What me worry? – Thursday, April 30th, 2020
As the month draws to an end, we find ourselves still living in CoronaWorld, and it’s been a tough time for so many of its inhabitants. For us, it also means that we are getting close to the end of the 90-day plan we laid out for Camelot Unchained. Fortunately, our team is well and we all have been working hard to deliver on that plan. I want to focus on a couple of key milestones that we have reached in this past month before moving on to the Top Tenish and an announcement of interest to all of our Backers.
First, we have delivered on a first-pass and huge island that is getting more visually interesting and vibrant as we move through the weeks. The difference between what we showed our Backers earlier this month and now is truly night and day. Thanks to the Builders Brigade, we have 11 plots, with 10 million fully destructible blocks in this island all part of the amazing structures they created with C.U.B.E.
Second, today we opened up the testing of the new island to all of our Backers to come on in and check it out. Buggy as it is, so far it’s held up quite well. No server crashes/major issues and folks while folks were going about their business killing Keep Lords, taking over real estate, etc. Our testers have also been doing a great job of finding and reporting bugs and we have already have a new build going up tomorrow with a dozen key fixes.
Now, does that mean that we’re there yet? Nope, but as we’ve been seeing over the last few days, we are delivering on what we laid out in the 90-day plan and we’re not through yet. And that’s where the final part of this introduction is heading towards.
Almost three months ago we showed you Final Stand: Ragnarok and understandably some folks were upset and concerned about CU’s future. I tried to assure folks that CU was not only alive and well but would still be the main focus of CSE. Many of you didn’t believe me, even when I laid out the 90-day plan. And here we are, almost 90 days after the plan was revealed and we’re doing a really good job overall on delivering on it, even with the delays and issues due to Covid-19. But, we’re not stopping there. I’m happy to say that we intend to do the same thing over the next 90 days, lay out a detailed plan which puts CU at the forefront of our development with the vast majority of the studios resources going to continue, expand, and iterate on the fine work they did over the last 90 days. So, when the 90-days run out, expect another detailed plan from us showing what we are working to deliver. That’s the commitment that I and our investors have made towards CU and our Backers. I do hope you all stick around to see how things turn out because if want we have seen in the last few days are any indication, it’s going to be a lot of fun as we get the 24×3 servers ready to open and give you all what you’ve been waiting for, lots of RvR fun and frolic.
And let’s get into the highlights of what’s been happening this month!
Top Tenish for April 30th, 2020
- WIP – Tech – Pathfinding and NPC Movement: Lee is now in bug-squashing mode with navmesh generation, focusing on a handful of edge cases that cause pathfinding to produce sub-optimal results under particularly tricky conditions. Mike D. has added more sophisticated logic for NPCs to detect that they are stuck while trying to move, as well as improvements in their ability to work themselves free of their obstruction. This effort also includes logic for NPCs not making path requests when they know they are stuck, resulting in a nice optimization on the server. Spidey is testing an approach to NPCs having variable rate of movement, which ultimately will allow them to intelligently choose when they walk, run, or creep towards their destinations. This will have numerous applications, including possible improvements to NPC cornering and unstuck logic, which Mike D. is experimenting with.
- WIP – Design – Overmind – Mark has been working in a number of areas within Overmind. He has been focused mainly on speeding up the ability of design/engineering to work with and iterate on Overmind-based scenarios.
- WIP – Tech and Art – In-game Scenario Map: AJ, Matt, and Christina have been hard at work putting together a new map for the battleground scenario. This map can now display:
- Player position and orientation
- The position of player warband members
- Who currently is in control of which plots
- Who is attacking various plots
- The progress of plot capture is also shown, this is either the literal capture points or the health of the keep lord.
- WIP – Tech & Design – The 24×3 Scenario: The RvR Battleground scenario is now close to publicly playable. There is a starting Keep for each Realm that is protected from damage and includes a spawn protection bubble around each spawn point to reduce spawn camping. There is a central keep and seven surrounding towers, each with a Keep Lord who can be killed in order to spawn a Keep Lord from the Realm of the players that killed him. Each Keep and Tower can also be damaged or even completely destroyed by siege engines, which are provided at a tent located at the starting keep for each Realm. Each starting Keep also has a tent that provides traps and barricades to help in sieging enemy Keeps and Towers. Any damage to Keeps and Towers will repair automatically over time as long as the building is not under attack. There are still bugs with Keep Lord abilities, and the tents that provide siege items sometimes float above the ground, and art still needs to finish doing a beautification pass on the environment, but other than that I think the scenario is ready for wider testing.
- WIP – Tech – Warband overhaul: We got our first pass of Warbands in and have been testing it internally. There are definitely hitches in the user experience but we are ironing those out as we continue testing and developing that system.
- DONE – Tech & Design & Art – Soul Essence Shards: This feature should help provide an extra incentive for killing enemies, as well as extra motivation to avoid dying. It is currently implemented from design, to tech and art and will be playable in the new scenario. As a refresher, the design is that when players die they will drop Soul Essence, which can then be picked up by the enemy player who killed them. These Essences will increase the health, damage, and healing power of the player who picks them up for a limited time, and the player who died will lose the same thing for the same duration.
- WIP – Tech & Art – Ability Bar Customization: Updates to ability bars are to extend the existing functionality and add new ways to interact and customize with your abilities. User experience will be tightening up as time goes on, and new features will be added. For this update to the ability bar, we are giving players the ability to do a multitude if things. It introduces the concept of Anchors. Anchors can be moved anywhere around the screen and you can have multiple anchors. Also the concept of Groups. Groups are attached to Anchors (currently, you can have 6 groups on an anchor.) A group is a set of “Slots”. Slots are placeholders for your abilities that can be bound to a key. You can swap abilities that are inside of slots to other slots, remove abilities from slots, etc. You can now add abilities from your ability builder/ability book and choose the slot you want it to be in.
- WIP – Tech & Design & Art – Progress on the Devout Classes: They went from not existing on hatchery at the start of the month to being implemented in game with temporary visual effects. (They have the majority of their intended components, including a few class specific bits and bobs). They have some default armor (art is working on more variants for them to start with) and should have their weapons now too. There have been a number of bug fixes brought about by testing them, mostly specifically to them but in some cases to magic components in general. There’s some lingering work Anthony is finishing now to make tracking creatures and things players “summoned” a bit more robust, and some scheduled work to fix a few more bugs that have appeared, as well as some more fundamental problems (like the Helbound not being able to use their headpiece focus, since it isn’t a weapon). They should also have their class specific animations while wielding staves (at least, Blessed Crow and Helbound I’ve been told should, though there’s still some ironing going on with Helbound). Most or all of the devout ability icons have been added by Christina and Koo recently. AJ recently fixed a UI bug preventing Abbot and Helbound from making spells out of some of their class-specific components. We can’t wait for you all to get in there to test them too!
- DONE – Tech & Design & Art – Spawn Protection Bubble: As discussed in the scenario section above the design, tech and art for the Spawn Protection Bubble has been implemented. This is just the first steps in discouraging Spawn Camping and we hope that this addition will greatly improve the quality of the game flow during a scenario.
- DONE – Tech & Art – Building Performance Testing: In order to support the large buildings in the new Battleground Scenario, Colin, Brian, and Christina ran multiple performance tests with buildings of up to 3.4 million blocks in size. From this, Colin has put in a number of building related optimizations to keep things running smoothly. A big thanks to the Builders Brigade for providing us with various test cases, we couldn’t have done it without you!
- WIP – Tools – Content Pipeline Changelists: The content pipeline is distributed and able to update assets in real time. This is a blessing for fast iteration and allows many people to contribute assets all at once but we don’t always know where all of those assets come from. Changelists is a system to allow us to track assets changes and apply them to shards in batches allowing us to keep the fast iteration while also having a history! We’re in the process of hooking up the changelist system into our editor which should provide the power of changelists to everyone who works with assets
- WIP – Tech – Server Orchestration P1: Containers and Discovery: Server orchestration is an all encompassing concept around deploying, managing, removing, connecting, and monitoring servers. CU has many disparate servers each with their own needs and as we’ve grown the number of them, we need to be sure we have good tools in place to manage them. We started containerizing our services and have gained a good understanding of some of the unique constraints our servers need. Several improvements to how we run servers have been made to transition them to work in containers which have already expanded the tools we have available and are working towards having most servers run in containers.
- WIP – Tech – Server Performance and Production Readiness: Our telemetry collection has improved and we’ve reformatted our server logs to be more understandable which has already helped us in diagnosing issues as they arise. We’ve also made great strides using that telemetry to increase the performance of our servers to meet our general internal targets. With those two things under our belt, we’re now spending time to reduce the performance impact of individual components that can spike and filling in security holes in a myriad of ways and places. Many pieces of this will be iterative over the next few months so there’s still plenty to do!
- WIP – Tech – Experimental Patcher: A lot of tech updates are on their way for the patcher. Most of which are currently in experimental! There are some essential security updates. Compression improvements are in progress, and will be completed soon after the experimental patcher goes live. Our patch servers are moving over to linux, and will soon be using our usual authentication service rather than handling that themselves. The overhead from server-side patching has been reduced and will allow our game servers to run faster. Enabled linux self-patching and added a ‘bootstrapping’ option to make life easier for Tim and our other Dev Ops engineers. Fixed a bug with automatic crash dump collection, and enabled it for servers. And last, but certainly not least, the processdaemon has been slain; a spectre that poluted our code and liked to leave orphaned processes in its wake.
- WIP – Tech – World Art Improvements (World Aligned Textures and Vert Painted Textures): Wylie has been working on tech to improve how placed objects like rocks and trees fit into the environment. He introduced the option to map textures using world coordinates. This causes textures to tile over a set distance, so a texture’s pixels will take up the same amount of space no matter how large an object is. This frees up world artists to mess with object scale without worrying about re-skinning and re-texturing the doobject for every different size. Another feature that’s still in-progress is the ability to ‘paint’ different textures onto a single mesh. This lets us to blend between different materials on the same surface. One application we’re playing with is to blend the ground texture up onto objects like stones, giving the illusion that it has been partially buried into the earth.
- WIP – Tech – Improved Overmind Dev Tools: Saving Log Files: You can now download Overmind logs to your computer and view them there. If you want an easier time debugging an Overmind script, you can open this log file in Notepad (or any other text editor) and search it for specific events, actions, or anything else you can think of! This will be a much better experience than scrolling through the log in the Overmind DevUI. You can also send these log files to others when you have an issue or bug you need some assistance with.
- DONE – Tech: A month of bug fixes: Joe went in and ensured that the viking rams can be properly used again. Matt fixed the bug that caused players to lose all your abilities when entering a scenario. He also fixed kinematics so that abilities show their visual effects again. (these are things like cauldrons, walls, or ground magic). Mike D. fixed the long-standing issue with jumping animations overriding attacks. Spidey fixed manual aiming bugs with beam attacks. And last but not least, he also fixed the instance when killing a player who is controlling a siege engine now plays their death animation.
- Done – Art – Placeable Doors: First set of placeable doors for builders has been made and implemented in game. Doors initially will function as portals with future animation kept in mind. As we finalize testing on this first set of doors we will add more variations and options to choose from. Concept has been made to take to modeling when ready.
- Done – Art – Souls: Soul drops are here from concepting to VFX and will soon be seen sparkling on the battlefield marking the spots of the slain.
- Done – Art – Coastal Dragon Statue: Sprinkled throughout the map to give a bit of illumination and point markers, the dragon statue has been completed and added onto the terrain.
- Done – Art – UI – New Icons: With updates to the UI come also a slew of new icons curiously of Mr. Koo.
- WIP – Art – Devout – Lots of art: animations, staves, vfx etc.
- WIP – Scenario Support: Keep lords, set design development and more!
- WIP – Art – Crafter Barricades and Traps: The final concepts of the barricades are packaged and ready for 3D development. Traps have had their concepts pushed forward and are also being developed by the 3D team.
- WIP – Art – Environment: The Team has been making progress building out the battleground terrain. New assets are rolling in and much more are flowing down the line. Not only focusing on new assets and stronger terrain materials but we also have been taking steps to improve how the land procedurally generates and pushing as we work for strong performance.
- WIP – Points of Interest: To bring further life and lore to the battleground unique points of interest are in development.
- Art/Tech – World aligned materials and added uv channels: These new tech features will help elevate the environment further and come with production time bonuses to output more and even better assets.
- Done – Art – 2 Handed Animation: We just updated the 2-hand greataxe / hammer / mace animSet with new animations, so look forward to seeing our keep lords dish out a dose of two handed mayhem.
Now to showcase some of the action packed work from art this month.
Be prepared to fight against the unaligned Abominable Keep Lord who defends the interior Keeps with all his zeal. Currently however he finds himself in the sculpting phase, but this is a preview of his nightmarish concept art!
Render shots of the completed Helbound mask and weapons.
TDD medium armor completed with materials for both male and female adding to the armory.
Traps are moving forward with unique looks for each realm. Check out the metal trap concept art and model render.
From prior updates we’re now showing off our final design for realm specific crafter barricades! Be prepared to block invaders with form and fashion.
When you find yourself on the RvR map, stop and take note of your surroundings. You may find land markers to help you recall your location like the dragon shrine below.
With improvements to the UI many shiny new icons have been made and added.
First set of neutral style doors have been completed and currently found in the game. We will continue to add to the selection with realm stylized options.
With the many developments in environment art included are new terrain materials.
And from the master of things sparkly, Cross among the many in game vfx particles he’s been making has made the soul drop effects.
And with that, every soul here at City State Entertainment hope you are all keeping healthy and safe with what’s going on in the world right now, as we continue to expand the content of CU! Please stay safe, uninfected and wherever possible, be kind we all need it right now.