Dev Blog 124: Preparing for Alpha 30 and a status update on multiple floors

February 26, 2019

Good evening airport CEO and welcome to the 124th development blog!

It's been two weeks (and one day... sorry about that) since we last spoke and it's time for another conversation. Last time around we talked about the development strategy ahead and this time will naturally contain a revision of that strategy, i.e. what we've done in the past two weeks and what's going to happen in the next coming weeks. The deployment of Alpha 30 and The Soundtrack Update is imminent along with some good progress on multiple floors and other stuff so let's not delay but instead get into it...

Preparing for Alpha 30

We've just deployed our very last version for Alpha 29, i.e. Alpha 29.12-7 on the experimental branch and Alpha 29 has indeed and a long and good run. During the stabilization of Alpha 29 we've also worked intensively on the previously mentioned Alpha 30 and The Soundtrack Update. Alpha 30 was originally scheduled for an experimental release during the later parts of last week but since we got several new and good bug reports on remote stand issues we wanted to prioritize those. And while there are still more stabilization to be made (as always...), the rather large changes with Alpha 30 is blocking some of those changes, not to mention that the soundtrack is currently just sitting there longing to be enjoyed which is why we're now 100 percent prioritizing merging the two development branches and deploying Alpha 30 to the experimental Steam branch.

It will however not only bring a new soundtrack, but as earlier mentioned general audio improvements, main menu fixes, new sound effects and some other stuff. As Alpha 30 goes live on the experimental branch we will most likely also deploy the latest version of Alpha 29 on the default branch since it by now has many, many important bug fixes of various types but perhaps especially relating to remote stands. Once Alpha 30 is stabilized work on the upcoming new turnaround services will once again commence, but more on that in a later dev blog.

Two new GA birds that were included in a recent experimental release!

We'll make sure to do, as many times mentioned and promised, a deep-dive into the creation of the soundtrack and the audio re-design once Alpha 30 has been out, patched and enjoyed by you! We, and Sinephony, are incredibly exited to hear what you think of the update. If you still haven't checked out the trailer video then here is another chance:

A status update on multiple floors

Finally! What you've all been asking for. What is the current status of the largest feature request to date? Well, we finally have some insights and a proper status update to share with you. We have divided the multiple floor development into three phases: Building, path finding and person behavior (job tasks, item fetching) and final polish (bug fixing and behavior adaption). We're happy to announce that we are currently well on our way to completing the first part, i.e. building, with most of the related functionality in place. This kind of feature development requires a lot of new tech and with that comes a lot of new technical challenges. With the expanded multiple level grid, i.e. the grid which everything uses for building to path-finding, came a few performance problems which have now been solved. For example, generating the grid is now taken care of in a very dynamic fashion as parts of the grid is generated as areas of the map gets gradually used. This change will not only reduce the loading time of a new or saved game and also the overall RAM utilization substantially, but hopefully allow a larger world size in the future. In the process of implementing these changes we have also done a lot of refactoring of old code, painful legacy stuff and overall building system architecture. The main building system for example, has been with us from the very start and needed a good clean-out and overhaul which was possible with a new perspective (caused by simply not having looked at that part of the code for many months... obviously stable, but as mentioned quite old).

Many game mechanics and objects needed new logic to handle being placed on different floors and the ability to quickly and efficiently become hidden when shifting to underground and upper floor views without breaking any aspect of the simulation as they were being interacted with. The building system is mostly done and soon ready to be tested on the internal branch. When we deem the building part to be stable (i.e. when it cannot be broken) our plan is from that point on to gradually teach the path-finding algorithms about the concept of different floors, in order to make sure all agents will find their way in a multiple floor environment. Once we feel that the simulation aspect works well, including everything from job task selection, item fetching, room interaction, baggage simulation, vehicle movement and more and has been thoroughly vetted on the internal branch, it will be released to experimental for final testing.

This is by far the single biggest new feature ever released, including the major changes with Alpha 29, and we want to be extra careful not to write code that will break any current systems or saves. This explains the long development time and since Alpha 29 brought so many new bugs which heavily affected the game's rating, we want to make sure that we do a more qualitative deployment this time around.

A basic staff room built underground. The brighter area is where ground-level terminal is built (in progress).

We'll continue to update you as we reach new milestones with this feature development. If you want to partake in the internal testing we'd love to have you. Simply register a Forum account and contact either of us developers with a PM and we'll give you more information!

In other news...

... we're also preparing for the launch of the new Apoapsis Studios website. For the last year we've been on a path to overhaul our IT infrastructure and make sure that everything is efficiently hosted in the cloud (and not on Olof's closet server...). The deployment of this website will be the last task on that path meaning we'll free up some resources to focus on even more development ahead. We'll be sure to drop a link in the next dev blog so you can see how it looks!

... Alexander is making significant progress on a new and improved tutorial panel and overall tutorial process! Airport CEO is a very unforgiving game and too many CEOs retire early due to lacking instructions when trying to build their first airport. We've therefore decided to enhance the tutorial process by giving it its own, interactive, panel and have overhauled the various tutorial steps so that they are broken down and more easily approached. There will also, in relation to this, be future gameplay related changes as we've through a lot of external play testing have made some realizations about the building process that may cause initial problems when experiencing Airport CEO for the first time. We'll be sure to update you on this panel properly as we're nearing an experimental deployment.

... Steve is hard at work developing the new aircraft lineup for Airport CEO. This week we've deployed two new GA aircraft, the Piper Cherokee that won the GA vote along with a special surprise GA jet... perhaps you spotted which was which in the picture above. As for what he's currently working on, we'll just drop this image below. More aircraft votes will soon be announced so make sure you have your Forum account ready!

A bird? A fish? A Boeing 787-8? Perhaps all three?

So that's it for this week. Glad to have you with us as always and we're very excited for what your impressions of Alpha 30 will be. See you in the next edition and... fly safe!

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