May Update Part 1 & 2

Happy Tuesday everyone and Happy Memorial Day. I hope all have had a fun and safe weekend. This post has become a rather long book, so we will be posting in parts. I wanted to make sure that we covered everything from the current issues and delays to what is being done behind the scenes and why.

We want to let you know that this is going to be a long post that will be released in five (5) parts. Here is Part 1 and Part 2.
This is not and should not be the norm, however, because of the amount of information and the long book written, we thought it best to break it up into five parts/posts for a bit of ease reading and commenting.

We do realize that a lot of this will sound the same as last month’s update, and some of it is the same. However, we have also made some good progress as well on the back end. We have found several overrides (Scripts that override HE’s default functionality) that were causing the Diffs to stop pushing some of the changes made on Dev. We have also found this month that some of these overrides are causing some issues with the Database and the ability to compile scripts. As we go through the millions of lines of code and the DB tables, we will let you know what we found and what we are doing to get this fixed.

To add to all of our frustrations (players and developers alike) and lack of an update on Live, it is not just a single issue, so not quite so easy to fix. Below we will go into some of the problems as well as some of the good things we have been able to do in the meantime to keep development going.

To note, while the programmers and engineers are going through all of the code and database, we are working on improving art, optimizing existing systems, and most of all the new and updated systems. But let us save that for the last.

Current work and difficulties:
Compiling new scripts: We are currently working to resolve the compiling issue that has held up patch A.00.00.00. We understand it is frustrating to hear that the patch is delayed, but there is a silver lining to the situation. We’ve narrowed down the primary problem to a database issue.

Since we took over, there was an occasional and inconsistent problem when we would compile scripts in Repop. However, it has become prominent and constant the last six weeks. We were finally able to find that it was due to the database having some bad tables. The additional work we had done resulted in that some of the old overrides to some of the HE default systems are at least in part the cause to this happening - this has been an eye opener for us. Though to fix this, we need to find each of the causes, get those fixed and clean up the database tables for each one of those systems.

We’ve utilized the time spent determining the nature of the error and working towards a fix to plan for the next patch and future system updates. We’ll touch on several today, and plan to bring you more detailed featurette posts in the near future. Now the hard and time consuming part is in place trying to find and fix the multiple causes.
► Long Story Short: The work we have been doing was just enough for the broken tables to just tell us, “no more!”. This is repairable, and though we have entertained the idea of a new db, that would mean basically starting over from scratch with everything.

Old Engine Overrides: An additional complication contributing to the compiling issue was tied to an icon issue caused by an override of the default library icon system. The Library Icon system is part of the HeroEngine and is only back end. It allows developers to create automatic or custom icons within the system for developers and world builders.

Since this is a core system for HeroEngine, the overrides that were in place caused things like textures not to be pushed to the Test server. It has since been corrected; One of our amazing programmers was able to find that override and get it fixed. We are now going through looking for other overrides that might or does cause issues with Compiling and with the DB. Once the compiling issue is resolved we’ll require an additional update to our QA server for testing before pushing to live.
► Long Story Short: Several of the old overrides are causing an issue with running the diffs (comparing old and new scripts and assets), this has caused errors and has built up enough over time to not allow us (for now) to be able to run the Diffs and update.

Continued Design and Development:
Despite the difficulties we face as developers and as players, development is still continuing. So this means that once we do have the patches coming out, we will have a large amount of changes coming your way over the course of a few updates.

We decided it was only fair to give you additional information of what we are doing and working on since it was taking so long to get this update out. We are going to give you a snapshot of some of what is going on behind the scenes and what you can expect to see coming your way. Please do note that there might be changes, additions or removal of some of this information based on the feedback from both the testers and players.

We aim to make The Repopulation the best we can, and will do our best to do so. This means we also recognize that until a system is in place and tested by you, the players, we very well may need to make changes for the better.

Our primary work has been focused on a) optimizing (art, terrain, world, environments and the time of day), b) review of all dialogue and missions and c) designing the new systems.

It is about Choice: This is a sandbox game, so we want to be able to introduce the players to the game but not lead them down a predesigned path like a theme park game. Choice and options are very important to us and to the players.

New Starter Island:
As we mentioned last month we are bringing in a new Starter island. This was originally only going to be the new areas (yes, multiple areas) and some optimized art. However, due to the delay and complications with the database and compiling, we are continuing to work on this and other aspects that relate.

The purpose of the new Starter island is two fold and had been a decision reached by watching, listening and talking to old and new players alike.

First major change that you will coming is that you will see embassies for all three Nations. We have gone back to JC’s original design where each of the three Nations are separate and individual. One main difference you will see later on when we redo the Faction system is that players will not choose their Nation at Character creation, but instead in game on the Island.

The purpose of this is to give players a more informed option or choice when they begin playing. This will allow players to learn a bit about each of the Nations as well as being able to make an informed choice.

It also allows players to meet up with friends and guildmates in a centralized environment and let those guilds make choices without the need to delete a character only to remake it again for the other nation to play with friends, family and guildmates.

Visual changes will be the most dramatic at first. Instead of a single area that is very heavy to run, we will have multiple areas. Six to be exact. The player will start out in the REC Cloning facility and each nation will have its own area so you can learn about them if you wish; Players will still have a choice of what missions and quests to accept.

There are two other areas that will also be available on the Island for exploration and missions. The island is, obviously, surrounded by water. At the start, the Island will not be part of the world as a whole, it will be like it is right now separate. However with the new design of the world, it will become part of the world that players will have the option to come back to for events, to meet up with friends and to help out how they would like to. Much later we do plan on adding in a type of system that is akin to a mentorship style system so you can help players without being overpowered.

Development: We now have the templates for the game areas completed, along with a new default environment scheme (No more marigold yellow skies) and slightly updated water, including oceans. These templates will allow us to use higher resolution terrain that is in this version of HeroEngine and unify them to remove some of the issues with falling through holes, cracks and area transitions. In other words, we hope to remove the “falling through the world” issue for you.
Here is an example of some of our workflow and documentation for quests and encounters:

This will also help with easier area transitions (zoning), but is only the start. Many other factors come into play with changing areas, but this is the first step to optimizing and making it much better and more reliable. As we progress with the system revamps and remove a lot of the unneeded replication (data that is replicated to all players, or re-replicated upon area transition), this will become even better. But for now, the first step is the newer terrain system that is in this version of HE from 2013 and using the same terrain heightmap types for the entire world.
► Long Story Short: We are beginning the Island and releasing it first to use as the template for feedback. This will allow us to improve game play, player options and area transition (zoning) problems. There will be six (6) areas to play on, and will be expanding the content as we progress through development. Factions will eventually be chosen on the Island instead of Character Creation to give players more choice. The island will have bits of each system so that players are not lost when they go into the mainland.

Missions, Dialogue and NPC’s:
Data pertaining to all NPC from the original four tutorials has been documented and sorted. This allowed us to compile a list of usable NPC and missions for the new area. Reusing these NPC and missions allows us to save time and avoid double work in the future, when the new systems for NPC and missions are created. In addition, we’ll be able to reduce clutter on the backend by removing all unnecessary NPC and missions.

We reviewed and documented missions as well as hints related to the tutorial areas. All of the different versions past and present have been gone through from the dialogue to missions. This allowed us to determine of these bits of content could be reused, removed, or replaced in the future. While working on this tasking we realized that although we stated previously there would be no new content created that it would be in favor of gameplay and players to create a small number of new missions. Missions that are being reused have been reviewed, and some dialogue has been changed slightly.

For those interested in the process, we’ll follow for construction of the new starter island they are as follows. (Explain above outlined process here.)

System Info (Remember to add in that we haven’t begun the actually backend work on the systems revamps as of yet. Some information is subject to change over time as we build them and players have a chance to test them. This will allow us to make them more efficient and enjoyable for the players.)
► Long Story Short: All of the dialogue and missions are being examined with a fine tooth comb. Some missions will change slightly, some dialogue may change slightly. This is in preparation for when we have the new NPC and new Mission/Dialogue system in place to cleanup and optimize these two systems.

New Inventory System:
We know inventory is very important to players. A bad system can make a great game feel dull and frustrating. Current inventory system is quite heavy performance wise. This will be one of the first systems to be re-developed and implemented in game. At this time, each time you cross an area (zone) your inventory has to be replicated all over again. This is also replicated across the entire server. The new system will change this, as well as bring in a few changes for you, the player, in addition to optimizations.

Expansion Slots: These slots will actually be additional expansion containers you can use without it removing slots or space from your primary inventory. We have seen several players get confused when they use the current extra bags (top 8 buttons), as well as several bugs related to this. We are removing this as being tied to the default inventory and will be separate and additional slots that the players can unlock as they proceed through the game.

Harvesting and crafting Inventory: Harvesting for some is a career in game, just like crafting. The current system, even if you backed or purchased the highest tier is still very limiting, especially so for crafters. Players have found work arounds that were not intended by the original design to get around the very limited inventory capacity. There should never be a need or requirement to find these to get around in the game. If players want to that is fine, but to have it as a need just to play ‘normally’, then that is never much fun.

We will be adding in a separate container that will be just for harvesting materials. Each additional special container type will have specific rules for what they can hold. To start with we will be rolling out the new Primary inventory and the Expansion Containers. After this is well tested by the players, you can expect to see a Harvesting Container (can only contain raw materials) and a Crafting Container (can only contain crafting components) added to the game for you.

Housing Containers, Vaults, Guild Banks, etc will also be added at a later time. For any ‘placeable’ containers that go into your house or guild plots, we also want to build in a permission system that will be tied with the relevant systems to allow friends, family and guilds to have more options and control.

It’s about players choice, again: A base inventory system should not be pay to win. Players should have options in game to be able to expand their inventory without requiring to pay real money for it, be it with subscription, micro transactions or buying a higher tier. It should instead be a choice. The new system we are building will have just that. Players will at a later time have the option to pay for their expanded inventory through crafting, trading, missions, or through the games microtransaction store.

Inventory and Backers: For Backers and all those that have supported The Repopulation, you will not have to worry about this. I alluded to having something different to compensate for the Backer rewards,and this new system will allow us to actually be able to honour these pledge promises made by the other team, but also allow us to expand upon them and give additional options/features.
► Long Story Short: We are revamping the Container system and adding in more features over time. The current inventory system has a lot of replication issues, as well as several other bugs. We are going to be building the new system in parallel to the current and replacing it. Then adding to the system for more features. Backers will get what they paid for as well as additional options and features.
Below is a small snippet of how we maintain documentation once systems are designed and are being developed. We do use and keep both Google Docs for the team as well as a GDD once the doc file is finalized: