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Operation: Harsh Doorstop

Development Blog #1 [July-August 2020]


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Hello Drakelings!

Welcome to the first official devblog for Operation: Harsh Doorstop. Since the first major reveal at the end of April, the team has been hard at work with Warfare 1944, not just developing content for that, but also creating some of the major/vital systems that we will need for both projects being created on OHDCore (if you would like to see a more detailed breakdown of our progress during this time, check out Devblogs 1, 2, and 3 for Warfare).

Starting in July, the team started shifting over to O:HD after wrapping up some last milestones in Warfare, and are now solely focused on bringing it up to speed and getting it ready for playtesting. Because it has been a few months since our last playtest, and there hasn’t been any major coverage of it while we were working on Warfare, I would like to briefly recap what O:HD is, what OHDCore is (and how it fits into the picture), and our overall philosophy for creating this project.

To start, if you have not seen Bluedrake42’s video covering his inspiration for these projects, I would highly recommend watching it to better understand his motivations for starting Drakeling Labs.

What is Operation: Harsh Doorstop?
Operation: Harsh Doorstop is a tactical/milsim shooter that portrays a fictionalized conflict between US and Russian forces in the Middle East during the Gulf War/Desert Storm era, and will be the main game created with OHDCore. O:HD is heavily inspired by Project Reality for Battlefield 2, and will be our take on a proper spiritual successor to it. Tactics, teamwork, exhilarating combat, and immersion are a top priority for us with this title.

What is OHDCore and why are we making it?
OHDCore is a framework and platform for tactical shooter and milsim games that will enable the community to make their own creations within the genre, complete with Steam workshop integration and full modding support. Once released, it will be free, and users will be able to download the SDK from the Epic Launcher for direct use with Unreal Engine 4 (similar to how other games make their own tools available, such as Ark, Insurgency: Sandstorm, Squad, Conan Exiles, and so on).

OHDCore is primarily being created as we feel there is currently too much stagnation and lack of innovation in the tactical shooter/milsim space, which tends to result in the same game concepts, tropes, and gameplay styles being constantly recreated year after year. On top of this, these games often come with a price tag of upwards of $30+ each time there is a new release for what we personally feel is not a significant amount of change. Not to mention, depending on how the game’s files and server infrastructure are set up, there are often times little to no recourse for the community to continue keeping these games alive once they are no longer supported (especially since AI/bot support seems to be becoming a lot less common to see).

Our goal is to create a platform for the community that has the long term in mind, is completely free (no microtransactions or in-game monetization schemes), incorporates all of what we believe are the best core elements of the genre, and that is fully open/modifiable so the community can alter it to their heart’s desire while utilizing all of the features and tools of Unreal Engine. Our philosophy is, if we do this right one time, and for free, it will stimulate true innovation and improvement in the genre (hopefully), which we believe is something that the tactical/milsim shooter community deserves and is long overdue to receive.

What about Warfare 1944?
Just in case you are unclear as to how Warfare 1944 fits into the picture, this is our second game being developed using OHDCore, and is a demonstration of the flexibility/versatility of the framework—O:HD will remain more hardcore/realism-focused, while Warfare is a more casual experience, similar to the likes of the classic Battlefield 1942. Warfare 1944 is $10 on Steam, and is one of the ways that we fund the development of O:HD/OHDCore (which will always be free)—we feel this is a more consumer friendly way to monetize the platform and fund our projects than other methods that are commonly employed in the industry, and a much better fit for us as a studio (plus we get to make a lot of different types of games, which help us experiment with concepts and further refine our workflow processes). Warfare also has the added benefit of improving O:HD/OHDCore as it is developed since they share the same systems!

Now that we are caught up with the premise behind our projects, let’s get into the work for O:HD that has been underway for the past couple of months:

Recap

First, we wanted to re-share a few photos that we have shown in the past to showcase some of the models and textures that were created and used for the initial pre-alpha builds. Attention to detail, high poly models, and realistic textures/materials will be a focus with all O:HD assets. Enjoy some stylized images/renders that we had created to show off some of this detail:

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AK74 w/ Plum Furniture, M16A2, Makarov Pistol, Knife Model, US Soldier Character, Binocular Models, Humvee Models, Various Materials

O:HD also currently features one map, called ‘Paktia’. Paktia has served as a good initial starting map, but is largely not representative of what future O:HD maps will look and feel like—it hasn’t really been worked on in over a year, and is made up of many assets and design choices created by developers that have come and went, but it is still worth showing as a juxtaposition to what players can expect from the upcoming map Khafji.

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Check out one of Bluedrake42’s past gameplay videos to see more of Paktia, as well as the state of the game prior to the updates that will be made soon.

Maps

The level design team has been hard at work outlining and getting the first official map ready: Khafji.

Khafji
Khafji is a town located between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and was the location of the Battle of Khafji, which was the first major ground combat to take place in the Gulf War. Our interpretation of Khafji is of course not exactly 1:1, but we are doing our best to reflect the town and area during the time as much as we can (while still fitting within gameplay balance). Here are some great images from the real conflict in 1991 that will be used as reference when establishing the aesthetic/feel.

Here is a preview of Khafji and all of the planning work that is going into it:

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At the time of posting this devblog, the map is currently in an early planning and blockout phase, where the team is prototyping flag capture layouts, outlining building placement (all buildings are created from scratch), and planning out core level design concepts to make sure that the flow and feel of the map mesh well with the gameplay loop and overall experience that we want to deliver.

Foliage Wind Effects and Blending Materials
New foliage wind effects, and dynamic blending materials used for tasks such as detailing wall textures have been created for use on Khafji and other future maps. You can see a demonstration of this here:

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We look forward to showing everyone how this map will come together once the team progresses past the blockout face and the map is prepared for playtesting!

Animations

Our animator has been working on establishing a better workflow integration for bringing animations into the game, and tweaking them to be just right, as needed. He has completed animations for the M16A2 w/ M203 UBGL, AK74 w/ GP-30 UBGL, the M60, and the PKM. Here are some renders showcasing how they will look:

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Yes, we are aware of the bugged bipod on the M60 animation—it’s already fixed, I just couldn’t get a new render from the animator in time for the devblog. Also, sorry for any low image quality for these GIFs, there are only a few options for me to get them to show up like this on Steam, and unfortunately this means sacrificing the quality of what you see here. If you would like to view these animations in higher quality, go here and select the animation you want to view.

Objects, Models, and Textures

Over the past couple of months, our 3D modelers have been creating new weapon models and variants of existing weapons, as well as some props that will be used in building out and detailing Khafji and other future maps.

Weapons
Two new weapons—the M60 and PKM machine guns—have been fully modeled, textured, and animated (as you can see above). They are already hooked up and available in internal development builds where they are undergoing some initial balancing passes, and will be ready to go for the first playtest once they start back up again.

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The existing M16A2 and AK74 have also received new variants to include UBGLs—the M203 for the M16A2 and the GP-30 for the AK74—which will be featured in the Grenadier class kits.

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Please note that in these images, some aspects of the weapons are still WIP (such as the GP-30 UBGL being untextured). In addition, we wanted to make it clear that in the case of the M16A2 and AK74 images, these are the exact same models posted at the beginning of the devblog, however, they are not being presented here in the same stylized, highly detailed renders, so they may not look as good in these images (it will all look more high quality and consistent once in game). The PKM and M60 have the same attention to detail as well.

World Props
The 3D modeling team has also been creating a variety of world props that will be placed in Khafji and other future maps to help detail the levels:

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Hesco barriers, a modular industrial pipes set, some “cool” air conditioning units, the iconic entrance arches to the town, and a crude oil storage tank

Upcoming and WIP Features

The programming team has been working on hooking up all of the improvements/features made in the past few months with Warfare 1944, including but not limited to: machine guns, grenades, grenade launchers, rocket launchers, improved UI elements, VOIP indicators and text chat, an updated flag capture interface, server admin tools, and (most recently) an updated hitreg model. If you would like to learn more about the aforementioned items, I would recommend viewing Devblogs 1, 2, and 3 for Warfare. This should be everyone’s first real glimpse of how development of both of these games work in tandem, as many of these improvements are not just done for Warfare, but rather for the underlying framework that both games are being built on (OHDCore).

Hit Registration
It is no secret that the existing hit registration model that we have been using throughout our playtest sessions for Warfare had some issues—this was a placeholder model that we intended on replacing with a more advanced and robust system. The new model is now in and in a testing phase, which will lead the way to players having a much more precise and accurate shooting system. This will be an ongoing project in the coming months to ultimately get it where we want it in the end.

In this new model, client-side prediction has been added for more immediate feedback when firing your weapon, which essentially means a "fake" projectile is immediately spawned on the client for visuals without having to wait the server round trip time to catch up, thus making the gunplay feel more responsive. This has also allowed us to optimize bandwidth usage and server replication performance of all live and newly-spawned projectiles, which improves synchronization between client and server projectile instances. Not only does this improve the responsiveness of the gunplay, but it also helps us to reach our goal of expanding max player counts in the future (beyond 64 players per server).

In addition, this will enable us to start working on cool things like tracer visuals, which will help with things like understanding where incoming fire is coming from.

Deployables
Now that the initial first pass on an updated hitreg model is more or less completed (which was a major programming hurdle that needed to be tackled before we moved on to other features), deployables are now finally going to move to the front of the line, and will be receiving a lot more attention. We should see the first iteration of rally points, ammo bags, and med bags in O:HD. These will potentially be ready for the first playtest, but if not then they will come very soon after.

Bots/AI
The programming team is also now starting to more heavily prioritize bots/AI. Right now, this is still in an extremely early phase which involves a lot of research and preparatory work, so as a result there is nothing to really show off just yet, however it is a high likelihood that we will see a first implementation of this while we are working on O:HD. We will keep everyone posted on our progress, as this is a complicated undertaking, and it is going to take some time to get it where we envision it.

Warfare 1944

As we have indicated, the team has now shifted over to working on O:HD. Warfare will now temporarily take a backseat while we bring O:HD up to our next milestone goals, and then once we shift back to it, there will be a lot of new and anticipated features and content that will be implemented. Because the work on Warfare has winded down in the past month, there is not a whole lot to show off, so there will not be a dedicated devblog; that said, here are a couple of animations that have been done for two new weapons that will be added—the highly requested FG42, and a Trench Gun:

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Like the previous animations in the devblog, if you would like to view these in higher quality go here and select the animation you want to view.



That’s it for now everyone—if you have gotten this far, thank you for taking the time to read! As always, make sure you join the DRK Discord and subscribe to Bluedrake42 on Youtube to stay up-to-date with development progress, and keep track of when we will be hosting the next playtests. We look forward to seeing everyone soon on the battlefields of Khafji for our first return back to O:HD!

-Goomes, Lead Community Manager



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