Friday, 21 September 2012

A little tease

Here are a couple of screen grabs from a Skype conversation today. The picture quality is moderate but should give you an idea of the details they were able to capture. Wai Kee will be sending me a set of legs and I will get you some clearer shots once I have them in my grubby little hands ;)

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?

Ada is near completion, just some hair details to add.

Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?


The rifle is a magnetic linear accelerator, the smooth barrel housing contains coils that are charged by the chambered round.
In game terms it’s a ‘Capacitor Rifle’ each shell is a highly charged capacitor with a ballistic tip coated in Nano fibers. The capacitor charge powers up the coils in the barrel and accelerates the projectile much faster than conventional solid or liquid combustibles. It will punch a small hole through very thick armor. A nasty rifle with a big kick, the Valkir use a similar weapon but they ware power armor and have considerably more mass to deal with the recoil. Ada has learned how to lean into the shot and lock her body into position. When the round is discharged she will remain standing but is driven back a foot or two.
Tough little gal :)

(update) Added some barrel details.


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Roughing in Ada

Here you can see Ada as a WIP, she looks a little thick but trust me, when she is made into a real world object she will appear trimmer. It’s just one of those things about the translation from CAD to a physical model, what looks right on the screen will look too thin when you have it in your hands.

I have tried not to make the model too effeminate, no chainmail bikinis here, these are soldiers! I tweaked the profile, the hips are wider, the feet are smaller the shoulders more narrow and she is slightly smaller overall when compared to the male stormtroopers.

I will post more later as she nears completion.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Kickstarter Survey

Yesterday was a day of prepping files, making punch lists and phone calls :)

I don’t have a specific day that the survey will go out but we are looking towards the end of this week, WGF is still working on the coding and looking over the best way to deal with additional pledge amounts if needed.

We will try to have a custom account for each backer that uses either/both your name and or you email to sign into the pledge manager. Your pledge amount will auto fill and if you go over what has already been paid, it will open an option to submit the remaining amount through a PayPal account that WGF is setting up. I have a PayPal account but I would prefer not to use it as WGF will need continual access to the account to verify the revised pledges against what they will have in a database. The pledge manager will remain open and available for a few weeks; we will need to close it down before the items are scheduled to leave China. This will likely be late October (I will update when I have a specific date on this).

Soon after the pledge manager has been made available to the Kickstarter backers, I will open up a pledge manager to handle pledges from those that were unable to participate in the Kickstarter. Participating in the Kickstarter was an issue for some customers that did not have credit cards that could be accepted by Amazon Payments. We are still working on the procedure for this to try and limit abuse.

All the best!


Saturday, 15 September 2012

Girl power! Female Stormtroopers are a go!

That was a close one....Congrats!

New strettch goal! Ada needs a squad!

Zeus - APC conversion kit

Here is a sneak peek at a work in progress, the Zeus APC conversion kit to turn your troop mover into a tank hunter

This kit will include 3 crew, a loader, a gunner and spotter. As well as in interior detail pack that will replace the crew compartment with ammo storage and crates.

Two stretch goals down and less than 24hrs left!

The Stuka Zu Fuss will now be a plastic model kit and for the backers of this Kickstarter, the exclusive character miniature ‘Ada’ will be a plastic miniature.


I am very grateful to be part of such supportive community.

I have seen many acts of support and kindness, not just from my backers but from people who were complete strangers and stepped up to lend a hand or offer support.

Truly I am humbled.

Thank you!
Mark Mondragon

Friday, 14 September 2012

Kickstarter, FREE exclusive item "Ada"


I just wanted to add something unplanned as way to say thank you to all the backers for their support, it is very much appreciated!


Ada is a tank hunter by trade… She uses a MLA rifle to take down the heavy targets. Considering this rifle is primarily used by power armored troopers, it’s quite a feat.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

DreamForge Kickstart is coming to a close

We have introduced over 30 individual plastic model kits! But we are not done yet!

The current product line consist of a fully outfitted Stormtrooper infantry section, a range of power armored troops , two Leviathan variants in 15mm and 28mm scale with a host of optional weapons, and a APC to get your troops to the front in style.


If you wanted to back one of our amazing plastic models or miniatures, NOW is the time!


Stuka Zu Fuss (APC Upgrade)

Sneak peek at the next stretch goal ;)

WIP: The details of the model still will need to be worked out but this should give you a good idea.

Last few days of the Kickstarter!

At 11:45 US Pacific time, the Kickstarter will come to a close.

This Kickstarter has grown into a fairly complicated beast… you have my apologies.

As time went on we had many customer requests to add specific items. If it was within my means to do so, I have offered these items as part of this Kickstarter. Although the Eisenkern faction will now have a fairly complete product line, it has not made the layout very easy to understand. The best way to wrap you mind around the extensive offer is to use the online calculator as your guide.

Still not backing this project or confused by the number of items offered? The calculator is your friend! It will auto fill the free items that have been offered throughout the Kickstarter campaing and get you on your way to receiving some great plastic model kits.

Not sure where to drop your pledge?

Pledging for multiple items?

Drop it in the –CATCH ALL PLEDGE- box, just be sure to enter the correct total for all the items you are backing.

When the Kickstarter ends we will send out a survey to collect the information of what Items you were backing.

Once again, Domestic and International backers, please be sure to use the online calculator to total out your order and get the expected shipping dates for the items you wanted to back.

We will confirm this against your total pledge and the information you provide us in the final survey.


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

A new stretch goal is within reach!

Based on overwhelming success to date, I am pleased to announce a major new kit - the Eisenkern APC..

APC size: 2.25" high 3.25" wide and 7.25" long

This APC was designed to seat 10 troopers plus 2 crew

At $145k every APC will recieve a full crew compliment of 10 seated troopers!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Heavy Trooper Assault Squad unlocked!

And yet another goal bites the dust!

All the power armor troops are now ready to go!

Heavy Support Squad unlocked!

Shocking news! The world continues to spin and change while I sleep :- P

Last night we broke $115k and opened up the Heavy Support Troopers!

Monday, 10 September 2012

If you blink you’re going to miss something ;)

Wow! You turn away for a short time and BANG!
Now available:

Stormtrooper Command Squad

Valkir Heavy Troopers
15mm Scale Mortis

All weapons for the 15mm scale Leviathans….


Next up:

$115k Heavy Trooper Support Weapons Set

$120k Heavy Trooper Assault Squad

Valkir Heavy troopers now a reality!

Another stretch goal down!

The Stormtrooper command squads are now available!

We also open up the Valkir Heavy Troopers! A core troop choice for the power armor sets. Still a work in progress, each box will contain 20 heavy troopers with 20 heavy rifles, 5 heavy grenadiers and 5 heavy flamers with enough ammo packs and accessories to load out your 20 man squad for the fight!

This core set will provide many new leg poses and thee main weapon options. The goal of this set is to provide the same flexibility you find in the core Stormtrooper box set for your power armored troops. If you like the designs and trust my design sense then I know you will be thrilled by the final box set.

We also have two more stretch goals available for the heavy troopers, the Support Weapons Squad and the Assault Squad!

You can see more here

 Project update video #1

A great project summary video


Amnesia - Two Years Later

It has now passed a little more than two years since we launched Amnesia and one year since the last report, so time for another! One would think that there is perhaps not much to be said this long after release, especially for a single player game with no built-in social features. But the fact is that Amnesia is still going very strong and 2012 will probably be the best financial year here at Frictional Games, which we would never had expected two years ago.

As always, let's start with the sales and some numbers. The first thing will be to figure out how many units we have sold in total, which is actually really hard to pin down. The biggest reasons for the uncertainty is that Amnesia was part of the Humble Indie Bundle (HIB) earlier this year and Potato Bundle last year. Both of these account for quite a lot of sales. Without counting the units bought there our total lands at 710 000 units. Adding all HIB and Potato Sack sales gets us to 1 360 000 units in total, which can be called the optimistic figure. This means that, optimistically speaking, Amnesia has sold almost 1.4 million units! This reasoning is not strictly speaking invalid, but I think that one should not really count anyone that bought the bundle and already owned Amnesia as a proper unit. A slightly pessimistic guess (not far from reality I think) is that 2/3 of every bundle and pack buyer already owned Amnesia. This gives us about 920 000 units in total, pessimistically speaking. So saying that we have sold a million units seems fair. Wait... a million units! Oh shit!!

Despite that huge number of sales, what I think is more interesting is how good the monthly sales still are. Not counting any discounts, the monthly full price sales lie at over 10 000 units. This means that less then every 5th minute someone in the world is buying a copy of Amnesia. This is totally insane to me. The figures themselves are far beyond any guesses we would have made two years ago. It is also insane, because this number is actually higher than it was around three months after initial launch. That a game can still be going this good two years after is truly remarkable.  This success is due to many factors, some of which are the uniqueness of the game (horror games without combat do not really exist on PC), the large modding community (more on this later) and the steady flood of YouTube clips (which is in turn is fueled by the modding community output).

Also worth noting that our Penumbra games are still going on at the same rate that they always have. They are still selling about the same numbers (a little more actually) as they did three years ago. This totals to about 900 units per month. Taking all sales together is more than enough to support the company, financing A Machine For Pigs (more on that later) and having some left over. This means that we are in a very good position and aim to use it to take more risk and try out new things (more on this later).

I think we have never disclosed how much we Amnesia cost to make, so might as well do that here. The (exactly) three years of development cost a total of 360 000 US Dollars. It has since earned more than ten times that. Take that investors we talked to in 2009!

It has been over a year since we even thought about piracy. With sales as good as above we cannot really see this as an issue worth more than two lines in this post, so screw it.

I mentioned it a bit in last years summary, but feel it was not given enough focus. When we created the possibility of custom stories, it was something we thought of very late and I think Luis implemented it in less than a day. We put a few days on adding documentation our wiki as well, but all in all, it was a tiny effort compared to the rest of the game. Despite that, this aspect as been immensely important for the game and while it is hard to give any exact features in terms of sales, the influence on our community is easily seen. Before modding started, we had one or two daily post on our message boards. But as the modding community has grown, it is now up in over 40! (Remember this on the boards of a 2 year old a single player game.) There is even a long meme thread regarding the custom story community. What is interesting is that there are even internal expressions used, like "poofer", that we at Frictional did not know about and that was specific to Amnesia modding.

The output of modding community has been quite big as well. Amnesia is as of writing the 2nd most popular game at ModDB and sports 176 finished mods. Not only do this amount of user content lengthen the life of the game, it has also increased the amount of YouTube movies made with an Amnesia theme. There are lots of popular Let's Play channels that have devoted quite a bit of time with just playing various user-made custom stories. As mentioned earlier this have probably played a large role in keeping our monthly sales up.

It is quite clear that allowing users to create content is a feature worth putting time into. I also think that we managed to have a pretty good balance between having simple tools and still allowing a lot of possibilities. It is far from perfect though and for our new engine (which AMFP is not using) will have lots of improvements. It will still be possible to use the simple scripting as before, but now you can pretty much remake whatever you like and do not have to use a complicated total conversion to do so.

The next big thing for us will be the release of Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, which is a follow-up developed by thechineseroom and produced by us. This release will be very interesting in many ways. First of all it is a big experiment for us to do this sort of collaboration, so from the start we had no idea how it would turn out. Judging from the latest build we have nothing to worry about though, and so far it looks great. Another interesting aspect is how well it will sell compared to the initial Amnesia launch. Not only is the market a lot bigger now than two years ago, Amnesia is more known. The result will be very important to how we plan our future. Release for AMFP is expected early 2013.

At Frictional Games our main concern is our new super secret project. We do not want to say much about this project yet,but we can disclose that it will be horror and that it will be first person. One of the things I was most disappointed with in Amnesia was that it never really managed to deliver any deeper themes, but was more like a shallow fright-fest. For the new project we want to change that and really try and bring a certain theme to the front. Our hope is that this will create a very special experience, creating horror in a much more disturbing way. For the curious, some information on the path we are taking can be found in this paper. The game's current status is that we have pretty much all tech working, and have started to playtest the first parts. Still, a lot is up in the air and the current design is bound to change. While we do not want the project to go on forever, we want to use our good financial situation the best we can and make sure we do not just rush something out (which we did with Amnesia actually). Release will probably be some time in 2014.

Frictional Games have also grown over the last year and we now employ 11 people, which feels very close to the maximum. At least the way we run the company right now. We also do not want to lose the small underdog spirit that has fueled us in the past. When you have such financially different situation compared to when you started I think it is easy to get caught up in expansion, wild ideas and basically do not get much done. So, we do our best to keep our feet firmly on the ground, to be strict on deadlines and to always remember our humble pasts. At the same time we will not take any easy solutions and play it safe. After the successes we have had, I think it is our responsibility to use our money and independence the best way possible.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

$100k stretch goal reached!

Free left hand Vulkan Cannons for all 28mm Leviathan backers! Both Mortis and Crusader!

Congrats all!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Ohiohammer Podcast

I just found a podcast from Ohiohammer, completely unsolicited coverage, so it was a fluke find for me. They had some very nice things to say about the Leviathan they viewed at Gencon and about the Kickstarter.

 go check it out.

The Leviathan Mortis is now a plastic model kit!

The Mortis joins its brother as a plastic model kit!
Another stretch goal down!

Note on Kickstarter project:

You can pledge for one or more Mortis (Morti?) or you can mix and match between the Mortis and Crusader and retain multi-unit pricing. When the project closes we will send out a survey, just tell us how many of each Mortis or Crusader you wanted!

Tech Feature: HDR Lighting


Hello my name is Peter and I’m the new graphics and engine programmer. New is not really the correct word since I have been working at Frictional for a year now. During this time I have updated the engine and added a lot of new graphic features. This will be the first of my blog posts descripting the changes that have been made.


One of the biggest changes to the the new engine is the introduction of HDR (High Dynamic Range) Lighting. This is a technique to increase the detail of the lighting system. The benefit of using HDR is that bright things can be really bright, dark things can be really dark, and details can be seen in both.

In nature there is no limit to how bright something can be. The difference between a 60 W light bulb and sunshine hitting the earth is around 10 000 luminance (cd/m^2). This means that we need a way to store high intensity values while keeping the quality and precision of the dark areas. Thankfully there already exists a method for storing such values - by using floating point numbers.

We use a 16-bit fp RGBA buffer to store our lighting. This gives us enough of a dynamic range without taking up too much memory.

Tone mapping

A normal computer monitor can display 8-bit colors between the value of [0..1]. Because of this the monitor can not display a 16-bit HDR image directly. To be displayed the image will have to be converted to 8-bit while keeping as much of the details as possible.

Tone mapping is the process of converting an image of dynamic range to one with a clamped range between [0..1].

The simplest method for doing this is to use the Reinhard tone mapping algorithm.

vec3 color = x / (x + 1.0)

No matter how high x gets the final value will always stay between [0..1]. The problem with Reinhard is that it desaturates your dark colors and removes contrast. In the brighter parts of the image Reinhard produces great result with its soft highlights.

What you want to have is an algorithm that preserves the saturation of the color in the dark areas and that keeps as much of the contrast as possible.

I ended up choosing an algorithm created by John Hable for Uncharted 2.

vec3 Uncharted2Tonemap(vec3 x)
float A = 0.15;
float B = 0.50;
float C = 0.10;
float D = 0.20;
float E = 0.02;
float F = 0.30;

return ((x*(A*x+C*B)+D*E)/(x*(A*x+B)+D*F))-E/F;
Left: Long curve, Right: S-curve near dark values

This algorithm is based on a filmic tone mapping algorithm created by Kodak. It keeps the nice highlights from Reinhard while using a slightly S-shaped curve too keep the dark colors saturated.


If you have been sitting in a dark room for some time and walk out into the sun, your eyes will not be ready for the bright light and you will have to squint. After a while your eyes will have adjusted to the light and it will not bother you anymore.

Exposure is a way to control the intensity of light that gets passed through the lens. In the eye this is controlled by the size of the pupil and in a camera it is done by selecting for how long the sensor should be active.

There are a few different ways to control exposure in a game. It can be controlled automatically by storing the average luminance over a few frames and calculating a exposure from that value.
We choose to go with a much simpler method that lets the artists control the exposure by dividing the level into areas that have different exposures. So in a dark area the exposure can be increased and in an outdoor area the exposure can be decreased.

vec3 color = Uncharted2Tonemap(scene_color * exposure)

White Point

A white point is used to increase the contrast of the image. This is the value that is selected to be the brightest any pixel can be. Pixels brighter than the white point will be clamped to 1.0.

vec3 color = Uncharted2Tonemap(scene_color * exposure) / Uncharted2Tonemap(white_point)

HDR Bloom

When a pixel is brighter than the white point it can be used to generate an additional post effect called HDR Bloom. Pixels that get too bright should start bleeding over to other nearby pixels, producing a halo around them. It is a subtle effect that adds realism to the image.

To solve this I use a few render passes. First a bright pass is applied to the image which removes all pixels that are below the white point and scales down all the pixels that are above it. The result is then blurred to create the halos. The blurred image is then added to the original image. The HDR Bloom effect must be performed before the tone mapping.

Final Thoughts

I would say that HDRL and filmic tone mapping is the most important part of any rendering pipeline. It greatly increases the quality of lighting and will make your game look much more realistic.

But HDR and tone mapping is all for nothing if your calculations are not done in linear color space. My next tech feature will focus on gamma correction and the linear color space.


Thursday, 6 September 2012

This is not your grandfathers Hanomag

Here is a preview of the new Eisenkern APC!

This model is still a work in progress, the overall form is complete but there are a quite a few roughed in shapes and quite a bit of detailing that still needs to be done.
I thought this would be a good opportunity to go over my work flow and give you a peek into my processes.
First, I decide on a project, in this case an APC for the Eisenkern faction.
Next I think about what message I am trying to convey with the overall form of the model. In this case I wanted to bring a decidedly retro feel as I have with the Stormtroopers, this keeps the force looking cohesive on the table and allows me to draw from historic examples of vehicles for inspiration.
I then decide on a specific vehicle to work from. I have always liked the look of the Hanomag Sonderkraftfahrzeug "special purpose vehicle", or Sd.Kfz.
Not wanting to simply remake what can be found in other 1/35 scale models, I needed to examine the use in a modern battlefield and what changes would look good as well as reflect a more updated design. Halftracks are not a common occurrence on today’s battlefield, so I poured over contemporary vehicles and found that the tires now used are bullet resistant and much more suited to the task than they once were. Having a look at the Stryker APC/AFV was a nice point of inspiration. They are large wheeled vehicles, capable of carrying a large troop compliment.
The old Hanomag was tiny by comparison, so I knew we would need to drastically up-size from the original design.
I now have my muse! Having a base idea to work from, I then begin to think about what makes this thing work, what is a suitable armament for an APC and what future innovations might be found on such a vehicle.
Powerplant: Gas and diesel is too old school, so I went back to the Leviathans and pulled some reactor details to give this beast some real power under the hood. I kept some details that are important to the fluff and game, such as the reactor purge plugs that protrude from the side of the vehicle, just in front of the side doors.
Drivetrain: losing your ability to move is a great way to die, so each wheel has an independent drivetrain powered by the reactor.
Communications: Very important, the gunner doubles as a comms officer in the seat next to the driver and handles the tactical display that would project on the wind screen.
Armor: The vehicle needs to display some mass, it needs to look like it is up for the task.
Crew compartment: This is the heart and soul of any APC and their crews are its deadliest weapon. An Aliens style APC interior with safety roll bars to keep them locked into place…. This thing was designed to move and move fast. Multiple egress hatches to deploy from will help the troops hit the ground away from enemy fire.
Weapons systems: This is not an AFV (Armored Fighting Vehicle) it is a troop mover, so the armament should be defensive but effective vs. a host of enemy targets. I decided on a close infantry support weapon. If we need to hunt tanks, that’s what your infantry is for, and nothing says loving like a quad mount :)
With all those factors in mind, I get to work. I rough out a basic shape, do quite a bit of tweaking and adjust the scale to be able to fit a ten man squad, the driver and comms/gunner safely in the interior.
I continue to rough out the form until it pleases the eye. It needs to look sleek yet very robust, so I widen its wheel base.
Once I am happy with the overall form I start detailing. I pick a small section and eat the Elephant one bite at a time. I started with the wheels, then onto the power plant and finally the interior, leaving the exterior for last.

I usually let my new project name itself… spinning this model around I noticed from the front view it looked a lot like an African warthog, or boars head. I went with Keilerkopf “boar head”

This project is about 70% done with the interior so there are still a lot of details missing from the exterior, or roughed in shapes that will need attention.
This is also the first model designed from the ground up for hard tooling, all undercuts needed to be looked after and many components separated with the manufacturing process in mind. This slows things down quite a bit. No more simply adding details simply because they look good :) I like where the overall design is going and I hope you do as well.
All the best!