The Field Report Returns: New Year 2017Report: 2017-02-09
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the second issue of the Battlezone Field Report. We hope you've all had a fantastic Christmas and New Year, and we're kicking off 2017 with a bumper issue. This time around we're bringing you an exclusive interview with Team Evolve's Robert Waring, the second part of Bobcat Betty's combat guide and our New Year workshop run-down. In this issue we'll also be providing a run-down of the changes introduced in the latest patch.
The Heracles Brigade is busy with a lot of big projects we hope to share soon. To tide you over we're also publishing 'The Battlezone Chronicles', a long-running alternative-universe serial run by HyperFighter with chapters contributed by many other community members.
We've also created a community discord server which you can access from this site's primary navigation menu or by clicking here. The server is available for members of the Battlezone 1998, Battlezone II, Battlezone 98 Redux, and any other related community. We're working on bots and systems to make it a powerful utility for anyone looking to play the game or be involved in the community.
Interview with Robert Waring, Producer of Battlezone: The Red Odyssey
AH: Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome this issue’s guest. His name is Robert Waring, and he’s a kook! As always the best place for us to start is the beginning - how did Team Evolve come to be? How did you all first meet, and what motivated you to form a team?
RW: First of all, thank you for the opportunity to answer some questions regarding my time with Team Evolve. Team Evolve existed well before I got involved. They were a small group making modifications for the game Quake. They had developed the Air Fist, and then the full modification Painkeep. At this time I was busy doing my own level design and creating stand alone levels for a variety of people. I was intrigued by what they were doing at Team Evolve so I exchanged emails with their main guy Stephen Karl. He was leading the team at the time. I had a background in publishing and writing video game books for games like Doom, Duke Nukem, Terminal Velocity, etc.. I had always wanted to move into game creation and in our talks they invited me to join the group. Once my foot was in the cyber door at team evolve, I say cyber door because we were a distributed development team from all over the world. We had coders in New Zealand, Canada and the USA. Everything was done online. Level design, storyboarding, group meetings, production status updates, bug systems, everything. We have only met in person a few times. I'll explain more about that later.
AH: You say Team Evolve originally started making Quake modifications; Quake and Battlezone are very different games, and Zaero and The Red Odyssey are very different expansions despite having the same Evolve character to them. What was it that drew you to Battlezone?
RW: Luckily after we had finished Zaero, our publisher had been working with a different development team who had totally dropped the ball on a Battlezone Mission Pack, so I got a call and they basically said they were impressed with our ability to organize and produce Zaero so quickly. Could we do it again with a different game? I asked what game, and they said Activision's Battlezone. Having actually played the original .25 stand up arcade machine, as well as the desktop version that had recently come out, I was all in. Convincing the other guys wasn't too hard either as it really gave us a bigger audience to showcase our talents to. It was about this time that Stephen Karl had left the group to pursue other avenues for his 3D work. I think you'll be amazed at what he's doing now. He works, or last time I spoke with him, he was with a little place in New Zealand called WETA. They do some little films called The Hobbit, or something like that. Anyway, back to Team Evolve!
The publisher said they had one concern about us working on the Red Odyssey. That was our name by the way, the original name sucked. It was so bad, I can't remember it, I blocked it from my memory, but trust me, it was a rubbish name. [Editor’s note: That name was “Imperial Insurrection”. We’re glad it got dropped too.] Their concern was that Activision would be reluctant to hire us due to the fact that we were a distributed team, but we had proven successful products in our portfolio, so they knew we were capable, but they were also kind of between a rock and a hard place due to the previous developer stringing them along with delays and excuses.
The answer? We had to fly out to Activision and meet with both Activision execs and Pandemic, the original developers of Battlezone. It was this time in California that we all got to meet in person for the first time, discuss our participation goals, set the expected rate for each developer and make sure we were all on board before we ever met anyone at the corporate offices.
I could go on for days about our time there, it was 1/2 party and 1/2 party, with a little business thrown in for fun. It was a crazy time to be in the videogame business. I don't think that environment survived as most small developer teams have been eaten up by the massive corporate conglomerates, which in turn leads to more and more of what I call "me too" games. Those are basically the same game repackaged with a new cute furry animal or sexy booty mama with a gun. Same game you've played a thousand times, but with a new paint job. "Me too" games existed back then as well, but not as prevalent as they are now. I think this is something we all liked about Battlezone, It was a 3D first person, as well as a real time strategy game. Nobody was doing anything like it at the time. Like I said before, we didn't have to be sold on the idea to do this mission pack, we were all in. We were small, we were focused, and more than anything, we liked to innovate. We didn't want to create things you've played a hundred times before. We wanted you to play a Team Evolve game and say, "Damn! Now this is different AND fun!".
Turns out, the Activision and Pandemic guys really liked us. Gave us the thumbs up, and then said, okay, you've got 30 days. I'm not 100% sure it was 30 days, it was a few years ago. I've slept since then, but it was a VERY accelerated development schedule because we had to make up for the mistakes of the previous developer. We had our work cut out for us.
AH: Evolve’s history is something that we’d be hard-pressed to see in gaming today; how did you make the switch from free mods to unofficial, retail expansion packs? What was it that got MacMillan involved, and did you go into The Red Odyssey with Activision’s endorsement or did that start out as an unofficial expansion like Zaero?
RW: My background in publishing opened the door to Zaero. As I was already working with Team Evolve producing levels, I took the idea of doing an expansion pack to id Software as I had worked with them many times in the past on my Doom and Quake books. They already had an official mission pack, I forget the name, but said we could do one with Macmillan publishing it and they would allow it, but it would not be an official id expansion pack. We had missed the window on that but because of my great relationship with Jay Wilbur who was at id at the time, he allowed it to happen and it's something I'll forever be grateful for. Jay was a fantastic guy to work with and loved gaming as much as the rest of is. In fact, most of the early id guys were awesome, John Romero, American McGee, Dave Taylor... just a great time to live in and be a part of. I'm a very lucky man because it was like catching lightning in a bottle, an exciting time full of creative people, endless possibilities, the videogame craze, especially 3D first person shooters was exploding. We were treated like rock stars at the time, it was pretty crazy. I've not experienced anything like it since, and seriously doubt I ever do again.
AH: What was it like working on The Red Odyssey? What was your favourite moment, and which did you like the least? If you were to do it all again, what would you change?
RW: If I were to do the game again now, I'd love more time. There was so much more we wanted to do, but the budget wasn't there, and the time wasn't there. We did the best with what we had. What I found most fun was at the last minute, we realized we needed about 10 pieces of dialogue produced, and we needed fresh voices, so I volunteered to be a Chinese captain, and my brother also did some of the basic commands you hear in game. It's kinda cool to hear our voices from 15 years ago in that game.
AH: So, The Red Odyssey Redux. What was your initial reaction to its announcement? Are there any things you’d particularly want to see? Did anything come up during The Red Odyssey’s development that you’d pass on to Big Boat and Rebellion if you had the chance?
RW: Anytime someone wants to keep the Battlezone Red Odyssey going I'm all for it. It's a great battle for strength between the two parties, and there are plenty of planets to conquer, defend and/or destroy. One thing I'd always wanted were perhaps portable teleporters you could use for your ships to reduce drive time. Those would have to be power ups I'm sure, but could make for interesting gameplay.
Thanks again, and I hope this answers your questions!
AH: And thank you for talking to us, and being such a wonderful guest.
Bobcat Betty’s Guide to The Flanker (Fighters)
Alright, maggots, you’ve felt what it’s like to be behind the controls of a Biometal craft, you’ve had a taste of the action, but if you’re going to survive out there you need to master more than just brute force. These vehicles require finesse not seen in any terrestrial craft from back home and no vehicles make that clearer than fighters. The fewer hits you take, the more hits you land, the longer you survive out there, it’s that simple.
While their armament of two chainguns will seem weak at first glance, if used effectively they put out as much hurt as a single blast cannon. They have a wide profile, which does put them at a disadvantage, but they more than make up for it with their mobility and speed. Fast, lightweight, and heavy-hitters in the right hands, mastery of the fighter will teach you what it takes to survive in any situation.
Length: 5.95m Width: 8.20m Height: 1.90m Scrap Cost: 6 Build Time: 12.0 seconds EDD Hull: 1900 Nano Ammo: 600 Radar Range: 400m Mobility: High
Standard Flanker: Cannons: Chainguns Rocket: Empty
It should be noted that the Hull and Ammo stats provided above apply only to the Recycler-built Flanker, the Flanker piloted by commanders is a special variant that possesses 800 more hull and 150 more ammo. This not only gives it comparable armour to a medium tank, but allows it to use ammo-intensive weapons for longer periods of time. The Razor scout piloted by NSDF commanders is similarly enhanced, sporting 700 more hull at the cost of 100 less ammo. For most intents and purposes, the difference in combat effectiveness between the two vehicles can be assumed to be minimal.
In the right hands, the Flanker can be one of the deadliest units in a dogfight. Don't let its wide profile fool you, it is not an easy target, as one of the most maneuverable units in the game they can be a phantom in the middle of a fight. Their armament of dual cannons and a rocket allows for some of the deadliest weapon combinations in the game: a dual-MAG shot with a Hornet chaser will absolutely ruin a walker's day. More than any other unit, a fighter's survival is dependent on moving undetected until the opportunity to strike arises. A Flanker pilot does not allow the battle to come to them, they go out and find it. Depending on your style, you may prefer to keep at least one Chaingun as it is a cheap weapon with decent enough damage, and focusing solely on a heavy-hitter like Flash or MAG could leave you in a tight spot if your would-be prey survives and becomes your predator. That said, proper and effective use of a glass-cannon fighting style merely takes practice, and in a quick and maneuverable unit like the Flanker dual-MAGs can be more effective than they ever were on a Grizzly.
The rocket you use is up to you, though they'll all have their advantages and disadvantages. TAG is effective with SP-Stabbers as it has similar range, Shadower is useful if you want to save ammo by not using your cannons, Hornet gives a nice extra punch to MAG or Flash, and Rocket Bomb is useful for picking off an ejected pilot as they near the ground or dealing damage to a swarm of enemies. Comet costs too much to even be fired, so don't bother grabbing Comet powerups you come across on the battlefield.
All throughout a strategy match, Flankers will be an asset. Cheap craft that you can build at your Recycler while your Factory is amassing your main force, use them to their namesake and order them to hunt for enemy scavengers on one side of the enemy base as your main force attacks the other, 1 or 2 should be enough for the job. Using them in your main force to complement the rest of your units can also be a wise choice if you expect your enemy's forces to be small, though do try to keep your tanks at the front to take the brunt of the enemy's attacks.
After having won an engagement, it can be a good idea to bring in some Flankers, in addition to factory units, to secure the scrap field. Should you choose to upgrade your fighters, a cheap rocket such as Shadower or TAG is a good choice, while a Rocket Bomb will make for a fairly effective and unexpected surprise for the enemy. Upgrading them with heavier cannons is not advised, as they'll eat through their ammo using them far too quickly to be worth the cost, spend the scrap on an extra fighter or other unit instead would be a better choice.
Workshop Run-Down: New Year
It’s been nine months since the release of Battlezone 98 Redux, and with that we figured it was time to give you a list of our top favourite maps and mods on the Workshop. Since the GOG release some of these mods have also been put out on ModDB as well; where that’s the case we’ll throw a link to that in as well.
Battlezone 98 Redux
Those of you who are active on the Steam forum will know by now that there is a major update for Battlezone 98 Redux in the works. There’s no official details on exactly what is being fixed and we’re not at liberty to disclose them here, but if there are any burning issues that you’re desperate to see fixed you can let the developers know about them on the Steam forum thread at http://steamcommunity.com/app/301650/discussions/0/154644705026213561/.
Battlezone II’s 1.3 patch was recently updated to version 188.8.131.52 beta 132ac. Grab it from http://bzforum.matesfamily.org/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=2576.
Battlezone Classic, the massive project aiming to reproduce Battlezone in Battlezone II, is in public beta testing. Public Beta 4, available from BZScrap, includes full Battlezone and Red Odyssey campaigns, instant action support, and improved cloaking balance for multiplayer. You can find it at http://www.bzscrap.org/downloads/Mods/BZClassic/BZClassicBeta4.7z.
Battlezone: Battle Grounds
The new version of Battlezone’s first expansion Battle Grounds, available for Battlezone 98 Redux from the Steam Workshop, now has sixteen uploaded Instant Action maps alongside all 52 multiplayer maps. Future developments to the Instant Action maps had been put on hold while the Heracles Brigade awaited the upcoming Redux patch and its custom campaign feature; now it has been released, we can announce that Battlezone: Battle Grounds’ single-player maps will instead be released in campaign format with improvements and additional scripting - a taste of which can be found in the already-released Instant Action maps like Stargate: Alpha and the Nightmare trilogy.
Rise of the Black Dogs Decompilation Project
With around a year and a half since the Rise of the Black Dogs Decompilation Project’s first release - the reorchestrated soundtrack - the Heracles Brigade has also added a second small release to the project via the Steam Workshop. The Black Dog Voice Pack swaps the voice files for Black Dog units in both Battlezone and The Red Odyssey with those used in the Nintendo 64 version, and we’re told the reproduction of the exclusive campaign is taking great strides.
In case you hadn’t guessed it yet, the fantastic Omega Squadron campaigns are indeed coming to Battlezone 98 Redux! ScrapPool is currently debugging both the Omega Squadron and People’s Dragon campaigns, reworking textures for both squadrons, and fixing continuity conflicts. Sit tight, folks - and if you’re a fan of ScrapPool’s work, consider checking out the Burns’ Rebellion Trilogy.
Caught on to something big in the news lately? Got a project of your own you want to e-mail us about? Get in touch at ded10c(at)live.co.uk.
By now you have probably heard the news that there’s a big patch on the way. Some of you may have it already and others might be waiting for it to be pushed, but we’ve got the lowdown on the major features of the latest update right here for all of you.
Multiplayer and Mods
Multiplayer has seen a few big improvements come this latest patch, including visible full games and the ability to password-protect game lobbies for private games. Perhaps the biggest change, though, is the introduction of multiplayer-compatible mods. The mods currently allowed are mostly texture and audio edits, allowing players to customize their experience as they play with their friends online. In order to see if a mod you’re using (or making) is multiplayer-compatible, check your Mods tab while in the main menu; mods shown in green will work in multiplayer, while those in red will be limited to single-player use. Maps with custom content will remain unaffected.
Comments regarding performance issues with the game have finally been answered with this patch. Developers have worked on optimizing the code, and have managed to achieve massive performance improvements in gameplay. This is a boost especially for players with lower-end PCs that had issues getting a smooth, playable frame rate in older versions.
One of the biggest additions to be brought into this patch are Custom Campaigns. Custom campaigns made using this feature can be downloaded from the workshop and played in sequence just like the stock campaigns, complete with full briefing, debriefing, monologue and custom world support. For those intending to create their own, an example custom campaign will be included with the patch.
The latest patch has changed the functionality of the addon folder. Now it behaves exactly like Steam’s workshop folder regarding custom content. This change makes it easier to download mods that are not on Steam. Modders should note that any project in the addon folder must include a custom INI matching those needed for the workshop and that they will not be able to use subfolders within their project.
Full List of Changes
Performance and features
- A general code cleanup was performed resulting in a small framerate improvement.
- A refactoring of all the shaders resulting in a large framerate improvement.
- The GL shaders were rewritten for a large performance increase.
- A DX11 renderer was added. On some higher-end systems this will increase framerate 50%-75%.
- To swap renderers, add the following to the launch options:
- The terrain shader and vertex format were rewritten to dramatically lower the amount of VRAM used by the terrain.
- The shadow system was rewritten to use less VRAM while increasing the quality of the shadows. Ultra shadows now use less VRAM than Med shadows did and look much better.
- Shadow maps are now 16-bit, cutting their VRAM usage by 50%.
- Shadows now can be enabled in all graphics settings and there is now a no-shadow option.
- The effects system has had an optimization pass. Large battles no longer reduce the framerate drastically.
- Added the emissive texture pass to Low-quality graphics.
- Added PSSM shadows at High, Very High, and Ultra shadow settings.
- The mission name was added to the mission briefing screen.
- Effects now properly glow if glow is turned on.
- Made the glow nonlinear so that it acts more like an HDR bloom effect.
- Adjusted the terrain and object shaders LOD for extra performance.
- Shadows adjusted to remove jitter seen at Low and Medium resolutions.
- Rejiggered PCF sample points for more performance.
- Added password protected games.
- MP now uses a custom server and custom low level net code.
- Locked, Launched and Full games are now visible in the MP lobby.
- An icon was added for locked games.
- Asset preloading is vastly improved, dramatically reducing load times.
- Reticles have been redone in high resolution glory!
- Changing your Steam name now changes your BZ name.
- Fixed the pilot hammering the animation system every frame while standing.
- Add new "Very Low" detail setting that uses per-vertex lighting. This will be very fast on low-end hardware.
- Updated Low/Med/High graphics:
- Low: 1 light + specular map + emissive map
- Medium: 8 lights + specular map + emissive map
- High: 8 lights + normal map + specular map + emissive map
- Added support for Razer Chroma Keyboard and mouse.
- Fixed grey lightning on Great Pyramid (multdm29).
- Fixed lightning color so that it is read correctly from trn now. Lightning bolts on worlds like Venus did not originally obey their color settings
- Fixed AI wandering off map when interrupted by a sub-task while following a path.
- Fixed Io emissive texture (adjusting lava brightness in the texture).
- Black Dog mission 6, fixed it so the APC cannot die in cutscene (or immediately prior).
- Black Dog mission 15, fixed being able to destroy the Launchpad, (which effectively screwed the whole mission). Also fixed a bug where Betty would crash (or stomp on VO) during cutscenes.
- Black Dog mission 14, fixed that the audio was checking to see if APC was dead before providing nag audio.
- Chinese mission 4, adjusted lighting to look nicer.
- Updated Black Dog Scout and NSDF Scout cockpit geo as cockpit was sliding off screen.
- Black Dog mission 11, fixed an issue where a pilot would try to enter a non-pilotable recycler and get stuck.
- Line up Craft "bumper" contact points with the transform position. Reduces spurious ground hits on large vehicles like the Recycler.
- Made sure that units de-cloak in all instances where they lose a pilot. This fixes sniping a cloaked pilot and the ship remaining cloaked.
- Fixed objectives on the first training mission.
- Fixed various random crashes.
- Fixed some network connection issues.
- Fixed cockpit for Yeti.
- Fixed a problem where spamming space during a cutscene would end the scene, but the audio would play on.
- Black Dog mission 12, fixed an issue where the recycler could get stuck in the portal.
- You can no longer kick yourself although it is not clear why you would want too.
- Fix for Collision with rear of Hephestus.
- Fixed Scale of Chinese Command Building.
- Fix for missing CR's in .inf file for gun tower.
- Training mission 4, updates objectives as they are completed now.
- Chinese mission 2, increase hangar distance threshold to 40m so mission can end properly.
- Fixed upside down Howitzer cockpit in Chinese mission 4.
- Prevent Black Dog mission 6 from removing player-occupied APC and triggering an erroneous mission failure.
- Adjusted avturr and bvturr POV to make them easier to control from the cockpit.
- Repeat hopping now animates correctly.
- MP lobby chat now scrolls and has time stamps.
- MP lobby chat is saved to BZChatLog.txt.
- MP lobby now displays a total number of players in all lobbies and games on the top of the screen.
- Remove smoothing on Great Pyramid (multdm29). This restores DM29 to its stairsteppy glory.
- Soviet Fury now rides a bit lower and matches its target icon.
- Added a command line to disable all mods. Launch the game with -disablemods and no mods will load. Use this to troubleshoot weirdness.
- Fixed a rare crash in Black Dog mission 2 if you destroy the recycler too early.
- Fixed AI team crash when team 2 has a null AIP.
- TRO track 5 replaced. This fixes the repeating audio some people hear.
- Fixed wonky cockpit shadows by disabling shadows on cockpit meshes.
- CCA mission 1, move nav beacon 2 into the playable area.
- Black Dog mission 12, make portal indestructible while all four shields are alive and powered.
- Black Dog mission 11, give 30 second warning before portal detonation.
- Fixed minigun mounted on the wrong hard-point in variant Black Dog Scout.
- Fail Training mission 2 if the drone dies before the turret deploys at the target range.
- Fix terrain tile placement in US mission 2.
- No longer apply boundary to destroyed empty vehicles; fixes weirdness seen in misn06 opening cut-scene.
- Fixed pilot sniper dots appearing above the pilot's head while in falling animation
- Fixed build point when producing units from the CRA Recycler
- Aligned CCA Launch Pad's model with its collision mesh
- New mod type: Custom campaigns. A workshop item can now include multiple missions with custom load screens, mission descriptions, loading audio and missions will progress and campaign progress will be saved.
- Mods that conform to a whitelist of allowed files will now be active in MP. On the mod screen item colors indicate MP safety. Red for unsafe, green for safe.
- Added “Builder” to uploader ODF header list
- Restructured the addons folder. It now functions like the workshop folder, and can be used for testing workshop items. Items must be in folders with no subfolders like the workshop and must contain a standard workshop .ini.
- Addons no longer will be read for any loose files.
- .stb files no longer exist. Replaced by .sta files which are text and only contain the new sprites, not the whole sprite table like .stb's did.
- There is now a single unified terrain atlas for Titan.
- All terrain atlases can use a .csv file to map atlas textures to TRN textures.
- Edit directory now contains new terrain atlases and sample .csv files.
/editis now usable in full screen as we’ve redone the load/save dialogs.