The KSH roadmap for 2016 – Space Engineers & Medieval Engineers
As I promised in the Year in Review blog I published a couple of days ago, I would like to share with you the Space Engineers and Medieval Engineers roadmap for 2016. This comes in contrast to our decision to only talk about features that are actually present in our games (fully finished or work-in-progress) and not speak about planned features, ideas, future dates, our roadmap, etc. The reason why I am making this exception now is because I believe that after two years in Early Access, our players have a better understanding of our development decisions. Additionally, people deserve to know how our games are shaping up, especially Space Engineers, as we are approaching the final turn in the game’s development before it leaves Early Access.
Before I continue, I would like to remind everyone that everything I say here is subject to change.
Important: some of my comments may sound harsh to my colleagues who are actively working on these games. Let me assure you all that we have the same goal: make our games great!
I also want to mention that I will not go very deep into details or explain each and every feature separately in this blog (that’s for separate design documents). Instead, I am going to be playtesting both games live on Twitch, as I did on Monday – most likely on a weekly basis, usually on Mondays – where I will point out the issues I find in our games. We are also planning to do focus testing groups where “random” people with no experience with Space Engineers / Medieval Engineers play the games for the first time (to see what issues they encounter, where they get stuck, what they enjoy most, what troubles them, etc .)
Space Engineers Roadmap
After two years in Early Access, I believe that Space Engineers has a vast amount of features - perhaps even more than what was needed. But we always wanted to keep the development going and add new features constantly since there are so many community suggestions that could be a great addition to the game. For example, I never would have imagined two years ago that we’d add planets!
One of our top priorities is to improve multiplayer. It is not only about network coding, but is also related to game logic optimizations. We are working on a method where we put all non-real-time game-logic in a secondary thread. For example, the computations for drilling/refinery/conveyors/oxygen won’t delay the main thread (which has to stay real-time). The reason is that players can always build crazily huge things which slow down the game (regardless of how much we optimize it), and if players perceive non-smooth movement, they think it’s a bug.
The development cycle of a game is complex, but its core idea does not differ from the development of the majority of products that are out on the market today. I will give you an example to understand this better. Let’s assume that you are producing a car. The first thing you do is assemble all necessary parts. After this phase is done, you take the car for a test drive. You identify any possible issues and then you fix them. After all issues are fixed and the car is functioning properly, you add the final touches – painting, polishing, etc. Then you are ready to start selling the car. The same principles apply to our games. Space Engineers is now in the phase where (nearly) all necessary parts have been assembled and we are ready to move to the major polishing and bug-fixing phase. This will probably be the longest and final bug-fixing period before the game is released in its final state.
Please note that the order of the list below is random and doesn’t reflect the priority that we give to each action. As I mentioned previously, our top-most priorities are to fix all annoying issues that make the game unplayable for many of you, improve the multiplayer, and polish the game.
- Multiplayer - polishing, checking design, lag, compensation
- Fix all sounds, 3D, arcade / realistic (ask programmers and our sound designer to make a list of all sounds used in the game and then have someone test them all – so that we don’t miss anything)
- Voxels: data cell cache, storage, optimization, profiling voxel runtime
- Render fixes (Ambient, environment map / lighting / reflections), occlusion query, ambient + backlight
- Occlusion culling - blocks / voxels (speed up the rendering)
- Disable object highlight on LCD screens (it’s annoying)
- Fix loading screen issues (e.g. the wheel gets stuck at the end and I can hear the in-game sounds)
- Red message box – make the background texture less transparent; it’s hard to read text on it
- Conveyor system optimization
- Drilling / mining optimization
- New animation system / cashing (speed optimization) / other optimizations
** Add new animations – e.g. holding a weapon
** Walking over small obstacles doesn't work - the player has to jump over them
** Jumping and holding the forward-movement key doesn't result in a forward jump, and this doesn't feel right
- Shooting and weapons
** We need much better animations, holding weapons, ammo reload
** In general, we need a basic FPS experience
- "saving please wait" - hide this overlay text and do saving asynchronously without bothering the player
- Why does the game auto-save in multiplayer when I am the client and manual save isn't available?
- Remembering removed trees on planets
- Nvidia GameWorks – consider HBAO + Antialiasing (speed up)
- SE Indication of hydrogen fuel
- Spectator flash light / night vision
- Object highlight – outline – finish – also in ME
- Finish support for scenarios, mission scripts and sub-missions (will need for tutorials)
- Finish building from cockpit
- Rethink the way of respawning, respawn ships, landing ships, and rethink "mobile tools" (manual assembler – so player can respawn without a ship and still be able to start building)
- Rag-doll + IK, bullet impact, falling, four legged...
- Official persistent servers
- Automated tests for our testers + buy dedicated computers where the game will run 24x7
- Redo the GUI framework (this doesn’t mean changing graphics; it only means the underlying tech which has become very cluttered over time)
- Game logic optimizations + oxygen (mostly for MP) + oxygen sensor
- Add voxel material in survival
- Improve tutorials
** When I launch the first interactive tutorial, I see two things that I shouldn't see – the respawn screen and "you have been accepted to faction"
** Quickstart will be our interactive tutorial, with minimum text, HUD sub-mission navigation. Its purpose will be to engage the player and not to explain everything that happens in the game.
** After we add this new tutorial, remove the video tutorial message box
- Development of Xbox One version
Medieval Engineers Roadmap
In Medieval Engineers, things are a bit different from Space Engineers. The game will complete one year in Early Access very soon and many of the features that we planned to implement are already in the game - e.g. survival mode, castle siege mode, multiplayer, simple AI characters, and crafting. However, many of these features have various issues or the implementation is very rough – in a clear work-in-progress stage. The overall gameplay lacks a polished feeling – e.g. the first few minutes might feel very annoying for some players (myself included!), the controls and gameplay is not intuitive, there are weird animations, etc. These are the things we will improve first so we can then continue adding new elements.
Please note that the order of the below list is random and doesn’t reflect the priority that we give each action.
- Add planets to ME - this will unify the technology in our games and make future improvements easier
- Animation polishing
- Inventory size rebalance
- Character stats rebalance
- Multiplayer fixes and polishing
- Polish the in-game screens
- Fix all sounds, 3D (ask programmers and our sound designer to make a list of all sounds used in the game and then have someone test them all – so that we don’t miss anything)
- Combat system
- AI changes, fixes, simplification
- Building on a grid
- Large grid construction site
- Small grid construction site
- Rethink if the respawn cart is necessary - why can't the player respawn in a normal way?
- Testing scenarios for DEV
- Tool durability, tool damage
- New animals – e.g. wolves, bears, etc.
- Fix Z-fighting
- Door / window blocks
- Gate blocks
- Mechanical blocks
- Redo the manipulation tool, remove it from the toolbar, add it to the context-sensitive action key (e.g. T), disable physics while the player is holding the item
- Faction system
- Claim of an area
- Support to add voxels in survival
- Area inventories – remove this feature (players should not have access to the inventories / items that are not in the direct vicinity or those that they are not interacting with directly)
- Regrowing trees / bushes
- New maps / worlds
- More voxel materials such as iron, sand stone, etc.
- More multi-blocks
- More compound block combinations
- Specialized workshops
- Specialized furnaces
VRAGE / Both Games
- Add/build new blocks/grids – finish the redesign – static, dynamic; small, large; creative, survival, construction sites
- Multiplayer server optimizations (read the second paragraph under the Space Engineers roadmap section for a more detailed analysis)
- Falling in 1g (especially in SE) doesn’t feel like 1g – the falling is way too slow; this was caused by changes in physics due to the Moon gravity, but the result is not good (yes, we want higher jumps on the Moon but we also want “normal” jumps/falling on Earth)
- Finish transition to PBR (physically based rendering) and DX11, all models and textures needs to be checked
- Redesign and simplify the key and mouse controls and GUI, check F1 help screen, left and right mouse click - try to do things with as few keys as possible by adding context-sensitive commands, get it to a stage when we don’t need to show 5-7 lines of default screen hints
- Fix the 3rd person aim-point; first-person is ok
- First-person movement and camera – the experience needs to improve, since now it feels all wrong
- When pressing ESC while playing single-player (menu screen), the game doesn’t pause (and that’s just weird)
- Proper sound when the character is running on armour blocks – players don't hear metallic steps
- Faster executable loading - when I installed the game on a new computer and launched it from Steam, I could only see a black screen and game mouse cursor and listen to game music for about 15 seconds; I don't understand what the game is doing during this time before the main menu – trying to upset me?
- Particles fix
** Rendering, especially DX11
** Fix individual particles in each game and keep the low number of billboards and pixel overdraw
** Programmer – make a list of all particle effects in the game
** Artist – make a list of all particle effects in the game
** Then match these lists, so there’s no unfixed particle, and we’re not fixing a particle that’s not used in the game
- Faster world loading
** In the main menu, the game should pre-load the most used assets, so that when a player loads a world, most of it is already loaded
** Streaming assets, but make sure this won't break the game (lags, crashes, delays) when something suddenly jumps to the player (jump drive, spawned object, etc.)
** Or if pre-loading isn’t a good option, then at least load assets asynchronously so the game doesn’t lag for a few hundred milliseconds every time new assets are needed
- Refactor code (e.g. cube builder) – for two years we have been adding new blocks to this class, and it’s time for some spring cleaning
- ME + SE player skills
- In-game server admin tools (with GUI) – take the best from Midspace’s SE Toolbox and Tyrsis’ Server Extender; assume players want to become space masters
- Main menu redesign
** Workshop button – move it somewhere else (e.g. Load), because it shows only world workshop items and not the entire workshop (blueprints, 3D models, etc)
- Blueprints – simplify the user interface and GUI
- Economy model (very simple)
- Camera shake (e.g. when near explosion, when hit by a larger object, when shooting, etc)
- Analyse the player stats and see where people get stuck, where they have problems, if tutorials are actually helping them or not, what changes in game design can prolong their game time (by making the game more intuitive and better)
Additional polishing and bug-fixing ideas will appear during my twitch gameplay sessions . If you think I missed something, please send it directly to me: email@example.com (Please report only the "annoying stuff", not wishes for new features/blocks. Thanks!)
Also, please keep reporting bugs and other issues on our forums (add links).
This year is going to be a very busy and challenging one for all of our teams. I am really looking forward to it!
Additionally, we have decided to run a live-stream tomorrow Friday, January 15th at 7pm CET on our Twitch channel, where, together with our lead game designers and a few of our closest YouTubers, I will be answering your questions and providing more details about the roadmap. Please start preparing your questions!
CEO, CTO & Founder
Keen Software House, GoodAI