New Years Update – 1/3/2022 Jan 3 - The Installation 01 Team

Greetings! You’re probably wondering where we have been. It’s been a whole year since the last update, so we must have something to talk about, right? In fact, we have a whole year’s worth of stuff to talk about. It’s almost like it’s been a whole year since the last update.

Between states of matter and infinite Halo games, we’re going to bring you the answers to questions that you didn’t even know you had. That said, this update is going to be a bit of a long one! Buckle up those seat belts on your racing chairs and grab some popcorn, ‘cause boys and girls do I have a story for you.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

To start the update, there are several questions that keep coming up in our Discord server and on Twitter that should be addressed.

Q.
Is Installation 01 still in development?
A.
Yes! We have remained in development but have opted out of posting updates for some time for reasons that we will be explaining later on in this update.


Q.
In the 2021 New Years Update, it was mentioned that there was a loss of assets. Can you elaborate on what this means?
A.
After all the leadership changes, the team did a full review of our tools and storage and found that we were either missing assets completely or that we had the exported fbx files but not the source files. This introduced problems if adjustments needed to be done to a model or if asset workflows needed to be changed. Without the ability to bake the models, we won’t be able to alter them.


Q.
Why is it taking so long to develop Installation 01?
A.
This stems from a combination of things. In the past, we ran into several setbacks with network code or solutions where the client-side prediction was not smooth, or there would be desynchronization issues as a match progressed. Other than the setbacks, the members on the team all have jobs outside of Installation 01, some of which are in game development for other studios. This means each member is only able to work on Installation 01 in their free time. This essentially gives us a single full-time developer for every five members. With the equivalent of 9 full-time developers across the entire project, you can imagine it’s going to take some time to accomplish our dream.


Q.
What was the result of the ARG? What does the “Soon No More” video mean?
A.
The “Soon No More” video was part of the ARG series that was started and worked on by Church and Kutline. We saw that this would be a great opportunity to engage the community with something fun to do while the game was being developed. However, the ARG had a deadline we wanted to hit and content ended up being rushed. With the inability to withhold the deadline and hitting the realization that we would be putting out something half-baked, we decided to discontinue efforts for the ARG to focus on the current state of the project.

LET’S BE TRANSPARENT, JUST SO WE’RE CLEAR

One of the major topics we have been discussing internally for quite some time is how we will be going about future updates and transparency. Not the active camouflage type of transparency, unfortunately, just the development kind. Installation 01 has a bit of a history with this, so we will be taking the necessary steps to improve both of these issues going forward.

We know we’re bad with updates. We know that we have trouble sticking to a schedule. Weekly updates went to bi-weekly updates, and those became sporadic, and now we’ve gone a full year for an update. I think it’s time we settle on something reasonable, which is why we are now planning to post an update at the end of each month with art drops and smaller updates throughout the month. We have been planning to do more updates for a while now, but we have been waiting for the right time to come. That time is now.

As for transparency, we have been looking into ways to publicly show progress without showing too much, like a studio tour where we show you everything except what’s behind the locked doors, only we don’t have a studio to give tours in, so that option is out of the question. However, the following has been suggested for ways to increase transparency without giving away all the secrets:
  • Update social media pages more
  • Live Stream Events
    • In the Discord server, on Twitch, or on YouTube
    • Events consisting of development streams, our game nights, or playing with the community
  • Make a publicly-available high-level roadmap of what is currently in development
If you don’t already follow any of those, now is a great time to do so. We’re thinking about posting some cool stuff on them every now and then.

Now I bet you’re thinking, “that’s cool, so when do we start getting development news?” Well, I hope you like getting your Christmas present 358 days early, because that’s what you’re getting.

REBELS DON'T LEAVE PLASMA BURNS

As we mentioned in last year’s update, we began encountering major issues early in the year. Consistent problems were popping up with builds, which eventually became hurdles we had to keep jumping over to get by. This was unacceptable, so we called for a team meeting and discussed how we could resolve these issues so we could move forward without hitting a hurdle every 7 feet. After a long debate, the answer was clear on what we needed to do to make the game we always dreamed of: we needed to move away from Unity.

We looked into multiple engines and tested several in two-week sprints. With these sprints, we thoroughly tested multiple aspects of each engine to ensure that we would not run into the same mistakes we encountered in the past. After discussing the sprint results, we found the engine we would then use for the remainder of 2020. However, while we enjoyed the workflows of the engine and made good progress, we hit technical hurdles in some key areas due to limited staffing and resources. In the end, we needed something molded specifically around the team's limitations.

In February of 2021, we started development of Installation 01 using our new in-house game engine, Plasma Engine. We have since made far more progress using Plasma than we had in previous game engine tests. We can create custom tools and much more without the worries of tech debt or problems arising from deprecated plugins or libraries. To provide a better understanding of Plasma, I sat down with the engine programmers and their Director, Josh, to ask them some plasma-hot questions.

Kutline

Why would you pick Plasma Engine over other game engines, such as Unity, Unreal Engine, or CryEngine?

Trev

Having worked with Unity and now Unreal Engine for my day job, out of every engine that I’ve used, Plasma has been the most pleasant. The scripting language is flexible, fast to iterate with, and simple at a glance. It’s a combination of C# and Javascript syntax with the hypothetical performance of C++ using a virtual machine. What this allows me to do on the programming side is make small incremental changes in the script and see the changes immediately without recompiling the whole engine, like I have to do with Unreal, and with better performance on the code side than Unity. We also have full control when it comes to engine source code. When it comes to Unity and Cryengine, this is a luxury that you don’t have without paying a lot of money for licensing, which Installation 01 definitely doesn’t have.

In other engines, we end up writing a large amount of boilerplate code that just slows down development that can, in some cases, cause issues that we don’t know the answer to. While working with Plasma, we have never hit this issue. Lighting has a very simple and easy-to-use API where you build what you imagine. We also have the benefit of having the primary developer for the engine on our project if we do run into such issues. The C++ side of Plasma allows us to make massive feature additions with minimal work and minimal complexity. For example, creating and networking the player, projectiles, simple damage systems, kill tracking, and modifiable weapon systems took me roughly a week on my own here during the break. Plus, the networking actually just works.

As for the art side of things, I’m going to turn it over to Pat.

Pat

From the get-go, the engine is really easy to use. If you know any sort of 3D program or another game engine, you can just jump straight in and know exactly how to use the majority of the tools.

It also just has everything you need to get right into making a level too. Coming from an environment perspective and having loved using Forge in H3-Reach and 4, this was an absolute breeze. Objects snap upon the grid nicely, things move freely, and rotation can be changed on the fly.

The "Library" system is also super intuitive right now as well. It acts less like a content browser and more of a 'Tag list' very similar to the content organization in Source. Assets are organized into pre-set tags for easy access and grouping. That means you could go searching through the branching lists for what you want OR you can search a tag and it will display all of the assets related to that tag! It’s different to what I would normally be used to in UE4 or Unity, but it’s still a neat way of doing things. Of course, being a relatively new engine, we are actively working with the programmers to fix any bugs as they crop-up and add features at request. Having engine programmers on hand is really damn handy when us non-techy artists need a new feature or an upgrade to an existing feature. The library system has been improved substantially through development thanks to constant back and forth between the art and programming teams for both bugfixes and feature requests. The beauty of having the source close to home!

The final piece to add to my favorite things about the engine is the shader/material editor. Now, it's not quite an editor in the general sense, but it is really nice to play with. Right now it works akin to photoshop ‘layers’. Do you need a detailed normal block to add minute detail? Add it in and drag it above the normal map.

Because Unity included both Metal Rough and Spec Gloss it was one of the absolute needs we wanted for i01, but because Plasma was not built with spec gloss in mind, we had to find a new way to include that spec gloss pipeline for our Covenant materials. Naturally we had to remake it using our shader block system, so we jumped on into the shader block editor which is essentially an easy to use HLSL code editor (for art dummies like myself) which uses lightning script to whip up a new block that sort-of replicates the look of spec gloss. But get this: if we jump back into the block list and move that new Spec Gloss block up and down above the metallness or roughness blocks, it really starts to cause some wacky but really cool new looks which is pretty much exactly what we'd need for a variety of different Covenant or even Forerunner looks and styles.

Now, I could probably go on and on here but it's already getting way too long and I should hand it back to the rest of the fellas. We artists will be back to showcase more and more in the coming weeks and months, so stay tuned for ‘Cavity’, our new and improved version of the map originally seen in the Unity iteration of Installation 01 :P

Cavity Concept by Aviixe
WIP Map Rendered in Plasma Engine
Modeled by Pat | Textured by Sam
Kutline

With this being a custom-built engine, what are the risk factors of going with Plasma Engine compared to established game engines?

Josh

There are many risks with developing and maintaining our own game engine. Many of the biggest risks will not affect us, such as licensed platform support, since being a fan game limits us to Windows, Mac, and Linux. Some risks that will affect us are down to technology. Being a small team, we can’t advance our technology as fast as bigger engines. Normally this would be an issue, but for us this can also be a benefit as it means we can streamline our technology specifically for our needs. We have a good example of this: we don't need an infinite polygon rendering solution, but due to plans for a forge mode down the line, realtime global illumination technology is on our list. In short, this means that we need to pick and choose our battles ahead of time depending on our resources and team.

It sounds to me like this is just perfect for what we need. Thank you guys for taking the time away from having fun in Plasma to talk about the engine. I look forward to seeing Installation 01 come together in this new environment. Speaking of which, how is development going right now?

STATE OF THE GAME

Going forward, all major updates will contain a “State of the Game” section that will provide a clear-cut and easy-to-understand direction of what is currently being worked on, what is being discussed, and what is pending further discussion. For this update only, we are including a “completed” section featuring some of the major accomplishments and milestones we have already reached.

In terms of game programming, we are in the early block-out stages focusing on building the overall architecture. This involves filling out preliminary solutions, adding in features, and polishing as we go. Our current goal is to get all of the key features in a basic state first. This includes all player systems, lobby systems, gametypes, and weapon systems in a state where they are all working pleasantly in harmony. We then can expand upon these systems to reach our vision. Fortunately, we only have a couple more things to do before we reach that point!

GLOBAL FEATURES AND DEVELOPMENT STATUS

Completed

  • Core Engine Systems
  • Core Physics Engine
  • Core Networking Engine
  • Core Audio Engine
  • Core UI Library
  • Core Tooling and Editor
  • Gen 1 Renderer
  • Custom Scripting and Shader Language
  • Material Blocks Framework
  • Windows Support

Completed (First Pass)

  • Player Movement Framework
  • Weapon Framework
  • Projectile Framework
  • Joining and leaving a game
  • Multiple armor sets in game
  • Linux Support
  • Animation Backed
  • Masked Material Blocks
  • Vertex Color Material Blocks

Actively In Development

  • Player Inventory
  • Player Animations
  • Cavity (Map)
  • Gen 2 Renderer
  • Improved Animations Tools
  • Inverse Kinematics

In Design Iteration

  • Pickups/Interactives Framework
  • Grenade Framework
  • Lobby Systems
  • Player Customization
    • Reviewing key art for menu
  • Realtime Global Illumination
  • In Editor Vertex Painting
    • Audio Occlusion

In Backlog/Pending Further Discussion

  • Gametype Systems
  • Hud Systems
  • Raytracing
  • Threaded Loading
  • MacOS Support
  • Procedural Weather tools
  • Soft Body Physics

HALO INFINITE LAUNCH

Finally, with the launch of Halo Infinite on PC and Console, a big question keeps coming up: “What does this mean for fan projects such as Installation 01?” As we mentioned with the Halo MCC release, our goal with Installation 01 was never to be a replacement or a clone of any of the classic games. As fans of the series, we strive to create a new classic experience fueled by the community.

We have been looking at the feedback that the community has provided to 343 Industries regarding what they enjoy or dislike about Halo Infinite and MCC, and we have heavily taken this feedback into consideration for Installation 01. This feedback has helped point us in the right direction for how we can improve the Installation 01 experience, and it has even tipped us off on some small details that we didn’t even think of. Despite the development struggles that 343 Industries faced before, during, and after launch, I can easily say that Halo Infinite has become a favorite amongst the team. We can’t wait to see how things will develop over the upcoming months.

How does this affect Installation 01 going forward? Long story short, it doesn’t. In the end, we are creating a new classic Halo experience with the support of the community. As long as we have that support, we will keep pushing forward. We are beyond grateful for the community we have and the support we have received over the years. For that, we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.

With this new engine finally revealed, I’m excited to see what 2022 will bring us. I swear it won’t take us so long to post another update again. We have so much more to talk about. Please look forward to seeing some art showcases later this month featuring the Plasma Engine’s gorgeous graphical capabilities, and of course…
Happy new year!

The Installation 01 Team


Join the i01 Team

Reddit Comments

29
Their own engine, did not expect this one. Goodluck on development.
9
Well not entirely from the ground up. It's an open-source engine. But they will make their own version of it. Have already. In fact.
8
Well, the original creator of the engine is on the team, so it both is and isn't "ours" :p truthfully it belongs to no one, and one day soon it will flourish into something more than formiddable, but DOMINANT
2
Plasma Engine? The one that was used for Myst? Web Search results 1 and 2 for 'plasma open source engine': [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasma\_(game\_engine)](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasma_(game_engine)) [https://h-uru.github.io/Plasma/](https://h-uru.github.io/Plasma/) It made the bottom of the first page, at least: [https://plasmagameengine.com/](https://plasmagameengine.com/) I only went looking because I was going to add links to it on my Discord so people could look into it and try it out, but that it shares a name for the engine used for Myst was an interesting detour.
6
What a twist! Seems like the new engine while a set back will in the long run make dev time smoother.
16
Putting aside our sorrow, we renewed our faith in the prophecy that the updates would return, and see how our faith has been rewarded.
3
This is honestly the greatest fan projects Halo has ever seen. SPV3 was massive, but this is an entire new game built from the ground up
11
I feel like there's supposed to be someone to blame...
9
Fuckin bean

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