April 14, 2006

Prey Weekly Development Update #14

Hey all -- welcome to the fourteenth edition of the Prey Weekly Web Update.

This week is a bit different in that I've enlisted the help of other Human Heads. I asked several people to write up a typical day for them to post in this update. Well maybe not entirely a typical day, I suppose, since the company is deep in crunch mode. But a day in their lives nonetheless.

The responses were all interesting, some of them rather hilarious stream of consciousness type of ramblings. I hope you find this to be a fascinating insight into the minds of people in crunch mode who apparently are slowly going insane. :-)

I should warn you that there are a couple of minor spoilers in here, but nothing that will ruin the game -- just some references to some level names and characters we haven't really discussed before.

Tim Gerritsen, Business Director

My days are a blur at this point as I'm juggling lots of constantly moving balls all at once. After seven years in the same office park, we're moving to a brand new office space across town. It's a old railroad roundhouse that was renovated for office use. It's a really unique office space and much better suited to our style of development than our current space. There's even a huge caboose in the front foyer since the builder left that in place when they renovated the building. The space is being custom fitted for our use so there's a million things to keep track of and make decisions on. It's like building a house, only worse since you'll have dozens of people working there when you're done. In addition, I've been managing the 360 efforts on our end, and we're putting the latest 360 build through its paces. I'm very happy to report that the 360 build is looking fantastic at this point. The frame rate is looking great, and the controls are being honed down to a fine pitch. The Venom guys are doing a great job on their end and I think people are going to have a hard time deciding which version to buy. Of course they could just buy both! :) Then there's juggling all the last minute details on the PC side, and that's just my three most important tasks right now.

Eli Quinn, Artist

Wednesday 4/12: The art tasks are slowing down so we've been trying out new software such as ZBrush 2. It utilizes a unique sort of terminology that's difficult to wrap your head around at first but it's very interesting once you get into it. The art team is also playtesting various sections of the game, as well as participating in deathmatch brawls. Of particular note was our deathmatch today where we had to test for a bug using the wrench weapon on an asteroid, so we were just sprinting around like fools and bashing each other's brains out with the wrench. Fun stuff. Occasionally people would whip out their guns again and wreak some havoc, until finally programmer Rich Whitehouse had to page the testers and remind us that this test was "WRENCHES ONLY, ON THE ASTEROID."

Brian Shubat, Animator

Don't really have time for this, due to our crunching deadline, and Leath Furniture having an inopportune moment to auction of the remainder of their "going out of business" crap at low low prices has taken it's toll. I'm finishing with all the rest of the maddening details on Grandfather's LotaD dialogs and finessing and fixing Talon. Also in progress is finishing off the hider bombing sequence in FeedingA, I think it's the single most longest sustained animation that is playing in the game. I've slept here two nights in a row on the floor already, brought in a bed roll and blankets. I woke up this morning but my leg didn't, it was the strangest "fell asleep" feeling I've ever had in an extremity before. It didn't tingle and it turned on and off like a switch, at first it was paralyzed, then it functioned, then when I stood up from my chair it gave out totally laying me out on the floor. I laughed it off and made coffee. Oh, shit! it was garbage day today! And did I forget to feed the cats?! I'm not even sure I know where they are.

Jeff DeWitt, Lead Animator

Now that all the Motion Capture clean up is done we're finally able to get back to the fun stuff.the stuff that adds personality to the game. This week I've worked with Jimmy on the Hunters (tweaking speeds, adding knock backs and pains), worked with Brian on some rifle anims (adding more personality to the weapons), implemented new models and fixed anim bugs on both creatures and weapons.tweak tweak tweak. We're getting closer and closer.which seems a bit surreal.

More on the Studios side - Ben G hurt his back again this week - poor guy. Crunch mode is hard enough without having to work through something like that. He's doing better, but as active and energetic as he normally is; to see him walking around like and old man was kinda funny (in a sick way I guess). Ed L is under the gun. That guy has really been a champ on this project.tons of behind the scene's stuff.

Let's see, what else. Ryan R cut his own hair the other day. People people.please.leave the hair cutting to a stylist.we're not in college anymore! J (I hope he doesn't read this.he's twice my size and he's been known to knock animators on their cans.just ask Shubat). AND speaking of Shubat!!! He's becoming an auction addict.seriously folks.he's developing a problem. Leath furniture (just down the road) is going out of business and they had the final day of their sale on Monday.since then every night they've been auctioning off the rest of the stuff in the store and Brian has been front and center. All I hear all day long is, YOU SHOULD SEE THE DEALS!?!? He's a crazy little man.

There have been more and more "schinc door" jokes circulating the office lately.OH.and Rich W had the "page of the year" the other day. He's running a lot of multiplayer tests and yesterday he had a bunch of guys testing "wrench only battles". So he does a company wide page and says, "Could all of you testing multiplayer go to the center sphere room and beat each other with wrenches only please". We all laughed out loud and I thought to myself. who's got a better job than me?

Chris seems to be holding up pretty well too.which is impressive. That guy is pulled in 10 different directions a day.no way I could do his job. Scott and George want this thing.but Take Two wants this OTHER thing.and then he's got all of us in the studio asking, "Well what are we doing? Huh? Huh? What about this? And this?!?!" Yea, if Chris has a full head of hair at 35 I'll be impressed. But all in all we're wrapping up.lists are getting shorter and shorter. We still have a handful of things that we want to tighten up but really.the game is very close to finished. That's it.oh, congratulations to the Badger's Men AND Women for wining National Titles in Hockey this year. Beauty eh!

Mike Flynn, Script Manager

I overslept today due to late night crunching. I got in late, checked my e-mail and grabbed some food and coffee. I ate my food and updated everything to the latest version of the game while checking the latest news and going over my tasks for the day. I got most of my direct tasks done over the weekend so all that is left is the pickier more difficult stuff. Before getting into those, I entered some new internal bugs and tasks into our wiki for myself and the other scripters. There are only a few and they are thankfully minor; this week is crazy enough with crunch mode.

Coffee. Need more coffee. Hopefully I won't get screwed with the pot having only a half a cup left and have to make more. Ah, the coffee gods smile upon me with a freshly brewed pot. I cue up some Captain Beefheart, Arcade Fire, and Daft Punk, hit random and get to work. Man, Neighborhood #1 is a great track. The day goes well into the next morning, with many bugs found and fixed, dialog added, and various game play tweaks implemented, tested, reimplemented, and tested again. In between map builds, which are needed for a conclusive test of most changed or added elements, I geek out on netside attractions or check my task list to see what needs to be done next. Sometimes building a map will take 15 minutes. If a BSP isn't needed, the turnaround time is more like 15 seconds. Amidst the more mechanical and repetitive tasks are the many gems that make it all worth while : each sweated over detail and change being instantly playable in a real time engine and finally finishing up scenes that are composed of dozens of people's work and input.

Nick Taylor, Animator

This week I am working on the main characters third person / multi player animations. This is a challenge unto itself as they must look good when the player is standing still as well as when he is running, strafing, etc... At the same time I am working on the lower body movement animations so that all of these approximately 220 upper and lower body animations all work well together.

Rich Whitehouse, Programmer

"Started the day at 8:45am when my alarm went off. Hit the snooze button. Woke up again at 8:53 upon the next alarm trigger, then hit snooze again. Somehow managed to hit snooze while in a sleep state until 10, at which point I finally got up. I stumbled through several accumulating piles of trash at my bed side, checked my e-mail on my desktop machine, browsed around for a while, then took a shower. I got to work at 11am. Upon arrival, I began re-evaluating some optimizations on a render volume tree function, and after observing through disassembly that the compiler was using stack-relative offsets to access some memory already, I proceeded with planned changes. This worked out happily. After that, I worked on some clipping performance issues on our giant sphere deathmatch map, and then began working closely with our in-house QA tester to coordinate some internet multiplayer testing, and work out issues with our Master Server. I then went home, and played Prey until 2am while noting new bugs and issues. This concludes the glorious day in the life of Rich Whitehouse."

Well that was certainly different, wasn't it?

If you enjoyed this, let me know -- post something to the 3DR forums. If people liked it, we'll see about doing more of these for future updates. I'm sure I could coerce more people from HH into writing up a day in their lives on this project.

Speaking of future updates. The deadline for the next round of the Ask Prey questions was today. So, I'll be tackling them next week for next Friday's update. We've received some pretty damn good questions, so it should make for an interesting update.

Until then, stay frosty.

Chris Rhinehart - Prey Project Lead
Human Head Studios

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Posted by Joe Siegler on April 14, 2006 at 12:00 PM | Permalink | Discuss this story on our forums
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