Dev Blog 135: The future of Airport CEO

September 3, 2019

Good evening airport CEO! We’re back from two very, very exciting weeks and although we’re still sort of recovering from the conference bliss, we’re also ecstatic because we’ve got a lot to share with you today. These past weeks did not only include a visit to Gamescom and a simultaneous deployment of Alpha 32, but last week we, in excess of regular development on both Alpha 32 and Alpha 33, took two days out in the woods to sit down and fully plan out the major milestones of Airport CEO for the remainder of its early access period. Don’t worry, we’ll let you in on everything soon...

Gamescom 2019

... but first we’d like to quickly brief you on what we did at Gamescom! If you want to, you can check out the full experience on our Instagram profile (unfortunately an account is needed to view the Gamescom story highlight) but for those who don’t have an account here’s a quick rundown. We departed Copenhagen early on Tuesday and stayed until Friday evening. Most of our days were spent primarily at the conference in both the consumer area and the business area. Since Tuesday is the day when the consumer part is open to trade visitors, we took the chance to stroll around the major halls and booths of the triple A companies to check out the latest technology in how to turn profit from sales into massive commercial booths. It’s difficult to explain how large Gamescom is, how much volume there is inside Koelnmesse (the conference hall its hosted in) and what it feels to walk around so many people so we urge anyone who has the chance and an interest to visit it some point if you want to experience the games industry in its full commercial force. We also met up with Rubble, our very own aircraft creator, who flew down from the UK to hang out with us for two days straight. It was great to finally meet up after so many months in close collaboration with each other, and we had the chance to not only get to know each other and talk about the game, technology, coding and computers in general, but also to discuss the future of Airport CEO and the aircraft we’re looking to implement. We also checked out the local cathedral, an extremely impressive piece of architecture and engineering, checked out a bunch of strange VR equipment at the conference, met a few of our fellow game developers from both Sweden and other countries and had one or two beers. We’ll for sure be back next year!

The future of Airport CEO

The week after we came back from Gamescom we had since long before the summer planned to take two days out in the woods to thoroughly structure and plan out the rest of Airport CEO. After nearly two years of early access development, those are strange words to put together in a sentence… but also great, because there’s now a cohesiveness to Airport CEO that we as developers have never really seen before and the dream of seeing that cohesiveness working in action has quickly started acting as a new source of inspiration for the remaining work that lies ahead. We did not only discuss what a finished Airport CEO might look like during these two days, we also talked about how Airport CEO plays right now and how it should play once we’re leaving early access. We talked extensively about the feedback we’ve received both now and through the years and consequently many of the decisions we’ve now taken, and will take for the coming development work ahead, is derived from the feedback we’ve received from you. We’ve gathered thoughts from our backlog, the Forum, various other social media channels, the Discord channel, our e-mail, and have weighed that against our own vision of what Airport CEO could look like when we leave early access. What we’ve come up with is an ambitious plan that we’re now ready to reveal to you.

Airport CEO will see an additional four major alpha versions, i.e. versions packed with new content, released including Alpha 33, Alpha 34, Alpha 35 and Alpha 36. After the last alpha version has gone live, Airport CEO will enter into a beta state. While we’ve today only have Airport CEO Beta 1 planned, there may be several major beta releases depending on how much polishing work we’re looking at before a final release. The beta state of the game, i.e. the polishing state before leaving early access, will see no new content added but instead focus solely on bug fixing, performance optimization and overall polishing. But let’s take a trip down the future lane and see what each Alpha version will focus on…

The Big Bird Update (Alpha 33)

Alpha 33 is, as you may know by this point, the update where we introduce the last class of aircraft and the infrastructure associated with them, the big birds, so to speak. Alpha 33 has been in development for quite some time already and we’re more or less finished with the infrastructure part, i.e. large stands with double jetways, a large runway and a large de-icing pad and more. As a part of these new infrastructure assets and the large aircraft update in general, the current runway system will see some changes. As the game at the time of deploying Alpha 33 will have a small, a medium and a large stand it only makes sense to apply the same logic to runways in order to have a clear and concise link between aircraft size and required stand or runway. The current runways will therefore be split into a small, a medium and a large runway. The possibility to extend runway will be removed as it no longer makes sense to have such feature in the game, given the three size categories and any extended runway past the 800-meter mark will automatically be replaced with the medium runway on older saves. Since the medium runway is fixed in length there might be some minor cleanup work in order to adjust runway entrances but apart from that your old saves should not be affected. To improve aircraft departure efficiency, we have also added separate take-off positions for each aircraft size. All aircraft will try to go to the entry that is nearest to its take-off position, which should allow for a better flow of traffic on the ground. As you can clearly see the large runway is enormous in order to handle the also quite enormous aircraft. Make sure you leave space for it in your airport… but we’ll definitely revisit the map size and increase it as performance allows once we’re closer to testing this for real.

A large runway dwarfing the other two...

... and a closer look at the aircraft size take-off positions!

Rubble is currently hard at work developing the new large aicraft models that’ll be a part of the big bird update and even though a few of them are already completed and implemented in our internal test builds, we’ll not reveal anything until you yourself can see them in-game. They make, together with the large stand, an impressive mark on your airport and put smaller aircraft such as the 757 to shame… it’s a really nice sight to see and we can’t wait until you’ll be able to land your first big birds. In excess of these two major parts of Alpha 33, we have multiple minor additions planned such as new graphics for the in-game avatars, directional pushback, Workshop support for copy and pasted templates (launched in Alpha 32), a large pushback truck, one-way roads and a lot more. Alpha 33 will soon be planned in its entirety via out Jira portal and you’ll then be able to join in on all the features we’ve got in store for Alpha 33. There is currently no estimates for when Alpha 33 will make it to the experimental branch but we’ll make sure to update you thoroughly in the dev blogs coming ahead.

The Gameplay Update (Alpha 34)

This one is very, very important. At the release of Alpha 33, Airport CEO will have even more assets available to play around with adding additional complexity to the game, but also to the player’s ability to play the game and make sense out of everything they can do. During our two days of planning this update took up a lot of the time we had but we’re at this point very excited with the results to come and are looking forward to this update perhaps the most out of the remaining four. The gameplay update consists of three major legs: A completely new system for progression and unlocking (some may call it a tech tree), a massive overhaul of the airport rating system (things will finally have a real, balanced impact) and a major round of polish on several game mechanics fronts. The progression system will be a combination of classic, proven tycoon tech tree mechanics, with a modern ACEO twist. We won’t go into details yet, but we believe that we’ve come up with something that’ll work really well in guiding the player as to what they should do and in what order (in co-existence with the tutorial for new players), while still allowing for experienced airport CEOs to strategize and create new airports in their own way... this in combination with a special mechanic that at least none of us has seen in any other tycoon game (but might be proved wrong). We’ll keep a lid on this one until we’ve made a lot more progress, however Alexander is already hard at work establishing the foundation of this new progression system.

As for the overhauled airport rating system, we’re mainly looking to connect the various parts of ACEO that today are already there but don’t make an impact. The code base is actually, in many areas, seriously prepped for this leg of the development but we didn’t want to make a move on it until we had a more solid idea of what we’d do with the progression system which we now do. While we again will sit on the details of this system until we’re nearing a testing phase, you can expect everything from the price of the services you offer, to whether an aircraft landed on time or not, to the decoration and quality of the chairs and sofas you place, to the skill of your security staff, to have an impact on your total score. That score will in turn more noticeably affect your operations and how your airport is perceived by airlines, suppliers, passengers and the government.

In addition to these two major changes, we will also look over other mechanics such as improved ATC with number of active flights depending on ATCT size and runway max capacity, realistic routes for airport sizes and aircraft types, improved depot management (fuel, de-icing, catering), economy balancing and much more.

The Terminal Update (Alpha 35)

Once we’ve got a good overhaul of the game’s gameplay out and deployed, we’ll again revert back to content addition. The terminal update will contain a large set of different additions such as proper support for multiple terminals, customs, one-way doors, escalators and stairs, tiered check-in (including self-check-in), vending machines, decorations and more. We have a developed a large excel sheet with features we want to be rolled into the game where the terminal update is mostly about single asset additions, which is as a result of consolidated feedback we’ve collected from the community. The terminal update is really about adding another layer of design abilities for you to construct a modern terminal that resembles what types of objects there are in life, and a crucial step on the way to reaching a full 1.0 Airport CEO.

The Panic Update (Alpha 36)

Last but not least... we’ll try not to panic when delivering this last Alpha update, but there’s a lot that can go wrong at an airport and that should be the case in ACEO as well. The panic update will introduce disruptions to your airport operations and what you can do to mitigate and fix potential crises. Fire stations and fire trucks along wing security cars and security patrols are planned, together with emergencies and emergency impacts. Not only emergency landings, but also severe weather can cause disruption to your airport adding to the complexity of running a stable and reliable airport.

As you can see, we have a very ambitious schedule ahead of us. While we will focus a lot of our development on these new versions, bug fixing will of course be a daily priority and we’ll continue to remain active with new releases every week. We do not have a set release schedule for each of the large remaining features, but our ambition is for Airport CEO to leave early access early next year... whether we’ll make that deadline or not, only time will tell. “But if you’ve already planned out the rest of Airport CEO, what’s then the purpose of the feature request category?” you may ask. Well, fear not, we have left a little development resources available for minor feature requests and will as previously promised host another feature request vote targeting minor features only. More information about this will follow in the next dev blog.

In other news

... Alpha 32 has been out and about for a little over two weeks! As mentioned, we’ll be deploying bug fixes alongside the development of Alpha 33 but last week focused on a texture overhaul which was very, very needed. Do you see any difference?

Old, dark, ugly, boring.

New! Vivid! Proper!

... we've got a few more textures to replace before fully completing the texture overhaul, primarily we'll be looking at the inside floors as some of them definitely could do with a quality assurance overhaul.

... we’re looking for people to help speed up ACEO’s development process. Are you a freelancer with 2D art experience? Check out the Apoapsis Studios job site and send us a message if you think you’re the one we’re looking for.

So that’s it for this dev blog... well done to make it all the way through! Now we’ve really gotta get back to development so we can get all of these new cool things out to you as soon as possible. See you around the community, and fly safe!

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