We know this doesn't look like your usual Recap, but while we are finishing up the last parts of a hotfix update for Alpha 12, we thought we'd lay out what we have planned for the next stage of Squad development, similar to what we did earlier this year.
Alpha 12.1 Patch
So, first up is the performance, bug fixing and balance patch that we are working on right now, which should be with you all shortly. We have looked at all the community feedback and improved what isn't quite working as intended, fixing as many bugs as we could in three weeks (obviously) as well as starting on the optimisation work that we'll talk about in a minute.
Unreal Engine 4.21 Upgrade
After that, the team is planning to upgrade Squad to Unreal version 4.21. We have been on version 4.16 since August 2017 and a year of NOT upgrading has been very useful, allowing our programmers a lot more time to concentrate on features. However, the recent success of Fortnite (a large multiplayer 100 player game) has brought so many cool and useful features into UE4 that it is worth the time to upgrade now.
Just as a very brief overview, some of the 4.21 for engine features that are relevant to Squad: there have been big improvements to the landscape system, making it cheaper and faster, networking has been overhauled, a lot of bugs have been fixed, a proxy system for statics, better profiling tools, and a whole bunch more. Check out the Unreal site for more information.
Our current status is that we have a buggy version of the upgrade working in Editor now. The next steps for us are to fix these bugs, test, and release. There might be some extra content, bug fixes, and features included, but it will be mainly about getting the engine upgrade in place, so we can start using the tools.
This will be the next major Squad patch released after Alpha 12.1.
The rest of the following is what we are working on right now and going into next year with the aim of getting the game fully featured to leave Early Access.
After Alpha 12, we are switching more developers to working full-time on optimisation all the way to release from Early Access. Not all systems developed for Squad over the years turned out to deliver the expected performance; engineering mistakes have been made and need to be corrected. The same applies to UE4, as bug fixes and performance improvements done on the engine level need to be carried forward into Squad's codebase. We have expanded the team to approach these issues more thoroughly than ever.
The first step is finding and understanding performance issues. This includes writing analysis tools to detect the cause of performance issues.
The second step is addressing these problems, which always requires a custom tailored solution. Sometimes, even at this point, tools need to be written to transition existing game data into new systems. We have already made a start and hope to have some of the first results in the hotfix, but will be aiming to include optimisation improvements in every patch from now until the end of Early Access.
We hope to share some articles on the issues we are finding and fixing, but we intend to focus on the fixing first, then the talking later!
Optimisation is a big task with a lot of crossover into features and bug fixing. Just to be clear, specific aims we are targeting are:
- 100 player servers with good performance
- An indepth improvement of the ragdoll system
- Better frame rates for players both with low-end and high-end systems
We have read a lot of community posts asking us to stop with new features and just optimise the game. We hear you! However, there are a few features we think you might like still...
Yep, it is time. Not much to say beyond the obvious here: they're coming to Squad!
Currently, programmers are working on the flight model and we have a temporary flyable vehicle in-game. All of the art and interaction-based features can be worked on in parallel.
The current flight model is far from final, but looks awesome! Expect more updates in Monthly Recaps as development continues.
We want to introduce a basic commander system before we leave Early Access, as it really completes the concept of a true coordinated teamwork-focused military game. With a player on each side driving team-wide strategy and aiding squad leaders with the tools at their disposal, the Commander will be an essential factor in victories.
We won't be aiming to include every awesome idea we have for the commander role, but it will lay the groundwork for expanding on after we leave Early Access. Features we are aiming to roll out on introduction are:
- Making use of the new Command UI to facilitate giving orders and keeping track of your team.
- Airstrikes, artillery barrages, offensive fire support capabilities.
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), non-pilotable high altitude observation for the Commander.
Damageable Turrets and Vehicle Wheels/TracksWhile the first iteration of components was introduced in Alpha 12 in a limited capacity, damageable turrets, tracks, and wheels will complete the vehicle fidelity we wanted, offering more ways to disable parts of vehicles without outright destroying them. Turrets are in and working with wheels and tracks in progress.
Steam Join on Friends/Party systemWe are trying to find ways to make it easier for groups of friends to easily join the game in a single squad, on the same team. This is quite a complicated task as it involves working with not only with Steam, UE4 and Squad code, but getting them all to play nicely together
This is something we have wanted to do for a while but always had higher priorities. However, for a social game based around friends and teamwork, being able to play easily with your friends is long overdue. No promises on this one as it is not the easiest feature to implement, but we have very talented people working on it.
Sign-offThere are some big milestones for Squad in the near future, but we've put together a team more than capable of taking it on. In fact, we're already getting excited for what comes after release... There is actually quite a lot of extra content being worked on that we haven't talked about and we'll update the progress of these (Including Fallujah! It's not ready for the spotlight just yet.) In the meantime, have a sneaky vehicle teaser below!