DISCLAIMER: All of the content below is heavily conceptual and may never be in the game. All Images and Text are stand-in. Please read this before taking the images out of context!
A Hex World (Pre) Post-Mortem
It’s out. Update 26 is out. At least (as of this writing) in its infant form. I remember like six months ago, concepting ideas for this monster of an update. Even though I know in my heart, this is my fault, and it tested me in ways I hadn’t been before. My job changed from ‘make content’ to ‘manage content’ for most of this cycle. I was Organizing, scheduling, planning the pipeline, overseeing quality control and lore consistency. No doubt, it was a change of pace.
I had to train a couple more people on our level design process and set dressing rules. We brought on Leon and HB to help out and—along with Max who I dropped into the fire of building foundations for all eight of the new maps—these boys put in the work.
Like a good map dad, I took the responsibility of assembling the new borders and reformatting old maps. It’s important to understand how complicated this all was. The Unreal Engine doesn’t like non-squared shapes, at least when it comes to terrain. Stitching together 23 maps with 52 shared borders was a task I underestimated. I knew it would be tough, sure, but it was so much more involved than I’d planned for. Any of you guys who hopped onto the dev branch and followed along gleaned some of that struggle—thanks by the way!
As you get deeper into these significant updates, there are times you think, “oh shit, I don’t think we can pull this off.” But you steel yourself and push forward through the sludge and make it to the other side. To boot, we did it on schedule with no crunch, something I’m very proud of.
Looking forward, what’s in store for maps? I’m not sure. I don’t expect we’ll see new maps for a while, but I do expect more at some point in the future. We'll continue polishing and adding to the maps until 1.0 and beyond, so if something doesn’t meet your expectations, have patience. Foxhole is still in early access, and for update 26 we pumped out 8 maps and reformatted 14 old ones in ~ 2 months. That's insane.
Tracking bugs for this update was fun. Several times, while HB and I were doing passes on borders, our work was inexplicably undone. We couldn’t figure out what happened. Once, entire fingers of a river went missing. We knew it hadn’t been deleted, because the process of doing so by accident would have deleted other assets in the area.
So to help understand who was doing what, we drew this map on the whiteboard where we'd track who fixed what on each map. When things get to this scale, there’s no guidebook, so you adapt and break through whatever ceiling you've reached. Eventually, everything stabilised—but that first devbranch release, whew boy.
Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed a little bit of my musing on update 26. For those of you who always yell for more lore. More is coming, in new and digestible ways. That’s all I can say for now. Godspeed and be always be foxy to one another.
There and back again: A Developers's tale
Hello fellow Caoivaians, I thought I’d give a deep dive into how we landed on some of the design choices that you’ll be seeing in this update. As mentioned in the Foxhole DevStream 63, the first visual conception of the logistics revamp was a large industrial themed area that would include huge warehouse buildings with several bay doors to really sell the idea of a logistics center.
This area included the factory, refinery, storage depot and the new logistic warehouses. These would be interactable structures for creating and picking up shipping containers. Everything would be handled completely in the UI and would not exist in the world as a physical object. We made this logistics center huge as we assumed there would be a lot of traffic coming and going in this area. In some rare cases these areas even included a full shipping dock complete with multiple cranes to sell the look of a shipyard.
The cranes themselves at this point were initially static objects similar to the current construction yard and depending on time, were going to animate them. As we continued to test and move forward with this concept we ran into a lot of snags. The area itself was just too large and made it very difficult for the level designers to make an area have its own identity. In some areas it literally just wouldn’t fit, it was about the size of a Port base, so you can imagine trying to all of a sudden cram that beefy boi in many maps. After seeing a few of these in the world, we discovered that they all looked similar.
Luckily from this idea, the concept of the crane was born. Once seeing the rough models of the shipping dock we sat down and seriously asked ourselves, “Can we make the crane a player controlled vehicle?”. We watched as Phil began to fill with excitement and dread, because he knew it would be his problem to solve. As the conversation went on and the excitement over a physical crane became a reality, so too did the droplets of sweat from Phil's brow.
Once we knew we were moving forward with the crane we put Julian to work on the concept. While Julian designed the look and style I went to work on a block-in 3D model. We knew that with this vehicle it would require a lot of testing and that some questions for the visual design would be solved in prototyping with a 3D model. In the beginning we opt’d to keep the 3D models fast and loose cause we knew things would change a lot through all the testing.
With the 3D models we wanted to test a lot of things at once: how it moved?, how big will it be?, what style of crane arm would we go with? The earliest version of the crane looked like something out of an arcade crane game but we knew it would help us get the answers we needed and it would be one step in getting us to the final asset.
With every test we got a little closer to what became the final design.
It was this that last version you see there that we landed on the scale and that fact that it was going to be a telescopic arm. Height is always something that is very tricky to get right in foxhole. So with the final few adjustments made to the 3D model block-in and with a more clear concept design finished we moved on to the final testing stages before completing the model.
In the end we were all very happy with the way it turned out, with a huge effort on several of the team members it was a pretty great feeling to see the crane finally working in game.
As we tested and worked on the crane asset we still had other questions to answer, like: what was it going to move? How do we use it in foxhole? These questions became easier to answer after we figured out why we wanted and loved the idea of the crane. Foxhole is a tactical game, things being physical is what makes it cool. The idea of logistics and the amazing visuals that inspired us all were extremely tactical in nature. And so the construction yard was birthed. Like most things we didn’t nail this on our first try, it took us a few shots. The first step that we needed to take was figuring out what it was going to be used for, at first it was just for shipping containers.
We made so you would need to interact with this small building to create and remove shipping containers into the real world. The shipping containers would fill the blocked off space in the back and then populate based on the construction yard becoming filled to its maximum. But this still didn’t quite feel quite hands on enough. Sure there was more of a real world visual representation going on but it was still somewhat “magical” in its design. Also by this point we had come to the realisation that it was more than just shipping containers involved in what we were attempting to design. We wanted more, that is logistics after all. So going back to the drawing board we tested the possibility of shipping and storing vehicles. This conversation opened up more needs for logistics and influenced the design of a few more assets moving forward.
So we expanded the storage depot, had Julian work on a concept of a more construction yard feeling, construction yard and began testing the size restrictions and constraints of shipping vehicles, containers and field artillery. With these changes we also made the shipping containers now a physical, buildable, object that you need to move and place at your leisure. Once tested, it all started to really feel good, like it was coming together and so we started toward designing the visuals for the final versions.
The last two vehicles of this update were the flatbed and the freighter. Visually they were actually the simpler thing to design and needed the least iteration. We always knew we were gonna have both these vehicles from the beginning of designing this update. We just had to make sure the visuals and the scale were appropriate for foxhole. Both of these beasts were very large and needed to work with the world as it is, so we tested logistic runs and made sure we adjusted scale where needed and moved forward with the final designs.
This update has been quite the adventure but as I’ve said before, I love this stuff ;). Hope you guys enjoy this update as much as I have had working on it.
The day before Update 26
We're on the eve before Foxhole's biggest update yet. I'm very nervous about this update and stress levels have been at an all time high. These are usually good signs because they mean that progress is being made for better or worse.
Regardless of how development may seem from the outside, I can tell you that the dev team has pulled off not one but several huge technical and design feats for War Machine that wouldn't have been done if we weren't willing to take some big risks and leaps of faith in our ability. The unified map screen allowing the entire world to be viewed at once in real time, the map streaming and border travel technology, a fully functioning physical crane, and the massive undertaking of building 23 seamlessly connected regions are features far beyond what we pulled off previously.
A few years ago we outlined our vision for what Foxhole should be and even though we've taken a few steps back at some points I feel like everything we've done in Update 26 is taking big swings towards the proper direction. The push towards a more singular and unified world, a more tactile and collaborative logistics game, and a return to player agency with the removal of the Port Bases (i.e. safe zones) are all things that I'm happy to bet the game on, regardless of the outcome. If we end up screwing up its not because of the an incorrect direction or a lack of ambition, but perhaps the execution or some risk item that bites us in the ass.
This update is exciting to me not only because of what it's offering now but because of the momentum it's bringing to the project. This fall we are hoping to revamp the intelligence game in a way we've always dreamed of doing so and then toward the end of the year we will be completely revamping the base building game from the ground up. In between we will be touching on other areas as well like combat, medical, and logistics. In all of these areas, expect to see changes that are in the spirit of Update 26, which is a focus on player agency, tactile gameplay, and collaboration.
Foxhole will never be the same after War Machine hits tomorrow. See you all on the other side.
That wraps up another Dev Blog. Be sure to check out our Foxhole Dev Stream for more information about upcoming features. If you have any burning questions you want answered be sure to tweet them to @Matt directly on Discord or Twitter, if your question gets selected it will be answered live on stream!