DevLog 111: The New UI Released (Alpha 27.7), Feature Voting Round 1 Closed and Launching the Development of the Airport CEO Mod Tool

DevLog 111: The New UI Released (Alpha 27.7), Feature Voting Round 1 Closed and Launching the Development of the Airport CEO Mod Tool
June 26, 2018 Airport CEO

Hello airport CEO! What a long development blog title, huh? Well, that’s because we have had an unusual amount of exiting stuff happening this past week and a lot to go through. The new UI update has finally dropped and while it in all of its “early access-ness” is not 100 percent completed it sure is large change compared to the old UI and a good pointer on what’s up ahead. But it’s not only the UI that has changed, Steam Workshop is finally officially supported and there’s been tons of changes, performance improvements and bug fixes in the code base compared to the old version. So let’s get into it immediately with reviewing the changes of the new UI update and if you’re a regular you’ve probably already seen this part and can swiftly scroll through, however if you’ve just joined us or have recently come back from a long CEO vacation we’ll just get into it…

Introducing a New Era of being an Airport CEO

Alpha 27.6 packs the largest update to Airport CEO yet and is filled with new content, naturally of course, centered around the user interface but also in terms of bug fixes, performance improvements and minor content additions such as new graphics and the occasional aircraft model and liveries. It also includes Steam Workshop support so that you can yourself pick and choose amongst hundreds of user created businesses and airlines to take place in your airport (you can also check out airports created by other airport CEOs!).

The full change log is available via this blog post, but first, let us focus on some of the core features that the new UI update brings…

A New Style

The new user interface is sporting a new color scheme and a lot of new graphical assets. Gone are the days of buttons with black edges around them and we’ve instead implemented a set of new and sleek panels and buttons to better facilitate a minimalist style. Gone are long strings with text that don’t make sense or look nice, instead we’ve focused on including understandable and user friendly icons accompanied with tool-tips that pop-up when you need them. But the visual overhaul is not complete, we’re currently working together with a UI and UX specialist to give further life and polish to the new Airport CEO user interface and there is still a few visual and functional changes coming up ahead.

A New Layout

The old Airport CEO user interface was clunky to use and anything but intuitive. The new version has been redesigned with the intent of lowering mouse pointer travel as much as possible. We’ve centralized the information you need to the lower parts of the screen and have done a lot to make the user interface easier to navigate and understand. To the biggest extend possible we’ve reduced the number of levels you can go down in a menu to avoid getting lost and have strived for presenting data as easy as possible.

The Flight Process Monitor

We can now present the new Flight Process Monitor panel that will hopefully be of great assistance in monitoring and locating loopholes in your flight’s processes. Here’s a brief breakdown of how it works: The data panel will show you relevant information about your ongoing flights and give warnings if there are delays or issues. The blue area will show flight data such as the stand, flight status, number of passengers and flight times. This will help you see how long a flight has left until it should leave the gate for departure and as you can see in the example below, in this example we currency have two delayed flights (we will come back to this later). The yellow area will show your passenger statistics, for example how many passengers have arrived at the airport for each flight, how many are checked in and so forth. This will be useful for you to see if the passenger flow is adequate throughout the terminal and could for example help you decide if another security checkpoint is required or not. The red area to the right is for monitoring the turnaround process at the aircraft stand. It will tell you if bags have been unloaded or offloaded in time, the process of the service round and finally if refueling is completed or not. As you can see our two delayed flights have several problems, one of them is not 100% refueled yet and both are still waiting for bags to be delivered to the aircraft. So this is a clear indication that we might need to order an extra fuel truck and service trucks but also look into the baggage flow. This is the first draft of the panel, and it is planned to be expanded with, for example, the ability to prioritize a certain flight and more complex analyzing to give you hints on where your process might be flawed.

A New Notification System

The old user interface notifications were more or less worthless when it came to doing its core job: Notifying you of something. The new notification system is redesigned in its core and a lot more relevant than before. Notifications now pop up on your screen alerting you of something and if it’s relevant you can investigate notification origins to get a sense of what is not functioning as expected. You also have notification settings through which you can decide if you want to silence a particular notification type, or even group notifications based on criticality rather than time.

The Data Panel

Data, data, data! The data panel (which requires a CIO to see) at this stage features a few line graphs that feed you raw data from select sources. Want to see how many passengers that flow through your airport over time? How about seeing your income, outcome and balance next to each other and how they’re affected in real time by your current earnings and spendings? No problem, the graphs will show you that and more. As Airport CEO develops, more data sources and more graphs will be added to provide you with unbiased information on how your airport is performing.

The Incident Tracking Panel

The new UI update also brings a new incident tracker panel and a new incident system! While we’re preparing for major and serious incidents to be simulated in your airport, minor once are already happening. Sinks that break and persons that cannot reach certain areas can be inspected using this panel (accessed via a notification) to give you a better understanding of what is going on.

A Right-Click Interaction Panel

By right clicking an object you can now rename, recolor or view its current cleanliness or condition. You can also, if you so choose, manually order a janitor a service technician to commence repairs or cleaning. Soon we will continue to develop this panel and enable repositioning of objects.

An In-Game Bug Reporting Tool

We’re ever grateful for all the helpful and qualitative bug reports we’ve received over the past months and it’s time that we repay you. As of this new update there is now an in-game but report where you easily can summarize what has gone wrong or broken down, attach a screenshot of your choice and then easily send it off. As you press “send”, we’ll automate the process of collecting the game’s log file, a snap shot save of your current airport and your screenshot and send it off immediately to our bug platform. This will enable us to receive more qualitative reports that help us solve bugs faster while also making it a lot easier for you to send it.

Polish

The new UI features a lot of polish with performance improvements, fewer UI related bugs and better reliability as well as more smooth animations and game state transitions. This is thanks to the core focus groups that helped us test the new UI in its early stages and all the airport CEOs who’ve been playing on the experimental branch, continuously sending in new bug reports: Thank you!

So that’s for the UI… what else? Well, here are some of the core feature that the new update, in excess of the UI, bring:

Steam Workshop

You can now access the Airport CEO Steam Workshop via the community hub and when you subscribe to an item, it will appear in the Mods panel via the main menu. Here you can enable and disable mods you’ve downloaded as well as, at the push of a button, visit another airport CEOs airport save.

Improved Rendering Performance

We’ve implemented a new system for rendering large amounts of tiles in the game which should allow for larger airports to run at a better frame rate when zoomed out. In addition to this, and while the performance journey is not over, we’ve continued to overhaul different aspects of the game to improve script as well as rendering performance.

Polish and Bug Fixes

There’s a long, long list just below this text that’ll depict in greater detail on what we’ve been improving for the past two months but it’s fair to say that several bugs have been squashed, while there’s also been a few directed efforts of polish and improvements to existing systems.

What happens now?

This period, from the previous Alpha 26.2 to Alpha 27.6 marks the longest period in our development cycle where the default branch have not been updated. Moving forward, the default branch will be updated at least once per month and the experimental branch weekly, and sometimes daily. While the work on polishing the new UI continues we will from now direct our attention 100 percent to adding new content and new features, and the decision of what we’ll work on next has already been decided via the community voting feature.

Feature Voting Round 1 Closed

After two weeks of voting the gates have been closed and the votes tallied. Well over 1500 votes were cast and together they ultimately decided the nearest future of Airport CEO’s development. Each user had 10 votes to cast on user submitted feature requests over a given period and in the end, the top three voted entries have been selected for implementation.

As you can see in the blow list which has the top entries sorted by votes, multiple terminal floors, the missing turnaround services and remote stands turned out to be the features that the community wanted to see implemented next.

While these are all large implementations there’s not going to be several months of work, like with the UI update, before these hit the default branch. Instead we’ll be developing them all simultaneously and deploy them in increments as they near completion. With the voting having closed today (June 25th 2018) at 15:00 we’ll be taking this week to plan the implementation while continuing  to work on improvements and fixes for the current default version. We’d also like to point out that along side the development of these, we have a long list of completed graphical assets for the implementation of new minor features such as new vehicles, buildable items and decorations which will be continuously developed alongside behavioral improvements for all of the game’s agents and more.

Below you can see the standing of the feature requests when the voting closed. The top three entries will upon their implementation have their votes returned to the users, but all other entries will retain their cast votes through to the next version.

More details on the development of these new major features will come in the near future.

Launching the Development of the Airport CEO Mod Tool

The development of the official Airport CEO Mod Tool has finally started. We’re thrilled to present Patrick, perhaps better know as pderuiter, a long-term community member, moderator and the developer of the unofficial ACEO mod tool (also know as ACEOMM) as the main developer of this new, dedicated modding tool. We do not only want to democratize the process of creating new businesses and airlines but eventually also support aircraft modding, all and all from one single tool. Let’s hear what he has to say about it all…

Hey guys,

My name is Patrick, although people who visit the forums, Reddit or Discord know me as pderuiter. I’ve been a software developer for over 15 years, and I create Business Software for a living. But I’m also a tycoon, airport and aircraft enthusiast. As such i found a Reddit topic one day about a new subreddit, called Airport CEO. I’ve been following Airport CEO development from – almost – the very beginning. I saw enormous potential in the ability for people to add their own content, so when Fredrik dropped some snippets on the forums of how companies would work I got started.

In August of 2017 I created the Unofficial ACEO Mod Manager: A tool with which people could create their own companies for the game without needing to know how it technically worked. When I had the opportunity to be part of an initial test group, I had the chance to test and confirm that it actually worked. It gained some attention and people appreciated the effort. Before release I thought it would be nice to have a good starting set of companies so people could start playing with it immediately. So I opened up a Google spreadsheet for people to add companies to. With the help of some seriously awesome and dedicated community members, that sheet grew and grew to the point where it is today: Almost 2000 companies, almost 300 liveries and an airport database, containing passenger and cargo numbers for over 14000 airports. ACEOMM as it is known has one serious shortcoming: It is Windows only. So when Olof approached me with the question if I wanted to start working on an official mod tool intended for being bundled with the game, I jumped at the opportunity and said yes.

So here we are. I started working on it, but it will take a while. Mostly because I work on it in my spare time which is – with my current work and private situation – not as abundant as I’d like. The idea for the Mod Tool is that you will be able to create assets. Assets can be companies, liveries, etcetera. You combine these assets into a mod and upload it to the workshop. By making it in Unity and as part of the official release, we believe we can make something that works for all platforms, bringing modding power to even more people.

So, Step 1: Make the Mod Tool be able to do what ACEOMM does. Step 2: Well, let’s not talk about that yet 😉

The ACEO Mod Tool will be developed with the same kind of transparency as the main Airport CEO game. We’ve prepared for a separate Jira project in which to develop the tool with as well as Trello sync and bug reporting and while everything is not yet up and running it will be as the tool is nearing an initial release. When this is is far too early to tell but we’ll definitely keep you posted on its progression.

Welcome to the team Patrick!

In Other News…

… we just want to take a brief moment to talk some data loading tech. Alpha 27.6 did not launch without a few critical bugs (which were patched today in Alpha 27.7) but one of them was related to in-game contract generation. In a previous patch (Alpha 27.5-X) we noticeably reduced the loading time of a save by looking over many parts of object instantiating and initialization code. This shaved off at least a few seconds but there was still issues with loading mods that could cause freezes, lack of loading progression indication and sometimes, as mentioned, certain mods or even default businesses not being visible. When looking over the loading sequence it was clear that we needed to re-design the way mods are loaded to prevent these issues. The new system we came up with is much smarted and will mainly load mods and business during the first initial load. This means that if you load a save from the game world, you will no longer have to re-load those mods which will greatly cut down a second load time, depending on the number of mods you have installed. This new system is also much more safe and has been designed to catch and present any issues with mods and show warnings if no businesses were loaded for a certain category.

Did you make it to the end? This is it for this week. And while we know that this was the devlog in which we were gonna show you the Apoapsis Studios office there’s simply not enough room to put it in so it’ll instead be featured in the next devlog update on the 9th of July. See you around the community and fly safe!