For the past few weeks we’ve been focused on attempting to finish many features that have been in development for a while. Often these features are connected with each other so you need to wait until you have all the pieces in place before you can do a final pass. And as you can imagine this part is often the most challenging.
We released Testing 170, and plan to do another 1 or 2 testing releases before bringing the latest features across to Live.
The following major features are still in development:
- Lance mêlée combat and clearly differentiating it from ranged combat - not much progress in the past few weeks. We have a solid core mechanic in game, that encourages combat to be controlled and precise whilst feeling physical as impacts result in feedback on creature motion. This might not sound like much, but it non trivial once you’re dealing with variable latency and impossible player prediction. We need to make sure that the presentation of the combat feels weighty and this is currently on the art and design teams todo list.
- Bomb crafting and combat - almost ready, just needs the status effect system to be complete.
- Positive and negative status effects for bombs, weapons, the environment and creatures - almost ready - just needs the creatures to trigger and respond to elements.
- Creature variation, including: Power ranges, Elemental, Non-Elemental and Exotic creatures - almost ready - just need to make sure all the variables are considered in the creature spawning. Connecting the creature tinting to the world and biome palettes will not happen until later in development.
- Creature spawning, including: underground, swarms and world difficulty variation - still in development - just need to make sure it’s configured as expected across the different world difficulty levels. We want to make sure that the environements feel alive with variation.
- 1.0 balance for player progression, player skills and abilities, resource spawning, and world difficulty - gradual iteration - player feedback is extremely valuable.
- Finally completing the HUD and GUI - will it ever end?
- Server and Client optimisations to reduce network traffic, reduce the cost of player and creature simulation - we continue to reduce, cache, delta and compress the communications between the client and server.
- … and more - details below.
Code - July 21st
A new multi-segment (string of sausages) health bar has been implemented to show relative scale of health more obviously as multiple segments. The damage indicator has been revamped to better show direction and there is now an air bar to show when you are drowning. The air bar is now separated from stamina.
The reworked creature spawning has been completed with the creatures spawning more often and closer than before so are more discoverable. The system despawns creatures into a pool that reduces the cost while allowing the populations density to be high and their state persistent. This is an essential foundation to allow more creatures into the worlds, especially for spawning raid events.
We have further optimised the network traffic to reduce bandwidth, especially for some of the large data items such as beacons and achievements. The server optimisations continue to allow more users on the worlds.
We have been analysing the portal transitions to see causes of the portal lag and have fixed several causes of spikes that lower FPS. This is often done by amortising creation and destruction costs over multiple frames. For example, this has always been done for meshing chunks, but it’s now done for deleting the chunks as well.
The multiple character backend support is being tested and last few issues resolved.
Code - July 28th
The latest features have been pushed to the Steam Testing branch in Testing 170.
A reworking of the creature threat-aggro mechanic is underway to stop crazed creatures and return tranquility to the wildstock. The creature spawning update is in, so players should now find more creatures as they explore the worlds. We are working on the AI behaviour to sleep more creatures when they are far from users to help keep the CPU cost down.
We’ve started on an update to how the shaped blocks (step, walls, and slabs) are made so that they will be chiseled in world from blocks rather than crafted. Many more block types will support shapes. (More details below.)
We’ve been implementing refinements to the smart stacking behaviour, so you can use them with quick use slots. Status effect icons are being added to show when you’re poisoned, etc. The backend multi-character support is ironing out the last few issues before merging it in.
We’ve fixed the main causes of frame drops when transitioning to new world through portals, so it should be a smoother experience. We also completed a pass on network traffic optimisations, especially for larger data cases. We’ve also been profiling the servers for RAM use to get more users on each world.
Code - August 4th
The HUD work is focusing on the compass to show more useful information more often to users. The GUI completed the smart stack improvements, such as being able to hold a given item in a stack. We also have a local placement student (hi Maxime!) who has been reworking the debug ‘.’ text into a debug GUI window. This will make it easier to find information and tidy everything up.
The multiple character back end is merged in to the master branch and we have started work on the GUI to allow users to create, (re)name, switch to, and delete their characters.
Should Character names be unique? Or can many players create characters with the same name?
When you see a Character in the game, should we also display the user name?
Should we show Character names in the forum?
When a player deletes a Character what do you expect should happen to their beacons in the game?
We have implemented the missing slope block shapes (rotations of some existing ones that were missing, and some brand new slope shapes) and are progressing on to the new chiselled block shapes. All the new slope shapes work correctly with texture blending and will be available in prefabs and generated into new worlds’ terrain.
We’re exploring adding more Chiseling techniques into the building system. The following diagram beautifully captures the current voxel shapes, and the exploration of significantly more options. This will be quite a big change:
Teal - right shapes: We’re adding all the missing slope shapes and orientations. So they’ll no longer be shapes you can craft on the flour but not on the walls. The current slope shapes are presented in teal and beautifully highlighted. The additional shapes are below them.
Red - left shapes: We’re also exploring adding a Square Chisel that would allow players to chisel the red shapes. This will mean that you no longer need to craft the walls, slabs and steps. This may seem a bit sideways but we think it’ll make everything much more intuitive. It’ll simplify crafting because the list of recipes will no longer contain 4x the block variations: walls, slab and steps. So crafting will be simpler. Building will be easier because you’ll no longer need to worry about relative placement position to get the desired orientation. Instead you’ll simply chisel the 2 corners you want to remove to make some steps. You’ll be able to make all the currently missing step orientations, and a huge plethora of new shapes. We’re planning to limit this level of sculpting to beacons so that builds will feel extra special compared to the natural world. (These shapes will not be created by the World Builder.) If you mine a previously chiseled block you’ll always get the original whole block back. This will mean that chiselling and mining square voxel variations will follow the same flow as the current slopes. (Which you couldn’t craft or mine in the past.) So in conclusion we think this will help make everything simpler, more intuitive and ultimately more fun when being extra creative.
Green - middle shapes: We may even add a Bevel Chisel which are the voxel variations in green. If you look carefully the green combinations match all the red shapes but with a different cut style. But this is classic feature creep, so these variations may move into post 1.0 content - it’ll just depend how quickly we make progress.
All 3 chiseling styles can be achieved by “clicking on the corner you want to remove” - so they should be easy to use.
We’re also thinking about adding a simplified Square chisel that would remove 2 corners at once. This would allow you to create a Step with a single chisel, and Walls and Slabs with 2. This may be a useful short cut or might just add more complexity. What do you think?
Should we add a basic Square Chisel (which removes 2 corns at a time - so easy to make steps, walls and slabs) and a precision Square Chisel (which removed 1 corner at a time)?
Or should we add a single Square Chisel (which removes 2 corns at a time), and allow players to learn a “Precision Chiseling Skill”. Which would upgrade their basic chiseling skill to be equivalent to the precision Square Chisel. This would make Building more skill based.
Does anyone have a better names than Slope Chisel, Square Chisel and Bevel Chisel?
For progression we’ve implemented the personal light feature the skills unlock and added a level 50+ that allow users to continue to gaining plots as the gain XP.
We continue to work on reducing the chunk data to reduce network traffic and RAM use, on both the client and server.
Design - July 21st
This week we have a new(ish) starter on the team. The ever versatile Matt is back! For those of you that don’t know him he’s been with us in various stints doing QA, as well as building most of the biomes and worlds that you’re currently playing on. Now, having graduated from university, he’s back with us full-time as a programmer. His first focus will be around generating and analysing the metrics and analytics from the game, and that’s why for now he’s coming under the “Design” section of the weekly update. He’s been getting up to speed with the analytics systems we use, and created some interesting graphs. In future weeks he will share some of his findings with you guys. Finally the truth!
Luke has been working on a set of recipes for Bombs, Brews and Crystals which will use existing resources as well as the new gathered resources that Jess has been working on. The plan is to have resources in different biomes as well as in caves for you to find, which will be needed for some of the more advanced crafting recipes. He’s also been preparing materials to refresh the Boundless Steam pages. Up until now we’ve been pleased with keeping our player base relatively small (we’ve wanted quality rather than quantity), but now we’re going to start experimenting with bringing more players to the game to expand our testing and feedback.
Rob has tweaked the chat design from last week, and produced assets for the updated health bars and reticule information, to support Simon and Marc who’ve been implementing them. He’s also been writing up a proposal for adjusting the compass to make it more readable, as well as be more performant. Finally he’s been helping Luke prepare assets for the visibility round, as well as general promotional materials.
Ollie has been helping Matt get up to speed on the analytics, and planned out the next couple of week’s work. He’s given blocks on different worlds different health values which ties in with Simon’s work on the health bars. He’s also worked with Marc on Status Effect visualisation, stacking and removal with consumables and bombs.
Design - July 28th
Pretty much the entire design team has been on holiday this week. However, we have been agreeing on the Character switching flow for the current sanctum design. We need this flow to allow players to switch characters.
We’ve also spent some time exploring an updated compass, and how it might relate to a minimap and / or GUI map. You’ll be surprised to hear that the current compass can be extremely expensive as it sends lots of extra information to each client about the status of every other player and beacon. This isn’t scaleable. So we’ve been redesigning it to make it more efficient, more useful to players, connect it better with the skill trees, and more readable.
Design - August 4th
This week has been very light in terms of design as Ollie, Luke and Rob have all been away on holiday.
Luckily Matt is here, so at least the analytic work has continued. He’s been testing all the existing data in great detail, and reworked the analytics for some key systems such as progression and damage. He’s also been adding analytic data for newer systems such as beacon fuel and portal fuel.
We continued looking at the compass and making sure delivering useful and efficient details, including:
- Showing all creatures within range including a colour variation for passive, threatening, and aggressive.
- Showing the nearest Settlements and removing the Beacons.
- Introducing a new stepped scaling presentation for the glyphs, this will make it easier to judge the difference between elements 0-100m large glyph, 100-200m medium glyph, 200-500m small glyph, 500m+ nothing or a small coloured square.
- Showing the nearest active Portals.
- Showing Friends and Players.
- Always showing your designated home location, the worlds Capital, a Destination location (if pinned, and automatically unpinned on arrival) and finally any number of Pinner locations (not unpinned on arrival.)
We also spent a little time exploring the status of the original minimap system and shared a few screen shots in the following linked post. We want to explore how a HUD minimap and GUI map might world alongside the compass. Just explorations at the moment.
Art - July 21st
This week the art team have been busy with decorative props, natural props and world lighting.
Amanda is refining creature totem designs. Here’s her post on work in progress:
Jess has continued adding to our library of natural props.
And Jim has completed improved lighting for all the worlds. This should be in the game soon.
Art - July 28th
It’s been a quiet but productive week for art. Jim has overseen the completion of our set of prefabs for 1.0 and combined with Jess’s set of natural props that she also finished up this week we’re hoping our worlds will be even more full of interesting things to see in future. Amanda has been continuing with her designs for decorative props including poles, fences and more.
Art - August 4th
The art team have been busy working on decorative props including stickers, wood blook progression, palettes and the new sanctum.
Amanda has been exploring sticker designs. See her post. This is purely exploration at the moment. The question is: given that we’ll have more block shapes via the extending chiselling, is it possible that by providing packs of decorative stickers / decals - can players create their own decorations and props? Does this bridge a gap between sculpted voxels and full meshes?
She’s also working on new door designs. Expect a post sharing her cool designs next week. The aim is to have a range of multipurpose door designs that fit into the standard material variation and contribute to prestige. Ideally the door concepts would work as doors, trap doors, shutters for windows, and other creatures usages.
Jess has been designing wooden blocks following raw, refined and decorative progression. Lustrous wood refined in a ‘basket weave’ parquet pattern.
She also completed other material versions of the bag of bombs.
Jim has iterated the new sanctum blockout. Sorry this is under wraps for now till a later date. The aim of the new sanctum is include all the pre-live world features and tutorial: account creation, character creation, spawn region or friend selection, equipping and dual wielding, location creation via the Totem, and Warp usage. The design aims to inspire players about the amazing creative possibilities in Boundless. Yes - there will be some sculptures - go go go crazy chiselling!
Jim has also been looking at world palettes. We want to make an artist friendly procedural palette generator. More of this to come. Meanwhile here’s some palette experiments of Therka market.
The sky and fog is purple on all of these screens.
It’s late and I’m very tired so please excuse the likely hundreds of grammatical and spelling errors. Could someone fix them for me…