By The Pricking of My Thumb, Something Verdant This Way Comes! – Friday, January 29th, 2021


And it’s LIVE and in lots of living colors – the reveal of the Verdant Forest. And I don’t get to say this often enough, right on schedule without having to cut corners or anything else (except in RvR of course, please cut or smash to your heart’s content). It is with no small amount of pride that I ask you folks to join us this weekend on Nuada Prep to see the WIP version of the Verdant Forest and engage in RvR at the same time. I could talk endlessly about it as I did in livestream but hey, come and see it for yourself. And if you can’t, head to the Forums and you’ll see a link to a video walkthrough I did with some members of the team yesterday. But, it’s so much better to see it in person, trust me. Oh, and if you watched the livestream, sorry how it looked in Twitch. I guarantee you it looks a lot better in person. The next time we try that we’ll make sure that we have things on Twitch set up properly.

  1. WIP – Design – Crafting: Mark has been hip-deep down in the bowels of all things Google Sheets laying out a series of designs and calculators for our Alchemy & Cooking paths for our Crafter class. What we have now is a really cool table-based system for alchemy which will allow players to both have fun with experimentation and combination but also to make unique items at the same time. In terms of cooking, while it isn’t confirmed as a launch feature, the system that it uses can also be used as an adjunct to alchemy if we want it to or as the basis of any recipe-based system. MJ will be demonstrating this system next month on a crafting livestream.
  2. WIP – Tech, Art, Animation & Design – Golems available to backers for testing
    1. Golems have been turned on in CU! They can be created using the character creation flow in the patcher.
    2. With the introduction of the first of the Giant races, we wanted to highlight a few of the unique features that separate these hulking beasts from the rest of the pack. As part of our current milestone, we are revisiting many of the already implemented races, and looking forward to the new ones to make sure that they all have awesome racial abilities and features. For the golems in particular:
      1. Golems grow over time. Characters of all race types will age the more they are played. This age increase is returned as part of their “daily” progression report. In the case of Golems, and later our other giant races, this increase in age will also translate to an increase in size.
      2. Golems are the first of our races to have abilities that are specifically designed for them, including:
        1. Gifted Reinforcement: Deploys a clay barricade for 60 seconds that slowly recovers the health of warband members within its vicinity. Recovering the barricade will cure a single wound.
        2. Siege Abilities: Golems have some trade-offs they’ll need to deal with in the world of CU as they grow over time, and one of those is being much too large and cumbersome to interact with siege weapons. We felt that this was a great place to expand upon their uniqueness, so we gave them a set of racial abilities that allow them to become siege weapons themselves!
          1. Emblazed Cask: Lobs a flaming projectile filled with flaming liquid that deals fire damage in a large area on impact and applies Burning to affected characters.
          2. Slam: Slams forward for high siege damage.
  3. WIP – Tech – NPC Updates – Guard Behaviors: You might have noticed a few new faces hanging out around the entrances to the safe keeps in Discordia (RVR Battleground 2). Recent updates to their behaviors ensure they will stand ready until something hostile gets too close. Once their targets have been handled, they will return to their post, using the new pathfinding system to make their way back if necessary. Also they should spin around less. By less I mean not at all. They do guard things now, like guards should! Thanks to the addition of the Unchained Navigation System and several other recent AI improvements, we can start adding more and more interesting behaviors for our NPCs in the future.
  4. WIP – Tech – Animation Improvements: MikeD is busy with several improvements to our animation system. First is an aesthetics pass on the ragdoll component, for which more realistic skeletal motion with constraints is coming soon, particularly during death sequences. Also in the works is a fix for the transition from animated motion to ragdoll motion, which is currently a bit glitchy, especially on larger entities like giants. Finally, Mike is working on a more generalized procedural motion capability that allows for any part of a character’s body to be posed independent of the underlying animation. This will allow for a lot of interesting effects later on, including head tracking, pointing, and dynamic impact response during combat.
  5. WIP – Tech – Content Pipeline Improvements: As our team has grown, the number of content creators working in the same neighborhood of assets/content has increased. In the early days we didn’t really have to worry about two artists working on the same level or asset at the same time. With the complexity of the zones increasing to create some great new biomes and more artists working together to produce those biomes, we’ve discovered some problems in those tools. We’ve made some great strides in improving the way editors and the build servers communicate with each other and relay that information to the artists.
  6. WIP – Tech – Build Pipeline Improvements: We’re giving our build pipeline some much needed TLC. Over the years when there have been major upgrades in the tools and technologies that we use to build our software, it’s been hugely disruptive to our engineers and our build process. We’re investing the time now to extend the build pipeline to make these transitions less painful. This will result in less downtime during big upgrades and allow us to do these upgrades more frequently so they’re not as monolithic.
  7. Done – Tech – Database Availability Improvements: We’ve rolled out some extra redundancy for our databases to improve how they handle unexpected failure of various nodes and services. We also took this opportunity to improve how we configured the way that our software connected to the databases to make future changes in this area considerably easier.
  8. Done – Tech – Bug Fixes
    1. Christina and Tim tracked down an issue which was causing progression not to properly work for some players. This progress was not lost, and reports from previous days should start showing up for those who were affected.
    2. The Purity of Purpose shout buff will now buff the damage of bow attacks and golem casks.
    3. Lee fixed an issue with terrain loading which was resulting in very long client load times.
    4. Solved an alpha sorting issue that caused buildings to render on top of grass.
    5. Wylie fixed a bug causing missing textures on buildings to appear black.
    6. MikeD fixed a long-standing problem of jumping interrupting attacks. You can now do both!
  9. Done – Tech & Art – Projectile Timing Updates: Anthony and Scott changed up phases for non-archery projectile attacks to be better able to sync the creation of the projectile with the animation. This change will be most noticeable in longer, slower animations like the giants’ cask throw ability, but will also stand out when using aim-mode with any affected abilities (mostly magic-type things like Dart or Ball spells).
  10. Done – Tech – Improved Damage/Kill Tracking: Anthony has added a huge improvement to our damage and kill tracking. We can now properly attribute who to properly attribute an action to for more complex situations, such as buffs that cause damage reflection.
  11. Done – Tech – Volumetric Fog: Wylie has completed a significant amount of the tech set-up for volumetric fogging, which allows us to create regions of thick semi-transparent gasses like fog or mist. While we were able to create this effect before using particle effects, the hit to framerate was prohibitively high. The dedicated fogging system takes away a lot of that framerate cost.
  12. WIP – Design, Art, & Tech – Environment: This month brings a big slate of updates when it comes to the Verdant Forest, including opening up the biome to you to experience firsthand. We hope you’re excited to explore what we’ve been plotting!
    1. Joseph has added the second set of trees to the biome, along with improved canopies that look better from a variety of angles without overtaxing the engine. With Kara’s help, Scout has put together literal-dozens of 3D assets based on Kara’s concept boards. Though we were able to create our first passes of the Verdant Forest with majority existing assets, these new pieces from Scout and Kara were created specifically for this area and with the TDD in mind. These bushes, shrubs, flowers, and other height-varying pieces are included in a proof of concept zone Michelle has been arranging for backers to visit in-game.
    2. Joseph has also been working on some different adjustments for atmospheric conditions in the biome, including different lighting style packs. Screenshots of these are included in the monthly updates, although they will not be active in the Proof of Concept Zone just yet.
    3. George is still working on overall lighting changes which will affect both FS:R and CU once completed. Meanwhile, glowing vegetation assets have been added to the zone, along with some quick fix changes on sphere lighting to help with the darkened areas until the biggest-ticket lighting issues can be addressed.
    4. Starting this month, the Verdant Forest is also available for you to explore in-game! We’ve added a small test zone for the Verdant Forest Biome that players of all realms can enter to experience the current work for themselves. This area will allow you to roam and get a feel for the current state of this biome before we take it to the next phase. There will be a portal located on your home island that will take you there. Once there, you can run around to your heart’s content and leave from the same portal in which you came! Michelle put a lot of work into the terrain map to ensure that the bulk of the content is procedurally generated, as it will be when it’s one of many such zones on a full RvR map.
    5. Though the biome hits a major implementation milestone this month, there are still some polish features we’d like to add down the road. These include improved LODs, more dynamic bioluminescent foliage elements, ambient wildlife effects, and the general lighting adjustments mentioned earlier. Kara has already completed some early concepts for adding wilderness critters to the biome as well. With this new proof of concept zone, we have a process for testing and sharing these additions with you as we go.
  13. WIP – Art & Tech – Fixes:
    1. Joseph and George have been addressing lighting and rendering issues during the Verdant Forest process as well. These have included correcting how our engine handles sRGB normal maps on materials, as well as fixing a bug in which brightness correction caused sharp points of light to generate on the ground.
    2. When he’s not helping animation with setting up our next giant races, Jon has been adding a virtual armory to his asset fix list. Daggers, bows, axes, maces, hammers, elixir bottles, and instruments have been updated with the proper materials and LODs. More shields, swords, spears, and other weapons from all three realms are on deck to be improved.
  14. Done – Art & Design – Points of Interest – Shipwreck Cove: Sierra has finished out all the Shipwreck Cove point of interest content! You can check down below for the completed TDD ship that finished off the set, and the January newsletter for additional information and images.
  15. WIP – Art – Animation: Giant Golem animations have been polished and Joe, Scott, and Sandra have been fixing any problems that have come up since all the animations have been retargeted for each class.
  16. WIP – Design & Art – Progression and Character Development
    1. Like we hinted at in last month’s Top Tenish and newsletter, Chris and Kara have some major updates to the CU races, both existing and planned.
    2. In addition to finishing out the designs of races currently available in-game, like the Humans, Picts, and Luchorpans, we’ll also be looking forward towards redesigns of canon races and new designs for new races. This means new racial abilities, new ways to customize your character, and, of course, new stories to explain these races’ place in the world of CU.
    3. Chris and Kara detailed out all the Character Development content that they have been working on, from lore, to Racial Abilities, to Visual Implementation, during a livestream earlier today that can be found on CSE’s Twitch page.
    4. Unsurprisingly, these racial updates come with quite a few visuals in this month’s Dose of Design. If you’re looking for more information and to see what’s going on alongside the designers’ stream, check out the newsletter.
  17. WIP – Art & Design – Race Update – St’rm: As part of this reboot of the CU races, Tina is knocking out concepts for one of the more complicated future races, the Arthurian St’rm. She’s been working closely with the 3D and animation teams, as well as design, as we look to use the St’rm as a technical baseline for new race development down the road. You can see the current progress alongside Chris and Kara’s planning deep dive in this month’s newsletter.

Time for some Arts!

We’re going to start you off with a map to get you to the right place when it comes to the new Verdant Forest Biome Proof of Concept Zone! You’ll see this in the newsletter as well, and it will have detailed information just in case you need more! So check that out for more details in the state of the build!

As you can see, Wylie has been working with the programing magic and trying to set us up with some volumetric fog!

He’s really starting to make this a really handy addition when to comes to making customizable features as we build upon these biomes.

There were a lot of color variations that came from this St’rm pass that didn’t get allotted to the final pass, however we thought they were cool enough to still show off!

Here is just another caption shot of progress on the Verdant Forest, but as we said, please come in and see it for yourself!

We wanted to make sure we dropped in some more ship images incase you haven’t checked out the newsletter! Here is a mockup of all the broken bits for the TDD ship! And if you look in the distance a ship is sailing away-away!

We’re shipping off with these last images from art! Thanks for joining us on the livestreams today!

It’s been a heck of a month for CSE and CU and I hope you’ll all agree that today marks a very important day for CU. Come and see the new forest and judge for yourselves of course.

As always, we thank you for your patience and support and we look forward to seeing you this weekend. And as I’ve also been saying for far too long, please stay safe and uninfected till we get through this pandemic.

– Mark