Dev Blog 137: Airport CEO celebrates two years in Early Access and putting the final touches on Alpha 33

October 4, 2019

Salutations and celebrations, airport CEO!

A little over two years ago, Airport CEO launched into early access on Steam and in its wake, it gave birth to Apoapsis Studios and us being able to further develop and refine what hopefully is to become one of the greatest airport tycoon games of all time. Two years into this development, looking at where we come from and perhaps more importantly where we’re going, we’d say that we are well on our way but also have a lot still left to do. But the journey so far has been nothing other than amazing, incredibly hard and demanding yes, but the connection we’ve found with the community and the joy of game development itself is well worth it. Last Friday (on the 27th of September 2019) we celebrated the second and last early access anniversary of Airport CEO together with close friends and family. Since it’s a bit abstract to celebrate a piece of software we figured that there needed to be a physical representation of Airport CEO and thus got this cake:

The official Airport CEO two-year early access anniversary birthday cake!

It’s not a lie and it tasted like several years of hard work with an aftertaste of a few more months to go. We’d like to extend our greatest gratitude to you, the real airport CEO, for supporting us and joining in on this journey. So, here’s to Airport CEO, and to you and the ACEO community and its last early access anniversary: Hurra, hurra, hurra!

Putting the final touches on Alpha 33

We’ve made significant progress on Alpha 33 and the big bird update since the last time we spoke and if you take a quick peek at our public development Trello board you can see that work we’ve planned for release are starting to pile up nicely in the internal testing column. We’ve implemented most of the scheduled graphical assets with only a few of them currently missing with planned implementation next week. Essentially, everything that has to do with large aircraft ranging from the infrastructure they interact with such as the large runway, large stand and large de-icing pad, to the aircraft themselves, to the turnaround simulation adaptations we’ve had to do is now implemented and has been thoroughly tested. Alpha 33 also includes a few other features that are not specifically related to large aircraft but that will enable you to more easily operate a large runway, such as one-way roads, improved job task distribution, support for multiple same type service vehicles and minor performance improvements; these have also been implemented.

Given the current development state of Alpha 33, we expect internal focus group testing to begin next week. There are quite a few sets of fundamental changes across the code base ranging from ATC to employee and passenger behavior which means that it’s difficult to anticipate the time Alpha 33 needs to soak on the internal branch before we can with confidence make it available for public testing.

In conjunction with the celebration of the two-year early access anniversary we released a few additional sneak peek photos and if you’ve already seen those, we assume you won’t be too upset by having to look at them again:

A big bird serviced by two small trucks.

Getting busy at this wide-body aircraft! Here seen with the legacy non-ULD baggage simulation.

Jetway madness!

Large aircraft support multiple stair trucks and multiple airside shuttle buses.

Even though Alpha 33 is the first ever ACEO update to have been fully planned in advance, like with all software, the scope has been resized a few times. During the turnaround simulation testing and balancing of time dependent variables of large aircraft we discovered that baggage loading and unloading took way too long. Although we’ve failed to anticipate this during the planning stage, it did not really come as a surprise to us because per-bag transfer of baggage is not how wide-body aircraft normally interact with cargo. Thus, we re-scoped Alpha 33 to include baggage ULD loading and a large belt loader truck. ULD stands for “unit load device” and is essentially a large container in which you place smaller parcels, such as passenger baggage. In ACEO, large aircraft will require the assistance of a large belt loader truck if baggage handling is enabled as all baggage transfer for wide-body aircraft is done via ULDs. Loading of baggage into ULDs is handled via the same baggage bays as for medium and small aircraft since the ULDs instantly spawn on the service truck’s carts and we’ve put a lot of effort into making the ULD aircraft-to-vehicle transfer simulation as realistic as possible. To make sure that it looked as good as possible we concurrently had to overhaul the trailer movement simulation and gone are they days of extremely out-facing sliding trailers and now begins a new era of trailer movement that looks more like what it does in real life. Here are a few additional sneak peeks of the ULD loading simulation:

An example of the improved trailer simulation.

Baggage ULD simulation (work in progress) in action next to the large belt loader truck!

In a nutshell, even though we’re launching a lot of new and exciting content in Alpha 33, Airport CEO will with the big bird update actually become a “worse game”… at least to new players who, with all the existing content plus this new content added in Alpha 33, will become flooded with options and be offered very little guidance except for the initial tutorial. We’re saying this because we’d like to point out that development of Alpha 34, the gameplay update, has already started and been made significant progress on, and contains a large feature that will set the issue of having too many things to build with no guidance or sense of progression, straight. We’ll let you on to more of the details of Alpha 34 as Alpha 33 is released.

One-way roads are finally a thing, shipping with Alpha 33!

Transit structures (bus, person car, taxi and remote bus stop) can be flipped according to the direction of the road (select and set manually).

Given the amount of resources we're putting into Alpha 33 and how different it currently is from Alpha 32, we'll not be looking to make any new default or experimental deployments of Alpha 32 at this point. In excess of all the new features of Alpha 33, it also contains as mentioned a lot of various behavior improvements and bug fixes that is intended some of the most common issues on Alpha 32. We are extremely excited to have you all land these big birds on your airports as soon as possible and you’ll be the first to know when that’s happening.

Unite Copenhagen 2019

During the last week of September, we spent a few days in Copenhagen during Unite Copenhagen 2019. This is a small conference for Unity developers and while for example Gamescom or Nordic Game is mostly about networking and inspiration, Unite Copenhagen was almost exclusively about educating ourselves and preparing for the future. The Unity game engine is currently undergoing a lot of changes, essentially moving from an object-oriented stack to a data oriented and “performance by default” stack and even though these changes does not immediately impact ACEO they will have a significant impact on the next project we take on. In excess of going to multiple tech talks on how convert a data-oriented mindset to performant code, we went on a few meetings and drank a lot of coffee. Even though ACEOs software architecture is too far gone to really be able to fully embrace Burst, ECS or DOTS in general we hope to by the full release at least utilize some of the currently un-used performance improvements available to us just by the Unity game engine alone, IL2CPP is for example something we’ll be looking at for Alpha 34 or 35 but more on that later. If you want to tag along with us during the Unite Copenhagen conference you can check out the story highlight over on the Apoapsis Studios Instagram.

In other news

… we’ve finally launched a new community contest! Alpha 33 will bring seriously improved, moddable and custom airport logos and now you can join in on creating a logo that will be supplied in the vanilla version of Airport CEO! Head on over to the contest topic on the Forum to read up on what exactly needs to be done and the rules. We’ll be looking for 10 great logos to get into the game. The winners will be included in the game’s credits section in the main menu, get their name generated as a passenger or employee and get a copy of Airport CEO to utilize themselves or give away to a friend.

… the translation project is steaming on! We’re continuously blown away by the effort put into the translation and can now report that Brazilian Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Dutch, Polish, Czech all have been translated to 100 percent! Just incredible. Equally incredible is that German is now, at the point of writing this dev blog, verified to 95,4% and almost ready to be implemented into the game. Once it’s 100 percent verified, we’ll go ahead and do that, and at the same time make a comparison to the current German version to see what changes have been voted through and in what way quality is impacted. The verification progress on the other languages is moving forward as well, but we’ll always need youe help, even with the English version of the game, to further move that green bar ahead! Verifying a translated text string also count towards coins to be able to redeem Steam keys in Localizor’s coin shop and once a language is verified and implemented, we’ll add the top 10 contributors of each language to the game’s credits panel. Interested? Want to help out? Join here!

So that’s it for this week, we hope you’ve enjoyed this special two-year early access anniversary celebratory dev blog. Thanks for everything so far and we’re looking forward to seeing you in the coming dev blog as well. Have a great weekend and fly safe!

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