ARGH! This was certainly us “doing the dumb” as we hit the dreaded send button a minute or two (or more accurately, an error or two) too early. Sorry about that, but here’s the corrected August Update with the link to today’s livestream and a title. Please forgive the duplicate email; as the title says, that’s on us.
Another month, lots of good things to talk about! We’ve crossed more than 9000 miles in a test in order to make sure, among other things, that our game can handle player traffic coming in from almost anywhere. We’ve fleshed out new areas, made lots of progress on the tech side, and continue to do a deep dive into the guts of our ability system to make it easier for designers to work with them. With that, here’s our Top Tenish items for the month.
For the usual rundown of the month’s Top Tenish and Q&A, check out this month’s livestream here: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1135266631.
August 2021 End of Month CU Update (8/31/2021)
- WIP – Tech – Linux Proxies: A while back we undertook a fairly large project called “Linuxification.” That enabled us to build our server stack in Linux, and initially we focused on getting our gameservers running in Linux. The rest of the stack could compile in Linux, but we weren’t actually using the Linux versions. We’re starting to migrate some of the other servers to Linux now, the first of which is our UserProxy. While this may just sound like boring operations stuff, there’s actually some cool benefits for both players and developers. The game server’s ability to respond to sudden spikes in population is gated by how quickly we can bring proxies online. Under Windows our best case time was about 3 minutes and our worst case time was closer to 13 minutes. We had systems in place to make sure the worst case was rare, but it was possible if a thousand or more players suddenly hopped into a zone. Under Linux, our best case time is about 20 seconds, and our worst case time is about 40 seconds. This means that if over a thousand players simultaneously hop into a zone, by the time you’ve made it through the loading screen you’ll see 10-20 seconds of lag before things smooth out. From the developer side of things, the logging and health metrics available to Linux servers is significantly better than their Windows counterparts and we’re now getting much better data out of our proxies.
- WIP – Tech – Release Branches: Work continues on the release branch tooling that will improve how quickly we can iterate on releases of CU, and ensure their stability.
- Done – Tech – Database Health Improvements: We’re constantly working to improve our response time to server outages and to enhance our ability to proactively prevent outages. As part of that effort, we’ve improved both what data we collect from our databases, as well as how we collect it.
- WIP – Tech & Design – Alchemy: Christina pushed the new Alchemy forward towards internal testing. Once Kara signs off on this first phase of MJ’s Alchemy System, the goal is to have it available early next month for IT testing.
- WIP – Tech & Design – Bandit Camps: The scripting is coming together to show off the initial phase for bandit camps. Pirates are coming to the Coastal Lowlands! Defeat them to gain treasure chests for you or your warband.
- WIP – Tech & Design – Combat: Melee updates are well underway. This breaks up the style components in the melee tree into weapon type and style. There will also be many melee components that are available to all classes, while still having fancy class-specific options for archetypes such as the heavy fighters.
- WIP – Design – Combat Sets: Kara has been working on a system to incorporate a character’s abilities with the weapon choices they make, based on the recent Slashing, Piercing and Crushing updates. This new feature expands the Ability Book concept in that it will allow the PC to make pre-generated combat bars – these would then populate on their UI Ability Bar, when the weapon from that set is selected. This system will assist all the new updates being made to classes, and support keeping class builds stored, as opposed to having to rebuild entire kits you make as the player.
- WIP – Design – Mages, Bards & Healers: Along with touching up some of the Heavy Fighter content Anthony is getting hooked up for testing, Kara is also busy polishing up the Mage classes. She did some initial investigation of Bard designs and their connection to the movement system, which we will expand upon later. In the meantime, Kara has already started work on the Healers of CU. For more detail on the plans for these classes, check out this month’s Newsletter.
- WIP – Tech – Ability System Data Editing: In between other tasks, Christina has continued making progress on a new editor for the ability system scripting as well as various other related scripting systems. This takes some complex parts of building abilities and simplifies them, which makes them easier to edit and more accessible to our designers.
- WIP – Tech & Design – CC Immunity Updates: Crowd Control effects have been separated into three categories: Knockbacks, Slows, and Silences. Knockbacks still apply a brief immunity to further knockbacks. Slows and Silences, rather than applying an Immunity status, are bucketed into their own stacking groups. As such, they don’t typically allow another status of the same type to be applied for the duration of that status. This means that Slows and Silences can be reapplied as soon as the previous Slow/Silence has worn off. It’s also the first instance we’re trying with layered CCs, which can start weaker and then accumulate. We’ll keep an eye on this moving forward, to see how these changes play across the scale of battles, and balance gameplay accordingly.
- WIP – Tech & Design – Improved Player Movement: Rob has updated CU with improved player movement, featuring much smoother motion in general, as well as easier traversal of uneven surfaces, hills, and rocks, and other low-lying obstacles. We have also increased the base movement speed. While further tuning of the new movement is planned, we wanted you to experience the greater ease of movement this gives your characters in CU now, rather than having to wait for the next round of tweaks. We believe you’ll find this enhanced movement to be a considerably more enjoyable experience, particularly in organic zones and within intricate builds and other complicated spaces.
- Done – Tech – Knockback Updates: Rob has also been busy wrapping up several improvements to our knockback implementation. While previously there were some synchronization issues between server and client during knockback (and during impulse application in general), he has fixed a number of long-standing issues that will enable us to provide smoother, more consistent and more aesthetic knockback from all sources.
- Done – Tech – Multiple Navmesh Layers: Lee has completed adding support for multiple navigation mesh layers. This allows us to provide dedicated pathfinding data for entities of different sizes, so that each entity type can correctly determine its ability to pass through tight or low-overhead spaces. This also allows us to tune the pathfinding data to the specific needs of different entities, reducing the incidence of stuck NPCs, and generally increasing their ability to navigate the environment.
- Done – Tech – Pause AI: The AI team has added more debugging capability through a mechanism that allows devs to pause the AI system as a whole, and even “step it forward” one update at a time. Combined with recently added visual debugging capabilities for NPCs, this will allow us to capture and inspect the state of individual NPCs, in pursuit of bug fixes related to movement, pathfinding, and behaviors.
- Done – Tech – Networked Physics Visual Debugging: In pursuit of improving knockback, Rob first added numerous improvements to our physics and networking visual debugging capabilities. This effort includes the ability for devs to display both server and client physics data for a given entity simultaneously, including information regarding how well that data is synchronized and predicted. The end result is a powerful tool for accelerating debugging of entity motion.
- Done – Tech – Patcher: Cheyne did a patcher update, which allows the patcher to automatically install third party software needed to run our games, as well as making the patcher more stable and easier to rebuild if needed.
- WIP – Tech – Terrain: Wylie has been busy adding terrain cutout support. This lets us cut holes into the terrain that will become the entrances to subterranean areas.
- WIP – Tech – Background Scenes: Jed has been working on background settings in the editor, allowing the art team to preview and adjust sky zone functionality (rendering a zone as a sky and/or background scene). This will be a big boost to productivity on the art side.
- Done – Art – Fixes: Joe and Jon fixed a missing materials issue causing Valkyrie base models to disappear
- WIP – Art – Cait Sith: Next up on the list of races to enter development is the Cait Sith. With the first passes of concepting done, we’ll be moving onto higher render reference pages for male and female variations before beginning 3D modeling.
- WIP – Art – Hamadryad: Jon is in the home stretch of completing the 3D sculpts for our duo of Hamadryads, with the female finished and male into the final texturing phase.
- WIP – Art – Bandit Armor: As part of bandit camp support, Thor is sculpting armor sets for one of our first bandit groups, the Viking Lowland Marauders. The underlayers for this initial set are completed, with the overlayers currently in progress.
- WIP – Art – Animation – Combat: Animation continues to support the ongoing combat design changes affecting weapon types and abilities. Currently this means animating and retargeting more dynamic attacks across weapon types – such as polearms, greatswords, and greatclubs – as well as testing and verifying melee component changes.
- WIP – Art – Environment – Golden Plains: The Golden Plains is in the process of an auditory upgrade, as we replace the current temporary sound effects with more detailed, biome-specific audio clips. These changes should both improve the overall tone of the biome, as well as match audio events to the specific areas of interest throughout the Plains, such as water features.
- WIP – Art – Environment – Coastal Lowlands: The biomes team has been hard at work implementing our next update to the Coastal Lowlands concept zone. This month sees a whole suite of changes to the initial zone rollout, including: improved terrain spawning, new and upgraded foliage assets, new areas of interest and set dress such as docks and pathways, and bespoke biome audio. As per usual, players can access the Lowlands via the portal located on their home island. For a more detailed changelist and screenshots of the updated area, be sure to check out the August newsletter.
- WIP – Tech – Setting Up Servers Worldwide: This past Wednesday, we took a major step in being able to host servers anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice as well as deal with both latency due to distance or less than stellar connections. Last month Mark talked about how we were going to get a game instance running outside the US in a city far, far away. We did so by spinning up an instance in Singapore (roughly 9656 miles or 15K kilometers), to see how our engine would deal with the distance and minimum latency of more than 200ms. We’re happy to report that it ran as smooth as silk and on Friday the team tested it as opposed to just Tim and MJ. Next major move is to set up a cluster in Europe and let you folks in and see what you think. Now, we were pretty confident that things would work well, since we did build this engine to handle latency, but until you actually spin up the servers and play at that distance, you don’t know for sure. For one thing we didn’t know how routing that data from US<-Singapore->US through GCP would perform. FYI, I (MJ) was giggling a lot yesterday during the test.
And onward to art!
It’s a Puuuurfectly good August, so we’ll start things off with a feline encounter! Below is part of the first pass for the Cait Sìth exploration concepts:
We got some major evolutions from there, check out these house cat-inspired coats:
If these were not enough for you, there is even more of a breakdown located in the Newsletter! Feel free to check it out if you’re looking for more Cat Photos.
Next, we sail away from our Arthurian prowlers and onward to some Coastal Lowlands beauty shots:
Because the coastal area will ideally stretch across much of an island, we really wanted to make sure the Coastal Lowland could have different looks to it. So you’ll see quite the difference in terrain as you travel.
From coral and kelp beds…
To bright green mangroves…
All the way to coral cliffs…
And more than just the beauty of the Coastal area, new sounds and movement updates will be testable here as well! The Newsletter details more information regarding the future of the Coastal Lowlands Biome Zone, so if you’re interested definitely give that a gander.
If all goes well we hope you will join us for a weekend test of a brand new build of CU this weekend! If not, and as always, we thank you for you support and patience and please stay safe during what remains of this pandemic.