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Dev Blog 52 - Development Challenges

Hi all Tom, here been a while since I’ve done a dev blog as I’ve been pretty busy. This week I’m going to write about something a bit different to our usual blogs and cover something no developer can avoid, delays.

We’ve had a few here at Flintlock whilst developing Lithic, some of them our fault and some beyond our control. We thought we’d have Lithic in an early access release and of course we haven’t so I’m going to go over some of the challenges we’ve faced and how we’ve overcome them.

 
I’m going to cover three of the major delays we’ve faced. Firstly, last year when we were just coming out of prototyping and had beta access to Unity 5 and PBR rendering we decided to overhaul our graphics to take advantage of this new feature. This was of course our decision and we thought about carefully, so it’s a delay we saw coming and knew about. It’s important any development team thinks carefully about this kind of delay. You’ve got to go over budgets, re-allocate time and more than likely re-do a lot of work you’ve already done, we went over all this and decided it was worth it for the improvement in graphics. We had already planned in time to the development schedule to deal with unforeseen delays, so we felt we could use some of this time to make the switch to Unity 5.

The second kind of delay I’ll cover is one where we knew were taking a risk that development would get held up. For us this was our decision to move to a new beta version of the engine before it was fully tested, we did this to get access to some new features (without getting too technical it was to do with the way the engine rendered PBR materials). What can happen here and unfortunately did happen to us is that un-finalised beta software can have unintended and undocumented changes. With us we encountered an undocumented change to the way terrain was being prepared for rendering that meant our scenes would often not bake their lightmapping and when they did they would become corrupted in a playable build. This took us a long time to work out and the delay was not so much the problem itself, but that something which had previously worked now didn’t and the time it took us to track the bug down.

Thirdly there are delays that are completely beyond the team’s control. We’ve had a couple of these and both have been due to undocumented changes in engine builds. Of course there isn’t anything that can be done about this and the only way to get past them is to work on some other part of the project until a fix is available if that’s possible.

So to sum up, delays will happen. We’ve had more than our share but we’re still going and my best advice to any developer is to keep going, keep morale up and above all make sure you’ve planned what you’ll do when delays do hit development. We can’t announce a definite time that Lithic will go into Early Access but we wanted to reassure you all that we are still pouring our everything into this project to make it a success.

As usual if you want to get hold us tweet us at @lithicthegame or post on our Forum.