As promised in our last post, we’d like to offer some more transparency into who’s working on what around the studio. To recap what was covered to some extent in the roadmap, our current primary focus is player retention. As mentioned, the core gameplay of IoN is solid, but there’s just not enough depth or endgame to keep players stimulated in the long run. It’s a fundamental issue everyone’s experienced in plenty of games no matter how much additional content they ship post-launch. Luckily for us, we have some exciting plans in the works that will not only add more depth and complexity to the game without impacting our core mechanics, but also further differentiate us from the competition - known none other as the “BRpocalypse” (not to be confused with the Bropocolypse). I’d also like to remind everyone that even though we may seem quiet sometimes, that doesn’t mean we’re not busting our asses to get the new stuff in your hands asap. It’s going to be a while until we are at a point where we want to start promoting IoN heavily again. Obviously, it’s imperative that we fix retention before we bring more exposure to the game. I know everyone wants this done by tomorrow (including ourselves), but I’d like to ask everyone to please give us your patience in allowing us to focus on the game’s progress. Because when it comes down to it, that’s the most important thing. That we have a good game that people want to play and more importantly want to continue playing. Right now we have the former and we are hard at work on the latter. With that said, let’s jump into the nitty gritty.
A small but noteworthy improvement we’ve completed is updating the knife netcode to finally match the responsiveness you’ve come to expect from our bullet-based weapons. The knife, unlike bullets, used to be heavily affected by lag and would sometimes miss because of it (both melee slashes and throwing knifes). It was something we were aware but fixing it properly required some thought as well as significant changes to the knife code, so it got thrown on the backburner. Now knife hits will feel just as reliable and responsive as other weapons. If you see blood on your screen, the hit will connect.
Mystery feature X
Zenity, in addition to a couple other of our gameplay programmers are starting to implement designs for one of our game changers that will add a lot more depth and replayability. It’s too early to reveal right now and we’d rather get it in your hands first instead of detailing it out here. Just know that we’re working on its implementation and Zenity is rounding the design out with Jtolt, both huge nerds when it comes to game design (the people you want working on those things). Not much else to say here other than we’re pretty damn excited about it.
CB, JP, Zenity - Beam Drop Improvements
It’s no mystery that Beam drops aren’t exactly the most enticing of events in their current form. Right now all beam drops spawn the same stuff other than a few random spawns we threw in. It does contain the exclusive Sako Elite, but that was always seen as a temporary solution until we could swap it out with a completely new weapon altogether- this one a little more alien in nature. Furthermore, the logic we have in place that controls where and when beam drops spawn could definitely use a lookover. Right now they spawn a little too randomly- sometimes you’ll go a few matches without seeing one, other times you’ll see 3 spawn in a single match. So CB, JP and Zenity have been working on making Beam drops great again. Here’s how they’re doing that.
CB - Skin Extraction
This one’s pretty interesting and I’m really excited to see how it plays out. Basically, in every beam drop that spawns, there’s a chance that a skinned weapon spawns inside of it as well. Whoever loots it gets to unlock that skin forever… on one condition: they need to win out the match with it in their inventory. We’ll be experimenting with drop rates and skin rarities once CB finishes up the first iteration. We’ll also be holding special Skin Extraction events where during a certain time window (probably 2-4 hours on the weekend) there will be a 100% chance all beam drops spawn an EXCLUSIVE skin just for that event. The stakes will certainly be high… but the reward that much sweeter.
JP - Heavy Weapons
As mentioned above, we’re looking to replace the Sako Elite with something a little more unique and enticing. A new toy produced by the Nyne overlords themselves. @jp has done a fantastic job concepting a couple new weapons up and we’re excited to get our hands on the finished product. @rez has been asking me when he’ll finally get to design audio for a sci-fi weapon since the day he joined. He’s finally got his wish!
Timo & JP - Pod Redesign
The pod itself is a bit awkward to play around, especially the shape and size of the 2 doorways. This is another asset that’s been stuck in the “placeholder” stage for a while and I think it’s time we give it a makeover. @jp and @timo will be working on a new design that will be a little more interesting both visually and gameplay-wise.
Zenity - Better Visibility
Obviously, if you can’t see or figure out where a beam drop lands, you’re not gonna wanna seek it out. We originally had the idea of marking them on everyone’s maps and indicating their loot status, but I think we’ll start off with just making sure everyone can see it from afar better and perhaps have the announcer drop a quick “Beam drop spawned” line. We can adjust once we get a better idea of how you guys respond to the changes. Feel free to drop your feedback and ideas in the comments section if you’ve got any.
Zenity - Spawn Consistency
As previously mentioned, the spawn logic behind the beam drops could definitely be improved. Zenity is working on making sure the spawn timings and locations offer a good balance between predictability and randomness. Right now they’re too random and need to be a little more consistent across all matches.
Colby’s been looking into the best way to prevent the drones from just flying through the map without screwing over the drone flying mechanics. He’s decided it’s going to involve shooting a trace a couple meters forward and then acting on if it should hover up on lower down. He’s also going to see if throwing a sine wave for a offset will give it more of a drone feel. Colby’s working on this in addition to helping out the rest of the fellas in regards to Mystery Feature X implementation.
I’ve been working on getting our private servers up and running with Dexter so we can get GameOn integrated. GameOn will allow our Tournament Operators and partners to run their own tournaments with their own prizes shipped by Amazon. Tournaments can be public, through invitation only, or private. This will allow operators to run a fan tournament or just a general player tournament. Anyone who has access to run their own tournaments will be able to set specific parameters and customize how players earn points. For example, if you want to organize a tournament where at the end of several matches the team with the most kills wins, you can do that. We know a lot of people are waiting for something like this so we’ll make sure to post a big update on it going over the details once it’s setup.
I will also be migrating our backend away from Gamesparks to our own custom solution so that we have better control over what can and cannot be done on the backend side. Many people have noticed issues with not being able to connect to Gamesparks, we hope to resolve these issues during the migration as well. This will allow us a more fluid system in the long run and allow us the opportunity to record more stats and even open them up to developers or TO’s in the future.
We’re also looking into moving to another forum software that allows us to integrate with the game more seamlessly. Discourse, our current forums solution, has been great so far but without a lot of in-depth and time consuming work, there’s no easy way to integrate the functionality we need to achieve the level of customization required. We will be moving to a single sign-on (SSO) approach where user names will be static. This should lock down several areas susceptible to abuse that come with steam names, and will provide a better user experience when it comes to accessing player stats and info.
I have also started to work on our quest system which will give players the opportunity to earn xp, credits, and skins for completing daily and weekly quests.
Audio Bugs & Improvements
I’ve been working on improvements to audio and general bug-fixing. I’ve upgraded our Wwise version and will be upgrading it further soon to begin utilizing some of the neat features introduced in the latest version. One of which should help with overall stability of 3p vs 1p audio. I’ll also be working more on audio issues, like timing of hit sounds, and helping out on the new mystery feature where needed.
Vertical Positional Audio
As mentioned in our roadmap, when it comes to vertical audio, there’s no easy solution that addresses the difficulties of locating players above or below you based on footstep or gunshot sounds. If you’ve landed around the temple beam POI in the center of the map, you know what I’m talking about. Right now, horizontal positional audio is in a very good place, however, vertical positional audio is a whole 'nother animal. We’ve studied a few big titles (Overwatch, CS:GO and Rainbow Six: Siege) that have done a pretty good job of tackling this complex issue and have settled on two solutions, which should vastly improve players vertical localization.
Occlusion is used to ‘muffle’ the sound of players behind walls, or without line-of-sight. It helps the player understand whether a set of gunshots are an immediate threat or not. We’ve been working with advanced occlusion tools to change the sound even further when players are above and below you, which will better represent their ‘level of threat’.
Elevation Specific Sounds
We’ve also been working on adding in additional audio layers to footstep sounds, so that if someone is above you, their footsteps sound different to when someone is below you (or on the same level). When used in conjunction with the new occlusion system, it should be much easier to pinpoint the location of an enemy.
UE4 4.20 Integration
Marcin has been busy merging UE4’s latest 4.20 improvements into our custom engine build. We usually do this a couple months after Epic releases a new version to make sure any bugs are smoothed over, but even with that buffer, I can’t stress enough how much stuff a merge like this breaks. Fortunately, we have a kickass QA team and a group of amazing playtesters willing to seek out and report anything that an engine update messes with. Despite the process we have to go through, it’s obviously very important to us that we’re up to date with all the tech UE4 has to offer, especially since with every update they roll out there are improvements to the engine that are extremely relevant to us such as optimizations both client and network related. 4.20 is no exception to this and we expect to see some more frames with a successful merge.
What's NextFor the road ahead, we're in the process of setting up a Trello board that will be updated to keep you informed about what we are working on and how soon you can expect it. This is a pretty complex task and will require a bit more discussion as we have to decide what timeframes we can specify for each feature, but we are pushing to get this done as quickly as possible.
You can look forward to more in-depth information for our upcoming features, and our entire team is working hard to make this happen. But more importantly, we’d like to get your hands-on feedback for any new features or improvements we’re working on asap. Once we have enough to share, we’ll get our experimental test server up and running for anyone who’s interested in helping us test!