This is is it everyone – the Final Push!
Ready the grenades, fix bayonets and let ‘em have it!
With all your help we have come this far – Festung Europa found a place in the Top 100 of IndieDBs Game of the Year Award! Which rank will be finally achieved is entirely up to you however, and because of that we ask you to give us once more your help and attention:
Only a little over 30 hours remain to cast your vote in the 2013 Indie of the Year Awards!
Make sure to cast your vote on the page linked above, clicking “Vote for this Game” on the project’s page itself does not register the vote! If done correctly, it should confirm your vote with a green text in your browser.
Once you have voted, please don’t forget to tell those you think would be interested in the game.
Every Vote and every Like & Share will provide Festung Europa with the exposure this project needs to be successful!
We would also like to take the opportunity and present you with a brand new Dev Diary, providing a sneak peak behind the scenes of creating Fesung Europa! This time, Lead 2D Artist Günther gives an insight inot the creation of the Commonwealth’s main battle rifle during World War 2 – the Lee Enfield No. 4 Mk I*. We had already produced a version of the Lee-Enfield, but decided after following internal and community criticism, that we would revise the existing model. We put r0tzbua to work, and it quickly came apparent, that we would need a brand new model! Here is what he has to say of the experience:
Hello, my name is Günther “r0tzbua” Feldbaumer, I’m 28 years old, from Austria and the Lead 2D Artist over here at Jackboot Games. I have been a texture and 2D Artist since the golden times of Half Life modding and worked on some games and mods since then, for example The Trenches. My goal with Festung Europas’ art direction is to provide an authentic and realistic portrayal of every aspect of Normandy ’44. Weapons are my pet peeve though – I cannot help but find and point out inaccuracies and problems in movies or games. Therefor I always try to make my weapon models as realistic and close to the reference material available while maintaining the general art direction set for the project.
The Lee Enfield No. 4 Mk I*
One of the first tasks I got assigned when I joined the team back in early 2013 was revising the Lee-Enfield No. 4 Mk I* model and texture we already had, mainly because of combined community and team input regarding inaccuracies and other problems with the model. While crosschecking our existing Enfield with references I found that it would be easier to redo the asset as a whole than try and fix single parts of it.
First Things First: Research
When doing weapon models for a community which is known for caring for historical accuracy such as you guys are, research is one of the most important parts of creating an iconic rifle such as the Lee-Enfield. In conversations with our two lead producers Eric and Graham I found out which manufacturer, model and production date was realistic for the combat units and time frame of Normandy ’44 and settled for a 1943 Long Branch Lee-Enfield No.4 Mk I*. After collecting a lot of reference material on the internet and my own reference books I have at home (for example: “Enzyklopädie der Infanteriewaffen”, Reiner Lidschun & Günter Wollert, Bechtermünz 2001) I started with the modelling process.
Highs and Lows
I have produced next-gen assets prior to this project, but this was surely my first big and “complete” weapon model, so I was very excited when starting. I followed my standard workflow of creating the high polygon version of the model first and then creating the low polygon version out of this to bake the normal maps. Each iteration of the high poly model was then cross-checked with our Lead 3D Artist to see if I made any technical errors as well as the Producers to check for historical inaccuracies. After both, high and low poly models of the rifle, the bullets and the clips were done, I baked down the normal maps in 3d Studio Max and xNormal. I then exported the model into the engine and applied the normal to check out if there were any smoothing errors or other problems. Since that was not the case I started with the next part: texturing.
Texturing is still my favourite part of the process, mainly because it was the department I originally started doing my game development in 10 years ago. I started by using nDo2 to edit my normal maps and add different markings like production numbers and the “broad arrow”, the ownership and acceptance mark of the Commonwealth. (In this case it was a broad arrow with a C to indicate the Canadian origin of this particular rifle). My texturing workflow then progresses by applying the basic materials to diffuse and specular map, to differentiate between the different materials on a rifle (for example a dark metal for the main receiver, barrel and so on, a lighter type for screws and different small parts and wood for the stock. In this particular case I also made the buttplate a different material, because the Enfield uses a brass, and in some cases zinc, buttplate). By differentiating small parts with giving it a slightly different material definition the overall texture gains a lot, because it makes it look less dull.
After that I start to refine the texture, apply some wear to the edges and other parts where it most likely could occur on the real weapon. Through that whole process I always make sure to keep cross-checking with the rifle inside CRYENGINE to make sure all I do also works and looks right inside the engine as well, because a lot can change when exporting it. When I’m happy with the materials I refine them by finishing the gloss map which helps setting the different materials apart even more and then finalize the material files inside the CRYENGINE editor.
Wear & Tear
One kind of criticism that I have encountered several times now is that weapons do not look realistic if there isn’t a lot of wear and tear on them. For me it is a misconception that weapons in historic video games have to look like they are centuries old. Many games strive for making their weaponry look very used, which may originate from looking at the reference images of most weaponry of the time. In these images the weapons most of the times are up to 60-70 years old in the case of World War 2, have been used a lot over the time, were lying around in garages or boxes for quite some time, changed hands a lot and have been cleaned a million times with various different methods.
While texturing the firearms for Festung Europa I try to keep in our minds that most of these weapons that we are producing are about 3-4 years old in our timeframe, or may even just have been delivered to the troops some weeks ago. This doesn’t mean that they should look like they’re just out of the box, of course a weapon that sees action gets dirty, of course it accumulates edge wear, but it does not look like it has been on the battlefield for nearly 60 years. Another thing is that a soldier keeps his weapon clean all the time. It’s his life saver and this means a weapon model should never be rusty or look like it has been worked on with a hammer or sandpaper the last few years. So I try to keep my basic weapon textures rather clean, but that doesn’t mean they will stay like this through the whole battle. With the possibility of adding dirt masks in CRYENGINE we can change the weapons appearance throughout a match.
Dirtmaps are only one of many cool features of CRYENGINE shaders. With the technique of diffuse tinting we can make sure we have quite a bit of different colouring in our range of weapons, so they don’t look all the same. That’s it, I’m done – thank you for reading this far!
This concludes our Final Push & Dev Diary Update!
Remember: We read everything you guys send our way and we take your criticism serious!
Help us squash historical inconsistency as early as possible!
We are recruiting – take a look at our Jobs Section and contact us!
- PRIORITY ALERT -
After the first round of voting, Festung Europa entered the Top 100 of the 2013 Indie of the Year Awards!
Being placed within the Top 100 of a selection of over 11,000 games and projects is no small feat and we have to thank you guys for making it happen!
But wait – the fight is far from over as this was only the first phase. We’ve been able to establish a bridgehead so to speak, now we need to break out and see how far we can actually go. Make no mistake, the competition is fierce and capable!
From today the 11th of December on, another ten days of voting will comence during which one project from the Top 100 is voted the 2013 Indie of the Year and an Editor’s Choice determined. We would like to take the opportunity and ask YOU the community to support the war effort once more and cast your vote!
If you have already voted for Festung Europa during the first phase, we ask you to vote again to make sure your voice is heard and this project ranked where you want it to be.
After voting, don’t forget to choose your favourite social media platform and spread the word!
Remember, every vote counts and every little helps: Getting more people to know about Festung Europa is as vital as creating the game itself!
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
John McCrae, 1915
On this day 95 years ago, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month 1918, the armistice came into effect that marked the end of the First World War. The Jackboot Games team would like to take this moment to honour, remember, and pay their respects to the sacrifice of all soldiers who fought and died during that and the other great conflicts of the 20th century.
Hello everyone, it’s time for a Dev Diary!
This time we want to give you guys a look behind the scenes and kick off a new series of developer diaries with the story of one Jackboot dev, who accidently turned level designer! Here at Jackboot Games no talent goes wasted, most members of the team wear several hats and contribute in every field they can. When our resident artist Jan “Regular John” Klimecky, decided to play around a little with the CryENGINE SDK, he quickly discovered that his artistic skills translated very well into the world of level design. This is his dev diary Mapping Normandy No.1:
Hello, I am Jan from the Czech Republic, 27 years old and Concept Artist who turned Level Designer for Jackboot Games. I always enjoyed playing maps that are based on real locations (for example DH-stavelot is my favorite) and as we want to have high level of realism of weapons, vehicles and sounds, I want to keep the same level of realism for the game’s maps. So at some point I started messing around with the CryEngine SDK – and let me just say that I was really impressed by how easy to learn and generally user friendly the CryEngine and its Editor are – and soon found out, that I could really get things done with it!
Concept images are the first thing that is made before we start modeling the actual map. It all starts with team discussion using what we call a “moodboard”, after we agree on a certain feeling that we want, we start creating quick concepts. All of our maps so far are exact copies of real locations in 1:1 scale. To achieve this, we use everything we can find: satellite images, terrain heightmaps and aerial reconnaissance photos. With all that data, we can be as detailed as never before and include trenches, roadblocks, MG nests or hedgerow gaps in the same locations as they were during the battle. For the reference we also use WW2 era photos, old postcards of the area and tons of books which are usually the most important pieces to our “puzzle”.
On the left image (black and white) you can see how a heightmap looks like, which when imported into the CryEngine forms the terrain accordingly. On the right image the modified terrain is covered with a texture made from aerial pictures, in this case Google Earth.
This image taken in CryEngine shows modeled terrain with custom made placeholder texture – the map is in 1:1 scale. Now I know where I have to place buildings, roads, defence works etc. I can place solids as temporary objects and test how it would feel to play on that map. Of course, we can be only as accurate as our materials that we have, so there are still some locations that aren’t covered with photographs – we have to use our creative intuition to imagine what might have been for those places.
A lot of research goes into creating signature landmarks, like the famous Canada House.
Picking the right maps for the game
When I’m picking the right map, I always look for battles that:
1. Have an interesting historical background – the famous battles and the names attached to them are what define our memories of this conflict up to this day and thus will define what Festung Europa will ultimatly feel and look like.
2. Have interesting and diverse terrain that won’t be boring for players – since we focus on combined arms, we want to have interesting environment. For example: hilly terrain with some orchards, rivers and ditches where you can take some cover.
3. Have decent historic documentation for the historically based maps – I want to be as accurate as possible so we also need battles that are covered in detail by books, aerial photos and so on.
4. Have good potential for re-playability – I want maps that will be fun even after 10th round, so there are usually more ways of attack etc.
Thanks for reading this far!
Let us emphasise what was said in this diary: With the capability of the CryENGINE to render large open environments and the accessibility of the Level Editor, we are able to create 1:1 maps of the historical locations. Bocages, roads, individual houses, defence works – all will be in place where they were at the time of battle in the fateful summer of 1944. If you are facing difficult terrain, a line of hedgerows is giving you particular trouble or the defending force is favoured by an open field of fire – chances are these obstacles and challenges are exactly what the Allied and German soldiers had to face. Now it will be our job to give you the necessary tools of war and communication, and your job will be to put them to good use and reach the objective! The only real limitations here from a level design perspective are the wealth or lack of sources and reference materials, which has not been a problem so far. We also use other sources and techniques, that have not been disclosed in this diary, to create the most realistic and historical World War 2 Normandy experience we can.
If you wish to contribute your knowledge or share some additional information or images to help us create a more authentic experience, then head over to our forums and join in on the discussion!
This concludes our Mapping Normandy dev diary, the first in a series bringing you closer to Festung Europa’s level creation – hope you enjoyed it!
We are recruiting – take a look at our Jobs Section and contact us!
Maintenance in the field is a regular occurrence with any army at war – sights need to be adjusted, barrels exchanged, and battle damage repaired. Similarly, we constantly re-evaluate our products to make sure they adhere to both yours and our own high quality standards. Following some in-depth, detailed and constructive criticism by the community of the initially released Lee-Enfield No.4, we decided not to just give the ole No.4 an overhaul, but to completely redo it from scratch! What happened next, nobody could have foreseen, as our 3D artist Günther “r0tzbua” Feldbaumer, who was tasked with rebuilding the weapon was called up as a national reserve to combat extreme flooding in Central Europe during the summer:
Anyway, Gunny did make it back safe & sound – much to the joy of samthegreat – and finished up the job on the No.4! Therefore Jackboot Games proudly re-introduces the
Lee-Enfield No.4 Mk I*
Being the main battle rifle for the Commonwealth forces in the Normandy Campaign, we already had introduced the Lee-Enfield No.4 Mk I* as one of the most important and iconic weapons to be featured in Festung Europa. Ultimatley however we felt we could and should do better! Detailed community criticism did play a vital role in this decision. Have a look at the completley new model with the Mk II Spike Bayonet attached.
We took the opportunity and sent one of the most reliable K98s in the arsenal back to the armoury to be fitted with a telescopic sight, turning it into a sniper rifle much coveted by marksmen around the world. Here we have a Scharfschützengewehr K98 fitted with a Zeiss ZF 39 4x Zielvier telescopic sight. This weapon will be available in the game for certain classes only. While in the shop, following a heated discussion the Waffenmeister decided to give the K98 a good and proper overhaul and bring it up to company standards. See the results below!
While the armoury has been busy, Crytek has released version 3.5 of its powerful CRYENGINE. Among many other features, the update includes Physically Based Rendering (which essentially lets us emulate surfaces more realistically) and procedural weather effects amongst other features. Expect us to exploit the CRYENGINE to the best of our abilities!
Secondly, the art department is undergoing a major restructure in order to streamline asset production and ensure AAA quality throughout. The whole pipeline will begin with concept art to help us establish the mood and feel of each environment – something that we strongly believe will allow us to develop an emotional level of immersion. This leads us to asset modelling where the artists will stay very close to the concepts to match the tone of each environment, with particularly close attention being paid to historical references. While the level assets are being built, our Level Artists will work with the leads to layout each map. Finally, our Finishing Artists will go in and polish up the map with nice lighting and atmospherics- again staying very close to the original concept and the references. Expect a dedicated Level Creation blog in the not-so-distant future highlighting each phase of construction!
Let us conclude this Media Release with a close-up of the K98’s Seitengewehr 1884/98 bayonet. Remember – bayonets will be detachable in the game!
As always, you can help the Jackboots by Liking, Linking, Retweeting, Sharing our messages and Talking about Festung Europa on the forum!
We are recruiting – take a look at our Jobs Section and contact us!
Hello everyone, it is time for another Festung Europa Media Release! This time we put the spotlight on two vital pieces of equipment for the German infantry squad – the MG 42 and the M 24 Stielhandgranate. Without further ado, let’s just jump right into it:
As the designation suggests, the MG 42 was introduced as a general purpose machine gun in 1942 in the German Wehrmacht. While being optimized for war production and cheaper and faster to produce compared to the MG 34, the MG 42 wasn’t a stopgap solution and about 415.000 where produced until the end of the war. In fact it would become one of the more iconic and by its enemies most dreaded weapons of the Second World War. It’s exceptionally high firing rate of about 25 rounds per second was unique for its time and defined the weapon’s characteristic sound which turned out to be genuinely frightening to the Allied soldiers encountering the weapon on both the Western and Eastern Front.
In Festung Europa the machine gun in general is the cornerstone of the German infantry squad as it historically was. It is the main source of firepower and enjoys the direct or indirect support of all squad members. Just as it was back then, it will be the responsibility of the Squad Leader to direct the MG 42’s fire and use the rest of the squad for close protection, assault and flanking maneuvers and ammunition resupply. Extreme ammunition consumption and forced breaks from firing for barrel changes are tactical drawbacks of the MG 42 that Commonwealth players must learn to exploit in order to survive any engagement with one.
After the war the design was further developed and adopted as the MG 3 into Germany’s post-war armed forces, the Bundeswehr. Other nations adopted modified versions of it throughout the Cold War, while the American M60 multi purpose machine gun was heavily influenced by the weapon. Thus the MG 42 design served through most of World War 2 until today, making it one of the longest active serving weapon designs in the world. Only now the Bundeswehr is starting to replace the MG 3 with a new general purpose machine gun based on Heckler & Koch’s HK 121, designated the MG 5.
Stielhandgranate M 24
The Model 24 Stielhandgranate was the standard hand thrown grenade of the German soldier during World War 2. The wooden handle gave the user a significant increase in range compared to the standard egg-shaped/pineapple design, allowing the grenade to play vital roles both in defensive and offensive situations. The grenade made improvising in the field easy, by tying 6 unscrewed explosive heads around one intact detonator/handle, one would get a Geballte Ladung to use as an impromptu demolition device or to combat tanks at close range. The basic Stielhandgranate was designed for offensive action, however by applying a fragmentation sleeve or Splitterring, the grenade had increased defensive capabilities. About 75 Million Stielhandgranaten where produced during World War 2.
The Nebelgranate 39 is the smoke variant of the standard hand grenade.
What else is going on?
Besides producing the much needed weapons and equipment for the game, there is a lot of programming, historical research, mapping, creating of 3d and 2d assets going on behind the scenes. While we are keeping busy working on the game, we don’t want to burden you guys with imperfect design products or by talking about game features that have yet to survive intensive testing. Having said that, there is much more stuff lined up in the pipeline we want to show off to you guys as soon as possible, and we will!
In the meantime, here’s another concept art by our resident artist Jan for you to enjoy:
Panzergrenadiere im Angriff, by Jan Klimecký.
Like with the production of movies, we use concept art like this to give the team a feel for an idea before we translate things it into working features, programming, levels or 3d assets. We will continue to publicise this kind of concept art to share the flavour of the game with you shaping up as it happens. However, Jan thought it wasn’t enough to provide art for the team and decided to help on another front of the ongoing effort to bring you Festung Europa. You will hear more on that soon enough…
One good way to let us know what you think is to participate in the polls, let us know what your opinion is and why! In the wake of this media release we will initiate the following poll on this webpage:
“Which one of these Darkest Hour Maps would you like to see make a comeback in Festung Europa?”
Please take your time and participate!
Stay tuned for more news in the coming weeks and don’t forget to Like, Link, Retweet, Share our messages and Talk to us!
Please register on the forum and make your opinion known!
Also, we are recruiting – take a look at our Jobs Section and contact us!