Work Shard, Play Shard (European Remix) – Friday, May 6th, 2022

Hey folks,

I know I’ve been absent from the Livestream for a while, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been absent from CU or CSE. There’s been a lot of things going on and I hope to return soon (and not soonish!). In the meantime, the team and I have stayed quite busy and this month’s update contains lots of good stuff.

As you folks may remember, I’ve been talking about opening up a European server for quite some time. Now, after a lot of work (for a game like CU, it’s not as easy as just dropping the code onto another server), we’re ready to have a weekend test on one based in Germany! This falls under the category of “things we could have done later” but I wanted to do it now, so we could have it ready for the upcoming summer. Also, you’ll notice a number of times where we talk about pulling things out, nuking (sometimes from orbit, just to be sure) code from our past, and working on things with a very forward-looking focus as well as some QoL things. All of this is important to us, and to you, our Backers, as we continue to push CU forward with an eye on getting a true game slice up and running for you folks to test/play that is fun, engaging, and a good representation of the game that we are making.

For more updates on CU, be sure to check out this month’s newsletter, as well as the Top Tenish and Q&A in this month’s livestream with Senior Producer Terry Coleman.

April 2022 End of Month CU Update (5/6/2022)

  1. Done – Tech – New European Shard
    1. First, we’re excited to announce our roll out of the newest CU shard, Esclabor! It is the first CU shard that runs off a Google instance that is based in Europe, and not the United States. We’ve been working hard to put in the necessary infrastructure over the past few months so that we can launch Esclabor this weekend. Anyone who wants to play on this shard can do so in this weekend’s playtest. Kudos to Tim and the Platform team for making this happen.
    2. This is an important step for CU both for our Backers as well as for us as developers going forward. Having multiple server stacks spread across different geographic centers will allow us to test under post-launch conditions where players can play on any of them as we are not region-locking in North America/Europe as we promised during our Kickstarter campaign. Couple of quick notes:
    3. You will want to allow plenty of time for download/update time, so plan accordingly.
    4. We’ll be updating the patcher for Europe at a later date.
  2. WIP – Design – Siege Ability Tree: Kara is back with us after some new baby time and she has been tracking down all things siege! She’s been reviewing everything from Siege Engines, to abilities, to interactions and much more, and putting these together to build out the first pass of a Siege ability tree. For more detail on that investigation and the potential new siege designs to come out of it, be sure to check out this month’s newsletter.
  3. WIP – Design – Biome Allocation of Reagents and Substances: Kara has taken some time to review the homeland biomes (Golden Plains, Verdant Forest, and Frozen Tundra), and concepted out materials that could be found there. With this came a minor balance pass on new reagents for alchemy. We should see more on this in the coming weeks.
  4. WIP – Design – Bug Fixes
    1. Updated Shout abilities so that Shouts that target enemies will properly play FX on them
    2. Fixed a data bug with maximum character size which allowed giants to get so large they would no longer drown
    3. Fixed how penalty statuses for running out of fortitude are applied
    4. Modified ability costs for blood and stamina use to better match recent resource pool updates
    5. Fixed the positions of a number of misaligned buildings in the RvR2 zone
  5. WIP – Tech – Gameplay Defs Library: We’ve been restructuring our gameplay defs code in order to create a low level library that understands the static definition code, without having to be dependent on the whole code base. Work continues on this task, but we’re getting close to the end.
  6. WIP – Tech – Animation Improvements: MikeD is working on some long-standing improvements to how animations blend with each other during complex combined actions, such as running-while-attacking-while-jumping. These issues have persisted for quite a long time, so this effort represents a polish pass that brings character animation even closer to nearly seamless blending under all circumstances.
  7. WIP – Tech – NPC Behavior Upgrades: After several major upgrades to our behavior system over the past year, we are left with a mix of NPC behaviors: the older versions with limited capabilities; and the “new hotness” used by more sophisticated NPCs (like Keep Lords), that employ much more efficient and flexible hierarchical reasoning to operate in the world. Lee is working on upgrading all behaviors to the new system, so that we have a single unified approach for all NPCs. This will ultimately allow us to more easily build interesting behaviors for CU as new gameplay features come online that require complex NPC interactions.
  8. WIP – Tech – Interactions Tech Improvements: Rob is devoting time to improving how interactions work in the engine, so as to unify the code that deals with both player and NPC use of items (e.g. siege engines, doors, etc.) and other entities. This effort represents a long-time desire of the gameplay team to clean up interaction code that has been difficult to expand with new features. Once complete, Rob’s work will allow the gameplay team to more easily improve existing interaction mechanics, as well as develop new features involving them.
  9. WIP – Tech – Patch Client and Launcher Improvements
    1. The patcher/launcher is actually made of up two parts: the patch client, and the launcher. The launcher is the UI/graphical part that you guys interact with. It tells the patch client what to download and install, keeps you posted on progress, and talks to the shards to get you information about characters and such. The patch client does all the downloading and tracking of assets and resources, and actually runs everything behind the scenes.
    2. We’ve internally updated several of the core modules that make up the Launcher. This comes with a ton of performance, stability, and security improvements. We’ve also stripped out a ton of code that wasn’t being used or was overly complex, which makes it easier for us to maintain.
    3. We’ve updated the patch client to be 64 bit. We intentionally kept it as a 32 bit application for a long time so that you could run it on really old computers, and it could give you a message that our games won’t run on your PC. The vast majority of PCs are running 64 bit processors these days, so that’s less of a concern, and we’re also moving that responsibility to the installer rather than the patch client. This will fix the occasional out-of-memory crash in the patch client when trying to download a bunch of large assets simultaneously. It also reduces the complexity of the code and makes it easier to work on.
    4. While we’re in the patch client doing low level work related to the 64 bit upgrade, we found a few places where we could get some easy download speed improvements and capitalized on them. We’re seeing significantly faster download speeds for most users.
    5. We’ve also improved the build and deployment pipeline for the launcher, making it easier for us to make and release new builds.
    6. There’s still a bunch of bug fixes and testing that need to happen around all this work. There are a lot of important systems that have been upgraded, tweaked, and refactored. If we break the patch client, it’s very difficult for us to patch it, so we want this rigorously tested before it goes out. But there’s exciting things coming down the pipe, for both the patch client and the launcher.
  10. WIP – Tech – Server Instance Allocator (SIA)
    1. The proxy manager is the system responsible for creating the instances that the user proxies run on. It’s critical to our ability to dynamically scale up to the massive battles we want. It was one of our very first systems that interacted with cloud-based APIs and has remained relatively unchanged since it was created.
    2. Recently we’ve built a newer system that we call the Server Instance Allocator. It’s a more powerful, more robust, alternative to the proxy manager that integrates everything we’ve learned about the cloud and scalability over the years. That being said, the proxy manager was so integral to the operations of our game servers that it was a delicate procedure to replace with the SIA. So for a while the proxy manager has been managing proxies, and the SIA has been managing every other runtime allocated instance. This meant that any time there was something related to the cloud that needed to be updated, we had to do it in two places.
    3. We’ve finally gotten the time to sit down and exercise the proxy manager and wholesale replace it with the SIA. This is largely a behind-the-scenes sort of improvement that you guys will hopefully never notice. What it means for us is we have less code to maintain, less double-work to do, and more features available with regards to managing proxies and scalability.
  11. Done – Tech – Editor – DevExpress Removal: After several weeks of work, we have completely removed DevExpress, a third-party paid controls suite, from our codebase. While there was nothing intrinsically wrong with DevExpress itself, in order to upgrade our codebase we had to choose between buying more DevExpress upgrades, or spending the time to remove them. The key here was that only a handful of our engineers could compile and run the game tools, due to the restrictions we were under. Now that DevExpress has been removed, we have a path towards upgrading our managed code to the best that .NET has to offer. More importantly, all CSE engineers are able to assist in maintaining the game tools, which will be a big help for the entire team going forward.
  12. WIP – Tech – Editor – Object Placement: This month Wylie has been working on some major renovations to our world editor’s object placement system. In addition to cleaning up the underlying framework, he’s adding more features to speed up the editing process and significantly improve the artists’ quality of life. Initial upgrades to our cloning tools have already landed, with more tools related to manipulation of object groups on their way.
  13. WIP – Art – Races – Armor Fitting
    1. All existing armor sets have now been properly fitted for our trio of new racial rigs: the St’rm, Hamadryad, and Valkyrie. This was a lengthy but necessary process to ensure all of the new races can properly use armor originally modeled for humans, without interfering with new racial features like wings and tails.
    2. With the major sculpting for the Cait Sith models finished up from last month, the 3D and animation teams are now knocking out the armor fits for this new race as well. They’ll be working down the list of existing Arthurian armor sets to line up and rig each set to the player models, as they did with the previous three races.
  14. WIP – Art – Weapons
    1. Dave has completed concepts on another group of common rarity CU weapons: the two-handed hammers and medium hammers. These will join the 3D queue for modeling as we continue to work through all the weapons specified by combat design.
    2. In the meantime, Jon has finished the previous round of weapon concepts by sculpting the common maces, soon to be set up for use in-game.
  15. WIP – Art – Quality of Life: Jon has also been knocking out a number of quality of life improvements to our current in-game assets, including armor sets, statues, and some NPCs. Item sets, such as Arthurian Black Knight armor, and characters, like the realm Keep Lords, now have improved LODs and materials as needed. We’ll be continuing this process as new opportunities for improvement arise.
  16. WIP – Art – Realm Artifacts: 3D is also progressing through the concepts for our realm artifact kits. The Viking set has now been fully sculpted, providing a number of realm-specific props for beautification of Viking areas in-game and for initial implementation of the realm artifacts design. The TDD set is up next which, once completed, will round out the list of fully-modeled realm artifact kits.
  17. WIP – Art – Animation – Swimming: Sandra finished edits on our first-pass swim locomotion animation this month. This prototype animation will help us test out swim locomotion with an eye on both gameplay application and animation system interactions, for eventual implementation down the road.
  18. WIP – Art – Animation – Melee 2.0: Meanwhile, Scott has created additional animations to round out our original set of Melee 2.0 Heavy Fighter attacks. Human male Black Knight characters will now have access to new animations for left-handed attacks and new weapon loadouts, including dual-wield and spear permutations.

And onward to art!

First up this month, the CU armory continues to grow! April was all about hammers as concept completed work on common rarity two-handed hammers and the medium hammer set (seen below) for all realms.

Completed concepts have made their way through 3D as well. Last month’s common mace set is now fully-modeled and queued up for in-game implementation, for short term use in combat and longer-term use as potential weapon components in the crafting system.

3D has also finished out the newest set of realm artifacts in the form of the Viking kit! With Jon having already completed the wolf statue for this realm, we’ve now modeled out the rest of the set to be used for set dressing in Viking-affiliated territories.

Speaking of statues, Jon also knocked out the last remaining realm artifact statue of our three major animal sculpts: the TDD stag. This majestic bit of realm decor will join the rest of the TDD props once sculpted to let players know what zones are under TDD control – so Arthurians and Vikings, just make sure to keep your head on a swivel if you’re close enough to admire these sculpts in-game.

April also saw the art team doing some spring cleaning, updating materials and LODs on assets that could use a little extra TLC. Jon continued along the statue theme to do a clean up pass on the serpent statues in-game, brightening up the stone and bringing out the color contrast in the materials.

Last but not least, Heavy Fighters will be happy to hear we’ve added some new animations this month – including those for left-handed attacks, and for right-handed attacks using new weapon loadouts. We encourage all human male Black Knight southpaws and dual-wielders to try out the new animations in-game.

It’s always fun when we can end the month with lots of things accomplished, especially things that we have promised. As I’ve always said, we don’t make a lot of promises, but I did promise that our EU players would have their own server(s), that we would test on said server(s), and that we would not treat them as second-class citizens. This represents another step, in a series of steps, that we have taken to do so. And this is not a “one-shot” test: testing on our European server(s) will now become part of our testing regiment so that our devs/Backers will always see what it’s like to be on the “other side of the pond” while playing CU. I hope you all enjoy the experience, and please tell us what you think on our Forums.

As I always say, we thank you all very much for your support and patience. I hope that this update and future ones show you that our commitment to CU hasn’t wavered even if I haven’t been “front and center” over the last few months. My absence has been a mixture of bad timing, work, and a number of “life happens” stuff. 🙂

Again, thank you and I hope the “Merry Month of May” is indeed merry for all of you and your family and friends.

– Mark