Persistence, Performance, and Progression – Monday, August 31st, 2020


As Summer becomes a not-so-fond memory for most of us, we here at CSE have been hard at work on CU. The title refers to what CSE is, one of the many things we are working on, and one of the things that will be a focus of ours in the upcoming sprint(s). The first word, persistence, is what CSE is, persistence. We keep working on CU, keep adding to the team, and slowly (and not so slowly at times), a game is starting to emerge. The second word, performance, relates to the performance issues with AMD cards that we have been addressing. We’re not there yet but we are making progress and we will continue to work on it till we are happy with it. In terms of progression, that is one of the things that is missing from CU right now, character progression that can also persist (see what I did there? 🙂 ), between weekend tests. We’ve had basic persistence forever, but in the upcoming sprint(s) we want you folks to see your character’s skills improve from server wipe to server wipe. We’re excited to finally get to this stage but that’s the plan for now till we get it in and operating as expected.

Be sure to check out this month’s stream with Mark here!

And let’s get into the highlights of what’s been happening this month!

Top Tenish for August 31st, 2020

  1. WIP – Tech/Design – Dragons’ Web
    1. Christina has been working on the backend code for the Dragons’ Web. We now have a functional web, where the various placed items are aware of each other and care transmit (or disrupt!) power across the zone.
    2. The web has been integrated with overmind and ability systems. This means that these systems can read information about the web and affect the way the web works.
    3. Functional items for the Dragons’ Web have been created including: hearts, disruptors, transmitters, spawn points, health pools, with many more items designed and planned for the future.
    4. Chris is hard at work integrating the new items into the battleground zone.
  2. WIP – Tech – Giants – Anthony continued work on our 3 giant races, and has completed almost all of the first pass of their traits and abilities. This involved adding several new tech features to support them, such as allowing traits to affect the range of abilities.
  3. Done – Tech – NPC Behavior Stack Upgrades – NPCs can now use a design configured stack to give npcs specific priorities to fulfill. This allows for a Lego type build of a npc behavior, as well as making it easier to develop new behaviors by making smaller trees, and will open a proper option to allow NPCs to have a responsive aggro system. (Example: Idle->Defend->Flee could be 1 npc, and another could be Idle->Flee)
  4. Done – Tech – Siege Engine NPC Behavior Upgrades – Spidey used his new behavior stack system to upgrade the Siege NPCs. Their first priority is still to find and use siege engines, but when none are available they can now take actions and attack with their equipped weapons.
  5. WIP – Tech – NPC LOS upgrades – Colin is wrapping up a new physics system that will efficiently check line of sight between any other entity and deliver the state to the NPC server. Spidey is integrating with this by writing new priority options to the NPC targeting to allow proper targeting to require line of sight, as well as updating behaviors to use line of sight for ranged attacks
  6. Done – Tech – Time Of Day – Christina moved our time of day code down into the physics system, allowing this feature to be accessed by new parts of code. It is now accessible by both the overmind and the ability system, and we plan to first put it to use while finishing the giant traits.
  7. Done – Tech – Keep Champion NPC – Anthony setup the new Keep Champion NPCs, they will be added to the battleground scenario in the near future.
  8. WIP – Tech – Upgraded item restrictions – Judd added the restrictions for equipping an item or using a siege engine can now be found on the item’s tooltip. Koo completed a style pass on the item interaction menu.
  9. Done – Tech – Bug fix for GQL Subscription Timeout – Karl fixed an issue where GQL subscriptions would timeout for players with too much latency, which affected systems such as warbands and item trading.
  10. Done – Tech – Bug fix for Torch Flicker – Wylie fixed an issue that caused the torches in the battleground keeps to flicker at night.
  11. WIP – Tech/Art – Upgraded CU Traps – Christina added all the required FX hooks for the various trap items, Cross is working through creating the real VFXs now.
  12. Done – Tech – Upgraded CUBE release – CUBE is back! We’ve released a new CUBE build that is available to all backers. There are some compatibility issues with legacy CUBE builds (mainly having to do with material textures that have changed since the last update) but you can still bring your legacy builds forward by using an Import Tool that we’ve added to CUBE. Instructions for how to use the Importer are located in the Beta 1 CUBE Creations section of the Forums. As part of this release we’ve improved the CUBE build and release flow to be able to do updates more frequently and with less impact on CSE.
  13. WIP – Tech – Pathfinding – MikeD and Lee are working quickly to finish the first release of the new-and-improved pathfinding system that is now working in most cases for arbitrary world geometry, including user-made constructions. Internal testing has demonstrated the pathfinding is working well both in complex, organic forest environments as well as multi-level castles with stairs, tight turns, and narrow corridors. This first release is now in the bug-fix and optimization phase and is looking very promising.
  14. Done – Tech & Art – Rendering Improvement/Fixes – We modified how the lighting works in order to remove the wet effect that sometimes showed up in shadows. Fixed a shader bug that resulted in building material normals lighting incorrectly.
  15. Ongoing – Tech – Improving server stability – We’ve been running the 24×3 tests recently and as part of that we’ve been finding and fixing issues related to long uptimes on the servers. We’ve fixed things on the operations side like boxes rebooting for windows updates, and on the code side where servers could get stuck starting up and/or shutting down. We’ve been improving our platform and support systems to require less and less human intervention so that things are more automated and processes are more consistent and reliable.
  16. WIP – Tech – Continuous Integration improvements – We use an automated system to build and deploy our code after an engineer or designer makes a change. For the better part of the year (since Linuxification™) there’s been an issue that would randomly and frequently cause builds to fail. We finally found and fixed this issue which means faster and more reliable builds. In a similar vein our current code build is one giant build step that makes it difficult to see where we can optimize. We’re breaking this down into smaller pieces that can be timed individually so we can start optimizing this process to improve our hotfix turnaround time.
  17. Done – Art – Devout ability network icons images – updated art has been added to the devout and support class skill builder UIs.
  18. Done – Art – Overmind message style – Koo completed an art pass on the message pop-ups that can be seen in the battleground scenario.
  19. Done – Art – Keep Lord Animation – Tuatha Keep Lord was having some editor importing issues, so we’re working on getting that fixed up and into the engine.
  20. WIP – Art – Giants – Back to the topic of our friends the giants, Art has been busy. The animation team has been working on rigging and retargeting animations, and modeling has been at work bringing giant armor up to speed with some custom tailored armor to fit the giants distinct forms.
  21. WIP – Art – Spirit Mages – Heavy concept art work has been moving along for these spiritual mages. After a lot of exciting concept exploration of the Viking Slaugterwolf we have narrowed down concept designs and are currently moving along with concepts for the TDD Morrigan class and its spirit summons.
  22. WIP – Art – Terrain, Trees, Fixes – area round buildings, Various fixes reported including added land bridges, home island signs
    1. Terrain – We have made some adjustments to the grass cards to feel much less sparse. Continued work is still being made to give larger improvements to grass for further visual interest and performance. Adjustments also to transitions from sandlines to hillsides, evolving the landscape further.
    2. Trees – Changes are appearing in wooded areas. A new collection of trees are being added with the use of SpeedTree. We are currently in progress working the forest floor and spawning vegetation to improve visual variation when roaming the battlegrounds.
    3. Various Additions – In addition to terrain adjustments around C.U.B.E. we also started adding some cobblestone terrain materials around the central keep to better define the entrance locations along with the introduction of some older assets and lighting around each of 3 entrance locations. Players will note that the lion statues face in direction of the main Arthurian keep, the ravens face the Viking keep, and a pair of stags face the TDD keep.
    4. Various Fixes – including but not limited to, additional land connections, and added signs to home islands giving direction to the battleground portal,which is labeled: Isle of Discordia.
  23. WIP – Art – Battleground Map Development – Preparations are being made in the battleground map topography for incoming PoI’s (Points of Interest) based on concept passes of the RvR map. In addition to that, unique shipwreck assets which include new realm ships to add to our inventory are in production as the first PoI. You’ve seen mention of the Dragons’ Web and we’re dipping our toes into design and early concept development, which is looking to bring some exciting elements to the battlefield and your overall siege experience.
  24. WIP – Art – CUBE Doors – Builders will be happy to know that an initial selection of updated realm theme doors will soon be implemented for use. Currently we are in final checks of made models and from there they will soon be in BPO library for use.
  25. WIP – Art (VFX) & Gameplay – Crafter Traps – VFX has been hard at work alongside the gameplay team and have implemented traps. VFX continues to refine and replace any current stand in vfx.
  26. WIP – Art – VFX – Various fixes to existing assets and Devout ability work such as Abbot radiant abilities and Blessed Crow cauldron effects.
  27. WIP – Art – Animation – Continued work on animation fidgets and emotes is underway, some of which are giant retargeting among other racial movements.
  28. WIP – Biz – Hiring – Reinforcements are OTW to CSE. Mark has spent a lot of the last few weeks doing team reviews, recruiting, and the overall hiring process. We will be adding new internal people in September and hopefully some contractors to fill out some of the needs for CU (UI is a big need).

Time for some Arts!

Let’s start things off big, with Golems! In the prior newsletter we had shown you the quick concept pass we did to the armors currently in the game to fit the forms of our Golem friends. Here are some updates of those rendered 3D models now!

Starting off with the Arthurian Heavy Armor, which you can find full renders of in the Newsletter!

Following with medium armor for the leather those leather loving giants.

And then here we have a Light Armor option, for those who wish a bit more movement with their gear.

And of course some under-armor, to protect all your fleshy (in this case clay) vital spots.

If you recall last time, we brought to you the TDD and Arthurian Leather Barricades, so without further ado; here she is, the Viking Leather Barricade to finish up the long line of realm themed barricades.

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Realm doors!
Realm doors, who?
Realm Doors being added to C.U.B.E, that’s who!

When we had concluded last month’s newsletter, I had made mention that we’d dabble into the realm of Spirit Mages, well, dabble we did! Included below were some of the first first concept passes at the Slaughterwolf Spirit Mage.

Continued development led to making full concept passes to fit design.

Tinasaurus the Monstrous Modelerbane (Tina) tossed in a second page, just in case we needed more to debate over MORE amazing content; and debate we did! If you’d like to see the awesome finished concept pass, and an inclusion of a little lore, please check out this month’s newsletter!

Now we’re just a crows flight away from the Morrigan getting a fully “fleshed out” awakening. Just wait until next month when the rest of this host comes in screaming to your newsletter.

Did someone say UI? Yep, we sure did. The UI updates for classes are getting a polish pass by Koo for bards and devouts alike.

In the home islands, just for some added clarity of portal locations, signs have been added.

We had some assets gathering dust that we attached to the Center Keep giving a somewhat directional focus on realm by realm features.

Rocks have been going through the grindstone to have them polish-perfect for the terrain. They’re not 100% there, but progress is definitely close to completion!

So we know we’ve been talking a lot about our terrain and biome, but we wanted to give you some updated images of progress currently going into this endeavor. Keep in mind, our grass cards are still being worked on with new math going in to better align them for a natural look, but with the development of our trees and new shader tech coming down the pipeline we hope to be adopting soon, we can expect big brush strokes in the coming months.

Just to show you how many strides we’ve come from the start, to where we are now: the top image showcases where we were, and the bottom image gives you an idea of where we are now.

We’ve got it set up here to show you the work that has gone into fixing out C.U.B.E. building content, the image below takes you through the different lighting effects of the day and how the texture pass has been fixed.

And with that from this blast of a month, the art team looks forward to what we will show next month.

One of the things that I’m also excited about is another Builders Brigade masterpiece from Treville. It’s another magnificent creation from him and I hope you folks, especially you Vikings are excited about. Here’s a link

It was a great month and I expect it to be another great month in September, and the cherry on top would be if we can get the additional people to join the team that we’re hoping can join the team. Even without them it will be a great month for the Realms of CU and I hope you can join us for lots of testing throughout the week and the weekend.

As always, we thank you for your patience and support. And, as I’ve been saying since almost all of us have been taking a ride on the CoronaWorld Express, stay safe, stay uninfected, and be kind to each other.

– Mark