Well well well, it’s about time we provide some updates about the project. For those of you who are on our Discord server, you might be well aware of what’s going on, as there is more information flowing there. Speaking of which… I recently discovered that some people on the Steam community thought the project was dead due to the lack of news. I have to say that I was holding some information on some platforms, and giving more on some other. For instance, I expect people on Discord to be more thirsty for all the little development details, while I wanted to avoid cluttering your Facebook with as many insights. Hence, I ended up not giving much meat to the Steam community. So here’s how the information will be shared from now on:
- Facebook, Reddit and website: Anouncements, dev blogs, official screenshots and previews.
- Steam community: Announcements, dev blogs and monthly updates.
- Discord: All of the above (Announcements, dev blogs, monthly updates, screenshots, previews, and much more).
So, quick recap: In February, we launched the playtest. Again, the goal behind that was to take the core stuff that had been developed so far and kept for a few people only, and have the community to give it a try. That way, we would know what to correct and and what to solidify before starting to expand the world and vehicles.
Right after the launch, I started prototyping the first sector of the open world, “Fields”. I built it from the lessons learned from the sandbox map. Some elements will be kept from it, some will be trashed. The sandbox was more of a development environment, and the map itself won’t make it passed the sandbox; as soon as the career mode is launched, everything will be in the open world and the sandbox map will be abandonned. Then, as I was slowly progressing, I started getting feedback as more and more people had access to the playtest.
After a few months of playtest, I have to say that community feedback has been overwhelming: ideas of vehicles, features suggestions, bug reports, etc. It really pointed out areas that needed improvements in priority. Even though some features or fixes were already planned for the future, it was made evident that they were needed quickly. So I halted further development to reorient priorities.
To this point, our goal is to have those features developed/enhanced before adding any more content:
- Controller support
- Key binding customisation
- Better snow system
- Floating plows
Controller support and key binding
Controller support was the most requested feature during playtest, followed by key binding customisation. To me, it seemed perfectly normal to play with keyboard and mouse. At least for early playtests. But for a lot of people, it seemed to be unbareable. Since those two features are closely related, it was logical to develop and implement those together. Work on this feature has been in progress since May. I’m happy to say that it is successfully implemented, and is now being tweaked for proper behavior on both vehicles and first person controller. It will be mapped by default for most popular controllers, and fully customisable for any other type of controller you might wish to use. You will have the luxury to assign any axis or button from any controller type, including, of course, keyboard and mouse, steering wheels and console controllers, to any function in the game. The cool thing is that you have the option to assign an axis to many functions. Which means that you can either, for example, assign a button to raise the plow and an other one to lower it, or assign a stick and use it on the positive or negative axis to raise and lower the plow.
But while working on this, I encountered a major issue. What you need to know first is that the base script that allows us to drive the vehicles in the game is based on a third party asset. It is what we call a vehicle controller. It was very handy in the early stages of the project, allowing me to save a lot of time. I only had to tweak it to my needs and add features that are specific to the kind of trucks we are using. With time, it became a bit restrictive though… Being made as a car controller, it required a lot of working around to get the vehicles to behave properly. I can’t even imagine how painful it would be to code a wheel loader, which body bends instead of the wheels tilting. All this to say that while implementing the controller support, I found out that it was totally incompatible with the vehicle controller. In other words, I had to scrap one of those.
Evidently, I chose to scrap the third party car controller and got on a unexpected new adventure: code my own vehicle controller from scratch, 100% tailored to Snow Plow Project’s needs. As you can imagine, this is a huge endeavour, but it will be a core feature that will allow much much more in the future: attachable equipment, truck customisation, advanced systems, maintenance, fuel consumption, etc, etc. No more constraints. The trucks will run on a code made for this very purpose. Wheel loader with a bendable chassis? Yep. Vehicle on tracks? Not a problem. Flying saucer? Wrong game. I was even able to integrate real data from the real vehicle’s user manuals to enhance realism, like real power curves and gear ratios.
So, with all this being said, work on those 2 topics is progressing fast. The vehicle controller is taking shape and works as intended. It’s been a lot of headache, but I figured out all the mechanical equations with regards to torque and gears and ratios and RPMs, and all that good stuff is now working together nicely! I would say that both controller support and vehicle controller projects are functionnal as of now and are now being tweaked and enhanced to take it from “functionnal” to “seamless”.
Yes, it’s putting a bit more delay on the next update. No, there has been no game update since the launch of the playtest. But remember that it’s the playtest’s goal: make sure we start on solid foundations before we add more stuff. And those two big chunks will be part of that foundation, underlaying the whole game.
Next game update
The next playtest update will come when work on the controller support and vehicle controller is completed. Some more minor features will also be part of the update as well. Obviously, don’t expect a new map or vehicle in this one. Game updates shoud then be more frequent after this huge project is completed.
Better snow system
I said many times that this game’s biggest challenge was the snow simulation. Its lack of proper physics and behavior was pointed out by many testers, and I’m well aware that it’s far from being perfect. I’m already exploring new options to improve or even overhaul the snow system. You can expect the snow system to be a constant work in progress and receive many updates in the future.
An other recurrent comment was regarding the lack of floating plows on the dumper truck. Unlike graders, which are made to apply pressure on their blade, dumper trucks usually have floating plows, which lie on their own weight without any positive pressure and follow the curvature of the road. Tests are in progress and it will be implemented in a future update.
As some of you already know, this project is mostly a one-man show. I started and developed this game by myself, and for this reason, I do not have the budget to simply hire developers. That’s a question I get: why don’t you just hire people to speed up development? Well, I actually do in some way, but on a contract basis. I pay for specific gigs, to develop a specific feature, code, artwork, etc. On top of that, I have a few friends giving me a hand with gameplay, sound design, game architecture, etc. I also use third party assets when appropriate to speed things up, especially for complexe coding. Finally, I do get offers from people on the Discord server for various assets such as 3D models. I’m not accepting those right now for intellectual property matters, but I this might change soon.
Bottomline is, expect this project developement to be slow, but steady and done the right way with passion.
So as you can see, the playtest did its job and we gathered precious information from the gamers. Good progress is being made with core features and a game update is expected most likely during the summer.
I have to say that sometimes I’m surprised to read some Steam comments from playtesters complaining that the map is too small, that there are only 2 vehicles, that the game’s lifespan is too short or that the game is dead because there has been no update in 4 months. Not that I expect only good comments, but those are just a bit surprising considering that those players enrolled for the playtest of a prototype. Let’s not forget that we are, at this stage, testing the game’s basic mechanics. This being said, any critique that is being helpful is more than welcome and helps me orient the game’s development.
Thanks to all of the playtesters, I hope you’ll keep enjoying the project and its upcoming updates. I have a lot of ideas in my mind, I believe we’ll make something great with it.