Welcome to Developer Briefing #60! This week we’re sharing with you our new and improved marking and non-verbal comms system, coming to Hell Let Loose as part of Update 5 in February.
To take you through this new addition we’ve got Lead Developer Max:
We’re very excited to introduce you to the new marking and non-verbal communications system.
It would be no understatement to say that this system (along with other HUD elements like the player names) have been some of the greatest design challenges facing us.
Previously, the system has been hugely clunky and difficult to use. Select players had to pull out their binoculars in order to clunkily fire a very limited selection of marks to locations on the map – often needing to place it multiple times to make sure it lined up with the correct location. On top of this issue, the marks were poorly formatted and often highly obstructive – with lengthways text that obscured a lot of the sightline. Even worse, placing marks via the map was highly unintuitive and limited – with many icons doubling for other information (“the artillery mark is where their Garrison is!”).
We stepped back and looked at the strict purpose of the system and broke down the flow of information into a wireframe. Essentially, in a game like Hell Let Loose the Commander (the top of the information network) relies on the lowest and most numerous roots of the network (the soldiers) to collect and collate information and feed it up the line to their Unit Officer. The Unit Officer then decides on the right information to feed up to the Commander.
This system allows each Unit Officer to synthesise the information from their Unit, and allows the Commander to quickly see what each Unit is reporting back or requesting. Most importantly, it simplifies the flow of information so that the Commander isn’t needing to sift through all 49 players worth of information. Finally, the Commander can place their own marks that the entire team can see – giving a sense of direction to every level of the combat.
With this hierarchy in mind, we set about deciding how much information each level of player could communicate.
Unit members will have the ability to quickly ping a target using MMB. Pressing it once will place an icon – allowing them to quickly draw attention to a specific location. Should the Officer wish to quickly know who placed the ping, they can look at his unit member list and see the icon beside their name.
Pings only last a short amount of time, and are designed to quickly enable simple and fast communication in the unit. They’re not designed to totally remove the need to communicate, but to facilitate a quick way to notify your unit of impending threats or other issues.
The Unit Officers have a broader array of communication functionality.
They can ping like their unit members by pressing MMB – which will place an Officer-specific mark for their unit members to see (to differentiate it from the rest of the unit).
However, unlike their unit members, the Officer can also hold MMB to open up a radial menu. The radial menu is designed to enable them to issue fast orders, mark suspected enemy Garrison or Outposts, enemy vehicles, enemy infantry or request support. We spent a lot of time balancing the functionality of the marks available with the need to not overburden the system with hundreds of hyper-specific marks.
In the same way that the Officer can place marks via the radial menu, the same marks can be placed quickly and easily straight onto the map via clicking RMB and selecting the desired mark from the dropdown. From there you can also quickly remove your marks by clicking them again.
The Commander can place a ping in the same way that all other players can, enabling him to draw quick attention to specific locations for all Officers.
Like the Officer, the Commander can also hold MMB to open up a radial menu. The Commander has access to a different set of marks – specifically designed to allow them to quickly communicate specific locations to the Officers.
The same marks can be placed quickly and easily straight onto the map via clicking RMB and selecting the desired mark from the dropdown. From there you can also quickly remove your marks by clicking them again.
Please note that we will be keeping a close eye on the system, and expect that we’ll need to adjust times or priorities within the marker system pending community feedback.
Please note that the pinging and marking system now work for the Tank Commander role in the Spotter position of all vehicles – giving this position a far more powerful influence.
If you’ve been playing or following Hell Let Loose for a while, you’ll know that the role icons and spawn icons are the resulting hangover from our Alpha – way back in early 2018. While they’ve done the job this far, the community has often pointed out serious legibility issues.
We’re huge fans of the history of iconography of World War Two and we’ve got several books worth of reference imagery. It had always been our intention to implement this into the game.
With that said, we’ve rolled out an update to all our role icons. Each one takes inspiration from the historical equivalent and then designed to achieve good legibility and fulfill it’s in-game role.
As part of the gradual UI overhaul, the team selection screen has had some TLC. Our goal with all things related to Hell Let Loose is to bring it to a visual and functional quality that not only looks nice – but also helps to induct a new player into the game world.
This redesign will also allow us to add more functionality to this screen in the future.
This is not the end of the story for the non-verbal communications system, or for the HUD and UI upgrades. There have been many other changes not listed here that we expect you to discover once Update 5 releases – and we’re excited for your feedback.
Over the coming months we’ll continue to refine all of these systems and UI and HUD elements. As developers, our goal is to work with you – the community – to make Hell Let Loose as good as we possibly can. We’re always on the forums, Reddit and Discord, and while we may not always reply – we’re always making note of all feedback before discussing and prioritising it internally.
The sharp-eyed amongst you will notice that we listed some additional Commander orders to be releasing with Update 4, and that we were aiming to release Recon vehicles with the coming Update 5. We want to apologise to the community and let you know that both of these are currently underway, but we weren’t confident in releasing them at the time stated on the roadmap.
To mark the start of this year, we sat down and went over our development plan for 2020 in order to line up the content to the best of our ability. We always aim to never renege on anything we put on our roadmap and so want to apologise for this slip in communication.
To that end, just after Update 5 drops we’ll be updating and refreshing our roadmap to let you know the next large features to be coming to Hell Let Loose (did someone say new ballistics and animation systems?).
2020 is going to be a huge year for us here at Black Matter and we’re really excited to have such a passionate community along for the ride. Tune in next week for a more detailed look at Purple Heart Lane and what you can expect to see in Update 5.
That wraps up this week’s Developer Briefing!
We’d love to hear what you think about this feature, both before it launches and when it arrives in game.
As always your feedback, thoughts and comments are incredibly important and valued by the team.
Will this tick the box for you? How will you make use of these on the frontline? Let us know!
Have a great weekend everyone, see you on the frontline!