The State of Midair: Air Fighter, Partnerships, and New Supporter Packages

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UPDATE 10-15-2016: Added a quick “Thank You” to Xzanth who helped maintain the IRC PUG bot until now.

Hey everyone, and welcome to the first State of Midair update!  The goal of this and future State of Midair posts is to keep you updated on what we’ve been working on, where we’re at, and where we’re going with Midair.  We’ll also precede each post with a State of Midair Twitch stream, so you can chat live with us and ask questions that we can include in the later blog post (you can catch the recording of the first stream here).  The goal is to do this once every 2-4 months depending on what we have to share and what makes sense.  This timeframe will make these updates a bit more significant.  If you want to get a more hands-on look at what we’re working on, I recommend you join us in Instant Access or hop on at some later tier, but more about that later…

Here’s what’s new in the world of Midair:

  1. Team Changes
  2. Development Update
  3. Air Fighter Vehicle now Available for Backers!
  4. QA Process + Tester Program
  5. Discord Partnership
  6. Twitch Partnership & Subscriptions
  7. New Supporter Packages
  8. Video Montage Favorites

There’s a LOT to go over, so let’s get to it.

Team Changes

All in all, we’re making some great team shifts.  We’ve mixed up Marketing and QA a bit and have made some good adds to our Production team.  We’re making some great progress toward release, and these team changes are going to keep us moving forward quickly and with quality.

Marketing

  • Ian T (or crash7800), one of our marketing gurus, will be taking a step back from his role and will operate in a more advisory capacity.  Ian was critical to the success of our Kickstarter campaign and we look forward to continuing to work with him even in a lesser capacity.
  • John W will be joining us to lead our marketing efforts in Ian’s absence.  John has a background in both game development and marketing and will be a strong addition to our team.  We’re excited to have him start!

Quality Assurance and Test

  • Ian M is leaving us as QA Lead, but will still be around the community.  Ian was a huge help in maintain quality and driving our product to our Kickstarter deadline.  Thank you!
  • Jonah F is joining the team as QA Lead.  He has a background in management and a long history in the FPS-Z genre.  He’s already making a big impact and you’ll be hearing more about what he’s doing later in this post.

Production

  • Stephen K joined the team shortly after Kickstarter and is working in a Backend Engineer/System Admin type role, helping us to improve our build system, scale our infrastructure, and more.
  • Csaba B is joined us recently as a programmer and will be helping to build features and fix bugs in UE4.  Csaba has a bunch of experience in the games industry as well.
  • Thomas H is assisting us on a special project.  More information as we get further along there.  🙂

I’d also like to give a quick shout-out to TrueAspects, a community member who has been consulting with us on a variety of topics.  Thank you!

Development Update

Over the last several months since Kickstarter, we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on reducing technical debt, upgrading to the latest Unreal Engine version, and pushing out a variety of patches with feature updates, new content, and fixes to our backers.

Technical Debt

If you’re familiar with software or game development you’re familiar with the concept of technical debt.  If you’re not, a short summary is it’s the stuff you do quickly or not to standard in order to meet a deadline because it’s not required to be feature complete or scalable for that deadline.  This kind of stuff is pretty natural to happen, and is really common in early versions or prototypes of any product.  During our push to Kickstarter, we built out a really high quality pre-alpha version, but it did have shortcuts that won’t work for us or you as we scale the game.  Now that we’re driving toward our release, we’re shoring up some of those weaknesses in our codebase and making sure we can build high quality content for you players as quickly as possible.  While the effect of this work may not come in the form of a new feature or new content for the player, it’s a really good thing that we spent time on this.

Engine Upgrades

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We spent a bunch of time upgrading to Unreal Engine 4.12 in order to take advantage of some of their new features and bug fixes.  I don’t want to spend a ton of time going through the technical details of what UE 4.12 gives us, but to give you some idea, some improvements we’re taking advantage of include Sequencer, Grass and Foliage Scalability, Network Replication Optimizations, and Replay improvements.  We are benefitting from a lot more than that, and if you want to check out more about what comes with UE 4.12, check out the release notes on their blog here.

Build System

I mentioned that Stephen has join the team and is working on a bunch of backend stuff.  Well right now most of that is improving our build system.  If you don’t know anything about building a game, it’s essentially the process by which we compile and package everything for use by the player.  If we didn’t do that, you’d have to take all the assets and code and make your computer do all the work for you.  It’s an important process with lots of challenges, but it’s critical to distributing the game.  Now in smaller games and software projects, this can all be done on a single machine owned by one of the developers.  For modern games, including Midair, the build process takes hours for games that have tens of GB of output.  When that’s happening, the person doing it isn’t very productive.

Before Kickstarter, our code lead Michael was running through this process manually, every time we needed a build.  In many ways, we couldn’t test much until it was fully built and in the hands of testers.  If there were any issues we had to do that all over again.  That was fine for back then, but as we test and release new content to backers and supporters, we need to make sure we’re doing it in a way that doesn’t cause us a bunch of grief and delays.  Over the last few months, Stephen and Michael have been working to get incremental builds run in the cloud without human intervention or fully utilizing someone’s PC.  That means we’re automatically building the game and detecting any issues live as we develop it.  That’s huge, and saving us lots of time.  There’s more work to be done there, but for now we’re making great strides.

Patches and Hotfixes Since Kickstarter

Since our first Instant Access Kickstarter build (0.16.0) we’ve released two major version updates (0.17.0 and 0.18.0) and 2 hotfixes (0.18.1, 0.18.2).  I’ve included the patch notes for each major release and their hotfixes below.

Pre-Alpha 0.17.0

General

  • Weapons now have the ability to passively reload. The specifics of passive reload will not yet be documented in order to get feedback that is unaware of the exact behavior.
  • Flag out-of-bounds boundaries (blue chevrons) are no longer just a suggestion. If the flag touches the boundary it will be reflected back inside the map boundary. When carried, it will be dropped.
  • Added LCTF game mode, often referred to as LT. Players spawn with maximum ammo, chaingun, ring launcher, grenade launcher, and an energy pack. Loadouts cannot be changed.
  • Added fall damage.
  • Fixed an issue where if Heavy and Light packs differed, Light pack could not be changed.
  • Light and Heavy loadouts are now saved.
  • Heavies may no longer cloak.
  • Repair pack pick-ups are now twice as large visually.
  • You can now directly connect to a server using the “open <ip>” command in the game console.
  • Added Kick Player option to menus for admins.
  • Admins trying to use admin commands while not logged in will no longer be kicked.

Maps

  • Added 2 new CTF-maps: Aria_II and Ignitus. Also added an arena/duel test map: ArenaEchidna
  • LT maps now use the prefix LCTF, which enables the correct ruleset. All LT maps are now available for voting in the map rotation.
  • CTF-Abaddon: Main base interior is now more spacious. Other minor visual changes.
  • CTF-Dam: Added boxes on the flagstand to assist defense. Minor lighting fixes.
  • CTF-DayHike: Fixed issues where players were getting stuck inside terrain. Lighting and visual tweaks inside the base.
  • CTF-DesertedSands: Overhauled the layout of the base interior. Added a tower with self-powered inventory stations. Some lighting and collision fixes. Added an out-of-bounds grid.
  • CTF-Hoki: Cleaned up the base blockout to fix collision issues. Changed up overall lighting.
  • CTF-Icewind: Added a platform around the tower. Minor terrain tweaks.
  • CTF-Iratus: Down for maintenance! Iratus will return in the future.
  • CTF-TenebrisTall: Cleaned up base blockout. Adjusted base lighting.
  • CTF-Verdant: Added rocks near flagstand to help people jet up. Other visual tweaks.
  • LCTF-DesertLT1: Adjusted flagstand rock.
  • LCTF-GrassyLT2: Updated flagstand. Added a visible out-of-bounds grid.
  • LCTF-Minora: Tweaked terrain next to the flagstand. Minor visual tweaks. Fixed hard out-of-bounds grid visuals not matching with functionality.
  • LCTF-Outpost99: Minor visual tweaks. Added a visible out-of-bounds grid.
  • LCTF-SLTE-021: Fixed flagstands not being perfectly mirrored.
  • LCTF-Tolar: Tweaked the flagstand.

Notes

  • CTF-Verdant performance fixes didn’t make it into this patch. Expect poor performance for now.
  • Turning on dynamic shadow casting causes some ugly shadow popping when the shadow casting geometry goes in and out of view.
  • Dynamic shadows may decrease game performance on some clients. sg.ShadowQuality (0-4) can be used to lower the quality of shadows. 0 being none, 4 being highest quality.
  • Servers have now been grouped into Casual, CTF, and LCTF where Casual servers can be either Base CTF or LCTF and the others are reserved exclusively for those gametypes.

Pre-Alpha 0.18.0, 0.18.1, and 0.18.2

0.18.2

Bug Fixes:

  • Fixed – Using Repair Pack and walking into deployable Inventory no longer crashes server
  • Fixed – Various Mouse Focus Issues
  • Fixed – Repair Gun audio no longer persists after accessing inventory while repairing
  • Fixed – Asset Explosions are no longer unreasonably large
  • Fixed – Heavy Left Arm no longer missing when holding Mortar
  • Fixed – Heavy Eyeball Textures
  • Fixed – Weapon LOD issues
  • Fixed – Icewind Holes in Map
  • Fixed – Icewind Floating Trees (except 1)
  • Fixed – Icewind Flag OOB Grid
  • Fixed – Iratus Middle Structure Roof
  • Fixed – Iratus Holes in Map
  • Fixed – Minora Broken Spawn Point
  • Fixed – You no longer have to double-click on a binding to change it
  • Fixed – Base turrets now correctly target deployables
  • Possibly Fixed – Floating Weapon at 0,0,0 and invisible weapons on other players (at least when joining a game)

General:

  • New – Live Main Menu Background Screen
  • New – Added PUG Warning Popup for all PUG servers to help spread awareness
  • New – You can now find Repair Guns holstered onto the walls.
  • New – Repair Gun now has a new look
  • New – Water now sounds like water

Maps:

  • Renamed – LCTF-SLTE renamed to LCTF-Kryosis
  • Renamed – LCTF-DesertLT1 renamed to LCTF-Ingonyama
  • Modified – Kryosis base structure altered
  • New – Ambient Audio added to 4 maps (Deserted Sands, Icewind, Iratus, Verdant)
  • New – Loading Screens for 4 maps (Deserted Sands, Icewind, Iratus, Verdant)
    • Background Images
    • Map Name
    • Lore Text (not present on Icewind)
    • Tip Text (not present on Icewind)

Known Issues:

  • Repair Pack beam acts a little weird in certain situations
  • Firing while walking into a deployable inventory causes weapon to continually fire
  • Dust Trails occasionally appearing on Heavy Model in air
  • Two broken spawn points remain on Ingonyama
  • Removed – Outpost99 due to unknown issue dropping players
  • Removed – Ignitus due to unknown issue dropping players
  • Removed – Aria_II due to missing wall repair packs make Base game type unplayable


0.18.1

Bug fixes:

  • Fixed issue where you couldn’t start a new chat message or move until clicking after sending an initial message.
  • Chat auto-scroll should now work properly.
  • Players no longer automatically spawn when joining an in progress match.
  • Players no longer spawn without a loadout, which typically resulted in a crash if they tried to switch weapons.
  • If, somehow, players spawn without weapons, the game won’t crash if they use the scroll wheel.
  • Removed kill volumes from maps, returned to hard OOB for the time being.
  • Deployable inventories no longer give you invisible weapons.
  • Loadout changes to weapon slots above 1 should properly register with a server on a fresh install.
  • Several maps with spawns that launched you at a high speed have been fixed.
  • Iratus’s building LODs/textures have been fixed.

General:

  • The X button now returns to the game instead of disconnecting. There is a disconnect button.
  • Reduced heavy jump velocity slightly from 0.18.0. Still higher than previous versions.

Known Issues:

  • Inverting mouse Y still doesn’t save. This will be addressed in the future during a refactor pass of saved settings. It doesn’t fit into the current system.
  • UI elements still remain on screen between level transitions. This appears to be an Unreal Engine 4.12 issue.
  • Clearing a binding doesn’t always work. It will say its cleared but the binding still occurs.
  • Chat is drawn over the settings menu.
  • You have to double click on bindings to get them to change.

0.18.0

General:

  • Upgraded to Unreal Engine 4.12. Some players are reporting performance improvements.
  • Chat now persists between matches.
  • Ctrl, Shift, and Alt can be used as binding modifiers for some actions.
  • Bindings can be cleared with right click.
  • Added bindings for switching to weapon slots.
  • Configuring loadouts is now more streamlined. You can change the order of weapons more easily. Loadouts are saved automatically when you close the menu or leave the game.
  • Added an LCTF specific loadout.
  • Streamlined menu UI. Shows in game chat. Has player list (can be used by admins for kicking). Match options are no longer hidden under X menu.
  • X menu is no longer a menu. It disconnects from the match, and from the main menu, quits the game. To return to the match, there is now a minimize button.
  • Players no longer auto-spawn when joining a match.
  • Player weapons are now useable immediately (don’t require a switch) after using a deployable inventory. *
  • Moved Flag IFF up.
  • What was “k-ing out” is now “Evacuate”. Players who press K will be evacuated from their location in a warp-out effect, indicating they were not killed but instead chose to respawn.

Maps:

  • Added 4 Community maps by Nark! LCTF-Brynhildr, LCTF-Raptor, LCTF-Coral and LCTF-Exhumed
  • Added a new LCTF map: LCTF-Arch
  • CTF-Iratus: Iratus is back! Now with an initial art pass
  • CTF-Verdant: Performance improvements. Minor visual changes.
  • LCTF-SLTE-021: Initial art pass on base building
  • LCTF-DesertLT1: Terrain changes and spawn fixes
  • LCTF-Outpost99(x2): Added a changed version of Outpost99 for testing. Original version still playable.
  • Various bug fixes across all maps

 

Air Fighter Vehicle Now Available for Instant Access Backers!

The Air Fighter has finally made it into the game.  This is a big milestone for us as part of this work was to establish the building blocks for adding all of our planned vehicles into Midair.  The Air Fighter is intended to be a quick, scrappy nuisance that is effective against air targets and fairly effective against certain ground targets.  It’s built to handle well and has a boost to get you in and out of fights quickly while using its dual cannons to deal direct damage and slight splash damage.  The Air Fighter along with our other vehicles is based off of a true physics model.  This means you can do loops, barrel roles, and more fun stuff that I’m sure you’ll all be excited to try out.

(Credit to Fixious for the clip)

While the Air Fighter is the belle of the ball for this build, we’ve also include some nice improvements to maps to add visual interest to the environment.  One such example is Iratus:

Set Dressing on Iratus

 

Also in this build, Outpost99 has made its triumphant return after fixing a critical bug and giving the base interior a bit of a makeover:

New Interior on Outpost99

 

Full patch notes for build Pre-Alpha 0.19.0f will be posted soon.  Get in there and let us know what you think on the Instant Access Backer Slack and Forums!

QA & Tester Program

As mentioned earlier, Jonah F (Wizard) is taking over our QA program.  He’s spent the last couple months working out our QA process and how it fits into our overall build process.  Ultimately, we want our game to feel like a high quality game.  Part of what we’re doing to ensure quality is to empower our QA program to do what it needs to do.  QA in turn needs to have rigor and structure in order to accomplish that, while also making it easy for us to collect feedback and address issues quickly.  If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend watching the stream as Jonah does a great job of explaining the focus and goals of our QA program, the Tester Program, and how we’re looking to handle Feedback and User Research going forward.  Here’s a direct link to his section of our stream:

Partnerships

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We’re happy to announce that we’re now a Discord partner!  Discord is a text chat and voice app for gamers that lets you join from a simple hyperlink.  This affords us a ton of benefits, but the biggest is we’ll be using Discord as a single consolidated place for you to chat with the community and the developers about Midair.  That means the official IRC, TeamSpeak, and Backer Slack will be discontinued within about a month of this post.

How do I use the Midair Discord?

Simple, just go here: www.discord.gg/playmidair

You can use either the browser or download the app.  We recommend the app.  🙂

Why Discord?

I mentioned some of the key reasons above, but there are a lot of benefits to the game and you, the players.  Keep an eye out for a follow-up blog post about why we partnered with Discord.

What do you get as a partner?

As a partner, we get higher voice quality, a custom URL (www.discord.gg/playmidair), better server controls, access to support, and custom branding among other things.

What about PUGs?

If you’re in the PUG (Pick-Up Game) scene, there’s a new Midair Bot in #pugs on Discord that you can use to join PUGs.  It’s currently in development by PeTtY from the Australian Midair community.  Type !help for help with commands.

And a big “Thank you!” to Xzanth who built and maintained the PUG bot in IRC up until this point!

I’m a Kickstarter backer, how do I get the cool label?

Check out the forum post here in the Kickstarter Backer forum (only viewable by Backers).

I’m a Kickstarter backer but can’t see the forum, what do I do?

Re-read your “Welcome to Midair Instant Access!” email for instructions on how to gain access.

 

 

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We’re now officially a Twitch partner and have enabled Subscriptions.  We’ll be expanding our use of the Twitch partner feature set as time goes on to include custom emotes and more.  In the meantime, please consider helping us out by following and subscribing to our Twitch channel.  Every little bit helps and this is a great way to help with the development costs.  If you’ve got Amazon Prime, you get one free Twitch subscription per month!  Learn more here.

New Supporter Packages

Finally, but certainly not least: we’re re-opening the store for new supporters who would like to get access and support Midair.  These new packages are very similar to our Kickstarter packages, except they have all of the Kickstarter exclusive rewards removed and have some different pricing.  Head over to www.playmidair.com/buy to check it out, and share the link with your friends!  Please note that Instant Access keys will be sent out within 5-7 days of ordering (sometimes faster).

If you have any questions or issues with the ordering process, please send an email to [email protected]

Video Montage Favorites

Are you a Midair montage creator?  Want to get featured on Midair’s social media?  We’ve been amazed at how many community videos and montages have hit YouTube, so we’re starting up a new program to get the best montages out to the community.  If you’ve got an interesting video, montage, or clip you’d like to share, jump in our Discord and post in the #montages channel!  All of our Discord users will see your montage and we’ll pick the best ones to spread through Twitter, Facebook, and more.

Whew…

That’s a wrap! We had a lot to cover, and we actually cut some things short.  Questions? Comments?  Head on over to the forums and discuss this post in our Announcements section.

‘State of Midair’ Developer Livestream – Oct 9, 2016 @ 1PM PT

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Join us Sunday, October 9th at 1PM PT/4PM ET for a special ‘State of Midair’ stream with our very own BugsPray! We’ll be taking you through what’s been going on with Midair so far, what’s to come and a bunch of other top secret, very cool things. This is one you won’t want to miss!

So be sure to head over to our Twitch Channel this Sunday to check it out and ask us any questions you might have.

See you then!