Sailing with the Tide of Updates – Friday, May 12, 2017
We have been very busy this week. I think George summed it up well with: “Cross dependencies everywhere!” We have so many different systems coming together, and several new systems, as usual, coming in, that this week was particularly busy for those of us managing the flow of change. Not to mention the hard-working team supporting that process! I can confidently say this busyness will continue into next week if our Top Tenish work-in-progress items are any indication. With that obvious segue, let’s go to our fairly robust (wink) Top Tenish list:
- WIP – Tech – Terrain optimizations: Brad and George have been working through some very large changes to terrain generation, currently being reviewed by a pile of the engineers. If all goes as planned, we should see a slight performance increase, remove a number of known terrain issues, improve long-term maintainability of the code, and take one big step closer to setting up terrain changes according to Realm ownership. Additionally, this brings another engineer, Brad, up to speed on both our terrain system and our threading library.
- WIP – Seamless zone transitions: Per the above big change on terrain, we have another large change coming in from Colin. Colin wrapped up a large chunk of his seamless zone transition work, which is making its way through review. While waiting for that, he’s in the early stages of setting up programmatically-placed triggers in the world. Remember, this allows players to move between different physical servers, anywhere in the world, with no load screen!
- WIP – Tech – Particle performance improvements: Particles happen in three stages: Update/Animate, Accumulate, and Render. Our previous bottleneck was the Render portion, but we’ve now made that cost a tiny fraction of the previous frametime, with the OIT change. We’re reducing the cost of Accumulate this week with a big change from Bull and Dave, which is wrapping up soon. The next stage that needs optimization is the Animate portion, which is more challenging, as we now have an incredibly flexible particle system. The even better news is that lots more optimizations are coming, both before and after the launch of Beta 1.
- Tech – Position persistence: When players log out, we now save out your zone (island) and position information, even if we move the zone you were saved to a different world space location. For example, if we move an entire island/zone from one side of the world to the other, we will still update your position.
- WIP – Tech – Globally scale crafting time: To make testing of crafting easier, Christina has added functionality for Design to change the speed of crafting. For example: crafting is currently set to instantaneous, in order to test making blocks to build with. With additional changes coming, we’ll be able to easily change all of these types of settings while the game is running, which will allow both CSE and our Backers to have a much more useful testing regimen during Beta 1.
- Tech – Portal updates: Portals now work better. They are set up to travel from portal to portal, rather than from portal to spawn point. Additionally, players won’t end up portaling within the exit portal’s trigger volume, which was creating a fun/annoying ping-pong effect.
- WIP – Tech/Design – Recipe crafting: Mark and Christina have been furiously working on the pipeline to go from spreadsheet to game, and another major step is complete with the addition of 239 types of wood to the game. Mark has also been working on a very flexible resource node/spawner system, and on setting up a rules-based system for auto-generation of them.
- WIP – Design – Crafting: Mark completed his first pass on his “First 30 days of Beta 1” document and handed it off to some members of the team for commenting. This is the document that he spoke about two weeks ago. Once it goes through the rounds here, it will be passed on to our Backers, so they know what to expect for the opening of Beta 1 and a little bit beyond. Expect a lot more detail than is in our current checklist.
- WIP – Art – Additional Helmets: Jon doesn’t let getting sick stop him! While keeping those of us in the office from contracting his plague, Jon began work on some Realm-distinct helmets, inspired by real-world historical helmets. These could be additional items to craft during B1 if you want to add a bit of flair to your character. You can catch his stream from earlier this week HERE. (https://www.twitch.tv/videos/
- WIP – Art – Additional Environment assets: Dionne continues to roll out stumps, logs, twigs, and branches to fill out our existing library. She’s also hit some geo performance improvements on some old assets, so we can deliver solid performance in dense areas.
- Art – Character sheet and Inventory UI: James completed all the weapon and armor icons for B1, and is moving on to miscellaneous items and crafting materials for our new UI for Beta 1.
- Art/Tech – Music System: dB has been busy adding in the concept of “Keys” (like A Major) into Wwise to support his needs. The music system, which is full MIDI, allows us to change the tempo of the music — such as when battles intensify. The music can now also progress through key changes, following the circle of 5ths. This will be handy in situations when the ambient music is playing and the combat music starts to play. They can be harmonically related, even though the system allows for the music to be played in any key. dB can also write music in one key and play it back in a different key.
- Art – Animation: As is usual in our recent updates, progress continues in animation land. We set up a left-hand override to carry a torch when running, as a test for the “frankensteining” clips tech that Andrew wrote. This worked great, so we’ll begin using it more, and will work on improving the rough torch animations. This week, in characters and animations:
- Rigged both Tuatha and Viking siege engines for simple aiming mechanics.
- Rigged and imported new hair variations for testing (not yet in game).
- Worked on skirt and cape animations on combat runs and polearm animations.
- Began work on knockback assets for future testing.
- WIP – Seattle office setup: With the new office set up, Andrew is taking a trip to visit the West Coast team. He’s already queued up a couple of tasks, including working on network and database performance between offices. We expect great things to come from the meeting of the minds that will take place there next week!
As you can see, we had an above-average week of highlights. There’s a reason we call it the Top TenISH, haha! Okay, let’s move on to the some of the images for the week. We’ll start off with a link to an animation video from Scott that demonstrates running and standing jumps, with an additional animation of a running stop.
Now that we are internally testing our multi-zone tech, we needed a quick way to differentiate the spawn points, marked by, for now, a single prop. Michelle completed a quick VFX mock up for Mike to work on, testing his new tools.
What could those be used for…hmmm? And now, a shot of some very special gifts from a very special Backer called Poxer: Thank you for this amazing cappuccino maker and related paraphernalia! Believe me, it will definitely bring joy to this team. Here’s to some caffeinated game development! 🙂
So a good week here, with plenty of highlights, and some cool WIP features landing over the coming weeks. As Mark often says, it only gets better from here. For IT and Alpha level Backers, keep an eye on your email, as we’ll be having two tests this weekend; we just haven’t wrapped them up and put the bow on, yet. Not bad, eh? Two tests this weekend, even with cross dependencies everywhere. If all goes well with the VFX test (the test on Hatchery), we’ll be inviting our Beta 1 Backers in for the next iteration of VFX testing!