An update post from last December notes that some features from the early access build had to be cut in order to make it available “as soon as possible,” but it also goes on to list other things that the early release will have like buyable real estate, a system that lets players hold territory as a count, and castle capturing. The early access build will also feature four counties and a new island that continues the tutorial.
The literal application of “spreadsheets in space” for EVE Online is taking one step closer to reality. The game’s integration with spreadsheet software Microsoft Excel, which was unveiled at last year’s EVE Fanfest, is now ready to start taking names for an upcoming closed beta test of the feature.
The AI Features team started the year enabling AI characters to throw grenades. This involved work in multiple areas, including new logic for when to throw grenades to ensure a challenge without overwhelming the player, parabola collision checking to ensure the grenade lands correctly, and animation so that the AI looks correct when throwing.
January also saw the implementation of ‘attack’ and ‘defend’ areas, which can be assigned to AI characters to direct and control fighting in specific ways. On the most basic level, the defend area limits where NPCs are positioned when fighting, whereas the attack area limits where they target. When assigned either area, NPCs will prepare to fight by equipping their weapons and taking ready stances before moving to the area on high alert (so perception happens quickly and perception reactions are skipped). When defending, AI will move to a cover point inside the area and defensively peek out. When attacking, they will use the existing investigate behavior to search for hostile forces.
“The attack area is great for building pressure on the player, whereas the defend area can provide the player with a tough challenge as AI are hunkered down and ready to fight. The implementation of this feature involved reusing existing systems in new ways – changing the tactical queries (positional and target selection) to take into consideration the attack or defend area that the AI may have.” AI Team
Late last year, AI Tech completed the first iteration of NPCs driving ground vehicles. Last month, they fixed several related bugs as more designers began using the feature.
They also progressed with the feature that enables NPCs to use transit systems (like elevators) and move between platforms. This time, they focused on NPCs using trains to move between locations. This required exposing new functionality on the transit manager and more complex behaviors before and during transit. New functionality includes providing more information about the gateways at specific destinations and information about carriages, such as time spent at a destination and time until arrival.
On the locomotion side, the team added further support for ‘soft stops’ and separated them from ‘harsh stops.’ A soft stop means that an NPC will choose the best animation for stopping even if it will overshoot its destination, while a harsh stop will attempt to stop immediately. Locomotion support was also given for bug fixing and alien-creature movement.
For the Subsumption Apollo tool, the team progressed with implementing feedback and bug fixing. They also added new functionality to the Subsumption mastergraph, making it possible to have functions on top of transitions to determine whether a state transition can be done.
The Usable Coordinator was also completed, which allows the designers to specify a selection of usables for NPCs in specific areas and prioritize the order of selection.
The feature that allows NPCs to perceive threats through audio and visual stimuli and react to hostile vehicles was completed. In a related area, further updates were made to the behavior that enables NPCs reacting to stimuli to enter combat.
AI Tech started work on two new features: One allows overrides for navigation mesh generation so that the team can create navigation meshes for specific agents in narrow areas. For example, this will enable NPCs to traverse areas where only a crouched state is possible, such as vents and underfloor areas.
The second feature enables the team to mark areas with increased navigation cost, which will influence the path chosen by NPCs. This will be used to create areas that NPCs should avoid, like areas with fire, or to encourage them to travel on specific areas, like a sidewalk.
They also supported Alpha 3.18 and allocated time to tech debt to update some of the AI system’s functionalities.
AI (Vehicles Features)
The Vehicle Feature team focused on space combat AI improvements in January. The intent is to have combat AI behave in a more dynamic way that encourages players to move and explore the various ship mechanics. This involved breaking the AI into different well-defined trees, which will help players to identify what kind of enemies they’re up against. These improvements also allow the easier integration of more maneuvers to further increase the skill level and interest of higher-level ships.
Similarly, AI Vehicle Features worked on a new behavior logic to deliver improved atmospheric flight combat. This is intended to work with the ‘control surface’ feature being developed by the Vehicle Feature team and will lead to AI ships tailing and chasing players to get behind them, flying more like a plane when appropriate.
Alongside embedded work for the various feature teams, facial animations were developed for emotes and background characters, such as the female vendor.
In January, the Character Art team began production of the ‘frontier environmental wear’ costumes and polished the frontier undersuit.
Character Concept progressed with concept exploration for the Rough and Ready gang, fauna, and the Dusters faction.
In the UK, the Art team continued work on the ‘small ship’ mentioned in last month’s report, with certain elements reaching LOD0-complete. They also began exploring ideas for a variant.
The Argo SRV progressed through final art. Final polish is currently underway on the exterior before the LOD and damage passes begin. The interior continued through final art and received a LOD pass.
Development of the Crusader Spirit continued, which passed its whitebox review, with the A1 variant moving into the greybox phase.
“The exterior is shaping up nicely with the key forms all established and all major elements, like landing gear and VTOLs, resolved. The interior is coming along and we’re very pleased with the space so far, though there are a few visual changes we’d like to make to the doorways to emphasize Crusader’s visual language.” Ship Team
A previously unannounced ground vehicle passed its greybox sanity review before the artwork progressed to LOD0. The exterior is almost finalized, only requiring additional detail, while the interior is progressing well.
The US team completed art whitebox for another in-production vehicle, which was then passed to the Systems Design team.
Greybox began on another ship. Half the team focused on the main fuselage geometry, while the other prototyped a new way to enter and exit the ship.
Finally for Ships, an all-new vehicle entered greybox, and a new set of alien paints was created for a future release.
The Community team kicked off the new year by announcing the winners of the Luminalia Holiday Card and Luminalia Screenshot contests.
They then supported the Red Festival 2953 celebrations, including the Moons of Fortune contest. In addition to the now-persistent red envelopes of 2953, long-time players received the Red Festival envelopes from the previous three celebrations as in-game collector’s items. Furthermore, players could claim three wooden roosters.
Community also supported the return of the Siege of Orison Dynamic Event with an in-depth guide.
Thoughout January, Community continued to work on the “Events Feature” which is a new section coming to the Community Hub next week. They also worked closely with Turbulent on other exciting additions such as text posts, bug fixes, etc.
They are planning out new Community Events as well, coming to a bar near you.
Also in January, Community welcomed a new bilingual Community Manager to the LA office, and we’re excited to introduce them soon.
In January, the Physics team’s schedule was dominated by Alpha 3.18 bug fixing and support. Aside from this, triangle vertex and normal transforms for physics triangle meshes were rewritten to use SSE/AVX, which saves 30% of the cost. Furthermore, the physicalization method for ropes can now be chosen per rope entity.
On the renderer, various optimizations were implemented into Gen12 (partly based on telemetry gathered during Alpha 3.18 PTU). Among other things, this included performance improvements for transient lists recording draw requests, a special submission for scene rendering with reduced thread synchronization, and a reduction of calls into the OS for general multi-threading purposes. Additionally, renderer initialization was refactored to prepare for Vulkan. Last month’s Gen12 support for particle refraction now also works as intended.
On the core engine, further improvements were made to the remote shader compiler. Last month’s work on adding support for huge pages was rolled out internally. Huge pages are now also used within the low-level memory allocator (JeMalloc). To further reduce the executable size of the Linux DGS, the ‘gold linker’ is now utilized to fold identical functions and various compiler-generated data inside binaries. Page heap is now also supported for entities, which use a special allocator, to make debugging memory corruptions easier. Lastly, more work was done to support v2 of the pk4 files introduced at the end of last year in the internal development tools.
Features (Arena Commander)
Throughout January, the team focused on polishing the new Arena Commander frontend and racing tracks, including placing the New Horizon Speedway tracks above a new planet, Green III of the Ellis System. Some adjustments were also made to the racetracks themselves to suit the new earth-like atmosphere. The team also experimented with new loadout selection previews on the frontend alongside polishing its style and flow.
Work continued on the Classic Race refactor, with the first version of the new Race Manager and checkpoint setups being tested and feedback addressed. Optimizations and additions, such as splits, qualifying, and new analytic data, were made alongside improvements to time accuracy. The refactors of both the Rounds and Spawning modules continued across Arena Commander and Star Marine. This refactor sees the code drastically improved and brought up to current standards while providing more modularity for new features. It also tackles some of the problem areas that prevented expansion of the old systems, such as separating unintended connections to PU characters, validating loadouts, and adding the ability to change the ship selection while in-game.
Features (Characters & Weapons)
Last month, the Features team continued to support the upcoming patch release with critical bug fixes, specifically issues relating to the cargo system, tractor beam, and inventory. They fixed several client and server crashes too.
They also worked on the player skills feature. This tracks certain player activities and actions with minimal hooks into the gameplay feature logic and with an emphasis on performance. From the data and events gathered, players can improve certain aspects of their performance. For example, a player with a higher level of fitness may have more stamina or consume stamina at a slower rate.
The team has been working on better support for the player playing animations triggered by environmental interactions, such as a character physically opening a locker door or pressing buttons on a vehicle dashboard. These are either quick or decorative action sequences with a large focus on reusability to scale with the amount of planned content. There’s a lot of balancing to ensure it increases immersion with minimal impact on responsiveness.
The EU team continued work on the tractor beam, this time focusing on ‘escaping’ mechanics, such as how shields affect the required strength of a tractor beam to secure a ship. A prototype was built to test the potential and help decide whether average shield strength or per-shield-face determines the required strength. Additionally, the team began work on detaching and attaching items with the tractor beam, which is an expansion of the attaching-to-cargo-grid feature.
A clearer direction for the expected ship engineer gameplay was also defined. This involved determining the gameplay beats and planning the possible malfunctions and dangers players will face while maintaining their ships.
Additionally, the ongoing mining balance update progressed well, with small changes that have bigger impacts being added to the system. For Salvage, Gameplay Features helped Missions prepare to use the mechanic in new content.
In the US, Gameplay Features continued with the overall design for loading and unloading physicalized cargo, and designs for missions that leverage the new cargo systems kicked off. These missions will also utilize the boarding actions now available with soft death alongside the retrieval of containers or other objects of interest.
Investigation and preliminary design work started on changes to ship insurance and how it works in conjunction with ship destruction. These changes are necessary to make towing and repairing either at stations or in space a better choice.
Tasks were started for a change to commodities, including the locations they can be bought and sold from. For example, changes to mining locations will impact the location and prices for mined and refined ores at commodity brokers.
The majority of the Mission Feature team’s month was spent addressing bugs and balancing for Alpha 3.18. Progress was also made on the design and prototyping of various new missions, including salvage.
“The order we are tackling these missions is based on when we receive the necessary support, so the first missions produced will be the more simplistic salvage ones. These include a lawful contract in which players must pay for the location of salvage, an unlawful timed mission in which players must strip a ship quickly or deal with inbound hostiles, a lawless mission in which multiple players pay for the location of the same large salvage opportunity, and one in which players must restore a ship using nearby wrecks for materials.” Mission Features
A mining mission was also prototyped in which players purchase the location of a valuable prospect. There are currently three variants: lawful, which takes place in a monitored zone and has friendly defenses to protect against hostiles; unlawful, where players seize legally owned mining claims; and lawless, which takes place in unmonitored zones and can be accepted by multiple players.
The team are also developing larger missions set on the Orison platforms. These task players with either preventing the Nine Tails gang from stealing Crusader Industries prototype parts or stealing them for another criminal organization.
A few other missions progressed through the design and work on Bounty Hunting v2 and the Mission Manager update continued.
Finally for Mission Features, designs for defending player ships from intruders and ship-based hostility were worked on. These features are intended to replace the simplistic hostility currently in-game where ships remember the hostility of their last pilot or turn hostile the moment a hostile player steps aboard.
In-Game Branding (Montreal)
Last month, the In-Game Branding team progressed with their work on the Lorville skyline. They then transitioned to Invictus Launch Week, including a refresh of the DefenseCon branding, which will become the main focus for the upcoming weeks. Progress continued on the brand catalog too.
Lighting began the year making progress in several key areas, including tidying and bug-fixing Area18 to restore its intended appearance.
Work on Pyro continued, with the team lighting the interiors and exteriors of the colonial outposts and Ruin Station.
They also supported the ongoing rework of Lorville’s skyline, touching up and improving several areas around the city.
Live Tools (Montreal)
In January, the Live Tools team worked on several improvements to the local development environment tool. They’re currently finalizing the last step of implementing the Entity Graph tool into the Network Operation Center. The roadmap for 2023 projects was also refined, with the addition of new projects that will support Server Meshing.
January saw the Locations team continuing work on Pyro’s Ruin Station.
“This is a behemoth task that the team have been diligently working on and it’s looking better day on day.” EU Locations 1
EU Locations 2 progressed with the local law office mentioned in last month’s report and created new content alongside Mission Features.
The Sandbox teams further developed the colonial outposts and continued exploration and development of the underground facilities.
“Production is starting to ramp up and the team are feeling good about the work being done.” Sandbox team
The Organics team spent the month reworking areas already in the game and progressed with the art benchmark for rocky caves.
Narrative began the new year with a continued push to support the latest patch and progressed with tasks started before the holidays. This included working with the Design teams to start scripting upcoming mining and salvage mission content. They also continued developing stories for the first batch of ‘Investigation’ missions and discussed potential upcoming content.
The Environment and Design teams provided updates on new locations that will start appearing in the game to support Bounty Hunting. Narrative worked closely with them to ensure these areas align with existing lore and gameplay expectations.
Planning was also undertaken for the year ahead. Part of this included building a comprehensive resource listing all the various organizations and NPCs and what mission content they offer. This provides a single source for team members to reference when coming up with new missions. Narrative are also seeking to leverage their dedicated narrative designers to look at the current mission-giver setup as well as prototype simple story-based missions that could be placed around the various landing zones to provide additional content.
The team also published their new schedule and approach to lore dispatches.
“In short, we have scaled back on original fictional content for the website in order to focus on in-game content. The ultimate hope is that we will be able to resurrect these stories and news updates in the game.” Narrative Team
Online Services (Montreal)
In Montreal, Online Services planned the year ahead, discussing Server Meshing with the Networking team. The goal was to achieve technical design consensus and division of responsibilities between the teams in order to deliver the feature. The following week, Online Services further defined the tasks needed to achieve Server Meshing tier 0.
The remainder of the month was spent putting the final touches on Alpha 3.18’s features, including character repair, long-term persistence, insurance, and bug fixing.
Ship Tech Art / Animation
Ship Tech Art and Animation progressed with the Hull C. January saw them working on the animation and state setup for the ship’s expanded cargo mode.
Tech animation and damage support was provided for several ships in the pipleline, and all ships were reviewed alongside QA to ensure that relevant component attachments can take damage.
They also enabled shader damage scraping on various ship attachments and fixed several hull-scraping issues on ship bodies.
The UI Tech team continued to support Alpha 3.18, ironing out any remaining issues with the way the vehicle and character loadout systems interact with Persistent Streaming.
The team also helped with the Squadron 42 Starmap, which will eventually make its way into PU. The current focus is on adding navigation aids, such as grids and coordinates, improving the sizing of planets and markers, and adding visual polish.
Last month, VFX carried out several CPU-to-GPU particle library conversions, starting with vehicles.
“The sheer number of existing libraries, combined with new content being added all the time, means it can sometimes be tricky for the team to revisit and update the older libraries. We are getting there, though!” VFX Team
Elsewhere, pre-production began on some new locations, including a huge underground facility and rock caves.
The team also continued with the snag list mentioned last month. While some of this was done in the Alpha 3.18 workspace, it was continued in staging-content when Alpha 3.18 was locked down in the build-up to release.