As 2019 Ends, 2020 Will Bring Forth Something Fun! – December 31st, 2019

Folks,

Well, it’s been a long and quite productive year, even if it doesn’t quite seem that way, yet. While I would usually use this space to wax poetic about all the things that we got done, I think I’ve done it before–so this time I intend to do it differently: I’ll let our accomplishments speak for themselves next month. For those that didn’t read the poem or watch the update stream today, let me sum it up in a TL;DR for you:

  1. In January, we will begin to allow CU Backers to join us in testing a ton of new and fun stuff. None of this has been playable by our Backers up to now.
  2. We are currently looking for additional volunteers to help us out during the initial testing prior to opening the game up to IT. There’s a topic on the Forums about this; make sure you read the first post about what is required before you respond, please – https://forums.camelotunchained.com/topic/3205-looking-for-volunteers-for-january/

Please note that we need to limit initial access to a more restricted group of testers, due to some tech/time requirements as well as to ensure that we don’t have to chase down problems caused by inadequate hardware specs (we’ve only just begun to optimize the new stuff). Also, we really, really only want people who can play when we are in the office, and who are willing to give us meaningful feedback.

That said, on to the Top Tenish.

Top Tenish for December 31st, 2019

  1. WIP- Gameplay – Skald: The Skald is the final of the Support trio classes to be implemented, and is now ready for Backer testing. Skalds use shouts and songs, along with ferocious melee attacks to devastate the enemy. The Skald is more of a frontline fighter than their counterparts in the other Realms. These mead-swilling storytellers don’t use their big axes for chopping wood. Their starting ability set is in, but there may be some missing animations, VFXs, and SFXs for built abilities. We invite you to create a Skald during the next play test, make a slew of abilities, and let us know what you think.
  2. WIP – Tech – Linuxification: It’s been a long time coming, but we’ve got all the code ported, and internally, Linux servers are up and in testing. Work is continuing on fully-automated builds and the cloud deployment process. We now have some engineers working out of this branch, and expect to roll it out to all of them as soon as the last of the issues are addressed.
  3. WIP – Tech – Knockback: Improvements to our new knockback system have been ongoing steadily as we integrate and test knockback with other features, particularly ragdoll and entity death. We are working to incorporate knockback into a variety of abilities, with particular focus on adding data-driven mechanisms for specifying the strength and directionality of knockback forces for each ability that uses it. The final result of this effort will be a balanced, exciting dynamic that players will enjoy both during combat and as a visceral reward upon defeating enemies.
  4. Improvements to the physically based lighting model – George has been working with the artists to improve the realism of reflections and highlights in the lighting model with our materials. We have made 3 major changes to the model–which are subtle, but also dramatically improve how some types of materials, such as metals and cloth, realistically reflect light.
  5. Transparency Improvements (AOIT) – Last month, we implemented a new system for blending transparent objects in our game. This system has been merged back into the master branch, along with some improvements to shaders, and can be seen now on hatchery.This system eliminates the artifacts you could see where our large draw distances and high dynamic range would cause bright particles and other partially transparent objects to discolor the background behind them. This is also an order-independent system, which keeps most of the advantages of the old system, allowing us to draw our scenes quickly in single large chunks and being free of sorting order artifacts. This is still a WIP, with some work remaining to optimize it and provide better support for rendering certain scenes and on older video cards.This fixes a couple transparency bugs:
    1. White outlines on various assets.
    2. Particles changing color over other particles or discoloring the trees or ocean in the background.
    3. Particles and transparent effects cutting/hiding some things behind them.
  6. WIP – Tech – Overmind – We have been working on some new areas (including a new scenario) and tech for our Backers to enjoy. Wrapped up in that are a wide range of things, including huge numbers of NPCs, defensive systems, and at the heart of it, our Overmind. Additionally, we have added new pathfinding, ragdolling and knockback upgrades to the engine. In terms of the Overmind, it is an easy-to-use, extensible, yet powerful scripting tool (on steroids), and drives many of the aspects of how everything from a simple scenario to a game play out. This includes: spawning NPCs, NPC behaviors, several types of player messaging, win/loss conditions, item drops, musical/visual queues, and so, so much more. And yes, Overmind will also be used to control things like The Depths and all sorts of interesting structures and places. The Overmind has a diverse base of functionality now, with lots more coming this winter, and we can’t wait for everyone to see it and all the new stuff in action!
  7. WIP – Tech – Navmesh – Development on our 3D pathfinding system continues to progress quickly, as Lee and MikeD work on fixing bugs in the system and making navmesh generation increasingly robust. In service of that, MikeD and Ben are building a series of obstacle course maps that are designed to isolate all the unique geometric cases that the navmesh generator has to handle.Each map contains numerous distinct “stations” that highlight a particular use case for pathfinding. These allow us to test our algorithms against different structures of increasing complexity. In the map shown below, for example, we can test navigation mesh generation against simple ramp and staircase structures combined with raised platforms, then further test those structures by including the considerably more complex cases of multi-level indoor spaces of different sizes.Other test maps we are building add organic terrain elements intersecting these and other more complicated structures, yielding a full suite of test cases that cover the spectrum of what players can build in Camelot Unchained. Ultimately, our system is approaching the point where it will be able to handle every situation we throw at it. We look forward to bringing it to our players soon.
  8. WIP Tech/Art – Sky Dome – Our engine has has the ability to render a scene containing the sky and planets. It also has the ability to draw multiple zones/islands at the same time. So that you can see in the distance what other players are doing on other islands. In addition, we have now added the ability to render a large sky zone behind the foreground areas, but in front of the sky. This will allow artists to include distant areas that are visible from every island, such as mountains and distant weather.This change also allows us to do interesting things in the background that we could previously only do in the player-reachable areas, such as have monsters, animations, or scripted things happening in the air or at a distance. This gives artists and level designers an enormous amount of new flexibility when fleshing out the world.
  9. Tech/Art – Material Rendering – PBR Roughness/Specular fixes –
    1. Part 1 – We’ve known for a while now that something wasn’t quite right with how some of our materials were rendering. Thanks to Joseph’s technical art skills and George’s coding skills, we’ve found a path to some improvements! Our materials are made up of several different textures, which all relate to one another to provide the final in-game render. We fixed a bug where the metallic map (determines if something is rendered as metal or not) was being ignored and objects were projecting material colors into the scene based solely on material roughness (determines how light bounces off a rough or smooth surface). Basically, if something is metal, it intensifies the color cast from it. So in the game you might see really bright color, say from blue ice, onto white snow, way too intensely!
    2. Part 2 – The second fix was where the specular map (how intense the specular highlights are) were not being multiplied correctly when in shadows. This basically amounted to a “sheen” on objects in shadows, which had our artists here scratching their heads. You would have seen this on your character’s skin or the bark of trees, as obvious examples. And that’s not all! We actually have another fix we’re working on, not yet in game, that’s blowing out the normal maps (small surface details) on characters. Big thanks to Joseph in helping us track these down!
  10. Art – New TDD medium armor helm – A piece for the most fashionable of TDD characters. This elegant leather and bone helm is a great addition to any Dark Fool’s armory. When crafted with different materials, there is a vast range of unique looks for all tastes.
  11. Art – Viking Shield Patterns – The artists have been working on some fun exploration into expanding the shield pattern library. We want to add a nice variety of original and historical norse symbols for player selection.
  12. Art – Siege Weapon Development – Siege is continuing expansion with new varieties to strike fearsome damage on Realm foes. A focus on adding a variety of small to large mechanisms as well as add-on structures for players to build and use with their siege weaponry.
  13. Art – Large World Creature – Jon–a modeling beast himself–brings the world of CU to life with a new earth-quaking beast. Currently in the high-poly sculpting stage, this creature will add to the epic atmosphere we plan to evolve further in the lands of Camelot Unchained.
  14. Art – Biome Development – Winter Forest Concept Art – As we are in winter season here at CSE, the artists have been inspired, and have been expanding art development for the winter forest biome.
    1. The Environment – A forest of snowy trees, frozen waterfalls, and lost shrines. Here, the wood has consumed once-great fallen beasts, now frozen by snowfall and ice over time. Expect unique sub-zones with flourishes, or red and cool blues. A biome filled with snow-covered ground and unique plant life that thrives in the low temperatures and winter shade. The team has been concepting a variety of different flora that with forethought in providing fun ingredients for crafting.
    2. The Wildlife – From small to fearsome, the art team has been exploring many species. From the peaceful creatures that breathe life into the surrounding woods to most fearsome beasts, with all the unique crafting resources they could provide.As we combine and refine all these elements together in this winter forest biome, players will certainly enjoy exploring this cool zone!

In terms of art, well, we have lots of new and interesting things to show you. Let’s get this end-of-the-year update started with a bang–well, a loud thump at least, with some new siege weapons:

And how about these?

But wait, there’s still more…

Here’s one in motion:

Now, they need something to fire their projectiles at, don’t they?

Or:

And while having rocks and Donnie thrown through the air at you, having some shields would be helpful:

And some helms too:

And…

And…

And…

Now let’s go to some concept art for fauna and flora, for CU doesn’t live on warfare alone:

And another concept piece with lots of creature features:

Let’s get some colors into the mix. Here’s a cutie-pie, you can call it Red!

And we don’t want to be accused of favoring red critters over blue critters, so here’s a few true bluebirds:

Now, why do colors matter (other than that they’re pretty)? Let’s start with a study in red:

And back to blue:

Here’s how we would like a red area to look:

Let’s end the art update with something big, courtesy of Jon:

I know it’s been a long wait and since late June, we haven’t had the kind of updates you all probably hoped we’d have. Well, I promise you that in January you will see everything that we have been working on since then come together in an experience that you might not have expected from us based on our updates alone. It is a massive, immersive experience that is unlike anything we have shown you to date. I am trying to avoid hyperbole, but it is indeed that big of an update and its importance/benefit to our Backers, Camelot Unchained, the Unchained Engine, and CSE will be, well, quite obvious. And, it’s going to be a fun experience, not a tech demo!

With that, on behalf of everyone at CSE, I thank you for your support and patience. In January, as I said in the Christmas Eve poem, you will see what magic we weaved.

Happy New Year, everybody!

-Mark

P.S. For those that didn’t read the Christmas poem:

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the net,
Some Backers were worried, had they made a bad bet?
They pledged and they waited, they hoped, and they paid,
As the months turned to years, would a game ever be made?
We promised them action, we promised them fun,
Yes, the years flew right by, but things slowly got done;
And next month they’ll know what magic we’ve weaved,
And what will come next they’ll need to see to believe!
The sky will be dark, the sky will be red,
Once everything starts, some will go out of their head;
They’ll need their big axes, and their sharpened spears,
They’ll wage massive battles, and some will shed tears;
Will this really happen? Some questioned with glee,
I will make you a promise, and that’s a rare thing to see;
By the end of next month, On darkness in night,
You’ll wage colossal battles; will you join this fight?
Backers! Prepare for the next month, our ITs will be first,
And next will come Alphas and soon from excitement, Betas will burst;
It’s all thanks to Backers for this Christmas cheer,
The battles in January should help ease your fear!
To all of you out there, from all of us here;
We hope that you have a colossally fun year!

Camelot Unchained