Monthly Development Update – Dec 3rd 2012
Sitting down to write this, I can already tell this is going to be a super-long update because there's a lot of ground to cover.
Quick announcements first:
Now that applications have been closed, you guys all have an opportunity to vote on professionals. Please refer to the sticky thread at the top of your profession's sub forum. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please contact Venachar who is heading up this effort.
Due to the Server Migration, if you are in an organization that has a president that is a deleted character, or a character on an inactive account, please contact Customer Service to get this resolved before the end of the month. And make sure there is an actual leader so we have someone to give a voucher! Related to this, organizations should chose a different government form than Anarchy (which has no leader)
You can contact CS by creating a ticket
on the web, use live chat
to talk to a representative live, or petition in game.
In last month's update, I talked about how the migration is going to work. For a nuts-and-bolts look, please refer to the "Server Migration" section in last month's update
Here's where we are now. Glossing over a lot of the boring details, basically we copied the existing database to an internal server and then used our migration scripts to move it over to a copy-of-a-copy. We then compared characters, inventories, banks, etc... from copy-of-a-copy to the original copy. This is the test of the scripts. Keep in mind, the scripts resequence IDs and unpack the blob structure which is why we just couldn't copy the live database over in the first place (due to ID collisions).
There were a small number of errors from the first round of testing, and as of writing this update they've all been fixed and pending re-testing. In some cases, the errors occurred on inactive accounts which we had to temporarily reactivate in order to investigate the issue. So if you got a mail saying your inactive account has been mysteriously reactivated, this was a temporary measure to help us investigate issues. And yes, they will be re-deactivated shortly.
Next step is testing the orgs to make sure all that data got properly moved (and fixing any issues that come up)... and then, we all migrate to a new server!
Genele has written up changes she has made to player cities during the migration, which I've listed below:
First, some of the bigger changes:
- All outdoor cities will be disabled, and players will not be able to purchase them after the migration. Organizations who own outdoor cities prior to the migration will be given a voucher.
- The rationale is that we plan to do a massive overhaul of outdoor cities in the future, and this wouldn't be possible if the existing system was in use.
- Serenity islands will be closed down, due to the size of the city plot. All medium city buildings will be removed, so a medium city plot will no longer be needed.
- Coast of Peace, Coast of Tranquility, 3 Craters East and 3 Craters West have been closed.
- Two completely new instanced city playfields will be added to the game: a large plot, and a small plot. The large playfield is a mountain-top, and the small plot is a desert oasis. The entrance to these cities can be found in ICC HQ in Andromeda.
- The Oasis is intended for organizations (or 1-man operations) that want to absolutely minimize upkeep costs at the expense of restrictions on number of buildings.
- The Mountaintop should have enough space for all buildings and will be the city choice for most organizations, but has increased upkeep costs.
Each beneficial building you place in your city will increase the monthly upkeep of the city. So we've moved to a different model here in terms of "how much does your city cost" to better reflect usage, and offer meaningful choice in terms of what buildings an organization decides to build. Because of this change, the base upkeep of the city plots have been reduced. This change will allow small organizations to afford a large city plot and they will be able to place more beneficial buildings as they expand and can afford a higher upkeep.
Specific changes to buildings:
- Social buildings will not increase the monthly upkeep of the city.
- Some buildings will be removed completely: Markets, the large ECM Tower and Medium HQs.
- All beneficial buildings will become nodrop and will be sold in new vending machines in the tower shop. New social buildings will also be sold there.
- Some city advantages will change:
- Guard House provides Heal Delta at all the specified Quality Levels.
- Landing Pad provides Vehicle Air and Run Speed at all the specified Quality Levels.
- Swimming Pool only provides Body Dev.
- Organization Headquarters no longer provide Run Speed.
- A punching bag has been added to the Notum Silo.
- The grid house now allows you to enter the grid.
I've been playing the new client.
Let me stress how cool this is. We've talked a lot about the back-end work we've been doing on the engine. Before, if I wanted to see the engine I had to walk over to a coder's desk and then he hits compile and there's the new engine. Now, Macrosun can give me a .rar and I can unpack it on my machine and without having any tools or development environment installed on my machine
I can run around in the new engine, and play it. We can now build and compile, and deploy as a standalone piece of software that patches and updates and does all the things one would expect a game-client to do. The coders did some fantastic magic to get this to work, and I can't compliment them enough on getting it up and running.
So why don't you have it yet?
Couple of reasons. I posted some screenshots below, and if you notice doors are about 20 feet away from where they should be (Parsed is fixing). Grass isn't in (Macrosun is working on). Ground-tile alignment (Vhab). Vhab fixed water and it looks amazing, but in some places it's flowing uphill & lacks depth calculations. There are some gamma issues with some playfields and sRGB. New character models/heads aren't in yet (although, Adamse will be finished in the next week or so). So there are issues, but we're very close to something we can get out there.
But most importantly, the new client needs to run against version 18.7 because that's where we are fixing things. I can run it against 18.7 internally, but unfortunately you guys will have to wait until it makes its way to the Live server.
So, here are some screenshots that I took running around. Un-altered except for some minor cropping in mspaint. (click to resize the image)...
Known issues that you may notice (What's missing/broken):
- No new grass
- Ground-tile alignment (specifically with asphalt)
- Placement of doors
- New/high-poly character models not added
- Gamma w/ sRGB (some shots are a bit darker than they should be)
I also want to take the time to briefly reiterate some things that I've previously said
The new engine gives us three major things:
- Performance (utilizes GPUs)... and I have to say, I get a higher framerate with the new engine than the old engine.
- DX9 features -- this is stuff like shadows, lighting, god-rays, and so forth.
- The capability to have more detailed assets (buildings, characters, etc).
See, that last point is what's interesting. When we make a new asset for the new engine, we can give it a higher poly count, as well as spec maps, normal maps, detail maps, and self-illumination. These are things modern engines use to make everything from a building to a person look "realistic." The fancier you make the asset, the more time it takes.
Since AO is huge, for most assets we don't have time to remake them. We simply convert them from the data format of the old engine to the new engine, and put them in. Note this is not a trivial process.
For the most part, what you are looking at in those screenshots, is old buildings in the new engine (Tir and Borealis do have new buildings, but not everything).
So really there will be two quality levels when we get the new engine out. Old assets in the new engine, and new assets made for the new engine. The new player experience, for example, has all new assets. Most things won't. So I wanted to use screenshots that were representative of how most things will look, and not the (small) number of scenes we'll be able to spend a lot of time on when the engine update is open externally.
Genele and Mstrbstrd are finishing up the New Player Experience. There are minor things to take care of (shops, world-building fixes, etc). The playfield hasn't been added to the new engine client yet, so I can't post screenshots.
Now that 18.5.4 is out
, the next big milestones are 18.6 & 18.7. While we might do smaller updates in between (18.6.x, for example), these are the ones to watch for. 18.6 is the server migration, and 18.7 is the Engine Update beta. New Player Experience will be ready to go with the engine update.
Also confirmed with the Steam guys that the overlay crash is something we need to look at on our end. Unfortunately, our coders haven't had time to look at it. They've been highly focused on all the above.
happening -- all the assets are made and 95% of the work is done. It just happens to be a lower priority than the Engine Update and Server Migration, and coders are really on a roll with those.
And yes... seasonal content it's coming. Our winter holiday content was patched into the game at the same time as the Halloween content, so sometime next week we'll turn it on (doesn't require an update). There will be a whole post about this.
Next monthly update will be second week in January, due to the holidays.