State of Production #4
December 9, 2019
My name is Derek, and I am the Head of Production at New World Interactive. I am happy to share this holiday season update with all of you! This month we’ll be discussing several key development decisions related to our game, some of which many users have likely been waiting to hear about for quite some time. Our efforts at optimization are well underway, and I’m excited to have some guest commentary from our Level Design Director pertaining to these efforts.
Firstly, we’ll be hosting a FREE WEEK for Insurgency: Sandstorm from December 10th – December 17th. This will fall on the heels of our most recent update, Update 1.5. We wanted to be able to showcase how far our game has come since we released nearly a year ago and given our success related to free weekends, we thought we might try a longer duration for the event. Secondly, over the past month, we enrolled the assistance of Altagram to further our localization efforts. Insurgency is now localized into 15 additional languages, which further improves our reach to players from various regions around the world. This is the perfect time to give our game a try or to recommend it to friends!
Additionally, we’ll be taking our first shot at rolling out a leaderboard feature, which will be further supplemented with a reset to rankings, as well as some adjustments to decay rates. We’ve created and rolled out a brand new support website, which should drastically improve our forward-facing service capabilities for troubleshooting, bug reporting, and providing feedback to the development team. In an effort to help better enforce our community guidelines, as well as to improve our player’s general experience, we have also rolled out an alpha version of a player reporting system. This should help us to slowly and steadily document toxic behavior that is prevalent in our game, and to identify the worst offenders for eventual removal from our ecosystem.
I’ll be closing with some announcements pertaining specifically to our alpha rollout of modding tools, some prior commitments we have determined we will not be supporting moving forward, and some updates on the console release. Without further ado, let’s dive into SoP#4!
Key Points of State of Production #4
- Optimized map performance for Outskirts, Precinct, Refinery, and Summit
- Introducing localization to 15 new regions for Insurgency: Sandstorm
- Introducing a competitive leaderboard, competitive rank reset, and adjustments to rank decay
- Introducing Support Desk 2.0; Getting help when you need it
- Introducing a prototype “Player Reporting System” as a means of measuring, messaging, and tracking of toxic behaviors within our community
- Alpha rollout of our first wave of modding tools for content creators and enthusiasts
- Redaction of select commitments
- Console Updates
Optimized Map Performance
In a continuous push to improve our game’s performance, one of the first necessary elements was to try and improve the memory requirements and frame rates of some of our most demanding maps. As mentioned in the previous SoP, the 4 maps we chose to focus on were Outskirts, Precinct, Refinery, and Summit. In order to best detail some of these changes, I’ve invited our Level Design Director, Jeroen van Werkhoven, to provide additional commentary and detail on this month’s SoP.
“Over the last couple of months we have been working on improving the performance in the four maps Derek stated above. Our main goal was to improve frame rate and peak memory usage. We noticed in our benchmarks that, even though we previously conducted optimization passes, that some of our maps are still using a high amount of memory, and the frame rate isn’t always optimal and inconsistent. The first map we conducted our optimization pass on was Outskirts. We went through the map with our Art Director, Michael Grills, and the art team was able to find opportunities to optimize the level further. We didn’t look at it directly from a technical standpoint, but more from how the player would experience the level. We repeated the same steps for our other maps.
Sometimes it would mean simply cutting things from the maps, like reducing grass or removing props that were barely visible for the player and don’t have an impact on gameplay. Also, we had a large number of merged meshes in our levels. A merged mesh is a set of modular assets combined into a single mesh. We used this technique to improve the frame rate, but at the same time, this leads to increased memory usage because each mesh is unique. Precinct’s peak memory was close to 6GB, which had a significant performance impact on lower spec machines. We reduced it to nearly 5GB. Outskirts average FPS was previously 69, and now in our latest benchmark it climbed to 92. On Refinery and Summit we improved the FPS stability; less severe frame drops should occur. Of course, we have to wait for the results on different machines when the update goes live, but the numbers so far look very promising.”
Insurgency: Sandstorm: Now Available in over 20 Languages!
One of our biggest initiatives within Insurgency: Sandstorm is to expand the visibility of our title to numerous new regions and demographics across the globe. In the original Insurgency, our translation efforts were predominantly done by community volunteers. This helped us to improve our reach, but at a quality level that left a lot to be desired. We recognized the value of this community initiative, which is why we recently collaborated with Altagram to help localize our game in over 15 new regions. Insurgency: Sandstorm is now available in the following languages:
- Portuguese (Portugal)
- Portuguese (Brazilian)
- Chinese (Simplified)
- Chinese (Traditional)
- Spanish (LATAM)
Leaderboards + Rank Reset + Adjustments to Ranked Decay
Over the past 30 days, we have made a concentrated push to start talking with our competitive community. We hosted several community discord sessions, began a dialogue with the leadership of the DGL, and have even discussed plans to collaborate with competitive organizations to expand tournament participation and visibility. These talks are on hold while we act on the first wave of feedback. As we continue to assess and evaluate what we’d like to do vs. what we are actually able to do, we chose a few of the highly-requested features to implement in the holiday update. We’ll resume our dialog with these organizations in the beginning of 2020.
Some of the feedback we’ve discussed related to a lack of queuing and participation. There were many attributable factors at play here, but one commonly recurring statement related to competitive rank decay being too minimal to encourage people to regularly queue and play. Given that we’re hosting a free week from December 10th – December 17th, which may appeal to players who also have a competitive mindset, we decided we’d like to reset all rankings in an effort to measure participation from a day-1 perspective. This will give us the ability to identify participation rates and the impact of reducing ranked decay. In an effort for players to have better visibility into participation rates, their standing within the community, and their overall ranking, we’re also introducing a competitive leaderboard that will be available via your web browser. After we collect and weigh said-feedback, we can determine what additional development time (if any) would be dedicated towards fleshing it out more comprehensively.
Introduction of our New Support Site
One of the most persistent problems we’ve experienced as a company historically was a lack of bandwidth to provide comprehensive troubleshooting solutions to our user base. Previously, we were using Happyfox, but we experienced a myriad of issues related to administrative controls and the distribution of tasks within the desk. As a result, players who were reaching out to us with feedback on gameplay issues, technical problems, or feature requests to improve the quality of life of our ecosystem went unheard. I am pleased to announce that our Support Manager, Nick Ward, has been working tirelessly over the past two months to completely overhaul and re-design our support capabilities.
We decided Freshdesk was the right decision for hosting our support suite over the next 12 months. We based this decision on its capacity for easy scalability, user-friendly nature for filing troubleshooting requests, and ease of navigating knowledge base articles. The support website can be found here: https://support.newworldinteractive.com. This page will not be limited only to Insurgency: Sandstorm, but will also provide support for all of our titles in our portfolio. This is a new initiative for us and will be continuously improving over the next six months. We welcome all feedback regarding layout, flow, and proposed documentation suggestions.
Introduction of a Player Reporting System
A somewhat prevalent complaint that we’ve observed and received emails about pertains to players who are engaging in activities and behaviors that go against our established Community Guidelines. In an effort to reduce toxicity within our pre-existing player base, as well as to better message to players when they are engaging in disruptive behavior, we’ve introduced a prototype player reporting system. This system is accessible via the scoreboard on a drop-down menu, and can be accessed mid-game.
Player reporting will work in a variety of ways. Reports will carry a certain “weight” threshold; this weight is identified based upon the number of reports a player files vs. the number of reports that are accurately filed where action can be taken. Players who accurately report players the majority of the time will have more impactful reporting weight; players who attempt to use the system to troll or as a means of harassment will have a “lighter” weight, meaning their reports will be less impactful/actionable as a whole. If you are reported repeatedly, you will receive a text-box notification informing you of your intolerable behavior. When an accurate report is filed and action is taken, the reporting players will also receive a notification alerting them to the fact that they were helpful in identifying and reporting toxic behavior, and that their efforts have helped to improve Sandstorm’s community as a whole.
As this is our first implementation of this feature, some degree of bugs may exist; we are welcoming constructive feedback to improve our system. This addition should help us to better understand what types of offenses are most prevalent, who the worst offenders are, and in time, help to refine and tighten our Community Guidelines to be more representative of the type of play experience we’re seeking to establish as a standard for Insurgency: Sandstorm.
Modding Tools: Part 1
I know everyone here has been waiting for news on when NWI is planning to roll out mod support. I’m happy to announce that our first wave of mod tools has entered a closed-alpha state with this update. We’re sharing our tools in a level editor with basic functions that will be similar to the options our team currently has available at their disposal. We are currently accepting sign ups from experienced community level designers to help our team bug fix and gather feedback. Community members who are interested can sign up at the link below: https://steamcommunity.com/app/581320/discussions/0/1744512174760308602/
We’re doing this in a graduated rollout capacity to ensure that what we have is working as intended and functional, as well as to limit initial participation to experienced modders. In turn, this will allow us to focus our efforts to best determine where we will need to commit development time to the refinement of these tools, so that when we eventually deploy an “open” rollout that it is accessible, easy to use, and working as intended.
Redaction and Confirmation of Null Commitments
In the previous SoP, I had mentioned that we were re-evaluating our roadmap that was drafted earlier in the year. It was a very long and thorough meeting, but we emerged with a clearer picture of what we were and were not able to commit to in the new year. I know many users across various mediums have been asking us about some of these originally-promised features for some time, and I want to speak on the things that we will not be committing development time towards in our path forward. Here are the features we have decided do not make business sense for us to pursue in the future:
- Story mode/Campaign
- Mac Support
- Linux Support
- Local Play on PvP modes
- Weapons on Back
- New foregrip upgrade options
We did not take this decision-making process lightly; all nominated cuts have been reviewed, re-reviewed, and discussed numerous times internally. At the end of these discussions, our criteria came down to “Does this proposed content present a reasonable business case in exchange for the additional development time required to deliver these features?” and in these cases, the answer was “No.” We recognize that these were things that, at some point or another, were promised by the studio, and we apologize for mismanaging expectations. Moving forward, we will be more deliberate in our messaging and our commitments to our players. We’ve grown a lot with Insurgency: Sandstorm, and we’ve learned a lot throughout that process. These lessons will make up our future projects going forward.
In closing, I wanted to share with the community that our team is plowing full speed ahead with our efforts at bringing Insurgency: Sandstorm to console. Over the past few months, our partner, Black Tower, has been helping us to define and navigate timelines to deliver a release candidate which will be used for the TRC (Technical Requirements Checklist). We’re happy to report that everything is on track, and in the next State of Production in January, I’m hoping to be able to share more concrete details on when you will be able to play our game with friends on console