We are listening. We know the last Status Report has started some heated discussion about DayZ. I'm gonna do my best and touch upon multiple subjects you guys have pointed out and make sure your questions don't go unanswered. But first, I also want to celebrate a little bit, because today is the day that we updated the Experimental branch with what will become the first BETA update. The update itself contains multiple features and tons of content. Just to name the headliners: all new base building, a new implementation of vehicles, player restraining, leaning and more. I'm excited about this first step to a more polished gameplay experience with more endgame goals to achieve.
Farewell 0.62, 0.63 is Fully Taking the Reigns
Not only have we hit Experimental today, but tomorrow, we want to open another floodgate. Since we're no longer working on old technology, the 0.62 version is now becoming a legacy to look back at and learn from. We believe we are past the point where 0.62 is a good first entry into the world of DayZ. So tomorrow, we will be going through a clean-up in our Steam back-end and shuffle things around a bit.
The current 0.63 will be moving to the default branch (what we call the Stable branch, as in the first thing that installs when you click on DayZ in Steam, and a version that most if not all community servers will run). 0.62, then, will be moved to its own "legacy branch" for future reference. This will make sure that players coming back in will get in touch with the new version of DayZ, and won't be facing a situation where they start up a game and can't join almost any server due to version difference. That way, we can focus on what the future of DayZ should be and we will deliver updates straight to you.
Experimental and Stress Test Branches should not see much use for the rest of the year, and will be deprecated until we get to a point they are once again needed. Our goal right now is to focus on addressing issues you guys have been reporting, and on making DayZ fun for our core player base.
With this change, we will release one more thing for you guys to play around with: DayZ modding tools. Yes it's happening!
While they can definitely be considered Experimental, your early feedback on the tool set can help us shape the future of the DayZ platform and game alike. Tools will be available as a free download on Steam and will be also supported by our new DayZ Launcher to organize your DayZ experience. The launcher (familiar to those of you who tried Arma 3) will be useful not only to work with mods, but also for work with startup parameters, server and tools after the tools package stabilizes a bit. With the DayZ tools release, we will be opening the Steam Workshop for you guys to share your creations in an easier way, accessible in one central place.
TLDR; if nothing goes majorly wrong, 0.63 is moving to Stable tomorrow, and we begin our BETA development - the march towards a stable 1.0 release.
Plans for the Upcoming Weeks
With 0.63 on the Stable Branch, and community server owners updating their servers with all these new features we introduced, I wanted to touch on few more things that are about to happen in the upcoming weeks, as that's certainly something you'll be very curious about.
Server Browser Changes & Update Schedule
The server browser is getting an overhaul based around a new technology that we developed together with our Online Services team. The gain with this implementation is that you'll be better able to tell if a given server is running a modified version of DayZ, and at the same time, the new implementation will make the server browser feel more aligned with rest of our UI design (which is by no means polished yet, but at least a basic direction has been set).
Related to community servers, at least for the rest of the year, we're trying to go and have a fixed schedule of weekly updates so that server owners can be ready for any upcoming game updates.
Fixing, Tweaking, and Polishing
The upcoming bugfixes and tweaks will be focused on many of your complaints over the years. We read almost everything you guys post across social media, including (especially) those comprehensive lists for 1.0, and I just want say we know these things are important to you. While features are in, their functionality is often broken. We know that's what makes or breaks a game, and now is exactly the time to get that fixed. During this period of stabilization and iteration, you'll see the game change around the details that matter. A balance pass is ahead of us, and while it's certainly not the last, it will definitely be a first one that will fix a whole lot of the inconsistencies you guys experienced over the years.
Just as an example, I'm going to use the fix of misaligned guns that is already in Experimental (caused by either using a vehicle, being in prone, or using free-look).
We're also going to go over some of the issues that bother you a lot: like hit registration problems, or changing your key binds. Let's go.
Feature and Content Freeze for BETA/1.0
With today's Experimental update, we have released a huge amount of items that were not available in-game before, and while some of their functionality might be bugged, these specific cases will be tackled in the bugfixing, polishing, and balancing push. What's in the Experimental build now is the list of items we want to hit 1.0 with, and anything else we've talked about in the past will be a post 1.0 content released as free platform updates.
The same goes for features - features that we previously had planned to deliver and are not in-game right now and are postponed after 1.0 release. We will be working on our post 1.0 plans and communicate the exact details of our efforts through official channels. One thing I can already say - I'm really looking forward to working on a stable game platform. Something we have not seen a lot (or at all) for the past 5 years.
Addressing the Current Most Pressing Issues
There are some hot topic currently resonating in the community, and I wanted to touch upon some of those in more detail. As these would make the Status Report visually even longer, we're gonna put them into a separate forums post. These are the topics covered:
- Item Renaming
- Hit Registration
- Changing Key Binds
- Bloom Post Process Effect Tweaking
- FPS Drops
There are some hot topics regarding the recent 0.63 update that are currently resonating in the community, and I wanted to touch upon some of those in more detail. These are some of the most common issues that were currently seeing reported, and our answers to them:
Those of you playing on the Stress Test branch have probably noticed that we have renamed a large number of items in-game. All of the changes were done after a meticulous consultation with our legal department, and the sole reason why we did this was to avoid any liability in the future. I know some of you have delved into details of it, and I can't answer every single question or doubt you have about specific item names now, but one thing is certain: we need to stay within the law, and while there certainly is space for more creativity in some item names, we need to push forward the changes because of the game localization. We might look into item names again once post 1.0, but nothing can change now.
This issue has multiple causes and patterns to it and it's not a single problem. A bullet can deal no damage in certain situations while still actually be considered a hit at the same time due to how armor and damage interact. The server may then think that there are no bullets to be shot because the state of the weapon (or even state of a magazine, fire mode and more) has been desynced. Often, when we get feedback reports, we are lacking the detail needed to identify what exactly has caused the hit registration problem. Sometimes, people just miss. Other times, we just don't know the events that lead to the registration problem.
Having said that, we have been able to reproduce a number of these issues, and the Experimental build has those fixes applied. We are still tracking at least two more ways to encounter the issue. One has a cause in networking and is more apparent on community servers with increased player numbers (over 60 players). While we want to support higher player counts, this will require further optimizations. The other hit registration issue we're tracking is related to the shotgun, and only happening with that weapon specifically.
Changing Key Binds in the Settings Screen
One of the most important modules in any multiplayer game besides the player controller is the input module of our engine. For the better part of this year, we've worked on delivering a new, reworked input module. We needed something that's easily moddable, scriptable and most importantly, something that opens up more possibilities than the old system. This transition had us cut the UI for key-binds because the new UI wasn't compatible with the old input module, and now, when we actually do use the new input module already, we're waiting for the UI to be fully connected to it.
While regrettable, it was a decision that had to be made, and we simply had to push the changes even without full UI support, as the input module is a necessary component for other changes in the game. That said, our goal is to deliver the UI for key-binds as soon as possible - right now, this is blocked by the work on the server browser, and as soon as we've got that part of UI sorted, we'll move right onto key-binds.
In the meantime, and I'm not saying its something I'm particularly happy about, you can use the configuration file where the key-binds are stored - we'll try to help you explain how to work with that on the forums.
Bloom Post Process Effect Tweaking
This is certainly one of the hot topics. While we agree that the game has some lighting issues, these are not caused by bloom, but by the simulation of exposure in the human eye and effects associated with it. In fact, we are using very little bloom and it has been significantly decreased over the course of development. The issue we believe is described by many of you is on our radar, and once we have a good solution we will definitely do something about it.
It has been some time since the new renderer has been implemented. It seems we are encountering some FPS issues again and I just want to reassure you these have always been our top priority. If you are affected by these, I recommend you to reach out to us through the Feedback Tracker with details of your PC build, drivers version, and operating system to make sure things work as intended.
Now to an elephant in the room that has to be talked about in a proper manner. Previously, I have said that I want to write up my thoughts after talking to you guys on various channels and criticism that has ensued after the last Status Report. Here it is.
Why go for a 1.0 release this year?
There were two choices here, either we miss our 1.0 deadline, or we miss content parity. Both are bad no matter how we look at it. I seriously believe for the health of DayZ as a brand, as a game, we have to move in a direction of stable and reliable gameplay. The core DayZ features are already in the game now, and the devil is in the details. We have to make sure those core features work as they should first and foremost. Not only are you missing out on some really cool things in the game because the current implementation of features is simply broken - additionally, we also we have to deal with development on a game platform that is simply not stable enough for us to continue without loosing our minds.
Making a new weapon on a game that crashes or stops shooting bullets every day due to low level changes is not fun for us either. We know that this step is not only important for the game, but also for the team here. While we might have put on a version number 0.64 and just continue development as many of you have suggested, we have to start working with deadlines properly and be prepared to prioritize. We could have spent years polishing and adding to what DayZ is, but to do so, we need to start planning better and that requires a platform where estimations on complexity can be relied upon. That is not the case right now. While we agree that content variety is extremely important to DayZ, we can improve upon that that post 1.0. And the same comes with features like helicopters. We are not abandoning DayZ. We're taking a deep breath, we're taking a look back with the aim to properly plan out building on a platform that is fun to develop for.
Can you really have a polished, stable 1.0 version of DayZ by the end of the year? There's not much time left.
Yes, unless we believed that, we wouldn't have chosen the option to hit the deadline. There is about a month of real development left, and hopefully some you have noticed we have started fixing some really pressing issues in DayZ over the last week as we shuffled our priorities. And that is what deadlines do. They make you think twice about what is really important. While there are large numbers of issues left, only about 600 of them are crucial to make DayZ work as intended. We plan to do exactly that. Fix features, stabilize the game and make it enjoyable after being weighed down by bugs for a very long time.
Are you pressured from the Bohemia management to go for the release?
There is pressure of course, that's a natural part of game development. We've just spent five years in Early Access. That said, Bohemia Interactive is a privately owned company under no pressure from external investors. It is our decision to meet our deadline, and there are no business people standing behind our backs forcing us to do it. Bohemia is a family of like-minded people who want to make games without publishers calling the shots. It's also one of the core reasons why Bohemia still self-publishes its own games, and generally does things on its own. While we may not be perfect, our players, our community, our games are still very clearly different from the rest of the industry.
Why not just continue in BETA after stabilizing the game, and not avoid "slapping" a 1.0 on a game that's not "feature/content complete"?
Because if we were to do every single thing that was ever conceived/thought of/casually mentioned for DayZ, we would not be able to exit Early Access even next year. In development, especially if you work with new technology, there is no proper way to do estimates. You just do them based on your past experiences with different technologies. This a super complex topic and we were unable, and effectively failed to predict the amount of time some these things would take on the new engine. While the possibilities with our own technology are endless in theory, we just can't hit content/features that we wanted or wished for in the time we set for ourselves. That said, we know that the game is going to be tons of fun even when some of your favorite features and content are missing now.
Is there any team restructuring going on after the 1.0 release? Are DayZ developers going to be assigned to other teams at Bohemia?
No, we are keeping the same resources as we had this year for the year ahead. To be precise, it's 86 people working on DayZ right now.
What are your plans for development after BETA? When can we see the remaining features being implemented?
As mentioned previously, we want to properly plan out content and features for next year, and focus on timely delivery by having a stable platform that we can build upon. One of the top priorities will definitely be weapons and content variety. As for features implemented post 1.0, we will share more information once the whole team agrees on what exactly we can and will deliver. DayZ is our dream game and we want to make it the best possible experience for developers and players alike.
- Eugen Harton / Lead Producer