Undead Blackout Updated To Version 1.5

It is almost Christmas and just in time for remembering that baby that got born in that book that one time, Undead Blackout is receiving another update! Also (and obviously more importantly) in time for the Steam Winter Sale! There are quite a few significant changes to be found in the list below including fixing some horrendous bugs that made it through last time round so without further ado…

Patch Notes

 

1. Finally Steam Achievements have made it into Undead Blackout, there are 20 of them for the time being but chances are I will add in some more at a later date. The full list can be found within Steam

2. The opening of Redfield Manor never quite felt right to me so this has been totally changed, the Bronze key is now found in a shed or nearby clearing down the side of the Manor, you can no longer actually get round to the back of the Manor before going into the building itself.

As well as the start of the level, changes have been made to the end of the level. Instead of going into that little shed thing, the entrance to the Sewers is now through a tunnel in the cliffs. This is an entirely new area of the level and obviously not accessible until you find the Gold key.

Naturally positions of weapons, ammo, health etc have all been updated as well to accommodate for the extra room. I think it flows a lot better now, hopefully you agree!

3. The Shoreside Hotel level now opens with a little stroll through the overrun city, similar to Redfield Manor this improves the overall flow of the level by spacing things out a little more. And of course more space means MORE ZOMBIES! 

4. Zombies no longer get confused and simply stop walking when they encounter a locked door. The AI will now realise the door is locked and look for somewhere else to move to.

5. The walking and running speed of zombies has been slightly increased to raise the overall level of challenge a little. Things have been a bit too easy if you ask me.

6. The movement of the player when in AIMED mode is now much, much slower. Basically the instant kill AIMED mode will only be effective when the player has the time and space to get set and they are already vaguely aimed at the zombie. Spinning round relatively quickly and picking zombies off one by one is no longer doable. Sorry.

7. The Docks have been increased in size, the first two locations now contain an extra warehouse! Again, changes have also been made to where ammo and everything spawns to make better use of the space.

8. There is now a pathway through the Jarvis Prison courtyard area to allow players to quickly make their way to the nearest doors, plus I have fenced off the football pitch area in order to make the whole thing look better. Oh and it might be worth trying to score a goal if you haven’t done so before…

9. Permanent Ammo and Health locations have been added to all levels. The respawn locations are all the same but this now means that there are spots in the level where one health pack or ammo crate will always spawn but only once per level. These are more hidden than the one’s that respawn to seek them out.

10. The City Sewers have had a number of visual additions such as dripping water and cables but the main thing is that the final Gold Gate has been moved to the start of the tunnel so the player doesn’t wander all the way up it only to find they need a key.

11. Changing weapons now triggers a nice little Audio cue.

12. Increased the brightness from gunflashes

13. When using a controller, Weapon Change has been reverted to Left and Right on the D-Pad as opposed to Up and Down.

14. The volume of player footsteps has been increased. Literally couldn’t hear it before.

15. Fixed a bug where the player would no longer be able to switch weapons when playing with a controller once they pause and unpause the game.

16. Fixed a bug which occurred when a player completed a level and moved onto the next one, the game would think you already had all the keys so you could simply go and unlock any door you wanted. Not anymore though!

 

You Wait Ages For One Update The Two Come Along At Once (Kinda)

That’s right, patch 1.4 is very shortly releasing for Undead Blackout, this is much less of an overhaul and more a case fine tuning a few things that still needed sorting after patch 1.3. I say a few things, there are 20-something fixes, updates and changes in this patch and there will be more to come. I was hoping that Steam Achievements would be in this update but I decided to get this out quicker and then focus on achievements for 1.5. They are definitely coming though. Probably.

Patch Notes

  1. Mouse Control is massively overhauled and actually works now. The player now turns and faces the exact mouse position rather then weirdly turning in that vague direction. Also I have added Reload (Middle Mouse) and Use (Right Mouse) actions to the mouse.
  2. All doors that require a key to open now have 1-3 keys attached to the top of the door to make it quicker and easier to spot whether or not a door needs a key.
  3. Increased the number of spawn points within each level in order to get a better spread on the zombies. 
  4. Changed the order at which Zombie Spawns become active so once the player collects the Bronze Key, the Silver area begins spawning zombies etc. Changed the order that Zombie Spawn Points become ‘active’ within each level. Previously they were not activating before the player got there and so there were not many zombies wandering around, this should solve that.
  5. Additional zombies now spawn when entering a new area, this is over the regular amount of zombies found during the level and is there in order to make sure the action stays relatively constant throughout.
  6. Changed the light placed behind the character (to allow you to see them better) so that it doesn’t create a reflection on shiny surfaces.
  7. The shotgun now behaves more like a shotgun with the damage reducing the further away from the zombies that you are. It will now do a one-shot kill when pretty close to the zombies.
  8. Fixed End Of Level Zombie spawners not correctly setting zombie footstep audio on all levels.
  9. Stopped zombies from playing the “zombie moan” audio twice simultaneously when being attacked.
  10. Reduced distance before zombie self destruct kicks in. This is when a zombie wanders too far from the player and dies so that a new zombie can respawn nearer to the player.
  11. Repositioned the fire particle effect on the burning zombies so as to block the reflection from the point light on the floor.
  12. Changed How To Play menu to update as player scrolls up and down instead of needing the A button to be pressed.
  13. Fixed the Redfield Manor door not locking during Survival Mode.
  14. Stopped the door slam noise at the start of loading the Redfield Manor level.
  15. Draw distance on Redfield Manor basic door has been increased, it was disappearing too early and could be spotted by the player.
  16. Added more colour varieties to the barrels strewn about the level.
  17. Fixed incorrectly placed decals in the City Sewer level.
  18. Increased draw distance on props for the Sewers as they were just not appearing.
  19. Added additional material to second and third areas within the City Sewers level in order to give it a bit more variety.
  20. Lowered the specularity of the concrete floor in the prison, it was too shiny
  21. Renamed Riverside Hotel to Shoreside Hotel
  22. Fixed incorrectly placed zombie spawners in the Shoreside Hotel level
  23. Fixed Shoreside Hotel main door not locking during Survival Mode
  24. Changed text in Toggle Window option as it was dumb
  25. Updated all Level Loading images as I was getting bored of them.
  26. Update the Main Menu images to some trees.
  27. Updated How To Play images as previous images were now from a version that is too old.

That’s it for now. Thanks. Bye.

Undead Blackout 1.3 Is Live. Yes, We Finally Updated The Damn Thing

As detailed in our last blog post, I now have a grown up job which means I cannot spend all day sat at home playing Rocket League and occasionally working on Undead Blackout. Naturally, this has lead to something of a slow down in terms of updates to the game however patch 1.3 (which is live now!) is special as it is less of a patch and more of a complete reboot. To be honest this should be Undead Blackout 2.0 but then that just sounds like a sequel so I will stick with 1.3.

So what brought about this raft of changes? Firstly, the previous version of the game had all manner of issues with performance thanks to me being an idiot and not building it properly. Since April, when our last update came out, I have made huge efforts to understand where I went wrong and fix those issues. The remainder of this post will be highlighting what has changed, why I changed it and how it affects the game as a whole.

The core of the game has not altered much, this is not suddenly Undead Karting (oh my god I have just had a great idea), you still run around shooting zombies and collecting keys. There have been lots of tweaks under the hood to improve the gameplay as well as bigger changes to the design of the levels in order to streamline the action.

What comes next though? Well I am still working on the Xbox One version, in fact a lot of these changes have come about as a result of porting the game to console. Steam achievements are pencilled in for 1.4 as well as some aesthetic changes to the doors to make it more obvious which needs keys and which do not. There will also be further optimisation efforts across the board. Lots to crack on with then.

So without further delay, to the changes!

I’m Gonna Level With You

First, a confession – I built all the old level’s wrong. Not necessarily in their layout, but the actual materials used to build them. You see I used a lovely and very useful Unreal Engine Marketplace pack called SuperGrid Starter Pack which is brilliant for planning out your levels, what you are not supposed to do is actually ship your game with them as they are more expensive than basic static meshes. I am sure at this point you can guess what I did.

But it has been remedied now. Every single SuperGrid instance has been replaced with a much cheaper static mesh that I build using my own two hands (well, my mouse) in Blender. The Docks have remained largely the same in terms of the layout while The Sewers, Jarvis Prison and Redfield Manor have kept many of the original elements in place but the (renamed) Shoreside Hotel and Bunker have been massively re-designed.

The Frames Per Second (FPS) look to have doubled across some of the busier levels so there has been a marked improvement in performance.

Don’t Go Upstairs!

Idiot people in horror films always go upstairs instead of heading for the front door and running in a straight line. That doesn’t have much to do with our game but it does annoy me. Anyway, the whole upstairs element of the game has been problematic from the very early days of Undead Blackout. Having to create levels with enormously high ceilings to accommodate the top down camera meant really, long annoying staircases.

I tried to make it so the top level would disappear while downstairs but this caused so many bugs and issues with zombies appearing and disappearing in thin air that I gave up on it. Plus fighting on stairs was crap. So the obvious solution was to simply get rid of upstairs and that is what I have done, some stairs still remain purely for aesthetic purposes but they have been blocked off by debris.

The Big Picture 

The lack of stairs means that I can zoom the camera out some more and that is what I have done, meaning the player can see a larger area and therefore anticipate zombie attacks and navigate the world in an easier manner than previously.

Torch The Place

The extended field of vision led me to decide to also increase the length of the torch light, again to aid with navigating the levels. I have also given it a slight blue tint as it just looks cooler than before.

Dumb Zombies

The AI for the zombies was previously written entirely in BluePrint code, that is to say I did not make use of Unreal Engine’s Behaviour Tree functionality, mostly because it looked really complicated and scary.

But I got over that fear and learnt how to make use of it as (apparently) it is a much cheaper way of getting your zombies to run about the place which means it should have resulted in an improvement in performance. And I think it did! Can’t say that I did any super scientific testing but it looked to increase the FPS by maybe 10-15 on most levels.

The other thing I have done is to actually simplify the zombie behaviour, previously once they lost sight of you they would investigate the place they last saw you and then if they cannot find you, would wander around.

Now while that is realistic it actually meant the amount of action decreased as the player sprinted around the level losing zombies. Zombies will now follow you once they spot you, less realistic yes but it is a zombie game so not exactly aiming for realism here. It is more fun, you get to shoot more of them and that really is what the game is about.

Spawned From Hell Itself

Zombies spawn into the world in specific areas based on the number of zombies that are currently in the level. As soon as you kill one, a new one will appear somewhere in the level in one of the spawn areas the player is not standing in.

In order to increase the action/fun levels, I have applied a bit more logic to this so that now the zombies will also not spawn too far away from the player, some of the levels are quite big so a zombie spawning all the way at the other end means you are unlikely to ever see it and blow it’s brains out.

Also, I have set some spawn areas to not activate until the player has made a certain amount of progress through the level. This also helps to keep the zombies vaguely clustered around the player.

Don’t Wander Too Far Now

Another element of keeping the zombies near the player without simply just telling them all to go to the players location is that I have now set zombies to destroy themselves should the wander too far away from the player. They will then respawn based on the logic previously discussed.

Burn Baby Burn, Zombie Inferno

In a couple of the levels there is a “Burned To A Crisp Zombie” which was actually quite hard to see in the darkness, so to help with that (and also because it looks awesome) the “Burned To A Crisp Zombie” is now the “Currently On Fire Zombie”. Yes, they are an undead source of light.

Collision Course

The Collision Box that surrounds the zombie and tells them when they are close enough to the player to attack them has been slightly increased in order to make the zombies a little bit tougher. It seemed to me like they had become a little too easy to fight.

Tread Softly

The logic I used previously for deciding what footstep noise the players and zombies should use was terrible. It was a load of trigger volumes and if I wanted to alter a sound I would have to go and alter it on every single trigger which was terrible. These triggers have been replaced with a BluePrint version which now tells the player/zombie which footstep audio file they should use and it means I can make one change which will filter down to all levels instantly.

To B Or Not To B

Sprinting was previously mapped to the L trigger on an Xbox pad but this has now been moved to the B button (right hand side button of the four) while Reload have been moved to X (left hand side) and Toggle Torch has moved to Y (top button).

These minor tweaks make it somewhat easier to control the game plus there was a weird thing where the player would sometimes not sprint when using the L button, perhaps that was just two of my controllers but whatever, it is done now.

Docked Music

Fixed an issue where the ‘Danger’ music in The Docks was completely wrong and didn’t match up with the main track. No idea how I missed that one but there you go.

Windows Vista

The Toggle Window function in the Options didn’t actually work properly it turns out. Now it does though! Toggles between fullscreen and a much smaller windowed screen should you want to play in the corner of your monitor or move it to a different screen. I assume the latter is the main use case but I mean, maybe someone only has one screen and also wants to keep an eye on Twitter or something.

That’s your lot for now, chat soon.

Tom

 

Our First Month On Steam

Over a month ago we launched our first ever “proper” game (sorry mobile games market) and despite reading every single article on Gamasutra I was still not really prepared for the reality of such a launch. It has been an amazing learning experience but unfortunately it has definitely been one of those where you learn from mistakes rather than glorious success. So where did we go wrong? I mean pretty much everything could have been done better but I think perhaps the two areas where we went completely off the rails were perhaps the two most important – firstly the game was not polished enough to be released and secondly (and maybe most importantly) the price.

Undead Blackout was never going to win any BAFTA’s but I think it is an enjoyable game which is challenging, replayable and has enough modes to keep you and a friend entertained over the course of a few hours. I am still working to improve it and the version on Steam now is hugely improved over the version that launched but that there is the issue, the current version should have been the version everybody saw first of all. Anyone in the Press that saw this version might actually take the time to review it and any reviews we did get might have been more favourable. So the lesson is, if you think your game is ready then spend another two weeks polishing and improving before releasing it.

Before launch I was flitting between $9.99 and $7.99 as the launch price. I had looked at a few games that were vaguely similar and while some were $3.99 others were $12.99 so I felt going in somewhere in the middle would be the right call and allow us the wiggle room to bring the price down if we felt necessary. Unless you are coming out of Early Access you can never increase the price without looking like a dick. What I had not realised and what is now annoyingly obvious to me is that we had not earned the right to charge $7.99 or $9.99 for a game, nobody knows who we are and won’t gamble money on such an unknown quantity when there are other games from better know developers for similar money.

To help with this issue Undead Blackout is now and shall forever be $4.99/£3.99 and aside from sales and discount weeks, that is the cheapest it will ever be.

The current objective is to work on the Xbox One version of the game and get that released sometime this Spring. Lots of the improvement that have been made to that version will quickly find their way into the Steam version. Then it will be a case of harassing the lovely folk at Nintendo to get a Switch dev kit and porting the game over there.

A challenging few weeks for certain but I am optimistic that the lessons learned will serve me well in the future and push Borderline Inappropriate Game Studios onto something resembling success.

 

Undead Blackout v1.1. – The Mega List Of Updates

It has been two weeks since Undead Blackout launched and in that time I have not put my feet up and relaxed, instead I have been manically working on a whole load of updates and improvements for the game. This is the first of many further improvements, the next batch will likely include some additional levels so keep an eye out for that! Anyway, here is everything that has changed in version 1.1

 

  • Survival Mode has been completely redesigned. The player is now stuck within an enclosed arena type environment e.g. the main hall of the Manor and must survive for as long as possible. This increases the amount of action as the zombies spawn within meters of the player. To further increase the action and (hopefully) the fun, more ammo and health spawns nearby and weapons will spawn every minute or so. This means Survival Mode is very much its own beast now as before it was too similar to the main style of play.
  • The location of the keys has been tweaked in all levels to make it so that there are three distinct areas within each level, essentially the bronze, silver and gold areas, meaning the player no longer has to wander the entire level looking for keys but they cannot access certain parts of the level until they have the required key. This stops players getting lost and improves the flow of each level.
  • Jarvis Prison has been completely redesigned to accommodate for the new key positioning and the requirement for a Survival Mode “Arena” area.
  • The Sewer layout has been changed for the same reasons as above.
  • All levels now have big bright orange arrows in the general vicinity of the Level End so as to avoid any confusion of how to actually finish a level.
  • There are now three ammo crates in the level as opposed to two and there are four additional spawn points.
  • There are now two health packs at any time as opposed to one, there have been four more spawn points added.
  • Mouse Aim has been improved and there is now an setting in the Options Menu to let the game know if you will be playing using mouse/keyboard.
  • The Down Button on the D-Pad now goes to the previous weapon.
  • The Camera has been pulled out to allow for a wider view of the area and allow the player more time to react to threats
  • The max speed of the zombies has been increased slightly to compensate for the factors giving the player more of an advantage.
  • Zombies now also deal out a bit more damage. Again, if the player gets more ammo then it needs to be balanced with more threatening zombies.
  • The zombie AI now has a wider radius to pick a location from within when randomly wandering around the map. This should lead to more varied positioning.
  • Zombies now recoil from attacks and will pause their movement momentarily. This gives the player a chance to escape or to continue attacking safe in the knowledge they cannot be harmed during the recoil animation.
  • The zombies spawn in specific areas and if the player happens to be standing right in that area, the game will no longer spawn a zombie there.
  • The blood decals which popped in when a zombie died now fade in for a more realistic look and there are five designs which will randomly appear.
  • The HUD has been redesigned to make the information less overbearing and more minimalist.
  • The current weapon is now displayed with a small picture in the corner, making it easier for the player to know what is equipped.
  • A targeting aid/crosshair has been added to the HUD. This will change to Red when the player is aiming.
  • Weapons now make a brighter and larger flash to briefly illuminate the surrounding area, thus providing the player with a brief look at their entire surroundings.
  • Weapons now carry over from one level to the next in Arcade mode. If you die, then you start with nothing.
  • Loading Screen now fades in and out of view. Just because it looks nice. As does the Level Complete screen.
  • The Loading Screen now requires players to hit Start to being the level.
  • Level Restart now unloads the level and reloads (loading screen and all). This is to iron out a few bugs with resetting positions of actors within the level, everything goes back to where it should be if you start from the beginning again!