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To celebrate the launch of our new website we wanted to show some off more progress in the art department, with the unveiling of our M249.

 

m249-3.jpg

 

When I first joined Squad, our weapons roadmap was in place and artists had weapons assigned to them. There were a few assets that were floating in limbo because no one had claimed them. The M249 was one of them, I mean - how hard could it be?

 

Fast forward to many objects, strange shapes and buckets of tears later:

 

m249-8.jpg

 

Having only a couple of hours a week, this project dragged on and on due to the graphics level we want to achieve.

 

So weeks went by and objects seemed to appear from out of nowhere; the results of staring at pictures of a gun for hours on end. Many of the details of guns made for games are normally hidden away in concealed areas of the weapon, but with a belt fed machine guns you see the complicated interior when reloading.

 

So why are we going though this extra trouble and effort when you were fine with what you had in Project Reality?

 

Well there are many reasons really. Here are some of them:

 

With the US military constantly upgrading equipment and components it can be hard to keep track of which buttstock is currently the one seeing the most use, and where and for which branches of the armed forces - and do all the other users of the FN MINIMI also use these components? What if we need to add these later? Or when we implement another faction, the weapon must be able to accept any other components that may differ from this particular version. The answer is that the weapons and assets we make are future proofed so that we don't have to make awkward hack jobs or start from scratch, and most importantly keep things consistent. Planning and working this way is completely opposite of how Project Reality was done, and it is a joy for me to know that the assets we create are easy to build upon and alter when needed.

 

Another part of this is that we are also making things feature-future proof.

We are still deliberating the mechanics of machine guns in SQUAD and do not know if barrel switching will be a planned feature, but in the circumstance that it is, we need to be sure that our art has support for the additional functionality from the start.

 

m249-10.jpg

 

That meant that I had to make sure that it also has interior details visible when the barrel is removed.

The same applies for the sights and various other parts of the weapon. Did I mention that it can also use a standard M4/M16 magazine instead of a belt of ammo?

 

The last part that made this task difficult is you, the audience. You are not just any gamers out there, many of you know these guns intimately and many have even have fired the weapons. We need to make our art utterly believable to give our audience the most immersive experience possible.

 

And lastly, there is a higher expectation of graphical fidelity than in the past, so we have to set a standard that is competitive with bigger titles.

 

m249-1_small.jpg

 

Enough about how hard it was! Lets now talk about how fun it was!

 

We are no longer limited by last-gen shaders that barely can handle normal maps - special texture maps that can fake a lot of details on to a model by altering the lighting information of the models surface. Because we arent visually limited it means we can do some funky things this time around!

 

Here are some examples of how a normal map adds extra detail, smoothing and more consistent lighting to this particular model:

 

m249-12.jpg

 

So after completing several versions of the M249, I picked a combination of components that is most representative of the current version used by the US ARMY, with the exception of the ammo box. The big green 200 round box was simply the easiest to get in game first, so I took that first. Rest assured, you will see the remaining variations eventually.

 

Now that I had chosen the parts I wanted, I then proceeded to make what we call a low polygon version of the weapon. This is a model optimized to give you the best performance in-game.

 

Here is a demonstration of the difference in complexity of the high polygon model and the Low polygon model for those of you interested:

 

m249-13.jpg

 

When all is said and done the high poly model is around 6.000.000 triangles, and the ingame version is around 20.000 depending on the configuration. The number will decrease the further away you get from a guy with this gun, as we are creating distance-based levels of detail.

 

A lot of technical and boring things now happen, and I will spare you with the details of this, but the result is that I can now put developers Bull and Chuc to work while I move on to my next project.

 

Chuc will be taking up the task of animation the weapon. Chuc has been a long-time developer of the Battlefield 2 mod, most notable for his work as lead animator on the team. Chuc also takes up the task of exporting the model from our 3D modelling software into the Unreal 4 engine. This process involves separating out the parts necessary for animation and scaling the weapon appropriate to the player model and real world measurements.

 

After the export is complete we return to the 3D modeling program for animation. We used shared animations and skeletons for first and third person, so there's the extra concern of getting the animation to a good state in both. Generally the workflow goes from animating the weapon first, then the hands, and finally the body and head rotations to add that final bit of polish.

 

m249-14.jpg

 

The most complex animation is the reload animation. It requires a several actions and complex hand poses; a machine gun reload often takes 3 to 4 times longer than any rifle or pistol animation. In addition, we have planned a number of different animations for different stances, so the amount of work is effectively doubled. Regardless, animation quality is one of our strengths.

 

I want to thank my extremely talented teammates, Chuc and Bull for joining me on this crazy adventure, and we look forward to giving you some more insight into the things we do!

 

Hope you enjoy it when you get your hands on it, or fear it when you are getting mowed down by it!

 

See you in the field soon!

 

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What a beautiful death machine.

Game aside, this is a work of art. Congrats on such a composition.

That being said, I look forward to seeing it in action.

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Almost as beautiful as a double rainbow, I shed a tear...

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Great post. :D I'm looking forward to seeing all the variations in M249s in the future.

 

Will you guys always be providing such in-depth information in future updates?

 

Question for the US military nerds: How common are the long barrel M249s in comparison to the short barrel ones? And which M249s have those sliding collapsible buttstocks?

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What polycount are you forecasting for the 2nd LOD ?

 

Im asking cause 20 000 tris sounds already pretty high (1st person weapon models are usually under 5 000 tris in most games).

Even tho I totally get why you proceeded this way, I just hope this won't make the Squad sinking into FPS drops as PR.

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1st person weapon models are usually under 5 000 tris in most games

In bf2 the weapons were around 3-5k, that is over 7 years ago. In udk the weapons were between 5-8k at launch. The poly count is not as strict as it used to be, and there were several years between udk and UE4. 20k is indeed high and most of our weapons are about half this. But we feel that we have a pretty good handle on what tri count we can afford weapons to have. Remember that we will be rationing weapons due to kit allocation, so you will only have one or two m249's per eight m4's, balancing it out. With good lods and good use of materials, it should be manageable.

 

Either way, 5k is most definitely not the industry standard in 2015.

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Question for the US military nerds: How common are the long barrel M249s in comparison to the short barrel ones? And which M249s have those sliding collapsible buttstocks?

 

The short barrel (18 in) is the current version that serve US military. You will probably find the older long barrel (21 in) once a while in training camp or among reserve troop.

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Will you guys always be providing such in-depth information in future updates?

 

I very much doubt that :) but we will see. The next update from the art team will feature a lot more than just one asset :)

 

What polycount are you forecasting for the 2nd LOD ?

 

Im asking cause 20 000 tris sounds already pretty high (1st person weapon models are usually under 5 000 tris in most games).

Even tho I totally get why you proceeded this way, I just hope this won't make the Squad sinking into FPS drops as PR.

 

Weapons being 5k tris is definitely not the case any more, or has been for a long time. Even in PR.

 

The Lods will cut down the tri count quite heavily, I have made it so that a lot of the things that could be geometry or texture will be texture on 3rd person lod and geometry on 1st person while still using the same textures of course.

 

Besides there will be very few belt fed machine guns (which eat tris) in the game so there won't be any significant impact compared to the geometry complexity of the environment.

 

And as a final point - geometry is not the issue these days when it comes to performance. Graphics cards are very efficient at rendering geometry, these days it is the shader complexity that is eating up performance.

 

Don't worry about this stuff, we got it under control, and we won't take any more performance than we have to, while still giving you something pretty to look at.

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So, are you guys going to keep double posting updates or will you eventually phase out a section of the forums in favor of the website? Like how there's a M249 article on the main joinsquad.com site but there's also this one here that we're commenting on.

 

Just saying it might be easier to post a link to the article on the main site instead of redoing it and posting it in the forums.

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So, are you guys going to keep double posting updates or will you eventually phase out a section of the forums in favor of the website? Like how there's a M249 article on the main joinsquad.com site but there's also this one here that we're commenting on.

 

Just saying it might be easier to post a link to the article on the main site instead of redoing it and posting it in the forums.

 

We're still working on the implementation of some of this and have yet to decide how we'll do it in the long run.

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We're still working on the implementation of some of this and have yet to decide how we'll do it in the long run.

 

You could post the updates on the squad website and copy/paste it onto the forums. On the website, at the end of the update there can be a link which takes to the forum version. The link could be "Follow the discussion here", or something of that nature. 

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On behalf of the performance discussion, what are the hardware you devs are using to develop / play?

Maybe I'm asking too much, but would be nice to have graphic options adjusted for specific hardware, for example:  

Low - IQ made for Intel HD 4600 @ 720p60 + FXAA
Medium - IQ made for GTX 750 @ 1080p60 + FXAA
High - IQ made for GTX 660 @ 1080p60 + SMAA
Epic - IQ made for GTX 770 @ 1080p60 + SMAA

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I hope they will try their best to make the game run on older, slower machines but also on the current top beast's, so as the community is divided.

I heard a lot of rumors on PR, while I was promoting Squad that they are not interested, because Squad will beat their machines.Sad but true...

If we don't care about PR community (where we came from) who we care about? The COD community? :)

And maybe they don't buy new PC because they can't, also we don't talk about a few but a mess.

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Well PR is the most un-optimized thing I have ever been involved in. So many people working on it and little to no direction or QA done on contributions. Only Rhino spearheaded what effort there was on this front on assets. Very little effort was put in to performance considerations in the grand scheme of things, all the focus was on content.

Squad is a commercial game and we do want to sell it. Safe to say that we are more concerned with performance.

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Well PR is the most un-optimized thing I have ever been involved in. So many people working on it and little to no direction or QA done on contributions. Only Rhino spearheaded what effort there was on this front on assets. Very little effort was put in to performance considerations in the grand scheme of things, all the focus was on content.

Squad is a commercial game and we do want to sell it. Safe to say that we are more concerned with performance.

 

Do this means you will help out the older hardware to deal with Squad?It's not me but a lot of potential PR player.

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Define older hardware? For these days older hardware is about 3 to 5 years old. If you're talking about older then that, you probably would want to upgrade.

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It's an ASUS laptop intel i7 processor and Radeon HD6370M 1GB card also updated to 8Gb Memory.

Bought it in early 2012

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I have to say, I'm thoroughly impressed with the professionalism guys!

 

Keep up the good and hard work! This is what I LOVE to see from a pre-alpha.

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