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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!

Well Well, Look Who Decided To Drop By!

It took me a few days of experimentation to sort out the animation workflow but I finally got a handle on it. What I assumed was going to take me months to do (all monster, NPC and first-person animations) won’t take me that long at all. All the monster animations have been tweaked and exported and are now in-game thanks to the ease of using Mixamo and the range of animations that they offer. I just uploaded my base monster meshes, Mixamo rigs them and then spits out the animation (pretty much)

There was a time where I would describe this as “cheating” but hey, at this point in I’m just ready for it to be done as quickly as possible. I don’t want everyone waiting any longer just so I can “do it all by hand” and puff up my chest and sit here with a smug grin. There is just no way in Neptune’s blue balls that my keyframe animations would ever look as good as those mocap animations so I’ll take the shortcuts, I’ll take the help and assistance if it delivers a better-looking product and also shaves off time.

A long time ago I made most of the Blueprints that I needed for the Out Of Hell UE4 framework. I coded my own stamina functions, health, fall damage, firearms, hunger system, inventory, text and note files, examining items, monster AI etc. I was proud as hell (because coding is not my specialty) that I made this all myself and it worked!

Over time I started looking into adding more functionality and just for fun, I perused the UE Marketplace to see what was out there. Some of the frameworks that were sold had demo versions so I tried them out thinking “Hey, what’s the harm in looking?” and OMG

What I saw was just on a completely different level in terms of functionality and polish! For example, my note system was “Approach note, press E to read, display large image with text on it. DONE.” but the methods I saw in this other framework was “Approach note, press E to examine note, have option to rotate note and look at backside, open note, display an image of the note, press E to darken the screen and display the contents of the note using engine font, use left and right arrow to flip pages etc.”

I mean, the level of attention put into this framework made mine look so very, very underdeveloped! And that was just the note system! I eventually bit the bullet and bought a freaking fantastic framework for this game. I heavily modified it for my needs and successfully merged/grafted whatever features I needed into Out Of Hell. It’s awesome.

It took me some time to come around to taking that plunge because there’s this part of me (I guess it’s the ego) that wants to do it ALL MYSELF or else it isn’t pure! But in hindsight that’s such a stupid, silly way to approach things. Why was I always trying to reinvent the wheel? And where is the line drawn with this kind of mentality?

For example, I would have a problem using a HUNGER SYSTEM that someone else offered because I myself didn’t make it from the ground up BUT I had absolutely no problem using a videogame engine or software that someone else made? And really, what is the difference between buying a banana model on a Marketplace (not that I did but just as an example) or employing another artist to model a banana for me if time was a factor? I already know I could do it (and have done: OoH 2009, YPAPSG) so what the hell was I still trying to prove to myself?

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that to all those that believe in me and have been there since the beginning, to those who have had the patience to stick with this project for years and all the newcomers, I want to make sure you get the experience that you’re deserving. I won’t deliver a shitty, half-assed experience that doesn’t live up to the real potential just because I refused do what was necessary to take it to the next level out of some dumb sense of ego preservation.

So this is just a quick update on where I’m at right now. The monster animations are all done, the 3rd person player animations are done (I say third person because of body awareness. When you look down, you see the legs and body) and I just need to finish up the first-person weapon animations (there’s 18 wieldable weapons to do) And speaking of body awareness, look who’s here! Donovan Ling himself, no longer confined to a 64×128 dialogue portrait!

It’s not finalized (I’ll take care of that much later) I just needed it so that I could send it to Mixamo!

 

We’ve Got Movement!!!!

All the levels are complete! (as complete as they can be without the details anyway) I was going to post a video of the Midtown area and some screenshots of the remaining 2 maps but I’ve decided against it. I’d like some places to take you all by surprise when you see it for the first time.

In all truthfulness, I actually can’t believe I’m here at this point about to head into animating all the weapons and monsters. I’ve often wondered how and when the hell I would get here. There was just so much work left to do that I couldn’t really predict when I would be finished all the levels. Now I’ve finally progressed to the place that I fantasized about being at years ago!

And in an amazing example of synchronicity, I got this text from a friend just this morning:

The very same morning that I started my animations! I take it as the Universe approving of where I’m at right now! I’ve never had a request like this from anyone I know before either.

I thought that animation would be a little on the difficult side since I haven’t done it in years. All I have are memories of how much of a pain it was to rig, weight and keyframe a model. Animation was never my strength (actually, I don’t even know what is!) and I barely got by with what I did animate. But…

I started to look into the various options out there and I am just blown away! The tools and software at our disposal right now (many of which are FREE!!!) is absolutely insane compared to when I graduated Computer Animation School in the late 90’s!

Here’s just two that I’ve looked at that allow you to grab motion capture data from a video you record on your phone. F***IN NUTS I TELL YOU!!!!

RADICAL https://getrad.co/

DEEPMOTION https://deepmotion.com/

I also looked at Mixamo and uploaded a model to see what it was like. Expecting it to be somewhat clunky and difficult, it actually took less than 30 seconds to do! Something that really blew me away was how the software was able to automatically rig the model (I already have a rig in place but this is much better) by just specifying a few reference points.

I started farting around and made a hilarious animation but as a friend just told me, it would unintentionally be quite terrifying being chased around by this thing! AHAHAHAA!

I plan on utilizing Mixamo animations to save time and alter them further where I need. The animations look fantastic, smooth and are lightyears ahead of anything I could make! I thought that animating all my stuff was going to take a few months but now it seems like it might all get done in a week! I said in a previous post months ago that when I got to a certain point, things are going to start moving very fast.

Well, that time is NOW my friends!

Building…Buildings!

I had forgotten about how much of a total nightmare wonderful challenge it was to build a city-themed map! Anyone who has ever modelled a city by hand can tell you; it’s no walk in the park!

I spent a big chunk of time since the last update just working on the buildings and coming up with all the signage that should accompany them. I made some basic buildings then created variations from them. I wanted to avoid the issue of having a bunch of non-descript buildings (like in the original) and so this time around almost every shop you come across will have its own signage (which helps add personality to the visuals)

Designing all the signs, ads and awnings was actually pretty fun and came naturally since I used to do it for a living! I’m sure you’ll all get a kick out of some of the more humorous ones you’ll come across!

Speaking of which I added a nice little surprise for the people who contributed to the indiegogo drive long ago. Originally, they were all supposed to get their initials scrawled onto a wall or spraypainted throughout the game but now I’ve decided “FUCK IT, I’m naming buildings after them instead!” These are just 2 examples as they’re scattered all around town and I don’t want to spoil all of it:

In the original, massive sinkholes appeared around town after an earthquake hit but the only time players saw one was near the end. Well that’s all changed as you’ll come across a lot of them this time around (they also serve as a natural barrier and a great excuse to prevent players from exiting the world bounds!) The sinkholes now serve a more prominent purpose for the story as well.

This is another fairly large map and encompasses the entire area from when you leave the trainyards to the gas station area to the gunstore in the original game. The layout is complete and I’ve just got to fill in some rough details here and there for the time being. When I revisit it later during the polishing phase, I’ll add in some more wear and tear to sell that “lived-in” feeling.

You may have noticed that the new maps don’t have any clouds in the sky. This is because I have abandoned my original method of having a sphere with a rotating cloud texture on it. I don’t like the way it looks and so I am looking into alternative methods. One is to have real-time dynamic clouds but that is very costly and the solutions aren’t great for the version of UE4 that I’m using. I’m still using 4.20 because I HATE that they took Matinee out of all the newer releases! I am fully aware that the newer versions all have improvements and even built-in dynamic clouds but I’m not budging because I’m fucking stupid like that! :P

An idea dawned on me when I saw the way sunlight passes through the edges of my foliage. I think I can come up with a way to model some cloud planes, animate their movements and tweak my foliage material to give the clouds a sense of body and depth. We’ll see how that goes when I try it out later.

I’ve got about another week or so worth of work on this and then I’ll head into the next map. Just a few more to go!!