Tuesday, May 24, 2016

KeenSWH Team Structure + New Medieval Engineers Leadership

Today I’m writing with news about our Keen Software House structure and especially the Medieval Engineers team. We’ve made a few changes that are aimed at helping us reach our short-term and long-term goals, so we can deliver the amazing games our community deserves as efficiently as possible.

Earlier this month, I wrote a blog post explaining that in the last 1-2 years we have transitioned from an indie studio of 5 people to one of 50+. We’re growing fast and the growth continues. We’ve experienced some growing pains (like any expanding business does). We’re solving this by constantly improving our organizational and management processes, and by finding strong leaders for each project. We were working to find the right person to lead Medieval Engineers and help us scale up so we can continue to bring you quality, awesome, fun, polished games with big features.

Today I’m happy to say that we’ve found that person – Tim Toxopeus. I’ll tell you a little more about him later on in this post.


Team Structure

We’re definitely no longer a small indie studio of 5 guys. These days, we have over 50 people split into various teams (a few people are on more than one team). We’re publishing this organizational info because we never actually explained what our team looks like to our community - now everyone can have a clear picture of how development looks at KeenSWH:

  • Space Engineers – 14 people (led by Petr Minarik, who’s been with KeenSWH since the beginning)
  • Medieval Engineers – 10 people (programmers, artists, testers) - led by Tim Toxopeus
  • Music – 1 composer (Karel Antonin)
  • Sound – 2 sound designers (one of them - Lukas Tvrdon - has been with us since the beginning and worked on Miner Wars, Space Engineers and Medieval Engineers)
  • VRAGE engine – 4 programmers - led by Jan Nekvapil, a young and very talented programmer
  • VRAGE-RENDER engine – 3 programmers (led by Jan Hlousek, a newer member of the team with years of experience in game development and render techniques)
  • Backend – 2 people
  • Space Engineers Xbox – 1 programmer + one external development company with significant experience porting PC games to consoles
  • Testers – 5 people
  • Game Design – 2 game designers (led by Tomas Rampas, one of the original Space Engineers designers)
  • HR – 1 person
  • Finance – 2 people
  • PR – 3 people
  • Business development – 1 person
  • Office Management – 1 person
  • Other projects 10 people

This list doesn’t include 30 researchers working at GoodAI - a general artificial intelligence R&D company I started two years ago.

How is this different than before? We’ve always had dedicated teams of people working on SE + ME. The biggest difference now is that while I’m still the head of Keen Software House, it will be up to Petr and Tim to drive Space Engineers and Medieval Engineers forward. Improving our management structure means that we can scale up in a serious way - the studio can now be run by the game teams rather than by me directly. I can now focus more on the general vision of our games and projects (the big picture), like what can we do better, where we want be in 1 to 5 years, etc., while each game team and its leader devotes 100% of their attention to a single game. 


New Medieval Engineers Leadership

You’ll hear a lot more from the Medieval Engineers team lead and producer, Tim Toxopeus, in the coming weeks. Known as Deepflame on our forums and Discord server, Tim is an experienced programmer and an avid player of both SE and ME. He had a cumulative playtime of 1000+ hours before he even applied to join Keen Software House. Bringing him to the Medieval Engineers team as lead producer is the next step in optimizing things in the game and at Keen Software House.



All hail King Tim, 3rd from the right

One of Tim’s first actions as team leader is to release a new stable (and default) branch on Steam with today’s Medieval Engineers update. In addition to returning area building to the game, we’ve made some fixes and quality of play improvements that will make gameplay generally more accessible and pleasant. 



With the release of this stable branch, we have decided to temporarily pause weekly updates (though video updates will continue as usual). I want to stress that this period will be different from the feature freezes and bug fixing periods we did in the past. We want to do much, much more than just stabilize the game – we want to bring it back to life.

Without the pressure to release something new for players every week, we can direct all of our energy towards getting Medieval Engineers in a more intuitive state and fulfilling our original vision for the game. You can read more about my original vision for the game in my previous blog post, but essentially, we want to refocus on engineering and building in the game. We want to implement a more intuitive interface that teaches new players what they can do. Survival, multiplayer, and single player will become a priority once again.  You can think of the current version of Medieval Engineers as a demo – just a taste of what’s to come.

We want players to keep in touch with what’s going on week-to-week in Medieval Engineers development, so weekly video updates will continue. They’ll be a little different than before, since we won’t be announcing new features every week. Instead, you’ll hear a lot more from Tim, programmers, artists, and testers about what’s going on in the game behind the scenes. So keep an eye out for upcoming Tuesday interviews, dev diaries, modding guides, and more!

Finally, we also want to implement a small reward in the game for those players who stuck with us through the early stages and this rocky period of development. If you have ideas about what that reward could look like (perhaps a custom model or hat in the game that would mark you as one of our earliest community members), let us know in the comments!

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Thanks for reading!

Marek Rosa
CEO and Founder, Keen Software House
CEO, CTO and Founder, GoodAI

Medieval Engineers on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MedievalEngineers
Medieval Engineers on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MedievalEng
Space Engineers on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SpaceEngineers
Space Engineers on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SpaceEngineersG

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Medieval Engineers: Short-Term Roadmap + New Approach to SE/ME Updates

Today I’m writing to give Medieval Engineers players a better idea of where we are heading with the game and the new features that await them. I want to clarify our big picture plans for the game, so players will be able to see weekly updates as steps towards the awesome game that Medieval Engineers deserves to be.

The original vision for Medieval Engineers was solid (medieval technology, sandbox, physical interaction, realism, survival, intuitive and easy manipulation of volumetric environment, etc.) but during the past year we diverged from these core principles. I’m not satisfied with the current state of the game, and it’s time for us to refocus and consolidate.

It’s time to make Medieval Engineers more exciting, fun, and streamlined. Medieval Engineers is challenging to play in its current state (especially for new players) and we need to streamline it before major features can be added. 

We need to find the most intuitive design for the original vision for Medieval Engineers, one that extends to building, construction, deconstruction, crafting, harvesting, fighting mechanics (sword and crossbow), and so on. These elements are and will be the focus of the game.




So how will Medieval Engineers look after these big changes? Imagine your character spawning in the world. You will harvest, cut trees, build houses and castles, design protection against barbarians or other players, hunt and get food to sustain yourself, etc. It will be easier to build with blueprints, so you will be able to bring resources to a blueprint (for example, for a catapult) and the catapult will simply pop up. Hardcore players will always have the option to do it themselves, but the game will be more accessible for those who aren’t interested in spending a lot of time building something in particular.

However, these changes will take time. We know that weekly updates can frustrate players, because what happens behind the scenes in our studio is not always obvious to the public. It can seem like we focus on non-essential things (i.e. working on sounds rather than multiplayer), but the reality is that certain features and fixes take much, much longer than others. We always have multiple programmers, sound designers, and artists working on many things in parallel, and when a feature is complete we release it. Other projects take more time, but we definitely keep working on them.

Moreover, in the last 1-2 years we have transitioned from an indie studio of 5 people to one of 50+. We’re growing fast and the growth continues. We’ve experienced some growing pains (like any expanding business does). The way we’re solving this is to make our management processes better and by finding strong leaders for each project. I assure you that we are working to find the right person to lead Medieval Engineers and help us scale up so we can continue to bring you quality, awesome, fun, streamlined games with big features.


New approach to SE/ME updates

Streamlining our games also means optimizing our development, management, and update process. For this reason, in the coming weeks we will start updating both Medieval Engineers and Space Engineers on two branches – one stable branch, and a second development branch.

The development branch will continue to be updated weekly. However, these updates might not make sense every week, and there may be a number of bugs or problems with playing on the dev branch. Rest assured, though, that all updates to this branch are part of a long term plan.

We will also have a stable branch that will be well-tested and run smoothly for players. It will receive very important hot fixes, and will provide players with a more comfortable game play experience. Every month or two, we will update the stable branch with new stuff from the dev branch.

Having two branches will allow us to finish these major and radical changes without breaking the game every week or releasing features in their prototype phase before I can personally review them. Both games are in a very different stage of development than they were a year or two ago. They are more complex, and we simply need longer periods to make significant updates.

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***EDIT / CLARIFICATION***
1) The stable branch will be the default branch. In other words, if players do nothing, they will be playing on the stable branch. If you would like to access the development branch, you'll need to change to it on Steam (instructions for how to do this will be posted when the change is made).

2) Weekly update videos will continue!  :-)

3) Remember that we still need to test this idea to make sure it benefits everyone - players, modders, and us as developers

4) The development branch will go through the same testing process as today's main branch (internal testing at Keen Software House, testing by our Closed Testing Group, then releases on Tuesday + Thursday)

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In general, Medieval Engineers will be much more fun, coherent, exciting, and definitely more streamlined. Put simply, Medieval Engineers will become the awesome game that we all know it can be :-)

Thank you for reading! And many thanks to the Medieval Engineers players out there - we’re grateful for your patience and especially for your feedback. We definitely can’t make this game without you.

Marek Rosa
CEO and Founder
Keen Software House
:-)

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Friday, February 26, 2016

Space Engineers News: Full Source Code Access with Planets + DX9 Changes

Today I’m happy to make an important announcement to our modders and community. We are updating the Space Engineers source code on GitHub so that you have complete access to the current Space Engineers’ source code, including Planets. Everything is ready for you in our GitHub repository.


You might remember that back in May we released the full source code for Space Engineers. Releasing the updated source code that now includes Planets builds on that decision to give more freedom to modders and the community.

Modders can now work on Planets and Space Engineers just like our developers at Keen Software House do – but rest assured, our own developers will keep working harder than ever.

Please don’t confuse this release with “open source” or “free software.” While we’re giving everyone the chance to alter Planets and the game, we’re not making the game free. The rules are the same as with the original source code release – if you’re interested, you can read the legal details on my previous blog post or our EULA.

Just like when we released the full source code of Space Engineers, revealing the updated source code that includes Planets – our biggest and most-requested feature yet - is an experiment that someone has to try. The chance that it will benefit Space Engineers is very high, and it’s worth taking the risk.

Pros:
  • Total conversions made possible
  • More and better content created by modders
  • Allowing people to have more fun with our game through modding while we keep adding core features and updates 
  • Modders can contribute to Planets and the game core development if they want to

Cons (exactly the same as the original Space Engineers full source code release):
  • "Competitors” can steal our ideas and algorithms for Planets and the game
  • Some people will think we’re going open source and abandoning the development of Space Engineers

For me, the pros clearly outweigh the cons. We released Space Engineers’ source code nine months ago and so far, we’ve only seen awesome mods and no negative impacts. We’re just as committed now to keeping Space Engineers fun and playable as we were then, and we will never turn away from the community. And if our competitors see our code, it will only push us to create something 10x bigger and even more game-changing than Planets.



How does it work?

Go to GitHub, download and unpack the source code, open it in Visual Studio Community Edition (free), modify the source code, and launch the game! See this video guide:




GitHub link: https://github.com/KeenSoftwareHouse/SpaceEngineers




Support for DirectX 9 + 32-Bit Windows Changes

Space Engineers’ development is entering its third year and we’re starting preparations to leave Early Access. You can read about our short and long term plans in our recently published roadmap, but today I want to tell you more about the next 30 days.

Over the past two years, Space Engineers has grown so much and so quickly that old systems – namely DirectX 9,  32-bit Windows, and Windows XP – are slowing down our development process and preventing us from delivering a product you really deserve.

Essentially, DirectX 9, 32-bit Windows, and Windows XP versions take up time that our developers could otherwise invest in making Space Engineers the game we always dreamed of creating. For this reason, and though we do not take it lightly, we have decided to stop developing the 32-bit and DX9 version of Space Engineers. We will also stop developing for Windows XP.

We will focus exclusively on developing DirectX 11 and 64-bit Windows. This change will affect only 0.15% of players and will happen by the end of March. 

By doing so, our production pipeline will be able to focus all efforts on only one development branch. In other words, we will have more time to do great things - more time for polishing, more time for creating a new art, and more time for building new assets. We want Space Engineers to be enjoyable for players with the latest technology and the best features available.

For those who want to keep playing Space Engineers on Windows XP, 32-bit Windows and the DirectX 9 configuration, you can still enjoy the game by accessing your copy on Steam. There will be a message box when starting the game that asks you to change to supported hardware settings. If your system is not compatible with these settings, you will be asked to switch to a different branch that runs on DX9 or XP.

Just follow these steps:

1. Launch the Steam client


2. Go to your library
3. Choose Space Engineers - right click


4. Choose "Properties"


5. This box will open - then go to the "BETAS" tab, and click on the drop-down menu
6. Choose the DirectX 9 or 32-bit version

Basically, players who are running the game on a DX9, 32-bit and/or XP system will be able to play the game without any issues, but without new content added from the end of March.

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Thanks for reading, and many thanks for your understanding about the DirectX 9 and 32-bit Windows changes. I know this will enable us to take Space Engineers out of Early Access in a way that both the community and the game deserve.

And I can’t wait to see what modders do with our updated source code – especially Planets!

Marek Rosa
Keen Software House
CEO and Founder
:-)

For more game news, follow us on social media:

Space Engineers on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SpaceEngineers
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Medieval Engineers on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MedievalEngineers
Medieval Engineers on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MedievalEng