Saying Goodbye to February – Monday, February 28th, 2022
Normally I like to start our update with a catchy title and some humor. Given what is transpiring in Ukraine, I thought doing so would be, at best, quite inappropriate. All I will say is that the nation of Ukraine and its President are shocking the world with their defiance, courage, and ability to stand up and say “No” to one of the most powerful countries/militaries in the world. My prayers and hopes are with them and all of the innocent people who are impacted by this tragic event.
Besides this update there’s even more CU news you can use – we have this month’s livestream with Senior Producer Terry Coleman here, complete with the February Top Tenish and our usual Q&A session (https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1411162222) and tomorrow we will send out the newsletter too!
February 2022 End of Month CU Update (2/28/2022)
- WIP – Tech, Art, & Design – Melee 2.0 – Heavy Fighters
- The big update for heavy fighters is ready to go.
- The melee ability tree has changed forms. Building an ability now requires selecting between crushing, piercing, and slashing types of attacks.
- The ability builder now also allows you to select incompatible components, but highlights them in red. The ability must be valid to be created, but this allows for greater ease of use during the component selection phase.
- Many updates have gone into the Style Components of the Heavy Fighter: 30 Core styles to be shared for the Melee Tree classes and 7 unique damage-altering styles per Fighter (Black Knight, Fianna and Mjölnir), as well as updates and additions to their shouts.
- Overall, a lot more potential interactivity has been added within each Heavy Fighter kit.
- Abilities touch lightly on interactions within their own kits, which we hope to expand upon as more classes are updated in terms of our A.I.R. concepting.
- We’ve also added new Heavy Fighter test animations based on the three damage types.
- Selecting a standard weapon attack ability will now play an animation at random from a limited pool made for that damage type: core piercing, core slashing, or core crushing animations. There are also two new shout animations specific to the Heavy Fighter classes, which will play depending on character weapon loadout.
- As this marks the first implementation and testing for brand new Melee 2.0 systems, we’ve limited the first pass of these animations to characters which use the human rig (Humans, Valkyrie, and Picts) and a select number of weapon loadouts to start (default Heavy Fighter loadouts: sword and shield, spear and shield, hammer and shield, greatsword, and staff/polearm).
- MikeD has been working on fixing timing issues in ability animations. Specifically, he is fixing the synchronization between the ability phases (e.g. Prepare, Recover) and their respective portions of the animations that need to work together seamlessly. With these changes, the longer, more elaborate motions of the Heavy Fighter attack animations will play smoothly from start to finish while retaining perfect timing with the ability, even in the face of substantial modification that might stem from traits, statuses, weapon properties or other factors.
- WIP – Tech – Giant Melee Hit Boxes Updates
- Giants now have an easier time hitting their opponents with melee attacks. The hit box for their attacks now considers the size of the giant for range and height.
- In addition, a bug was found and fixed which caused the hit box checks for player capsules to be off, which could cause attacks to erroneously hit or miss along the Z axis, as characters were thought to be lower than they actually were.
- WIP – Design – Weapon Ranges Updated: All player weapon ranges also got a face lift, in order to both match the new animations and work well with our larger giant characters.
- WIP – Design/Art – Rapier Items Added: Each realm now has access to craft a new rapier weapon using a recipe available in the Make job of the Vox.
- These items do require a good amount of Dex in order to be able to wield them.
- WIP – Design/Tech – Character and Item Stat Updates
- Vitality has improved Health and Health Regeneration gains the more Vitality you have, with updated Traits to allow more options during Character Creation by race and class.
- Maximum Worn Weight is being introduced and assigned to Strength, which only looks at equipped weapons and armor mass. We have future plans to implement consequences based on how heavy you load yourself with equipped weapons and armor; for now this is a preparational step.
- Maximum Carry Weight now only looks at how much mass is in your inventory and assigned to Endurance, with a new scaling design. Movement Speed will now gradually decrease as you load your character with more and more weight, instead of going ‘0.01’ over and losing a chunk of Movement Speed at once.
- Various items’ mass have been tuned to the new Maximum Carry Weight design.
- For some future flavor and design plans:
- Faith is renamed to Piety
- Resonance is renamed to Inspiration
- To accommodate these changes, the UI for the character creation flow required several small updates in order to correctly handle the new stat math.
- WIP – Tech – Interactions System: Rob is working on unifying the various ways players can interact with entities and items in the game. Currently, there are several different approaches that have been developed over the years, making it time-consuming to make changes or add new features in each respective area. With this effort, Rob simplifies interactions in general and, by making them more data-driven, upgrades the entire system to something much easier to work with by both engineers and designers.
- WIP – Tech – Alternative Pathfinding System
- Lee was busy this month working on an alternative pathfinding system, using influence maps that allow better movement in crowded situations.
- As a side benefit, this approach avoids a lot of the network traffic between servers that our current pathfinding system incurs.
- Done – Tech – Data Visualization Tool
- As part of debugging alternative pathfinding, Lee also ended up creating a standalone tool for data visualization, which can show such things as how the searching algorithm iterates each step of determining a path from a given start position to a goal position.
- In the future, it can be hooked up to our servers to allow real-time debugging and viewing of complex data that our current in-game dev tools just can’t handle.
- WIP – Tech – Infrastructure as Code
- The production Launcher API servers are now under IAC control.
- We’re currently working on getting development Launcher API servers online to help smooth out updates and releases to these servers.
- Internally we’ve deployed our first IAC controlled CU shard: configured with a single zone, like Hatchery. We’re hoping in the next few days to test it, then reconfigure it as a multi-zone shard, like most of the other shards.
- Looking forward, the next steps once we’ve verified the multi-zone IAC shard will be to bring the current shards (Hatchery, NuadaPrep, Nuada, WyrmlingPrep, Wyrmling, and Hawking) into the IAC fold, as well as bringing online a new shard overseas somewhere.
- Done – Tech – Linux User Proxies
- After lots of ARCs, testing, and metrics, we’ve started rolling out the Linux user proxies. Some of you may remember last year we did our prototype for these. The proxies are critical to how we scale up to large numbers, so it’s super important for us to have confidence that they perform well. To that end, we’ve spent the last couple weeks capturing data about both the Windows and Linux versions of the proxy server so that we could put them side by side. The results ended up being that the Linux proxies were slightly more performant, to the tune of about 3-5% depending on the circumstances. However, the big difference is that the Linux proxies start up much faster. There’s 2 startup modes the proxies have: cold standby, and hard launch. Cold standby means we’ve already created the servers previously and just need to turn them on. Hard launch means we need to request a new VM from our cloud provider and wait for it to do first-run initialization. For Windows proxies, a cold standby instance takes about 3 minutes to come online, and a hard launch is about 15 minutes. For Linux proxies, a cold standby instance takes about 30-45 seconds to come online, and a hard launch is about 45-60 seconds. What this means is that if we saw a sudden huge influx of users into a zone, it could take anywhere from 3-15 minutes for latency and network traffic to settle down. Now it takes at most one minute.
- In addition to the immense gains in startup times, the Linux proxies also cost significantly less to run than their Windows counterparts, about half as much – allowing us to either save money, or scale to higher numbers for the same cost.
- WIP – Tech – DevExpress Removal: Bull has been busy removing our dependencies on DevExpress, a third-party library that allowed early rapid development of our tools, but that has now become a burden on the team because of licensing restrictions and general difficulties using it. Bull is rapidly replacing the various elements provided by this library with custom CSE versions that are better suited to the features required by our editor and other tools. This work should wrap up in the coming weeks, after which it will be considerably easier for the engineering team to develop our tools collaboratively.
- Done – Tech – New Build Server Monitor System: Bull added a new system so users can know with greater certainty if the Build Server is down, or if they are still connected to the database. This is especially valuable in preventing artists from potentially losing hours of work if they happen to get disconnected from VPN or otherwise suffer connection issues while working.
- Done – Tech – Editor Fixes
- Bull fixed a number of issues that were causing crashes with multi-select terrain point selection.
- He also worked on some issues with the Build Server not starting up due to patch client and build box issues.
- Done – Tech – Terrain Tools: This month Wylie landed some upgrades to our terrain editing tools. The main addition is an in-editor button that generates a preview of a random distribution node, which is what we use to randomly distribute terrain features like texture, foliage, or elevation changes. This lets artists get immediate feedback on changes, which lowers iteration time and demystifies how the random distribution node works.
- WIP – Tech – Terrain Refactor: At the same time, Cheyne continues his work on refactors to the terrain system. This is part of an ongoing, complex effort to make the system smoother and more performant for our artists, and also trying to prep for some longer term changes to the systems.
- WIP – Art – Weapons
- The art team continues to make progress on taking new varieties of CU weapons from concept through to 3D. This month Dave finished up concepts for one starter Saber per realm, and is just about done with our first round of Curved Blades.
- With concepts done, Jon was able to wrap up the 3D versions of our earlier Rapier concepts and the new completed Sabers, with Curved Blades following close behind.
- WIP – Art – Realm Artifacts: Meanwhile, concept has returned to realm artifact kits. Thanks to some additional aesthetic direction from design, we’ve moved forward on the Viking set to bring things more in line with their intended style and, once the new iterations are approved, move them forward to 3D.
- WIP – Art – Races
- Joe, Scott, and Jon are nearing the last phase of our major armor fitting project for the new CU races, which also includes pipeline improvements for how we handle all character armor sets. This month the base nudes, underlayers and light 001 armor sets for male and female St’rm, Hamadryad, and Valkyrie armor sets are coming online for baseline setup and testing.
- The base Cait Sith models are also nearing completion on the 3D side. Thor has wrapped up the female model as well as textures and hair cards, and continues work on the male version.
- WIP – Art – Environment – Golden Plains: The environment team is also hard at work making more strides on the new upgraded Golden Plains zone we introduced last month. In addition to the usual slate of spawning improvements and spot clean-up, we have new assets in progress to round out the zone, including new and upgraded trees we’ll be able to utilize both in the planned Plains and future biomes. We’re also dialing in the current graybox assets to better reflect and test scale in the map, especially as it regards small settlements and buildings like farmsteads. Stay tuned to see the upgrade-to-the-upgrade soon as we wrap this next series of improvements.
- WIP – Design – Bangles, Baubles, and Beads: MJ continued his work on a potential jewelry/gem crafting system for CU. The current plan is for him to finish his work on it in March, meet with design/gameplay and have it good to go for a presentation shortly after that. His hope is that besides giving players useful ornamentation to wear, that the addition of a rich gem-crafting system will also increase the usefulness and variety of rich resource nodes that are an important part of our Places of Power concept. Like other parts of the crafting system, gems are not meant to be mined until your arm falls off as the gathering of the raw gems will not be the most time consuming actions that crafters will have to take in order to produce useful gems.
And onward to art!
First up in this month’s CU update, we’ve got some new concept approaches to our realm artifact kits, specifically the Viking set. Here you can see some of the different options we came up with per item type – braziers, signposts, and more – based on some new general environmental concepts.
Those choices were then narrowed down further to the below selections, honing in even more on a unified, distinctly Viking aesthetic for this item set.
From realm artifacts, we move onto weapon sets! This month the armory increased, with the 3D rapiers you see here made from last month’s concepts. These standard weapons are craftable via the Make job on your Vox now, soon to be followed by Sabers and Curved Blades of the same basic rarity.
In Arthurian news, the 3D crew is just about done with the female Cait Sith model, now complete with hair cards and textures (kind of important for our most well-coiffed race to date).
Meanwhile in Melee 2.0, our first wave of additions to the Heavy Fighters and melee ability tree land this week! As we’ve talked about in more detail in previous newsletters, this new approach to CU combat breaks our extensive melee system down, organizationally speaking, into damage types: crushing, piercing, and slashing.
And this new build includes animations to match: shared core attack animations that will play at random, based on the attack’s damage type, plus some new shout animations that will play based on weapon loadout.
These new animations currently cover all characters that share the human rig, and the default Heavy Fighter weapon loadouts – meaning many of your Black Knights, Fiannas, and Mjölnirs can sport some more exciting full body animations to match their new ability components.
Hop in the next build to try out the new ability builder changes and these Heavy Fighter animations for yourself as we continue to test the current feature, iterate on new class improvements, and eventually bring animations online for even more rigs and weapon loadouts.
Last but not certainly not leaf-st, the environment team continues to make big strides on our Upgrade All the Foliage mission – from grass cards last month, to the below behemoth of an oak tree. We look forward to showing you how we’re able to leverage these improvements in the Golden Plains zone and more in the coming months!
I hope you liked what you heard today from Terry, and what you have seen in this update, and what you’ll see tomorrow with our newsletter. As always, we thank you for your support and patience.