up with either the positioning, rotation or the scale of my skeleton. But…which bone? It doesn’t specify!

So I spend hours trying to figure out which bone is the culprit but no luck. I then spend a few more hours comparing the problem skeletal structure with my other skeletal structures that worked but no luck.

Hmm…could it be my export settings? I spend even more time trying out different exporting options and going through them one by one to make sure I don’t miss anything but DAMN! That doesn’t fix it either!

It has to be the import settings then! UE4 must be doing something funky with the skeleton after I import it so I go through all those options as well but still no dice!

Trying to figure out this problem alone has already taken me 3 days! I then notice something in my other skeletons. They’re all named something different such as “Blade or Axe or Pipe” etc. but this particular one was still named “Armature” which is the default name that is assigned by Blender. So just for shits and giggles I change the name to “FCUK” and reimport it…and…IT WORKED?!

You mean all this time when UE4 was telling me it was a problem with the BONE TRANSFORM that it was actually a NAMING ISSUE?!

OHFFSR2TQGEUAFHCVDA;HVN!!!$@@#%$!#@$%yw

After that was solved, I ran into other problems which I’m too exhausted to discuss at length. I had camera issues, inventory issues, more animation problems and on and on. I actually had to get rid of the True First Person view as well because I was having visual issues with blending and clipping issues with environment meshes. The functionality/code is still there and if I can figure out a way to fix it later on, I may include it again but as it stands right now it will be just like it was in classic OoH.

I also finished up the monster AI (I had finished it long ago but I had to go through it again to make sure there weren’t any issues I overlooked) and that was fairly straightforward. If they see you, they chase you. They’re just rotting zombie corspes afterall!

So now, what is the next step?

THE FINAL PHASE BABY! Now that all systems are in place, I go back to the very beginning and work my way through again with a fine-toothed comb (this is probably not the optimal way to do things but it satisfies my need to be mentally thorough from beginning to end) This is the workflow:

I create the intro screen, the title screen, go through all the options screens, doing the loading screens, creating the intro to the first level, go through and re-optimize all the assets in the first level etc. Move onto the second level, go through and place all notes, optimize layouts, assets, collisions, etc.

And I do that all the way until I design the final credits screen. This will take some time but if it all goes smoothly I should be able to have a few months to spare for testing and then on Halloween 2022 we lift off!

Just FYI, anything that I show in updates from now on will no longer be placeholder but as close to the final version that it can be, therefor if there is anything that you think needs improvement in any way, now is the time to let me know! Just drop by the Discord chatroom and tell me that it sucks or else that is going in the final version of the game!

OH FFS!

I just made the mistake of watching the video located right here:

https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/blog/unreal-engine-5-is-now-available-in-early-access

and now I am:

All kidding aside, I have no interest in jumping onto UE5 until the UE4 version of Out Of Hell is shipped. Eventually I think an “Enhanced Edition” port could be made for UE5 and I would probably try to put together a team to do that but it’s still a long time away.

Just also wanted to mention there’s an Out Of Hell DISCORD channel now so head on over and say hello, hang out or drop a few suggestions if you like! I’ll be posting smaller progress updates there that don’t warrant a full blog post. Seeya there!