Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Level design & Stabilization period

A few months back we realized that Space Engineers had already almost all of the core features we originally planned to implement and that now would be a good time to start adding game scenarios -- something that will give players goals to achieve; something that will make Space Engineers more of a game and not just a creative sandbox.

We think that the best way to accomplish this is to create a set of interactive scenarios (levels, missions, etc.). We knew we couldn't do this alongside our other priorities, so we decided to start looking for people whose only job would be designing, prototyping and testing these scenarios.
We decided to hire level designers.

For these reasons, we launched a creation contest (where you can win NVIDIA graphic cards) and a job ad for level designers. Anyone can apply but relocation to Prague is required. I hope we will find some great new colleagues who will help us add new scenarios to Space Engineers.

The creation contest has another benefit for Space Engineers as well - if enough people apply, we will get a lot of material and ideas to choose from when implementing official scenarios in Space Engineers.

The second thing I wanted to talk about is that we started to reduce the amount of new features and now we are more focused on bug fixing and stabilization of things that are already in the game.

This doesn't mean we have reached BETA or anything like that. It only means that there's  plenty of development time in front of us and it’s better for the community that the game be in a more stable state while we keep developing it.

The first stage of this stabilization period starts now and it means that we will split our focus 50/50 between new features and bug fixing. After a few weeks, once all work-in-progress features are implemented, we will focus 100% on bug fixing. This will be a feature freeze phase when we won’t add any new feature. This will allow us to focus only on bug fixing, testing and scooping forums for bug reports. We don’t plan to include any special performance optimizations in this stage (because that could lead to new bugs), except performance issues that happen due to bugs.

Thank you for reading this.

61 comments:

  1. Does this mean that in-game programming won't be coming any time soon?

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    1. Pretty sure it will come, because they said it's already WIP. At least the first stages will be implemented, I dare to asume.

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    2. It'll come. Marek's just saying that after they will slowly start shifting their focus from feature-creation to bug fixing and optimization. If anything, we will get new features (programming) either before or after the feature freeze phase.

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    3. all i hope is that survival blueprints are implemented before bug fixes.

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  2. What levels do you plan on?

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  3. I love you guys *sniff* So long as I am able to continue playing this game, I will be a happy person. Mr. Rosa, I trust in your keen judgment, and I see such a bright and burning future for this game, but keep in your mind, that if you suddenly backstab this game with such a decision that dams up the fierce river of potential you guys have, I will have no choice but to become Amish and forever give up my use of cool tech. And nobody wants that..... Long live the career of space engineering.

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  4. "more focused on bug fixing and stabilization of things" - does this include work on the netcode for the MP aspect? Absolutely love survival, but it's in desperate need of some love. Keep up the good work!

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  5. Does this affect any development of the Modding API?

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    1. Not much as Modding API is already work in progress.

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    2. I know you and your team work really hard but this game is going to get so so big hopefully as big as minecraft or bigger. Are you guys considering working past your planned features?

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  6. As much as I LOVE the idea for programming to come sooner rather than later (my mind was racing with the possibilities it presents). Major bug fixes are a requirement at this moment in time. The game needs to be playable first. Then hopefully you can throw out some regular optimizations, programming (and 3D printers), etc after this clean-up phase.

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  7. Not too happy about the last part, update 01.047 cut my framerate in half, pretty annoying you guys aren't going to work on any performance improvements.
    I'm just gonna hope it's a bug causing it and fixing it will make the game run well again.

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    1. That sounds like a bug - which means it will probably be fixed as part of the bug fixes.

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  8. wont complain about bug fixing but there are a lot of features i hope are in the pipes for before the feature freeze. Cant wait to see what happens to SE in the next few months

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  9. Im just hoping very very very much, that one of the features that will still be included, is "Thrusters applying force relative to center of mass". There has been a year long discussion about this on the keenswh forum under the same name, and there have been proposed many practical solutions. I would hate Space Engineers not to realize its full potential.

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    1. This suggestion would involve 4 changes:
      - CoM relative thrust toggable per thruster
      - Gravel filled armorblocks for (auto) distribution of mass
      - RCS thrusters in cam/sensor-type block
      - flybywire extention of inertiascript
      It would turn space artists into space engineers.

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  10. Please make fixing Rocket Launchers one of the things to fix.

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    1. If I am not wrong, this got fixed and will be released tomorrow

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  11. Scenarios are great, but there are other games with similar features that have procedurally created environments. There really needs to be an expansion of where we can take these creations, otherwise, why are we building in the first place?

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  12. You will not get rid of the survival and creative aspects of the game? Just add levels as another option when playing, right?

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    1. The scenarios are... well scenarios that you could play as survival or creative.

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    2. What kind of scenarios will there be? There really isn't that much that you can do in this game other than building stuff with the predefined blocks and mine resources and of course destroy your creations. So I guess scenarios will only be there to please the "steam achivement junkies" and they probably won't add any more depth to the game, but perhaps achivements is what ppl want. My only hope is that the scenarios are CO-OP-based multiplayer. Like team X goal to steal block Y from enemy base Z in x minutes time... But single player scenarios? I just can't see how that could be a success without any NPC/AI, but perpahs your plan is to make scenarios with scripted AIs (enemies)? I would rather see more added content, especially more weapons and decorative items (plants, desks, chair, sofa....) so that we can build "REAL" habitable places.

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  13. Missions will be fun to see in Space Engineers.

    And best of luck to the luck chaps that get the job! :-)

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  14. I hope 3D printers will be out before feature freeze. Alongside with programming, it's a critical component required to build automated fleets.

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  15. Good to see rocket launchers are getting fixed, I can finally get some small rocket ship mass production going on. However the biggest aspect is the netcode and I really really hope that it will get optimized properly. At least a fix for the rubberbanding of cargo ships (and also any ship that you are not inside) would be nice to have, the rest can wait.

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  16. ever since update 1.043 I get black boxes on anything not 3D rendered, (thruster flames, the sun, interaction areas). it's miserable.

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    1. please send your logs to support@keenswh.com and write there it's for "Drui" and that it is black boxes issue. Thanks!

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  17. Nice post. Question, though. can we plat these scenarios in our current survival games when they come out? And, will scenarios be like a short term mission, then we start the game over? I like the idea of building up stuff as I do them, especially in survival.

    Thanks for the epic game!

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  18. OMG thank you. Just as I was getting ready to give up on this game. Bug fixes is what I need. Running a dedicated server has been a nightmare.

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  19. I'm happy to hear stabilizations are going to be the priority for the next time. Definitely the right decision. In fact that was the biggest concern me an my friends had the last weeks when we were "trying to play SE".

    But at the same time I'm really concerned that no optimizations are planned at all. Especially for the multiplayer. I think the multiplayer is pretty much broken right now, but from my point of view this is mostly due to synchronization problems. Are you going to work on these problems in the next weeks/months?

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    1. I could not agree more. Bug fixes! Optimizations should be cone after bug fixes really. Then bug fixes again after optimizations.

      I think though some of the multiplayer problems are actually bugs and not optimizations but I could be wrong.

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  20. Marek, you answered about the modding API, but I am still curious as to whether in-game programming is a WIP and will be released before the code freeze.

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  21. I look forward to each and every update, and even though there will be a new feature freeze, it will be nice to see the bugs fixed. As for missions, when they're released, I will be like a kid on Christmas morning and I may have to clean up the mess in my pants caused by...well, I think you get the picturre

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  22. marek when do we get our smallship weapon trigger control through sensors/menu?

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  23. HELL YEAH "will give players goals to achieve; something that will make Space Engineers more of a game and not just a creative sandbox." that's what i wanted to hear!!! god thk Keen.

    I know that sandbox games need to be created from your imagination but scenario should greatly increase the pleasure of playing SE and of course "cross fingers" procedurally generated world" that you can travel trought space and do some exploration would be the last thing that i wanted in space engineers.

    PS: i know they add the possibility to add asteroid manually by creative mode, but it's not a "real" procedurally generated world, but anyways who care for the moment it's only an early acess, so thk you once again! :)

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  24. I hope after the freeze phase comes another feature phase ... would be sad if the weekly Update-thursday is gone for ever :D ... And in my opinion there is still soooooo much you guys could add to make this game ever more awsome XD

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  25. I would like to see a Stealth Armor (Lighter but you can't be detected)

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  26. I just hope procedural/infinite worlds are implemented sometime in the future. Not knowing what to expect and having an infinite number of generated locations would greatly improve the exploration aspect of the game.

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  27. This is nice news as usual, thank you, big devs!

    Just a free (not new) suggestion: add random bots/ai/npcs seeking for players to raid. It would really enhance the survival experience(which currently is almost merely a slowed creative mode ) by adding a real threat.
    I know this can be added with mods, but, for such an nontrivial feature, I would really prefer seeing KSWH handling it.

    Good continuation!

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  28. Pt 2:

    [Why] Because piloting these blocks around still feels rather simplistic and more like driving a car than flying a spaceship. Additionally when the game is optimized and larger server capacity is available (?possibly?) the navigation and sensors will come into their own.

    Some survival servers have 30+ asteroid groups located at xyz grid coordinates, that are only available on steam groups and websites, and steam sale weekends lead to a host of new players asking what I feel are annoyingly reasonable questions about where everything is and how do you spot other players.

    The answers are currently this:
    1. Look at the website linked in the steam group which is named on the server beacon, then pilot your according to the XYZ infinity beacons. The infinity line to the beacons are home to the corpses of hundreds of players who have misunderstood and tried to fly to each beacon, sometimes for 6 hours. They then quit playing the game out of frustration (from what I can gather) Often more experienced players get annoyed by the 6000th time they've explained the system, and are much less helpful.

    I feel this arises not because of overcomplexity or lack of sophistication in the game, or shortcomings on the part of the gamers, but in a lack of intuitive navigation features that should be present and are largely present in other space games. In fact the XYZ beacon system was a stop gap (in my recollection) measure to account for these lacking features, and is entirely necessary on large servers (given the forum rage whenever the beacons have been screwed around with in fixes and updates, ie, infinite settings no longer available after factions introduced, for a time)

    The modern human mind assumes that a spaceship in a world that has been built to resemble a realistic world of known physics would have a feature (probably bound to the "M" or "N" key ^.^ that brings up even the most rudimentary map. Even if the only features on that map were large mass objects (asteroids the server spawns) and everything else had to be entered in manually after discovery (makes the world a discoverable unknown, which I prefer in many ways)

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  29. Pt3:

    For the second question people ask, "How do I see other ships?" The answer is that you pan in third person mode while your ships moving trying to spot object that your eyes will naturally pick out as not part of the skybox. This seems rather non intuitive for the level of intricacy in resource extraction, refinement, component production, ship design, assembly, testing, and level time/effort risk in anything other than creative or friends only survival.

    Some sort of a sensor system even a rudimentary 2 setting system that only detects out to 2 kms, and shows a red square on your HUD would be more preferable and intuitive than sky box scanning which is an odd meta game in and of itself.

    Sub-Features/Fixes
    - very tiny pieces of asteroids which don't turn into floating trash during mining can remain fixed to the grid, while being very hard to see while flying. You can fly a large ship into one of these fixed points (the size of an apple) and it can drag a hole of damage all the way through your ship in very unpredictable ways and is one of the leading causes of "unexplained damage" in the game. We park are ships, or walk around them after having left an asteroid and ask ourselves what just wrecked all of the machinery inside my ship. Some sort of mass/speed parameter should cause these small points to disappear upon impact, if they are an unavoidable side affect of volumetric block grid (better term?)

    - unexplainable warping/damaged blocks on ships even in creative when the ship is not moved, there are no meteors or other moving objects to collide. I've noticed this inside large ships, in rooms contained in other larger rooms where no blocks have been deleted (thus allowing for unconnected blocks to move around) Perhaps this damage is reasonably explainable, but is not noticed until after damage causing conditions are non-existent (like testing a large ship, and then working on it for weeks, and only noticing the damage after it's been stationary. But then again, what is causing the internal damage when the ship is moving and no obvious factors are observed?) Generally I noticed the damage visually as a swathes of armor blocks that are warped (slightly damaged, 90%ish)

    Thanks for your time. Please forgive any inaccuracies in my layman terminology as I try to describe how my brain improperly grasps the concept of programming and modding. I do not intend to appear as if I actually understand what is beneath game features, but I do consider myself more than casual wanderer when it comes to systems of game features and how they interact for the user experience, making a game accessible and fun, or inaccessible and frustrating.

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  30. Sounds reasonable. Personally I hope for these 3 additions before the feature freeze period:
    - Blueprints & 3D Printing for survival
    - Navigation System
    - Detection System

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  31. I think space engineers is really good. You should add navigation systems
    (by the way I am Czech)

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  32. Great to hear you're diversifying your development efforts. I'd love to see the game a little more stable, and the additional level content will help sustain interest. This post reassures me that you're not just focused single-mindedly on features to the point of neglecting other important aspects of the game.

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  33. You guys are the bees' knees! Keep up the solid programming work, you guys are an inspiration to fellow software engineers worldwide!

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  34. Please fix your forums lol, its been taken over by spam bots!

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  35. Too bad for that prague requirement, tried it once, didn't work out bcs of personal reasons and i had to move back to Ostrava.

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  36. I hope you can make 64bit verision support more nvida cards.... I know that bug fixing is important but seriously why only 32bit version can run on GeForce GT 540M...

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  37. Thank you for this awesome engineering simulation.

    As a new player, what you really need to improve is storage stacking, selective storage and selective refining. For example I want to set priorities for refineries. Ref. 1 process iron ore Ref 2 process Cobalt .... etc. Also, the same for connectors. I have designed a planet cracker, but after a full run, much of my time spent is allocating work to assemblers and refineries and sorting out stones and excessive materials to dump into space. These items should be automated. Connector 1 always dumps stones into the space while connector 2 dumps excessive iron etc.

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  38. Apparently Pt 1 of my tome on navigation/detection got destroyed by the blog?

    ::effort::

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  39. Please, PLEASE rethink this... Most of us want to make our own fun, especially in multiplayer! Scenarios and the like wont benefit multiplayer servers one bit, and that's where the majority of your players are. Please improve the multiplayer experience before you start doing this.

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  40. I completely disagree with the previous comment. I have enjoyed this game more than any other in my 32 yrs of gaming, but have grown weary trying to come up with a reason to continue playing. In other words, I love building machines and systems within the SE world (and thinking about them when I'm not at my comp), but have run into the question - to what end? I have pirated cargo ships, built worlds in pitch black with no thrusters allowed, and developed maximum-efficiency mining rigs; but I'm running out of ideas. Building elaborate carrier-class starships and stations, which the workshop is full of, is of little interest to me without the challenge of survival settings - and why would one build such things in survival?

    KeenSWH generated scenarios would give me that new purpose and challenge I seek! I would love to assist with the creation effort, but alas I am only an Intellectual Property atty and can't relocate to the CR.

    Mike
    Wash. DC

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  41. The link to that contest is 404'd

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    1. Thank for letting me know. It's fixed now.

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  42. Hi Marek, Sorry for writing this here, I don't know any other way of contacting you..

    Could you please look into doing something about the spam on the Space Engineers Forums.. forums.keenswh.com

    It is getting quite out of hand now, there is so much spam going into the forums that it's becoming hard to find actual topics... I know that the spam topics do get removed after a while.. but then the spammer makes another account and does it again, this has been happening all week... The worse I saw it was 7 pages full of Spam Topics.

    Here is a screenshot of the General Discussions thread as of today... today of course being update day.

    http://33.media.tumblr.com/2865f1320652fc6e3ee2d395ed28bdd7/tumblr_ndx75mnZst1r2k180o1_1280.png

    Please look into doing something about this Marek.

    My username on the forum is KissSh0t

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  43. tl;dr ( for the impatient :P ):
    It is extremely saddening to hear that no optimizations are planned currently.


    Even just a basic occlusion system, so that not all geometry is rendered at once, thus allowing us to make ships larger than a frigate. Seriously, all of my friends have pretty much abandoned the game because of how unoptimized it is.

    To people who will undoubtedly challenge my statements with jeers of "Get a better computer" or "It's alpha what do you expect?", I would like to mention that several of said friends have high-powered gaming rigs and that I am not the first person mentioning how unoptimized the game is. I am not demanding nor expecting fluid 60 FPS with multiple dreadnaughts engaging one another obviously, just that one could have a few large ships (perhaps destroyer-sized) in a central area and not bring everyone there to a crashing halt of 1-5 FPS. Again, this is with multiple different computer builds, many of which are extremely powerful, some of which are rather under-powered, but still meet minimum requirements.

    Personally, I think there is a large misunderstanding here about game development: Optimization is not something you put off till beta. You put off the large, sweeping optimization runs till beta yes, but not minor optimizations to make the game playable.
    For example, look at star-made, a competitor to this game. It has a pseudo infinite universe, can fully support Dreadnaught Vs Dreadnaught scale battles, has full planets, has NPC AI, and more, yet is optimized enough to run even on "somewhat" older hardware. It too is Alpha. There will be more overhead thanks to the higher graphical level of Space Engineers (Textured cubes/faces vs SE's Polygon models), yes, but it shouldn't be as large as it is currently.

    That aside, I am gratified to see that the focus has changed to bug-fixing, and will continue to keep tabs on the game in hopes that some day it will be optimized enough to resume playing it with my friends :)

    Note:
    For size reference, we tend to see the spawn tug as a large fighter, with a frigate generally around the size of the red ship up to that NPC mining ship who's name eludes me currently. A destroyer would likely be 1.5 - 2 times as large as these for us.

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  44. It appears to me that people have a wrong assumption in that we didn't do any optimizations in SE.

    I want to correct this opinion. The game has undergone multiple partial optimization periods - too small to call them full scale optimizations. On top of that, when we implement a new feature, we usually don't implement it in a "naive way" that would kill the performance. We usually think it through and do some tricks during initial implementation.

    I understand that you want to build big things but at the same time it's good to understand why certain things are CPU demanding. That's why we made this guide: http://www.spaceengineersgame.com/performance-advices.html

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  45. Now that you have released the game for retail purchase, you will have had to run tests on the game to determine the "Minimum Specifications" and "Recommended Specifications" for a PC to run this game. If players start to build large ships of more than 2 million kilograms they will see a performance hit, which will result in a higher rate of returns and increased complaints to government ombudsmans about false advertising. Better get your act together with the optimization, or prepare to be forever seen as the next John Romero, and Space Engineers as the next Daikatana.

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  46. this bug fix also happened in multiplayer survival?
    From Brazil :D

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