DHMC Dev Diary 8/25/16

Max gaming has been steadily improving its weapons over time, because we know how much you love customization. A big part of any mech game are the weapons and we want to make it right.

Scott is the one responsible for creating unique and functional weapon designs. In 2007, he downloaded 3DS Max and taught himself how to create models, he started modeling stuff for Max Gaming soon after. While modeling Scott became frustrated with the limits of Photoshop and decided to learn Substance Designer and Painter.

I use Substance Painter and Substance designer exclusively for all the DHMC weapons models. Substance Designer lets me create completely custom PBR materials that I can then import into Substance Painter and with its ondestructive workflow and its ability topaint full materials in real time greatly reduces the time that the texturing process takes. I begin by importing the model a setting the project size to 4k. Then I will paint in details just in the height channel with the symmetry mode on. Once I have the height information painted on I will export the data with a custom configuration that exports as Normal DirectX (RGB). I’ll then bring the exported texture into painter, use it as my normal map, and disable the height map. Next I’ll bake the ambient occlusion, curvature, world space normal, position and thickness textures using the normal texture. I’ll then begin painting across the color, metal and roughness channels at the same time using full materials I created in Substance Designer and imported into Painter as part of a custom DHMC smart material. Finally, I add in and paint the emissions, increase the level of the ambient occlusion slightly, paint in small details like burns or added wear with a particle brush, and export the textures using the Unity PBR metal configuration at 1k.-scott

DK50 Plasma

Scott has always liked weapons, ever since he was a kid, he really cares about the function of the weapons. Scott doesn’t want to be influenced by other games, like mech warrior online, and tries not to look at google images for various weapons. He wants to be innovative with his weapon design, trying to create an original look and feel for each one.

Types of questions he asks himself as he works on a piece:
– Would you face it in battle?
– How would it mechanically work?
– How would it animate?
– What parts does it have? Nuts, bolts, access plates, switches etc.

Dark Horizons takes place in a dystopian future, where nuclear war has ravaged the land and greatly disturbed our way of life. This means that Scott is not designing weaponry of an alien species, and instead of designing over-detailed glamorous animations or weaponry with lots of particle effects and moving parts. Dark horizons is more focused on a western vision of what mechs would be like with most of our inspiration coming from modern day real military hardware.

Scott’s process for designing weaponry:

Scott brainstorms and comes up with a concept that he wants to pursue, he begins work and settles on a basic design.
Scott will take it to the rest of the team to get design feedback, he works closely with the artists trying to give the weapons and other art continuity. Scott will discuss the concept and function of the weapon with the lead artist. Scott will use the feedback from his colleagues to refine the design and eventually create a final product.

The process may seem simple but it can be quite complex and require many iterations before the everyone is happy with the final product. For example, The lead artist and Scott had to design versions of the port turret, requiring a great deal of interaction before they came to a decision on the look and animation.

port turretturret animation

As far back as I can remember I have always being obsessed with weapons. How the function and what their role on the battle field is. As I got older my passion for weapons turned to the future of weapons and mechs and let’s face it, that’s the way the we are heading. Being in and around military families and playing games like MW2 and Chrome Hounds just to name a few fueled the fire. Add in my experience of drafting, mechanical design, and being a former architectural model maker and it is a perfect fit for DHMC. Being on the DHMC design team lets me fulfill a passion of creating futuristic weapons as well as using them to wreak havoc on the battlefield.

Check out some of the side-by-side comparisons!

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To join the conversation hit the forums:
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DHMC @ GDX Edmonton

This year we have had the opportunity to show DHMC off at local game development conferences (such as COSI – Game Masters Series, and GDX Edmonton), as well as trade shows and games events such as K Days and ReplayFX. The benefit of demoing DHMC at these events are immense. Not only does it allow us to show DHMC to new sets of eyes who might not be aware of it (after all Indie teams such as ourselves do not have much in the way of marketing budgets to promote our games), but we are also able to show off “in development” content that we haven’t put live, and most importantly we can gather feedback first hand as we witness and interact with totally new players trying it out the game for the first time.

While we totally appreciate all of the great feedback that our community does for us here on Steam, there is something uniquely special about being able to watch people play a game that you have made and see the immense smile on their faces from the enjoyment that they get from playing DHMC. Some of the best examples of this that we witness are when parents and their children sit down and play DHMC together at these shows and get to experience the game together (sometimes at the same screen if the child is very young, but often they would play at different stations at a networked setup we have had at these shows).

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Obviously having hundreds of people a day check out DHMC and potentially creating new fans is a huge boon for us, however what is most valuable towards the future development of DHMC comes through our observations and interactions with these players (either online through forums like Steam, or in person at these shows). This, combined with analytics data, allows us to get a clearer idea of where our “pain points” are and what we need to do more of to craft DHMC to be a better experience right out of the box.

Some of you might be curious what type of information a casual player shares with us. Here are some snippets of the data that we collected from the last event we were at.

 

 

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As you can guess people really want customization in DHMC with the majority wanting at bare minimum what we have now in the game, and many asking for even more levels of customization beyond that. This is something that we have talked about at internal meetings, but we feel is certainly worth more discussion from the community as a whole.

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We were a bit surprised by this level of feedback, as we would have expected players to want more unique controllers. But it looks to be that keyboard and mouse are still the dominant input controls that people want.

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Not a lot of hatred here for the 3rd person controls, although interestingly enough we didn’t get any feedback on whether the cameras were too close to the mechs (something that we have sometimes internally discussed at our meetings).

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In this question sample, we were somewhat surprised to find out that people at these shows didn’t even bother to look to see if there was a 1st person camera option, but that is likely the difference between a “casual” player who just picked up the game, and a hard core stompy bot mech fan.

 

So what does this all mean? Well it means these live events are important for us to attend (obviously) but it also tells us that we have been going the right direction with DHMC, and that we also have to go further in that direction to deliver more of the experience that players want to see in DHMC.

If you have an opportunity to see DHMC at an event near you (or really any other independently created game), please stop by and let us know what you think. If you don’t get the chance to see us live that is okay too. What is important to us is that we interact with players and learn your thoughts and feelings (both positive and negative) about the game so that we can craft better experiences. We are also appreciative of your input and thank you for being fans of DHMC.

 

GET DARK HORIZONS MECHANIZED CORPS ON STEAM NOW!

Logan “Lfoz”

Art director

Max Gaming Studios

DHMC @ Game Masters (Columbus, Oh)

On June 18 Max Gaming came to COSI (center of science and Industry) to show off Dark Horizons: Mechanized Corps! COSI is having a exhibition called Game Masters that shows games throughout the years including bios of famous game developers including concept art and game design documents. If you’re in central Ohio go check it out! COSI was looking for local game developers to join the exhibition and to get some hands on feedback on the unreleased version of DHMC, we happily agreed.

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On site where Jillian (Community manager) and Steve (Designer and programmer), and before they could finish setting up- there was a crowd of people gathering excited to see  the game especially after seeing it was a Mech game. Once everything was open it was a consistent stream of people sitting down to try out the latest build. This was a very exciting day for us, as it was the first time anyone outside of the development team that had played and reacted to the game in its new engine.

The players mostly consisted of parents with their children. Lots of the dads nostalgic and commenting on how they haven’t played a mech game for a decade. Even though the build is still in alpha, everyone who played it had a great time fighting against our new AI opponents.

20160618_134343There was a lot of people who signed up for a chance to win copies of the game and are ready to jump into action again. Overall it was a fun show and we’re glad to get new fans and to people loving the game as much as us.

Stay tuned for more upcoming insight into the next release….

To join the conversation hit the forums:

http://steamcommunity.com/app/266470/discussions

 

To keep up to date join the official game group:

http://steamcommunity.com/games/dhmc

DHMC Dev Diary 5/23/16 – AI Update

The original AI in DHMC was structured in a way that made things difficult to make it smarter and harder to predict. We decided a full rewrite of the AI was in order to address these issues.

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We have chosen to use a couple of approaches to fix these issues. The first issue causing difficulty in the live implementation is the overall structure of the coding, which was very difficult and time consuming to implement new features. This has been replaced by something called a behavior tree. Behavior trees allow you to break up the AI into tasks, for instance a task to go from where the AI is standing to a position on the map somewhere. Then from there you can build a tree structure based on logic nodes and these tasks to create the AI. Not only does this allow for easy addition of new tasks the AI can perform, but it also simplifies making multiple types of AI (patrol, sentry, etc.) The other benefit this provides is we can create simplified trees that do certain things to test the parts before testing the whole tree.

The other issue of predictability we are working on is to create a maneuver system. You could think of this like plays in football. Basically the AI chooses a strategy when engaging in combat like a circle maneuver where it circles the target while firing at them. By creating a lot of these maneuvers for the AI to choose from, it can make the AI less predictable vs the current AI in live which always uses the same tactics.

These things form the basis for a simple AI like we had before, but gives the ability to add on more complex things like squad based AI. We will have more footage and information in a later update on the AI system, but I will leave you with a screenshot of the AI firing at other AI.

To join the conversation hit the forums:
http://steamcommunity.com/app/266470/discussions

To keep up to date join the official game group:
http://steamcommunity.com/games/dhmc

DHMC Dev Diary 5/2/2016

Hot off the presses of our last update, the team wanted to share some info and screenshots of the new mech appearance and customization.  We have been working to revamp the look of the mechs with a new material setup and some texture tweaks.  Bare metal and damaged paint should now look much more convincing, and the mechs as a whole have a more battle-worn feel to them.

 

CustomizationDemo2

Additionally, customization is now back in full swing, with the ability to change primary and secondary color (including alpha), as well as camo once more.  The way camo is handled has also been changed to better bring out the true color of the mechs.  Our next step will be to reimplement grunge using some new shader techniques, and tweaking the decals so they better blend in with the underlying armor of the mechs.  As promised here are a few shots of the new changes in the hanger:

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CustomizationDemo3

 

To join the conversation hit the forums:
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DHMC DEV Diary 4/10/16

The next Dev Video Diary is still coming but we wanted to do a normal dev diary for a status update today. We are in the process of finishing up a first build for the new patch to release in the beta channel for testing and feedback. We are working on a rewrite of the AI in the game, polishing up the first 3 levels available, polishing up the UI, polishing up the weapons/equipment, and ironing out any major bugs.

This first release will allow you the players to try out the new patch in a pre-release state as well as provide feedback to us. It also helps us find major bugs we missed out on our systems as well as better testing on linux and mac clients.

We took the game to GDC 2016 and it was received well by those who saw the new patch content. We are excited to release it to you guys as well as soon as we can. We however do not have a release date for it yet, but will update with more information once we get closer to release.

That is it for the update today, if you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments section. We will end this post with some updated screenshots of the game in Ubuntu Linux.

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To join the conversation hit the forums:
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DHMC DEV Video Diary 3/11/16

The staff thought we would start doing something a bit different with our update posts going forward in 2016. This first DEV video diary is a bit longer than we will be shooting for in the future, but since we have been heads down since the end of the year there was alot to catch you up on.

NEXT TIME……

Review of new weapons FX and some more detail around how single play and multi-player campaigns will co-exist in the Faction Wars system.

To join the conversation hit the forums:
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To keep up to date join the official game group:
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DHMC Dev Diary 12/22/2015

First and foremost the team wants to wish everyone a happy holidays and thank you again for your continued support. That said we have a few updates we would like to share with you on the state of development.

Winter Sale! DHMC is on sale during the Steam Winter Sale.

Upcoming update – We will be posting an update sometime this week to the current live version of DHMC. This update will be solely focused on adding some more single player scenarios to the current game as well as a slight update to the 1st missions.

The update to the 1st mission adds an additional success criteria to the mission. After destroying the Radar array the player will also need to travel to an extraction point in order to successfully complete the mission.

The team will post more detailed update information the day it is released.

Road to next major update – The team is continuing its major update/upgrade of the game and is making great progress. The hope is to share this progress with you in a playable version in the first of of 2016 when we will be moving from an alpha state into a beta state of the game.

Among the changes we have talked about in previous posts to movement, animation and physics of the mech we are also working on upping our visuals in all facets of the game. Below are a few pictures on new things to come in the first part of next year.

To join the conversation hit the forums:
http://steamcommunity.com/app/266470/discussions

To keep up to date join the official game group:
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UPDATED animated mech hanger

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NEW – Ambient battles action (Above is a battleship battle)

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NEW – updated urban gameplay environments. Improved visual, improved navigation.

DHMC Dev Diary 8/28/15

Been a very busy month behind the scenes for the team as we work on more Contract missions, internal redesign of how SP and MP will converge to fuel the Faction Wars campaign and some major updates to the games graphics and animations.

We are not ready yet to share the vision that the players have help shape for SP and MP, but we are at a point with some of the new updates to the game graphics, animations and physics.

No more floating mechs!

One legacy issue, we pulled in from Aftermath, was that it was built on a platform made for FPS and lacked the ability to do cool things like IK (Inverse kinematics). We are now in process of implementing IK which is being combined with our animations. This is a big change that will really affect the way the chassis moves and reacts to the environment, including giving them a much more sense of weight.

Example 1 (Viper standing on uneven ground)
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(above is old vs new)

Example 2 (Abolisher)
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As you can see the feet and legs of the mech chassis now conforms to the ground instead of floating above the ground. This may seem like a simple thing, but in our next Dev Dairy we will share some video and these changes will become very apparent in how the mechs move.

Higher Fidelity environments

Another part of what we are working on are higher fidelity environments. This includes more detail to the terrain and the objects in the levels, along with larger environments more similar in size to the Arctic Battlefield.

Speaking of that battlefield, here is a shot with the new terrain which really bring to life the feel of being in more of a glacier type environment.

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Other larger environments are in the works
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Coming next

The above changes are still a bit away from being released, and in the next Dev Diary we will share all the some more of the behind the scenes happenings. Coming in the near term we are focusing on providing more SP contract missions and improvements to current MP missions.

Look for a game update coming soon……

Next Dev Diary will coming in about a week! Look at for shots of the work we are doing behind the scenes, and we will also share with you the player inspired re-envisioning of Faction Wars!

To join the conversation hit the forums:
http://steamcommunity.com/app/266470/discussions

To keep up to date join the official game group:
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DHMC – State of Live Development 6/26/15

Where we’ve been

We launched in July of last year, and started development on the Steam project a bit over a year ago once we received Greenlight support. The game was based off a project that we had started developing on and off in 2010, but since we launched on Steam, players have been seeing a game being build pretty much from the ground up.

Doing Live development was not new to us, but this was the first time we started it so early in the process and we have to say that it has been very rewarding for the team. Though we have had a couple moments where we have been slow to get new updates, the response we have gotten both positive and constructive criticism is exactly what we were hoping.

The Present

We have the core game elements now functional for our Faction Wars system, including base mission mechanics, economy system, mech customization system, persistent balance of power map, squad management systems and our core mech functionality, and basic AI functionality.

The game has come a long way, but we know that some of the systems are still rough (i.e. Mech movement, AI functionality for SP and online support, and visual fidelity). So for our next part of the journey and to live up to expectations set by ourselves and all those whom have and continue to support us we are taking steps to improve in these areas.

The Road map

Though we are not putting dates on the roadmap at this time, we can tell you we are already working on several of these items. As we get close to implementation we will be sharing details.

– Updated AI systems and Single Player
— The current AI system is receiving updates in the next couple patches to make SP and MP games involving AI bots a more competitive experience.
— We will be updating to a new AI system that allows us to bring to the game a more compelling SP experience, along with bolster AI support of Faction Wars missions.
– Engine updates
— Updates to visual Fidelity to bring in line with modern game engines
— Physics and animation system updates
— Updates to hit detection
– New Gameplay modes for MP and SP missions
– New customization’s
— New equipment pieces (repair bots, ammo stations, radar jammers, etc…)
— New ammo system allowing you to purchase ammo per weapon
— New torso and legs combos
– Cross platform support. We will still be pushing a Linux branch client out that does not support the Steam overlay. As we work toward updating our visual fidelity and adding more AAA features we will be working also toward a fully functional Linux and then Mac Client.

The Team

Many do not know that Max Gaming is a fully functional game studio whom has been part of development of well over 50 titles across mobile and PC games over the last decade. We are mainly funding development of DHMC ourselves with help from EarlyAccess. With the focus now shifting to bringing more Polish to all aspects of the game we have been able to add more resources.

Outside of adding a couple more programmers and a art resource, we have also asked one of our long time community members to join as to help with the community. We would like to welcome DeMyztikX to the team, whom will be helping us get the word out, be the point person on setting up community events and available to answer question on the forums.

You should still expect updates to the game every 2-4 weeks, and we will be ramping up our community and public relations output over the next couple months.

To join the conversation hit the forums:
http://steamcommunity.com/app/266470/discussions

To keep up to date join the official game group:
http://steamcommunity.com/games/dhmc

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