Spring-ing Ahead – Friday, April 8th, 2022


Hello from Terry, here this month pinch-hitting for Mark while schedules, and some seasonal colds, are keeping us especially busy. Welcome to Spring!

It’s been a busy month and more here at CSE, as you can tell from this update going out a little later than usual. Lots of folks here are recovering from various bugs, but we’re in good spirits. We’ve put that extra bit of time to good use, for sure: another round of enhancements for the new version of Golden Plains, some excellent progress on Cait Sith models, and a bunch of other new art, including the widest range of bladed weapons you’re likely to see outside of a home shopping channel. And if you create a new character before midnight tonight…only kidding, of course.

Plus, we have a ton of tech improvements both behind the scenes, as well as some upcoming rollouts that our overseas customers will find very interesting, to say the least. New item spawn animation capability will let our gameplay folks get even more creative, as will the enhanced NPC navigation we’ve landed.

Besides this particular update, you should also check out the CU newsletter, and this month’s livestream here, featuring plenty of Q&A action.

March 2022 End of Month CU Update (4/8/2022)

  1. WIP – Design/Tech – Fortitude Resource
    1. Design has created a new resource, Fortitude, which will be a new part of the player HUD going forward.
    2. This resource is in the process of being hooked up throughout the ability system scripting. As one would expect, Fortitude is used up when performing various types of physical abilities.
    3. We should be rolling this out in the coming weeks, once testing is complete.
  2. WIP – Tech – Trait Prerequisites and Exclusions
    1. We’ve begun implementing the concept of trait prerequisites and exclusions. When a trait has a prerequisite, it means one or more other traits must also be chosen in order to select it at character creation.
    2. Traits can also belong to an exclusion group. This could mean that there are minimum and/or maximum numbers of traits that can be selected from the group.
    3. This new feature is making its way through the Launcher deploy process now, and then will be used by our trait data in the near future.
  3. Done – Design – Stats and Ability Updates
    1. When taking damage in combat, a character’s innate health regeneration now pauses for a short time – keep that in mind when you go into a fight!
    2. We also updated many of the Melee 2.0 ability components that we recently rolled out, in order to fix or clarify description text.
    3. Finally, we scaled up melee ability hit boxes, depending on the size of the character performing the ability. We’ve given the remaining ability components the same treatment where needed.
  4. Done – Tech – Gameplay Upgrades
    1. Added a new data sheet for weapons where they can be defined in one single spot, instead of being split across multiple data sheets
    2. Added a new rectangle spawn location shape and unified spawn location specification options in the Overmind
    3. Cleaned up old style slash commands and converted them into entity commands
    4. Updated the ability system to allow for skippable repeating phases on abilities
  5. Done – Tech/Design – Bug Fixes
    1. Fixed a couple of different issues that prevented statuses from displaying correctly in the UI, when the same status was applied multiple times at the same moment
    2. Melee 2.0 shouts now can benefit from the Booming Voice trait
    3. Fixed some bugs related to using the correct weapon tagging when using two-handed weapons
    4. Fixed a bug with some of the ability development tools, to ensure that they show the correct tags used to match against effects
    5. Some melee attacks which did DoT (damage over time) disruption damage were doing more damage than intended
    6. Turned down the defense values on hand clothes, which had 10x the intended defense (so, sorry, but that cloth ‘armor’ won’t protect you as much now…)
    7. The Panic resource will now properly show up in the player HUD
    8. Fixed some issues with ability animations not playing back at the correct speed
  6. Done – Tech – Enhanced NPC Navigation: Lee added a new capability for our scenarios to allow NPCs to move without requiring navmesh data above design-specified altitudes in a zone. We will be able to exploit this feature in the future with such applications as: having NPCs jump down from ledges, spawn and operate on the tops of towers, and avoid getting stuck on geometry when knocked back into otherwise unreachable spaces during combat.
  7. Done – Tech – Item Spawn Animations: MikeD added a new capability to allow items to play a special animation when they spawn into the world. This gives art much more creative control over how a variety of things, from power-ups to deployables, present to the player when they are added to the environment.
  8. Done – Tech – Infrastructure as Code – Dev Launcher API: We successfully rolled out the Dev Launcher API stack and can now use it to improve development and testing of the Launcher API server. Previously when deploying updates to the Launcher API, which serves information about shards and characters to your patcher/launcher, it was difficult to fully test the new deployment until it was live. This could negatively impact devs and players ability to access servers and could cause playtests to be disrupted and/or postponed. We now have an environment that allows us to test Launcher API build candidates before making them live.
  9. Done – Tech – Infrastructure as Code – CU Shard: We rolled out our first IAC-controlled CU shard, Morrigan. We tested it as both a single zone configuration, like Hatchery, and also as a full multi-zone configuration like most other shards. You guys likely won’t hear much about Morrigan in the future, as it’s where we do science that is disruptive/dangerous to our main development environment. But we are excited about this, and figured some of you would be, too. The bulk of this work was creating a template that defines a shard. This vastly accelerates the process of bringing new shards online. There’s still some work to do to pull the existing CU shards into IAC control, at which point changing the configuration of those instances becomes a matter of minutes rather than hours or days.
  10. WIP – Tech – Infrastructure as Code – European Shard: We’re currently working on rolling out “Esclabor,” our first full shard to Europe. Thanks to the template we created for Morrigan, this was a relatively quick process. The servers have been brought online and tested. We’re hoping to get IT backers into Esclabor soon so you guys can test the game without transatlantic latency. Note: the patch servers are still running out of the US. We’re discussing how we can improve patching for everyone and especially for folks outside the US, but keep in mind that’s a little further off. Once we announce the Esclabor test we encourage you to patch early if you’d like to participate, in order to avoid missing out on action due to patch times.
  11. WIP – Art – New Melee 2.0 Icons: Following up on the initial batch of Melee 2.0 icons, art and UI are most of the way through creating the remaining icons as needed for the new Melee 2.0 abilities added last month.
  12. WIP – Art – Animation – Melee 2.0: Thanks to Scott, you can now enjoy new left-handed versions of the initial Melee 2.0 Heavy Fighter animations, including generic slashes, pierces, and crushes. These new animations will play in-game with any left-handed abilities made via the Ability Builder as a human-rig Heavy Fighter.
  13. WIP – Art – Animation – Fixes: Meanwhile, Sandra has been auditing existing CU animations and implementing fixes as needed, including some significant upgrades to cape and skirt animations, plus ongoing work on a future swim locomotion animset. (Yes, we said swimming…for down the line.)
  14. WIP – Art – Weapons
    1. The art team filled out more of the CU armory this month, completing the concepts for new parry daggers, maces, and hammers for all realms.
    2. 3D followed suit with the weapon concepts already completed, finishing modeling on the curved blades and parry daggers.
  15. WIP – Art – Races
    1. Joe, Scott, and Jon are completing work on the final armor sets in the long list of fits for the newest CU races: Valkyrie, Hamadryad, and St’rm. The St’rm underlayers and armor sets are in the last steps of rigging, with the Hamadryad sets a bit further along in the equipment set-up stages in editor.
    2. Thor has wrapped up work on the male Cait Sith models, which are now fully modeled, textured, and ready to be fit to the proper rig for eventual animation.
  16. WIP – Art – Realm Artifacts
    1. This month, concept finished out the full color breakdowns for both remaining realm artifact kits: the Viking and the TDD. With all three realm kits now concepted, we can move onto 3D modeling across the board and eventually spawning these assets in live environments.
    2. To kick off the 3D phase for the Viking kit models, Jon has completed his sculpt on the realm’s wolf statue. He will move onto tackling the TDD stag statue next.
  17. WIP – Art – Environment – Golden Plains
    1. This month we’re rolling out additional upgrades to the improved Golden Plains zone, consisting of new work on everything from better grayboxing to all new assets. The zone is accessible via the same Golden Plains portals located in the biome portal section of each realm’s home island.
    2. As mentioned when we first opened up the new zone for testing, this map is by far our largest currently running, and contains both the improved Golden Plains tileset, as well as planned expansions for other biomes. Players who reach the edges of the map during this testing period will see we’ve put up some graybox wall barriers around the playable area, to separate the March Golden Plains updates from our newer, gnarlier, still-under-construction areas beyond it.
    3. This build features the usual collection of asset clean up, including spawn testing and more golden-hued grass cards. It also contains entirely new assets: namely, better rocks, oak trees in multiple variants, and ground scatterable assets to fill out the environment.
    4. The build has been hooked up to a new style pack as well, which improves the light and fog settings throughout the zone for better ambience during all times of day.
    5. We’ve also done a higher detail pass on our graybox sets. The majority of base blocks used in the original zone have been replaced with proxy sets that resemble actual structures, like farmhouses, fences, windmills, hay bales, stables, and other more specific environmental kits. We’ll use these assets to mock out design considerations like scale and distance, and continue refining them in this graybox space until we’ve locked in use cases enough to build out the true, fully-sculpted and textured props.

And onward to art!

With Melee 2.0 kicked off last month, and plenty of stats work underway, art continues to work through the long list of weapons needed in the name of better CU combat. This month we completed concepts on a few new weapon groups, including the common maces seen below alongside some dev notes from production: Arthurian, TDD, and Viking from left to right.

From here, we’ll move these pieces through the pipeline to 3D and eventual hook-up in-game, for creation via the Make job on your Vox. Until then, here’s a sneak peek of what they’ll look like when actually wielded (and, in fairness, a scale reference used by the artists – we love multitasking).

Next up, the concepts for all three realm artifact kits are now complete! Each of these prop sets contains environmental assets that evoke realm identity, with the ultimate goal of populating them in territory controlled by that realm. This means the kits contain everything from run of the mill lampposts, to the more imposing realm statues – or, in some cases, majestic statues, like you can see with the TDD stag.

Then again, some statues are both. With the Viking realm artifact concepts finished as well, Jon’s already wrapped up work on their realm’s statue, the Viking wolf.

From Viking canines, we move onto Arthurian felines. Thor completed the male Cait Sith models this month, known for their regal and ferocious natures – and, internally, for being pretty texture-intensive. We recommend Arthurians keep a lint roller handy.

This month’s CU build highlights another pass on the upgraded Golden Plains zone. This revised map builds on the progress of the initial rollout, including the usual spawn clean up and improvement and expansion of the zone size. (It’s a big one, y’all.)

We’ve also added entirely new assets to the map. In addition to a large oak tree and some smaller (and less poly-heavy) variants, we’ve populated the zone with rock clusters that blend far better into the rest of the terrain, and color-corrected grass to put the “Golden” back in Golden Plains. Michelle’s updated the style pack for the zone as well, making for better atmospheric light and fog effects throughout all times of day.

Last but certainly not least, we’ve done another pass on the grayboxes distributed throughout the zone. Originally these pieces were, without exclusion, big featureless blocks used to sketch out future gameplay areas in the zone. We’ve since updated these areas so the graybox assets better resemble specific environmental props: farmhouses, fences, forts, bridges, even individual hay bales. More specific grayboxes make for better testing, especially in regards to scale, and will help us identify exact gameplay specifications before we start the much less flexible process of producing bespoke props.

So, you can see the progress we’re making on a lot of fronts. I hope you enjoy the new updates to Golden Plains, and can see where we’re planning to go, as we use this as a template for future environment work.

For my part, while I am always excited about everything we work on, I am particularly jazzed for the upcoming launch of our European shard. We will give you plenty of time to update, so that you can participate, when we are ready to roll that out. It will be soon.

In the meantime, thanks as always for your patience and your support. See you for the next update!

– Terry