Written by Dana "GOPHUR" Baldwin
Senior Producer, Playnet Inc.
Today marks a milestone in the development of 1.31. of the six hundred plus tickets we've had through the development cycle, one third of them are closed and another third are in the QA cycle, ready for testing. This leaves about a third of the known issues to complete but several of them are minor issues that don't really count. In other words, the end is near.
Or the beginning I should say because when we've cleared out the tickets from test, we'll have killed most of the known issues and that will signal that we are ready for open testing. Open Test will allow you guys to have a look at the client offline and then progress into a series of online Focus Tests which will bring us fully into the QA phase and begin preparing for release. Something that we are all anxious to have happen.
So, while I'd like to be announcing the Open test schedule today, we really have some more work to do. It is actually counter productive to the release time line to start the Open Test too early. There's no need for you guys to spend time reporting issues we are already aware of and honestly we want our first impression to be in a more polished state. Instead today I'm going to go through the read me and highlight the contents of the upcoming release. Some of these you'll have seen before but there are likely several things that you aren't aware of. This Production Update will also be a great source for some questions from the community that we can answer in anticipation of the Open Test. In no particular order, let's take a look at 1.31, the next big content release for Battleground Europe!
We've redone deployed infantry weapons in several ways. First it will be easier to deploy on a variety of surfaces because the deploy check now follow your eye point when you look up or down. We also fixed some issues where deployed guys were sinking in to the ground a bit so you'll better match up to objects in the world. RAMP also added a new Smart Undeploy system that many of you have been asking for. When you're deployed and you decide you want to move, say jump up and sprint, you'll now be able to do that with out first undeploying. That will happen automatically.
Infantry corpses now have ragdoll physics. When infantry take a killing blow they will react to the amount of force applied and fly through the air. They'll also drop their weapons and leave a bloody mess behind.
The capture mechanism has changed. There is no longer a capture table. Instead players will begin capture when they enter a capture building with a flag on it. To augment this there is a new HUD element that gives situational information. It'll tell you your lat/long as well as the town you are closest to and what the ownership is of that town. The new HUD element will also tell you all of the capture related information that used to be in the capture pop up. That's right, you can capture, and move, and shoot.
Speaking of the new HUD, there's a new mini map and the maps now have alpha. Infantry guys can now run with the map up. You can thank RAMP for all that extra awesomeness.
New Combat Stance and Idle Animations
We've reworked the standing pose to be more of a combat stance, slightly lowered, when you are idle and we've added some new animations that play when you are idle for an extended period. These animations do not affect crouching or prone so you'll want to use those stances when you want to hide with no movement. This work has also required an audit of the various first person eye heights so they better match up with third person. You'll come to a full height when aiming your rifle but now you can peek over the Army Base wall without being fully exposed and crouch to become hidden from view.
No Fire Zones
Infantry spawn points now contain a no fire zone. These zones are limited to the immediate area where players spawn. For instance the garage area of the depot spawn building and the roof are not no fire zones, neither is the vehicle garage.
This zone prevents other players from killing enemies as they spawn in. In the past we have chosen not to manually police these areas however, in the course of normal play it should be difficult (read on purpose) for players to find themselves in a no fire zone. If you enter a no fire zone you will receive an alert. If you attempt to fire in a no fire zone you will receive an additional alert and a head shake instead of firing your weapon. These zones only apply to infantry and infantry spawn points.
The list is too big to go into here but all of the older buildings have been replaced with new high poly models with normal and specular mapping. You'll have to play this to really get a full appreciation of the work the art team has done here. It is truly a heroic effort.
All of the trees and bushes in the world have been redone. New berms and stone walls complement many of these objects. We've also redone the infantry and AT gun revetments that dot the landscape. One of the coolest things we've added new is large grass fields that dot the landscape. You'll be able to use these for concealment in the field.
The radial clutter is all new and it is very impressive. It has a much improved density and draw distance. This grass is for immersion only and does not offer concealment.
Infantry have improved full body shadows and trees now cast shadows on the ground. There isn't much to say here but the effect in the world is worth a thousand words.
We've added cloudy days and rainy days to the mix. This weather will offer reduced visibility below the cloud deck with clear skies above for your dog fighting pleasure Players will be able to test these settings offline.
Those of you running multiple monitors will be pleased that the mouse now stays correctly locked to the game window. No more turning you rifle to the right just in time to snipe that sneaky sapper to find yourself launching your mail client just in time to die. We've also fixed the need to run in compatibility mode under Vista and Windows 7 so that your mouse will work. This is all part of a complete upgrade to the input system under the hood which should be seamless to you guys.
Attack of the Clones!
We've added clones to the offline part of the game. By using the space bar you can drop a copy of what ever vehicle of infantry you are using and that clone of you will remain in the game world in the state it was in when you dropped it. Sure, it's a marketing tool so we can set up elaborate screen shots but what's more fun is setting up a hundred troopers on a cliff and seeing how much hang time you can get from the ragdoll physics as they slide down and launch of the lip of the river! These guys don't (yet?) have any real damage modeling so don't try and use them for ballistics testing.
Infantry Draw Distance
We've been playing around a bit with the infantry draw distance. We've brought it in slightly to try and see if we can improve game play (undecided) or improve performance by lowering the need to draw LOD1 (high poly count) objects so far. We'll be looking to test this a bit more in Open Test when we can get some big infantry battles going and get some real time feedback.
Will There Be Sniperz (Training)?
Why yes, yes there will. Our kick ass intern BOOMKING has worked up some new tutorials with a little help from BLOO. We now have advanced training for ATRs, grenadiers, mortar men and snipers.
Every effect in the game has gotten some love. New muzzle flashes and explosions are particularly nice. New tracers all around too and several weapons have been given tracers where they had none before, like the infantry LMGs.
Infantry now have blood splatter effect when you hit them. They even leave some splats on walls and things behind them. Wicked. Boats have new wakes and sprays. Hit debris has been improved. The list goes on and on.
Those of you with Matrox Triple Heads or those fancy new Eyefinity cards from ATi will be happy to see that the HUD now supports these wide resolutions. I think we're going to see a lot more of you with these cards in the future. RAMP took mine “for development”. Funny how I haven't gotten it back...
Very large internal code rewrite of all terrain merging functions. Several of the processes have been moved from run time to build. This should result in better performance. Basically we're precalculating a bunch of the stuff like placement that used to happen at run time. This is what is allowing us to move to much more high fidelity terrain objects without melting your CPU. There are still a few wonky floating things to square away but JAEGER has done an outstanding job here.
Next up, performance tuning the engine. JAEGER and AHWULF are both tackling this. They've got culling routines and memory management issues to resolve as well as a bunch of other coder magic that makes my head swim a bit. This work will be ongoing through the Open Test. We're not going to release until it is squared away but we don't need that work to begin getting feedback and testing from you guys. Performance right now is on par with 1.30 in most areas but we have good plans in place to make it better.
The Return of the Death Cam
We've gone back to the old style revolving death cam and even made some improvements to it.
These items are best served in the read me format so here ya go:
* KwK.38L42 (PzKw.IIIh tank) APHEC (capped round) replaces earlier APHE round
* Crusader II replaced AP with APCBC
* Reduced over-penetration against amour plate of 75mm, 76mm and 88 mm HE rounds
* Adjusted bomb penetration on sc250he, f200, gp500 and mc500 for improved direct hit kills on heavy tanks
* Blenheim IV now carries gp500 bombs
* Hurricane IIc now carries mc500 bombs
* Upgraded the Char model
* Upgraded the Spitfire 1a model
* Upgraded the Spitfire Vb model
* Upgraded the Bf109 E4 model
* Ju52 now has ammo counter for tail gunner
* The rear armour error on the Pz.38t is now corrected
The Game Engine
Several of these features point directly to changes in the game engine that allowed them to happen. These improvements take form from improving core functionality all across the engine including new terrain systems, new shader implementation, improved render pipeline and an almost top to bottom review of the code base with fixes to memory handling, host stability and a vast array of subsystems. The only word to describe the work the team has done is monumental. We're looking forward to sharing our hard work with you “soon”.