Refract is all about interactive art. We're a Seattle-based independent studio formed from a few of the devs behind award-winning games like Solace, Nitronic Rush, Sowlar and others. We're currently working on a Kickstarted spiritual successor to Nitronic Rush called Distance.Pre-order Distance today to get instant access to behind-the-scenes updates!
Due to popular request we made sure to archive the latest Refract community level stream on Twitch.tv. If you missed the stream, you can watch all 3.5 hours of us playing the latest community-created levels!
Distance Beta Build 3094
We also just released a small patch to Distance that includes a fix for network car jitteriness (poor stability). It was introduced in build 3087 on accident and networking stability should be back to normal with this fix.
- Improved car network jitteriness (broken in build 3087)
- Made the collision mesh on EmpireBrokenBuilding005 the same as the graphics mesh to fix collision bugs with that object (the building in the center of Challenge level Thunder Struck)
Since Distance’s private beta was released we’ve been learning an unbelievable amount from new players! Now that PAX Prime is over and we’ve taken a couple of weeks to process the feedback, I’d like to give a recap on some of the cool stuff we’ve seen from players and discuss our future plans.
100 Levels Published to Steam Workshop! Community Level Stream Tomorrow (1pm PST / 10pm CET)
We hit a big milestone this week as 100 levels have been uploaded to Steam Workshop by level editor users! From gravity-less arena levels, to thematic Refract-style levels, to immaculate remakes of other racing game levels we’ve been floored by the creativity and passion of the Distance level creating community.
To celebrate hitting 100 levels we’ll be doing another Twitch community level stream tomorrow! Starting at 1pm PST / 4pm EST / 10pm CET (on Sept. 13th) we’ll be playing through as many of the newest levels as we can. Click Follow at twitch.tv/refractstudios to receive an alert when we start streaming! Oh yeah, it’s also my birthday tomorrow so there might be cake…
Distance Beta Build 3087 Released
(in case you missed it, here’s our latest Beta trailer)
Today we released a patch for the private beta on Steam that includes several bug fixes as well as a few performance optimizations. Thanks to all of the new Beta players who reported bugs via our bug reporting site! Visit the link below to read more about the latest build.
Read more: Distance Beta Build 3087 Changelog
Distance at PAX Prime
From start to finish, PAX was a crazy ride. For this PAX we decided to go all out and give away swag as well as debut the Distance arcade cabinet. We met tons of amazing backers, streamers, speedrunners, and new players. Similar to PAX East we showed with Indie MEGABOOTH which had a great spot on the main floor.
PAX Prime was also the testing ground for our first ever Distance racing arcade cabinet. It featured steering wheel + joystick controls (for car flight/rotation) and external lights synced with the in-game music. It was assembled with the help of some amazing friends during the few weeks before PAX. Special thanks to Andrew Nollan, Ben Nollan, Fernando Silva, Michael Fletcher, Andrew Shurney, and Chris Barrett for helping us bust this out!
I’m writing a more in-depth postmortem of our PAX experience that I’ll post next week. It shows a behind-the-scenes creation of the arcade cabinet, how our swag and booth layout worked for us, and more. Watch out on refract.com and on Twitter for when that goes live.
Learning from Beta Feedback
Reading the forums, watching live streams, and playing with Beta players online has been immensely educational. While there are a ton of great, specific suggestions, the primary feedback so far seems to be that the core mechanics work pretty well. There are a lot of great points on how to potentially improve player interaction in multiplayer and what content seems to be lacking, so we’re collecting all of the data and reorganizing our task lists.
Here are some highlights from the past few weeks since the Beta was released:
- GameInformer: Racing And Flying Through Portals And Leaping Over…
- Tested: Some of the Games I Had Fun Playing at PAX Prime 2014 (Video)
Over the past couple weeks we decided to optimize the game in a few areas and fix several of the bugs listed by Beta players (most of which shipped with build 3087). On top of adding content we’re now looking forward to integrating the replay system Jason has been developing over the past month, adding in a car selection for the backer car and Chin’s car, as well as improving usability in areas like the server browser and game lobby.
Quick Mention: Spirit Siege
Some of our talented DigiPen friends have also decided to take the indie plunge and they’re looking for help on Kickstarter. Their project Spirit Siege is your “five minute strategy game fix” and claims to be the first real-time card game to offer incredibly deep PvP duels with buttery smooth controls for iOS/Android. There’s some impressive talent on the team, and they’re almost at 50% of their goal with only 14 days left.
Check it out: Spirit Siege on Kickstarter
Next Up… Steam Early Access This Fall
I’ve saved the most exciting news for last. After much discussion we’ve decided to pursue a release through Steam Early Access this fall! Many beta players have requested an easy avenue for their friends to play, or are simply wanting us to open it up so that there are more people playing multiplayer. In any case, we think it’s a natural extension of our development style and we’re excited to give it a shot. We don’t have an official release date locked down just yet, but we’ll let you know as soon as we do!
It might not have been clear from our previous post, but our goal in initially having a private beta is simply to provide some exclusivity to backers who have been waiting quite some time for the beta. Pre-orders after the private beta shipped now go towards our public Beta which will be on Steam Early Access.
In the meantime, we’ll keep plugging away as usual. Thanks again to everyone for providing such great feedback on the Beta so far and we hope to see you during the live stream tomorrow!
- Jordan (with everyone at Refract)
This week’s build is largely focused on bug fixes and a number of optimizations that should help with both runtime performance and memory usage. The Steam patch is already available and we’re currently submitting DRM-free builds to Humble Bundle.
Thanks again to everyone that submitted a bug report! Let us know if Distance is running any smoother for you on the forums.
- Toggle FPS readout in lower left corner with Alt+F10
- Outline pass is now only active when outlines are needed such as in online multiplayer or in the level editor
- Radial blur shader no longer uses a for loop
- Moved tunnel pieces and mazes into a render queue that renders before many objects to help with depth test fail when rendering outside objects
- Level prefabs are now only loaded when they are needed instead of all at the beginning
- Level Select Menu loads the level previews when they are needed instead of loading all of them in the beginning
- Made level preview textures 640 x 360 instead of 1280 x 720 to save on memory and load times
- Objects that break apart like lamps now create the broken object when the collision actually happens instead of at load time
- Objects that are only supposed to be active in the level editor like the car spawner now destroy themselves when not in the level editor
- The logic to change lens flare colors now checks to see if the object is visible before setting the color
- The logic to pulse colors now checks to see if the object is visible before setting the color
- The logic to animate textures now checks to see if the object is visible before animating
- The logic of the worker drones now only updates when they are visible
- Fixed bug where jet flames were always visible when a level disables the jet ability
- Fixed bug where players wouldn’t be destroyed by the laser grid if the chat window is open
- Fixed bugs with the GravityToggle
- It now handles local cars separately fixing the bug where all cars in splitscreen were affected by the trigger
- It now changes the gravity on the car when reset depending on whether or not a checkpoint was hit when in a gravity zone
- It now removes the audio low pass when it is destroyed
- Fixed the first lower checkpoint in Falling Through from respawning the cars below the road
- Fixed the bug where the glow color wouldn’t be changed properly in the car customization menu
- Capitalized the word Distance in the Steam Workshop text in the main menu
Following the final alpha build 2986, this update focuses on bug fixes for the Beta release and adding a few more levels. You can read the Beta release post for more info on accessing the Beta if you pre-ordered or backed on Kickstarter prior to this build’s release.
Also, I’m sorry for the delay in the release of this changelog. The posting date for this changelog is tied to the release of build 3058 and not the actual changelog as we got behind due to PAX Prime.
- Grinder (Challenge)
- Space Skate (Stunt, Reverse Tag)
- Refraction (Stunt, Reverse Tag)
- Added scroll bar to level select
- Added sounds to virus shard impact
- Added the ability to modify secondary controls in the Controls menu
- Turned down the cooldown sound a bit
- Swapped buttons for camera change and show score on Xbox controller and PS4 controller
- Made more objects accessible in the level editor that were previously dev only
- Made it so if a player DNFs it says that they didn’t finish on the other players screen
- Removed drones from Grey Matters gravity zone
- Improved music and ambiance of gravity zone
- Reverted back to musical horn with bubble
- Adjusted text color and spacing of Create New Profile screen to warn about not using mouse
- Fixed bug where cars would reset in the wrong place on checkpoints if they entered the match late
- Fixed bug where server browser loading image would appear behind the listings
- Removed IP/port info in the game lobby
- Fixed bug where playing Adventure Mode after playing split-screen would break
- Fixed bug in level editor where pasting objects wouldn’t place them in the level properly sometimes
- Upped the number of audio channels, should fix issues with random SFX missing
- Removed the checkpoint teleport on the building in corruption since the checkpoint reset was so rough
- Made the awkward checkpoints in the tunnels of Negative Space have no visuals
- Fixed the bug where the finish menu wouldn’t pop up when a client finishes Challenge mode before the server
- Fixed a bug where cars would intersect in the StartZone if a player joined a match late
- Fixed spawn in awkwardness of a late joining player if a different player has finished already (before the finished player’s car would be at the spawn location)
- Fixed a bug where if a client drops out right before a match starts the match would never start
- Fixed a bug where if you changed the level music in the level editor it didn’t actually switch songs right away
- Made it so the shard launch is a one shot for now to fix the issue with it launching at the car after getting a checkpoint
- Removed sounds from broken rollers like the ones in Ground Zero
- Fixed bug with virus dropper drone idle SFX
- Fixed bug with Reverse Tag when a client joined a match late and the bubble wouldn’t get updated properly for them
- Fixed bug with Sprint and Stunt modes when a client joined late and their time wasn’t in sync with the mode
[This post is a mirror of our original private Beta release on Kickstarter]
It’s finally here. Today marks the start of the exclusive backer-only private beta for Distance! The beta includes the latest progress on Adventure mode, several other single and multiplayer modes, the level editor with Steam Workshop support, and tons more! Alongside that we’ve also just released a brand new Distance Beta Trailer:
How to Download the Beta
To play the latest build, you first need to get access to your personal Humble Bundle page. If you didn’t already claim your Humble Bundle page, you can do so by providing the email you used to back the game (i.e. via Kickstarter or on our website) via the key resender page:
Once you have access to your Humble Store page, it should look something like this:
You can either download the Beta via Steam key (recommended for access to Steam Workshop, leaderboards, and other Steam features) or via DRM-free download below. If you have any issues accessing the Beta let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to get back as soon as possible!
To be clear: The tier amount listed at your Humble Bundle page is only in reference to the digital rewards distributed by Humble Bundle. For example, those at the $35 tier will have a page that says $25+. This means that you’re getting the same Beta, soundtrack, and digital artbook as the $25 tier, but the backer vehicle will be distributed later via Refract and not Humble Store.
Important: For all of the other details about playing the Beta, giving feedback, etc. please be sure check out the Distance Beta Overview!
So, What Does it Mean to be in Beta?
Distance is still in many ways buggy and incomplete. We have quite a ways to go before we hit a Gold (final) release, but the cornerstones of technology and gameplay are finally in place.
Hitting the Beta milestone for us means that Distance is in a state where it’s relatively straightforward for us to update existing features and add new content to the build. Thanks to the impressive patience of the Alpha backers, we were able to push through some really tough technical and design challenges and get the game to a point where it’s a reasonably updatable platform.
Since our development style is somewhat sporadic as it’s based on our personal passions, Distance always has the potential to change dramatically in any direction. As we continue to iterate we’re really excited to see Beta backers bring a fresh perspective and new suggestions to the community.
Currently, there are over 60 levels created by Alpha backers available on Steam Workshop! It would be one thing if they were all quickly thrown together, but it’s obvious that the creators poured their souls into their creations. Here are some fun highlights from the community:
(After our last Alpha build release, Niven put together an impressive update recap video to show off some of the latest changes to the Alpha)
(fzeroman uploaded 3.5+ hours of multiplayer gameplay from last week. He and several others played through tons of the latest community levels, including a few new Zero-G tag levels)
Physical Backer Rewards
Now that the Beta is out we’ll be able to focus more of our energy on fulfilling the physical backer rewards. Ellie has been working to find quality printers for the shirts and posters, and after many test prints we’ve found a couple vendors that might work out. Make sure to update your address on Kickstarter if you’re using a different address than when you filled out the survey a while back! Here are a couple previews:
(The shirt has been the toughest so far. CustomInk finally handed us a proof that looked reasonable, so I want to do a couple small tweaks like slightly moving in the Distance logo to the right and possibly adding the Refract logo below it. After we get another solid proof we should be good to go)
(The poster looks decent so far and I like the thickness of the paper. My biggest complaint is that it’s a bit dark. I’d like to get another proof with it a bit brighter)
(Jason has been making great progress on the arcade cabinets. On the right is a cardboard prototype and on the left is a nearly completed frame)
While I’d love to say that we’ll be taking a breather after the past several intense months of work to get the Beta out, things are only about to get crazier.
In about 2 weeks we’ll be showing Distance at PAX Prime with Indie MEGABOOTH! We’re lining up some really cool (limited edition) swag, and if we can pull off the tech we’ll have a couple really sweet surprises at the booth. If you’ll be at PAX be sure to drop by and hang out!
As for the future of Distance’s development, we’ll be using the time leading up to PAX to gather information about where you think the game is at. There are obviously big features left to do like a replay system, random track generation, more modes, more vehicles, etc. but before diving into anything big we want to properly take in the initial Beta feedback. We are looking into eventual distribution like a public Beta through Humble Store and Steam Early Access, but that’s still a ways off.
In terms of developer diaries going forward, we still plan on releasing these larger behind-the-scenes features every month or two, but we understand how that might not be frequent enough for many. As the past year has shown I’m incredibly slow at writing Kickstarter and forum updates, but as it turns out Twitter has been working as a great medium to provide a more frequent source of updates.
We’re the most efficient with responses and updates on Twitter, and now that the Beta is released we’ll be stepping up the crazy quite a bit. Please feel free to ask questions or share anything with us there!
The emotions going into this leg of development are impossible to describe. While I’m incredibly anxious to hear what you think of where Distance is at currently, I’m still just excited that Distance has somehow become the experience that it is. When we started this project the most exciting angle of it for me was this idea that we were building an atmospheric racing game; something more than the occasional time trial where you can get lost in another world. Obviously we still have a good deal of work ahead of us, but it’s so incredible that after pushing through so many technical and creative struggles, part of my job now is to work on a story mode for a racing game.
For most of us at Refract the “content creation” part of development is the most enjoyable. Now that we’re spending more time creating content instead of developing the architecture I think we’re really finding a good groove. Financially we haven’t yet spent half of the money raised through Kickstarter, and thanks to your patience we were able to develop Distance the way we needed to. More than anything, I’m just excited that we can finally take this next big step with all of you.
- Jordan (with everyone at Refract)