SHIP of HEROES DEVELOPMENT SCHEDULE
This is the second schedule of 2020, and it includes items we have not accomplished yet.
The month-long pandemic community event gave us an enormous amount of positive feedback. Approximately a thousand people participated, showing strong interest in Ship of Heroes, so we are jumping forward with plans for a second, even more ambitious community event centered on fighting invasions – really big battles with dozens of heroes and enemies crammed into a small area on the open map of Apotheosis City. Not many modern MMOs can deliver this sort of epic brawl, especially not with the high-quality graphics SoH features; our optimization is some of the best in the world.
The Invasion event gave us insight into some of the places where we have pushed the boundaries of the Epic game engine, including in our efforts to get and sustain high FPS in crowded, active big battles. The event also gave us a list of key code improvements that will require months to implement; after that we’ll do some further community testing, most probably in early 2021. Some of the key things on which we have completed pre-event testing are the replication graph system for missions, destructible objects and mayhem missions, variable mob sizes responding to team sizes, and random boss placement in missions.
The other major focus of the second half of 2020 is mission creation. We’ve expanded the team involved with creating missions, and increased the creation tempo very significantly. We can do this only because we set the groundwork in place over the last few years. All mission creation rests on having one of the best CCTs in the MMORPG industry. It rests on having a large library of art objects and environments, on having both industry-standard and specialized code tools and processes, and on having specific stories and settings to help create a complex and immersive story. Some players will just want to run in and fight enemies, and that’s fine; however, there’s a lot going on inside the FHS Justice. We expect that most players will be engaged and discovering new details of the intricate plot for years as they replay missions on alts. Every line of dialog is just one piece in a very large puzzle.
Our community has consistently told us that we should launch once we have 40 hours or more of game content for a single alt. We will exceed that standard when we launch in 2021. But we can only launch once, and we insist on doing it right. Until the game is ready, we’ll continue to conduct community events, we’ll continue to fix problems as they’re discovered, and we’ll continue to be transparent about what happens!
This is our first schedule for 2020. Some real-life things are happening that are affecting how the team works, and what we can show to the community during the first half of 2020. The largest of these is the Covid-19 pandemic. But since the Ship of Heroes team is largely a virtual entity, being restricted to our homes has a reduced impact on us compared to other businesses.
During the first half of 2020 we are leaping forward. People are trapped in their homes by Covid, and they want to roam around in a Ship of Heroes – so we’ll make it happen. For the entire month of April, we’re going to just open up the game in a new, free community event and let people come onto the dev server and see what we see. The only thing we’re not showing at this point is some of the early missions, as we’ll be actively changing and improving those over the same period, leaving them temporarily unplayable.
We’re adding a whole new section to the forums just to allow players to document what they find, which means both bugs and things they enjoy. Want to level up? You can street-sweep in the city when you are a lowbie, then go across to the Hazard zone and fight Nagdellians to work your way up to level 20, if you want to. Play in the CCT, and then roll that character, or that alt, into town for a test drive. It’s not all perfect, but if you’re feeling trapped and bored, relief is on the way!
In preparation for the pandemic community event, we have created and launched three new melee powersets: Martial Arts, Street Fighting, and Twin Swords. All three sets now have full FX and animations. And we have applied placeholder animations and FX to most of the other
powersets that are under development. We’ve even added one experimental Controller powerset to the mix, if you are so inclined. Of course, these are not launch versions, but they are in-progress versions. We expect to get a lot of feedback on these and the other powersets we’re revealing. Finally, we’re going to pre-test something we want to showcase later in 2020, which is more of an invasion – a bigger fight than any one team can normally undertake. All of this will generate a gigantic bug fixing and requested improvement list, helping us to make Ship of Heroes great.
This is our second schedule for 2019. Again, this is a retrospective schedule, and these milestones represent what the dev team accomplished in this timeframe.
The second half of 2019 is a period of change for us. We’ve replaced a couple of people, including both our first lead developer and the lead coder from 2018, but the team is strong and focused. Additional artists are now working on the technical side of our environmental art, getting us ready for large-scale testing by the public. It’s clear that some game features are going to take more time to complete than they looked like, so we are waiting to publish schedules while we figure the timing out, hence this retrospective schedule. Regardless, we’ll host multiple successful community events for Ship of Heroes as soon as possible, and carefully analyze the feedback we receive to make the game truly shine.
The first things we’ll be showcasing for the community are substantial environmental additions to the game that are either completed or substantially in progress. The auction house called Ivar & Sons will be shown off as a completed piece of the city, with some basic functionality already in place. This will be followed by an exciting new indoor environment called the Beta Club, which be revealed to the community during the next big community event: an open Beta of the Ship of Heroes Character Creation Tool, or CCT, scheduled for September and October. We top this by showing off the exciting new Hospital, a major location in the game, with one of the big five plot-driving mission-givers, Dr. Strikewell, located inside. And we’ll be showing real FPS for all of these places and for the city as a whole, because we have put a lot of effort into constructing an immersive player experience, which requires high FPS.
The CCT Beta will be the biggest thing we do in the second half of 2019, and it will be accompanied by allowing players to jump into Apotheosis City and run around in the city. There aren’t any enemies or combat yet, but people are excited to explore this key location. There is a lot to see, and we expect that hundreds of people will take us up on the free event. It will top off a whole series of videos about the CCT, the wide variety of costumes, characters, customizations, and features available. We will end by showing off the multiple randomizer features that we have created to allow players to easily make use of the incredible power of the CCT.
This is our first schedule for 2019. Since much of this is retrospective, these milestones represent what the dev team accomplished in this timeframe.
Our 2019 schedule is driven by the need to be able to launch several community events for Ship of Heroes as soon as possible, including in 2020. To achieve this, we need to do certain things: develop and code the final remaining pieces of the game that are not very well advanced as of the start of this year; write more missions that we can create in the future, which helps direct the development of art assets and code; and polish the majority of Apotheosis City. That latter task requires a major upgrade of our CROM system to keep the FPS high in gameplay; otherwise, anything we produce will not integrate well in a pre-launch environment.
We’ll begin by creating and integrating a set of key improvements. First up will be some features we coded late in 2018, including our first version of invasion combat, infusions, augments, new seasonal monsters, and vendors. Then we are jumping from Unreal Engine version 4.18 to engine version 4.21.2. At the same time, we’re committed to the creation of a version of our map that can be used for Alpha testing, and to demonstrating one new travel power: superspeed. We’ll also be working hard to prepare for a CCT Beta test, but we’re not quite ready to put that event onto the schedule, because we know we want to import and integrate some assets released by Paragon, and it’s hard to predict how long that is going to take without actually converting the assets.
We’re responding to community requests with a major polishing effort focused on animations. We plan to show a set of animations that is primarily aimed at non-combat situations first. Things like walking, sitting down, lying down, etc. Then we’ll transition to doing combat animation upgrades.
During the second half of 2018, the SoH devs got an incredible amount done. However, we didn’t publish a clear development schedule. So for those who are curious, we’re putting out a schedule now. In the future we’ll be switching to quarterly schedules to keep things manageable, and the first of those will come out soon.
Some of our biggest accomplishments in 2018 were on game optimization. In building an MMORPG, it is counterproductive to design a city, or characters, or superpowers, or FX, or costumes that reduce FPS to such a degree that the player experience is harmed. At Ship of Heroes, we aim for 30 FPS or more in 50+ player events, and while that isn’t easy by any means, now we’re able to achieve it. To get to this point, we’ve completely rebuilt all of our character models, as well as every single piece of clothing; they look the same, but they’re significantly more efficient now. We also perfected and then installed the fourth version of our CROM system for environmental optimization.
We’ve created and pushed a series of critical immersion upgrades during the second half of 2018 as well. In response to community suggestions, we’ve improved the look of our mission maps for the underground engineering spaces below the city. We’ve added civilians and cars to the city, because an empty city is not much fun in a multiplayer game. We’ve invented and installed a clipping suppression technique for all costume parts. We’ve added a beautiful day/night cycle to Apotheosis City, which also required us to permanently select the lighting throughout the cycle, and to adjust our FX, especially combat power FX, for the new lighting levels. And we’ve polished the Arch Park to our expected launch quality to let our community react and give feedback. Towards the end of the year, we added a working vendor system to the game, as well as temporary powerups called infusions, and we showed them off them during a winter-themed monster invasion.
The highlight of December was a massive community login test with over 200 supporters. This test confirmed that all of our work on FPS was both necessary and successful. It let us make and show off a wide variety of heroes and hero costumes. And most important of all, people loved being able to run around in Apotheosis City, wave torches, and see our progress for themselves! All in all, it’s been a great year. We’re on track for a solid Beta launch of Ship of Heroes at the end of 2019.
We have now been working on Ship of Heroes for almost two years. We’re at a point where it is clear that we have a working version of the game, and that we have been able to create a number of exciting features not often found in other MMOs. Ship of Heroes is fun to play.
When 2018 began, we were busy getting ready for our first combat Alpha. We added new enemies, gave them unique, unusual powers and tactics, and prepared the Alpha map. We completed and polished the Science Park Area of the city. We also began showing expansions of our work, such as early mission maps, improvements to targeting and UI, and dev tools to help us adjust team combat on the fly.
With this, our third official schedule, we’re happy to report that we have completed every item on both of our previous schedules. We’ve built a large selection of the features needed to launch Ship of Heroes, and we’ve successfully conducted two Alpha tests: one for the character creator, and one for small team combat. In both cases, members of the community were allowed full access, and have provided invaluable feedback on the content we’ve created.
For the rest of 2018, we’re planning to continue building the infrastructure of the game, and to expand the core we’ve already built. But more significantly, we’re planning to involve all of you, our community, in more testing and in more gameplay. Next up is a massive login test to confirm that we can successfully bring a large number of players into Apotheosis City with our latest features. After that, we’ll be planning for a raid test of some kind in Q3. But between April and June we’ll be showing additional powers and powersets, more costumes, new and better FX, and additional mission maps. Behind the scenes, we continue to optimize the game to enable larger numbers of players. We’re also working on expanding gameplay potential with things like controllers and debuff powers so that we have much, much more than just the generic tank/heal/DPS trinity.
Creating the story, lore and setting for Ship of Heroes is a complex task. Bringing that story to life through custom art and code is an even bigger task. Our twin touchstones for all elements of this project are creating a player experience that is much more positive and fun than what other games deliver, and a focus on project management in development. We clearly announce what we’re going to build, when it will be ready, and why it will be fun to play – and then we actually go and build it.
We’re already doing well in 2018. Here’s our schedule for the first six months.
Six months ago, we announced Ship of Heroes to the world. We’ve now been working on the project for just over a year. In that time, we’ve showed off our concept art, revealed the backstory and setting for the game, built and revealed the first version of Apotheosis City, introduced four signature heroes, demonstrated a world-class character creation system, added powers, animations, and FX, and most of all, we’ve integrated these pieces into a first prototype of the game.
We’ve done everything we promised, and more. After all, if a developer doesn’t deliver on their promises, how can you trust that they’re actually going to produce a working game?
So what’s coming up? The technical milestone schedule for the rest of 2017 is shown below, with an approximate month in which we expect to deliver each feature. Three of these are particularly important: refining the scope, which we have already done. Allowing the first non-dev community members to test our character creator, which we’ll do in September, and allowing the first non-dev community members to join us in escorted Alpha tests in Apotheosis City, which we’ll do at the end of the year.
Between now and the end of the 2017, we plan to make very significant progress. We’ll be adding custom art assets to the character creator, and coding the core powersets for ranged and melee characters. We’ll be expanding and enhancing the environment, revealing more game lore and enemy groups, and testing and upgrading our client/server architecture. All of this builds towards having escorted Alpha tests in December. We’ll finalize our plans for the first half of 2018 based on the results from real testing with real players selected from our community.
Building an MMO is a big undertaking. A persistent level, a superb character creator, real variety in powers and powersets, plus unique art assets, animations, and code are all required. All of these need to fit the story and the setting. Integration of these pieces of the game is the first key measure of progress. The second key is iteration – once a good prototype is developed, and we have shown one, the next step is to continuously improve it through revisions, upgrades and expansions, without losing control of the scope for the project.
In November of 2016 we are announcing our project to build a spiritual successor to City of Heroes, and we are opening our forums and polling to the community. We’re also showing some of our concept art, our plans for the game, and the schedule for development of the game. The game will be built using the Unreal Engine® because of the power of the engine and because of the well-developed community of vendors, artists, programmers and others who already work within the Unreal ecosystem.
Ship of Heroes has big goals for development. Our intent is to build our game by scheduling milestones and then achieving them. But we are conscious that big goals can be a barrier to success and so we plan to build the game in modular steps, expanding and upgrading until the game is ready to launch. We’ve started by building the first ship level, which has over three square miles of surface area. Future levels will be built once we have the first level polished because we don’t give up until the job’s done – you deserve better than that.
We’re also building our character creator and beginning the long process of stocking it with art assets. We will show a working character creator and at least a couple of key NPC heroes made in that character creator in January of 2017. The character creator will receive more polishing over time, but that’s because we want to deliver the best work that we can possibly create.
We intend to be able to show character creation, most of the first ship level, player animations, and characters in combat with FX and other cool features such as APEX physics, before we begin a Kickstarter in April or May of 2017. This will allow our community to experience two things: first that we are actually making a high-quality game that can be shown off in controlled stages, and second, some clear indications of how the game will look and play. The Kickstarter will take us from the clear beginning of the game through the next stage of development.