State Of Play
It has been awhile since the last dev update and patch release. A LOT of work has been going on in the background, along with some new and exciting things which we hope to share with the public at some point in the near future.
However, this project, one of our largest undertaking since the original 1996 Battlecruiser 3000AD project, is slowly winding down. Most of the work left to do is related to completing and enabling certain features for CBT testing, tweaks and improvements. For example in the upcoming update, we overhauled the Aim-Down-Sights system, as well as the HAIS drop launch and wingsuit/wingchute flight dynamics. We’re also tackling the fps dynamics because it still doesn’t feel quite right, and most of it is related to physics.
With the above out of the way, and we enable user controlled planetary vehicles, that would be the bulk of the major updates. The changelog has also been restructured for better clarity.
Also left to integrate, are some content (some weapons, vehicles, as well as some planetary environment assets) revisions which will improve game’s visuals.
And we then go through the final wrap-up phase, with the final inventory system to include the implants, and other inventory items (e.g. backpacks) which rely on that system. Of course the on-going bug fixes and tweaks will continue, right to the final release build.
PRE-RELEASE WIDE TESTING
Though we have enough people in the CBT (Closed Beta Test) program to help test point releases, we are still planning to do an OBT (Open Beta Test) at least a month before final release. With the ability to host and join game sessions in the final version, this will enable us to gather some international metrics from those hosting their own sessions.
Though we are still going to have our two official WSG server clusters online for the public to play on, allowing everyone to host their own game sessions (as we did with our previous games, e.g. All Aspect Warfare and Angle Of Attack), allows our international gamers to have a better experience than they would if they were connecting to US servers. We don’t use cloud (Google Compute, Amazon AWS) instances, as we never designed the game around that. Contrary to popular belief, multiplayer cloud server instances are not cheap. And as a small indie studio, we simply don’t want to have to deal with the added post-release costs.
THE QUEST FOR A MULTI-PLATFORM RELEASE
The greatest challenge ahead, is related to the fate of the Havok based custom engine we built for the game. As I mentioned in a Nov 2016 update, we have since lost our console (XBoxOne and PS4) path due to Microsoft finally scuttling the Havok Vision Engine after their purchase of Havok. That pretty much leaves us with an almost complete PC only game, with no hope of a console version of the game.
These are the choices:
1) Release the current PC version in the coming months. Cancel the console versions.
The path of least resistance, and the less risky one. Except for the part where we would then have to recoup dev costs from a single PC game, as opposed to a multi-platform game.
2) Release the current PC version in the coming months. Continue with the UE4 version for consoles.
Another option that’s less risky in the short-term. Except that the PC version may impact the console versions depending on how long it takes to get the console versions out. It also means that, like in the old days whereby PC and console engines were very disparate, we would have to support and update two engine versions in the long-term. Even if we used a third-party studio like we did with our other spin-off Line Of Defense – Tactics, it still means some disparity across the PC and console versions in terms of support, updates etc. And of course it means additional expenses.
This adds, not only additional costs, but also a delay period of 12-14 months between the PC and console versions; assuming that they are not done in tandem.
3) Not release the current version. Complete the UE4 port as a multi-platform target.
The best option, as it unifies and yields a multi-platform game. It is also the most expensive due to the revenue loss from not releasing the completed PC version, while increasing the dev costs.
In addition to added costs, this options also adds a delay period of between 8-12 months.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
At this point in time, we’re still proceeding with option #1, though I have not yet ruled out the console versions. Until we wrap up the current PC version in the coming months, it won’t be clear to me which of the two remaining options to take.
Game development isn’t glamorous; and sometimes you end up having to make decisions like this in order to keep a project on track, and a studio afloat.
State Of Play
We have released a major milestone build 00.09.07.16 build that has been several months in the making. The better part of that work involves some major revisions that needed to be done ahead of our final major milestone (user controlled ground vehicle unlocks). If you haven’t yet, you should also check out the gameplay flow FAQ entry which has been updated for this build.
This build concludes Phase II of our planetary vehicle system. In this update, the planetary defense systems (fixed and mobile vehicles) are AI controlled like the space defense turrets mounted on the space stations, carrier and Orbital Defense Systems, which we completed in Phase I.
Those of you who have followed the game’s development since the start, even if you didn’t buy it yet, will notice that, as I stated way back then, I have a specific way of planning and developing my games. Having designed massively complex games over the years, the key element in bringing it all together is to get most of the integral parts working in some fashion, then go back and start piecing it all together.
If you look at the very first public build, Build 00.09.02.03 | 14-09-15, you will see that the process and procedures have all followed that pattern. Starting with unlocking the scenes, weapons, characters, items etc in a manner that allows each part to be tested and/or revised as they are released. This not only keeps the list of on-going bugs relatively low, but also prevents the distractions that come with freaking out over 1000 entries long bug lists.
Gamedev is like a jigsaw puzzle that you put together piece by piece. Like seeing how the sausage is made, it’s not always glamorous, stuff breaks (like all the time); and sometimes you put in a wrong piece that doesn’t fit (making it either a bug or a bad design choice) at all. Then you refactor (LOL!!) it, put in a new piece that either fits, or breaks everything that previously worked. For example, in this build, right around the time we were breathing a sigh of relief and ready to build the final GA (which we released today) version from the dev (which we released on 03/10) version, we discovered that over time, the game servers would flat out start refusing scene interconnect requests. Due to the server networking design, this meant that after some time, you couldn’t transition from one scene (e.g. Lyrius space) to another (e.g. Heatwave planetary base). In the end, that turned out to be caused by an entirely different – and largely unrelated – issue. That being the proxy server’s “are you there?” requests, which are designed to check on server sessions to see if they are alive, suspended, crashed etc. So yeah, that one was all kinds of fun to nail down.
It’s coming along, and the pieces of the LOD puzzle are all still part of the original (no scope creep, no deviation from the original design etc) design from back when I completed said design for the game that I wanted to make. That being, an original and compelling “pick up and play” combined arms game. And one that nobody else is making due to risks, complexity, industry trends etc. Along the way, having built (read more 1, 2, 3, 4) a custom game engine from a plethora of middleware technologies, we’ve basically been doing a lot of tinkering.
It’s a process; and being an expensive (my most expensive game yet) wholly self-funded game, and developed by several people around the globe, it has been a long road to get where we are today. But the push continues. And seeing as we don’t have the luxury of burning other people’s money, the game is ready when it’s ready; and right now it’s not ready.
The next milestone, GEN8, which unlocks player controlled ground vehicles, will be our final major milestone before the spit and polish phase goes into full swing. If you have been part of this journey, and you are in the closed beta program, thanks for your continued support. Together, we built this.