The odds are high that when you walk through an MMO’s landscape, you are not thinking about art assets beyond “this looks pretty” or “this looks awful.” But the latest information from The Repopulation team covers why you should care a little bit more about art assets for forests and how they’re set up. After all, the way the game is currently set up, every tree is a different asset, but upgraded systems will make the calls for forests as a single group… thus reducing load times and improving performance as the game draws a single asset instead of many.
The developers are also improving and rescaling existing models (resulting in better collision detection and reduced loading times) and categorizing items more efficiently in the game’s databases. In short, the result should be a title that plays better while looking better at the same time. Check out the full rundown for an idea about how all of this will come together.
There are a lot of things that the new owners of The Repopulation want to change about the game, and some of those are both visible to players and under the hood at the same time. Case in point, the UI. According to the latest update from the development team, the current UI relies on outside components for much of its functionality, which is somewhat incompatible of the development vision to keep things within the Hero Engine… especially when those outside components result in some system lag, to boot.
Of course, the changes aren’t solely about removing outside files. The rework is also meant to improve functionality and clean up the interface, fix longstanding issues like bugs when scrolling lists, and ensure that every part of the UI can be moved and resized instead of allowing some parts and not allowing others. There are also plans to allow for UI customizations to be saved by character or account as players prefer. Check out the full update to see if these are changes you’re excited over.
Idea Fabrik has a new forum post up on the state of sandbox MMO The Repopulation heralding the testing of update 10.2. There’s downside, however, as the studio says it will be wiping the servers and merging them to “enable the developers and the players to focus on community building in a single place.” That’ll mean the end of the EU server in the short term.
“Being that the wipe is occurring with this update and the populations are low on both servers, we thought it would be the perfect time to merge into one community and build upwards from there. If we decide bring up a single server, we would be disabling the EU server until later in development, after more systems are completed and the community grows again. This would allow players to make fresh characters on the server or move their current US East Characters across. We have several options on how we can handle this and would like your input now and in the future when you think we are ready to reopen the EU Server.”
Ever since Bluehole threw down a gauntlet at Epic’s feet over the similarities between PUBG and Fortnite’s battle royale mode – or more specifically, over Epic’s conflicts in regard to the Unreal Engine it furbishes and on which both games run – I’ve noticed the mainstream narrative is about whether it’s “illegal to rip off” a game mode that’s existed for decades. I suspect MMO players may see it differently.
See, Bluehole isn’t some new studio to MMO players; it built TERA in Korea. It was also the studio that was sued civilly and prosecuted criminally (successfully) for ripping off NCsoft years ago. Multiple Bluehole employees were accused and convicted of stealing trade secrets, “copious amounts of confidential and proprietary NCsoft information, computer software, hardware, and artwork relating to Lineage 3” from NCsoft.
Moreover, MMO players have already seen how conflicts just like this one between studios and engine developers can absolutely sink games. At the end of 2015, the MMORPG sandbox community watched helplessly as it appeared the studio behind Hero Engine held The Repopulation studio hostage, ultimately forcing the game offline and then buying out the game from its original developers in what seemed an unwelcome, hostile takeover acceded to in desperation.
So with all that in mind, this morning’s Daily Grind is multifold: Where do you stand on the Fortnite-vs.-PUBG feud? Who’s in the right, legally and morally, and does it concern you for engine/game relationships in the future?
Every MMO tells a story through the run of its life. A lot of those stories are pretty happy, too. Ultima Online may not be the most happening place in the world right now, but its story is about launching a genre and then running for two solid decades. That’s a pretty great story. However much it’s become a tale of mismanaged expectations, World of Warcraft kind of became the most popular thing for a long while and brought in tons of new people to the hobby. Even titles with sad endings often have bright stories; the end bit for City of Heroes sucks, but everything leading up to that was a gas.
And then you have these 10 titles. These are titles where the whole story is a tragedy, start to finish, and in many cases the tragedy isn’t necessarily over, but the story is still just plain sad. There are reasons, of course, maybe even good ones, but the result is that the narrative for these titles is pretty sad all the way through.
Gosh, I had almost forgotten about Fragmented – it’s been a while! But it’s formally launched on Steam as of today for a discounted $5.99.
“Today we have moved Fragmented into a released state after 16 months and more than 30 patches in Early Access,” says Above and Beyond’s JC Smith, noting that launch “does not mean the end of updates” for the game; “tweaks and bug fixes” are still on the table.
Fragmented was originally created by A&B in the Great Repopulation Pause of 2015 as a survival sandbox spin-off of the The Repopulation, first Kickstarted in 2012. The MMORPG was crippled by a nasty public contract dispute between the dev team at A&B and its Hero Engine-lessor Idea Fabrik, driving The Repopulation offline and causing A&B to spend a year working on Fragmented instead. Earlier this year, the studio announced it had sold the game to Idea Fabrik instead, a move that A&B said was in the best interests of the game and the playerbase, while A&B kept Fragmented. Since then, Idea Fabrik has gotten The Repopulation back online in a limited alpha.
Back in January, we learned the fate of The Repopulation: The Hero Engine team from Idea Fabrik would be taking over development of the game from its original developers at Above & Beyond following a lengthy dispute between the two that took the alpha offline for more than a year. It returned online and relaunched on Steam earlier this spring, promising an update in May after major issues were discovered in the code.
And here we are now in May, and the new team says the staging build is nearly live. The latest dev post promises that the “core vision” is still in line with A&B’s, will stay away from pay-to-win, will expand “to include multiple play styles” for PvE and PvP, will consider new and different rulesets, and will lay the groundwork for “future expansions.” The update is dubbed Condorslug, “first and foremost the start of the renovation to replication within every game system, at its very core this is about bug fixing and trying to get things in a much better place.” Expect new shaders, redone heightmaps, new textures, and yes, wipes.
Oh yeah, and expect to shell out some dough too, as the studio is “aiming to re-enable the purchasing of higher tiers” once the dust has settled.
How’s The Repopulation coming along? Well, it’s coming. Last week, the newly installed Idea Fabrik developers discussed how the planned May update is progressing with bug fixes and a smoother pipeline for actually identifying, reporting, and correcting issues. The big news, however, is the new shaders that provide a big visual upgrade to the game world (though the team notes flora isn’t in — you can check out the before and after shots below).
“The lore team is looking at shoring up a few things, getting a consistency and looking at future ideas,” Hobble writes. “A new launcher is being built, this may or may not make 15.10.1, but there are a few inconsistencies to do with Steam/Stand Alone that we wish to sort out.”
And Hero Engine also brought back online the EU server, which was taken down for database issues yesterday.
When The Repopulation returned under new management, it was an understood fact that it would be a while before the game got its first patch. And it’s true, it will be a while. Specifically, it’ll be about five more weeks according to the latest update from the development team. That’s how long it’s going to take to sort out all of the back-end issues players aren’t seeing and gently massage the code into cooperating and improving.
If you were thinking it would take longer than five weeks, well, this is pretty much good news. And there is definitely a lot of stuff being adjusted behind the scenes, including combat, the UI, new player tutorials, pathing, and texture files. How good the first few patches under the game’s new ownership will be remains to be seen, but it does seem pretty clear that the game’s improvement is being taken seriously.
The Repopulation is indeed on track to resume early access later this month as planned.
“Servers will be opening up to all current players on the 12th of this month,” Idea Fabrik COO Sarrene’ Grant told forumgoers this afternoon.
“All backers and current players of The Repopulation can enter the game starting at midnight EST on Sunday. Downloads are open, as some of you already know. Your game account login will be exactly the same. Nothing has changed there. We wanted to make sure that everyone that bought and supported the game had the same access as before. If you forgot your password you can use the link provided on the launcher to reset your password. If you have any problems logging in please feel free to post that up. A ticket system will be in place after the transfer is complete. We will be turning The Repopulation sales on at Steam between the 19th and the 26th of this month depending on how the servers hold up to the Alpha testing.”
Idea Fabrik is forging onward in its plan to re-start The Repopulation game servers, forum posts from the last couple of weeks suggest. The company told fans that it’s been working on transferring data to Steam.
“Once the transfers are complete, we’re still going to have the usual spin-up time and make sure that there isn’t any data/bit-rot, making sure that everything is working correctly, etc.,” Community Manager Christopher Riley told backers a week ago in response to questions about when the test server would resume service. “So as of this post it should be about 2 weeks after the transfers.”
Another post indicates that “a few” of the 10-man team in fact worked on The Repopulation prior to its ownership transfer.
Still reeling over the news that The Repopulation has been acquired by Idea Fabrik and will launch in Hero Engine later this quarter after all? Or more inclined to join our commenters who say they won’t give the new owners another chance, given their history with the original studio?
Maybe Idea Fabrik can change your mind. The newly installed developer team — which isn’t the same sub-team that works on the engine itself and is in fact partly made up of Triad Game Studios developers — began introducing itself on The Repopulation forums over the weekend, including COO Sarrene’ Grant, Tehnical Director “Hobble,” and Writer/Community Rep Christopher Riley. Grant tackles the pay-to-win concerns straightaway.
“Our aim is NOT to turn this into a Pay to Win game. Again, we are gamers as well. We have not gotten to that point yet, but the goal will be to follow the same plans that ABT had. […] This is a re-release of the Alpha version, least to start. This is not a full or post release.”
The after-hours Friday revelation that The Repopulation is relaunching early this year took a lot of our readers by surprise. The much-wanted sandbox MMORPG had been offline for over a year, and though updates had been scarce, we’d been told Above & Beyond was using Fragmented’s profits to re-home Repop in its new engine, so there was grumbling at the lack of transparent progress, but not panic.
Now we know more of the story: that Fragmented wasn’t making enough to make Unreal-based Repop a reality, and in order to get the MMORPG to market and make original backers happy, A&B says the clear choice was to offload the game to Idea Fabrik, the maker of Hero Engine.
Some folks seem OK with this unusual turn of events; they wanted the game either way, and Idea Fabrik does have a vested interest in seeing a solid game come of its engine (and is apparently in good financial health now). Other readers? Let’s just say that there’s been a lot of ranting from all corners — people who feel they were lied to about the nature of the games, people who don’t believe Idea Fabrik can finish the game properly, and people who are just soured on the whole experience of watching A&B give up its dream.
Where do you stand on it, once Idea Fabrik actually gets it out the door? Will you give The Repopulation another chance under its new owners?