Spotted on facebook!

Ship of Heroes will be attending GDC 2018 next week! Casey [the CEO of Heroic Games] will be attending sessions, doing interviews and meeting with other devs, so keep an eye out for updates and photos (and if you are a developer or press and will be there, let me [him!] know).

Casey on SoH Alpha Feedback/PC Req/Optimization

Note from The Consultant (Casey McGeever) about the computers used for testing:

You can see it on the thread on the official website.

"We have a few other comments about using the lower power computers. First, we will likely give an option to turn shadows off. This actually doubles (or more) FPS without doing much damage to the player experience at all. Also, simply choosing 1280x720 (which a lot of games are built for) also doubles (or more) FPS on my laptop. Also it is important to realize that we see much higher levels of performance from desktop 970GTX than from the laptop versions, except in some circumstances. So the other elements of the hardware (like the CPU) do matter, as does your connection speed.

And we will have pull-down menus for helping with lower power computers, which UE4 enables now. And we are looking at the option of turning off the FX from other players (whether your computer is robust or not -- it seems some people like this option because they have used it in other games, so it has become a matter of personal play-style, and we are about enabling personal play-styles).

But finally, we also need to remember that we are putting a lot of effort into optimization, and we are not done yet. All of the pieces are not in place at this time. Just since we made the Night of the Clones video we've implemented a bunch of additional changes to enable higher speeds, and more importantly, more players in the game simultaneously.

Most dev teams really spend the last few months trying to optimize in a sudden rush before launch. We're working on these issues throughout development. This extra work kind of annoys our coders and artists, to be honest, but we think it is important to plan and implement our plan as we go, and not to rely on fixing under-performing systems and processes at the last minute. We will likely end up fixing things at the last minute anyway, but the year+ that we've been focused on optimization already gives us a better starting point than many MMOs.

If we were making a single player game, or accepting that only 20-25 players could be in a city zone at once, we would not need to do all of things we're doing. But that is not our aspiration."

More Alpha Runs Planned

On the official Ship of Heroes forum, Consultant said they they are planning a live stream with Neith today at 1:30 Eastern Time (presumably that's pm!). He also said he's looking for some volunteers to do an alpha run!

Quote from the thread:
We'll likely be starting to make runs this week, during the afternoons (US Eastern time) around 2:00. We'll be looking for a few volunteers who want to give it a whirl on a weekday, so if you are really enthused, send me a PM.

Latest from the February 2018 Alpha

Here's the press release:

This documents summarizes why the Ship of Heroes team thinks the Escorted Combat Alpha video is very significant (a direct quote from the press release):
  • Ship of Heroes has released video highlights from their successful combat Alpha, which focuses on team combat.  The team of six is comprised of three supporters who have never played Ship of Heroes before and three developers.  With one exception, each team member is playing a signature hero from SoH, and employing superpowers shown in previous videos. Sword Blossom, the Dual Swords Brawler, shows off a new offensive melee powerset for the first time.
  • This Alpha comes almost exactly one year after the devs first published a sneak peek at combat in early 2017, with a single character fighting a small group of Nagdellian raiders.  SoH has advanced a great deal since then, showing team combat, healing, tanking, buff and debuff, five offensive powersets, and three enemy groups.  The fight concludes with a boss battle against a giant mech lasting just over one minute.
  • The devs tell us they are making improvements, bug fixes, and expansions almost every day.  They’re also listening to their community; for example, some supporters on the SoH forums requested X- and Y- axis inversion as an option, and it has already been added to the Alpha.  In fact, one supporter was playing with his mouse controls inverted during the video.
  • The devs at Ship of Heroes plan to continue repeating this successful Alpha test with new groups of supporters for some time.  Dozens of people will get the chance to play the game, and give immediate feedback to a few of the senior developers.  It’s an unheard-of level of transparency for a pre-launch MMORPG.  We’re told the devs also plan to livestream at least one Alpha run.
  • The devs at Ship of Heroes usually record their videos in-game using a client-server arrangement to provide the same appearance that a player will experience, and they did it again in this video.  Each of the six participants downloaded a client, and then logged into an SoH server and played the game.  Participants for these tests were located all over the US and in Europe.
  • The three enemy groups in this video all pursue different combat strategies and possess different powers.  For example, the Nagdellians use ranged weapon attacks and can beam in reinforcements during the fight.  The Yekus can ignore taunt, and identify and attack the team’s healer, draining her energy.  The Promethean boss at the end can hit a large area with a powerful AOE attack, and can also target individuals with a nearly-lethal strike.
  • Ship of Heroes is making remarkable progress.  The SoH devs are using a process of continuous integration, expansion, and improvement, not trying to build a final work product in secret.  As a result, the Alpha video shows familiar elements such as the characters that have been made in the SoH character creator, the same persistent map – including recent improvements – and upgraded versions of previously-revealed FX.
  • This is the 20th Ship of Heroes video published in just over a year. A timeline of progress would show the first two devs getting started 22 months ago, recruiting a mixed development team of players, volunteers and contractors, and delivering steady progress.  Less than 16 months have passed since the SoH website went live, and 14 months since the first video, which showed Apotheosis City, appeared.  A previous successful Alpha test of the SoH character creator (CCT) occurred five months ago, and the devs are reported to currently be working on a CCT upgrade based on community suggestions. 

Ship of Heroes is being developed in the Unreal 4 Engine, and is planning a Beta launch at the end of 2018.

And here's my take on things so far:

  • I was lucky enough to be invited along for one of those runs and I was very impressed with the way the city looks: Yes, it really is that clean and shiny and new and you can jump up onto things and run around all over the place... and we did.
  • The signature heroes we played were created in the character creation tool that Heroic Games have built. The same one that the players will use.
  • The combat is smooth. There was no lag at all connecting from Europe with Skype (yes, I know!) running in the background.
  • I mostly played as Iris, the witch. Her dark powers activated without any issues apart from the global cooldown on most of them and the block on using them while moving - both of which I promptly complained about mentioned as possibly requiring further consideration :)
  • We identified a few things that we thought should be changed, such as the aforementioned overly enthusiastic block on using powers when moving and the current lack of feedback when you hit an enemy as melee, and the devs were receptive to the ideas. In fact they'd identified a lot of those themselves but hadn't had time to change them while preparing for the alpha tests.
  • The sound effects are the same placeholders as in other videos.
  • The enemies, as we found out, have vastly different aggro ranges and tactics they can call on by design. It's going to be interesting meeting these for the first time in the live game.
  • Most components of the UI can be moved around and locked in place and, yes, we do now have an x/y mouse invert (yay).
  • We also found out that Sword Blossom is a trouble maker...

All in all, considering this was an early alpha run to get feedback from players, it was very impressive, as well as being reassuring that things are going really well. I'm looking forward to the next updates and waiting (im)patiently for the game to go live. Open beta is currently planned for the end of 2018.

Tale of an Unlikely Super Hero, part 1 published

In a shameless bit of self-promotion... I've just published a (free) short story about a teenage girl on the FHS Justice who barely survives an horrific accident in which she is smothered in Unobtanium dust. The resulting changes to her DNA result in her gaining some awesome super powers.

This is part 1. The rest of the series will be written when Alice actually has a ship to call home. More details on lunawisp's blog.

Alpha Test Combat Features

A newsletter and a new short video have been released by Heroic Games giving us a flavour of things to come.

Here's an interesting quote:
The next major event on our milestone schedule for 2018 is to upgrade from 4.16, our current Unreal Engine version, to 4.17 and then 4.18.  That will allow us to continue integrating the engine improvements Epic Games builds.  After that, we will likely begin planning a closed raid test using a mix of supporters and devs.

And a list of recent improvements which they say show the current state of the game but are expected to change as a result of further development and from feedback from the upcoming alpha.
  • Power trays can be added, can be vertical or horizontal, are moveable over the screen, and are lockable. In addition, most of the UI is resizable.
  • Game volume is now adjustable in the settings.
  • Enemy nametags are coloured, now showing the difference between the enemy’s level and your character’s level.
  • Intelligent tab-targeting now accounts for both proximity, and which direction your character is looking.
  • Auto-targeting in combat is enhanced, as is retargeting once an enemy is defeated.
  • Auto-rotation to face a new target now occurs only on power use, and is slowed down to prevent motion sickness.
  • Combat against groups of enemies is now smoother.

You can read the newsletter on the Ship of Heroes website.

Latest Ship of Heroes Schedule

Spotted this on the official forum and decided to share it... bear in mind nothing is fixed in stone, the game is in an early state of development and dates are liable to change.

Current schedule, although this may change;

Limited Combat Alpha - REALLLLLLLY SOON! probably within two weeks. They will get as many people as they can into this phase, but sadly it will probably be less than 100, including press tours.

More general alpha should be Q2-Q3 this year.

Beta testing (this will be paid beta to finance finishing the game) will probably start as an early Christmas present.

Open beta will be sometime in Q2 2019. The length of this phase, or how long before release is unknown.

Release date is currently scheduled for July 4th 2019, although this is tentative - that is Consultant's birthday, and I really really really think he wants the game release that day as a super birthday present!

It's worth mentioning that Consultant said "No dates in 2019 have been even roughly penciled in yet."
So don't go marking any firm dates in your diaries just yet ;)

Also noted, on the same thread...
If you donated to at least the $25 level, you will have access to the character creator two weeks before release! You will be able to fuss and fine tune as much as you want, and when the game releases, you will be one button click from joining into the fun!

SoH Alpha Test News

We've learned that the first escorted alpha tests are due for the second half of February, they will be run in teams of devs and 3-4 of our donors, supporters, and members of the press. Together they'll run through the Science Park area of Apotheosis City and fight a series of enemy mobs. It's expected that the fights will be recorded and there's a possibility that one of more of the fights may be live streamed.

Quoting from the newsletter:
An alpha test is more than just the first shot at playing Ship of Heroes – it is real work, and we appreciate the help we’re getting from our supporters.  This is not a balanced combat scenario.  Instead, we’re testing how people think combat should “feel” in Ship of Heroes, and we have deliberately eliminated some important elements for now.  For example, accuracy is set to 100% for both players and enemies, so every attack will land. 
In many MMOs, combat against a mob of enemies is brief – 5 seconds, give or take.   Instead, we’ve set the difficult level to provide fight durations in the range of 20-30 seconds so that videos of the fighting will show more action, and allow players to exhibit more complex tactics. So, these alpha runs are not an indication of how difficult ordinary (street sweeping) combat is going to be in Ship of Heroes.

This isn’t a typical early alpha.  We’re taking an inclusive approach to get meaningful feedback.
We have mixed teams of devs and supporters, and we’re taking feedback directly from the community during combat. We’re showing you how the latest build looks, live.
Even if something goes wrong, we don’t want to hide it from you. We’re not waiting until we've decided the final DPS numbers to let third parties try the combat. Don’t expect the relative strengths of powersets to be the same as the alpha when we launch, or even in three months.
Some aspect of the balance changes every week. We’re showing hard fights to demonstrate roles other than doing damage, but we’re also showing them in Apotheosis City, because the city is now optimized enough to do that. An indoor map would be easier, but we think this is more exciting.  In the post-launch game, you’ll have to go into hazard zones to find enemies this tough… or crank up the difficulty settings.

Heroic Games are asking for feedback on the overall feel of the combat, even well before the balancing is decided.  How does it look?  How does it sound?  What do people think of every enemy group having different powers and tactics? How about the idea that enemies will have in-combat regen? They want feedback on their forums from everybody.

Additional alpha activities, and a second test of the character/costume design tool, and at least one big raid event are planned for 2018.

What we Learned About SoH Villains

There was a lot of interesting information released during the video interview with the MMO writer Neith. Some of it about the villains is summarised below. A forum post on the Ship of Heroes Official Site goes into more detail.

The Villain Groups we have so far, and which were shown in the video are:

  • The Nagdellians: ruthless alien invaders bent on domination of the Justice.
  • The Prometheans: a secret sect of Cyborg/Dark Magic Users that wish to create a super race of cybernetically-enhanced humans to rule the Justice.
  • The Yekus Mercenary Clan: a widespread group of soldiers for hire that serve as muscle for the highest bidder.
  • The Red Sigil: a group of powerful magic users committed to revolutionary overthrow of the government of the Justice.

The Nagdellians have been expanded into four models, including enhanced soldiers, two Lieutenants, one with undisclosed super powers (one has the power to summon reinforcements); and the newly introduced Nagdellian Boss. It's rumoured that there may be Nagdellians with the ability to heal and some may exhibit typical controller and mastermind type powers.

The Prometheans live and build their army, by abduction and by a few foolish volunteers, from the safety of secret, inaccessible engineering access sublevels aboard the Justice, representing a serious threat to the security of the ship from within. They use cybernetic enhancements to improve their ability to make war.

The Yekus Mercenary Clan recruits members from all parts of the galaxy to create a large army of general muscle and soldiers that operate in multiple worlds. This is the first time the Yekus are shown in game – concept art was shown in October 2017. The line up of Yekus soldiers includes a Captain, with and without longcoat, and a super powered brawler with a cybernetic arm.

The Red Sigil is a secretive, revolutionary subgroup within the much larger community of magic-users aboard the Justice.  While they tend to favor old-fashioned and formal clothes, the Red Sigil has no uniform; any mage could secretly be a member.

The new Nagdellians are primarily the work of noted character artist Robert Brown.

Villian Groups - Video Interview with Neith

Another exciting video interview with the devs;  Consultant (Casey) and Matt talking with Neith live on twitch. I missed the stream but the video has been posted on Youtube and I've indexed it here, as usual.

Neith writes articles about game design, game theory, general reviews, etc. and has started a Patreon Page to support her game writing activities.

Villian Groups - Video Interview with Neith
01:30Introducing Iris, a witch aboard the ship
02:00Brief discussion of npc costumes, associated bandwidth issues
03:10Introducing the Red Sigil villian group
03:40Talking about magic users on board, mostly good
06:20Youkas are one of the primary mercenary clans, such clans don't always get on
07:40The Nagdelians, size and red flashes on uniform indicates higher rank/caste - can call in reinforcements
12:20Different castes of Nagdelians, hoping for for 5-6 at launch
12:40Talking about the Nagdelians motivations
14:00How the aliens get on board
17:20Confirming that Nagdelians have control/buff/debuff powers, maybe healers
17:40Giving mobs the sort of powers and tactics that players use to add to the challenge
19:30Meeting the Prometheans and talking about their motivations (they're all linked back to their keader)
22:30Promethean history and their possible bases in the deep engineering sections of the ship
23:25No playable villians, at least at launch
24:20A note that Sword Blossom is the head of the engineering section
26:50Introducing the Yekus
28:00No decision made at this stage to allow players to wear villian uniforms
29:20Talking about hair shaders and performance issues
31:10Motivations for the Youkas
31:40Explaining how citizens/mercenaries are resurrected after defeat in the same way as heroes
32:30Why the mercenaries are tolerated on board - employed by some others for protection, etc. Complex storyline around creation of mecenary groups, etc.
35:00Robots, a future enemy group - robots can become hostile when they attain consciousness (caused by unobtanium)
38:00'Evil' robots could potentially 'turn' other robots to their cause
39:30Introducing a new work in progress costume for females based on requests from testers in the last Costume Creator test
42:00Confirmation that costume items can be mixed & matched and colours changed as the player desires
48:00Summary by Consultant of what's been done so far wrt enemy/villian groups
49:30Confirmation of achievement/levelling/exploration badges, etc. - some of which will be account wide
50:00Talking about the importance of the established community to new players
50:50Decals for costumes are a future possibility
52:50Different flight poses will be available at some stage but animations for male/females/large are all different and it takes time
55:00About computers, performance on older machines, optimisation, etc.
56:50Still aiming for February for the next alpha test
59:00Consultant talking about Neith's Patreon page
1:00:50Showing off some interesting multiple power effects
1:03:55Neith talking about herself and her background
1:06:30Showing a female character with (moving/flowing) long hair in action, currently using APEX but it may change in the future
1:08:50Looking into an option to turn off other players effects but it'll be a player choice