State of Production 8
May 13, 2020
My name is Derek, and I am the Head of Production at New World Interactive. During these trying and uncertain times, and as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world, it is my most sincere hope that all of you reading this are staying happy, healthy, and sane. My deepest, heartfelt condolences go out to everyone who has been negatively impacted by this calamitous event. We’ve got a somewhat light SoP this month, so we’ll be covering less details relating to the game specifically, and more to high-level studio initiatives and objectives this month. Let’s do this!
Key Points of State of Production #8
- Operation: Clean Sweep
- Unreal Engine Update: 4.22 -> 4.23
- Company Website Overhaul
- Community Map Contest
- Insurgency: Clipstorm Winners & Dev Tournament
- State of Production: Retrospective
- State of Production 2.0
- Update Strategy: Theming, Frequency, Major vs. Minor Approach
Operation: Clean Sweep
Revisiting the topic of optimization, we’ve noticed the frequency of comments and sentiments about needed improvement related to the game’s performance. As many of you are aware, we conducted a tremendous amount of optimization efforts towards the end of 2019. The vast majority of these efforts were focused primarily on art assets and level design elements. Some of the changes we made included things like compressing unnecessarily large textures, reducing draw distances, the removal of certain non-performing assets, the reduction of unoptimised particle effects, the reduction in the variance of other such effects (such as muzzle flashes), and a wide berth of other changes. The process took the studio several months, as many members of the team were still off-site, in different timezones, and in a remote capacity. Funnily enough, we’re back to being off-site and in a remote capacity, courtesy of the COVID pandemic!
What we were not able to achieve in this initial wave of optimization were gains on the code and animation side of things. There are many reasons for this. For starters, the majority of our programmers were not on-site at this time; many were actively immigrating to Calgary, and functioning in a limited capacity. We had numerous development goals that we were working towards and creating, such as mutator mode support, the player reporting system, the leaderboard system, the death cam, mod tool development, and various other adjustments. As a result, we simply didn’t have the bandwidth nor the headcount necessary to do a proper deep-dive into our game’s code.
Since then, we’ve grown our team pretty substantially. We now have a dedicated animator on the team, we’ve added another backend programmer, we’ve brought on a dedicated AI programmer, and we’ve added another gameplay programmer. We’ve expanded our QA team with 2 additional testers, and converted our rendering programmer into a technical artist whose primary emphasis will be particles and effects. These additions have equipped us with the capability to test more thoroughly, enabling for more robust bug discovery and bug regression. We are now able to more regularly conduct performance profiling and testing of our code and systems, both on PC and (soon) console. As a result of our console port, we have significantly more data and reference points to help us make informed, targeted decisions on systems we need to overhaul and refactor entirely. Lastly, we’ve further expanded our Community team and our Support teams, which has expanded our ability to collect, decipher, and relay findings from our players to the Production team in a more actionable pipeline. You can read more about that process in more detail here.
After we ship 1.7, which we can happily now say will launch in June, we’ll be spending 6 full weeks focusing on code-level optimizations within our game. During this time, we will still be developing new content for future updates, but our primary goal will be polishing up our game to get it more performant, more fine-tuned, and more in-line with our players expectations. Many people will be wondering “Why didn’t you guys do this earlier?”, and I’ve outlined many of those considerations throughout the previous paragraphs. We’ll be grooming our entire bug backlog, with the goal of squashing as many bugs as possible, while simultaneously overhauling and refactoring especially problematic areas within our codebase. Furthermore, we’ll be expanding our code team even further, as we’re planning to expand our ranks with 2 more gameplay programmers, a tools programmer, and an animation programmer as well. All of this has set the table for us to officially announce Operation: Clean Sweep; our mission to “focus up, tidy up”. We want to focus our resources into optimizing the game from a whole different angle and get those framerates up for our players.
I know this has been a long-standing community request, and I’m excited that we are finally positioning ourselves to be able to service these requests. More details will emerge in July’s SoP, as June’s SoP will be focused entirely on the 1.7 update.
Unreal Engine Update: 4.22 -> 4.23
I’ve invited our Infrastructure Director to provide some commentary on our recent decision to update our Unreal Engine version, which took our game from UE 4.22 to UE 4.23.
The Unreal Engine upgrade from 4.22 to 4.23 has been a key part in our push towards a more optimized codebase. Among various updates and bugfixes, one key feature introduced by Epic is “Unreal Insights”, a new timeline-based frame profiling tool. This new profiling tool greatly assists in identifying the key bottlenecks in the gameplay loop compared to tools historically supported in-engine, and the growing number of programmers are able to profile earlier and more often as a result.
Company Website Overhaul
One of the things we’ve begun assessing is what we want our company website to look like moving forward. There’s going to be several drastic changes to be mindful of that will be starting this Summer, and finishing some time in the Fall. Some of these new additions will include:
- A centralized set of community message boards, which will allow us to pool all of our feedback and community conversations into a single, platform-agnostic location.
- Revitalize the New World website which will give us the opportunity to consolidate all our games through project pages, as well as expand on our careers page to provide more information on the available positions.
- Redesign our Support Desk so that our games are separated by each title and integrated in a way that players can cross-reference forum posts and pre-existing knowledge base articles.
- Create a community and initiatives page where we will showcase community-submitted content, promote events and tournaments, and share RSS-feeds relating to company-wide social media streams.
Community Map Contest
As we continue to develop and expand upon our mod tools and their accessibility, via mod.io as well as through supporting documentation, we felt that these tools are finally in a state of readiness to promote its use amongst our community. New World Interactive has conducted similar community map contests in the past, both for Day of Infamy as well as Insurgency 2014, and these have always been well-received by our community. On top of the enrichment of our product and the additional map rotation capabilities, these contests have proven to be great stepping stones to help talented modders gain access into the industry as a whole; 2 of our current level designers within the company were actually hired as a result of participating in our previous modding contests! We will be looking for a handful of maps, curated from a master list of submissions, for which we will award prizes, the right to list the submission as accredited work for a resume/CV, accreditation in the title’s credits, and potentially even the official adoption of these maps into official rotation in matchmaking queues for Insurgency: Sandstorm.
We’ll be providing more details in future SoPs, but wanted to share this preemptively to make sure that we are spreading awareness related to the contest at least a month in advance!
Insurgency: Clipstorm Winners & Dev Tournament
A few weeks back we announced one of our first community contests “Insurgency: Clipstorm”. We received over 120 awesome clips and montages from the community using our recently updated replays system tools, and today are proud to announce the the winners of our public vote, who will receive some great prizes from our sponsors XPG and Advanced.gg.
In 2nd Place:
THIS IS SANDSTORM – 4K Cinematic Trailer by WintorOperator
WintorOperator has won:
A $20.00 USD Credit to Advanced.gg, One Insurgency: Sandstorm T-Shirt, and two digital codes for Insurgency: Sandstorm on PC
And our Grand Prize winner:
NCG – Novela Contada Games by Fernando Obama
Fernando Obama has won:
One XPG BATTLEGROUND XL Mousepad, One XPG Summoner Keyboard, One XPG H20 Headset, A $40.00 USD credit to Advanced.gg, One Insurgency: Sandstorm T-Shirt, and two digital codes for Insurgency: Sandstorm on PC
Congratulations to all who entered it was fantastic to view so many unique and creative submissions, the winners have been contacted and need to be in touch by Friday, May 15th at 12:00PM MST.
State of Production Retrospective
Back when I first arrived at the studio in July of last year, I recognized the need to start including the community with more communication and more transparency. In that time, we’ve grown so much and accomplished so much more than I thought possible. We now have a robust community division within our company, which is regularly involved within our title, our province, and the gaming ecosystem as a whole. We’ve got a fully-functional Support desk, which was built from scratch on the back of a single highly-motivated employee, whose commitment to service and support has since superseded even my own high standards for quality. We’re hosting “Play with the Devs” events, generating livestreams, sponsoring tournaments, and promoting our streaming player base across our social media channels. We have a fully-functioning Production team now, which has helped to ensure consistently higher-quality deliverables which are on-time, as-promised, and within budget. Our external-facing presence is far superior to what it has ever been before, and I cannot overstate my satisfaction with everything we’ve done, and continue to do, better than we did the day before. This isn’t even paying proper homage to the lesser-praised efforts of our Art, Code, and Design teams, who are responsible for the game you see before you.
The New World Interactive you see today has been one of the most exciting transformations of a company I have ever been a part of in my career. All of this is only possible because we have one of the most dedicated, talented groups of people I have ever had the privilege of working with… and we still have so much more to achieve! I’m absolutely grateful for all the messages of encouragement and support we have received from the community over the past 10 months; it is the greatest reinforcement that we are on the right track, and that our efforts were not in vain. From the bottom of my heart, I’d like to extend my most sincere “Thank you” to everyone who has stood by us.
I thought it might be fun to share some analytics and metrics relating to the reach of these SoPs over time via Steam alone:
- 7.75+ million impressions
- 152,000~ views total
- 30,000~ per SoP
…and it’s important to mention, this is on Steam only! Pretty cool stuff! Thank you again to everyone who reads, shares, and supports these writings!
State of Production 2.0
As is common within all growing and prospering organizations, the time has come for me to hand off the responsibility of writing these blogs to our newly-appointed Executive Producer, Tim Perreault. Tim has been instrumental in helping me along the way, as both my right-hand man, as well as my friend. His commitment to proper procedure, individual mentorship of numerous employees within the company, and unyielding attention to detail are exemplary, and a testament to excellence in leadership. I hope the community will provide a warm welcome to Tim Perreault, as moving forward, he will be helping to direct and drive the Production team in a significantly more involved capacity. As such, I’ve also invited Tim to provide a brief introduction about himself, as well as to give him the opportunity to speak to his goals and his vision moving forward.
Hey everyone, I’m Tim Perreault! I’ve been playing video games since a fateful Christmas morning as a young lad when my brother and I were gifted an NES console and a few games. Twelve years ago, I landed a summer position as a technical writer at a small video game studio here in Calgary. By the end of the summer I was offered a full-time position to stay on as a project manager and designer. Over the following years I worked on several shipped casual games with Michael Grills, NWI’s Creative Director. Between 2012 and late 2019 I worked at a number of tech startups and other software and IT companies accumulating a lot of experience and success in agile software development, agile process deployment, and agile adoption.
In Fall 2019, Grills reached out to me to talk about the NWI team. Pretty quickly after meeting the team I knew I would be a great fit and would be able to bring my experience to bear to help focus everyone’s energy and effort. I joined NWI in November and have been working hard with the rest of the production team to build and deploy new processes, develop a consistent delivery cadence, and raise the quality of our work. It has been an extremely exciting six months that has seen a lot of improvement. I’m looking forward to continued improvement with every coming update of the game.
Derek has set a great precedent for transparency and open discussion about the goings-on behind the scenes of the game. The SoPs have also given an opportunity for some of our developers to provide insight and reasoning behind some of the things we do, the challenges we face, how we overcome them. For those of you who look forward to our monthly State of Production posts, I can assure you I’m committed to continuing all these traditions. For now the biggest change you should expect is to start seeing a lot more Canadian spelling, eh!
When I joined NWI, one of my first objectives was to get our releases on track. I’m happy to say that with our 1.6 update, we released on the day that was originally planned months ahead of time. With 1.7 we are also on track to release in June as originally scheduled. Building off a solid process, future updates will be further refined based on three principles: themed updates, major and minor updates, and consistent release cadence.
Starting with 1.7 Nightfall and expanding in future updates, our updates will be strongly themed. Nightfall is themed around night combat. Our future updates will continue to build on this idea, starting with a map, defining the gameplay of that map, and then building a strong visual theme carried through all the cosmetics. All aspects of the update will be measured around adherence to either the gameplay mechanics or visual theme we are working towards. Overall, this will result in more exciting and cohesive content.
Major and Minor Updates
Our themed updates will contain a lot of content and that takes time to develop. To keep our updates both agile and responsive to the community, we will release a minor update between each major update. Minor updates will focus on bugs. Our goal is to respond to community feedback on what issues in the game are in most need of attention. This will also give players something to look forward to between major updates.
With our major and minor update approach, we are looking to have a consistent number of updates spread evenly throughout the year. You can expect to still see our major updates coming out roughly every 13 weeks. The exact release date will add minor variance into the schedule as we will tailor our schedule to align with various sales and events. Minor updates will be scheduled halfway between each major update. We’re currently working on a minor update for 1.6 and as Derek mentioned above, we’ll have a larger than usual minor update for 1.7 as we spend extra dedicated time for the whole team improving performance and cleaning up bugs.
I believe all these changes will result in much stronger updates that are planned consistently, developed consistently, and released consistently. I’m excited to see the results with you all in 1.7 and beyond!
That concludes State of Production 8! Thanks for taking your time to catch up with New World.
– Derek Czerkaski, Head of ProductionUnable to find display template for contest type: