GDEX 2016 Recap – DHMC

The weekend of October 29th we had a great opportunity to partake in the local game development exposition TheGDEX at COSI in Columbus, Ohio. For us, it was an chance to get a lot more people in front of our new version of Dark Horizons : Mechanized Corps (DHMC) for some play testing. Shows like this really gives us a great insight into where we are with the product and how well it plays for players experienced with the geand newcomers a like.

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Many of the attendees that we spoke to had remembered playing a lot of the old school Mech games of the past, and were excited to see a new entry in the genre. Even speaking to the younger crowd that have not had a chance to play a Mech game before, the impression that we have come back with is that they are pretty excited about our game and what we were trying to do. Feeling their enthusiasm is refreshing to hear and really gives a sense that, yes there is still a market for mech combat simulators.

It should be noted that the version of the game we demo’d at TheGDEX was an early Alpha build that contains several new features and enhancements  and is not the same version that is currently live on Steam Early Access. As many of you know from our past posts, we have been revamping the entire game (art and code) to bring the visual quality up to where we expect today’s games to be, and to add in some cool gameplay ideas and features. Our hope with demoing at TheGDEX was  to get a feel for where we are with the new version, start laying the groundwork for planning on a BETA release on Steam to let those of you who already own the live game a chance to help us play test and be more involved with the process.

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Overall we thought the feedback that we received was phenomenal. The biggest compliments that we received were with the new art and environments that we had available to play (we had 3 new levels in this build for TheGDEX). People also loved many of the features that we already have in the live version that is currently up on Steam right now, such as Mech customization and opportunities for strategic gameplay. Overall though to our team, the biggest and most telling set of feedback that we got was that people had fun playing the game, despite many features not being fully implemented yet.

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So where do we go from here? Now that we have a solid pool of feedback, we are back in the office and getting back to work so that we can get a  BETA release on Steam in the near future. We have a long list of bugs we compiled during the show and have already fixed the major ones we ran into. The goal for BETA 1 is to ensure that the game is at a similar state from a functionality standpoint as the current live version on Steam. Then we can begin optimizing, fixing issues found in BETA, and begin implementing many new features that we want to put in the game, including implementing a tutorial system to help players that are new to the Mech genre get into the game and succeeding faster.

Internally we are aiming to release a BETA version of this new overhaul to the game onto Steam in January 2017! So keep an eye out for some additional information as we get closer to the end of the year.

As always our team would like to thank each of you for continuing to support us and being patient while we go through this long process of updating and enhancing DHMC (much of which requires some core system and engine upgrades) . We hope that o you will be proud and excited for the work we have put into it and will understand the amount of work and effort that we have done over the past number of months. It is always a challenge for a small team to put together a game of this magnitude and we couldn’t do so without your help.

Thanks from the Max Gaming crew!

 

For more news follow us on twitter @mgtgames (twitter.com/mgtgames)

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 UPDATE – Gameplay footage 9/29/16

Over the last couple months we have been showing the Alpha version of the next major release at small shows and festivals to get feedback and some play testing.

We also have shared screen shots and various notes from those shows and now we wanted to share with you some in-game video of our latest internal build.

This video shows new environments, gameplay against improved AI for the persistent campaign system and some new visuals.

Whats next?

At the end of October we will be attending a larger conference in Columbus, Ohio call The GDEX (www.thegdex.com). At the conference we will be making some announcement, including projected date for this new version of the game to hit Steam as a beta.

For more news follow us on twitter @mgtgames (twitter.com/mgtgames)

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 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

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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.

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

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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.

 

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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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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:
http://steamcommunity.com/games/dhmc

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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.

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