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Posted on April 5th, 2019 08:07 PM EST
Hey folks, I’m Phil, and I recently joined OWI as Producer on Squad. This is my introduction to you, the players.
I’ve joined OWI at an exciting time – I’ve done several tours of duty on military shooters, and in a crowded genre, I see Squad as something remarkable. Squad’s emphasis on team play, strategy and tactics leap right out at me as the core of what I love about online gaming. The heritage of the game’s development, growing from a popular BF2 mod into something with the potential to be genre-defining, as well as driving forward modding to be a platform for inspiring, and expressing your own ideas (and my own ideas!) to each other, to us, and to the world.
Here at OWI HQ, there’s a real buzz around what’s coming up, and I know you all are on the edge of your seats hoping for some big announcements.
For the most part, I’m going to leave those in the capable hands of our community and marketing folks. The most valuable insights I think you’ll be most interested in from me are related to why everything’s not ready RIGHT NOW DAMMIT, how we’re moving forward with development generally, and when to expect stuff.
Right now we have A-13 in heavy testing. Content-wise there’s a lot of work gone into this, a collaboration of everyone on the team’s best efforts, some of it since before A-12. It’s all waiting patiently in the departure lounge for boarding to begin. As an early access game, it’s within our remit to put out releases that have in-progress features, test content, and some fairly rough edges. As we took on some unexpectedly heavy lifting for A-13 (notably upgrading Unreal Engine from 4.16 to 4.21) it’s taking some time for the dust to settle after effectively pulling out the old rug and laying some much nicer carpet in its place. We’re just about done moving all the furniture back in and are trying to remember where we left our keys. Specifically, we’ve got this going on:
- The leap in Unreal Version number has given our creative minds more fancy tools to play with (which is good) but some of them required changes to a large number of our assets, scripts, and code (which is bad..).
- Server-side Performance – Some of the code we’d added previously to interface with Unreal’s network stack, whilst still working, is no longer optimal in its transport method, as stuff under the hood on Unreal’s end works differently now. This is manifesting as nasty server-side lag spikes during play and is not in line with our basic quality standards for an early access release. We’re working on several different angles of optimization here at the moment.
- Game Stability – Right now we’re about as stable as a one-legged elderly pirate, and as such a lot of time was spent making the game stable.
- VOIP – Our signature VOIP system has been hitting some hitches after the upgrade, with playtesters experiencing odd attenuation issues with local voice, voice lag and other such delights have been the toppings in our Unreal upgrade sandwich. It’s a lot to digest.
It’s all good though, we’re making excellent progress and learning a lot about Unreal’s innards in the process and preparing us for the future.
I’m putting in place a few new ways of working for our team. These processes have the intention to reduce and avoid this kind of release black-hole going forward, whilst allowing us to make more frequent, regular updates as we charge towards our exit from early access.
An important part of getting out of early access is QA. Our QA Squad is our front line, charging down bugs and taking names. Our more frequent community playtests are valuable to get a snapshot of how the game plays under real-world conditions, and often highlights issues we wouldn’t have found by regular means. Going forward QA are to be the gatekeepers of releases, making sure key criteria are met before we taxi to the runway. Those are a varied and changing list based on our current development context, and stability is a fundamental quality bar that will be pushed higher with each release.
OWI’s community and marketing operatives were deployed for an incursion at PAX East, which they executed with military precision. Our volunteer squad, recruited from your numbers, brought their A-game representing our work and introducing new players to Squad with a bespoke map designed for the event.
In terms of actual work, we’re very much committed to our primary goals of:
- A meaningful helicopter experience to add to the tactical and strategic level of play
- Optimization of the client and server to ensure immersive, visceral play
- Modding 2.0
- 100 player games, with supporting content.
- Commander role, and his good friends Mr. Airstrike, Ms. Artillery and Dr. UAV.
This work is going to be delivered iteratively over the coming months, and improvements should be expected as progressive gains with each update. Our focus will shift to the most important areas where necessary, so some of your wishes may take a couple of releases to grant, but our goal is to update regularly with a predictable cadence, and not push out dates seemingly indefinitely. As with any change, we might not get it quite right the first time when A-14 comes along, but we’ll get into the swing of it.
I was originally planning to do an April Fools Joke here, but that work is about 3 weeks away. Until then, see you on the scoreboard.
Love and kisses,