The Signal From Tölva’s Pretty Things: Aka A Treatise on McQuevian Hand-Painted Texturing Automation (Sort Of)

[This post is by our lead art happener, Olly Skillman-Wilson.]

Firstly, perhaps, watch this video:

What follows is an expanded take on what we touch on in that video. If that sounds good, read on!

Tölva’s world and tone are exciting for a number of reasons – lasers, exploding robots, unfathomable space mystery and the phrase “combat archaeology”, to mention but a few – but here we’re going to talk about how we crafted that rich, screenshot-friendly visual style. We will try and understand the majesty of Mr Ian McQue’s concept art, learn the fundamentals of ‘splattery precision’ and some other made up terminology, as well as comprehending the beauty of a clean normal map bake or efficient UV layout. You know you’re in deep when you can appreciate UVs. We intend to go deep(ish).

So… Defining the look of Tölva was a process of looking at our inspirations and influences and breaking them down into their constituent parts. This way we could take what made a certain look ‘work’, and begin to create a process that we could apply to a variety of assets while maintaining consistency with one another as well as looking appealing in isolation. This meant taking Ian McQue’s sketches and paintings and finding common shapes, colours, types of brush stroke, silhouettes, and starting to form a “McQuevian language”.

Often robots, vehicles, or ships, were chunky with lots of rectangular protrusions breaking up their silhouettes. Layering of details was important, with colour often going from darker to lighter as the layers got closer to the exterior. Angles were often a few degrees off being parallel with each other but still consisting of straight lines, rarely curved. The dumpier a spaceship, the thinner it’s aerials and wires: contrast from form.

We could use these style guidelines to judge how well something would fit in the world, and how close it was to the source. I’d sometimes create reference boards using a tool called Kuadro, a convenient way of laying out image files on the desktop and storing their scale and position in a file. I’d be conferring with Jim at various stages throughout an asset’s creation- he would direct the design, and mine his extensive and tasteful tumblr image library, or doodle thumbnails to illustrate specific requirements. Interpreting sketches from one angle and turning them into 3D geometry has been a particular challenge for me on this project, but following these guidelines, and practicing this approach has enabled me to get better at it through the course of the project.

The first step towards actually making something, once reference was set up, was blocking out a 3D form in Maya using simple primitives and keeping things low detail. Often if this stage went well the geometry could be reused for the final low polygon asset. Then I’d take this base mesh into zBrush and play with the shapes, maybe add things that were more awkward to create in Maya. If I was feeling really fancy, I might do a paintover.



Sculpting, Detailing, Baking

Once something is starting to feel like a strong design I can start to commit to adding details, again referring to the guidelines as I bevel edges, chamfer corners, and smooth any (rare) curved surfaces. Then come surface details that will be baked down into the normal map such as wires, nuts and bolts, screws, handles, cutlines. It’s easy and enjoyable to go overboard at this point and fill every surface with greebly goodness but any artist will tell you that the eye needs space to rest. Not only are you looking for space to rest within this asset, but often you will need to look at the game as a whole and decide whole assets need to act as rest points devoid of any noisy detail, in making up the composition of the world.

At this stage I’m also starting to break up edges with wear and tear and damage where seems appropriate, this is one of the most satisfying parts- chipping away and scratching up clean surfaces requires little moment to moment decision making and I can let this almost therapeutic activity absorb my attention. It’s important to split objects as I go into logical groupings based on their material types, I will use these later to bake a material ID map which is essential to the texturing process.

One of the of the recurring aspects of creating such a mechanical world is designing (relatively) convincing joints, paneling, and other robotic goodness. It was important to spend enough time look at machined parts or engines so that I could start to internalise where a cut line might occur, which panels needed screws, how a curved edge might be carved out of a larger piece. Manufacturing is often about starting with a form and reducing it from there, and the same approach works really well when sculpting.

Then comes a series of steps that are dull but very necessary to getting a clean bake but once that’s done I can move onto texturing. A tight UV layout, good smoothing groups on your low polygon model, and a precise cage mesh all aid in a clean bake.

Generating an Automated McQue Texture process
Or: How to Hand Paint Textures, Without Using Your Hands.

Good modelling is essential and a stunning texture won’t save a bad model, but texturing drives a lot of Tölva’s look and helps distinguish it from other games. It’s also what was most clearly imitable from the concepts. We were fortunate enough to be given access to the list of secret brushes that Mr McQue utilises most frequently and to such effect, and using these able to create an automated process that streamlined the texturing of hundreds of assets. We essentially created a system where I fed in my sculpts and a McQuevian texture was churned out for me to tweak and finesse. This worked by taking the right brushes in Photoshop and creating a tiling pattern with each, attempting to recreate a certain type of stroke or scribble that could be found in any given concept piece. With these ‘master strokes’ I could tile relatively convincing McQuvian patterns across a surface, tinting its colour, and using the pattern to break up the edges of masks in Photoshop. Daub, dash, splatter, speckle, spray, smear, squiggle, strokes, crosshatch, and grainy swirl would become my best friends over the next 2 years. Grainy swirl was great for organic or noisy surfaces like mud or concrete, while crosshatch had a natural galvanized metal flakes look. Each pattern came into its own as I built a library of reusable materials from these tiling patterns.

The tool tying all this together was the Quixel Suite’s dDo, a Photoshop based texturing tool aimed at primarily at creating PBR materials very quickly, which we had employed for our own nefarious aims. Feeding the sculpt data from the bake (tangent and object normals, ambient occlusion, material ID, gradient, sometimes a height map) dDo could tell me where edges were, crevices, what was at the top of the mesh, what was only facing down or upwards. The amount granularity in terms of how you define the masking of a material is very powerful, and once I’ve made decisions about where a material should be confined to I can apply that as a preset to any other asset. “Here’s my paintedMetalC material, it will have chips and scratches on the edges, sunbleach on the top, water damage on the undersides, and some lichen in the crevices.”



Material ID, edge mask, pattern mask.

I found the simplest way to structure a texture was to have a form layer at the top that brightened upward facing surfaces, and conversely darkened downward facing surfaces, with an edge brightening layer to accentuate the objects natural shape. Our ambient light in-engine is a single colour and so baking in some subtle lighting data helped objects have some shape even when in total shadow. Next, a weathering layer that universally affects the asset. Things like dust, stains, and other environmental effects go here. Beneath this all the materials are applied to their corresponding material IDs from the high polygon sculpt bake.

From this point I’ll start to work in overlaid scanned details from the dDo library, these won’t affect the diffuse channel very much (deliberately), but will add some physically based detail and reflectance values. The materials that make up Tölva and it’s inhabitants are 90% diffuse covered and 10% specular, meaning they are largely matte looking surfaces with bits chipped away to reveal the metal beneath. McQue’s style has very little exposed steel, or polished chrome and there is no glossy plastic, so I tried hard to match that. More on the PBR side of things later.

Once materials are assigned to the whole texture there’ll be a lot of tweaking of the tiling pattern’s intensity, colour, size. Material specific details will also go on, like rust that only affects metals. Then in some cases I’ll add bespoke hand painted details like glyphs, diagrams, or bits of weathering that only appear where there’s a pipe or something and that can’t be defined by the automated process. But this is the only part of texturing where I’ll actually paint a specific detail onto a specific part of the texture, everything else is controlled by dDo and my masking.


Bandit, zealot, and scavenger colour schemes

The colours we use are often collections analogous colours making up 60% of an asset, then it might have a darker or more saturated variant covering another 30%, and then remaining 10% has a bright or rich accent colour. Usually the best way to get a decent start with this is to colour pick directly from a concept and go from there, can’t get more accurate than that. As we got further into the project certain palettes would mean different things to me about where they were in the world and who created them, making decisions about colour schemes much easier.

Once all this is done I can save individual materials as presets, or entire documents to be reused on similar assets, this is largely what facilitated us in getting the texturing done as a efficiently as possible.

Implementation: Make Everything Modular

Being able to cannibalise existing assets for reuse is an invaluable tool when you’re trying to squeeze as much variation into the world as possible without burdening your VRAM usage further. The mileage you can get from an asset is often surprising in terms of reimagining it for other purposes. If you model things with discrete watertight intersecting meshes rather than combining everything and deleting interior faces, you can at any point split these out and reassemble them into a new variation of that asset.

This is probably obvious to veteran game artists but was something I was often in two minds about at the start of production, modularity vs bespoke detail. The other thing to bear in mind with this approach is baking with your meshes well exploded so occlusion data doesn’t interfere with neighbouring meshes, preventing you from reusing that one piece in a prominent place because it has a massive shadow across one side of it. Meshes can be merged using boolean operations to merge intersecting meshes and create totally new shapes, which we did to create cliff faces comprising multiple rotated cliffs into one uber cliff.

Creating asset kits is a common technique in games utilised particularly well by the Bethesda teams. Tölva has less of a need for complicated interconnecting architecture but we were still able to get some use out of concrete piece kits that we made to build more industrial areas, and kits of damaged spaceship to decorate the space wreck debris that litters the world. Creating these kits for the environment team (er, Jim) took a sizeable amount of the art dev time. Another example of this kit-based approach are the weapons attachments, all modelled as separate items that could be rearranged and mixed together to create weapon variants.

Working in the sizeable world of Tölva meant pushing a lot of geometry onto the screen at any one time. Occlusion culling and culling regions far from the player helped alleviate some of this but ultimately we were going to have to create level of detail meshes for a lot of polygon heavy, or frequently used assets. This is a fairly simple process and its amazing what you can get away with when an object is at distance.

Expanding the look with Shaders

I have no programming skill or experience to speak of, but I found fairly quickly I was being limited by my ability to create simple shaders to achieve effects commonplace in games and desirable within our sci-fi aesthetic. Unity plugin Shader Forge became my go-to tool for solving these problems, it’s a node based shader writing solution that is approachable but still crammed with maths terminology most artists have never heard of. Using this I was able to assemble and visualise shaders that had pulsing lights, tinted a material based on ID maps, did weird things with transparency, or just layered textures based on normal direction. This saved me using up precious programmer time – Tom was full time on the project, and Dan part-time, so their brain cycles were at a premium! – and gave me control over very specific parts of the look. This kind of autonomy is very precious when you work remotely and there isn’t always someone on hand for you to pester with technical queries. Being a visual scripting system it does have the downside that when it breaks, I often had no idea why, or how to fix it. These issues weren’t insurmountable but did lead to a day of debugging from our resident shader expert, Tom Betts.

I would approach materials very differently if I was starting this project from scratch tomorrow. Coming from a CG background pretty much everything is given a specific texture that uses the full UV tile, and that was pretty much my only option to get the look we wanted at the time. As my understanding of Shader Forge evolved I was able to create a sort of shader version of how my textures were set up inside dDo. I was limited to 4 masks (RGBA channels of the ID texture) plus a base layer, and I could tile and tint some of the McQue patterns within those masks. Each McQue pattern had the diffuse pattern stored in the red channel, specular in the green, and gloss in the blue.This allowed me to get good resolution on textures for assets that were 5, 10, 100 metres long. The ID and normal maps were still limited by resolution but the tiling worked very well. It serves well as a halfway house between a 1:1 mapped texture and tiling materials, but lacks the subtlety and detail of a 1:1 or the variation and fidelity of having a library of materials applied to submeshes.

Terrain texturing

Our initial approach to terrain textures was to treat them as purely two dimensional, abstract patterns. As the style developed it became clear we were going to need something a bit fancier to fit the aesthetic, especially given the fact that terrain filled the majority of the frame a lot of the time. I began sculpting tiling terrain materials in zBrush, creating quick sculpts that could be exported to Unity quickly to test tiling, detail, and blending between layers. It was important to use detail meshes like small pebbles and shards of rock that already existed to tie the textures to actual 3D props sitting on the terrain. This was the first organic thing I’d had to sculpt that wasn’t a rock or cliff and the soft shapes weren’t fitting the style at all. The solution ended up being to reduce the polygon count of the sculpt using zBrush’s decimation tool to create a more faceted organic surface. Feeding this through dDo and using existing material presets was pretty straight forward. The height map was used by the RTP terrain setup to cleverly blend layers together based on depth, creating a much more pleasing blend that a simple fade.


Lighting/Rendering/Post Processing

PBR or physically based rendering has become a buzzword and marketing tool as it’s adoption has spread, symbolising a graphical upgrade over traditional game rendering. Mwoar detail mwoar realism mwoar immersion. Much as I love all those things it’s most important contribution from the artist’s perspective is having a controlled environment within which to work where you can create a material and have it react to light in a predictable manner, not only between scenes and lighting setups in the game engine, but also between software packages.

Having this predictability is even more useful when your game has a full day night cycle and is going to appear in all sorts of lighting conditions. Even if your game isn’t crammed with brushed metal and lacquered pine (highly reflective surfaces being a sure sign of a game trying very hard to get the most of its PBR) it can still massively benefit from a physical approach. Having a nice fresnel falloff on a largely diffuse material makes every object lit at a glancing angle look fantastic, materials are energy conserving so nothing washes out in a way that just appears like a white value being clamped.

McQue’s paintings have naturalistic quality to their lighting, this is ideal for PBR. His colour palettes have a fairly limited range, there are few bright whites or really dark blacks, much like real world albedo colour values. This allows a PBR lighting model to really shine without being overpowered or limited by overly saturated or contrasting texture colour values. PBR is not a style, it’s a tool. You can push your look in a number of directions with colour correction, lighting, and post processing- but you are starting from a well calibrated, stable, neutral position that is easy to control. Using PBR also means you can draw on nearly 200 years of photographic knowledge. Exposure, tone-mapping, HDR, colour correction, bloom, lens flare, chromatic aberration, depth of field, vignette: these are all techniques that have either been part of photography and film for a long time, or are simulating things that a lens does naturally. Also use linear colour space everyone, it has been VFX industry standard for forever, there’s no reason not to.

Having this linear colour space PBR setup means we are generating accurate colour values in the render that, after tonemapping, exceed the screen’s full brightness value. They are brighter than white, this is what makes the render high dynamic range. We use these values on our light emitting (emissive) materials particularly to trigger a bloom effect, but also to illuminate any dirt or scratches on the lens you’re viewing the game through.

Nothing says sci-fi like bright blinking lights!

Transmission 2016: A Signal From Big Robot

Hello, you.

Yes, we’ve been quiet for a long, long time. Some people have even asked if Big Robot is even still a thing! Well, it is. And here’s what we’ve been up to.

We feel like we could leave at it that, but we know some of you will want to know more. So let’s explain what this is all about, and a little about how we got to where we are now.

So What Is It?

We’re making an open-world shooter in a science-fiction setting of our own devising. That’s The Signal From Tölva. If you enjoy rich sci-fi atmospherics and free-roaming game worlds then we think you’ll understand what we’re doing here. It’s a dynamic game of exploration, territory control and robo-combat, with an open-ended story running through the whole thing.

The signal of the title is a mysterious emanation from the planet you are exploring – Tölva itself – and uncovering exactly where it has come from, and why, is at the heart of the game. That said, there’s a modern sci-fi twist in our fiction, because you (whatever you may be) aren’t actually there on the surface of the planet. You’ve remotely hijacked a Surveyor, a humanoid drone already on the planet’s surface, and when that chassis inevitably meets a violent end, you’ll simply connect to another. Remote control, via an interplanetary network. That has implications for both how the game plays, and what the story says.

Anyway, science-fictional acrobatics aside, we think you’ll enjoy both the intense firefights and just standing on a hillside watching alien birds glide by. You’ll be investigating anomalous signals from glitchy abandoned bunkers and scavenging materials from mysteriously wrecked spacecraft. We’ve talked in the past about making a game out of those old sci-fi paperback covers or prog rock album covers, and this is that, only with all the open-world autonomy stuff we’ve always been so interested in. We’ll talk more about the development process that got us to this point in a later blog post.

That World…

Isn’t procedurally generated this time, nope. We employed a few procedural and generative elements in the creation of the environment, but this time we built the world itself by hand. So many hours of work! But, ultimately, this hand-crafted approach delivers a quite a different feel and end result from the procedural fields of Sir, You Are Being Hunted, /and/ gave us a seamless map four times the size of a Sir island. We’re enormously pleased with the change of pace.

What To Expect

The Signal From Tölva is an open-ended shooter, an action game, and a canvas for exploration. The two big things are: Exploration and Combat. We’ve sunk all our resources into making those two things come alive. The game world is driven by Ai activity that decides where our robots will go, and what they will decide to do. Bots will head out from bunkers to survey crash sites or attack neighbouring bunkers or guard locations. Territory control battles kick off dynamically, with patrolling AI squads skirmishing against each other and taking control of a series of brutalist locations across the planet’s craggy valleys. Battles erupt with or without the player’s intervention, and their consequences can change the course of play by clearing ambushes and capturing or losing vital bunkers that allow for respawning and re-equipping as you play.

This time, though, you’re not hiding in the long grass as those automatons rumble past, and instead will find yourself going in with lasers blazing (even though you will pick and choose your battles, scouting possible encounters from a distance with your binocular-vision). There are hi-tech assault rifles, concussion fields, electronic countermeasures, robot-commanding modules, and defensive plasma shields.. You unlock all these by performing a series of missions for the faction you are hacked into: and these missions, as much as the territory control, drive you across that alien landscape to explore further and fight harder.

What We Can Say About The Story

The Signal From Tölva is set in a future where AI factions have abandoned humankind and set out on obsessive quest to uncover the secrets of a long-dead civilisation. There are starships, there is an interplanetary internet, and there is something very, very wrong with the planet called Tölva.

We’ve been careful to tread lightly and default to minimalism for the story-telling in the game itself. There’s little in the way of direct exposition because we want you to figure out the puzzle for yourselves, if you want to. However, we’ve still poured plenty of of brain into fiction. We’re keenly excited to say that we’re working with the awesome Cassandra Khaw to develop a (free, to you) prologue novella, as well as to help us flesh out some background lore that we’ll be publishing alongside the game. Yeah, we’re sort of going all out on this one, and we’re thrilled about the wider backstory and game universe that we’re building. We’re just not going to swamp you in it during the game. If you want to delve, it’ll be there. And you’ll be able to delve deeply.

And A Quick Bit About That Art Style

We want to go into detail about that journey into pixels at a later date, but it’s important for us to highlight that we’ve been working with two new people to make the game look as good as it does. The first of these is an artist named Ian McQue. Some of you might have heard of the fella. He’s quite good.

Having finished up a long tenure at the mighty Rockstar (since-the-first-GTA sort of long) McQue had been doodling sci-fi stuff. In fact, it turns out that he’s one of the finest sci-fi doodlers we’ve ever encountered. We asked if he’d be interested in a collaboration that would result in some some doodling for us. To our delight and amazement he said yes.

The challenge, of course, was for us to integrate McQue’s vision with our game concept. We had been more than happy with Sir’s low-fi charms and atmospheric consistency back in 2013, but this time things had to be shinier for the sake of the sci-fi, and we couldn’t do that without some formidable full-time arting. It was appropriate and good, therefore, when former-Aardman Animation CGI cleverclogs Olly Skillman-Wilson came aboard to make the 3D stuff. He uses real fancy 3D tools, knows about AO maps and has strong opinions about different modes of anti-aliasing. He uses the word “fresnel” in general conversation. What we’re saying is that he’s basically a sorcerer. And now he’s *our* sorcerer. It’s thanks to Olly’s interpretation of McQue’s work that we developed a beautiful and consistent hand-painted art style for the game.

Science fiction has many allures, and it captures our attention with the thrill of starships and beam weapons, but it really resonates with us as developers because it offers so much freedom to create a distinct and exciting palette of ideas and scenes. Being able to reference McQue’s extraordinary visual imagination and eclectic style has given that process life that we might otherwise have struggled to bring to it. It has been both immensely challenging and deeply fulfilling to engage with top-grade concept artwork, and try and build a look and feel around it. Given the size and experience of our team, I think we’ve made a decent go of that. And Olly has played a blinder. I mean, look:

But yeah. If there’s something to say in conclusion, it’s this: we’re building you a bloody great slab of sci-fi escapism.

We think you’re going to like it.

More soon.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted Welcomes All Ladies & Gentlemen To The Hunt With Multiplayer v1.0

THE SPOOKY COUNTRYSIDE, OCTOBER 2015 – Ladies & Gentlemen, it’s time to find yourselves hand-in-hand under the shadow of a fearsome robot: resplendent survival masterpiece Sir, You Are Being Hunted has now reached v1.0 multiplayer! You no longer have to die alone.

Over three-hundred thousand Sir, You Are Being Hunted players can now enjoy the company of friends and enemies whilst being hunted to death by robots, thanks to a multiplayer client and the ability to launch dedicated servers. Multiplayer mishap was a feature promised way back in the mists of the 2012 Kickstarter, and marks the end of a splendid journey for the Big Robot team.

Lead designer James Carey explains: “Sir has always felt like a Multiplayer game in-waiting for us so it’s great to have finally made that a reality. It’s an interesting mix of coop and PvP: it might make sense to collaborate at the start of a game, but because only one person can escape at the end those alliances soon break down. It’s been fantastic to see players respond to that ambiguity during the beta test and it’s a real thrill to put those choices in the hands of the wider player base now.”

It’s important to mention that Sir, You Are Being Hunted is one of the few games to feature a networked playable trombone. So that’s cool.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted is available on Steam, Humble Store, and Gog.com.

Here’s a lovely video of multiplayer in action.

A guide to setting up and playing multiplayer can be found here.

How To Play Sir, You Are Being Hunted Multiplayer, And How To Run A Sir, You Are Being Hunted Server

Hello you!

Welcome to the SYABH Multiplayer test. Here’s your guide to getting started.

It’s important to understand that this is a work in progress version of the multiplayer aspect of Sir and as such there are plenty of bugs and missing features in the current build. As before with the single player, we’ll be updating and improving as we go. OK, you know that, on to the guide:

Step 1.
Firstly, you’ll need to opt-in to a beta branch of the game. To do this you need to locate Sir, You Are Being Hunted in your Steam Library and right click for a drop down menu. Select “Properties” at the bottom of the drop down and in the window that pops up, and then select the BETAS tab. There is a drop down for opting-in to Betas for the game here. Select “multiplayer” from the drop down. You may need to restart Steam to prompt it to begin the download of this new beta branch. Once the game has updated move on to step 2.

Step 2.
The Multiplayer Test build isn’t yet directly launchable from Steam itself. Instead you’ll have to find a “multiplayer” folder inside Sir’s Root directory and launch the executable from there. There are both 64bit and 32bit versions. Here are some ways to find those:

By path
C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\SirYouAreBeingHunted\x64\multiplayer
C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\SirYouAreBeingHunted\x86\multiplayer

or
Alternatively you can right click on the Sir listing in your Library and select the Local Files tab, then click Browse Local Files and drill down into the x64/x86 folders there.

Once Sir Multiplayer launches you’ll be presented with a menu screen similar to the Singleplayer game but with some exciting new options.

Start Server
Will open a dialogue with some server options. These are limited at the moment but will become more fleshed out in a later update. N.B. We recommend an upload speed of 200Kb/sec if you intend to run a server. Slower connections may be viable for fewer than four players.

Once you’ve given your server a name, a password (optional) and set the number of players and pieces you’d like click Start to launch a Server hosted on your machine. You’ll see a window briefly open then minimise. This is the Server. You can use this window to admin your Server or alternatively you can use in-game commands from the Client.

Connect
Will open a server browser showing all Servers currently registered with the master server. If you are running a Server it should be listed here. You can also access your Player Settings from here and Direct Connect to an IP if you wish rather than browse.

Go ahead and hit Join next to your server of choice, one of two things will happen:

- You will arrive in a Lobby for a game about to start.
- You will see the map generation screen because you are joining a game already in progress.

We’ll be making it clear in the browser whether a game is in progress of not soon but for now it’s potluck (unless you’re connecting to your own ofc!)

If you’re in a Lobby you have another chance to tailor you character (in case you want to make sure all players involved in the game look different). There is also a chat window you can use here before the game starts. Hit Ready when you’re… er… ready… When all players are Ready the game will begin.

Server Admins
The first person to connect to a Server is automatically made the Admin. Admins have certain commands available to them (which you can find below). If you are running the Server yourself the Server window can also be used to issue commands even if you yourself are not the Admin.

Admin Commands
Admins have the following commands available to them from within the game. Simply type these into the chat window (default “T” to open) to issue the command.

#New
Starts a new world

#Restart
Restarts the current world

#Lobby
Returns all players to the Lobby

#Kick Playername
Kicks Playername from the server

OK, we’re all in, now what?
Mutiplayer Test games of Sir take place on a single island with a random biome. Only one person can escape and win the game. You must return a number of Device Fragments to the Stone Circle as per the Singleplayer game but in Multiplayer the Stones are only active for certain periods of time. In other words you can only return Fragments during this active period. The stones flare like this at random intervals. You will get a warning when the Stones are about to become active, they will then remain active for 3 minutes before deactivating again. This cycle will continue until enough pieces have been returned to let one player escape. The player who drops off the last required piece will win. Remember that you can carry more than one piece at a time (if you find small pieces) so when there only a few pieces remaining it might be time to get ruthless…

You can find a running count of the number of Fragments returned and required in your Inventory window.

New Features for Multiplayer
Some things behave differently in Multiplayer compared to the Singleplayer game. Here are a few things to be aware of:

* The Stone Circle now operates on a timer (see above).
* The Scanner can now detect Fragments stashed in houses or other loot containers.
* Players Respawn on death.
* Fragments that are on Player corpses will return to their original positions when the corpse despawns.
* The Loot tables have been substantially altered for MP. Expect to find more gear than you do in SP.
* The Robot Spawn tables have been altered. At the moment there are only 3 NPC types in the MP game: Hunters, Riders and the Balloon. We are planning to add some more in future updates (though probably not the full SP compliment for reasons of balance and population).

Notes on the WIP nature of the Multiplayer Test and Known Issues (Or “What To Do If You See Something Odd.”)

The Multiplayer Test of Sir, You Are Being Hunted is a Work In Progress and as such there are many bugs left to iron out or features that are just plain missing. We would like you – our dear testers – to investigate and report these and any other bugs or issues you encounter. Here is a list of things to be aware of, it’s not at all complete…

* UI Issues – A full UI pass is needed, clashing player inventories, overlapping text and offset buttons are to be expected, as is general UI untidiness :)
* Rider issues – There are some outstanding issues with Rider behaviour.
* Balloon light – Although the Light can be shot out on Clients, the server does not recognise this action and will not pass it on to the other Clients. In short, don’t waste your ammo…
* Some flora and fauna are missing including rabbits, pheasants and wild mushrooms.
* Although functional, there are currently no visual effects for the Talismans. The invisibility talisman will make you invisible to bots but not to players, the invulnerability talisman will make you invulnerable to all but have no visual effect.
* There are no visual effects for the trombone, the binoculars or the scanner. You can still play the trombone and robots will react, but other Clients will not see it (for now! We can’t wait to have multiplayer brass bands either…).
* There is no sea beast in MP at this time. So yeah, this means you can swim off the edge of the world at the moment. It’s not at all big or clever to do this and post about it.
* Some sound issues, specifically robot beep-boops not always being played. CONFIRMED cases of this with video evidence extremely welcome.. which brings us to the next point…

BUG Reports
We want bug reports! Please post any bugs or oddities you discover in the Main Big Robot forums. We’re especially hungry for your output_logs.txt which you can find in the “sir_Data” folder inside the root Sir directory on Windows or in “~/Library/Logs/Unity/Player.log” on mac. Screenshots and video footage of bugs is especially welcome.

We look forward to seeing you all on the servers! Oh, and do be careful…

It’s The 1.1 Patch! The One With World Customisation In!

Hello, all!

Today we’re serving up the 1.1 patch for you all, which fixes a bunch of minor issues but also adds a custom biome and a global robot manager.

The robot manager allows you to select global values for how enemies appear in the world, which should allow you to make it harder or easier as you prefer. You can even remove all hostile NPCs from the world (the pheasants and rabbits stay!) and consequently add a “Walking Simulator” mention to our Steam tags…

The custom biome means that you can create some non-standard worlds that go way beyond what the five standard biomes allow. You can switch that on in Game Options. But wait! We know that the first thing you’ll do is make the maddest worlds you can, so it’s important to stress that the permutations this world generator provides are so extreme that they might make teleporter fragments inaccessible to you, which means there’s a chance the crazier levels can’t be completed.

If you don’t want to risk that for a proper playthrough, then stick to the standard templates or spend some time experimenting with a myriad of valid worlds. If you’re happy just to see what you can make, however, that’s what the custom biome is for. Remember that with the robot manager you can also now tour these worlds in safety. There’s even a world code function in Game Options so you can share your creations with others. (Paste these codes in the Custom biome editing screen to get that exact world!)

Here’s a video to explain more:

Changes

- NEW: Custom Biome (activated in Game Options.)
- NEW: Global robot spawn manager.
- NEW: Added graphics option to disable God Rays.
- NEW: Colour picker for robot visors (Colour blindness support).
- Robot step height tweaked.
- Fences no longer appear over seriously sloped terrain.

Fixes

- Audio-based distraction of robots now more reliable.
- Robots can no longer spawn inside pylons.
- Shots Fired stat now accurate.
- Starting gear item count now matches menu list.

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.

The January Update Is Here

Hello you!

Firstly, sorry it’s taken a bit longer that usual to get this update out. (It’s on Steam right now, and Humble builds will appear this evening.) The Christmas break didn’t help, but mostly the delay is due to a massive overhaul of the animation system. The fruits of this are quite subtle, but you will notice it in terms of less jerky transitions between certain animation states, or a subtle slowing-to-stop of the bots. The system is now far more reliable and robust for pathing. It also needed to be done to implement the new NPC, The Rider.

These mounted toff-bots enjoy toasting your unhealth with a blast from their mount’s leg-jets. Crispy!

Less dramatically, we’ve got a new audio levels system, reworked NPC release schedules, tweaks to combat, sticker explosives, braver ravens not to mention independent head-movement with TrackIR support (PLEASE NOTE: 32-bit ONLY). Here’s a video of TrackIR working, with a glimpse of The Rider in-game:

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

IMPORTANT NOTES:
This update will break your saves.

Changes

* NEW -Enemy type: The Rider.
* NEW – Support for independent head movement with TrackIR. (PLEASE NOTE: 32-bit ONLY)
* NEW – Group-based volume system. You can now set volumes for various things separately (Turn down robot beep-boops, hush Mr. Walters, your butler etc etc).
* Controller Enable/Disable toggle. Off by default. Should also prevent false inputs causing incorrect movement.
* Complete reworking of the animation systems for all bots. Results in smoother transitions between states and smoother, more reliable movements between pathing nodes.
* NEW – Added ability to clear markers from the map. Mouseover a marker to reveal delete option.
* Leaning distance increased.
* Revised release schedule for NPCs. Different types of NPC will now be released based on number of pieces returned OR time spent in world. Whichever comes first…
* Reduced required number of fragments for escape to 17 (note: this will be configurable in t he final game!).
* Ravens have become acclimatised to Robot footsteps. No more Raven/Robot s pooked/investigate-loop love-ins at village centres…
* Dynamite 100% stickier. Less likely to skid along the ground for ages, easier to hit what you threw it at.
* Dynamite explosion radius increased.
* Moved FOV slider to Game Options. Now works realtime (can see changes without having to exit menu).
* Reduced the chance to bleed.
* Tweaked some combat variables for Hunters because a bugfix (see reloading issue below) resulted in changed behaviour in combat. Feedback on new combat feel with Hunters welcomed.
* Various loot distribution tweaks.

Fixes
Fixed an issue where poacher could get stuck in Idle.
Fixed an issue where squires could get stuck on the spot.
Fixed incorrect angle of shotgun on Hunters.
Fixed issue where using the Sex Toggle could break your profession button…
Fixed issue where robot blather loops could be turned off permanently (would lead to stealth-bots!)
Fixed several cases where bots guarding the doors on some buildings could get stuck.
Fixed an issue where the dog pinning sequence could flicker wildly.
Fixed issue where the mouse could become frozen on the death screen.
Fixed issue where using an item while dying could freeze the game and also ruin that save.
Fixed an issue where death while menu open could break the fall-to-ground.
Fixed an issue with bot barks between glimpse-state and Attack playing at the incorrect times.
Fixed an issue where the Axe could get stuck at weird angles when swapping equipment.
Fixed a serious issue with bot reloading logic. Robots could sometimes have more (or less) rounds that they should, resulted in either extra shots (surprise!) or no shots at all (in inter-bot combat this could even result in endless posturing without a single shot being fired).