The weakest aspect of 2017’s best sub game may well turn out to be the strongest part of 2018’s best sub game. In Deep Water Studio’s Uboat your relationship with your crew can be as turbulent as the winter Atlantic. Like HMS this is a game in which hulls fade to reveal the bustling communities within and military hardware plays second fiddle to fetid, fractious mariners. Developers Michał Nowakowski and Marek Bartniczak on the current state of the code and the challenges still to be overcome:
Michał: “We were at full throttle for most of 2017. There were good periods and periods when we felt we were beating our heads against a wall. We had to gain a lot of new knowledge and skills. Expectations grew. We changed, improved and invented many elements. Finally, though, all the planned mechanisms are implemented. Sandbox works, macro-management too. You can fight the enemy in various ways. The U-boat is filled with details. Crews live and work. It’s been exhausting, but when we were putting together the last movie and watching the effects, we finally saw how massive and detailed Uboat is and we were very proud.
Marek: Last year was incredibly important for us. We hit many obstacles in production, but stayed afloat. Full funding from PlayWay allowed us to fulfill our full vision for the project – more simulation elements, more sandbox, more freedom. That seemed to be what our community wants from us and we did our best to follow that lead.
To make for less scripted gameplay and generate more interesting situations we tried to give the player and AI as many tools as possible. All ships in the world now interact with each other. Other U-boats hunt on their own. Warships aid nearby transports. Escort carriers launch patrols. The addition of a Kriegsmarine HQ also introduces many interesting possibilities into the game.
Internal U-boat systems and crew mechanics also received a lot of attention in 2017. When our goal changed to ‘proper simulator’ all major devices, meters and potential hazards had to be researched, modelled, and tested. Storage space management, brigs, landing parties and crew skill trees were reworked literally several dozen times. Crafting genuinely useful and realistic skill sets for WW2 U-boat crews turned out to be a Sisyphean labour, but we feel we got there in the end.
Major changes to the Unity engine added to the workload too. While we are very happy with the improved looks and performance, it was a major challenge to constantly update a project of Uboat’s scope.
It's nice to be back here with a regular update again. Furthermore, the time to sum up a whole year has come.
The last period was the same as usual a hard-working, it's probably our lifestyle already ;) We tried to do as much as possible to get to the moment that we will only be refining the details. Do not count your chickens before they hatch, but we think we have implemented all we planned. The last ones were shooting, implementing types of ammunition, more precise damage mechanisms and macro management. We tried to refine all elements as accurately as we were able to. We were watching other productions, collecting materials, reading them, watching them, trying to draw the right conclusions. Have we succeeded? You will judge.
Not everything is closed, it must wait for its time and constantly evolve together with our knowledge. In the new year we will mainly polish the game, add more ships, graphics, sounds, voices, texts, icons and other minor elements. Furthermore, we will be involved in the production of the campaign. That's real final part.
But now let's get to the summary of recent works.
We've fully implemented both manual and automatic modes for all types of guns on the boat. All guns have different types of available ammunition that we tried to model in a historically accurate way.
88 mm shells
U-boat now has a fully functional storages for items that you can load at ports, loot from freighters etc. You have to wisely manage the available space as these items are often very important for your boat functioning or are just valuable in some ways. We have a very long list of items in the game, but to give you an idea of what kind of items are out there, there comes a short list:
Food: bread, meats, vegetables etc.
Mission equipment: hand guns, weather stations, deep diving suits etc.
It's now possible to rescue and capture enemy pilots or crew in addition to arresting your crew mates for their misbehaviours. You can either keep the prisoners under guard in Battery Room No. 1 or let them freely roam your boat.
You can drop your prisoners in ports for some budget and prestige points.
We've introduced numerous improvements to our damage system in this update.
- Most enemy vessels can now be broken in half, if they are badly damaged into a weak spots on their hulls.
- Hull holes are now fully 3D and reveal ship's internal structure.
- Water gushes from explosions were made from the scratch again to follow your feedback. They are far better than they used to be.
- Torpedo fuzes were fixed back again. You won't be able to damage targets in a close proximity to your ship.
Hole in a hull
This is a major change for the gameplay and it's rather a good one. From now on all officers on your boat, including a skipper, can be promoted to field officer ranks (Stabsoffizier) and work at Kriegsmarine headquarters. You will get your first field officer after finishing the first story mission and can gain more of them by spending prestige points.
You can communicate with the headquarters by using onboard radio as long as you are in your currently built transmitters range. After establishing a communication you can assign jobs to your men out there.
- They can start and oversee missions for your u-boat. It's now the only way to start missions in the game as this explains well how you are free to choose missions for yourself.
- They may work on tasks directly supporting your war effort in addition to providing something useful for your boat. This includes building new submarine pens, decrypting enemy codes, researching new technologies etc.
In addition to your field officers there is also the rest of the admiralty represented by Admiral Dönitz. Admiralty chooses work for themselves independently from you and they push forward historical evolution of the world independently from your added impact (which is configurable to satisfy pure simulationists too).
Ship physics were criticized in your feedback to the last update and we tried to do something about that. As of now, our physics system for ships has been completely rewritten and uses neural networks to approximate many factors that normally were too expensive to compute or would require too much toying around with simplified colliders. In addition to more realistic boat visual behaviour, this new method has a better performance and ensures historically accurate diving and acceleration times.
This means that from now on it's no longer that easy for your enemies to dodge torpedoes, so even if they spot you or your torpedo it's often too late for them to do anything with this. Not all our ships use updated physics, so on the video you can be sure to see it in action just on the u-boat.
Also, it's very tweakable so if you don't like something about it, we will probably be able to fix this. As a matter of fact we recorded hours of footage with different settings and made a voting in our team to choose a preset that looks most convincing in our opinion.
Our radio communications were massively upgraded. After selecting one of your radio operators you will see a list of transmissions reaching your boat. Usually these last for a limited time, so you have to hurry, if you want to receive them. Some transmissions are encoded, some are not. If it's not Enigma nor a broken Allied code then at best you will be able just to track its location with a direction finder.
In addition to messages, radio can now be used to communicate with your headquarters and to listen to radio stations from many cities around the world to boost morale recovery.
Aircrafts in our game are now fully functional although we still don't have final models for them ;) Planes should approach your boat realistically and drop their bombs with a correct horizontal acceleration.
Sometimes they may flood their engines, if they get too close to water when dropping bombs. It's intentional and not a bug as this was happening historically at times and we tried to model this in our game too.
Illustrious-class aircraft carrier
Besides all of these additions to the game we were mostly working on fixes and necessary improvements to existing stuff that felt raw and that probably took us most time since the last update. This trend will now continue and we (probably?) won't add anything new to the game from now on and focus on fixing stuff.
Improved living quarters
Having this in mind, it's probably our last big content update, but you will hear from us more as we will be sure to keep you updated.
We don't feel confident enough to give you any reasonably accurate estimate how much time this remaining work is going to take, so for now we will still have to stick to the "2018" release date. We feel that it's good for all of us as with our relatively small team size, we can't reliably predict how much time this work is going to take. Usually there is just one unreplaceable person for each task and if delays happen it's just how it is.
PS many thanks for the feedback since the last update. If you feel that we should improve some area of the game feel free to speak openly in the comments section as we literally read all comments. We are aware of some things that need to be improved, but we lack the perspective and distance that only you can put into our further considerations. Thanks!
Uboat - new gameplay 9.2017
We hope that you had a great holiday.
The day has come when we can share the news about our development again. We did not disappear, we worked as usual. Uboat is an integrated part of our existence lately ;)
The game is getting more and more full of shape. As usual, we changed some old things that seemed to be good before, but in time with our experience increasing they had to evolve into better form. We have also added quite new things that we hope will appeal to you.
You must be impatient, so let's get to the point.
Conning Tower Upgrades
We've expanded our upgrades list with 5 conning towers. These are shipped with extra AA guns at no charge.
Turm IV - LM 42 U
Turm IV - Quadruple LM 43 U
In our quest to let the player manually control as many devices on the boat as possible (if he wants to), we've implemented manual hydrophone in Uboat. It's a pretty realistic implementation that allows for adjusting the listening frequency and accounts for the variable sound frequency diffusion in the water.
Along with the hydrophone, we had to upgrade the audio system in Uboat to make distant sounds be more realistic and behave correctly under water. That adds extra immersion and it was necessary to make the hydrophone right.
We have been working hard on our animations lately. There are tens of new animations for the crew to make the boat more lively and convincing. We're still not done yet, but it's a major improvement. Some of them include:
We now have a fully animated torpedo maintenance and loading. Woohoo! That was a pretty complex process to animate.
Depth steers both manual by rotating the wheel and automatic.
Diesel engine maintenance animations.
Relax animations: sleeping, reading magazines, smoking, playing cards etc.
Observation animations using the binoculars.
So much aggression..
Somalia pirates DLC.
It's a bug or feature.. I really don't know!
WW2 subsim games are all about sneaking and hiding and our detection mechanics had to evolve appropriately. From now on there are 7 detection mechanisms: visual, passive sound, active sound, radar, radar detector, radio and information (from HQ or other allies). Most of them can be either direct or indirect.
Indirect detection in Uboat means that specific objects in group cannot be distinguished. Your crew may spot a smoke at the horizon or just hear some distant group on the hydrophone. What you know is that there is a group of something out there and depending on the detection method you may know, if these are ships or airplanes, estimate the size of the group, its position and even speed.
In general there are many factors affecting the detection chance. Some examples of factors that are implemented in Uboat:
Smoke screens, regular smoke from fires, fogs and physical objects block the line of sight.
Devices on the ship, shadow zones, propeller cavitation and surface proximity affect hydrophone detection.
Radio transmissions make all destroyers go in your direction. Weird.
Most factors can be quickly reviewed in a detection notification tooltip.
As you can see now there are many factors for tactical minds to consider.
Meters around the boat had been massively improved to be historically accurate, easily readable and to have a high resolution textures. Friendly member of our community has kindly photographed for us U-995 meters from up close, so we will probably improve them a bit further, if there is something wrong.
We've started scripting these meters to make them indicate correct values. This process will probably be finished for our next update.
Revolutions per minute
Revolutions per minute
From now on you can spot living crew on other ships too. In case of danger they evacuate the ship on pontoons.
That's still an early work in progress, but you can see it on the video.
To make the crew more lively and convincing we've implemented screen-space subsurface scattering into Uboat. It's a technique that tries to simulate the realistic light propagation in human skin. We did our best to keep the implementation fast and reasonable as many SSS techniques are widely known performance killers.
Better atmospheric scattering
If one would compare our newest video with any of the older ones, we're sure that the atmospheric effects improvement will be very apparent. Previously we've been using single ray scattering, but now we've implemented approximate multiple scattering. It improves the look of horizon, distant objects and fogs.
We felt that it's important for a game like this as the camera is always in the open space.
Notice that parts of the image covered by fog become blurry.
Environment objects and sea animals
It's a work in progress actually as our animals have their models and animations in production, but you can hear them on the hydrophone. We've used actual recordings kindly supplied by NOAA to make our underwater environment sound convincing. It adds a lot to the immersion when you pick these little guys on the hydrophone too, not just the propellers. Also.. swimming among them may help you stay undetected.
Besides that, icebergs are now generated in areas with cold climate. They may hide your boat or your enemies from the view and provide tactical advantage.
Our talented 3D artists are now working on a second batch of ship models. You can expect to see the results in the next update.
This time some freighters are going to join the party as currently we're still having just the Liberty in the game.
There are new effects in Uboat:
Improved chimney smoke.
Improved bow waves.
You can see them in our new video. Let us know, if they are okay.
Note: new, tweaked bow waves can be seen only on the Flower corvette near the end of the video.
Periscopes and binocular
Previously only our attack periscope was manually useable. From now on also observation periscope and targeting sight on the conning tower can be used by the player.
Damage system improvements
Hulls of non playable ships are now composed of compartments too that are sealed by the crew when needed. Internally it's not a visual element, but math thing.
It's resultant effect is that ships now don't just sink vertically, but as their center of mass changes from the flooding water they may also rotate in many different ways like it's commonly seen on WW2 sinking ship photos. That also makes some parts of the ship more vulnerable than the others.
We've also added other improvements to our damage system like secondary explosions from torpedoes stored on the deck etc.
Diseases now spread among your crew, especially in cold regions. It's a good idea to take antibiotics on the northern trips.
Further sandbox experimentation
We are progressing further on our quest to add interesting long term gameplay elements into Uboat. We always had an idea what we want, but still it's something new to the WW2 subsim genre and definitely requires taking one step at a time.. but we are getting there!
As many of you have pointed out, turning the wages of war seems like a great addition to the game and gives the player actual goals to pursue, but it's also pretty tricky when it comes to realism as you control just a single boat. We did our best to make it convincing and let the player choose the degree of this impact, but it still felt like half-measures.
We are currently working on a system of promoting your officers, including skippers, to the HQ. That's something that was happening in the history pretty often and that lets us expand player's reach. Only trained and experienced officers can take such path in their career. When they go to HQ they are still your people and you can assign them projects to work on. It's like a tech tree - using their influences they may support researching new technologies for the Kriegsmarine or Luftwaffe, complete engineering projects like the Goliath transmitter and support undergoing military operations.
We would love to hear some feedback about this as we are getting many great ideas from your comments. Kind thank you upfront!
We are not maniacal perfectionists and would really like to give that baby to the community as soon as possible, if for nothing else, just to earn something on our hard work. Our goal though is to make a good game that will stay around for years and we are still not at this point. Process to get there doesn't let us release a small game and expand it into a big thing - there aren't many cases like this in the gaming history.
In its current shape Uboat is still not playable due to our far reaching design decisions. There are still lots of missing assets like animations, voices, icons and there are missing gameplay features too. Some of them are pretty basic stuff like AA guns not working and having just the Liberty to hunt on, while other are pretty complex issues to resolve.
There aren't any big risks for the production on the road, but we will have to test your patience. We are very thankful for your investment in our project and we keep doing what we believe is the best option to make Uboat a successful project.
We definitely won't make it in 2017 and will keep you updated with each update how our progress is shaping. We still don't declare any specific date for many good reasons, but you can be sure that the release is going to happen as soon as that will be possible. As you can see, we are working very hard to make that happen and present many exciting additions to the game with each update.
Uboat - June Update!
It's time for the next update! As we've stated in the comments section, some things have forced us to skip one update. We apologize for that and will now report our work for the time that passed since March. There's much of it!
With the arrival of conning tower, bow torpedo room and stern torpedo room models, interior of the u-boat is now officially finished! It's probably the most precise reproduction of VIIC interior to date yay!
We've finally been able to put work into upgrades for the boat and we've made quite a few of them! Fully working upgrades that recently made it into the game:
Anti-Sonar Coating „Alberich”
Anti-Radar Coated Snorkel
Elastic Elements (Diesel / Electric)
FuMB 1 „Metox”
FuMB 7 „Naxos I”
FuMB 26 „Tunis”
KZG 44/2 „Kurier”
Accumulators I / II / III
8.8 cm Cannon
Trim Pump Upgrade
Conning Tower Reflector
These upgrades are also distributed for other u-boats. There are also quite a few modules for Allies that include radars, direction finders etc. All of these technologies must be researched first to be available for the player or enemies.
Major Terrain Improvements
This part was really time consuming. It's a very hard task to render terrains at arbitrary zoom levels with a satisfying performance like Google Earth using only offline data. We had a hard time with places like Gibraltar, Peninsula Spit, Helgoland and Scapa Flow as even the most precise global elevation data kindly shared by NOAA couldn't model them correctly. Finally we have improved our approach. We now use data shared by NOAA to model elevations and vectorized cartographic data to model shores.
Aside from that, we've improved terrain quality dramatically, but we will probably keep improving it further.
Submariner life wasn't the easiest in World War II. Accumulators on u-boats were in a constant danger of being flooded, releasing chlorine gas in such event. Even the oxygen could be deadly. Thing with oxygen is that it's extremely dangerous when its under a high pressure. Apollo 1 is a tragic example of that oxygen property.
It's something to keep an eye on for a wise player in Uboat from now on. Be sure to isolate flooded compartments or things may get very bad quickly!
Player can now dock at all historical submarine pens and ports in Germany, France, Poland, Romania, Greece and so on. It's a safe place to resupply, upgrade your boat and manage your crew.
Ship and torpedo effects
We've improved bow and stern waves for the ships and added foam trails for torpedoes. Water flows out of the holes in a hull after submarines emerge from the water.
Our ships list has been massively expanded since the last update. Ships that are currently in the game are:
Admiral Hipper Cruisers, Kriegsmarine
Black Swan Sloops, Royal Navy
Bogue Escort Carriers, U.S. Navy
Allen M. Sumner Destroyers, U.S. Navy
Casablanca Escort Carriers, U.S. Navy
Deutschland Heavy Cruisers, Kriegsmarine
Flower Corvettes, Royal Navy
Gnevny Destroyers, Soviet Navy
Liberty Freighters, U.S. Navy
Motor Torpedo Boats, Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy
Type 1934 Destroyers, Kriegsmarine
Porpoise Submarines, U.S. Navy
Rio de Janeiro Freighter, Kriegsmarine
T2 Tankers, U.S. Navy
Tribal Destroyers, Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy
U-Class Submarines, Royal Navy
V-Class Destroyers, Royal Navy
F-Class Destroyers, Royal Navy
Type VIIC U-Boats, Kriegsmarine
Type VIIB U-Boats, Kriegsmarine
Type IIB U-Boats, Kriegsmarine
Type XIV U-Boats, Kriegsmarine
You can see some not in-game screenshots of these ships below.
We've started to introduce modding to the game. We've migrated most of our data to Excel spreadsheets to make it easily readable, moddable and internally it helps us to work on these files simultaneously.
We've put some work into external operations that you can run with your crew on the land or on other ships.
Players now can loot evacuated ships or wrecks, run diversions, place weather stations etc. For each operation, you can choose an officer, size of his team and optionally some equipment like a diving suit or weapons, if you find it suitable for that mission.
We have been working on that for some time and it's now finished. We've tried to keep it reasonable and base our ideas strictly on historic references.
Getting a good intel isn't worse than sinking ships. Convoys and all interesting things can be now reported for a budget reward!
Beware though, enemies are listening for the radio transmissions and you may find yourself with the pants down quickly, if they will detect you.
When a new campaign is being launched it may be customized to the player's liking. Aside from things like difficulty and iron man mode, there are settings like campaign duration, realism of player's impact on history and many simulation settings.
Campaign duration affects how many days are skipped in-between. It's mildly similar to what Sid Meier's Civilization series do with years between turns. This way a full campaign from 1940 to 1945 can be played as "fast" as 25 hours or as long as 80 hours.
Simulation realism settings include dud torpedoes, periscope stabilization, perspective enforcing etc. Most of the usual realism settings, present in other simulators like limited oxygen, are forcefully on as the inseparable parts of the game. Don't worry though, we've ensured that these things are enjoyable!
After setting up a campaign, you can choose your first u-boat from those that are currently available and start the initial mission. After that you are free to roam the map or request some missions related to the currently ongoing military operations on the map.
Impact on History
We've carefully analyzed your feedback on this subject and we were working on that part ever since. We've decided to let the player choose how big this impact on history should be. Let's put it aside though and discuss how it works.
Playthrough in Uboat is divided into quarters. At the end of each quarter there is a quarter summary that outlines historical events that happened (with photos), new technologies that were researched, treaties that were signed and also contains cool charts to visualize your progress.
All that happens in the game will be 100% historical, if you won't do anything, but if you will for example find a convincing evidence for the Normandy invasion or will be very effective at sinking enemy convoys with your wolfpacks, you may noticeably deviate from the history in that playthrough.
There is no way to win the war though as United States eventually develop an A-bomb. At that point it's going to be an honourable surrender of the army in a face of the devastating weapon instead of being defeated and forcefully surrendered.
There is also a possibility that player actions will be so bad... that war will end sooner :) Such player may, for example, loose a few hundreds of u-boats. In the ending summary he will find out that Kriegsmarine has destroyed itself and Allies didn't really had to worry about it.
Now is the hard part. We still have to ask you for some patience and can't responsibly declare a release date yet.
Thanks to the kindness and continued support of PlayWay we now have a fully secured budget to finish this game, no matter what happens. We are going to use that opportunity and finish our game right to the end without compromises on quality.
We have already finished many areas of the game, but we still need important assets like animations, models, interfaces and well.. lots of icons. There are still some bugs and campaign missions still need work to be in a playable shape.
We will declare our final release date in upcoming months as soon as possible. It may happen any day really, but sadly not today.
Uboat is a simulator of a submarine from WWII era, yet different than all you have seen so far. It is a survival sandbox with game mechanics similar to that of Fallout Shelter while it's primary theme is life of German soldiers like in Wolfgang Petersen's film Das Boot. The boat is their home, but it can become their grave at any time.