We wanted to update you on the progress of the patch, hotfixes, and a bit of current work. as always we thank you for your patience and feedback. This update goes in to a more technical aspect for the elements we are currently working on, within HeroEngine and The Repopulation.
Our work on getting the Repopulation update out:
With the combination of effort of both the Repopulation development team and HeroEngine engineers, the work continues to progress. Though we still do not have an estimated timeline yet, we can say we are getting much closer to being able to push this update.
Pushing content is an incredibly complicated endeavor in an always live, massively collaborative, real-time environment. It involves not only one physical server; but potentially lots of physical and virtual servers, databases and client processes. To say the debugging environment is complicated, would be a wildly inaccurate depiction of the scope of the issues.
When something goes wrong; debugging the issue requires a massively diverse set of skills ranging from C#, C++, Oracle Plsql, Oracle DBA level issues, networking infrastructure, interactions between geographically diverse physical or virtual servers, physical hardware issues, HeroScript Language (HSL), HeroEngine Editing commands (CLI), and a bunch of other interlocking technologies/standards/physical constraints.
The current difficulties:
Initially, we encountered some issues that appeared to be issues of new content not being sent to the destination “old” server during an update. A very confusing state, since we have never in more than a decade of operation seen anything of this sort.
This made us reevaluate all of our previous assumptions based on past experiences with other games and products, forcing us to start at the most basic level of debugging. Questions we asked ourselves: Was the network working, was there an issue with the physical machines/network cards/etc? Were there storage issues, was DNS working? And so on for countless other potential issues.
As we eliminate these questions as possible problems, we have to ask additional ones to continue the process of elimination. With the elimination of the most basic of possible issues involving the HeroEngine, things grew more complicated.
What we’ve discovered:
The Repopulation has pushed the edges of what HeroEngine was designed to accommodate. That is not to say what in The Repopulation was done is “wrong”. Rather, in addition to a much older version of HeroEngine, they pushed the envelope significantly further than we ever anticipated from a performance, storage and content perspective.
This experience with The Repopulation has shown us that there are areas within the engine we can improve moving forward to support such use cases we did not anticipate (even if in some cases they were non-optimal implementations).
We continue to make improvements and optimizations at almost all levels of the engine to support games with a vision as expansive as The Repopulation. Thank you for your patience, as we try to make the vision of the various games on HeroEngine meet your expectations. It is not easy, but we will get there!
To increase performance a bit more for this update we have looked into the weather system a bit deeper. We have started some repairation and adjustments to the weather system, this does not include visual changes yet or any kind of large overhaul. The main changes will be to performance, efficiency and making it easier to use on the developers side.
We have also added an option under ‘Video Settings -> Particles’ to turn weather on or off. This is mainly for testing and will allow players who don’t like the current visuals or have performance issues to turn it off. This setting defaults to off, so if you want to check out and test the weather, you will need to turn it on.
We will be moving the weather in to a better replication method, and also cleaning up some of the other issues which were not seen until recent fixes. The weather system will also be visited again in the future for a bit of an overhaul which will drastically help us as we remake the world.
Please remember this is only the preliminary adjustments, there will be an overhaul of the weather to come in the future:
- Schemes are now loaded dynamically, we no longer have to go through every zone and place in the schemes, choosing what areas have what weather is also a lot easier.
- There is no longer multiple calls when changing weather, this will help performance.
- Players would drastically lose performance in snowy areas, this has been fixed.
- Included is a major fix for performance in and with loading Freedom Town.
There are currently some known issues which are being worked on, some of these may persist in to the patched version as we do not wish to delay the patch for these changes, however overall weather will be in a better state than it currently is on live.
Updating Plymouth Control Center
While we were going through the different systems to help find areas of the game (game areas and systems) we also looked once more at the player reports of troubled areas from the past and current.
Plymouth Control Center is one area that has been reported by many players as being almost or totally unplayable. This area in particular has 13,505 nodes loading and unloading for players. The average for any MMO is between 1,000 and 6,000. Some areas in Repop are in this range even with content. However, some are much higher as seen in Plymouth Control Center and in most housing areas.
Please remember that this will not be the final build, this is only a clean up of the current area so players can get in, do missions and explore without the fear of crashing.
What we are doing:
If players find any other areas excluding housing, that are unplayable due to a large amount of latency and fps below 15, please let us know. Give area name.
- Reducing the number of assets and draws by the following:
- Rebuilding assets by building in 3D Max to create more optimized models
- Redoing the texture to use the same textures and materials across the assets, utilizing Material Banks.
- Cleaning up some of the textures
- Removing old and/or unused nodes and triggers that are no longer being used but are still loading to the client.
Doors and Lifts:
One of the things we noticed early on was the issue with doors and lifts in the game. Doors currently teleport players to an arrivial point instead of opening and closing as you see in other games. Using HeroEngine States system, we are able to create doors that open and close, as well as lifts that go up and down. Here are a few things we are working on in this area right now.
Doors: Type and function of the current “doors” in game. Some into new rooms, some into new areas.
- Leftovers from ABT changes, including old scripts still present
- Removed the teleportation door function in some areas
Why we removed the current "doors"
We realized that some players were finding these undocumented “doors” and teleporting to other old areas of the game/test areas and were getting bugged or stuck.
There might be more that we are unaware of, if players find visual doors that port them to another location, please let us know on the forums or in ticket with area name and location.
New tools in Dev have been and are being created to speed up our clean up and development process now and for the future.
New real working doors will be introduced into the game in this patch. First set of working doors can be seen in Plymouth Control Center. These real working doors will be included in the new Island as well as the rest of world once we begin the world revamp.
You may have taken note of the lifts, particularly in Plymouth Control Center that move in an exaggerated manner.
Lifts are being recreated so we can place them anywhere in the world, this is work you will eventually see in a number of places around the world, we are also looking to have it so they can move in any directions and move smoothly. The current iteration of Elevators does not allow this, if you consider them actually working at all.
Possible options we are looking at currently for lifts in the game, starting with Plymouth Control Center:
- New lifts that will move up and down as they should
- Possible trigger that will move it up and or down upon user call (Player will click to enable the lift to go up or down)
- New Path to run up (possible stairs or ramp)
- Teleporter similar to guild housing
Starter Island Update
As programmers and the HeroEngine engineers continue to work on systems for clean up, performance gains and most of all the updater, the content team is still working hard on the Island. The new starter island updates here:
- Layout and design is completed, will include 6 new areas to help spread content and remove the overload of assets, nodes and triggers in a single area: redistributes the load more evenly
- New environment and texture scheme (will be used as world’s default during the world revamp)
- Main buildings are completed minus Embassy buildings and platforms
- Updated textures created to utilize the Material Banks to keep draw calls down
- New harvesting nodes are being created (visual nodes to show the types)
- Training area instancing removed so more than 15 players can be in the new Starting area, together.
A few things we still need to examine and test with the changes made:
- Area and advise chat functions since instancing was removed
- Area transition performance
- Future plans and outlines for missions and quests to match the new Starter Island
In September of last year, we released a preview of the new world map. Since then we've worked to consider multiple forms of content that will populate these new areas. These cover a wide scope as they are influenced by many systems as well as art.
The somewhat less glamorous side of this includes work to build documentation for our Game Design Documents (GDD). This includes naming conventions, terrain requirements, terrain texture guidelines, and biomes.
Biomes play a large role in many of the steps of the world rebuild. While building the prototype map we considered the weather and vegetation for a total of 8 biome types. These consist of Taiga, Forest, Veld (tropical), Volcanic, Common, and three transitional biomes.
You may have seen some of the work that has taken place to create assets in previous update posts. This work is ongoing and will span to the polish phase. Some assets will be placeholders while others will be permanent. All permanent structures, creatures, and flora/rocks have and will continue to be modeled based on biomes and faction.
Content is currently working to ensure locations that are NPC/Mission centric are planned out for building phases. This includes lore drafts, kiddie drawings (diagrammed outline of city/town), NPC list, and Mission List.
Art has been a very forward-centric player in many of these posts. Though to be honest there are so many things being planned and or created to support this world rebuild.
Things for us to consider with the world revamp includes:
|Plots Planning||Art Assets||Intelligent Species||City/Areas|
|Placement and spacing of the City Plots
Types of City Plots (PVP and PVP basics)
How systems and faction pertain to Plots
All surrounding areas
How PVP will include siege
We appreciate your patience during this somewhat slow, but fruitful process. Our team has put forth a lot of work to identify problem areas, in preparation for the next update. Optimization of trouble areas and creation of new Dev tools continue to be the priority at this time. It is our hope that you found this update informative.
As always we appreciate your feedback be it positive or otherwise.