We're very excited to release a major patch with Onward 1.8.5. This update has been long in the making and features a metric ton of fixes and tweaks that we know many of you have been waiting for. Among many other things this update features custom map support, improved support for haptic devices, improved weapon audio, and support for the Quest 2 with improved graphics over Quest 1. Let's go over the highlights!
Support for Quest 2 with improved graphics
The original Oculus Quest was groundbreaking, and we've welcomed many of you with our release on the platform back in late June. Now, Oculus is releasing the Quest 2 with improved processing capabilities and Onward will take full advantage of it. On the Quest 2 you will enjoy an improved level of detail bias, meaning you'll encounter less noticeable transitions or 'pop in'. All new for both PCVR and Quest 2 are the Support for Specular Maps on weapons which improve the weapon visuals.
In last month's SitRep we already mentioned custom map support would return to Onward, and we're very pleased that we've been able to push the release forward to this update, instead of having to wait for update 1.8.6 as we had originally anticipated. Over the past couple of weeks We have collaborated with several map creators to make sure there are several maps available to play on both PCVR and Quest. Aspiring map makers can find a step-by-step custom content guide here.
Improved support for Haptic devices
For those of you who are looking to take their immersion to the next level we've added support for bHaptics body haptic devices on both PC and Quest. Equipping a haptic device in Onward will allow you to feel shots hitting you, and where they're hitting you. In addition to the haptic body devices we've added support for the ForceTube to the Quest version of Onward - it was already available on PCVR. Finally, we've overhauled all controller haptic effects and added a few new ones, for example for pulling back a bolt or holding a shield, and we've increased the strength of the haptic effect on several devices to balance it out.
A huge thank-you goes out to both bHaptics and ForceTube for helping us make this happen.
Social Game Modes
When we last switched out the rotating social gun mode we had received a lot of feedback asking us to allow you to play your favourite social game mode (Gun Game, Specops or One In The Chamber) at any moment you want. With update 1.8.5 that is now possible: the featured game mode will still rotate, but you can now play any game mode you choose whenever you choose in a public server.
Improved visuals for PCVR
Update 1.8.5 brings several improvements to the game's visuals for PCVR. Aside from the specular maps we mentioned above, we've made improvements to the visuals of the Downfall and Suburbia maps. Bazaar and Quarantine have had revised lighting to be more faithful to the 1.7 representation of the maps. The PC maps are getting model overhauls, effects additions and more that will continue as time goes on.
Update 1.8.5 is available now!
We have just released patch 1.8.4 to address two critical audio bugs: the first is related to voice chat failing and the second to gun shots not being heard. We've also updated the rotating social game mode to 'One in the Chamber'.
In this month's Sitrep we want to take you on a tour of the changes coming to Onward in the upcoming months: we will set out the milestones we're working towards, and go into detail on several of them. Unfortunately we won't be able to share all the details on all the updates yet, but we aim to give you some insight in what to look forward to in the updates to come. Since our last patch for Onward (v1.8.3) we've been busy behind the scenes, improving our workflow to get more stable and more frequent updates out to you. It's an ongoing process, but we're getting there! If you're interested in reading more about our development process changes you can find a big post on Discord, Steam and Reddit with a lot more details, or simply follow this link to find it.
These are the milestones well be going over
Upcoming patches: v1.8.4 and v1.8.5
We're aiming to release patch 1.8.4 later this week or early next week; with the release of Patch 1.8.4 we will address a couple of critical issues affecting both PC and Quest users that we feel need immediate attention. These issues relate to voice audio cutting out in a lobby or during a game, and an issue that caused gunfire audio to be missing in some cases.
Soon after the release of v1.8.4 we'll be releasing version 1.8.5 which will include general game fixes, visual improvements for PC Downfall and Suburbia maps, and much more. We're very excited about some of these changes, and wanted to share a quick preview of the changes to Downfall.
Ever since custom maps were first supported we've loved the creativity coming from our community. Since the release of v1.8 custom content hasn't been available due to restrictions we mentioned in previous Sitreps. Now, bringing back support for custom maps is one of our top priorities and we're aiming to release it with patch v1.8.6. It's a little too early to make a definitive call on that, but we'll keep you updated in our Sitreps. In addition to that we'll be reaching out to several map creators to help us start testing the custom content implementation soon.
The return of Jungle, Turbine, Snowpeak, Outlet and Abandoned maps
The map designers here at Downpour have been putting in a lot of hours getting these maps ready for their return to Onward. First up, Jungle and Outlet will be the first maps to return with the Custom Content update slated for patch 1.8.6. Snowpeak, Turbine and Abandoned are still in production and will require more testing due to their complexity, and will therefore return to Onward later. While Jungle, Turbine and Snowpeak will remain mostly the same compared to their versions in v1.7, Abandoned has received a redesign to allow for more compelling gameplay: while keeping the original spirit of the map, its layout and its major landmarks have been updated, and some new landmarks will be introduced as well. We will share more on these upcoming changes for Abandoned, as well as the progress of Snowpeak and Turbine in the near future.
Good news for fans of haptics: the tactile feedback when interacting with equipment will be coming back to Onward with a vengeance (and upgrades!). This means that like before you will get feedback when for example hovering over the equipment on your chest. We've also implemented stronger haptics overall and added new features including improved effects when taking out magazines out of your AKM, cycling the bolt or pistol slide, stabbing another player and more! In addition, the integration for ProTubeVR's ForceTube peripheral has been redesigned to bring support for the device to the Oculus Rift S and the Oculus Quest in addition to SteamVR. ForceTube is an optional attachment for ProTube rifle stocks that enables the user to feel the recoil of their weapon when they fire it, adding another layer of intensity to the realistic gameplay of Onward.
Finally for those who pursue the maximum amount of realism in their games, something at Onward's roots, we have worked with the talented folks at bHaptics to bring support to Onward for their haptic suit peripheral: the Tactsuit. Tactsuit is a collection of wearable devices for the torso, arms and face that contain arrays of haptic motors designed to simulate the feeling of firing weapons, being struck by projectiles and more. Those of us who've had the chance to test the initial implementations of the bHaptics suit were blown away by it.
When Patch 1.8.6 launches players will be able to connect their bHaptics devices to both PCVR and Oculus Quest versions of Onward to unlock a new level of immersion through specific haptic effects for different weapons, bullet calibers, explosions, melee and more. You will be able to feel the raw power of the m249 and PKM machine guns as they rattle off deadly rounds, and experience terror as you duck from a grenade and its shockwave rips through you. Use your instincts to interpret where you were struck by the enemy and fire back in an instant.
We're working with Dynamedion, a renowned audio studio, to improve Onward's in-game audio. Sound is a major factor in the immersion in the game and the first results are really showing an impact. Our main focus at the moment is to improve the audio occlusion and reverberation in the game. This is a complicated subject which definitely warrants a deep dive in a future Sitrep, so let us know if this peaks your interest.
Onward Party System
One of the things we've heard from our community after the Quest release was that it became noticeably more difficult to team up with your friends and join the same lobby because the number of game lobbies had exploded. To make it easier for everyone to find and team up with their friends in Onward we're going to be working on integrating an Onward Party system in the game which can be used on all platforms.
A new game mode for PCVR
In our last Sitrep we indicated that the 1.8 update had given us a lot of headroom to work with to improve the game going forward on PC. One of the ways we'll be leveraging all these advances is through a 'PCVR only' new game mode to extend Onward even further. While we can't share all the details on this game mode yet, we can state it's going to bring a lot of fun and mayhem to Onward, and will leverage the PC computing power to support more players in a lobby
High quality lighting returning to PC
With the v1.8 release we updated the game to use a more updated version of the Unity engine and their Universal Render Pipeline(URP). With these changes we got the unfortunate result that the Shadowmask lighting wasn't supported with the current unity version and URP, which resulted in noticeably worse lighting quality compared to previous versions of the game. Shadowmask results in a much better looking game without the necessity to calculate lighting in real time. Real time lighting calculations are extremely resource intensive game developers therefore typically calculate ('bake') the lighting and shadows ahead of time and then store the resulting lighting maps to be used by the players later. Shadowmask improves on this system by keeping the real-time specular highlights for baked lights and vastly improved real-time shadows for non baked objects like players which work much better alongside the traditional shadow bakes.We're currently looking into a couple of option to combine Shadowmask support with Unity's Universal Render Pipeline. We considered moving away from URP, but this isn't an option because we already use a lot of URP specific features, and depend on it for its performance improvements. Therefore we have two options:
Because we don't have a timeline for Shadowmask support in URP we opted to implement Shadowmask support ourselves. While we're making progress this isn't the most stable approach and it could be prone to break when we perform an Unity upgrade in the future.
Although we're not yet sure if our implementation of Shadowmask will work yet, we do want to share some pictures of the potential improvements, and we'll keep you updated in future Sitreps.
Anti toxicity improvements
We've been excited to welcome so many new players to Onward in the past couple of months. As with any rapidly expanding community though, we've unfortunately seen that a small number of people are actively ruining other people's fun in the game with toxic or otherwise unwanted behavior. We're working on ideas to combat this behavior and make sure everyone can enjoy playing Onward without having to deal with the toxic behavior from some players.
We'll share more on the upcoming changes in this area in future Sitreps, but for now we'd like to encourage you that when you run into toxic behavior you record it, and report it to our community managers.
More changes are coming to Onward in the coming months than we have space to write about, but we briefly want to mention a few more. By popular demand we're designing a ranking system for Onward to give you a sense of achievement and recognition for your skills in game. You will get real time stats on your captured objectives, accuracy, kills/deaths, revives, headshots, body shots and more. This is still in its infancy, but keep an eye out for updates.
We will be adding more spawn locations to Assault and PVE game modes to add more variety to these game modes, and we're working on new social game modes for Onward to complement Spec Ops, One in the Chamber and Gun Game
Finally, there's always room to improve the game's code, and top of our list is currently refactoring our lobby and game mode states to further improve stability and remove inconsistencies in these areas. Especially competitive players have been running into issues here, and we will be addressing this.
We're constantly working and preparing on polishing the current existing features. If you have any suggestions please share them in our Discord! Stay frosty!
It's already been a couple of weeks and two patches since we released Onward on Oculus Quest and the PC 1.8 update. There's been a lot of discussion, and a lot of things are happening backstage, so it's time for us to share our plans moving forward.
Reflecting on our release and latest update
As with any release a few issues weren't caught or resolved before the game went live, and we're currently addressing those issues in patches. There's a handful of issues that we've labelled as critical out in the wild or that we consider to be fixable in a very short time frame. These will continue to be resolved in the coming weeks with further updates to the game. These issues include voice chat sometimes cutting out, improvements in for example gun firing sound effect loudness, and upgraded visual assets for PCVR.
On the PC side there has been a lot of discussion surrounding the changes in graphics levels that have proven to negatively affect the immersion that is vital to so many of you. Although the changes we've made under the hood with update 1.8 are fundamental to Onward's future development the simple truth is that we misjudged the impact the changes to the graphics would have on the immersion for many of you who play on PCVR. That led to two specific mistakes: most importantly, we didn't allow ourselves enough time to bring the level of graphics for PC back up before the release, and second we didn't communicate this change clearly to you, nor what our plan would be after release.
This is something we've learned from, and some of you will have read the post on the Onward Discord in which we committed to bring the graphics quality for PC back to the levels it was at in a series of incremental and quickly succeeding updates that will be coming out over the next couple of weeks and months. Version 1.8 created a lot of performance headroom in the game, and we intend to make use of that headroom to push the graphics to a higher level. We will be committed to our PCVR community. Without you Onward wouldn't have been possible, that's beyond discussion.
Onward's launch on Quest has been amazing: we've welcomed a whole new group of players who have been enjoying Onward over the past couple of weeks. With the successful launch of Onward on the Oculus Quest we've been having discussions backstage about our development roadmap going forward. The overwhelming support for the game on Quest has enabled us to not only finish Onward in the way we had planned, but also means that we'll be developing Onward beyond the original timeframe and scope, on all platforms. Over the coming months we'll be hiring new developers to help us make this happen, and we'll be keeping all of you up to date on the changes that will be coming. Exciting stuff!
One of the things we've reflected on as a team has been the amount of time we took to bring you a new update. Going forward we want to bring patches and incremental updates to the game as soon as they are finished, instead of collecting the changes made over several months and then releasing major updates. This requires us to make large changes to the development process, which is something we'll be doing starting next week. Our goal is to have a new patch or update ready for you every couple of weeks to every month at least. These updates will not only include fixes and improvements, but also new and returning features for Onward. In this new setup we're also planning to invite players to give us feedback on an update before we push it to all players- this is something we're still drawing the outlines for, and that we'll be sharing more details on in a future Sitrep.
So, what's cooking?
As we're working on fixing critical issues that have popped up after release, we're also looking into the improvements that will follow the update, based largely on the feedback we've gotten from you. Right now we're investigating a significant improvement to lighting and shadows for PCVR (the first results are very promising), as well as adding new particle effects and more details for PCVR maps, we're adding a recenter button button for the tent and main menu that will place you back in position should you need to and we're reintroducing features to the AI such as for example allowing them to throw grenades and allowing them a greater variety of weapons.
Custom maps will be making a return on PC, while launching for the first time on Quest. We're very excited to see what maps, old and new, the map makers among you will bring to the game. While we complete the map maker tools for Onward 1.8 we're also working on bringing back the Jungle, Turbine, Snowpeak and Abandoned maps. Outlet will also be making a return as the custom map update is released.
Even the best made plans don't survive contact with reality of course and so some of these fixes, changes and improvements will take more time than others, or may turn out to be infeasible. We also haven't included some of our more ambitious and/or opaque plans yet - we'll share more on those in the future.
We have just released patch 1.8.3 to address an issue where an online lobby could get frozen when a player was kicked from it. The patch also includes updated vegetation art assets for the Downfall map on PC.
Tomorrow we'll post a Sitrep about our plans for the coming months, and beyond. Stay frosty!
Work here at Downpour continues in the wake of the PC 1.8 and Quest release. Today we're releasing version 1.8.2 of Onward for both platforms. We've been hard at work making improvements and solving issues you've reported to us. Thank you for all the feedback.
The highlights of this patch include:
The update will be available shortly.
Follow us on Discord or social media to stay up to date with Onward. We'll be sharing our plans for the foreseeable future soon.