Apotheosis City at Night Looks Fantastic!

Ok. I have to admit, the city looks great at night. Take a look at the video attached to the latest newsletter where the devs compressed a complete day/night cycle, which will last about 3 hours ingame, down to a few minutes. They're still working on perfecting light levels, etc. but it looks pretty good to me as it is.


More civilian paths and vehicles have been added to the map which is starting to take on a life of its own. It looks like a real city now with movement as npc's go about their business.

We also see our first image of a train in the city, in the image it's below Meltdown as he flies around!

Here's a quote from the end of the newsletter. See you on the forum...
Currently we are working on multiple efforts in order to integrate a couple of upgrades into SoH  for the future.  We intend to fundamentally test our CROM system to determine just how much of an FPS advantage it gives our players.  Similarly, we are completing a major –and unscheduled – round of player-character optimizations and improvements.  These two activities have pushed us back from our original schedule, but we’ll be showing and quantifying the positive effects of these changes in the near future.  We don’t often see dev teams being transparent about what they are doing on the technical side of a project, but we like to show quite a bit more detail than is common, and we will continue to do so in the future.
The next big thing will be a Login Test, which will occur before the end of the year.  Please keep watching and giving us feedback on the forums.

Civilians and Cars

Realism

 Areas frequented by players in MMO's need npc's to add immersion. The September 2018 newsletter  tells us about the developers vision for populating the city with civilian npc's and levitating cars.


The images above show Dr Strikewell standing in the street with hovercars behind her. The cars levitate constantly, even when parked, to facilitate easy entry and exit. Whether or not we'll actually be able to use vehicles is unknown at this time, though with superpowers at our disposal, we could probably get around faster under our own steam...

 This image shows a bunch of npc's standing around singly doing their own thing or in groups making the city look alive. This is very important in MMO's in order to add a hint of realism. Here's a quote from the devs:
There are over 100 civilians in the Arch Park, and at any given time, a player can see about 20.  We think this strikes a good balance between immersion and FPS.  As a supporter of SoH, feel free to weigh in with your opinion in the forums on whether this is the right density of civilians.

You can read the newsletter on the official Ship of Heroes Site and add your thoughts in the forum.


In Other News

  • Heroic Games are still working towards running that login test they've been talking about for a while so keep an eye on the official site (or here!) for news about that.
  • An engine upgrade is expected, to 4.20, soon which will give the devs some interesting new capabilities.

Cars? On a Ship?

Here's a glimpse of what cars could look like on Ship of Heroes. Note the lack of wheels! We don't yet have a backstory to explain their hovering, no doubt that'll all be made clear soon!


What can I say except... I want one!

Ship of Heroes, Community Poll

Heroic Games like to know what people think. The latest Community Poll asks the question:

"You’re in-game and you come across a new player who needs help with a mission. What would give you the greatest motivation/incentive to assist them?"

If you'd like to add your views, you can see the poll at https://www.shipofheroes.com/ and join in the discussion at https://www.shipofheroes.com/forums/viewforum.php?f=6

What's Being Worked On (first half of 2018)

The team have been working on six main areas of the game:

1.    The characters, costumes, morph targets, and related character art.
2.    The city, props, buildings, mission maps, and other environmental art.
3.    The code that works with the Unreal Engine, and creates the game.
4.    The powers, animations, FX, and SFX.
5.    The mission and big battle systems.
6.    Leveling and advancement.


Taking transparency to a whole new level and going into far greater detail than we'd normally expect from development teams, the lead developer for Heroic Games has provided a long list of work done in the last four months or so.

- Upgraded to 4.18
- Changed GM Calling command structure.
- Lots of meshmerge work.
- I'm not sure if Popcorn FX was added around the time of this upgrade or if it was new from shortly before but I see a lot of the early Popcorn stuff in there. Adding example beams and such. Many popcorn FX integration tweaks which can be branched into this note.
- Lots of Mission and Public Quest work as well as Quest Tracker upgrade.
- Damage Meter changes.
- Improved menu interactions, widget resizing, dynamic UI, and settings tweaks.
- Significance Manager
- Lots of folder restructuring and cleanup, that would break any reference to the moved items.
- Power system revamp.
- Targeting system revamp.
- Focus targeting system for things like target of target and focus assisting.
- Follow target.
- TrueSKY which is our day/night system.
- Status Effect Resistance and other improvements to Status Effects.
- Capsule shadows.
- FPS Meter
- Cast speed enhancements.
- Many optimizations.
- Custom character movement code.
- Civilian NPCs can now be spawned in large numbers.
- Update Rate Optimizations and skipped renders of invisible objects.
- Grounding optimizations.
- Health bars and nametags.
- Inventory slot improvements.
- Ability to hide/unhide UI.
- Target Frame Rate selector.
- Can activate keybinds when using the chat widget now.
- Targeting socket changes.
- Cooldown Buff/Debuff implementation.
- No longer tries to open up secondary programs when launches.
- Mouse controls now in C++.
- Controller ticks now in C++.
- Completely revamped the Character Player Hierarchy
- Re-setting movable UI in place

You can read more about this and any follow-up on the official forum post.


Here's some attached notes:
1. TrueSKY gives us day/night in-game. It as supposed to be a simple plugin but it turned out to be much more complicated than that. And implementing it has had several implications. For example, we can now link our FX intensity to the time of day automatically, so that subtle FX, like buffs, can be seen in the day but not become eye-searingly bright at night. Also, it's a bit of an issue to get the shadows just right. And finally, once we had this working we discovered that the city would look much better with emissive textures on the windows that light up at night. And then we decided that they should be subtly glowing during the dayas if the lights were on in the offices behind the glass. So altering the emissives and integrating them with our CROM system has taken over a month already. But it looks really good.

2. Significance manager is also a pretty cool idea. this allows us to help a player keep his game moving along quickly, as opposed to be stuck with low FPS, if there is a lot going on. This system, which we have custom-coded using capabilities of the Unreal Engine, means that the movements of the guys you are fighting have priority -- they are more significant -- than the distant shadows on buildings, if you are in a situation in which your FPS has dropped below a design setting. That's a simple case. We have a lot of metrics built into this feature.

3. Whenever you see a listing that says we have re-coded something out of blueprints and into C++, this is almost always because C++ is faster. BP are really easy to do, as they are a visual scripting language. You don't need to be a coder to write blueprints. But very few MMOs are every published without going through the BPs and converting them to C++. Unreal has automated tools for this conversion, but the tools do not always give us the very best (fastest) code structure. A skilled coder can do a better job. So we are steadily converting BPs to C++ as we move forward.


Since FPS (frames per second) is sort of fundamental to an MMO, we measure it a lot. Getting decent FPS in any multiplayer game is the coin of the realm. You can't just toss purchased assets into a framework and expect them to function with high FPS in a multiplayer scenario, even if they work well in a single player situation.

So we've done a simple thing. We added an FPS meter to the screen (it can be turned off), so that we can get community feedback on FPS during the upcoming login test. Instead of us telling you what FPS was achieved, we can all tell each other, and relate our results to the kinds of computers and graphics cards being used.

I've not heard of this being done before by a dev team, but it seems like a natural thing to do in a transparent situation like the Ship of Heroes development.

A second item is that we developed our own methodology to spawn scores of NPC civilians with modest FPS cost. Civilians are important -- a city looks empty without them. And the bigger the city, the more NPC civilians it needs to have, or it looks funny, and kind of dead.

You guys may recall that we are currently running Unreal Engine 4.18. But 4.19 was released a while ago, and 4.20 was released withing the last week. After the login test, we plan to evaluate the results that we get, and then double-jump to 4.20, because 4.20 has several things in it that will help us (and all MMOs) to increase FPS and to handle mobs of civilians. So first we'll test what we have already created, and then we will see how much effort we need to apply to get improvements using the engine upgrades.

This is a good example of getting lucky. We built the code systems we thought that we needed for SoH, and now Epic is adding more resources to our toolbox.  :)





Just to finish off, here's a few more screenshots of the (incomplete so far) night sky with partially lit buildings. It's worth noting that the lighting has not yet been balanced and not all buildings are lit - this is very much still a work in progress.



Hero Profile: Meltdown

The latest newsletter, dated 27th July 2018, is a profile of the superhero known as Meltdown.


He is half human, half Vais and gained his powers through exposure to Unobtanium. As usual, you can read all about Meltdown on the official Ship of Heroes website.

He has offices on the ship under the auction house and in the Justice Corps HQ building. Here's the latest interesting image of the interior of the auction house...



The next Ship of Heroes Alpha activity will be a login test for supporters, likely in early August of 2018. Following that, several other Alphas are expected with a first Beta test at the end of 2018. Launch is expected in 2019. Ship of Heroes is being developed by a small team, and appreciates your donations and support. If you'd like to join in the discussions on the forum of donate to the project, you can do so on the official Ship of Heroes site - https://www.shipofheroes.com/

Apotheosis City Projected Night View

Spotted a post on Heroic Games' Facebook feed showing how the lighting in the city at night could look. Posted here for those who don't use facebook..




Those who played City of Heroes/Villians will remember that skyscrapers lit up at night. We expect the lighting in Ship of Heroes' cities to follow a similar pattern, with a far more modern look of course :)

More screenshots of Apotheosis City

Nanite and Login Test News

It's been a good day for Ship of Heroes news!

We have a possible date for the upcoming multiple user login test in which a large number of people will be asked to log in so that critical systems can be tested and useful information gained. It's important to remember that this isn't a play test - there'll probably be little to do except admire the scenery and interact with other people around the Arch, but it's an important test and I'd encourage as many people as possible to sign up for this. The likely date for the login test is early August and a sign-up form will appear on the forum soon™.

We also learned about nanite technology as used about the Justice. Briefly, they are minuscule robots that carry out mundane tasks such as helping to keep the cities clean and tidy. But there's more to it than that, all humans aboard the ship carry defensive nanites which are passed down through successive generations and additional nanites that provide healing and buffing functions. Read more about the nanites on the official Ship of Heroes site.



Notes:
The next Ship of Heroes Alpha activity will be a login test for supporters, likely in early August of 2018.
Following that, several other Alphas are expected with a first Beta test at the end of 2018.
Launch is expected in 2019.
Ship of Heroes is being developed by a small team, and appreciates your donations and support.
Donations can be given on the official Ship of Heroes website.

New Female Soldier Costume

The latest newsletter, dated 29th June 2018, shows off the design for the latest female soldier costume.



If you're anything like me, this is the important bit:
The outfit has nine specific pieces – Helmet, Upper Chest, Shoulders, Bracers, Gloves, Belt, Pants, Leg Armor, and Boots.  These can be mixed with pieces from other sets, or with special single pieces to create unique player costumes.  As always, each costume piece has a primary and secondary color, which can be controlled independently on each piece, or automatically aligned around the color choices made for the chest-piece with the click of a button.  We plan to have cape designs to accompany this costume, and a variety of colors are possible.  We also allow the head slot – helmet or mask – of any costume to be toggled to become invisible, if desired.

The image below shows several possible color variations, but the possibilities in the character creator are endless.  Nine costume pieces, two colors per piece, 256 choices per color… not to mention the ability to customize the character wearing the costume – hair, skin, face, eyes, etc.


 As always, you can read more about it on the official website. Something worth noting is that Heroic Games haven't yet decided on the standard palette for the ships military, so if you have specific ideas for that, head on over to the forums and have your say ;)



And here's the press release - copied verbatim because it's getting late in the UK and I have to get up really early tomorrow morning.

  • Ship of Heroes has three character models and incredible customization potential, which has been demonstrated in multiple videos and newsletters.  One issue that comes from using multiple character models is that costumes need to be re-created for each model, or at least for most of the models.  SoH has now begun this process, and is showing off a new female soldier costume derived from signature hero Ambassador’s design.
  • The screenshots show several possible color variations players, but the possibilities in the character creator are endless.  Nine costume pieces, two colors per piece, 256 choices per color… not to mention the ability to customize the woman wearing the costume – hair, skin, face, eyes, etc.
  • Ship of Heroes has announced that they are working towards a login test with many players logged in, and the expected plan is for each player to be in a unique costume, most created by mixing and matching costume pieces from the costume sets that have already been revealed.  But new costumes may well be revealed to expand the options in preparation for the upcoming login test.
  • The SoH devs continue to make their own unique costumes, reflecting a specialized art design and internal capabilities that are usually associated with larger studios.  Right now, nearly a dozen costumes and unique designs have been revealed and shown in-game.  The SoH devs never simply show a costume without bringing it into their actual game in some manner.  Immediate integration of new assets is part of their design philosophy.
  • Anticipation for the Beta launch of Ship of Heroes is growing.  The dev team has been highly organized so far, and watching their videos and reading their newsletters is like taking a course on how to develop a new MMO step by step.

SoH Newsletter talking about Alpha, Beta and future plans

Heroic Games released a really interesting newsletter on 15th June 2018 talking about their views on alpha and beta phases of game design. The upshot is that they are planning to skip the open alpha and closed beta phases and go straight to open beta, and have more than one open beta phase! The idea being that the more people who play the game early on, the better the feedback will be in order to make improvements, etc.

They also still plan to hold their login test in 2018.

You can read the newsletter on the Ship of Heroes site - https://www.shipofheroes.com/what-makes-an-alpha/

Here's some images from the newsletter, just to make this page more interesting!




New Video - Upgraded Mission Map

We were treated to a new video today, showing upgraded mission maps and more information about the progress of the game. Because I'm really short of time today, here's the text from the press release copied verbatim. As always, you can read more on the official website.



ABOUT THE VIDEO

Just over one year ago, the team at Ship of Heroes showed off a video of their first really cool detailed mission map.  One year and fifteen videos later, they’ve gone back and upgraded this same map with a new look.  They’ve also adapted the map for a much newer engine version.  The devs are relentlessly moving towards launching Ship of Heroes.
The Sci-Fi setting for this superhero MMO is extremely current; most of the hot superhero movies and shows we’ve been seeing combine superheroes with spaceships or aliens in some way.  Ship of Heroes does the same.  The use of props, lighting, and changing size of the rooms and corridors gives the feeling of a larger-than-life world full of exciting new places and inventions.
The dev team is building a game with two primary settings for combat and missions.  There is a large outdoor map called Apotheosis City, which has already been shown in several other videos and one combat Alpha.  This video shows one of several indoor maps, which will generally be dedicated to a solo player or a single team, and will use instancing to prevent players from having to compete for valuable drops or progress.
One conclusion from the release of this revised map is that this dev team does not have the frequent stops and re-starts that plague other teams.  They go back and improve game elements, even ones deemed good enough in the past.  The original map shown in this video was first published twelve months ago.  Now an upgrade is being released, and there will probably be more changes in the future.  SoH is evolving, and the direction is good.
We’re told that this particular map will support a mission instance that will typically take about 30-40 minutes to complete.  However the devs at SoH are pretty flexible about player strategies.  If a team figures out how to complete the mission in 5 minutes, more power to them!
The Ship of Heroes team is almost uniquely willing to show us what they have developed, warts and all, even in the early stages of Alpha.  Even some major studios shy away from letting prospective players see in detail how their games look before launch.
This video proves that the SOH dev team can produce environmental art at AAA studio levels, despite being a small independent team funded by donations and volunteer work.  It also shows how SOH's look and feel reflects their focus on having a positive community.  This is utopian future, not a dystopian one.  It looks like a place where most people would be happy to live.
One thing I noticed is that Ship of Heroes has published over 20 videos, and they have the same powerful announcer doing the voice over narration.  This creates a sense that all of the videos are part of one immersive game, and it creates confidence that this indie team will actually launch their MMO on schedule – 2019, for those who are keeping track.

Ship of Heroes has conducted two successful Alpha tests with community members, and is about to begin a large-scale login test, which is an important prerequisite for any serious MMO.  The devs are expecting to conduct a big raid test later in 2018.