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Offline Asid

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Re: DeadStick - Flight Simulator
« Reply #30 on: March 30, 2020, 12:37:34 AM »
Deadstick - Development Update
Fri, 27 March 2020



Part 3 - The Fun Bit (Cont.)


Tactile World

One of the key philosophies of Deadstick is the focus on being the pilot not the aeroplane. To this end, we have tried to capture as many of the processes that a pilot would go through and faithfully replicate them in-game.

Some of these features we have demonstrated previously, however we have since identified a few areas in which we felt we could go even further to enhance the experience within Deadstick. Some of these items are highlighted below.

Briefing Rooms

One of the key elements of Deadstick we have yet to reveal to the public is the map screen and job planner. Its development has been very fluid with constant iteration as we work to make it as user-friendly and intuitive as possible. As such, it has never quite been at a point where it has been representative enough of the final version to show it off (one for a future update)!

One big lesson from this process however, was the discovery that we were making life far too easy for the player. From the map screen, players had constant access to weather information (TAFs/METARs) and airfield information (NOTAMs). Any jobs that were available would be displayed on the map screen and could be selected at any time.

A key part of good airmanship is gathering relevant information for a planned route and using that information to safely conduct a flight. By providing constant access to this information at the press of a button, we were robbing the player of the opportunity to gather this information in a realistic manner Ė and so, we decided to make things more difficult!

All weather (TAFs, METARs) and notices (NOTAMs) must now be gathered by the player by visiting an airfieldís briefing room, walking in, and using the briefing computer. Any information obtained will then update the map screen and can be used for planning. As in the real world however, that information is only relevant at the time you retrieved it and will quickly go out of date. It is therefore important to factor these briefing room visits into your daily flights to have a good idea of the forecast and/or temporary airspace restrictions that might be active that day. To complicate matters further however, as in the real world, not all airfields have such facilities and, as such, the player will need to carefully plan their flights to make sure they donít find themselves in unforecast weather/temporary airspace!

Cell Phone

In much the same way that weather and NOTAMs must be obtained manually via the briefing rooms, we wanted the manner in which the player obtains jobs to be done in a similarly physical fashion and so it was only natural that we equip the player with a cell phone. This is your central device for communication within the game.



Should you start to get a reputation as a safe and successful Bush Pilot within Deadstick, you will likely start to get text messages with job requests from which you can choose to accept or ignore. Everything you do in Deadstick will have some influence on your reputation and, as such, you must manage it carefully should you wish to grow your bush flying empire. Donít worry though - if you ruin your reputation in one location you can always fly elsewhere and hope to start afresh. A word of warning though - the extent of damage to your reputation caused by a particular 'event' will also determine how badly that ripples through to other airports and may therefore have implications on your job offers elsewhere. If youíre going to crash - best to do it where no one will see you - although it may then be a long walk home!

With that in mind airport facilities can also be contacted via text messages including salvage companies, should you find yourself stranded out in the bush with a broken aircraft.

Be careful however, as much like the VHF radio simulation, we also simulate cell phone coverage and reception. If youíre in an area of little to no coverage, you may just find yourself walking around on foot searching for signal before you can make that important rescue call. Yes, you can text and fly. However, we donít recommend it!

Refueling

Managing weight, balance and fuel loads are key elements to performing a successful flight and, as such, we felt it important to improve upon our previous proximity based fueling mechanic with players instead being able to physically refuel the aircraft manually. It is now possible to taxi up to the pumps, remove the fuel hose and manually refuel the aircraft with the hose physics correctly simulated. A small detail that goes a long way to creating a believable and physical world.



Youíll have to pay for this however, using your hard earned cash, so be sure not to overfill the aircraft and limit your cargo carrying capability should you not need to!

Checklists/Walk Around

One of the goals with Deadstick is to provide purpose to peopleís flying, by gamifying the bush flying experience without compromising on the simulation aspects where important (such as the flight model). It was therefore important to us to design an initial aircraft that is forgiving and simple enough for a newcomer to fly, whilst being accurate and faithful enough to the real world inspiration that experienced pilots and simmers can push it to the limit.

Whilst we are happy we have such an aircraft, one thing has continued to foil people not familiar with the type Ė the Master Switch location! We saw this as a great opportunity to think about and develop our walk around and checklist system. Checklists can now be pulled out and flicked through in the same tactile manner as our other interactions, providing clear and concise instruction to the pilot when performing external walk arounds, pre-flight checks, power checks, etc. For each item, it is also possible to click on a given action and have it highlight the relevant object on the aircraft for your attention Ė No more searching for the Master Switch!



Checklist usage is not mandatory and, similarly, does not force the exact sequence of events to be followed accurately. In the real world, it is possible to skip checklists or read off items out of habit vs properly checking the item leading to mistakes. These all play into the human factors element we see as key to the challenge of Deadstick.



Our walk arounds have been updated too. It is now possible to perform all of your full and free checks whilst examining the exterior condition of the aircraft.

Towbar

At times, it is not always convenient to start up and taxi your aircraft, particularly if you want to go in reverse! As such came the need to be able to maneuver our aircraft on foot. What better way to do that than with a towbar which can be quickly hooked onto the tailwheel? This is a physical process, with your character applying forces to the aircraft to get it moving. Maneuvering the aircraft on a flat apron may be relatively straightforward but trying to pull it up hill or, worse, stop it from rolling downhill, could lead to an expensive mistake!!




What's Next

We hope youíve enjoyed this small series of updates which represent a small snapshot of just some of the features that have been going into Deadstick over the past few months. We look forward to sharing more in the future, particularly when our planner is complete and we can start to dive deeper into the career and economy side of Deadstick.

If you're interested in talking more Deadstick, other flight sims, or real-life flight, we have an awesome Discord community! Come say hi :)

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Offline Asid

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Re: DeadStick - Flight Simulator
« Reply #31 on: April 08, 2020, 01:48:51 PM »
WIP - Fishing Village
03 April 2020

Now that you've all read the dev diaries and have been fishing for more details, here's today's catch! 🎣












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Re: DeadStick - Flight Simulator
« Reply #32 on: April 21, 2020, 02:13:47 AM »
Happy Easter!
10 April∑

Happy Easter! This week the Deadstick team have been hard at work refining the dynamic weather systems and unforecast weather events within the simulator 🛩️

What are you all up to for your Easter weekend? Here's hoping it's filled with flight sims and chocolate!



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Re: DeadStick - Flight Simulator
« Reply #33 on: April 21, 2020, 02:16:48 AM »
WIP - Static Aircraft.
17 April

Here's one of the static aircraft you might see whilst flying around Deadstick's liberating world. Who'd like to fly a similar aircraft one day?













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Re: DeadStick - Flight Simulator
« Reply #34 on: May 09, 2020, 12:53:45 AM »
Flight Log #1: Weather in Deadstick
Fri, 8 May 2020


People often ask what the motivation was behind making Deadstick and with that I have to recall my own flight training. One of the biggest surprises was how little of the course was dedicated to physically learning to fly an aircraft, and how much focus was placed on procedures and the discipline involved to operate one safely.

There are many sims that do an incredible job of simulating aircraft, but I always found that the experience of simulating the pilot and airmanship was somewhat lacking. To that end, the concept of Deadstick was born, to give players the experience of what itís like to be the pilot.



Those that have been lucky enough to fly in a light aircraft, will also likely have experienced the sheer disappointment of having your trip or lesson cancelled at the last minute due to poor, unforecast or, in my case, British weather! And with good reason.

The weather presents one of the biggest risks to general aviation pilots and continues to catch pilots out. Gasco (The General Aviation Safety Council) here in the UK have identified that weather related accidents, be that loss of control in poor weather or controlled flight into terrain, often as a result of hitting rising terrain whilst in cloud, accounted for 20% of all aircraft accidents between 1980 to 2006, with the figures remaining much the same to this day, and similarly echoed around the world.

The dangers are numerous -

ē  Clouds can quickly lead to spatial disorientation and rapid loss of control.
ē  Icing can quickly lead to loss of aerodynamic lift and the ability to maintain altitude/flight.
ē  Fog and poor visibility can entirely obscure a runway, leaving you trapped in the air.
ē  Wind can wreak havoc on take off and landings, as well as ground speed and fuel planning.
ē  Combine wind with mountains, and dangerous downdraughts on the leeward side can pull you down into the terrain.
ē  Not to mention the implications of flying into storms.



Is Deadstick a game or a simulator? Iíll leave that to the community to debate but, if it is a game, then the weather is certainly the enemy!

For Deadstick to provide a compelling pilot experience, it is essential for us to create a dynamic and realistic weather model with which the player can interact with, plan around and hopefully avoid. This created its own unique challenges. As other simulators have increasingly turned to grabbing live weather data or giving the user a choice of fixed scenarios, the former isnít an option for us in our fictional world, and the latter doesnít give us the challenging unpredictability that we want the player to experience.

We have therefore set about creating a plausible dynamic weather model which can create an environment in which the player can experience all of the hazards described above.

Those that have had the opportunity to play Deadstick will have encountered some of these before - Thick overcast layers of cloud making it difficult to let down for an approach amongst mountainous terrain, strong crosswinds presenting challenging approaches and dangerous topographic effects when trying to fly over mountains in strong winds.



It isnít just enough to randomly select from various weather parameters and change them throughout a given playthrough. Whilst weather can be chaotic, over time, pilots can often learn how to interpret or predict how the weather will change based on current conditions. Whatís more, certain locations will often have their own region specific weather conditions or micro-climates - be that prevailing winds, a predictable early morning fog, which will burn off as the sun warms the ground, or building afternoon cumulus clouds which could catch out any unsuspecting pilots. These are all elements we wanted to ensure we could somehow capture and feel plausible to the region we are most inspired by when building our fictional world - Alaska.

So how exactly does it work?

Well, we decided to cheat.

We might not have access to live weather data given that we are using a fictional location. However, what we do have access to is years of historical weather data for Alaska, so we opted to analyze that data over a 10 year period, looking at how the weather evolves each day and, from that, build a statistical model with which we could use to represent similar effects.



Introducing Markov Chains

Markov chains have often been used to predict the weather but, in their simplest form, describe how things move from one state to another using probability. Grossly oversimplifying, a sunny day might have a 60% chance of continuing to remain sunny, a 25% chance of turning to light rain and a 15% chance of storms. We can roll a dice to determine which outcome occurs based on the above probability and then in turn do the same for our new state.

The reality is far more complex as we include many more parameters to describe how the weather might evolve over given days, weeks, months and, in turn, how these affect wind, cloud base, temperature, dew point, surface pressure, visibility, etc. All of this is generated using historic real world data to create a statistically accurate model.

Game vs Simulation

This alone isnít enough however. Deadstick provides a sandbox environment in which players can take on various flying jobs in an ever changing weather environment.

Having an accurate weather model is nice but we also want to be able to prod our weather model, whether that be for good or for evil.

In the early game, perhaps we might want to have the weather system lean towards clear sunny skies whilst players learn the ropes of navigation. Similarly, for more experienced players, we might want to have the weather be far more changeable to present more of a challenge, all whilst remaining plausible. Similarly, whilst jobs are often procedurally generated for a unique and dynamic experience, we wanted to add in specific jobs and events with their own exciting challenges. To that end, it was essential to refine our weather system such that it could be influenced or entirely overridden by specific events within Deadstick. This is exactly what we have been working on over the past few months and we think youíll like the results!

Planning and Forecasting

Having an accurate weather model is great but we also need our virtual pilots to be able to plan for how best to fly in it. In the real world, this is done in two ways - by looking at the current weather at our local airport, en route and at our destination, and by looking at forecasts where available for all of the above.

Actual weather is generally delivered to pilots in the form of METARís (Meteorological Aerodrome Reports) and forecasts via TAFís (Terminal Area Forecasts).

These are encoded messages for brevity which pilots are taught to decode in order to best understand a given dayís weather. It was essential for us to be able to represent these in-game with particular attention on the forecasts.

Forecasting has improved over the years, but it isnít an exact science - sometimes forecasts can be very accurate, sometimes less so. This is one of the exciting areas of Deadstick - forcing players to deal with the unknown and unforecast and seeing how they react.

One of the benefits of our weather model is that, as we are simulating it, we know exactly how it is going to evolve and can in turn deliver perfect forecastsÖ

But where is the fun in that!!

In much the same way that we can use Markov chains to determine how the weather will actually evolve in our simulation, we can also analyse the probabilities for the other states we could be transitioning to and use that to drive our forecast system. If we are feeling particularly nice, we can just forecast the most likely outcomes which would probably represent what will actually happen with the weather. However, for more experienced players, we can start to have fun with the forecasting and instead forecast very plausible changes which could occur, but which ultimately wonít, forcing players to think on their feet!

Fly By the Seat of Your Pants



Itís all very well being able to simulate the weather under the hood, but what about being able to feel it? In Deadstick, every aerodynamic surface of the aircraft is broken down into tiny sections and each one is simulated individually. Each section flies through its own parcel of air and, as such, will react uniquely to the air that it encounters, be it rough or smooth. This means that as you fly through the weather, each part of the aircraft is affected differently, making for a much more dynamic environment which truly feels Ďaliveí.

These parcels of air are aware not only of the global weather, but also the local terrain topography, which can make for some very interesting dangerous flying conditions if flying low in the mountains in high winds. Itís entirely possible to encounter downdraughts which can exceed the climb rate of the aircraft, the consequences of which can be severe!

This system has been designed to be as extensible as possible such that, over time, we can continue to add and refine effects. Itís not uncommon in the real world for certain airstrips to have their own unique weather quirks and dangers, particularly where trees are involved close to the runway and the subsequent wind rollover effects that can occur. These are all details we hope to develop and refine over time.



Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining

How many of you have been flying an instrument approach on your simulator of choice in limited visibility, only to find yourself instantly pop through a sheet of cloud into perfect weather - breaking the immersion and destroying the challenge of your zero visibility approach?

This is a common problem which occurs when trying to represent clouds using traditional meshes or billboards. These meshes, constructed from triangles or quads, have no thickness and so, whilst it is possible to produce some beautiful looking results, they can only ever be seen ahead of you and will instantly pop away as soon as you pass through the camera.

Traditionally, it was too computationally expensive to consider alternative approaches. However, with the advent of modern graphics cards, volumetric rendering effects are now a reality. This allows for true fluffy clouds with realistic depth and lighting which the player can fly in and be fully immersed inside.

We donít just want to stop with cloud and atmospheric effects however. In one of our previous posts, you will have seen the progress we have achieved with our dirt system. The next step is to marry the two together such that the weather can dynamically affect the terrain surfaces you are flying over which, in turn, will have drastic implications on the ground handling of the aircraft. A challenge that always needs to be considered when flying from strips or operating off airport!

We hope youíve enjoyed reading this monthís update and digging into the details on how weather will work in Deadstick. See you next time :)

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Re: DeadStick - Flight Simulator
« Reply #35 on: May 24, 2020, 12:25:04 PM »
WIP - Western Village
15 May 2020

By Deadstick - Bush Flight Simulator

Howdy flying cowboys! 🤠 Here's a Western Village concept we had toyed around with. What would you think about introducing a little Western theme into Deadstick?









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Re: DeadStick - Flight Simulator
« Reply #36 on: May 24, 2020, 01:56:30 PM »
22 May at 04:53 ∑

When you accidentally almost run over the Lead Dev 🤭, so he decides to teach you a lesson by jumping on your plane...

Friendly PSA: Be kind to real-life pilots, they know how to break things 😄





----------

Fluffing a Duck by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution licence

(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
Source: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.htmlÖ
Artist: http://incompetech.com/


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Re: DeadStick - Flight Simulator
« Reply #37 on: June 08, 2020, 01:17:29 AM »
WIP - Mining Buildings.
29 May 2020







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Re: DeadStick - Flight Simulator
« Reply #38 on: June 09, 2020, 01:18:22 AM »
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to land the plane in one piece. Do NOT kill the Deadstick team. I repeat, do NOT kill the... Nevermind 🤦‍♂️




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Re: DeadStick - Flight Simulator
« Reply #39 on: June 16, 2020, 02:46:23 PM »
Steed STOL - Concepts.
12 June

Happy #FlashbackFriday folks! Here's a look at some Steed STOL concepts from the beginning of Deadstick's development phase! 🛩️

























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Re: DeadStick - Flight Simulator
« Reply #40 on: June 21, 2020, 12:26:40 AM »



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Re: DeadStick - Flight Simulator
« Reply #41 on: July 05, 2020, 02:46:00 AM »
Deadstick - A Message To Our Community
Jun 26, 2020




We've seen a lot of requests for more in-depth development updates and videos, and we hear you! This is how we'll be making that happen moving forward. Massive thanks to our community for all your support on the journey so far and for being as excited as we are for what comes next

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Re: DeadStick - Flight Simulator
« Reply #42 on: August 25, 2020, 11:14:18 PM »
Flight Log #2: Avatars
Tue, 25 August 2020



Characters in any game are a complex endeavour and one of the appeals of making a flight sim was that we could avoid them entirely! No human character models to perfect, no uncanny valley where faces somehow never look Ďrightí, no matter how much you tweak, and no need for a team of animators to bring complex characters to life. No, instead, we could simply have an aircraft comprised of multiple meshes that either remain static, continually spin around (think propellers and wheels), rotate between two specific angles (most other moving bits of an aircraft!) or, in the case of some of the Deadstick teamís recent playthroughs - fall off entirely!

Whilst the focus in Deadstick is on being the pilot not the aircraft, playing in first-person means you donít need to see your character - the pilot is literally you, playing through the screen and mastering your skills as a bush pilot - that is, until you introduce multiplayer!

Multiplayer with other aircraft is all well and good, but the beauty of Deadstick is being able to get out and walk around. Without avatars, and the ability to see one another, you cannot truly share that experience.

Those of you that came to see us at Cosford and had the chance to experience the multiplayer, will be more than familiar with our little red capsule characters. At the time, these were our solution (read, "hack") to representing the player character to others. These capsules had a certain simple charm to them and after all of the positivity generated from Cosford, we knew we needed a way to be able to introduce some form of avatar into the sim but without all of the complexity that comes with full human characters.



After much discussion, considering various different simplified and stylised humanoid options, it quickly became apparent however, that by adding realistic human avatars, we could do so much more to convey/express what players are up to, that it became inevitable that we would have to tackle the challenge head on!

The Traditional Approach

As with all such things, it is often simplest to look at what others do when trying to solve such a problem and copy it. So we set off on a path to author a prototype humanoid character, get him rigged and set up with a few standard walk, run, and jump animations, and then sync his position with other players over multiplayer.

So just what goes into choosing a model for you, the player to be?

Firstly, we wanted to find one that could be used more-or-less off the shelf. We are a small team and, whilst we are lucky enough to have several very talented Vehicle and Environment Artists, character creation is a fairly specialised skill and models can often take months to develop from scratch. What's more, when designing anything new, there is always the challenge of trying to transfer a particular design/idea from one's own mind's eye to something that can be captured in a design brief and correctly interpreted by an Artist (I'm sure this is a problem any Police Sketch/e-Fit Artists can relate to!). It is by no means an impossible task, but one which usually requires several rounds of iteration before both parties can share the same mental picture.

So, we set about scouring the internet, to find a base model from which we could work. Much like the app store for playing games, these days there are several online marketplaces available to purchase assets which can be used in both film and games. This is great for creators! However, whilst models may look the same on the surface, they generally have very different requirements in terms of how they are authored, just how detailed the models are, and how they are then set up to run in-game. I'm sure you're all familiar with poly counts - whilst more generally look better, they are also (to somewhat oversimplify) a fairly good way of quickly bringing a graphics card to a crawl.

Unlike static assets, there is still more to consider however - characters need to be rigged to an underlying skeleton which can be manipulated and animated in a form that is friendly to the engine we are using, and any materials and textures also need to be developed in a form which is compatible with the rendering techniques we are using. PBR seems to be one of the buzzwords often talked about in flight sims in the last few years and it is the standard we are also using.

As I'm sure you can appreciate, the above narrows down the choice of what is suitable quite quickly!

Whatís more, we had a fairly specific set of ideas of just what kind of look/feel we wanted to go for with our initial pilot and just what he should wear. Itís all very well dressing for the warmth and comfort of the cockpit whilst flying but, if things go wrong and pilots need to land out, then being suitably equipped to survive until rescued is a consideration that needs to be taken seriously. As beautiful as the backcountry is, it can quickly turn very hostile towards those that are ill-prepared for the conditions they may inadvertently find themselves in.

A great source of inspiration for Deadstick is the excellent videos produced by those at Backcountry Pilot https://backcountrypilot.org/ . In one such video, there is a 30 minute presentation on what considerations should be made when dressing for the backcountry and what to pack in your survival bag. Itís well worth a watch here!




Another eye opener is the video with Bradley Friesen and someone whom Iím sure needs no introduction, FlightChops, on an inadvertent night in the cold and how quickly and serious things can change.




With all of that in mind, we scoured the internet and found this chap:



Arguably, a little over equipped and bearing somewhat of a resemblance to a lead character in a very famous third-person Action Adventure game, he wasn't exactly what we were looking for but was authored in a manner which was engine-friendly and also could serve as a good foundation upon which we could tweak and finesse the model to suit our needs.

Primarily, by removing the unnecessary holsters and scarf (somewhat of a hazard around spinning propellers) and redressing slightly. Removing the scar revealed a deep v-style shirt, which was a little too action hero for our needs, and so, we set about scaling the look back a little and instead opting for the classic bush pilot go to - the lumberjack!



The base mesh as imported, ready for edit.

An additional complication comes in as to just how characters are authored these days. Youíll remember me mentioning that, generally, with more polygons, comes better looking models. Well, Artists certainly know this and are keen to throw every last one at their models to achieve the best result. There is, however, a little trick that can be used to achieve a similar result without all of the graphics card expense using a technique known as baking.

Not cookies sadly, but Artists can author their models in very high detail, then create a low poly approximation of it and Ďprojectí or Ďbakeí the detail from one to the other. This isnít just in the form of textures, however, but the same is true for lighting - tricking the eye into thinking there are 3D details and creases etc. on the model where, in fact, none exist.

This presented an additional challenge as the process is generally somewhat one way - the model is authored in high detail, then a bespoke low poly mesh is generated, and the details baked across. We only had access to the baked end product and would therefore have to make our changes there directly.

Manipulating the geometry isnít too tough but editing the baked information (saved in the form of texture and normal maps) was a challenge. Whatís more, in the process of optimisation, the source Artist had combined the holsters into a single mesh, removing any pieces of shirt geometry that were underlying, as they wouldnít be seen by the end user and, therefore, would have always been rendered unnecessarily. We therefore had to reconstruct all of these shirt parts before we could remake it!

Whilst at it, our talented Artist, Matt, took the opportunity to separate out all the materials for each of the clothing items, giving us the possibility to customise characters in the future. At the very least, allowing us to swap textures for a given garment, but with the foundation in place to swap clothing meshes entirely if desired.

Once remade, the next challenge is that any changes to the polygons or, more specifically, the overall topology of how the mesh is constructed, quickly break the skinning (the process in which an Artist defines just how each vertex should attach to each bone) and so the next task was to rework all of the skinning, fixing any problem areas such that our character could correctly move once again.

As is often the case with skinning, things didnít go entirely to plan on the first attempt...



However, several tweaks later, and our character was rigged and ready to go.

And here we have it - our first pass character (literally) up and running within our game world.





This is very much a proof of concept, there are certainly more tweaks we would like to make - adding additional details to the character and softening some of the Ďheroí features. However, we are pleased with the results so far and have had lots of fun testing together in the multiplayer (more to reveal there later!)

Advanced Avatars

So how do we make our avatar look and feel human? Once running around, heís already a big improvement on the red capsules, but feels very robotic. One obvious problem is that he stares fixedly at the horizon at all times, as if heís wondering if he left the gas on. I wouldnít get in a plane with this guy!

Since heís controlled by another player, we do actually know where he should be looking - itís wherever the other playerís looking.

At one time, head look would be implemented by just rotating his head, but this doesnít produce a great result - especially when the target is behind him. Unless heís possessed, he shouldnít be able to rotate his head 180 degrees to look behind him. Instead, his head, neck, shoulders, and even torso should be involved in getting his eyes on the target.

In technical terms, each bone needs to follow certain constraints and the whole system needs to be solved so the eyes are on the target without the bones breaking those rules. This is a very common and well understood problem, known as Inverse Kinematics (IK). Unity supports this out of the box, so itís fairly easy to hook up.

So now your avatar can run, jump and look around. Importantly, I know whether youíre looking at me or not which makes him (and thus you!) seem immensely more human.

IK Avatars In the Cockpit

When he gets into the cockpit he now sits rigidly upright and looks around correctly.

IK lets us do moreÖ We can use the same approach as the head looking to put his hands on the joystick. As long as the IK is working correctly, he will realistically re-pose himself as the joystick moves according to the remote playerís input (This is a good way of understanding the literal meaning of ďInverse KinematicsĒ - heís not really moving the joystick, the joystick moves and that moves his hand, which moves the armís bones. In other words, the Kinematics (i.e. movement) is Inverted (backwards)).

We can also put his left hand on the throttle and his feet on the rudder pedals. As the remote player operates the controls, he will move his whole body accordingly.



This is pretty good, but Deadstick has a lot of other controls. It would be great if he could interact with everything in the cockpit. We already know what the other player is looking at, so we interpret that as a guide for what the avatar should be interacting with. So when the other player hovers over the magnetos key, we can tell the avatar to reach out and do the same.

Up until this point, we were using Unityís built in IK, but we start to see some issues. It seems that it only does a limited number of bones, so when we tell him to position his hand he only moves his shoulder and elbow. This would be sufficient for anything within armís length, but in this case it leaves him grasping helplessly for the key - he needs to lean forward to reach it. In IK terms, we need full body IK, which Unity doesnít provide. Happily, there are 3rd party solutions available - we use FinalIK.



So now he operates the controls fairly well and heíll look around, but he will sit bolt upright no matter what happens to the plane. To solve this, we can apply a bit of feedback from the physics to his position, moving him around in his seat as he would if he was really flying. The IK will keep his hands on the controls (as far as possible).



Finally, for the human touch, weíve added some simple emotes - these are just animations that play on the top half of the character whether heís on foot or in the plane. So you can wave to other players - itís only polite when youíve just avoided an in-air collision!



The Future

As with all of the systems we are developing in Deadstick, we like to think about what the future may hold for them and, in turn, develop them in a way that provides a solid yet flexible foundation upon which we can build. The two most exciting areas here are customisation and VR. Of course, we will want to expand upon the range of characters we can offer, such that all players can find one that appeals to their inner bush pilot persona, but allowing players to take that a step further by being able to choose their attire would be a lot of fun and make pilot recognition much simpler!

As we focus on VR post-Early Access, we are keen to exploit the full body IK system further also, not just guessing where pilots should be moving their limbs based on the instruments/cockpit controls they are interacting with - but rather let them drive the animation directly through their real world movements, further increasing the immersion that players can experience.

Finally, on the post-Early Access wishlist, is the option to transport humanoid passengers, either in the form of AI characters, which must be transported from A to B as part of a passenger job, or perhaps, more excitingly, by teaming up with one of your buddies for a shared cockpit flight and being able to accurately gesture and interact with one another.

This and more will all be possible thanks to the foundation upon which we have built our characters.

Avatars In Action

We werenít planning on releasing a video with this social update. However, we had so much fun testing the avatars in multiplayer that we couldnít resist sharing a quick sneak peek of what we have achieved so far!!

The following video is spliced together from that play test...





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Re: DeadStick - Flight Simulator
« Reply #43 on: October 17, 2020, 02:22:18 AM »
Flight Log #3: Maintenance & Customisation
Fri, 16 October 2020



Challenging but Exciting Times

Most of you will, Iím sure, have been hit in one way or another by the current pandemic that is sweeping the globe. I am pleased to report that the Deadstick team is all safe and well! However, it has certainly presented its fair share of logistical challenges!

As a studio, we have always embraced working from home and so, in many respects, the day to day running of has remained much the same as it was. It has always been our goal however, to ramp up production on the sim and bring in more experienced hands at the right time, to add the finishing touches to Deadstick.

Finding the right talent in this new world, which doesnít include face to face meetings, has certainly forced us to adapt. Whilst we may all work from home, we have tried to keep the team reasonably nearby as thereís nothing quite like a face to face get together to solve a particular problem, brainstorm a new idea or, in the case of a new start, just showing them the ropes. We have had to however abandon that idea and search further afield this time around, which Iím pleased to say has allowed us to find our two latest additions to the team, Conrad and Lee.

Introducing Conrad

Conrad is a self-confessed destruction expert (fitting after observing his early attempts at flying in Deadstick!) and joins us as a Senior VFX Artist, to help bridge the gap between the aircraft and its environment.

Whether itís exhaust smoke from a cold engine firing up for the first time of the day, dirt being kicked up from a muddy off airport landing and ruining an otherwise sparkly clean aircraft, or sparks and smoke being emitted as the landing gear unceremoniously removes itself from the aircraft in a harder than anticipated landing, Conrad is the man to make it happen!

Having worked in the games industry for about 5 years, most recently at nDreams focusing on VR, Conrad specializes in destruction, Houdini and shader work, and came to the video game industry after a spell living, sailing, and working as a motion graphics artist in South East Asia.





Introducing Lee

Lee joins the ranks of 3D Environment Artist on the Deadstick team - no small feat! Working in the industry for over 5 years now, with his last role as Senior Art Generalist at Hammerhead VR, and with numerous clients under his belt, including the likes of Jaguar, Whirlpool, Sky and the BBC, Lee is tasked with all things airport and settlement related. Bridging the gap between the natural and man made elements within the game and adding the next level of detail to our airports to make them pop and shine.

Given the first person nature of Deadstick and the ability to explore all locations on foot, this is no easy task, but weíre already seeing impressive levels of detail being added to our airport buildings to really add to the immersion of the sim.

Lee can currently be found finessing dirt and grime on our airfield hangars to make them truly feel like they are part of the harsh and unforgiving environment that is our Deadstick world.



The Search Goes On

Itís great to see fresh blood and new momentum on the Deadstick team. However, the search still goes on and, over the coming weeks, we are looking to hire two additional Environment Artists and a Senior Programmer - so if you think you might have the relevant skills, or know someone who does, please visit the website and get in touch - you might be just what weíre looking for!

And now to the progress!

Maintenance & Customisation in Deadstick

A huge part of real life bush piloting is maintaining and customising your aircraft, so obviously we want to reflect this in Deadstick.

Maintenance

In Deadstick (as in real life), there are two main reasons for maintenance: wear and tear.

Wear is just the inevitable damage that occurs as a component gets old and moves towards the end of its lifetime. Older parts may become less effective or even fail suddenly and (if youíre in the air) catastrophically.

Tear is damage incurred abnormally - most obviously when you hit something!

Every component of the aircraft simulates these two aspects of damage. When you need to address problems, you go to a maintenance facilityÖ If you canít make it yourself (e.g. you donít have an undercarriage any more), you can salvage your aircraft to get there.

Normally youíll go to the facility by choice, but periodically you will need to go for scheduled maintenance to avoid fines.

Customisation

A pilot needs to fit the aircraft to its purpose. In Deadstick, you can buy a range of customisation options that let you optimise the performance of your aircraft to what youíre planning to do.

For example, if youíre delivering to improvised strips, you might want to add wing slats to decrease your take off distance or, if you were flying to the frozen north, you might install tundra tyres to increase your grip on ice.

Thereís also a plethora of visual options just for bragging rights: paint jobs, liveries and even dash ornaments!

(Re)designing the UI/UX

In games, we distinguish between user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). These terms arenít totally distinct but, broadly speaking, UI is what the user sees on screen and UX is how they interact with it. UI is whether a button is attractive and intuitive (e.g. looks like a button), while UX is where the button is and whether the user knows what it does.

If youíve played Deadstick at a show, you may have seen a prototype version of the UI for maintenance and customisation. For those who havenít, hereís a flavour of how it looked:



This UI was very functional, but maybe not the most attractive. It also didnít reflect some mechanics that have been added to the game since - the main change being that repairs and refits now take in-game time. That means you now build up a manifest of changes before ordering them to be made.

So weíve recently been through a process to make sure it works mechanically and has a more attractive look thatís consistent with the rest of the UI screens.

Typically, we approach this in a standard way. Once we have the abstract design, we mock up ďon paperĒ (we work remotely, itís not actually paper) a rough idea of how the screen works.

We will then get it working in-game using placeholder graphics. The intention is to nail the UX before we start implementing UI. This is a bit like making sure you finish building a house before decorating. If we realise we need a new button somewhere after the Artists have produced a beautiful layout, there may not be space for it without rearranging everything.

So once we have a UX weíre happy with, we pass it on to the Artist who makes it beautifulÖ (read about that in the next section).

Once weíre happy with the design, the Artist decomposes the mock-ups into assets we can use in Unity. For example, hereís a texture page for the manifest window:



Once itís implemented, we pass the UI back to the Artist to review and check it matches his vision with no omissions, etc.

Artistic Notes

The overall aim with the Deadstick front-end is to give an edgy look but still manage to keep a level of simplicity and usability. Itís important that the game feels believable to both casual gamers and the more serious flight sim fans.

With the above in mind, Iíve kept the buttons simple and, in many cases, they are just white text on a slightly distressed background plate. The grunge helps to tie in with the whole Ďbush flightí element of the game.

The Maintenance screen has been one of the most challenging areas to design with a lot of important information to display. Iíve tried to keep this as clean as possible.



With Deadstick being a simulator, itís really important that the menus actually reflect their real-world counterparts and a perfect example of this is the Aircraft inspection pop-up. The design is based on a real Inspection Sheet and the slightly grungy edges help it sit comfortably with the rest of the UI.



The customisation screens have the same level of complexity as Maintenance and, once again, itís vital that there is enough space to highlight the relevant areas on the aircraft. Again, the text is clean and there is a subtle grunge level added to all of the background bars.



In-Game Shots

Bringing it all together, we end up with this in-game:









Stay tuned for the next update where we shall be revealing more!


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Re: DeadStick - Flight Simulator
« Reply #44 on: December 15, 2020, 02:31:12 PM »
Flight Log #4: 2020 Retrospective
Tue, 15 December 2020

Hey everyone!

We have opted for a slightly different format for our latest Flight Log to give you a bit more insight behind-the-scenes in to just what obstacles we have overcome and the progress that has been made on Deadstick this year 🛩️ Please find the video below! We hope you enjoy this retrospective and are as excited as we are for what's to come!

We wish you lovely holidays & will see you in 2021 ✨






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