We did a pretty extensive Q&A session interview with PointsMatter recently. It has now been posted on their site and should be an informative and interesting read for all of you!
Feel free to check out the interview and their site!
Automation is a car company tycoon game in which you design and build cars from scratch.
It is you who designs everything from the very core that is the engine, over the chassis, to the suspension and the car's looks.
Several games have tried this before... but were able to merely scratch the surface.
Go ahead, build your dream-car company, or simply aim to dominate the world markets with your superior design skills!
Good news after a long time waiting: the patch for the Engine Designer is live now and contains more fixes and improvements than originally planned. In some areas it could be considered to be more of a mini-revamp actually. Caswal is working on the patch notes, which will follow soon. In the meantime, check out my latest video summary of the update:
We’re working full steam ahead on the Platform Designer / Car Designer now, and will have a first internal prototype test later this week. This also means that I’ll be able to give you more regular Youtube updates on our progress again, mostly on Car Designer related stuff from now on. So please subscribe to our channel if you are interested in that.
Hope you enjoy the patch!
Over the past week I’ve been doing some final polish on the textures and lighting in the engine room to kind of set a final “quality standard” of how good all the rooms and lighting should look.
This post gets a bit detailed and possibly boring in places, but if you’re interested in how we make things pretty, read on.
A lot of the more bland or unrealistic looking texture have been replaced with more interesting ones, with a lot of nice weathering work done with the help of Quixel’s dDo software (http://www.quixel.se/). No longer are any of the room texture boring photosourced stuff with no/boring normal maps.
The light maps have been revised a LOT.
To explain this properly, here is a quick explanation of what maps we use for the lighting of the car/engine and its room.
All these maps are rendered out from the engine room scene in 3ds Max, with some nice high quality lighting and Mental Ray GI.
The Reflection map is just a picture of the lit room taken from a set of cameras placed where the engine sits, look outwards at the walls/roof/floor Its used so the chrome/shiny things have something to reflect.
The Engine Lighting Irradiance map is made by placing a white sphere in the centre of the room in 3ds max and recording how/what light hits it. It’s used for lighting the engine/car/whatever objects are in the centre of the room. Its quite blurred and generic, as it has to light any object you load, but does a good job of replicating the real lighting in the room.
The Room Lighting Irradiance map is done by rendering the same camera views as the Reflection map, but taking the Lighting pass, which only shows where light falls in the room, and ignores any textures or anything of that sort. It’s much sharper and more detailed than the engine lighting map, as its lighting specific objects that will stay still and not change, so its OK for their shadows and lighting to be “baked in” to the scene.
The Specular Map just has the brightest highlights in the scene, in this case just the light fittings, its used for shiny but not reflective stuff, for example the paint on rocker covers, or the highlights on cast aluminum parts.
The main problems with the existing lighting was the fact that both the engine room and the engine itself were lit far too brightly, and our attempt to use 32bit HDR cubemaps to give a good dynamic range just ended in everything being different shades of too bright.
We’ve toned down the Room Lighting and Engine Lighting maps to be quite a lot darker, and this has much improved the contrast and colour of everything in the scene. It even looks quite acceptable with SSAO off now, as the shading of objects has a bit more finnesse and isn’t over bright, which is great news for those of you on low end systems, as SSAO is a big performance killer.
The Room Lighting cubemap also never quite lined up with the ceiling lights properly, so they’ve been set to use their own lighting settings and self illuminate their bright bits. They look much better now.
Both the specular maps on the room and engine as well as the specular cubemap have been tweaked, so now only things that should be shiny are shiny.
We also converted all the normal maps to use the DXT5/NM Compression format, which throws out one channel then kind of rebuilds it when you go to use it ingame. This gets rid of a bunch of the horrible DDS compression artifacts that could previously be seen in some of the normal maps, yet keeps the normal maps to the same size (data wise) See http://www.poopinmymouth.com/tutorial/dds_types.html if you want to know more about what that means. But for you players it means that things don’t look randomly speckled.
That pretty much sums up what I’ve been up to the last few weeks. It seems like needless tweaking, but now we’ve got a solid idea of exactly how textures and lighting should be done to get the look we want, I can then start applying the same tactics to the Car Design room.
And indeed that’s the next thing I’ll be working on, getting the Car Design room lit properly, so that we can accurately see how good car and fixture models will look in game, and that way be sure that any texture or shader work we do is going to look right in the final product.
Zeussy has also, along with helping me with lighting and shader changes, also been putting in a lot of work on how Headlight and Grille stamping works, and its getting a lot better, but we’ll talk about that one later.
This is probably the most in depth dev post I’ve done in a while. So let me know if you want us to post more of this kind of stuff now and then, or if its just boring
I am so tired as I write this. Developing Automation is a balancing game, weighing up risks, deciding what is worth my time and what isn’t. Earlier today our keys database got ‘hacked’ by using SQL Injection techniques. All the keys got assigned to one user (who I won’t name, as it might not be his/her fault, but it is mightily suspicious). This database is separate from both the forum, and our wordpress front end. The risk of an SQL Injection was something that was always there in the back of my mind, something to get sorted out, but I’m not a php/mysql guru. This stuff was written over a year ago, where we had no money (as compared to today’s a little money) so could not afford to get someone in to work on it.
This SQL Injection is more of a major annoyance/time sink to fix. The database is restored from a backup from the 8th April. So most users are fine, apart from those who have ordered the game recently. I have manually edited them back, but there could be some mistakes and have fixed one this morning. As the keys were all assigned to one user, under his forum profile all keys in the database would of appeared, including future unsold keys. All keys have been regenerated, and the old keys are no longer valid and cannot be used. The keys system has been updated to stop this occurring again, and more regular backups have been instated. My father says problems always occur in 3′s, so I wonder what will be next?
Thanks for your support, and we are sorry that you the customer got caught up in all this.
Conedodger240 has released another excellent Let’s Play of Automation, which is worth a watch if you like that sort of thing, or if you’ve not played Automation yet.
As of last night we’ve started work on the Car Designer, there are still one or two little bug fixes on the way for Turbos, but we’ve started doing design work on how to refine and improve the gameplay and layout of the car designer, as well as pondering further on the best way to animate suspension and ensure it fits on all the chassis configurations. Pictures and videos to come when we have something to show of, but it’ll be mostly experimenting and design work for a while.
Here a little update on what will be going on the next 3-4 weeks.
We’re almost ready to get going with the Car Designer, but before we start production, we use the (re-)design phase to do some clean-up work in our bugtracker and use valuable tester time to check the Engine Designer calculations for all the engine types that will be available in the finished game. Looking good so far!
We’re heading off to Tasmania until this Saturday to help install a GPS system we designed into a Peking to Paris car.
Robert (Killrob) will answer whatever support questions he can, but there may be delays in emails and FB/Forum posts being replied to.
Also, why not check out the channels of some of the guys who’ve been making a lot of Automation Videos recently
Turbochargers are now available to everyone who has preordered Automation. Open Automation and it should ask to update automatically.
Sorry for the website outage for most of today. Our web hosting provider had series problems at their data centre. We still managed to release the update regardless using links on facebook instead.
For a list of changes to Automation, you can read about them here: http://game.automationgame.com/
We are closing in on a possible early March release of the Turbo & Advanced Test Mode update. There are many more bugs to kill and some more balancing work to do on the 16 new scenarios that come with the update, but all is going well so far.
For those interested in getting their hands on the turbos a bit earlier and joining the team of testers for the final stretch of testing, this link is for you!
Also, if you want to take a look at what insane stuff you’ll be able to make in the upcoming update, check out the following vid we just uploaded: