dayz-development-state-answerslLately a part of the community has become very virulent about DayZ on social media. In part because of the huge hype around upcoming features but also, and especially, because majority of players know nothing about the development process of a game. To overcome this problem, Dean Hall often respond to criticism. But few days ago “Rocket” was in good shape and argued a series of responses on reddit (here and here) worthy of a real interview.

Cheaters, hackers, scripters seem as prevalent as ever. Are you going to deal with this problem?

That is an extraordinary claim to make. I’m not aware of any scripts that do anything useful any longer. Certainly, the majority of the hacking effort has moved to memory-hacks rather than scripting. If you check the popular hacking websites, as I do, this is clearly stated everywhere. I’m actually not aware that anyone is making or using script hacks such as:

  • parachuting cows
  • spawning items
  • teleporting players
  • server-kill-everyone
  • thunderdome
  • and so on…

It is far easier, and less risky, to exploit using hacks than scripts currently. There is little you could do with scripts in DayZ, as most things are conducted client-side. Instead, hackers are using memory injection and other normal techniques that are common across most games. This is what VAC is traditionally targeted against. BE was also designed, specifically, to deal with scripting issues. But such scripting problems existed because Arma had to be a very trusting game.

However, hacking is still something we are very concerned about. But we’re also very proud we’ve pushed it back into ESP, aimbot, wallhacks, etc… There are some unfinished areas of work – such as local management of magazines on weapons. These are being worked on.

At the same time there are other issues still plaguing this game such as the desync (Guaranteed messaging system?)

The guaranteed messaging system has enabled:

  • Increase for loot spawning from 10,000 items to 35,000 items.
  • Effective doubling of server FPS
  • Made it possible for the first time, for us to run more than 100 players on a powerful box. This was not physically possible before.
  • Allowed us to enabled a true physics SDK, with all calculations run on the server, and being distributed to the client realtime.
  • much, much more.

What about the Path finding?

This is being worked on by a new studio we setup in Bratislava. Previously, we spent several months trying to make the current system work. Once we were finished with that work, we decided it would be easier to start again and write a new system – than to try and make the current engine system work better. This is a serious undertaking, and as I have said in the last two devblogs, we are close to testing early parts of this new system out on experimental.

I’ve overviewed the new collision system developed at bratislava and it blew my mind. A procedural system as part of packing the game raycasts to generate the navmesh in grid across entire terrain. This means navmesh is generated for the entire map, including buildings and trees and fences. The data was almost completely clean. It was beautiful.

What happens now is our programmers use this new system, with a new method, to ensure that zombies only walk on this global navmesh. This will revolutionize the zombies, imo. It not only changes their behavior but reduces their performance overhead. The engine only needs to check if the zombie is inside the navmesh and not to constantly raycast for geometry collision.

This does not solve dynamic objects (other players, zombies, animals), but we can deal with that next (source).

There are obviously enough people making assets for the game, why have some of them not been moved to other projects at BI

That is not how development works, the work would then suddenly need to be completed very quickly at the end. How are they supposed to generate all that content suddenly at the end of the project? Also, many of these people are hired specifically to work on DayZ, and they might not have any interest in working on other projects. In some countries, that would be constructive dismissal. Imagine joining an airline and being told you’re flying a 747-400, only to be moved to piloting a Cessna 172.

  • Does it hurt you to receive content (for free) while waiting for more important fixes?
  • Does it hurt development of the more important fixes for artists to make content?

Regarding the Artists

I’ve indulged this one long enough. The artists have a list of tasks to do, and they are doing them. These are independent of much of the activity of programmers.

  • They do not harm development of fixing core issues
  • They do not harm the enjoyment of the game (I would argue they increase it)

I cannot see a single reason why we should send artists on paid/unpaid leave and not have them producing content. Adding more programmers only works up until a limit. Please check out the Brook’s law link I added. The more people you add, the slower things can become. Three people on the project were on it this time last year. Now there are well over 70 people working on DayZ. I don’t even know everyones name.

Software development is not simply a matter of “add more people”. Removing artists will not help get more programmers. Whenever we find a suitable programmer we are hiring them. We have current vacancies, in fact.

What kind of project management is DayZ under save for your oversight? Do you have a project plan?

The project following Bohemia’s project management processes, which follow Agile methodology. This see’s us with an overall roadmap, which is then broken into line items which form a project plan. This plan has then been broken down by resource, and is the rough budget. Although, I must stress, the budget is not about money: it’s about making sure the right resources are available at the right time.

Are IPRs held with BI to go over the overall project, timeline and issues that need addressed, if not why?

Assume IPR: you mean initial project requirements, or perhaps intellecutal property rights. Bohemia own the rights to development video games using DayZ. I am contracted to assist them in this process. The project requirements have been generated mainly through discussion with the team, with both myself and the senior management at Bohemia providing input and direction as required.

It’s managed and owned by Bohemia, and I participate as part of this process. As project lead, I consider myself ultimately responsible for the delivery/non-delivery of any targets.

Do you follow any documented industry best practices? also Is DayZ being developed under any type of well documented and formal software development life cycle?

I believe we’re making good use of Agile methodology, which is very important to our development. Given the very changing nature of the product (it did not exist two years ago, for example), and the rapid growth (only three people currently on the project, were working on the project this time last year) – agile is extremely important.

We’ve been changing direction quite a lot to respond to changes in scope (for example, based on the massive sales, redeveloping our plans to be very broad).

Beyond that, I would say the project is managed in a similar fashion to other projects I’ve worked on, such as aircraft acquisition with the RNZAF, and the RPDP prison project in NZ. There’s not much room for PMP, or such input. We’ve tried getting very formal but the only real success has come when were have been very flexible and adaptive with our approach, not being frightened to replan when we identify a weakness or flaw.

tl;dr : Agile /SCRUM

Is any kind of regression testing even performed on the patches that are pushed out or are they just put on the experimental servers for a few days and let into production from there?

We have about 20-30 testing staff who work 9-5. Their responsibility is mainly to test the current (internal) development build. They prepare a daily report of the state of the build against a “traffic light” listing of core game mechanics, and key testing targets. They can also be assigned important tasks directly from the team, such as testing new functionality or (most likely) producing good repro steps/missions for bugs reported from the community.

Prior to release of a build, it goes through at least 24 hours testing with this team. However, I do have the authority to order the build to be released (which generally pisses the QA lead off), and I have done that on occasion. We’ve only done that once with Stable, but we do it sometimes with experimental because we hope that it will become our development build reasonably soon. This means that people will be able to try out what we are working on, right down to the very day. This will also allow QA to focus on regressing bugs and also preparing for Stable updates – so we can (internally) stop worrying about experimental.

I understand that ‘we’ are the testers but why was Hicks ‘testing’ a patch in the production environment? Do you actually have proper dev, test, and staging environments?

When you hear of Brian testing in production, most likely this means on the central server side. Generally speaking, this means we are changing a value (such as login timeout). Our famous “cock up” with stable patching, when we had to hotfix like crazy, was because we made an assumption that a bug associated with the experimental central server, would not appear on the stable central server. Since then, a final step before production has been to do a “hot” test of these kinds of high-level, central server changes prior to a full deployment. Since moving to that process, we have not had any more incidents.

The update process of the central server is not linear like the game is. Technically, it is updating all the time as it has full-time engineers at our provider conducting performance changes, load balancing, hardware replacement, DNS changes to cope with DDOSing, etc… We are replacing our experimental architecture (which is much simpler) with the exact copy of the central server architecture. This will provide us with more robust “like” testing. However, we will still likely include a small “hot” spot test, live, of central server changes prior to mass rollout (which can occur completely independently of a game update, or a game server update).

Can we see the original and current project plan?

The internal project plan is not available, for what I hope are obvious reasons. But here is the official Roadmap:

  • Playable vehicles
  • Wide variety of native animal life
  • Player created constructions in the environment
  • Extensive interactions with the environment and crafting options
  • Streamlined user actions and interface
  • Upgraded graphics and physics engine (including ragdoll, etc.)
  • Control and animations expanded and improved for fluidity
  • Support of user mods

Some people have slammed the development of the game these days. What do you answer them?

I certainly agree that the game spent to long in pre-alpha, due mainly to my own mistakes and shortcomings. I’ve learnt from that and, as I said above, I’ve apologized for that on several occasions. Let me take the time here to admit that there were many things I could have done much better after DayZ blew up, such as much more planning (particularly contingency planning for unbelievable success). I talked about these in my GDC and GDC China talks, although I am not sure these are available online.

However, criticism of the current development would be criticizing the current team for their current actions. I disagree and do not accept those criticisms. I think we have a good plan, our roadmap addresses many of the issues that people have outlined here. Some people are unhappy with the speed, however, as in the statements from Undead Labs about State of Decay multiplayer – I don’t think what we are doing is particularly slow.

While I can understand it might be frustrating that I do not accept all your criticisms, I believe that the current plan is good, the progress of the team has been fantastic, and I think the success of the project is due to their efforts and that is why we are where we are now.

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  • Ahh more and more guff. Dont accept their criticism? Then why release it in early access? Your dev time is slow, im sorry, i love the game, but get the feeling by the time your “vision” is realized, the community will have moved on. Sure, some will come back n play during beta or full release, but for how long? I currently havent even touched standalone in months. Mostly after your, as you put it, “cock up”. I complained about the delegation of information on your forums, and was called a troll and banned. I may have swore or something, but thats a cheap excuse to ban and not address the actual issue. An issue i might add, that was carried on , and still is, long after my ban. I guess proving mods wrong, by providing facts and citing sources was just too trollish for the community. I dont like how your forums handled, or how the info is distributed, or how your not “accepting criticisms”. i would not have bought it had i known how the “testers” were going to be treated by the “fanboys” (your own moderators btw) on your forums. You have sworn me off any of your games, or BI’s for the future.

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    • Go look at a game like rust or starbound and you tell me the development of this game is slow

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    • Profile photo of Sinkatze

      Why don’t you just go play something else? I also think development is slow, but its progressing amazing and love how its turning out. And for the meantime I can play so many other games.
      People just love to play an alpha game and complain about it.. Don’t buy the game until its on full release please, the team would save so much headache from immature people.

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      • Look not hating on you but criticisms and complains are going to happen in a alpha reasons to fix whatever there problem is and or to keep pressuring them to add something in to the game.. Inness referring to people complaining about the time it takes for them to come out with patch as far as i know it is 1000x harder than most people think it is to add something to a game without it being buggy so they try to put it on as 100% as they can they don’t want the problems as much as the “tester” doesn’t want it. Plus side tho your meant to give the designer input since it is in alpha down fall game is not complete so either way no one is happy because no one reads shtt before they buy the game.

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    • You don’t seem very intelligent anyway.. Probably a good thing you are moving on.. The game can be populated by more mature people who don’t have ADD. A game is in alpha for 5 months and people want it to be a AAA title with 5 years of polish behind it. You probably got banned because you are a whiny twat who feels entitled over 30 dollars. Was it that much effort to beg mom for that thirty bucks?

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      • Has it not been in development for over 2 years now? So add 19 months of alpha to your calculation.
        For a Standalone, it looks a lot like a DayZ mod port to the ARMA 3 engine. What’s standalone about that? Absolutely nothing.
        I love it, and I won’t stop playing it. However, by the time is gets near release, the community WILL have moved on. All momentum lost.

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        • Standalone in engine sense, it is different branch of arma engines as everything is handled by server – which is new to BIS, but normal in MMO context and only way to lower client hacking exploits.
          It´s been more then 2 years from mod release, success came in few months, SA at first in sense of 2012 release should have used arma 2 engine. Fortunetly they choose harder way and rewritten engine into current shape a released initial public version 5 month ago.
          Late 2012, and whole 2013 wasnt about developement only, but putting team together, edecating and planning. I think real development with most of team started in 2014. Prior to this, there was work of two programmers on Server oriented engine, content creations, thinking about gameplay, hick preparing servers etc. I think in next six month, we will see lot of different branches merge together. Although, i personaly think alpha stage will last until april 2015. But i dont have any inner info, so just wild guess based on typical obstacles during development.
          So i would expect beta goes from april 2015 until april 2016, maybe bit faster – prior to official 1.0 release.
          But best is that the game is in hands of BIS, which is one of few companies who support own products for many years, working tightly with modders, improving experience along time. So i would expect new map around 2017. Which would be developed for dayz 2 comming around 2020. Seperate renderer will keep graphics on edge, so i am not worried about dayz goes ugly over years. Actually i think arma is still one of best looking games, because they mimésis oriented content design.

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  • Game will never leave alpha, stay retarded fanboys.

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    • You call people fanboys, use the highly prove your point word “retarded”. Yet, you came to a website with an article about the game’s development just to do so.. Dude, you are so bored with your life. 🙁

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    • you know i am ok with that .. why well as it is we get some thing new every month or so

      its keeping things from getting old

      over this you cant play that same way you all ways do from month to month like going from 1 hit to kill a Z to 10 .. or one day all severs are day severs then they push for night after update

      but with that i wish they would push some of the video setting out of the game play side of the game

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  • Profile photo of Domonos

    It doesnt matter to me as long as vehicles and storage like tents and such make it in the game before summer ends and the people who complain should just not play, all you have to do is just check on the game every month or so and there is usually decent updates and soon just maybe you might see what you want finally come into the game, for most its vehicles it seems like.

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  • Profile photo of mattymojo911

    I love the game, but felt somewhat let down when it was released. Yes, I know it is Alpha and everything that means, I guess, and as Dean says above it was in fact in development for a considerable period of time before its release. As the game stands at the moment it is purely about the player interaction, or avoidance, depending on your style of play. I hoped it would have been a little more down the development path. Hey I still enjoy it, but there is no doubt in my mind that it was released slightly earlier than they perhaps would have liked due to success of rip off games like World WarZ aka Infestation, that got huge numbers playing, and the rumors of other Zombie survival games in development. I’m not saying it was wrong, but I see how all this came about. I hope that the Zombie pathfinding team etc…brings it’s A game, and desynch – hell I still get heaps of that. See you in Electro.

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  • Dayz standalone is not finished far from it that is clear slow u say it’s alpha you all knew what you were buying at the start if u didn’t want to have to go step by step you should have waited for the full release or learn to read before you buy Rocket was up front from the start Rocket and the team are not moving slow there making sure they don’t make a piece of sh*t like most games that have come out of late the patches they add in are keeping players coming back this game is epic as f**k if your not enjoying it your no gamer to Rocket and the team keep doing what your doing this game is mind blowing NZ do it best

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  • just another cash cow with lying devs

    time to move on

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    • Now, I am by now means a fan boy, I am just a passerby that bought the game the other day, but “Fukrocket”, using that as your posting name was pretty damn childish, please for the sake of society please tell me you actually still are a child so you still have time to grow up.

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  • Hacking is real and a big problem. I don’t die legit anymore. I die by glitches. Looting and character falls dead. Or breaks legs for no reason. Zombies that hit you when they are no where around you. Zombie on first floor. I’m on 3rd taking damage. Full servers are full of hackers. People zooming around cities at incredible speed. Or showing up in front of you out of no where. Just to kill you. Gliding around the map, unkillable. Aim bots. It’s horrible. Will definitely slow down playing until this game is finished. Game gets worse with each update. They say they fix this and that with zombies. Zombies have gotten even worse. Sure hackers aren’t porting people around. They just port themselves around.

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