State Of Play
DEV SCHEDULE UPDATE
Yes – I really do need to update the roadmap page, now that it’s functional. I’ll try to get that populated in the coming weeks.
Anyway, with today’s Build 00.09.05.03 update, we’ve now got most of the weapons and all their attachments implemented. We only have the following weapons and items left to unlock and test.
Our current plan is to continue unlocking weapons and inventory items for testing, in time for the first world event (Hostile Intent) for which we are currently working on the behavior patterns and weapon systems for the six bad-ass androids that gamers are going to encounter in every scene.
While this first event is undergoing testing, we will continue to unlock the rest of the weapons and items.
Next we will unlock the aircraft (fully equipped with guns and missiles) which will be used all over the game world, on planets (fighters, gunships, shuttles) and in space (fighters, shuttles). Since we already model CEP, aerial and space combat will have the reward system already in place.
Based on how things have been progressing, ground and naval vehicles are going to be the final unlocks because they require further public testing due to their interaction with the world, their physics (some are wheeled, some are air-cushioned) etc.
Once the vehicle phase unlocks are in, we’ll get to the remaining two world events, optimizations etc.
The last things we will do, will be to open the in-game cash shop terminals so that items can be purchased for use in the game. At that point, we will nerf all the test items, thus reverting entitlements to items that people have already bought via the TAK tiers. e.g. a weapon you had access to during this Early Access test phase, will be removed from your account if your purchased tier doesn’t currently own it. Which means that you can either purchase a tier that contains it, or you can buy it as an individual item in the cash shop.
Note that vehicles and aircraft are already working in the game. We just haven’t finalized their networking components or unlocked them for public testing.
During the final stages, we are planning to do some major tweaks to the character dynamics, fps weapon handling (recoil and such) etc. And we may end up redoing the models for most, if not all of the weapons and characters once we have an idea of how far we can go with visual fidelity, now that the game is nearing completion and on the way to final optimizations.
All in all, it’s looking real good for a final release later this year – all things being equal. Even if we don’t do a final official release, the game should be feature complete and undergoing extensive final testing and optimizations by year end.
FREE-TO-PLAY OR NOT
The only change that will come – once I make a final determination before the game’s final release – is that the game may no longer offer the F2P tier. Which means that in order to enter the game, you have to buy one of the four TAK tiers. And the cheapest one is only $19.99.
And if we end up going that route, it will have no effect on those who have purchased or who will purchase the TAK tiers since that will not change.
A final decision has not yet made. Once that decision is made, there will be an announcement about it.
WHERE TO BEGIN?
This is a massive game. Which is why we put a lot of resources online for everyone to read. In fact, the entire game’s docs, which appear in the game, are also online so that everyone can read them and learn more about the game before checking it out.
The game’s combat structure is outlined in the gameplay flow description.
You can play solo if you want – and there is nothing stopping you from doing so. Especially given the different supported gameplay modes.
For team based play, it also supports fireteams and squads which are optional. These are more like guilds which have a leader and people who join/leave etc. The mechanics and reasons for joining one of these, are pretty much in line with their use in other games.
For example, there is no way people playing solo are going to be able to make any difference in a Base Capture engagement. In a World Event, maybe, but even so – given how deadly the NPCs are, you’re probably going to die a lot. Think Terminator 🙂
IN PURSUIT OF AWESOMENESS
Some people keep looking at the game’s visuals – and never having actually played it – are making judgement calls about how it looks. This despite the fact that most of the screen shots and movies are from early versions, in some cases of low quality screens etc.
Here is the thing, a lot of work and thought went into the engine and visual fidelity that we were shooting for in order to make the game possible and playable. We’re not like those other guys who are trying to shoe-horn a technologically impossible game into an engine that was never – ever – designed for it.
Just picking an engine to make a game is not where it ends.
You need a custom engine for this kind of game. All my games are developed using a custom engine because there are no off-the-shelf engines capable of running the games that I make.
In it’s current state, neither UE5 nor Unity5, are capable of powering this game, and for various reasons. One of them being that both of these have severe restrictions on scene size and management. CryEngine3, though a very capable engine like UE4 and U5, has the same problem with scale. Even when we get around to porting it to a new target engine for consoles (XboxOne, PS4), we will have to come up with all-new scene management technology for any third-party engine that we end up using.
Plus, back when we started, these off-the-shelf engines were priced out of our budget; and none of us in the team had any previous experience with them.
Fact is, as I’ve done with all my games, we started building yet another engine back in 2010 and trashed it in 2011 to start over with a custom engine built with various middleware.
Even though Havok Vision Engine, the underlying game engine, is a capable one, it pales in comparison to all three of the leading engines in various areas. However, it’s design allowed us to do exactly what we wanted by extending it with ease. That’s why we were able to use so many different middleware – all of which need to play nice with each other.
Note that I’ve had access to UE4 years before it was even made public, and before they changed the licensing model. I just chose not to use it because a) it wasn’t ready (they even told us not to use it for production work) b) it wasn’t suited for this type of game.
I also have access to Valve’s Source engine. Didn’t use that either; for the same reason.
And for obvious reasons, I never even considered the Unity engine; though we did use it for Line Of Defense Tactics, the RTS companion game which we released earlier this year and which is on its way to certification in early August for release on Xbox One in the fall.
The custom engine we built for this game, is very capable.
As a result of the game’s massive scope, the visual style was specifically chosen in order to balance gameplay with visual fidelity. Going any other way, would have resulted in an unplayable game. Even today, we’re still having some performance issues due to the game’s immense scale, and which we keep tweaking as things move along.
However, we do intend to make some meaningful visual tweaks (as mentioned earlier regarding weapons and character models) before the game’s final release. These will probably end up affecting the game’s final system requirements.
SEAMLESS SPACE <---> PLANETARY TRANSITION
And no, there is no seamless space <---> planet transition.
A lot of people confuse a seamless scene which is how the world is built, with a seamless transition which is how players and assets move between those scenes.
As described in world design FAQ entry, due to the significant size of the game world, as well as the design, the need for control over server population, performance considerations etc, there is no seamless space planet transition.
Instead, going from planet to space, and vice versa, is done via jump gates. When players jump from one region to the other via a jump gate, the target scene is then loaded.
Even though the engine is quite capable of handling a seamless transition, I opted not to do it for all the aforementioned reasons. It adds nothing to the game, other than the “cool” factor.
Games (e.g. No Man’s Sky or the I-Novae Engine) with a procedural generated engine or similar, can do seamless transitions easily since they’re just seeded values for the world.
In LOD, because the world is segmented, it is just a matter of loading the target scene (space or planet). If it were made seamless, then all we’d need to do is remove the jump gates and when you are within proximity of the planet, auto load it. I did this in my previous games, but I used an external camera flyby during loading of the target scene.
The biggest issue with seamless transition is in memory and performance. Especially for games that have pre-built environments.
As to the 256 player per scene limit..
To be perfectly honest, as described in this FAQ entry, that number is arbitrary. It could be 2048 if we wanted it. We picked 256 clients per scene based on the server config, as well as the need to keep performance in check.
The novelty of 2000+ people fighting a battle, is just that, a novelty. It tends to wear off once the initial adrenaline rush is over and people are complaining about performance issues.
Also, coupled with the fact that we are planning to have player built bases (aka player housing), keeping the client numbers in check, also benefits the performance.
We do intend to increase that number above 256 per scene, once the game has been optimized and is approaching final release.
OPEN BETA TEST
Back in March 2015, before we even unlocked weapons, and all the scenes, we held a free play weekend for testing the free Starter Kit, tweaking etc. Though we had some very good feedback, the results were not as expected, and for various reasons which I outline in this State Of Play update.
We won’t be doing that again.
However, through PlayFab, we are probably going to be hosting an Open Beta Test (OBT) outside of Steam, where we can focus on meaningful feedback, have better abuse controls, no Steam review bombings etc.
There are lots of misconceptions about the game being passed around. Let me cover some of them here.
Since we really haven’t been doing any promotion on the game, instead have been waiting for later this year when closer to final release, most of the info floating around – by people who have never played the game – is mostly false.
A lot of people have helped us shape the game since it hit EA back in Sept 2014, and they continue to do so with their play-testing, bug reporting etc.
There isn’t a game like this anywhere, or in development. Why? Because it is a major technological undertaking that not a lot of teams will dare attempt; let alone an indie team that, at it’s peak, had less than sixteen people in it.
And it’s only taken less than a dozen people and a little under five years (if you don’t count the fact that I trashed the first engine, one year after we started developing it). Yet, rather than finding out more about the game, getting into it etc, some people find it easier to just go on the attack, while trying to compare it to another game that’s 500+ people, $85m (as of this writing) and over four years in the making.
At the end of the day, like all my games, it will get done, and it will get released. How it is received is an entirely different story. But since my games are directed at a specific audience who are guaranteed to always buy them, thus the reason I am still here, my guess is that we’ll do OK. Especially given the way it’s designed, and the ability to expand it over time.
Also, some people also looking at Steam Charts metrics as a way to gauge the “success” of the game. I mean, seriously? Here’s the thing with these numbers that people don’t understand.
First, steamcharts is not very accurate. And the developer never claimed that it was.
Second, since the game is pure PvP and we are doing “staggered” (scenes, weapons etc) testing of various components, there isn’t much else to do. The game currently has no PvE events because the World Events are NYI.
In fact, if you look at the changelog, you will see how we are progressing the game features, weapons, items etc.
And there is a specific reason why I like it this way because nobody is going to be running around with weapons of mass destruction, instead of helping to test various aspects of the game. e.g. we had a lot of issues with the various scenes; all of which had to be fixed. And even recently, we’re seeing issues whereby some people spawning into a scene, are ending up in the wrong scene in some cases.
There is a fixed schedule, after which everything will come together in final completion. e.g. we have had vehicles and aircraft working since last year. But they are disabled because we haven’t gotten to the part where we unlock them for testing yet.
In fact, back in March when we did the free-play weekend (mentioned above) in order to test the Starter Kits, there were a lot of people connected. But we didn’t get much meaningful feedback because even though it was only for testing of the Steam account login, F2P Starter Kit entitlements etc – with not much else – some people were upset because they didn’t know how to play the game, didn’t understand that as Early Access, a lot of things were broken etc.