Alpha 1 Complete, Travel Update

Want to participate in the next Alpha test?

About a month ago, we opened the game up to a small group of Alpha testers to play and give feedback. The test went great and we gathered a lot of really good feedback. We're currently working on implementing a lot of it, as well as adding new features and expanding the world.

One of the major pieces of feedback was "I don't know where I'm going or where my friends are". We're implementing a few features related to this. One is a party system where you can group with your Steam friends or people you've waved to in-game. We're still deciding how to allow you to physically locate them or group up in the world, but we have some ideas.

The second navigation system we're implementing is a map. You'll have to explore the world to reveal the map, but towns will show in undiscovered areas if you're near enough. You can unlock talents to increase the radius that towns will show and other navigation related enhancements. We'll also mark revealed landmarks on the map (like radio towers, light houses, etc.) so it's easier to orient yourself.

In addition, we've implemented a linear compass that appears at the top of the screen at all times. This has become pretty common in popular games so we thought it would be nice to include this basic way to figure out where you're going. If you activate a GPS Cache, a pin will appear on your linear compass to help you locate it.

The linear compass at the top of the screen. GPS Caches that you've activated appear as pins for easier location.

The linear compass at the top of the screen. GPS Caches that you've activated appear as pins for easier location.

Our next Alpha milestone is the Travel Update. We're focusing on the larger world, big cities and traveling from place to place. This includes a few major development efforts:

  1. Optimizations to make sure the servers can load the entire world and have acceptable performance when many people are playing at once.
  2. Travel related gameplay features: various cars with different performance, better driving experience & controls, interesting things you can do or encounter while traveling.
  3. Improved internal tools for world creation so we can quickly populate the world and make it interesting.

We're busy on all of the above, and we've already added a bunch of new vehicles. There are now 40+ vehicles in the game, here are a few of them:

Thank you again to everyone who participated in Alpha 1, please stay tuned for the Alpha 2 date announcement in the near future.

Progress Report June 2017

We've been making a lot of progress both visually and with systems & features since our last update. We just finished up the basics of the last major systems that we were planning to implement before closed Beta (the Knowledge system and the Surgery system), so all the core features are now in the game, which is very exciting. Now we can really focus on making sure we have a polished, relatively bug free game for our Beta testers that has a lot of fun content.

We were planning on a closed Beta release this spring but we want to make sure there is enough content and minimal known bugs before we invite folks so we can all get the most value from their time. We're currently targeting later summer for the closed Beta, but we want to make sure we're happy with the state of the game first so it may get pushed out.

New Player & Clothing

We've implemented a new player with skin tone and face shape variations. We've also added a ton of clothing variations, a few of which can be seen below.

Some player variations. They can be cross-blended in any amount for more variety and customization.

Our new player also has hair and beard variations. One step closer to real-time beard growth!

A few of the many clothing variations. There are about 80 different clothing items at the moment.

We've finished the production version of the Frameshift exoskeleton and implemented it in-game. When you have an exoskeleton installed, you can hit harder and run faster (depending on the limbs that are augmented). We're excited to add even more benefits related to the exoskeleton and its various parts. For example, we'd like the camera augmentations to provide various overlays to help navigate (distance or gps, infrared vision, etc.) If you have ideas for cool enhancements, post them in the comments!

Also, our concept artist Andrea Chiampo was featured in 3D Artist magazine for his work on the Frameshift exoskeleton concept. Check it out!

An enhanced player.

We've added a cool player dirtiness shader that will dynamically apply dirt to player clothing as you run/crawl around:

Our new player model also has better variations for starving and gorging. Essentially you slowly get skinnier and skinnier as you starve to death and you can also overeat and get fat :)

We've upgraded our gore and decals to a new system, so battles look a lot cooler now with blood splatters and wounds.

Improved Stalker

We've been working a lot on enemy interactions in general, and a big part of that is improving the AI for the Stalker enemy. It can now leap at you and take you down, as well as attack with its claws. It also has a hunting behavior (STALKING if you will) where it will follow you and try to get close as long as it thinks you haven't spotted it.

Trying to fight a Stalker bare-handed isn't a good idea.


He didn't make it.

While the player is disabled, the Stalker sometimes will pick him up and drag him away:

The Stalker has a custom shader with dynamic blood:


We've added vehicles to the game, with a damage and repair system, a fuel system, and specific attributes per vehicle. Currently we only have one placeholder vehicle but a taxi is in progress. More vehicle variations to come.


And More!

  • Backpacks! You can now increase your inventory capacity by wearing a backpack. It is also its own container so you can store stuff separately if you want.
  • Interaction delay system. Some actions now take time to finish.
  • More Frameshift tech, including a outpost-type building called a Substation. Low level Frameshift technology can be found here.
  • Bodies of water. There are now lakes that you can swim in and drink water from, though the water is dirty so you have a chance of getting sick.
  • New custom terrain shader that blends well at far distances and dynamically gets wet when it rains.
  • Combat Improvements
    • We've been working on polishing the combat system, just generally improving animation transitions and attacks so the melee attacks feel responsive and satisfying.
    • There are now reaction animations when a Lurker leaps onto you and attached to a limb.
    • You can perform a curb stomp attack if you're looking all the way down at something on the ground.
    • We've implemented shields that you can hold in your off-hand to block damage. Upgraded shields can be crafted.

The player now reacts when a Lurker attaches to him.

Curb stomping a Lurker.

A Lurker mid-leap.

Struggling with a Lurker attached to the arm.

A player with a shield examining himself. He's also kinda chubby and horribly eviscerated!

  • Lurker improvements
    • Networking now uses interpolation so their movement appears smoother.
    • They try to predict where you will be and leap in that direction when they attempt to attach to a limb.
    • Now has an emissive texture and light source that changes if the Lurker is dead or aggroed.
  • Knowledge System
    • You can now can knowledge points from reading books that you find in the world.
    • You can spend your points in a knowledge "tech tree" to improve your abilities and unlock crafting recipes.
    • There are different knowledge categories, but the system is completely open: you can allocate knowledge points however you want and there are no set "classes".
  • Salvaging. You can now salvage old electronics to find ingredients for crafting. Also, since the enemy mutants are a cybernetic blend of technology and biology, you can salvage their bodies for more advanced technology items.
  • Added a bunch of cooking recipes that use wild plants as ingredients.
  • Added survivalist items: bow drill, snare, and dew collector. These all respond realistically to their environment when performing their function. The bow drill doesn't work as well when it is raining, the snare must be left alone for a certain amount of time to catch something, and the dew collector must have low temperatures (and it collects faster when overcast or raining).
  • Added some makeshift crafted weapons like glass knuckles and scrap machete.
  • Added Smelling Salts item that you can use to temporarily clear your vision and boost energy, so you can run around for a short time even when badly injured.
  • Lots of new props and buildings: Barn, fences, new residential houses, new roads, a convenience store, and a motel.
  • Settings menu. You can adjust your key bindings, screen resolution, visual detail, and audio settings.
  • Account creation, login, and character persistence. Characters are now saved to your account so your progress is saved across sessions.
  • Region and Landmark discovery. Areas of the game can now be classified as regions or landmarks (i.e. points of interest) and your area discovery progress is tracked and saved.
  • You can now give another player food or drinks to help starvation and dehydration. Previously you could only cure yourself of these effects.
  • Created a custom octree-based level of detail system. The existing ones out there and the Unity LOD weren't efficient enough to deal with the high number of LOD objects that we have.
  • Improved road system intersections. Added dynamic street sign system that populates street names on signs and calculates distances to landmarks for mile marker signs.
  • Clothing now has a thermal insulation rating that helps from getting too cold. Excess body fat also provides some thermal insulation!
    • Being wet will negate all clothing thermal insulation, and make you even colder.
    • Body parts exposed to less than 32° now get frostbite and progress to gangrene. Gangrene can only be survived if the limb is amputated.
  • Players can now contract the common cold which can turn into pneumonia. Being near another player when sick can pass along the virus.

A New Team Member

Last but not least, we'd like to welcome Paul to the team! He's helping out with the programming side and has already fixed a ton of bugs and implemented some new features. He's doing great and we're super happy to have him. Welcome! Some words from Paul himself about why he decided to join the project:

As an avid gamer with roots in games like Ultima Online and Meridian 59, I was immediately hooked by the concepts behind Frameshift. The hardcore MMO feels like it doesn’t exist the way it used to; like my hand is being held more and more with each new generation of game. When Nick approached me about the project, I was hooked immediately. This is the kind of game I’ve been wanting to play for years, and to have the privilege of helping bring it to life is more exciting with every week of development. An open-world where survival is unlikely, death has a meaningful impact, and the environment is just as harsh as the players who inhabit it? I can’t wait to play this thing and feel the ‘PK Shakes’ again.

Progress Report March 2016

It's been a while since we've given an update, so I wanted to give an overview of our progress since the last post.


  • Overloaded status. The player now gets overloaded and has to walk when carrying too much. This involved work on the item weight system and getting all types of items to correctly contribute to total weight that is being carried.
  • Quickbar. Player can now move items to a quickbar for quick access.
  • Chest Stabber AI. The creature can now path on the navmesh, patrol, attack, leap, and attach to player limbs. It has two attacks: biting with jaws that encircle the limb, and stinging with the tail.


  • Melee attack IK. Attacks can now be aimed to a more precise location based on where the player is looking. This is very useful when trying to attack a Chest Stabber that is attached to one of your limbs.
  • Lots of changes and optimizations added to build process and scripts. Changes the way the game generates files at build time to prepare for cloud build.
  • Localized weather. Weather is now unique per biome and per season.

  • Hungry & Thirsty status effects. Previously the player only received warnings when they were starving or dehydrated, which was a little too late. Now they get hungry and thirsty first to give a little more warning that need to eat or drink.
  • Lots of balance tweaks and bug fixes.
  • Currently tracking down a major crash bug with PhysX (the physics system used by Unity).


  • House 01
  • House 06
  • Mobile Home 01
  • New road materials
  • New fences for house lots.
  • A bunch of new house props.
  • Small Framecell
  • Portable Framecell
  • New loot items: tire iron axe, nail bat, compass, plastic bottle, bleach, dish soap, fertilizer, rope, motor oil, tin can, tactical knife, hatchet, crowbar, golf club, toilet paper, pine cone, matches, surge protector, computer mouse, antidote, morphine, screwdriver, flint & steel.


  • "City Tools" internal tool created for laying down roads and neighborhoods. It dynamically generates road meshes, intersections, extruded side objects (like sidewalks or ditches), and can scatter prefabs along the road (like wrecked cars or trash) or align them with the sides (like signs or power lines). It also allows individual lot placement along road (for individual houses or stores), or zone placement for entire neighborhoods. It has a preset system for defining lots, roads, scatter layers, and zones. Lots themselves can also have randomized elements to provide variety. Needs more polish and features but the basics are there.
  • Set up automated nightly builds using Amazon AWS and Jenkins.
  • Lots of texture and prefab optimizations to handle new high-res houses. Integrated Amplify Texture to handle texture streaming for new houses. Integrated QuickLOD which is faster than Unity's built-in LOD system for many objects (which we now need for the new houses).
  • New loot items: broken bottle, glass shard, wild onion, wild mushroom, plant fibers.
  • Character Creator. Choose starting profession which determines your starting loot and knowledge. Also you get a randomly generated name (which is really weird sometimes) and random age and clothing.

Character creator. UI is not in the newest style yet.


  • Updated UI to a new style that is more final and fits with the color scheme of the game.
  • Vitals interface. You can now examine yourself and other players to see their status. You can see hit points for each body part and any issues with their overall health or individual body parts (such as fractured bones, lacerations, etc), and interact with them to help if you want (i.e. bandaging a laceration).


  • "Heavy" objects. Certain items can be picked up and moved, but are too large or heavy to be placed in the inventory (like car tires, water cooler size water bottles, etc). You can now carry these in both hands, but you are limited to walking speed and you can't do anything else with your hands.
  • Misc balance tweaks and bug fixes.
  • Player dragging. You can now drag someone out of harm's way (or wherever you want :) if they are unconscious or disabled.

The overall direction has been to get the gameplay in residential neighborhoods really fun, varied, and nice to look at, with lots of ways to make progress and various ways to contribute. We're still pushing toward that goal: Jeremy is working on the neighborhood visual polish, Mark is focusing on the Chest Stabber combat, and I am working on fleshing out player specializations so the gameplay for each feels unique and they contribute equally (currently focusing on the Medical specialization).



Terrain Introduction!

I'm really excited to show off the terrain. Frameshift is set in an open world with a total area of 528km². The player can't get everywhere so the total walkable area is 409km² :). Everything is based on real satellite imagery and height data. This data is then customized by hand to add intricate details and blending. Satellite images don't have the best resolution when viewed close up, so at close distances those images fade into high resolution terrain textures.

There are multiple biomes with different sets of vegetation and textures, including the Coast, "Low Fields", Mountains, Sierras, and Desert. There is too much area to show in a single blog post so this introduction will only be about the Low Fields.

Low Fields biome is the most complete so far. It's green farmlands, rolling foothills, oak trees, small bushes, and plentiful edible plants. Trees and bushes are generated based on real data too. Very neat.

Spring time in the Low Fields

Scenic view from the Twin Gates area

High resolution terrain textures blended into the distant satellite images

Things to improve: atmospheric & weather effects, grass density, and add more vegetation assets for each biome.
The Frameshift world is a major part of the game experience so look forward to more updates!
Make sure to leave comments if you like what you see.


Frameshift Buildings Visual Upgrade

So far we've mostly been focusing on getting features in the game, delaying super polished visuals until we were closer to launch. Our first draft houses were visually on-par with DayZ mod I'd say, maybe slightly worse.

However, recently we decided to revamp our residential house visuals as part of our push to get low level portions of the game into a really polished and fun state, both visually and mechanically. This includes gameplay in the wilderness and light residential areas (like farms and suburbs).

I wanted to share with you some of our process and the results we've achieved so far. Here is a screenshot of the living room of a version 1 house:

Our houses at this point were highly optimized, using only 2 draw calls and very low poly furniture. The rooms shared UV space to allow high enough texture resolution in a single 8k texture.

Here is the same living room, with version 2 revamp in-progress:

Here I've made a few changes:

  • More, and more detailed decorations. We've added additional geometry while keeping performance under control with aggressive LODing. It could be further optimized with object pooling for all the small decorations.
  • Individual 4k textures for each room in the house. This allows us to add a lot of small detail and varying grunge to each room, which adds a ton of realism. It raises texture memory and draw calls when inside the house, but the house is combined and atlased into a single object and a single texture at higher LODs, so overall performance isn't too much worse.
  • Custom-made speedtree vine to add an overgrown feel.

In the previous screenshot, you can see that shelves and furniture still have that "floaty" feel. SSAO post-processing helps a little bit, but objects still don't feel grounded. In the shot below, I've added baked AO so the decorations now feel like they are really part of the house. I used the awesome tool Export2Maya to bring the whole scene back into an FBX that could then be used to re-bake AO in Substance Designer.

Something still wasn't right with how objects were appearing in the scene, and after playing with Unity's ambient light settings, I realized that everything being lit by ambient light is completely flat looking, because ambient light has no direction. So I needed to find a solution to light interiors better. Unity 5 global illumination was not an option because we don't use the built in scene loading methods, and since our world is streamed as you travel across it, Unity's GI bakes tied to scenes really doesn't work at all for us.

Finished version 2 living room:

In the shot above, you can see that we found a solution. We're using the GI Proxy asset, which is a great asset and is really the only "Global Illumination" solution for projects where the world is loaded dynamically. It makes a HUGE difference, as you can see objects have a ton more depth now. Since various sides of objects are lit differently from each other, they no longer blend into one monotone blob.

Here are a few more before and after shots:

Bedroom before

Bedroom after

One general design goal we have is that locations in the game should tell a story about what happened during the Frameshift apocalypse. A player should be able to walk into a house or encounter a wreck on the road, and be able to imagine the brutal ending of lives that occurred there. It should make them a little upset :)

So, as you can see above, the implementation of that philosophy within the house revamp was to add a little more personality to the rooms so the player can imagine who lived there.

Bedroom 2, before.

Bedroom 2, after. Without GI Proxy.

Bedroom 2, after. With GI Proxy. You can see this makes a huge difference with metallic objects like the garbage can.

After I got the workflow for the revamped houses hammered out, our Environmental Artist, Jeremy, took it to the next level, adding tons of detail and personality to the next house he created:

We're really excited about the level of quality we've achieved with this update. Feel free to leave comments or feedback below, or by contacting me via my email link on the homepage.


State of Frameshift

Behold the beauty of my camouflage outfit! 


For the first blog post I thought I'd talk about the current state of Frameshift Alpha, and where we are planning to go from here.

So far we've completed:

  • Multiplayer
  • Player inventory and looting systems
  • Seamless open world - 576km²!! Populated with beautiful terrain that is based on real world data. I'll talk more about this in another post, it's very cool!
  • Basic Towns - There are many locations in the game with a bunch of enterable buildings where you can scavenge for loot.
  • Basic mutant behavior and navigation (AI)
  • Basic melee combat system - Primary and off-hand weapons.
  • Player damage system - Limb and bodypart damage and destruction.
  • Crafting system - An innovative system, hopefully more exciting than standard crafting in survival games. I'll go into more detail in a later devblog.
  • Cooking recipe system - Learn recipes and cook dishes that are more beneficial than their base ingredients.
  • Status Effect system - A complex system of player vitals such as blood, energy, bodyfat, hydration, satiation, temperature, etc. and the many effects varying amounts of these vitals can have on your well-being.
  • Clothing system - The player is able to wear lots of different pieces of clothing. They can also get dirty or be destroyed. Clothing destruction is also body part specific, so if you get attacked in the arm, your sleeve will rip off.
  • Environmental Temperature system - Ambient temperature changes based on time of day, season, and biome: desert, coast, low fields, mountains, or high sierra. Heat sources like campfires raise ambient temperature inside a small radius.
  • Basic vehicle system - Ability to get in a truck and drive it around. Still more to do here.
  • Basic Cybernetic Augmentation system - Perform surgery on another player to install cybernetics. Depending on the configuration of the installation, different capabilities are enabled.
  • Ocular Implant Augmentation basic functionality - Get an ocular implant in your eye for an enhanced view of the world. Find add-on "apps" for your implant to enable various functionality. Copy software from other systems to your own via an overlay interface.
  • Native Plants system - find edible, poisonous, and medicinal plants around the world to use in various ways. Plants grow based on season and biome.
  • Shelter system - take cover in a tent, indoors, or under a rock to reduce the effects of extreme heat or cold.
  • A bunch of other smaller features...

Still to do before closed beta:

  • Better mutant behavior and visuals.
  • Bunkers.
  • Vehicle damage and repair, upgrade to new physics system.
  • World performance optimizations.
  • Family system.
  • Part fabrication system.
  • Basic UI for main menu, options, connect, etc.
  • TONS and TONS and TONS of content - more recipes, loot, applications, augmentations, buildings, clothing, weapons, tools, vehicles etc. Basically everything in the world, we need MORE of it. This is an ongoing process. The good news is, once all the systems are in for these items, it is just a matter of making cool items for each system.
  • A bunch of small feature improvements and usability fixes.

And ongoing/after closed beta:

  • Lots of polish and balancing.
  • Back-end stuff like build servers, version checking, server and client stress testing, monitoring.
  • Implementing feedback.
  • Other cool features that I don't want to mention yet because they may never get implemented. Mostly content and features that will be geared toward the end-game.