July 18th 2015
It’s that time again! As we promised, here’s your comprehensive review of what the Star Marine team (and those supporting it in this final push) worked on this past week. We’re going to format this update a little bit differently, more akin to the big Monthly Reports that the team puts together. Please join me as we walk through each of the different disciplines currently working to get Star Marine to the PTU!
Before we begin, we haven’t forgotten last week’s poll! It seems the Ghost Sight is the odds on favorite. The poll wasn’t just for show and we’re going to go with the community’s choice here. As a result, we’ll be integrating it as standard equipment for the ATT-4! If you loved one of the other sights, don’t worry: they’ll return in the future as modular options (and will likely appear as standard on other guns.)
We started things off by making a number of netcode improvements in the lead-up to Thursday’s internal company-wide playtest… and using the results of that playtest, we’ve gone on to make several others! A big focus of these changes is making sure that movement transitions are serialized. Issues with passing/clipping through objects have been significantly de creased with a pair of fixes by Paul J. He’s updated the game to use the living entity’s orientation rather than the articulated entity for intersection tests and also fixed a frame behind issue with the living entity’s bounding box calculation. In plain English: no more clipping problems!
We also tested passing data from game servers to our Platform services; that’s the process by which the game talks to the website and your Leaderboard data appears here on RSI. We identified one issue there, with a fix in progress as we speak. And we resolved another pair of outstanding issues: one that caused problems equipping/throwing grenades while holstering a weapon and the other that prevented the personal shield from being destroyed. We’re continuing to investigate a cause for issues with player prediction that are currently resulting in teleporting and hits not syncing up between clients properly. This investigation is ongoing, but we’re very hopeful this bug is about to be smashed.
The player predication and network improvements mentioned above have already had a positive impact on the animation status. Steve Bender, the animation director, has been reviewing and experimenting with Ragdoll effects for death animations. We’ve also been working on the non-cardinal direction walk jukes, the directional jumps in first person and several other specific animation types. Weapon holstering animations are in progress for the ladder mount, walk, run and spring, as are ‘transition’ animations (switching from a pistol to a rifle.) Making sure these look right in both first and third person is a real challenge, but we’re happy to report that it’s coming together.
I mentioned ladder animations, which have been a major focus lately. We’ve been tweaking the l adder animations to change climbing speed and are currently working an issue with ladder mounts and dismounts. They’re working, but they glitch sometimes in multiplayer and don’t synch properly. We’re looking into that, of course! Next, we’ll be using animation resources around the company to focus on updating crouch jukes and issues with our prone animation. We have the process for this down at this point, it’s just a matter of getting the animations to the right people!
Our designers continued to look at Gold Horizon from the standpoint of a competitive combatant. This week, that meant tuning Gold Horizon’s player focal points and sight lines to make for a better battle experience. We conducted a performance pass, addressing areas of the level that were causing too many LODs. The result is a better framerate than we’ve seen! We fixed issues with the energy recharge stations and we have redone some of the lighting to improve their breakable functionality. We’d previously set things unbreakable to address a crash and now we’re going back and applying the proper fix to make the levels truly interactive. There are a LOT of lights, so that process will continue into next week, wrapping up just before the next big company-wide internal playtest!
The plan next is to add some additional spawn points to Gold Horizon for the new Free Play (FFA) practice mode suggested by the company. We’ll also be making a material surface pass on the level; certain tracer effects are not being cleaned up when they hit an imporper surface material. Since those tracers can reduce the frame rate when they don’t disperse properly, we need to make sure they do!
Designers have been looking at individual game modes this week, discussing how to make Gold Horizon’s Team Elimination mode the slow-paced tactical gameplay we are aiming for. We want it to be a simulation of the rest of the Persistent Universe’s First Person gameplay rather than a throwaway action mode that doesn’t speak to the larger project. We want gameplay where there are consequences for death, so that the player is encouraged to be slow, careful and there’s a reason to help your friends and do your best to overpower, deceive and defeat your enemies. Next we’ll be making some tweaks to the practice mode, adding a round timer to Free Play (and some iteration testing associated therewith.) We will be adding a scoreboard for the ends of matches and testing a small respawn delay with a countdown timer to see how it impacts the overall feel.
We’ve got guns! The Devastator Shotgun animations had a pass to add more pop and attitude during reload/fire. We did some exensive work on the two-handed gadget deploy/throw animations, breaking them up into three component parts: weapon deselect, gadget grab and throw and weapon select. These are undergoing review now and are looking good!
Sometimes, though, we make a gun TOO good. The ATT-4, seen last week, is a very satisfying game to use… to the point that we now need to enhance the other weapons to its level (rather than tuning it down, which might happen on an ordinary project.) We’ll be looking at our options there next, and we’ll also be doing a pass on the Laser Snipe rifle’s scope, VFX and charging mode. The feedback from QA is that it needs to feel more satisfying to use.
Icons, icons, icons! New icons are being implemented for guns, grenades and gadgets, with new health icons expected shortly. We’ve finished work on updating the weapon select/ammo counter widget for the new HUD and we’ve begin to integrate a new Message/Chat widget (work should be done on this next.) We’ve been looking at several options for improving the aiming reticule and speeding up the ADS transition. We’ll continue iterating on this. Up next is the health/injury display widget, which needs to be updated to the current standard.
We’re going to end off this week with a list of ongoing blockers. These are the issues that are truly preventing Star Marine from going to the PTU… and as such, they’re the ones we’re most eager to tackle!