May 23rd 2014
V0.8 of Arena Commander is almost here! Hopefully this will be the final weekly report before it launches. You can find the individual studio reports below, but first I’d like to run through the milestones we listed last week.
What that boils down to is that we’re still on schedule and things are looking good. There’s still a lot to do over the next seven days and there are still unknowns… but we have a great team that is dedicated to making Arena Commander a reality!
It is with mixed feelings that I write this weekly report… While I have great progress to report on the development of Arena Commander I fear that if all continues to go well, most of you will not read my Monthly report next week because you’ll be too busy playing Arena Commander. Perhaps I should approve a few of these risky commits to ensure a captive audience…
I kid, I kid… In all seriousness there has been tremendous progress this week and so far we are on track with the timetable we outlined last week. That said, it’s worth reiterating that in software development, with so many moving parts, there is always the potential for unforeseen issues to arise! I like to call it Malcom’s Lazor, (Murphy’s Law and Occam’s Razor) anything that can go wrong will and it is usually the simplest thing.
This week was a big accomplishment, as you’ve read above we entered code lock on our Release Stream and the team is busily fixing as many of the most game breaking bugs as we possibly can. So far we have been hitting the schedule we set for ourselves and the transitions to Perforce Streams, migration of the build process, and enforcement of lockdown has been going as planned.
Here in LA the focus has been primarily on finalizing the ships, their component features, and the visual effects. We’ve gotten VFX to a point where we are quite happy for the first release of Arena Commander. There is still a lot more we would like to do with them in the future with additional graphics engineering support, but we think you’ll enjoy what we’ve cooked up so far.
The HUD is to a point where we are happy with it for our pre-alpha release. There are some bugs, room for improvement on usability, and additional visuals but the core functionality is in and ready for the community to start giving us feedback on. The HUD is something that we really look forward to working closely with the community on as it is a very important part of player experience and readability. So please, help us to make a HUD that meets your needs while maintaining Chris’ vision by providing feedback.
The ship damage system has been further revised and improved to support breaking the ships in a procedural way based on the location of impacts. The system for making sure the visual effects properly attach has also been revised to best showcase the pieces of the ship blowing off from your shots. We feel like we have reached a point with this system where we’re pretty happy with its current state. There are still some improvements in performance and potential for additional functionality but this represents a good first pass at the functionality we will need for this system in the long term.
Flight controls are often a hotly debated topic amongst the studios. This week we’ve settled on button configurations and feel for the IFCS that most people are happy with. There are still some small tweaks to make and long debates to be had but we’re very close to achieving what we feel is the best feeling flight model. Of course this is another one, like the HUD, where player feedback is very important to us. We’ve made it a point to add as many flight modes as possible so that people can experiment with different styles and let us know what works and what doesn’t.
Balance is ongoing (looking at you 300i mega thread) and will be ongoing after our initial release right on in to the Persistent Universe. We are currently working to make sure that every ship feels unique and has its own set of pros and cons in broad strokes and we will continue to hone in their unique place within the universe from there. Again, part of the reason that we wanted to go with these early pre-alpha module releases was so that we could involve the community as early as possible to get feedback! So please, give us feedback!
This has been a great week as we turn from feature development to an exclusive focus on stability, performance, and polish. The team is very excited for everyone in the community to start playing Arena Commander as soon as possible! Hopefully this time next week you will be enjoying Arena Commander for yourself and sending us feedback rather than reading about it here!
Until then, thanks for reading and please feel free to post any questions in our ‘Ask a Dev’ threads.
Cloud Imperium Games Santa Monica
We have been working extremely hard to get Arena Commander into your hands. Folks here are excited about getting to show off all the stuff we have been working on and getting it into your hands, so without further ado here is the report from the Austin office.
CIG ATX QA has been feverishly testing each build as they become available. Once we determine the build is ready for play testing an email is sent to the global team with details and instructions. During each play test information and other diagnostics are gathered by our gameplay and server programming teams. Once the playtest has concluded, feedback is gathered from each discipline; Art, Animation, Design, and Programming. The results are then sent to production to be included in the daily studio update. Chris & the team will then respond to the feedback. Based on those responses additional tasks may be created and assigned out to development. QA will then continue to regress test resolved issues as well as log any new issues that may be uncovered. At the end of the day a new build is kicked off and the process starts over. It is a lot of hard work, but very rewarding to witness the creation of Arena Commander which will stand on its own as an incredibly fun game as well as be the foundation for space flight for the Persistent Universe and the Squadron 42 single player experience.
Audio has been finishing up our tasks on the initial Arena Commander release. We are only making the absolutely necessary changes now in order to keep the build stable, things like mix levels, and what comes out of daily testing are the things we are changing. Some last-minute tech like the first-person breathing manager, Ejection and EVA is getting its audio finished off, too.
ATX design has continued to push forward on the persistent universe, while also keeping involved with the imminent dogfighting release. Our technical design staff is helping to put the finishing touches on all of the moving parts for dogfighting – from the ships themselves all the way down to the little bits, like the parts you see on the radar. Meanwhile, we’re hammering away at both single-player and multi-player matches, providing feedback, and becoming the most feared pilots in the ‘verse.
The art team was hard at work this week making tweaks to the Aurora, 300i, and Scythe to get them in top notch shape to duke it out in Arena Commander. Engine glow, warning indicator lights, detail on the missile racks, and adjusting the seat in the Aurora so you can see out the cockpit better were just a few of the things being done to the ships. Optimized versions of all items were created for the HUD, explosions and other VFX were created for when a ship is destroyed, and the RSI helmet was polished up as well.
We are continuing to make progress with hooking up the 300i and the Aurora getting them looking as good as the Hornet. Animations have been created to match the new layout for the 300i. The seat in the aurora has been raised for a better view out of the cockpit & both Ships have a full G Force and reaction animations done. New thrusters have been created, skinned, animated, and exported.
Outside of dogfighting we continue to work on all the locomotion animations. New animations will be in game. There are still a few visual bugs but we are working on resolving the code that is causing them.
The IT Department has been hard at work this week making infrastructure improvements to support the dev teams efforts on Arena Commander. The Austin team made massive improvements in the build and source control systems which were necessary to support continued development and push builds out faster. UK and LA IT Managers performed various upgrades to individual developer machines in order to ensure they are able to do game builds and renders as fast as possible. We are preparing for the onslaught of Citizens downloading Arena Commander when it comes out, should be fun.
We got a glimpse at Arena Commander with WH episode 70. This week we’re shooting deeper coverage with Rob Irving and some of the design team for next week’s Wingman’s Hangar.
Also, our media heritage is now secure. Our call for a proper data integrity plan for the terabytes of video being created by CIG has resulted in a dual storage solution based in Santa Monica and Austin. Mike Jones was instrumental in identifying the hardware and procedural solutions to ensure all media producers have access to our growing archive of media and securing that media for the future.
This week, Austin Engineering worked towards the first Dogfighting release by working on the universe services themselves and game servers, and fixing, building, and deploying full release playtest client and server builds for Arena Commander playtesting, and improving and profiling game client performance. In addition, we assisted with the integration and bug fixing of matchmaking and also fixed ship, rendering, tool, and engine bugs affecting the Hangar and the Sandbox Editor tool from CryEngine 3.6 integration and dogfighting changes. Additionally, we continued to improve the build and deployment system and switched the development team over to a more efficient and easier to use source (and asset) control paradigm called Perforce Streams and assisted individuals with the migration. Perforce Streams also allows team members to switch between the release stream and main stream quickly, which is important for our distributed development team and to keep the release stream stable.
Our production team has performed admirably in supporting Arena commander, by chasing down individual tasks and dependencies, and making sure that things were handed off from studio to studio in an efficient manner. We are constantly moving things in and out of the first release cycle based upon time needed to completion and risk assessment, once you feel you are on top of things, another batch of Jira tasks comes sliding down the pipeline to be reviewed, assigned and chased, it is all in good fun though, in order for us to bring Arena Commander out to the Citizens. We also continued our efforts in planning out ships and will soon begin working with REDACTED on the weapons for the FPS (Go Jake!!). In addition, we have plans in place to monitor the performance of the game once it is launched to make sure we can properly focus and prioritize any bugs that the Citizens might uncover.
So that is it from Austin – it has been a tough hill to climb but we can see the crest, and are looking forward to a little fresh meat in the verse ! BRING IT CITIZENS !!! Wingman – out !
We have a great week balancing the AI for our survival mode “Vanduul Swarm” and providing detailed polish feedback for Engineering and Art. Office playtests were longer and noisier than before, which is a good sign we are getting towards making it fun. There is still work to do, but we have had a whole lot of smiles around the office when playing here.
The multiplayer modes, “Capture-the-Core” and “Battle Royale” are coming along, but we still have some important back end issues to tidy up to help make these feel more satisfying. It feels like everyone in the world-wide team is pushing themselves so hard to get as much into this deliverable as humanly possible.
As you can probably imagine, with so many “super enthusiastic” Devs constantly checking in new stuff around the clock, the production guys have had to pull out all the stops to keep everyone organized. I for one think they have done an amazing job. Anyway… I really hope you guys enjoy the “Vanduul Swarm” and I’m looking forward to pushing it further with your input.
The list of tasks for Foundry 42’s engineering department to assist with on Arena Commander is getting smaller and smaller! We’ve been focusing on general fixes and polish, including a particular focus on the targeting HUD. We’ve done some additional work on the menus and the ‘landing platform’ that you take off from in the simulator, and are working an ejection update and improved controller feedback implementation.
In addition to heavily working on look and feel for key areas of the Squadron 42 storyline, we’ve been doing some future DFM work going ahead with assets being greyboxed for testing in “Conquest” game type.
VFX have been working heavily on DFM tasks, we’ve been working to give a more cinematic feel to them and also define a narrative (a Forrest term) so that it’s not just a flame attached to a wing piece as it flies past your cockpit, if you watch it, it’ll go through a whole sequence of events in its lifecycle, this is the kind of love we like to all areas of the game given time.
Animation cracking on with ejection animations to make it more fun when you are shot out of your cockpit before it blows into its many parts, alongside that, Cinematic head integration testing to make the best looking cinematic heads seen in a space game.