Unveiled: Camelot Unchained Newsletter #46 - City State Entertainment
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Team Tidings

-by Max Porter

Hey folks,

Just about one more month until July 4th, the start of Beta 1! Busy, busy, busy, that was the word to describe May, and is only likely to be more and more true as we head into June and the mid-month feature lock for the launch of Beta. We’re getting so excited to share more of this game with our Beta 1 Backers and everyone else, and as we continue adding more and more features that we’ll need to kick off the Beta bonanza, we hope you are getting excited too! 

What were we so busy with? Well, here’s one major accomplishment that many on the team can be proud of: supporting Mark and Space Lawyer Jim’s work on updating our policies and procedures to comply with the new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) rules from the EU. If you want more information about that and our new privacy policy, you can’t go wrong with watching the stream that Mark and Jim did on the subject, titled “The GDPR, CSE, and You!,” which you can find here. It’s well worth watching if you have any interest in our plans to comply with the GDPR, in the rules in general, or in our commitment to our Backers. 

Unfortunately, the GDPR work has taken up a lot of time (387 man-hours to date) from a lot of our key people, but it was necessary to be protect our current and future Backers (or as Mark calls them now, “CSECitizens”), as well as our investors and our studio. We’re still on track for Beta 1 launch, but we’ve used up any cushion we had with the release date. Keep your fingers, toes, and anything else you can cross, crossed.

As part of our protection of both ourselves and our Backers, we have temporarily shut down the Forums and the store while they finish undergoing makeovers. We’ll bring them back better than ever as soon as possible! If you’re a Backer, check Mark’s recent email for more details on this topic. Also, check out Michelle’s awesome image for the “under construction” forums:

More determined than ever to be as transparent as we can, we have continued to produce a weekly schedule of raw, unedited, and unrehearsed streams, showing you everything from impressive creative work by our artists and programmers to our latest updates and news. The streams are fun for us, but they are also very important, as we always want to be as informative as possible for our Backers and fans, especially as we head into Beta. If you want to catch up on any missed streams, they can always be found on our Twitch and YouTube channels. For a good read of our news, as well as our weekly Top Tenish updates, check out the News section of our website.

Read on for articles, updates, and news, and everything else that I had the pleasure of putting together for this May newsletter. Please remember to click on the “view this email in your browser” link on the top right to see the whole thing. Thanks for your interest and support, and please enjoy this, the forty-sixth issue of Unveiled

Thank You

Thank you to Poxer, who has continued to send hats, hats, and still more hats! The Morning with Max streams have been an absolutely great time, and filled with lots of extra laughter as Poxer’s gifts have been opened on stream. Poxer even wrote an epic rap to go with one of the incredible outfits! Thanks for the beautiful headwear, and thanks for all the smiles and hilarity, Poxer!
Thanks to EntirelyTom, who sent the offices on both coasts some delicious candies to help fuel our game development. Many have already been devoured, as you can see. Thanks, EntirelyTom, you’re entirely awesome!
And a big, big thank you to Nachopants, for the big, big lunch you sent us! Wow, what an epic amount of food! We really enjoyed and appreciated the nourishment, for days on end! Thanks for thinking of us, and we really appreciate the generosity and excitement you’ve shown for this big project we’re working on. Yum!

Dose of Design

-by Ben Pielstick

Why isn't the game balanced yet?

As we continue to move toward the start of Beta 1 testing, this question often comes up during Alpha playtests: Why does the game seem so unbalanced? Of course, balance is a very tricky subject when it comes to games in general, and MMORPGs in particular. Even titles that are many years old still receive regular balance patches, so it could be said that MMORPGs are never truly done being “balanced”. In the case of Camelot Unchained®, however, balance should be a lot better than it currently is by the time we open up Beta 1...so with the Beta 1 date fast approaching, why haven’t we spent time on balance yet?

Firstly, we do spend a small amount of time considering balance as we go. It isn’t much, but every time we have to assign a number to something like character health or weapon damage, we try and put in values that are somewhat along the lines of what we think would be reasonable. This is why you don’t see extreme problems like one-shot kills, even though balance overall still isn’t very refined. 

With so many numbers involved in the game though, setting up all the stats on characters, items, and skills, as well as getting specific expected results in the game, takes a lot of work. At some point we will need to go back through everything we have set up thus far, take a holistic look at what is taking place, and make a series of adjustments across the board to bring everything into a much more balanced state. 

There’s a good reason we haven’t spent time on doing an extensive balance pass so far: Many of the parts of the game that need to be balanced are still very much a work-in-progress. If we spent the time to get the game to a reasonably balanced state, and then--for example--some of the stat modifications that were previously not working got hooked up and started to function, we would have to go through another time-consuming balance pass and make the necessary adjustments to rebalance for the new changes. Think of this like working on a physical project in the real world: Work can often get done a lot faster by making a bit of a mess while you’re working and cleaning it all up at the end, as opposed to keeping the workspace clean the entire time work is taking place.

Another thing we are waiting for before we start working on balance is information. Since balance involves everything from hard-coded physics values affecting movement and projectiles, to character, skill, and item stats from databases, spreadsheets, and XML files, it takes several different methods of in-game feedback to show what exactly is happening in the game based on the data that was provided. 

It is easy to assume that if the results simply look and feel right in the game, then everything is fine, but in actuality, how exactly we arrive at a given state is incredibly important. This is because with so many influences stacking on top of each other, it is very easy to arrive at a result that seems right, only because errors or mistakes in the calculations cancelled each other out. When this happens, everything might seem fine in the test cases we put together internally, but when something different happens we didn’t explicitly test for, things can go wrong very quickly.

Games are far too complex for developers to comprehensively test every possible action a player could take, and so the internal testing we perform is always limited compared to what players will eventually try given enough time. The more informative data we can get out of the game early on using debugging tools, the better we can understand why we are seeing a specific result, and where to look in order to effectively make changes.

Right now, a lot of time is still going into finishing up all the last pieces of code needed to ensure all the features we need for Beta 1 will be ready. At the same time, we’re in the process of building debugging tools that show us an in-depth picture of what is happening as all the data we’ve input gets processed during gameplay. 

The very last part of our tasking before Beta 1 starts will be working on balance. At that point, we can give our full attention to finding and fixing bugs, and changing all the numbers that will matter for how players experience the game. This doesn’t mean that balance will be perfect, of course, but our goal is to have a good starting point from which we can grow the game to a much larger number of skills and classes. We hope you’re looking forward to our first round of Beta 1 testing as much as we are, and we’re excited to start hearing feedback on how balance is going as well as all other parts of the Beta 1 experience.

Developer Quote

  “Even before the day that our Kickstarter first launched, CSE has believed in our CSECitizens’ rights to privacy and to being treated by us in the same manner that we, as gamers, want to be treated by other companies.” -- Mark Jacobs

State Of The Build

 -by Max Porter

What a busy month!  In this section, I take a look at some of the accomplishments and challenges overcome in the past month, by pulling out some of the highlights of our Top Tenish lists. This is meant to be the “highlights of the highlights,” and will hopefully give an idea of where the build is at and how the we have progressed. Each entry includes the publication date of the week we put it out there!  

  • (5/25/18) Tech – GDPR: Over the past month, we have been working on implementing everything we need to do to comply with the new GDPR regulations. We have erred on the side of caution, doing everything we can to make sure our Backers’ personal information is secure. This included updating our cookie policy on the website, adding the ability to track privacy settings and disable specific services based on them, and a significant refactor to how we store our Backers’ info, moving the most personal information offline. We are also rebuilding our forums, removing all previously posted information, and updating our store as well. To date, we have spent over 387 hours on this, the majority of those in the last month.
  • (5/4/18) Testing: Much of this week was spent addressing the bugs in last weekend’s build, as well as finding and fixing a few new bugs. As mentioned above, this has led us to a weekend test!
  • (5/11/18) Testing: Colin has spent much of this week trying to track down a lingering issue that caused the Physics server to crash. Because of this, we’ve been running an embedded server in our recent weekend tests. We’ve made progress on fixing the issue, but believe there is more to be done. We have been testing this change this afternoon, so this weekend’s test will let us know if we are on the right track.
  • (5/18/18) Testing: This week, Colin focused on improvements to the physics server crashes we have been experiencing. Compared to the previous fix, this one does not significantly impact performance with large scale battles, tested at 3k A.R.C.S. (When we say large scale, we mean it!) We tested these changes from Tuesday through Friday with IT and Alpha, and toward the end of the day today, Beta 1 Backers! We’ll be testing again this weekend on Saturday and Sunday.
  • (5/25/18) Tech – Testing and Forums: Early this week, Brian tracked down an issue with slowdown of the scenario UI results page, which was handed off to AJ. For the rest of the week, we shifted from running tests, so Brian could focus on pulling pinned content from the forums. Over the next several days, Brian will be working on setting up the new forums, making sure they work as expected, and that people can still find all our previously posted important info.
Buildings Coming Back:
  • (5/4/18) WIP – Tech – Buildings: Andrew made significant progress this week, improving the networked side of building updates. Check out his stream from earlier in the week HERE, showing off this work!
  • (5/4/18) WIP – Tech – Building Placed Objects (BPOs): Matt completed edits from feedback on item placement, specifically around rotation controls, to provide more visual feedback and make them more intuitive. This will allow Backers greater control in placing assets. The great thing is, we can use these tools for our internal editors as well!
  • (5/11/18) WIP – Tech – Buildings: Andrew wrapped up the giant building refactor. He achieved a 99.2% reduction in the number of bytes required to send an entire building over the network, and reduced the CPU load on proxies from over 75 msecs per connected client to a negligible level. Calculating changes between two states of a building now happens in only a few clock cycles, with comparable savings in network bandwidth for larger changes, like knocking off an entire tower. The code is waiting to go in immediately after the next stable Hatchery-to-Nuada push.
Audio Advancement: 
  • (5/4/18) WIP – SFX – Dynamic Combat Music: dB is finishing the first pass import of the combat music system, which lays the foundation for more music tracks, system iteration, and improvement.
  • (5/11/18) Tech – Wwise Update: One thing we have not spent much time on yet, but knew would be important before the start of Beta 1, is sound. This week, Dave updated our sound engine, Wwise, fixing a problematic issue dB was encountering that would crash his profiler, something necessary to improve audio performance! Moving forward, Dave is investigating and fixing other outstanding issues related to audio performance. We want those large battles to sound great with few to no performance issues.
  • (5/11/18) Art – Environment VFX and SFX: Mike and dB spent some time this week working on some of the assets in the second scenario map, including:
    • VFX: Arthurian and TDD spawn point models.
    • Place of Power center “spire” VFX.
    • General environment “dust in the wind” (queue music!)
    • Audio tweaks to center spire and Place of Power model ambient loops.
  • (5/18/18) Tech – Audio – Audio Objects: Dave continues his adventures into sound this week with his completion of audio objects. This work removes the “leak” of audio assets in the scene, and gives us more control over defining the proper events for ending looping sounds. Now, during big battles, you should not experience “extra” sounds that should not have been there.
  • (5/25/18) WIP – Tech – Audio – LOD and Format Updates: Dave is working on a format update to support removing sounds based on distance or type of sound. Changing how the client loads the audio data will also result in lower audio latency, and will allow us to do more interesting things, like priorities on sounds. This will give dB greater control over important audio queues in the game.
Art Accomplishments (misc.): 
  • (5/4/18) WIP – Art – Environment Art: This week, Tyler and Dionne continued working through the assets in the Dragon Fang map, and will begin working on the home islands next. You can catch Tyler’s environment art stream from earlier this week, HERE. For this week:
    • Finished LODs and collision on all outer rock wall assets, pit edge, and “spiky rock clusters.”
    • Updated mats and VFX added to crystals.
    • First pass addition of assets in TDD spawn area.
    • Cleanup of pathing areas out of spawn points.
    • Ambient SFX added to center of Place of Power model.
    • WIP ground clutter assets and smaller details added.
    • WIP New birch tree variations.
  • (5/11/18) WIP – Art – Animations: Work continues on the new class-specific idles and updated animations.
    • Winter’s Shadow: Sandra finished up the updated basic attack that matches the new combat idle.
    • Forest Stalker: Sandra is finishing up the edits to the basic attacks, now that she has the new hip quiver to work with.
    • Fianna: Scott finished the secondary and movement animations.
    • Mjölnir: Scott began work on this class this week, quickly blocking in basic attacks, deflects, flinch, and shout.
    • Blackguard: Sandra finished her first pass on all the movement animations.
  • (5/18/18) WIP – Art – Updated Character Creation Renders: Joe has moved through the female armor variations for our renders quickly, and is on track to wrap them up around the middle of next week and then hand off to Jon and Michelle. Jon finished the render of the Arthurian Male Physician and the body of the Male Stonehealer. Next, he needs to render out the rocks that will fill out the scene.
  • (5/25/18) WIP – Art – Concept: Michelle completed VFX concepts of the Fianna and Stone Healer’s special abilities, and has begun work on Realm-specific pub and bank signage, as well as Realm-specific outdoor lamps.
I hope you enjoyed reading through our monthly newsletter! It is always a great feeling to look back over the month and see all the things that got done. Thanks for your perusal, and thanks as always for your support, your positive thoughts, and your patience -- we will reward it! Until next time, Max out! 
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