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Developer Briefing #89 - Grass Overhaul & Optimisation!

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Hey everyone,

Welcome to Developer Briefing #89!

This week we're taking a look at something we've seen mentioned a few times over on the forums and what will actually become even more important when bullet penetration arrives - Grass!

Long grass, short grass, bushes, these features enable stealthy plays and approaches for all sorts of playstyles and can be crucial in making tough pushes or evading an enemy patrol.

Because of this the team have been hard at work improving not only the quality and draw distance of our green features, but also that tasty optimisation!

To go into the full details we've got Lead Developer Max who's put on his gardening gloves for this Dev Brief.

Make sure to stick around until the end too as today Spono from the Black Matter team has stopped by to celebrate a big community Discord milestone!

 

A Message From Max - Lead Developer


Hi everyone,

Alongside much of the programming team working through the remaining crash and some large scale optimisation (as well as bug fixes and an engine upgrade to 4.25), we’re in an interesting period now where the team is hard at work on some huge future features, maps and a broad array of content that we’re keen to save to reveal in full at a later date.

Development and marketing a game is always a balance between showing as much as possible as we go, while also retaining some surprise and excitement for the future in order to build up a release.

In the meantime, this week we thought we’d return to a small, but very important aspect of Hell Let Loose:

 

 

 

Grass, Glorious Grass!


We’ve been profiling the game across the board, and have always known that some aspects of the visuals are particularly heavy across the board. One of these is grass. For any of you that have followed Hell Let Loose, you’ll be aware that grass has had more than five iterations within the game, and that each time it’s had its positives and negatives with regard to the three key aspects: optimisation, visual fidelity and impact on gameplay.

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Grass within games is hilariously complicated. Often increasing visual fidelity hurts optimisation, which means it needs to be culled quickly - removing it from gameplay. However, ugly and optimised grass can seriously degrade the look of the game - which is a huge issue when Hell Let Loose contains fields and fields of it.

That said, in order for grass to look nice within a game it also needs a very refined shader and texture set up, and each stage of it has to be defined very carefully (both up close and at greater ranges).

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Coming in Update 8, we’ve totally overhauled our grass - both visually and in terms of performance and gameplay. This has been something we’ve known was a significant area for optimisation for a while and we’re very excited to return to it.

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Visually, we’ve retained the photoreal quality of it up close, but have greatly reduced the polycount. The pain of grass is that in a game like Hell Let Loose (and broadly this can be said across the whole title), visuals have to hold up with a camera 10cm away, as well as a kilometer away (compared to an isometric game like Path of Exile, where the visuals are always sitting a fixed distance from the camera). This rework has allowed us to retain a great look up close, but it’s also allowed us to optimise the grass in a way that allows us to keep it present at much greater ranges.

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On a gameplay level, every map in Hell Let Loose has “long grass” and “short grass” layers. Previously, our long grass layer has been so expensive that we’ve had to cull it away much quicker than we’d like.

This has led to awkward gameplay where lying down in it only serves as a disadvantage - as you can be both seen and shot from long ranges (because the grass is not rendering for enemy players), while also having your own view obstructed. However, due to the huge cost savings on the new grass, we’re now able to cull the long grass far further away than previously. This means that large Normandy grass-heavy maps like Purple Heart Lane, SME, SMDM have become infinitely more interesting when crossing fields and fighting around strong points. Grassy fields and clearings now feel far more three-dimensional, with different concealment creating possibilities to use longer grass to flank and hide.

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Finally, this overhaul has lifted frames across every single map significantly. While it’s difficult to give a uniform number, depending on the current strength of your GPU this could be double digits for many players.

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A Word From Spono - Hell Let Loose Discord 30k Member Milestone!


I want to congratulate the entire community as we have now reached a milestone of 30,000 Discord members!

I can remember when Max and I first set up the Discord just before the Kickstarter campaign, and we had our first 100 members. We were buzzing and super excited. Now look how far we have come and still with a massive journey in front of us!

Some of you may also have noticed that we have setup two Announcement Channels that you can follow to get the, #special_news_bulletin & #telegrams channel announcements in your own discords.

If you still haven’t joined the official Hell Let Loose Discord, I certainly recommend joining in the conversations on everything HLL. We invite all new and veteran players, and value everyone's feedback. We invite you in to share this journey with us.

You can jump in now using this invite[discord.gg] and please share it with your other HLL comrades.

Also please read our server rules in #readme-rules as well as the Discord community guidelines.[/b] Cheers, On behalf of Black Matter and Team17 team.See you on the frontline![discord.com]

 

 

 

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