Dreamfall Chapters Engine Upgrade Boosts Performance

Good news: Dreamfall Chapters [official site] should now run better and look prettier for you. Developers Red Thread Games yesterday released a hearty update boosting it from Unity 4.6 to version 5.2 of the engine, which brings better performance, nicer lighting, 64-bit support for folks stuffed with RAM, and more. The first three episodes are now shunted over to Unity 5, and future eps will launch on it. Bringing the game over has been an effort and a half, mind, says head honch Ragnar Tørnquist.

First, the good news. In yesterday’s blog post about the switch, Tørnquist explains:

“It’s hard to say exactly how much of a performance increase players will see, but in informal, internal tests — along with several reports from beta testers — the frame-rate has increased by a factor of 50–200%, while simultaneously doubling the distance at which shadows are drawn, and allowing more users to enable the ‘awesome’ setting, along with other visual effects.”

Not bad, that. Effects like fog and fire are fancier too, texture materials like leather and skin and whatnot look more realistic (look, I’m being non-technical here), and the whole game has been re-lit with Unity 5’s new lighting tech, Enlighten. Tørnquist says they “haven’t attempted to exactly replicate how the game looked before the port. Instead, we’ve strived to create the ambience and look we always wanted to achieve — something that wasn’t always possible with Unity 4, but is now potentially possible with Unity 5 and Enlighten.”

The switch has been in public beta testing for a while, but is now live for Windows and will follow onto Mac today then Linux later this week or early next.

It’s been a lot of work, though – way more than Red Thread expected. What they thought would be “a couple of months” of part-time work for a few folks ended up taking four months and pushing people into working overtime. He says it probably cost them “in excess of $150,000”, which is “a painful amount of money for a small — and cash-strapped — studio like ours.” Oof. Do read the rest of the post for more on why they wanted to switch and what made it all take so long, if you’re curious.

Tørnquist has also uploaded a load of big screenshots showing how it looks now.

26 Comments

  1. Jekhar says:

    Is the game already finished contentwise? I must admit, i lost track of the progress. I wanted to wait until all episodes are ready before beginning my playthrough.

    • Lukasz says:

      No.

      Only 3 episodes out of 5. I only played first 2 which were very enjoyable. It is more of dreamfall. but without fighting.

      • Jekhar says:

        Sneaking is still in? I disliked both the forced fighting and stealth sequences in dreamfall. At least the fighting bit was over quickly.

        • Fomorian1988 says:

          There are two sneaking in the first two episodes (haven’t played the third yet), one in each. Well, two occasions of tailing a character in episode 2, but your mileage may vary on whether that constitues sneaking. Either way, they’re fairly simple, and if you fail, there are do-overs.

  2. K33L3R says:

    Ouch, that’s cost them a few pennies
    Wonder when the next episode will be out, looking forward to finishing this game, really enjoyed the story so far, the puzzles and adventure gameplay aren’t my thing tbh but as I’ve been playing each episode as a break from other games I’m finding it just right :)

    • tomimt says:

      Well it was either the update for Unity 5 or decrease the quality of the game by quite a bit.

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        Don Reba says:

        They should have stayed the course. Then we would have had Book 4 by now and possibly Book 5, too. You don’t change engines in the middle of an episodic game.

        • tomimt says:

          The thing is, the course was always clearly too much for Unity 4. Had they kept developing it with Unity 4, the complaints of the poor performance would have been far too overwhelming, as they were the most common complaint about the game already.

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            Don Reba says:

            They had performance problems at the beginning, but that the first episode came out over a year ago. Hardware has advanced since then and current middle-range videocards have no problems running it on highest settings.

          • tomimt says:

            But the thing is, it had poor performance despite the hardwate. Unity 4 was the bottle neck there, so in any case they would have needed to do the overhaul at some point, as the engine itself had far too many problems.

            Now, despite the added dealy to the development itself, they’ve solved a huge majority of the performance and stability issues they wouldn’t have been able to solve with Unity 4.

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    Don Reba says:

    frame-rate has increased by a factor of 50–200%

    An increase by a factor of 50% would mean it dropped by half.

    • Assirra says:

      Not really. It saids increased by 50% and not runs at 50%.
      It starts at 100% and increase by 50% would be 150%.

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        Don Reba says:

        Changing by a factor means multiplying. Multiplying by 50% means taking one half. I presume they either wrote “a factor” by mistake or meant “150-200%”. In one case it means the frame rate could be up to three times as high as before, in the other case — two.

        • draglikepull says:

          I think they mean what it looks it says, so for example, if your frame-rate was 30 FPS before, for players now it’s averaging 45 FPS to 90 FPS.

        • Jokerme says:

          “increasing” is the keyword here. Which means multiply original value with 50% and add to the original value.

        • Faxmachinen says:

          Ah, the wonderful ambiguity of natural language. But they said “increased by”, so it’s really not at all ambiguous.

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            Don Reba says:

            The ambiguity is whether they wrote “by a factor” by mistake or if they left out a “1” in front of “50”.

        • sharkh20 says:

          I don’t think you understand how this works. If something is INCREASED BY 50%, it means you take 50% of the starting number, and add it to that same starting number. Let’s say your fps started at 10 before the update. If they had said increased by 150% like you suggested, you would take 150% of 10 (15) and added that to the original 10. Therefor, fps would now be at 25. Increasing something by 200% is essentially multiplying your original number by 3. So, with that known, increasing by 50% would work like this: (10 x .5) + 10 = fps

          • sharkh20 says:

            Also, increased by is not multiplicative wording. It is additive. The factor of 50% is a completely separate action in the equation.

            So using the 10 fps again:

            Increased by = 10 +
            Factor of 50% = 10 x .5

            Put that together and you get 10 + (10 x .5)

            They shouldn’t have used the word factor, because it’s just an extra word that needlessly makes it confusing. Factor of typically means “multiplied by.” Usually, when you say something like “by a factor of” 2, you mean “multiplied by” 2. But since a % is already multiplicative, the word just isn’t needed. The big thing to take into account is the word increased though. It is the more important word in this case.

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            Don Reba says:

            Dude. “Increased by 200%” and “increased by a factor of 200%” mean different things. “Increased by a factor of 50%” does not even make sense. I’m not nitpicking, just wondering if there was a typo or a wording error.

          • sharkh20 says:

            As I said, they put in an extra word there that just creates confusion. But you knew exactly what they were trying to say. If anything, taken completely literally, the base fps would be multiplied by 50% of itself. So with the base of 10, 50% of 10 is 5, 10 x 5 is 50. We know that isn’t what they meant here though because there is no reason to word it in such a way. So you just go with the increased because that is what common sense dictates.

    • Unclepauly says:

      My day wouldn’t be complete without a bit of pedantry involved.

  4. yeastcapp says:

    Anyone using a Macbook with Integrated graphics noticing a framerate increase? I couldn’t finish the first chapter because the framerate was so bad

  5. RagnarT says:

    I’m playing on a MacBook 12″ with integrated graphics, and as long as I keep it on medium, it runs okay. It’s not silky smooth, but it’s playable enough for me. This is with the new Unity 5 beta version, of course — it’s not officially out yet on Mac, but give it another day or so!

  6. Josh W says:

    I’m pleased that they seem to be talking about $150,000 as something they can cope with spending, I’ve been avoiding the game until all the chapters are out, and there’s always a worry doing something like that that they might just run out of cash while you wait.

    I hope there’s enough people out there willing to have it stages that I can wait for the full thing.