JULY 12TH UPDATE - DEAD MATTER

Hey there folks. It’s that time again where we settle in for another update. For this one, we wanted to touch on something a little different than we have in the past. We’ve seem many of the same questions coming up from our community over the last little while about 0.7.0, the currently planned direction of the game, and other future development. While we’ve attempted to answer these questions as they’ve come up, they’ve been repeated enough times that it’s clear that we need to provide a direct source of information to our community that helps to answer these questions. We know this can’t possibly answer every question people have about development, but this should help those with some of these common questions.

With that little introduction out of the way, lets get into the meat and potatoes of this update and clear a few things up.

WHEN IS 0.7.0 COMING OUT?

As of now, we currently have no public release date for 0.7.0.

Previous updates to Dead Matter were planned to take an overly-aggressive approach to getting new versions of the CA out to our backers, and while we had the best of intentions with this approach, it ended up hurting us in the longer run since we weren’t able to properly address issues between patches. Often the issues that those playing the CA considered the most important weren’t all that easy to fix, and attempting to temporarily fix them with stop-gap solutions often only left us with a mire of other issues to fix for later updates. This approach was not sustainable.

For 0.7.0, we’re taking the necessary time to ensure that we’ve fixed these issues, and brought the CA up to standard. While we understand that having this level of uncertainty hanging in the air is frustrating, we need to take this time to ensure that we’re producing the content that you expect of us.

WHY HAS IT BEEN SO LONG SINCE THE LAST VLOG/WHEN IS THE NEXT VLOG?

The preparation for a vlog takes a lot of effort on our part. We like to ensure that we’re providing genuinely useful information to our community in these updates, and also doing so at a standard that we deem acceptable. Prior to our work on 0.7.0, much of our focus was spent on our poorly-informed attempts to push out updates as fast as possible - this left us unable to properly produce any other kinds of update, and put us in a position where we were often just making stopgap fixes to stopgap fixes to keep things functioning correctly. After some careful re-evaluation of our development practices, and the start of development of 0.7.0, as informed by this re-evaluation, we’ve been extremely busy trying to get the game up to par. We just weren’t really in a position where we really wanted to be creating high-effort showcase content of that kind when we could instead be focusing our efforts on actually fixing things and ensuring that Dead Matter is where it needs to be as a game.

The good news, however, is that we’re beginning to approach a place where work on a vlog is again a viable option for us. While we’re not ready to announce a release date for this, it’s coming. Planning has been in place for what will be present in this vlog, and given the scope of the changes present in 0.7.0, it should be fairly hefty.

HOW BIG ARE THE CHANGES YOU’RE MAKING TO THE WORLD FOR 0.7.0?

As big as can be.

The entire world, as present in 0.6.0, should be considered to be ‘dead and gone.’ That map had an absolute mess of issues - from problems with performance, to issues with not meeting our standards for design or gameplay mechanic integration. With this said, however, we do need to note that we’re not throwing out everything we’ve previously had. While many new things have been created, and many, many more have been tweaked or changed quite significantly, there’s still quite a few things that we’ve always had that won’t be going away any time soon. Overall, those playing the CA should expect to find an experience that will be incredibly new to them when they first try 0.7.0.

IS THE WORLD GOING TO BE SMALLER TO HELP WITH PERFORMANCE?

No.

While it may seem like something of a paradox, many of the issues we were seeing with hitching and poor performance were not caused by the world being too big, but instead by the world being too small. Our world was extremely choked, which resulted in things not being able to stream in or out properly. These changes to the worldspace we’ve been making over the last while alleviate this issue, and have the knock-on impact of helping to make many of our other game mechanics have far more value.

WHY ARE YOU WORKING ON THE WORLD/ASSETS/MECHANICS WHEN THE GAME RUNS LIKE TRASH?

Because often these things were contributing to the game running poorly.

The very world present in 0.6.0 was contributing to the poor performance of Dead Matter. The results of decisions made many months ago have come back to haunt us over time. Many poor choices made with our codebase, the layout of our world, and even with our art assets themselves have contributed to the performance issues present in 0.6.0. A big part of this new patch is auditing this content, and identifying where the problem items are. As many of those individuals who made those choices are no longer with our team, this has left us in a position where we need to take our time and be incredibly cautious as we move forward with this patch. While this has resulted in 0.7.0 taking longer than any other patch we’ve released for Dead Matter, it has also resulted in a ton of changes and improvements to performance.

Either way, performance and changes to the content of the game are rarely mutually exclusive, and these changes are not just being made for the sake of making changes.

HOW MANY CHANGES SHOULD WE EXPECT IN 0.7.0?

It’s a touch hard to say right now, but we can offer some loose comparisons based upon our last update. 0.6.0 had 139 individual items listed in its changelog, including fixes, changes, and additions. These were made over the course of a little under 5 months.

At the current date, 0.7.0 has been under development for around three months. In this time, the changelog for 0.6.0 sits at around triple the number of changes, fixes, and additions, and still will be seeing significant work before we release it. 0.7.0 is going to be the single biggest update to the CA, period, and in many ways is going to be a fundamentally different experience.

WILL THE INFECTED BE IMPROVED FOR 0.7.0?

Yes.


During the time we’ve spent working on 0.7.0, we’ve been taking as much feedback as possible from our CA userbase as possible to see where people feel there are issues with the infected, as well as taking a good chunk of time to identify our own issues with how they play and feel. We’re still working on the changes we need to make to get them operating how they should, but once things with them have crystalized, we’ll have a proper update talking about the changes we’re making in-depth so that you can all understand what will be coming with 0.7.0’s infected.

WHAT’S ALL THIS TALK ABOUT QUESTS?

Something that has always been core to our intended experience for Dead Matter is having a world that feels more alive than some other survival games. While other players are fantastic companions in the game world, between the fact that we wish to offer up an interesting and compelling single player mode, as well as set in place the framework for emergent experiences caused by player experiences with the game world.

A big part of this is the inclusion of NPCs. For the launch of the closed alpha, we targeted a basic implementation of the NPC systems we needed, with plans to expand upon them. As part of the code audit we’ve made, we’ve had to revisit the systems we’ve had in place for our NPCs, and as we’ve been cleaning up and fixing some of the problems with them, this has included work on the quest system we had in place for them.

Quests are closely tied to the dialogue systems used by our NPCs, and as we’ve fixed them up we’ve ended up making a number of improvements to the systems available for our quest designers, as well as made them far easier to actually work with. As a result, for 0.7.0 we’ll be doing far more in the way of quest content, and the changes we’ve been making to our world design pipeline have resulted in more of our locations being built to support quest content far more readily. Aside from the inclusion of quest content given by NPCs, this will also mean that finding things such as keycards to access locations will no longer be an overcomplicated slog.

A knock-on benefit of this is that many of our previous systems that were related in some way to quests or ‘scripted’ situations have also been vastly simplified, both making them easier to work with and make use of in the game world, as well as allowing them to have a far lesser impact on performance than the previous iteration of this system.

I HEARD SOMETHING ABOUT CLAIMING BUILDINGS BEING REMOVED, WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?

Claiming of buildings is not being removed from the game.

The claim system used in previous versions of Dead Matter had a ton of issues. It was a nightmare for our staff to maintain, relied on a ton of systems that added unnecessary complexity to the act of actually adding new buildable objects to the game, and was incredibly unclear to players how it’s intended to be used. We’ve been moving forward with a new system that should be far more easy to work with for both our players and staff, and will mean that once it’s fully in place will be significantly faster for us to add new content to in future updates.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO [FEATURE X]? IT WASN’T IN THE CA AT LAUNCH.

It’s no secret that the CA had issues, and it’s not really feasible for us to go into detail about the individual causes for various features being put on hold or removed before the launch of the CA. However, this is not a permanent change to things. Features such as placeable ladders or the electrical network are still going to be present in the game. However, our focus is on ensuring they actually work well and have a net positive impact on the game when added. A handful of these older systems will be making their way back into the game over the next few updates as we are able to prioritize them for development, and the work done by the code team to better standardize our system for various actor types will ensure that we’re able to more rapidly bring back these older features in a more functional manner.

WHY DO YOU KEEP TALKING ABOUT MAKING THINGS LOOK BETTER? PERFORMANCE IS MORE IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW.

Performance is our single biggest concern, and has been the driving force behind the work we’ve been doing on our various assets. However, often the changes we’re making are doing more than improving performance.

The simple fact of the matter is that we don’t wish to compromise visual fidelity for the sake of eking out more performance, in generally this isn’t something that really needs to be done. Often when changes are made to assets such as our vehicles, these are made for the sake of improving performance and reducing system overhead. Luckily for us, however, this is often caused by performance losses caused by assets not being configured properly in one manner or another. By fixing these issues, we’ve often been able to improve performance while at the same time making our assets look better as a result.

WHY ARE YOU WORKING ON NEW ASSETS? THINGS RUN BAD RIGHT NOW, THAT’S WHAT YOU REALLY SHOULD BE FOCUSING ON FOR THIS PATCH, RIGHT?

Performance is our primary concern, over everything else.

However, at the same time, many of our staff members do not work in disciplines that can really actively contribute to making the game run better. Many artists have a specialized skillset that leave them unable to help much with improving performance (and even then, some of them have stepped up to learn skillsets that have allowed them to contribute to this.) However, at the end of the day, not everybody can work on these tasks. Since our staff can’t just sit around all day doing nothing, they instead have been tasked with contributing to creating new assets that we’re able to slot in as time allows. While our primary focus for 0.7.0 remains getting the game up to par, we also need to plan for the future development of the game, and having these assets ready in the wings for 0.8.0 and beyond will allow us to have bigger, more meaningful content additions in future updates of the game.

WHEN IS THE GAME ENTERING EARLY ACCESS? I’VE HEARD IT WAS 2021, BUT ALSO 2022?

We are targeting 2022 for Dead Matter to enter Early Access.

While 2021 was our original goal, the simple fact of the matter is that the CA does not reflect what we want the game to be in Early Access - this likely comes as no surprise. 0.7.0 is meant as a major course correction, but it will not be the final leg of the journey by any stretch of the imagination. We have a lot more we want to do with the game before it enters EA, and want to make sure we have time to take on the feedback from our CA userbase to ensure that we’re hitting the mark from everybody’s point of view.

WRAPPING UP

This last week has been another busy one for us. QIS has been continuing to grow over the course of the last few weeks, which has been very exciting, and their contributions will be key to helping to push 0.7.0 forward and hit the milestones we’ve been setting for ourselves thus far. We understand that this update might not entirely be what folks are looking for, but with the number of repeat questions we’ve been seeing over the last little while, we’ve really wanted to ensure that we help to keep everybody on the same page, and ensure that these sources of confusion are no longer present.

Tune in next week, where we’ll get back to some more regular update content! Until then, as always, thanks to all of you for your ongoing support.