Size Matters ;-)
Well i’ve had a pretty productive week so far. Lots of progress has been made in many areas, and things are looking better and better.
I decided to remake the Town and change the layout to something closer to that of the original. The new layout was good and worked on a number of levels, but it wasn’t Trespasser’s town, so it always bugged me. The Visitors Center, Hotel, Gas Station, Generator Building and fallen Water Tower are still contained within the more secure compound area, while the rest of the town has been arranged to be almost the same as the original layout. There are a few changes, but players will be able to immediately recognize the similarities. As soon as i made the changes and walked around, i was very satisfied with it. I wont go into detail about the changes or how you get in the town, ill let you all discover that when you play it.
You all might remember this image:
This big Mayan face never made it into the final game, and if it wasn’t for some great investigation work by some of the guys at TresCom, its intended location may never have been found. Well i recently decided to make this face and its been textured and already placed in the island. Its very large and looks over you as you get close to it. I wont be showing any screenshots of it or saying where it is, you’ll have to wait and see for yourself.
I’m sorry for holding back on screenshots, but there are some things you just wont get to see until you play it.
Like the Town, another thing that’s always bugged me, and is something I’ve always been a bit worried about, is the size of the map, because its slightly smaller than the original Trespasser levels.
When i finished stitching all the levels together and was ready to import them into CryEngine, i had to rotate the island 45 degrees and then scale it down by 10% just to fit it inside a 4096×4096 (one pixel = 1 square metre in-game) heightmap. Even then, the island only JUST fit and there are a few very outer sections of coastline that are on the edge of the heightmap. This is not an issue though, because they are areas that the player cant get to, so they wont ever notice it.
The only other option was to use a 8192×8192 heightmap, which would have ensured the islands scale was exact, but it would have left a lot of wasted empty space around it. This might not seam like such a bad thing, because the terrain texture resolution can be controlled for empty areas, reducing the memory required, but the amount of memory required just to import an 8192 size heightmap is staggering!
I was curious to see just how much difference there is between my island and the original, so to satisfy my curiosity, i decided to scale the island back up by 10% and return it to the original size. Then i spent most of Sunday trying to render a 8192 heightmap and import it into the engine. Rendering the heightmap locked up my system several times, and in the end i had to kill all background apps and just let it sit there locked up as it worked away. The end result was a 267mb image that was impossible to import into CryEngine 2 OR 3. I tried a lot of different ways to import it, but every single time the editor crashed immediately with an insufficient memory error, I’ve only got 3gb after all. This pretty much rules out any chance of remaking the island later on at 100% correct scale, as it would no doubt be unplayable on most peoples machines. There’s a good chance the Editor wouldn’t handle a level that size anyway, and halfway through detailing it, the Editor would just call it quits, which would result in a severe mental breakdown! I’m always worried that at some point im going to reach some kind of hard limit for instances or memory and i wont be able to complete the island. So far so good though, fingers crossed!
Anyway, I decided to do a walkthrough test to see how long it takes to walk from the (new) starting beach to the Mountain Summit, following the path players will take through the island. The walking speed in Crysis is about on par with the running speed in Trespasser, maybe a tad faster, so i stuck with that pace and started a stopwatch. I only got as far as the start of Pine Valley and had to call it quits as my hand was starting to get a bit crampy and i had to go to bed anyway. It took 25 minutes to reach the Town and 40 minutes to reach the start of Pine Valley. I can only assume it wold take another 20-30 minutes to reach the Mountain Summit, possibly longer.
This walkthrough was with vegetation disabled and nothing in the way to slow me down! This should give you a bit of an idea as to how big the island is, and when you take into account that there will be puzzles, dinosaurs and general exploration and back-tracking slowing you down, then the island is easily large enough. The first level of Crysis was a 4096 heightmap too, but only a small portion of it was actually playable area. In comparison to this island, its like placing a Compact Flash card on a DVD case, the flash card being the playable area of Crysis’ first level, and the DVD case being this Island.
The actual walking pace will be only slightly faster than it was in Trespasser, which will slow things down more too. The running speed will be about the same as when you have speed mode on in Crysis (but not actually running). You’ll be able to run for a very long time too, before you get too exhausted and need to rest, so it wont be a boring slow pace all the time, you’ll be able to run across the island to speed things up. Sprinting will be faster again but very limited, so its best saved for desperate times. In real life an active healthy person like Anne could probably run comfortably for a kilometre or more before having to slow down for a rest. In a lot of games you have penalties or limitations for running too long, so your not just running through the game and avoiding conflict. I dont want to put too many unrealistic restrictions on movement to make the game challenging, as i feel the rest of the game will balance itself out anyway.
The dinosaurs will be able to run at a realistic pace. So this means when in dense forest and jungle areas they will be slower and not able to navigate through the tree’s quite as well as Anne can if she slaloms through them. Out in the open however, they will be able to really wind it out and chase you down quite quickly. Remember what Muldoon said about the raptors if they ever got out into the open?
I think being able to run as long as you could in real life with no restrictions slowing you down, wont make the game too easy. Players who choose to run through an area to avoid conflict, may end up running straight into another fight further down the road. This could lead to them backing up, and in a panic, running straight back into the dinosaurs they avoided earlier. Running also makes more noise than walking, and just as someone thrashing around in water will attract a shark more then someone being still, i hope to make the carnivores more attracted to someone who is running.
Other things to consider is that while armed, Anne has a huge advantage over a dinosaur. They have to get up close to inflict any damage, while she could just pick them off from many meteres way. There has to be some kind of disadvantages for Anne, some human vulnerabilities, otherwise she has too much of an advantage and the dinosaurs are no longer a serious threat. In Trespasser, an experienced player can quite easily sidestep the raptors and bring them down with a few shots, its really not a very hard game and the dinosaurs are not a serious threat to you. Once your unarmed though, it becomes more of challenge as you have to scramble to find a gun while side stepping them and jump-running to safety. I really like that Anne can drop her weapons if hit hard enough, and i dont understand why so may people think its an annoying bug. If i was to get hit front on by an attacking raptor, I would probably drop what i was holding too, along with the contents of my lower bowel. Not being able to reload weapons and having a limited supply made it challenging in the original game, so the advantages of reloading them here must be offset.
Players who take the offensive approach and fire their weapons a lot will be rewarded by improved reload times and reduced recoil, as Anne learns to handle them more efficiently. The disadvantages being that you’ll go through your ammo a lot faster and draw more attention to yourself. Players who take the slow and cautious approach will be able to conserve ammo and possibly avoid conflict, but when the time comes to defend themselves, Anne’s lack of experience with firing her weapons will result in slower reloads and more recoil, which will make things tougher. Dinosaurs avoided earlier in the game could be alerted to gun fire in later areas, making things more difficult.
Taking guns out of the equation puts Anne in a very dangerous position, so i think being able to run for long periods of time and being able to sprint in short bursts will help even things up. When playing through the original Far Cry on the harder difficulties, it was always a challenge when you got to the levels with the Trigens. They could kill you extremely fast if you were caught off guard, so it made it very difficult, even if you were well armed. This is the kind of fear i want players to feel as they explore the island, that they are in a large environment filled with very dangerous creatures that can kill you very quickly. You may have weapons and be able to outsmart them and what not, but if you’re reckless and dont show them respect, they will devour you.
I hope i dont give the impression that the dino’s will be these lethal killers that you want to avoid at all costs, quite the opposite. I want them to be animals that are just going about their business. Their mood will dictate their level of interest in you, while your behavior will have a big impact on it. You could be in clear sight of a a raptor 100 metres away and walk past it without it coming after you, but if you start to run or fire your weapons at it, it will be immediately interested in you and take action. Initial encounters could result in a dino running away if you’ve caught it off guard and scared it with some gun shots, or it might be hungry and immediately come after you.
Some encounters will be scripted for particular scenarios, but for the most part the game will be unscripted and players will set the pace themselves. I think this is the best way to ensure the experience is always varied and helps produce a more realistic environment.
Anyway enough rambling!
I’ve been having some strange things happen while working on the island. The viewport would freeze and then jump around in the opposite direction. This has been happening for about a week now, but yesterday it froze for a long time and then my mouse stopped working altogether! I thought it had finally died as i’ve had it for about 14-15 years now and had regular issues with it, but after plugging it into my girlfriends laptop and seeing it worked fine, I tried another mouse in my PC and it didn’t work either. I tried three different USB ports and they’ve all stopped working. The only remaining port is connected to my Apple display and it luckily has two ports in the rear which im now using for my keyboard and mouse. The little freezes have continued though, so im worried that my Motherboard is just about to call it quits on me, which will signal the end of progress of this project. I don’t know what the cause is, but the last time i was getting little freezes like this, it was when we had hot weather like we do now, and the freezes turned into regular crashes and then into a dead PSU. I hope nothing is wrong and its just the hot weather causing some overheating issues, but if its a hardware failure, then im sorry but the project will be on hold until after our holiday at the end of Feb. I don’t want to sound dramatic, but if it happens i’d rather post about it now then hit you with the bad news later.
While it’s still in action though, I’ll hopefully have another update in the next few days with some news about a few people who are contributing to the project. I didn’t want to just tack it onto the end of this post as i feel it deserves its own post. I’m pretty excited about it and im sure you will be too.
Hopefully ill have a few new shots for you too!