It’s been a really busy two months here at Shy Snake. We have made a few adjustments to the development of Spy DNA which we think will make for a better game. The big change is we have moved from Unreal to Lumberyard game engine. This also created an opportunity to make a few other smaller changes to the game.

We decided to move to Lumberyard because it allows us to make much more dynamic maps. Unlike other engines it doesn’t require us to pre-bake lighting to get good quality lighting on the maps. This frees us up to procedurally generate maps, allowing for a greater replay value and much more variety in missions. It also allows us to change the maps on the fly in response to player actions. This means a more destructible world. 

We are mostly complete with the port of the game code to Lumberyard. AI is the last major piece left to do. At this point the UI is mostly complete, the game logic code is ported, animations are working, and we integrated the articy code for the dialog system. We are still on the same schedule as previously announced with a public demo / early access, possibly as early as December, but for sure in Q1 2017.

Animation is another area that was impacted by the change. We are switching from in-place animation to root-motion animation. What this means for the players is the characters should move in much more realistic ways. The characters’ feet should slip far less. Also we added start, stop, and turn animations so the beginning of movements will look a lot better. 

The transition required us to re-import all of our art assets. We took this as an opportunity to replace our character models with higher quality models. To do this we switched character creation tools and are now using iClone Character Creator. 

Same character created in Autodesk Character Generator on the left and iClone Character Creator on the right.

Same character created in Autodesk Character Generator on the left and iClone Character Creator on the right.

Now that we have worked with Lumberyard for almost two months, we have learned a lot about it. If fits very well with our code base. As we have settled in the level of productivity on our game, code is settling at a higher level that we achieved with Unreal. This means we will be able to put more effort into building a good AI for you, the player. 

Now it’s not been all positive. On the art side things are going a bit more slowly. Lumberyard is an editor in transition which has created some overhead for us in making maps. In part this is offset by switching many maps to procedural generation. However, it will be a bit before we can show you the before / after of the player base. Yes, even though we can now procedurally generate maps, we can also still hand-generate them. 

We will have much more on this going forward. I believe the engine transition will allow us to ship a game which is more in line with what our players expect. It allows us to generate a much larger variety of maps, allows you to have a larger impact on the map in terms of being able to destroy objects, and allows us to invest more heavily in AI making the gameplay more interesting.