So by now, you've most likely seen the end of "season 1" of IndieVelopment. It's been a fun ride. The show went from being a one shot traditional film, to a weekly 5 minute show to a weekly 20-30 minute show.
We were able to produce a functional demo in less than 90 days with quite a few features (some of which were omitted on the show due to time constraints and some were cut because we didn't want to talk about the features until they go out there). In fact, come to think of it we never even covered all the weapon and armor customization or the entire economic system within the game because it wasn't glued into the game till 2 days ago! Whoops ^_^;
It's important to realize what was shown in the last episode didn't cover the last week of polish. All that sex appeal you see in Gears and Rainbow Vegas is starting to show up. We're obviously not to that level of polish after 90 days, but Gears took more than 20 people more than 2 years.
We're going to be releasing the first "official screenshots" of BPRE in the next few weeks. These will have finished or/near finished characters and environments with lighting, bloom, etc. because honestly, those were the very last things we did. All the video walk throughs were done with canned animation that was not even close to being finished. We're still tuning the walk/run speeds in the game so there's no point to even try to polish those elements til we have that stuff "correct".
Making software is an iterative process and while having shipped several games and interactive products before, this was our first commercial FPS and we learned quite a lot.
One thing I'll share with you right now is the process of making diffuse, specular and normal maps and materials is much more complex now than ever before and if you are planning on making a mod that has next gen quality...start now. Just start making 2048 x 2048 material samples and work those normal and specular maps! At GDC we saw a presentation by the folks at Crytek about next gen level texturing and they are doing this exactly. Capturing live data and then tuning the textures before they even get to applying it to polygons.
If you're on a budget, like we were, check out a program called Crazy Bump. It's a little app that takes files and can produce normal maps from them. It's a free download, currently in beta and we got some great results with it.
Software wise, nothing beats Maya. There, I said it. We love the program, hands down the best for what we were doing. That being said there are a lot of new modeling packages out there that handle the organic stuff very nicely and if you have time to make a 5 billion poly model to create your normal maps, those might be the way to go. But with only 90 days and targeting around 10-15k triangles we could not beat Maya. In fact we're already working on tools for it that will give us a faster pipe into Unreal.
When it comes to texturing your levels, checkerboards are fine. They sure aren't pretty but they can do for a long while. Resist the urge to start throwing geometry and textures in until you have a solid map to start with. Your artists can be making raw materials in tangent so that when it's go time, they are ready and can put stuff together much faster.
Unreal Engine 3 has some amazing tools for determining texture density, lighting complexity, etc. When making texture maps, lay out your UVs and just import them into the game without any true texture and you'll still be able to see if you need more/less resolution.
Also, for portable hardware, the Dell XPS laptop with the nVidia card in it was unbeatable. It ran as fast as any of our dual core Intel/AMD desktop machines which were running everything from a 6800 and up. If we ever go into board room to do a demo, this is what we're going with.
We also ran into some difficulty rendering some of our original architecture designs. We had to revise things quite a bit to make them work.
Lastly, we decided we needed to sci-fi up the character a bit more. The conventional gear wasn't selling the character we wanted enough. But you can never know that stuff until you've had it in there and played with it. We have an internal decision for no super suits...aka no Crysis or Halo type armor. We realized this about a month ago and have been cranking on it ever since. None of that art has been shown yet.
Regardless, it's been a fun ride.
We're going to be updating our MySpace page every week or so(hopefully) and you'll be able to see further developments there. We'll talk about the entire pitch process and hopefully we can keep sharing what we learn with you folks as we go.
So for now, it's adios.
BPRE on Myspace
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