Straight in with the MP update this week.
As stated in the last Thursdoid, we feel we’re on the home stretch now and are still confident in our December (or at worst January, after Russian New Year and Christmas, if we get uncomfortably close to the holidays) estimate.
Though truth be told, the day we were pushing to have a release candidate ready for was Dec 1st – and clearly that didn’t happen. The additional issue with black boxing (which wasn’t discovered and within the schedule to a Dec 1st release) took up a good chunk of the MP team’s time to diagnose and repair, so the presence of looming holidays marching toward us is ever-present.
It’ll basically come down to how quickly the last serious issues get squashed as to whether we’ll make it before Xmas. We still very much want it, and will tirelessly push toward getting it out during early December, until the proximity to the holidays no longer feels safe to release in terms of pumping out the required hot-fixes while team members are away.
Many of you have probably seen that we gave MrAtomicDuck permission to make a video based on his experiences in our latest MP test session, we said that we wanted to hear his honest opinions and were extremely happy to see what a positive experience he had.
As highlighted in his video, and in our previous Thursdoid, the main release-blocker at this point is vehicles, whose rubber-banding and physics bugs are severe enough that we’d not be comfortable releasing until they are fixed. Put simply: they are frequently an instant death trap and this clearly isn’t something that could be present in a release candidate build. As such, the MP team are hard at work improving these as we speak.
Several other issues discussed last week are fixed, VOIP is now crystal clear (however we’re still investigating to make sure VOIP doesn’t have any adverse effect on network performance), black boxing and excessive rubberbanding and lag experienced by a select few of our testers seems to have similarly been dealt with.
So outside the vehicle issues described, our next priority pre-release is dealing with issues with zombies not responding to guns, helicopters, alarms etc.
Eagle eyed viewers of Duck’s video may have noticed that the gunfire wasn’t attracting the hordes one would expect. At some point in the restructuring how zombies work to eliminate lag bites etc and provide smooth movement to clients, their ability to reliably hear all sounds in the world has been broken.
This will be a top priority along with vehicle fixes, and the doctor zombie convention that seemed to have been taking place at the hospital.
We thought we’d respond to the main reoccurring piece of negative feedback we read after Duck’s video, which was otherwise overwhelmingly positive.
The main piece of negative feedback we read, that cropped up several times, related to instances where a certain broom-wielding maniac was fighting zombies and visually it looked a bit odd. The choice of using a one-handed broom while simultaneously wielding amped-up admin powers, and maybe a slightly higher ping, probably exacerbated this!
However, it highlighted that the combat between other remote players and zombies can sometimes have sync issues. In crowded scenes like these, especially, characters seem too far from zombies when they kill them, and zombies sometimes fall in the wrong direction.
We certainly intend to improve this going forward – possibly prior to release, but much more likely afterward. However, there is only so far we will be able to push it.
Our biggest priority with making solid multiplayer was to prioritize interactions between the local player and zombies that are targeting them, so that lagging zombies leading to an unfair bite are an impossibility.
This to our mind, in a game where a single zombie bite can end a character you’ve pumped many hours into in an instant, was our biggest priority at the expense of all else.
As such, the way zombie positions are calculated (which will always differ between clients due to unavoidable latency of different geographic locations) is handled in a way to ensure that when a zombie is chasing the local player, then that local player will treat the zombie as if it were a single player zombie. This, then, has the side effect of essentially doubling the latency and delay on syncing that zombie’s position with the other players who are NOT being chased by that zombie.
As such, zombies chasing someone else will always be a little bit out. We have a lot of code in to predict zed movement, and we do mask this inconsistency as much as possible, but it will always be a present issue.
There are, however, various other ways we can look into improving these visuals in future: finding ways to speed up message transmission and server tick rate to help sync them further, and better predicting their movements between clients.
However, it’s unlikely this will ever be perfect when dealing with potentially hundreds of zombies being witnessed by numerous clients at the same time. In other games with high enemy counts, it’s rare that a single enemy can instantly kill you, so other games generally have more leeway available to them than we do.
On the up side, as it stands, combat with zombies by the player themselves will suffer zero latency, and will be completely indistinguishable from single player combat.
The price paid for that is sometimes companions you can see fighting other zombies (especially those who have larger pings) may not appear to connect fully with zombies they are fighting or the zombie they hit may slide a bit as they die or change target.
We think that’s a good price to pay for what it brings to the individual player’s combat, and further when you’re more likely playing on a more local server (unlike our testers connecting from all around the world onto a server based out of Paris) we don’t think these issues will get in the way too often for the majority of players.
As ever, also, it’s an evolving process that we will continue to work on both in the run-up to release – and as each new patch and build is released beyond it.
To end with, a few more vids taken by the internal test team – one of which very much underlines why we need to get the vehicles physics fixed up.
This week’s featured safehouse from Alejodbort. A changelist of all IWBUMS patches since the 41 beta was released can be found here. A general list of stuff added to PZ, and vids of features being worked on, is kept here – so you don’t have to plough through endless dev blogs for info. The Centralized Block of Italicised Text would like to direct your attention to the PZ Wiki should you feel like editing or amending something, and the PZ Mailing List that can send you update notifications once builds get released. We also live on Twitter right here! Our Discord is open for chat and hijinks too!