Dynamic Events AMA Recap
September 9th 2021
Dynamic Events AMA Recap
This time, we welcomed four guests from different departments who answered players’ most burning questions on how our Dynamic Events and providing insights into the decisions we made.
This AMA is complete but keep an eye out for upcoming threads for your chance to ask us anything!
I’m going to answer this question in two parts, Jumptown 2 and Ninetails.
For JT2, I’m actually (disclaimer: barring any unforeseen bugs) spawning the drugs physically, rather than having you buy them from a shop. The “inventory” then is less “300 boxes becomes available across all servers” and more “A box will be made available to spawn every 30 seconds on each server”.
I felt this was both more interesting gameplay-wise as carrying the cargo out to your ship adds a layer of complexity (physicalized cargo will make this more standard across the game, but I didn’t want to wait for that) and I felt that in a PVP-centered event, players on another server being able to take the boxes you are trying to defend/steal defeated a large amount of the gameplay.
For Ninetails Lockdown, some of you who participated in the very first Evocati test might actually remember there were shop mods that made it so the shops selling medical supplies had their sell inventories boosted, much like the station has its buy inventory capacity boosted. I was asked to remove those mods to emphasize the derelicts due to XenoThreat feedback. Thanks to the Ninetails feedback that has come in, I was able to re-hash that conversation and I have hooked the shop mods for sell locations back up for 3.15.
[Follow-up reply:] I covered this very briefly in the ISC segment, but I also have shop mods for sell locations in JT2 to increase the shops’ buy capacity.
We saw lots of backers stating this as being the cause, but the Javelin’s arrival has no bearing on the spawning of the Idris in logic. The hotfix we attempted was to fix an issue we recognised whereby we attempted to spawn the two Idris within a 1km radius of the wreck of the previous Idris and if that failed no Idris were spawned and the mission became incompletable. We had thought this an extremely rare situation as we never encountered it in testing, but then we saw 50 players in large ships mobbing the Idris at the moment of its destruction and we realised it was a likely culprit of the mission becoming stuck. To prevent this possibility, if the 1km radius fails, we gradually increase the radius until the spawn succeeds. This fix affects spawns game-wide so will not be a problem anywhere, NineTails included.
However, this was only our best guess for how to fix the Idris not spawning and the mission becoming stuck, but it seems from player feedback that this has not solved the issue (may have improved it) so further analytics will need to be added to get to the bottom of it.
[Follow-up reply:] I was in two minds about trying to answer this because I am not a coder so I’m unable to follow up in greater detail, but I’ve verified my explanation and I think it’s worth posting.
Knowing when things happen is easy because you get a callback telling you it happened. Knowing when things don’t happen is not easy because you never get the callback. The best you can do is put in a timer and if you don’t receive the callback after that time assume you never will and abort the mission.
The event ran for not even two weeks and first the issue had to happen enough that it became clear it was a serious issue. Then we had to investigate and, because we were unable to reproduce the issue internally, in the end we made our best guess fix (a valuable one to the rest of the game also) rather than add a timer. In hindsight this may have been a mistake, but we intend to add the analytics we need to catch this issue and solve it properly as it is likely not limited to this event.
Ultimately, the intention is that there could be any number of things happening in the ‘verse at any given time. We acknowledge that we’re currently being extremely heavy handed with the broadcasting of events because we are using the tools we have at the moment. Ideally, we need to expand our notification system such that it can handle multiple events, queuing messages, and other player driven controls like controlling the types of messaging they receive. Also keep in mind that we are in the early stages of this tech and this will continue to evolve as we move forward with not only the Dynamic Event system, but other complimentary systems as well.
Dynamic events will ultimately trigger all over the ‘verse based on various conditions being hit that are relevant to the specific mission. This could be at something as small as an outpost or a UGF, to comm arrays, stations, and even major landing zones. (Requiring FPS gameplay OR spaceships.) TZ’s upcoming Citizen Con presentation will get into some additional details, but rest assured, we want this type of content happening all over the universe, not just for larger scale space battles.
Yes! We want to incorporate more ground-based scenarios once we have AI capable of navigating on the planet’s surfaces.
Whenever it is we next run the XenoThreat event it is my personal hope and intent that we have the necessary clarity of markers to deliver it with a counter mission for XenoThreat supporters. So if the assumption is we get a counter mission, my assumption would be that rewards based on rep would be available. This is not mine to promise, but I do see it as the next big and exciting thing to properly tackle.
Plans have been made on improving the way we communicate things like hostility, lawful right to attack and ally status (based on tracked mission) which will make these epic counter mission possible.
Ideally, we will have dynamic events that cover the entire breadth of our content/feature sets. As soon as we have mining functional within the core missions, something you can take from a mission giver or the contract manager, I would expect us to look for ways to incorporate that into our dynamic content.
One thing to keep in mind is that we are using the current events that we have to build out necessary tech and prove out a scenario for a single location before we try and trigger them in “any” of the locations in the ‘verse. This helps us zero in on issues related to mission logic as well as identify any location markup that the mission may need. (IE, there’s no reason to mark up every possible location until you know exactly what the setup needs are.) Often times we refine the experience as we go as well, so what we initially implement might not be the final experience and there’s no sense going wide until we’re happy with it. That said, these will ultimately be something that can happen in as many locations as possible so as our technology continues to grow I would expect that more and more of our locations get utilized with the content we’re pushing forward with.
We are working extremely hard to build a system that can, and will, react to conditions that are running on a backend simulation. While this still involves some level of probabilistic math here, the intent is that some benchmark was hit through either 1) the player’s interaction within the world, or 2) through some level of virtual AI decisions that have caused some level of imbalance in the world. While RNGs are used here and there, it’s often for things like “which cluster of enemies to throw at you during a random (or not so random) encounter”. But the bottom line is that we want the world to be something that the players can understand and potentially learn what warning signs to look out for or else “X” or “Y” will likely happen. That said, this won’t prohibit us from randomly triggering things.
Building Dynamic Events and running them now is absolutely necessary and beneficial as an important part of our development of the game. They act as test beds that expose problems in both the events mission system and the interplay of other gameplay systems as well as back-end systems. The features, discoveries and leanings that we take from building and running these events now leads to even better events further down the line.
We have learned a lot from the current run of XenoThreat, as well as from the first release which was our first attempt at a large-scale fleet battle and, as such, we learned a lot about the kind of issues that only present when many players and AI get together in one place to fight.
The major standouts we wanted to address for the second release were our simplistic friendly-fire system which led to unfair CrimeStats. We made major strides in friendly-fire arbitration which drastically cut down the number of unfair CrimeStats awarded according to the feedback and analytics we received on the event, and it allowed us to more accurately identify the remaining edge-cases. What’s great is this kind of change improves the whole game, not just the event and paves the way for more large-scale space battles in the future.
Now that the system is generally fairer, a lot of the noise has been cut out and we are now able to identify the specific remaining issues. I can see there is still work to do on the collision side so that will be our next focus as well as some changes I’m sure backers will love, but I can’t yet go into.
Currently, these events are triggered manually. It’s absolutely planned to have these events be driven by Quanta and player actions.
We will be talking about this a bit in Digital CitizenCon, so tune into that for more info.
YES you will get to see Dulli’s face in missions comms one day.
Technically there is always going to be some scenarios in which an NPC is supposed to comms call a player and that NPC is not yet streamed in on the clients machine. So we may still, under certain conditions need to not show their face for this period (maybe with static or an image placeholder instead) that then gets replaced by their face when they stream in. So, we would always try to show the face if we can.
So many things. I’ll take this opportunity to do a sort of mini postmortem.
Insufficient Medical Supplies:
There aren’t enough medical supplies available for haulers to participate freely in the event. For Ninetails Lockdown, some of you who participated in the very first Evocati test might actually remember there were shop mods that made it so the shops selling medical supplies had their sell inventories boosted, much like the station has its buy inventory capacity boosted. We decided to remove those mods to emphasize the derelicts due to XenoThreat feedback. Thanks to the Ninetails feedback that has come in, I was able to rehash that conversation and I have hooked the shop mods for sell locations back up for 3.15.
We’re a bit worried this will be too profitable, but an enjoyable experience is worth a little temporary economic destabilization, and this is something that can be tuned. Longer-term, improvements to the shop system should also help this.
Players not playing the Nine Tail’s side:
This is the most painful one for me. Based on our analytics, for every 1 Nine Tails-aligned player there were 20 Crusader-aligned players. Short term, I’m looking to increase the rewards for the Nine Tails, but if I’m being honest, I expect this to have very little impact.
Longer-term, I’ve requested some tech to deal with Nine Tails-aligned players being sent to jail, and once players can obtain Nine Tails reputation, my hope is that I can move away from using CrimeStats as a determiner for participation, and thus have players be a bit more long-term in what sides they want to align with.
Event was too short:
Many players were unable to participate in the event due to it ending before they could log in. Mea culpa on this one. I had set the prologue phase to one hour, thinking that would be sufficient. This number is dynamically tunable whenever we launch the event, so we will probably extend the prologue a bit in the future.
I also have asked that, in the future, at least until we have a large enough stable of these events to allow players to regularly log in and find something available, we give a bit more outside-the-game warning for Nine Tails, so people can plan to log in.
Event was too long/repetitive:
As other systems come into place throughout the game, my hope is that this will naturally evolve a bit. For instance, one of my least favorite pieces of the event right now is that I send out AI scanner ships for players to defend. I would vastly prefer that I offer this job to players as well, once long-distance scanning becomes more of thing.
Doesn’t Feel like a blockade:
While flying in, you are not attacked nearly enough by Nine Tails AI. This was one we saw coming, but its not fixable in the short-term. It’s actually a performance problem combined with a few AI problems. The ships are taking a long time to spawn (so you’ve already flown by), they spawn standing still, and they cannot currently fly fast enough to catch up to you/don’t have a way to stop you. Performance will be an ongoing fight, the rest are things that have active discussions about solutions going.
Likely yes, though running these is always a conversation with several other departments.
We might hold off until after 3.15 (I would like to get some minor fixes in).
That being said, Nine Tails Lockdown is an Evergreen Event. It is intended to run occasionally forever. (We just want to avoid burning you all out on it, particularly when there are known issues.)
The XenoThreat’s lore is that they are mostly ex-Navy so it is reasonable to assume that they have access to Navy shipyards that others would not. Also, they would prefer to fly ships they were accustomed to. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it :)
As for the Nine Tails flying military ships, I just reviewed the ships available with the Nine Tails paint job and the majority are not military ships, so I assume you’re referring to the Idris M which I agree, it might have been better to replace that with an Idris P. However, the instruction for development of the event was to make it as efficiently as possible which meant relying on existing assets and the Idris M was proven working.
Yes we want to be able to do this. Currently we replay events to get as much data as possible and help us to refine the implementations of the systems and mechanics that are the focus of those events.
Also as we build our mission logic in a modular way and as our array of modules increases we will be able to build these events faster. The story elements and locations of any given event can then be one of the aspects we focus on to make them more unique and one offs.
The answers accurately reflect development’s intentions at the time of writing, but the company and development team reserve the right to adapt, improve, or change feature and ship designs in response to feedback, playtesting, design revisions, or other considerations to improve balance or the quality of the game overall.