Welcome to the September Development Update!
To begin this month’s diary, we’d like to share that the team is very confident in an October release for Update 8! The core development phase has finished and we have now moved on to testing, finalizing and ensuring all animals have been upgraded successfully.
This update was originally slated for July and has taken a much longer time to finish than initially anticipated. The further we went into Update 8, the more unforeseen but addressable issues appeared, requiring immense levels of planning, teamwork and refactoring to eventually get this release across the finish line.
We have focused on getting all the underlying animal systems to feature parity with what players are used to, in addition to making them highly expandable and much more performant. This new base for the animals will allow us to easily make changes and additions in the future, as opposed to before, where the animals essentially did not change since release.
Update 8 has been a massive endeavor, so we’d like to thank you all for waiting patiently while our team worked hard over the last few months. It’s been an enormous collaboration between all departments and now that it’s almost ready, will allow us to do so much more with the animals going forward!
Where We’re At
As one of the final steps for Update 8, we’ll be porting all of our species across to the new ‘AnimalsV2’ architecture, our latest collection of AI, locomotion and audio components that have been in development for the last few months.
Porting the old animals is extremely fast thanks to new editor tooling that allows us to not only upgrade existing animals, but set up brand new species with significant automation.
This new pipeline has tons of advantages, but perhaps the most important to players is how easy it is for us to customize behavioral differences between species. With a few simple sliders, we can now change things like an animal’s fleetness, metabolism or how much food they need to consume before they’re full. As new AI behaviors are added in future patches, it’ll be very easy to plug them into factors like playfulness, boldness and sociality.
It might come as a bit of a shock to some players, but animals are actually one of the worst performing things in the live game. In some key areas, however, we’ve managed to improve the animal performance in Update 8 tenfold.
One of these key areas is our brand new in-house IK system that has been developed exclusively for the needs of Prehistoric Kingdom. For our more tech-oriented fans, the old IK system took 62 milliseconds (!!!) to process limb adjustment for 400 quadrupedal animals. From an in-development test, however, our new solution only took 3 milliseconds for the same amount of critters, offering up to a 20x improvement in IK performance.
Another substantial optimization has actually been animal audio processing. In Update 8, we now cull sounds early based on an animal’s level of detail. This prevents small, detail-oriented sounds from ever triggering if the player is too far away, cutting down on wasted processing.
Update 8 Overview
Before the October release of Update 8, let’s take one last look at all the major improvements coming in this patch. The full, extensive changelog will be available on Steam at the release of Update 8.
Boasting an impressive crest and sickle-shaped claws, it’s almost time for everyone’s favorite speedy thief to join the kingdom. Like all the animals in Update 8, Velociraptor will of course be making use of our brand new locomotion and AI.
To recap, animals will be navigating seamlessly using strafes, walking backwards and turning on the spot as part of their general locomotion state. They are very fluid, reactive and can move between walking or running as needed.
Some creatures, like quadrupeds, even have trotting animations to smooth out that dynamic transition. You can see some work in progress debug footage below!
Footage slightly sped up to fit into a gif!
We’ve also redone our audio breathing system to better take advantage of the new fluid locomotion. Influenced by an animal’s speed and exertion, the pitch, intensity and frequency of their breath will respond to the current circumstances of an animal. If they’ve been running for a while, it might take longer for their breathing to steady.
We’d like to take this even further in the future by making an animal’s health or sickness audible through how they breathe, clueing players into potential issues.
As of Update 8, animals will seek out hay beds to rest or sleep, finally giving your prehistoric pals the sweet dreams they deserve.
We should note that at release, hay beds will only allow one animal to rest on them at a time (apparently genetic engineering makes them selfish). This is something we’d definitely like to improve, but in the meantime, we’d recommend making use of multiple beds in a habitat for the best results.
For the thirsty animals in your park, we’re pleased to announce that the long awaited modules, water troughs, are finally going to be included in Update 8. Available in large and small sizes, water troughs are a great solution for habitats that are too small or too uniquely shaped to comfortably contain lakes.
A small yet hopefully appreciated feature we’ve worked on is physicalized interaction points for feeders, water troughs and lakes. Rather than ensuring animals line up exactly where they need to when eating or drinking, they’ll instead check for valid head placements.
This results in a far more natural behavior where animals can be seen eating or drinking from random angles, so long as their head reaches the goal!
Genetic Mutations & Variation
When players create new animals in Update 8, there’s a random chance for them to be born as an albino, melanistic or leucistic mutation.
An albino and melanistic Edmontosaurus.
These mutations are procedurally generated, not a preset texture. This means that for every skin, they can mutate and vary in unique ways while preserving the underlying look of an animal (note the subtle patterning on the albino above).
This extends to our variation system, too. Every individual animal will have a unique hue, saturation or brightness that’s restricted to a pattern mask, providing far more natural results than what was in the game previously.
The two Brachiosaurus below have the same skin, yet they’re quite distinct thanks to this enhanced variation!
Park Beauty is a new component of park rating, requiring players to build their park in an optimal way that keeps your aesthetic seamless and beautiful.
Gardens in particular are a great way to boost Park Beauty, while foliage, fences, walls and decorations can help to reduce the impact caused by infrastructure or dirty habitats.
Guest Needs & Queuing
Guest needs have been re-tuned along with a number of bug fixes that previously impacted how guests interacted with the economy. We’ve been able to make a few pathfinding updates along with the brand new queuing feature that should make guest traffic a lot more manageable and hopefully, predictable.
Players can tune into the Guest Needs management view to locate high quantities of disatisfied visitors.
If your animals or habitats have been neglected, Nigel will occasionally chime in to point out issues that need to be addressed. There are 76 new contextual lines across a variety of possible triggers.
Tropical Biome Rework
Including 34 foliage items, the tropical biome overhaul features a mix of brand new species and remastered classics ranging from lush monsteras to towering kapoks!
Updated Tropical Map
In Update 8, the tropical map itself has had a makeover, too. The playable area was remade to better incorporate the updated plants with new forests, waterways, waterfalls and prairies.
Existing tropical parks will not be affected by these changes.
Updated Scrubland Map
The scrubland map has also had its playable space revamped. The landscape has become much more forested with natural swamps and layers of rock dotting the horizon.
Existing scrubland parks will not be affected by these changes.
Modular glass now displays ambient reflections and renders more accurately during atmospheric conditions.
We’ve also updated the Modern Stone Brick wall textures to better fit our vision for the Modern theme and improve fidelity. Like before, this is a recolorable material.
Updated Atmospherics, Lighting & Color Grading
As you might’ve been able to tell by some of the screenshots in this dev diary, we’ve updated the lighting and atmospherics on every map to make them look even better. The game should look a lot more balanced, real and rich in color.
Quality of Life Improvements
Cinematic Camera Tracking
A cinematic camera tracking mode will be available for non-mini exhibit animals, toggleable through the animal info panel at anytime.
When selecting a newly bred species, the cinematic camera is automatically enabled to coincide with Nigel’s voice lines. If too disrupting, players can disable that functionality in the options menu.
Modular and path placement actions will automatically remove terrain-bound vegetation from underneath them, making it much easier to expand the park.
Added options to either change auto-save frequency or disable it entirely, which can be found in the Gameplay Settings!
For the next few updates, we will be focusing on content driven releases now that the animal overhaul is almost out of the way. This means we can get back to more regularly scheduled updates that include new animals, maps, and modular items while we work on bigger features in the background.
To reflect this, we’ve divided our Trello into current and planned developments. When we’re confident in a feature being ready (e.g. staff, animal behaviors) we’ll move it into one of the update columns on the right.
Our art, audio and animation teams have worked up quite the backlog, so these content updates will come much faster than Update 8. Behind the scenes, the programming team will continue to work on developing staff, improving guests and expanding animal gameplay through new behaviors and staff integration.
Update 9 Overview
Following the next release, we have Update 9; our Grassland update.
This patch will be dropping with 3 new animal species, featuring the big-nosed Australian icon, Muttaburrasaurus. Joining this animal are some not yet revealed mystery creatures, some of which should hopefully scratch a fan-favorite off your wishlist. You’ll hear more about these remaining species closer to the release of Update 9…
In terms of landscaping, this update will of course include the Grassland biome - a gorgeous selection of grasses dominated by a variety of acacia and marula trees. This is a highly versatile biome and will be retroactively added to animals like Smilodon.
To conclude Update 9, we’ll also include a brand new map set deep in the heart of a Tanzanian crater. This flat landscape is perfect for those looking for an easy building experience due to its lack of dense foliage or extensive waterways.
Please stay tuned for information regarding Update 9’s release after Update 8.
Created by Edhelluin.
Created by Jason Lee.
Created by 1ncognito.
Thank you for reading September’s dev diary!
We hope you’re ready to finally get your hands on Update 8 in the next few weeks. It’s a really big update, and although it took longer than expected, we’re happy with it and are just so excited to finally have the opportunity to build out what could be a really interesting and engaging simulation for the animals.
Please keep your eye on our socials for the release announcement, the team cannot wait to have you back in the game!
- The PK Team
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