we have had a Theatres of War AMA from Cloud Imperium answering various Questions About this new Game Mode for Star Citizen on their spectrum forums.
In the past few weeks, ToW has run the gauntlet of internal testing with the CIG team and closed tests with the always helpful Evocati. We’ve gotten valuable feedback and loads of data from these tests, and we’ve been able to translate that data into actionable changes that will improve the overall game experience.
The main priority for the team has been to improve the game performance, while further updates included adjustments to the Out of Bounds area size, ship match-ups, sight alignment, and fixes for VoIP issues, UI issues, and more.
They are going to be running another round of Evocati testing and plan to implement more changes and then will look to playtest with a larger audience in the near future.
What was the outcome of the Theatres of War Evocati Tests?
The weekend event was actually successful in achieving the objectives we set out to achieve with it. I could do a whole hour just on this, but to summarize the objectives/accomplishments/outcome.
- Most importantly because of our new metrics/analytics we discovered that someone, somewhere made a kill with a fire extinguisher…
- Server performance was great
- We ran into challenges every time we scaled concurrency to some degree (and this instance was not different).
- We reached the highest concurrency we’ve had, almost 5x what we had tested with previously.
- We found issues in platform (that remain and are being looked at that affect everything) we ran into some persistence / service issues and finally the popular and more difficult topic we’ve found our game is running much more poorly than expected on our player’s hardware, at least when you have “action” happening and 40 people in relatively tight proximity consistently.
- Tons of new features were proven out at scale which included Chat/Party/Friends joining into AC/SM servers as well as voip
- Pulled a good amount of very specific analytics. The evocati played straight for 6-8 hours with round cycling (means no downtime just round after round after round) and those metrics are validating (and in some cases not) much of our gameplay (map wise).
- Map/Mode balance validated for example: 117 rounds played, 54% win rate for defenders so it’s fairly equal (slightly stilted to defense but would expect that to level out as people learn the map)
- Ships balance got highlighted between Buccaneers and Arrows (2x spawn rate of buccaneers over Arrows which is likely that they die twice as much) and community highlighted this which is great and we’ve adjusted.
- We managed to confirm a few facts for the resources requirements of ToW instances.
- Performance is and continues to be the biggest issue and addressing that will help everything. Whether that the perception of a desync, to feel to responsiveness etc… No game feels good at all below 20fps (except maybe Civilization or Risk!)
There have been over 150 changes since the evocati tests 2 weeks ago.
A Party system is already implemented and you and friends can play in the same instance.
They’ve done a sprint fully focused on performance and have saved quite a bit with more to come. Again ToW lets us see these issues obviously and analytically so it’s been incredible useful for more than just the small ToW team and this includes engineering around the company.
How will you fix the desync problem?
Sometimes lack of responsiveness for certain systems or actions can be conflated into desync issues. This is then further exacerbated by low frame rate! So sometimes what might seem like a desync isn’t and is instead a different issue (be it responsiveness or lag). Quite a few actual desyncs were addressed for ToW and are much easier to track and fix comparatively to the PU. For example the 250ms injected delay was completely reworked (approximately 50 same as most other games) and adjusted to serve ToW as the server runs at a solid 30Hz. Short answer desyncs are addressed as they are discovered but often times responsiveness and low frame rate are the bigger culprits.
Will FPS AI ever be introduced in ToW to make the battlefield even larger?
It actually already has some AI (not FPS) that we wanted to prototype as the obvious comparison is with games such as battlefront. ToW is not exclusively a PvP only mode and scenarios can make use of AI when it makes sense. It would be immensely useful to have bots for internal testing as well (even if they aren’t that good) but with AI focus needing to be on PU and S42 we have to be mindful of the resources and the ToW group doesn’t have any of these specialists for AI.
FPS Movement & Weapon Handling is Clunky in Star Citizen has this been addressed?
ToW has been great for identifying issues with on-foot combat, due to the concentration of combat and the variety of environments it takes place in. As a result, we’re making some great steps toward making the movement feel much more responsive and to improve the weapon handling. Some of these changes have already gone live over the last couple of updates or will be coming in the near future, but here are a couple of examples off the top of my head:
- Movement and strafe speed increases
- Total stamina and regeneration increased (increasing overall sprint time and reducing weapon sway)
- Animation speed increases (weapon reloads and ship and vehicle enter/exits)
- Weapon spread and recoil improvements
Will we see a ToW game mode where the emphasis is on space combat rather than ground combat, yet still incorporates combined arms concepts? (Example: “Capture the Idris” game mode)
Yes! The intention of this particular scenario was to ensure ground vehicles and infantry would co-exist and to match them up against the ships, but not so many of them. For our next scenario you can expect it to be turned on it’s head where the focus will be space and ship combat as a central component but using the same template of phases / objective game-play.
We want to provide diverse scenarios that would be interesting and fun for you as well beneficial for us to balance and polish. Capital ship fight scenario is on our radar. Which specific ships would take part will be dependent on our ship pipeline progression.
Will it get Medic / Engineer / Support Roles?
Certainly something we’ll want to incorporate eventually, but right now our priority is getting the combat feeling good in a combined arms scenario before moving onto more specialized roles.
As medical gameplay and other systems come online in future quarters for the PU, we’ll be looking closely at how we can incorporate them into Theatres of War.
How big is the ToW team and are they dedicated to working on ToW?
We are cognizant of resources available and other high profile priorities for the company. Main intent was to provide an environment where we can get an appropriate information which would result in multiple improvements across the board. All the development playtime and feedback provided directly benefits the needs of Star Citizen and Squadron 42.
Team of people specifically dedicated to ToW is very small. Total team size of 10 consists of 4 designers, 2 engineers, 3 artists and 1 producer.
How will CIG devote resources differently to ensure the ToW remains a lasting, developer-supported game mode option for players?
There is a strong desire to continue our efforts for developing and maintaining ToW related content. This directly benefits our SC, S42, AC, SM needs. We are committed to delivering polished and fun games for you and ToW work is a crucial component of enabling that.
We are looking into ways of scaling the team which is highly dependent on multiple circumstances such as hiring rates, virus delays, specific profile of new hires, etc.
Will there be Squad Management / pre-made queues/features, or will it be a 20vs20 free for all?
Will we see ToW incorporate multi-crew ships eventually, including possibly dropships for troop insertions?
We’re already using them! We are currently utilizing a Valkyrie and Vanguard, though this may change due to ongoing balance changes.
How has ToW helped balance the game as a whole?
It has been incredibly helpful. Previously the main opportunity for mixed arms gameplay has been in PU encounters, which could be quite uncommon due to its size. Having a game mode where you’re immediately in a focused combat scenario, where FPS, ground vehicles and ships are all interacting has given us an opportunity to see how everything interacts.
It’s also influenced sweeping FPS weapon changes and fixes as it’s allowed us to tune our weapons for longer (and more realistic) combat ranges due to the size of the map, and distance at which you can encounter enemy players.
Will ToW have a “Downed” & get teammates back up Feature?
This is something we’re currently looking at alongside the incoming body dragging mechanics and medical gameplay.
Will there be something like C4, we can’t have a game mode like this without jeep stuff?
We have loads of really cool throwable, deployable and consumable items coming to the game in the future. I don’t want to give too much away, but there’ll certainly be a lot of items you can utilize for combat!
Some Other Info of Note:
They have been playing internal tests regularly with lots of players from the studios.
They are considering higher player counts for future scenarios.
They are planning to start work on a new ToW Scenario/Map Next Quarter.
Any changes we make in Theatres of War will be made in the PU. All of the weapons, armour, items and ships etc. are all part of the same game.
ToW has, however, managed to increase the priority of the tonk for such gameplay needs. It would hit PU at the same time
Grenades are being actively worked on this quarter to help fix their wonkiness for Star Citizen as a whole.
The next test will be in the 3.9.1 branch then they will move over to 3.10.0
Expect FPS Scope inaccuracies to be fixed for Alpha 3.10.0
Theatres of War is the name they are using internally for the mode currently but they are considering several other names.