One More Update Before The Big Day

Hello!

We’re pushing out an update with a bunch of small fixes and tweaks today, but really big news is that Sir’s single player mode will hit v1.0 on May 1st. This, therefore, is the final patch of our Early Access period. Oh yes, it’s the end of a long road.

There will still be a few things to come after v1.0, as well as ongoing fixes and support, including multiplayer (no, no date on that yet, we’ve still got a way to go!) and also a customisation patch that will allow you mess with the game generation in-menu, rather than just in the back-end XML files. But we’ll get to those later!

For now, the big message of this latest update is: help us bug hunt!

We need as many people as possible to pile in, find problems, share logfiles, and help us get this game into the best shape it can be. There’s a bunch of changes up today, including major performance improvements. Go and try it out!

Changes

- NEW – End sequence and credits. The closing voice-over and credit page now play before you get to your stats.

- NEW – Tooltips on all items, plus roll-over instructions for inventory slots.

- NEW – Fragment counter in inventory revamped to show fragment count per island, plus current location.

- NEW – State indicators for bleeding, trapped, and starving.

- Changed some textures and vegetation detail on Rural biome.

- Major optimisation pass, up to 30% performance increase on some machines.

Fixes

- Walters’ voice clips now no longer wait for each other to finish (so you don’t miss any!)

- Toy train can no longer fly into the sky on cliffs/slopes.

- Opening inventory or map with control no longer conflicts with mouse and keyboard controls.

- Landowner gets stuck less frequently.

- Background music levels fixed.

- Ruins stonework lightened.

- Bog creature sounds don’t last too long.

- Flashlight no longer appears to be made of stone.

Spring Joy: The March Castle Biome Update!

[Note: This is live on Steam now, and will appear on Humble later this evening.]

Today’s update adds a new environment type, our fifth and final. As we promised way back in the mists of Kickstarter, we now have a biome type for each of the islands: Rural, fens, industrial, mountains and castle. The castle biome places a huge ruined tourist attraction across one part of the map – a familiar sight for people who live in certain parts of the UK!

Behold a video:

As such this update represents the marvelous conclusion of the major content updates for the alpha. We have another patch coming up to rejig some biome elements and add an end sequence, but this nevertheless delivers all the single-player content we’d planned and promised during our initial fund-raiser. It’s a fine feeling to have come this far. But it is far from over! We need your feedback to continue the great dance of balancing and bug-stomping. So let us know what you find, over on the forums.

Changes

- NEW – The Castle Biome (New island option in world creation.)
- NEW – Soundtrack (Related audio slider in game options.)
- NEW – Menu scenes including the world’s greatest menu pheasant.
- Scarecrow pathing reworked.
- Landowner collider altered to improve pathing.
- Squire audio altered to reflect movement.

Fixes

- Z-fighting on buildings and rock formations. (OMG!)
- Slagheaps no longer have paths over them in Industrial biomes.
- Fixed mesh combination at World Generation.
- Fixed information window and V/O playing on fire use.
- Pub sign taller to avoid collision with landscape and scenery.
- FOV pop on binocular equipping.
- Controller reworked in all menu situations.
- Fixed erroneous mouse inputs during menu use.
- Seabeast particle effect errors fixed.
- No more crashes on rider death.

It’s The February Update (And he’s here!)

Hello you!

The new build is out now on Steam, and will be available this evening on Humble.

Well, it’s the end of an era. For many months we’ve been releasing a new NPC with each update and now – finally – the cast of Sir is complete: meet The Landowner.

This update is a huge internal milestone for us as it represents the last piece of new behavioural code, the last set of animations, the last character to enter our procedurally generated world. We still have more content to come in the form of the Castle Biome, but the vast bulk of Sir’s assets are now complete.

Why is this important? Because it means we’ve had time to really start tinkering with the variables!

This update has seen some really tight focus on core AI behaviour, most noticeably in the Hunters – our most behaviourally-complex AI. You should see big improvements to Hunter combat behaviour, the way they handle cover and corners, but also to their non-combat states. Several improvements were made to the way AI investigate noise and as such distraction items should be more reliable and more rigorously investigated. Our robots have also had their eyes recalibrated, the ranges they will engage and pursue you from should feel much fairer now. That’s not to say we’ve made things easier. There is – of course – the new threat of the Landowner. But the new AI code changes can actually make the bots tougher in some situations, more tricksy.

There are also some new features to play with! The Toy Train now has a secondary “Moving” function mode (as with all items, “Right Mouse” to activate secondary functions) allowing you to set it trundling off in a particular direction rather than remaining static on a track. This can be a great way to lead robots away from – or into – certain areas. Cue conga-lines of robots chasing tooting trains…

Following the successful response to last-update’s TrackIR support we’ve also added a key for independent head-movement just using a key modifier. If you hold down “Left Alt” (default) you can now look around while continuing to move in a different direction. It’s like TrackIR, without TrackIR!

There are also some under-the-hood things for modder/tweaker types to play with which we’ll talk about more in the BR forums if you’re interested…

All in all this release feels great. The cast is complete. They’re starting to behave properly, and we only have one biome and customisation options to go before we’re content complete and we can start calling this a beta…

As always feedback on the forums is very gratefully received. Enjoy!

IMPORTANT NOTES:

We recommend you generate a new world to take advantage of new features. Also: stuff might break on old saves.

Changes

- NEW – Landowner NPC.

- NEW – Support for controllers in menus (still not inventories yet, soon!)

- NEW – Free-Look key modifier. Holding “Left Alt” (by default) will allow you move your head independently from the body, simulating TrackIR use for those without that hardware. Only works if TrackIR not running or toggled on.

- Toy Train now has “Moving” mode as well as “Static” (Right Mouse default).

- Improved AI combat behaviour (especially corners and cover management).

- Improved balance for AI vision and pursuit.

- Several improvements to AI noise investigation States. Should result in more reliable

distraction and sound investigation.

- Changed the way AI glimpse-state works so bots no longer spot players unfairly due to heightened aggro state from recent inter-bot combat.

- Changed destination pathing solution for all AI. Bots will no longer want to visit places they can’t path to…

- Changed the way bots decide to guard doors. Should result in less over-guarded buildings.

- Exposed robot release schedule to xml file. See BR forums for editing advice…

- Faster bunnies.

- Performance: New audio lodding system should boost FPS.

- Increased Wisp numbers slightly. Use them!

- Faster dogs.

- Sundry loot balance tweaks

- Sundry AI variables tweaked.

Fixes

- Added option to limit FPS to prevent some hardware configurations running too fast.

- Volumes now applied correctly in menu screen.

- UI on/off toggle fro screenies now turns off crosshair too…

- Compass bearing now relative to head camera (so is in-synch with look direction, not aim direction).

- Fixed several scenery items that weren’t blocking path grid properly.

- Fixed some movement issues with Hares.

- Fixed animation issue with sea beast.

- Adjusted perimeter walls for some buildings to fix pathing bottlenecks.

- Fixed some issues with scarecrow teleporting.

- Fixed an issue where quitting immediately after generating a world lost your starting equipment.

Permutation Racer

More Sir news coming next week, but before that we have a beautiful diversion for you. This is a procedural generation prototype from Tom’s library of magic, which he finished off over Christmas. It looks a little like this:

Pretties!
It’s called Permutation Racer. It’s free.

Download for OSX.

Download for Windows.

[Please feel free to circulate those links to anyone who might enjoy it.]

In Permutation Racer you race against the clock to reach checkpoints, collecting stars (you can jump, don’t forget) and avoiding barriers or red spikes. Because it’s all mathematically generated, every track is different. This is just a prototype, so it’s very simple, but we think you’ll enjoy it. You might even recognise some of the procedural geometries from other images we’ve posted from our Lodestone project.

Let us know what you think, report bugs, and post screenshots of your high scores, over on the forums.

Here’s a video:

The Sir, You Are Being Hunted Alpha Is Now Open To All

Hello there!

You can buy it on Steam or Humble Store on our front page.

Sir’s alpha build has arrived for all, and Kickstarter (and Paypal) backers can now get their builds of the game over at Humble Store. Steam keys will be available through Humble store just as soon as we can sort that out. (Soon!)

PLEASE NOTE: This is not the final build. We’re aiming for monthly updates from here, until it’s done, but you can jump in and play and let us know what you think.

KS BACKERS: Getting the game is very simple. Go to https://www.humblebundle.com/store/keyresender and enter the email you used to back the game, either for your Kickstarter login, or your Paypal account. Login details will then be emailed to you.

Any problems, you can hit the forum: http://www.big-robot.com/forum/

Physical rewards have also started to ship this week, so backers of higher tiers can expect some goodies soon.

The grimoire and soundtrack are going to arrive a bit further into this alpha, as we generate more material for the game.

Love you!

Why Can’t I Enter The Buildings In Sir?

This is the question we get asked most frequently, so we thought we’d answer it in some detail.

Firstly, many people seem to imagine that it’s some kind of trivial oversight, as if we are going to say “gosh, yes, we hadn’t thought about that”, and then fix it. We have thought about it, of course. We think that it would be great for the player – and the robots – to be able to enter buildings. We’ve spent a lot of time examining how they might do that, and concluded that, some open and ruined structures aside, they cannot.

Here’s why.


There are two main solutions to being able to enter buildings:

- Skyrim-style instanced buildings, where the interior is essentially another space. Enter through the door and explore that space independently. This is clearly a compromise, and not ideal for an open world game. What happens to the robots chasing you? Do they just wait outside? Do you get an outdoor camera? Do they come inside? It rapidly moves away from the kind of game we were trying to produce, as well as producing a cascade of additional design issues.

- Buildings that are entered within the world space, as in Arma II or Stalker. These can be explore seamlessly and allow you to look out into the world through the windows and doors. This is the ideal solution, and they one we would have to go for.

So we immediately discounted the instanced buildings, because they are not part of the world. They don’t allow you to hide inside and peek outside at your antagonists. They would require interiors to built, either statically, which would increase our art time and budget, or procedurally, which would increase our art time and budget as well as programming time (proc gen solutions are extremely intensive for the programmer and testers). Doing it procedurally would mean increasing the generation time for any given world enormously, too, which makes doing it like this a drag for the player. Do you increase the generation time at the start of the game by several minutes? Or create a lag on entering any building? Clearly, neither is ideal for creating a streamlined experience. If you do go for static interiors, then you have to create a large number of them so that you don’t appear to be entering the same building all the time, which again increases our art time and cost, and implementation, and testing.

The points above about creating the building procedurally also count towards the second more ideal solution, with necessary increases to procedural generation complexity and art budget. There are other questions too: do the interiors then have furniture? Where is the loot? Do we create additional 3D objects for the items, or do we create secondary loot containers inside the buildings, rather than the doors as per the current system? Solutions like those in Arma 2 are great, but they add several large burdens to development, not least of which is cost.

If we did decide we had the time and budget to go with that second system – and let me be very clear when I say that we do not have the resources, we are a three-man team with a small Kickstarter budget, and I still had to work another job for the whole of development – there’s another problem, too, which is that we’d have to introduce another complex level of detail structuring system to deal with the increased geometry load from the villages. These areas are already very intensive, even with a bunch of low poly models, and when we’re throwing this many polygons at the screen we start to lose slower machines entirely. The performance hit would be significant, and the polycounts of the buildings would skyrocket. Given that this was supposed to be a lo-fi game about British countryside we’re suddenly spending huge amounts of resources – computational and developmental – on one problem that is solved by saying “you can’t enter the buildings”.

So that’s what we said.

Oh, and then there’s the issue of having to build every model in such a way as to allow the robots to enter the buildings – or redesigning pathfinding entirely. The system that procedurally places a navmesh onto the world can’t cope with interiors, so we’d be looking at yet another solution that needs to be designed and programmed. More time. More resources, and another hit to the game’s performance.

It can be done. Yes, it can be done – other games have done it. But we, Big Robot, the guys making Sir, You Are Being Hunted before the money runs out, cannot do it.

Of course there are structures you can still enter in Sir – ruins, pole barns, and so on – but the interiors of the intact, British-style houses we would need to sell the “British” ideal were simply out of reach. And this is really important: we could have removed buildings entirely. We could have made it so that there was just forest and countryside, but part of the high concept of the game was Britishness, and we couldn’t get that across in the way that we wanted without British villages. And granted, we do lose something by not solving this issue – the capacity to explore and hide inside buildings – but since the point of the game was running across open countryside, rather than poking about in urban spaces, we were happy with that concessions. Lots of games do building interiors and urban environments well, but we do open, thematically-coherent countryside well. That was our goal, and we totally nailed it.

Yeah, I am bound to be a bit out of sorts when addressing this problem, so I apologise for that. It’s somewhat exasperating for us to create a procedural generation engine unlike anything else ever made, to have made Herculean efforts to produce a first-person stealth game with a huge range of weapons and equipment, to implement an AI system more complex than what generally appears in first-person games, and still be told that we’re lacking because the player has to use the buildings as loot stashes rather than Wendy houses.

We’re gamers too, of course. We can see the ideal game you all have in your minds. We’d love to have been able to deliver it, but the part about entering buildings is missing.

I hope you can understand why.

Most importantly: once you play the game, that concern will drop away. The game works, and players get along with the systems we’ve created just fine. Trust us, and wait for August 19th.