Dev Blog 89: The Flight Route Ahead

October 24, 2017

Hello airport CEO and welcome to the 89th Airport CEO development blog and this week’s executive briefing. We are now three weeks into the release of Airport CEO and the flight continues, although to be honest it feels as if it’s been several months since we departed. As promised, this devlog will focus on the future and what lies ahead but it wouldn’t be a proper devlog if we didn’t go through and discuss last week’s development and achievements.

The Past Week

As the 88th devlog was delayed, the 89th was pushed beyond last week’s Monday and to today and this means it’s been a few days since we last spoke. A lot has happened during this week which was Olof’s first week as a full time ACEO developer, it has according to him been the best working week he’s ever had. Focus was not only aimed at general bug fixing but also included some new functionality implementation including a new highlighting system as well as several minor tweaks. Fredrik joined in during the evenings and helped out with general bug fixing, performance improvements and minor new implementations. On the default branch, CEOs will find alpha version 0.22.2 which was deployed on the 15th of October and with the newly released Experimental branch CEOs can find the latest features and bug fixes implemented, at the cost of a perhaps bit more unstable version. Running on the experimental branch right now is alpha version 0.22.3 and to get a better grip on the features that are implemented there you can head over to the 0.22.3 forum topic and see what’s new, it’ll usually get updated when ever we’ve made a minor push to the experimental branch. If all continues to remain stable, CEOs can expect a 0.22.3 to be deployed to the default branch during Tuesday or Wednesday.

A major part of this week has also involved organizational work. Stuff related to the company but mostly project management at large in regards to coordinating development efforts on several different fronts, bug fixing, new development and new art. Community management has been another big part, as per usual, and we try to be as active on the various ACEO channels as we can. Thankfully, the somewhat newly implemented tutorial has done a great job in reducing the amount of time we need to spend doing customer support and as always, the community is great at picking up those first hand questions and acting as first line support. It very much enables us to focus on what’s important.

Airport built by forum user Mallesbixie.

Airport CEO and The Flight Route Ahead

Surveying the overall development perspective of ACEO we can see that we have now left stage of critical bug fixing and have moved in to a state of high to medium bug fixing. Don’t worry, we do not kid ourselves, there are still many parts of ACEO that are lacking in either functionality, performance or understandability and those are of course still highly prioritized. Issues with baggage handling and, more recently as CEOs construct larger and larger airports, pathfinding performance bottlenecks and rendering issues remain at the top as the most commonly reported issues. However, we cannot solely focus on this part of the ACEO development process as it would not only kill the interest in the game but also kill our own creativity. While we will not introduce any major system changes such as multi terminal or multi story buildings before we have a much more stable and efficient Airport CEO there is still a lot of new stuff we can focus on whilst ticking of the daily bugs and fixes. This devlog will, as promised, focus om briefly discussing what happens next.

New Development Tracking

A major hurdle this week has been in regards to making the Airport CEO Jira public. We have always said that we want a transparent development process and now it is time to deliver and keep that promise. The Airport CEO Jira is the development platform we use for tracking our progression via an issue based ticket system. Every single bug that you, the CEOs, have reported have ended up in that portal and we have now taken a first step to invite you in and to give you a first look of what the current development state is. As you can see there’s currently only around 210 issues logged which is not anywhere near the actual number of just around 1300 issues. Out of these we estimate around 50 percent to be duplicates and another 25 percent to be either “user error” or bugs that have already been fixed but not properly processed.

The reason to most bugs being hidden is due to privacy concerns as the description contains some sensitive information which was concatenated when using the old issue collector. With the new one, these fields are separate and it will be a lot easier for us to review and process those issues that have been submitted. When you submit an issue they are defaulted to being hidden as we want to avoid issues of spam and similar but also to be able to perform our own quality control on an issue before its publicized.

As of right now, the dashboard and panel is quite thoroughly locked down. Over the coming week we will work towards including some more options for you as a public user to view including seeing burn down Charts and reports but also the actual Kanban board which better highlights issue progression.

Bug Fixing, Stability and Performance

Airport CEO will have no future without comprehensive and continued work with bug fixing, stability and performance improvements. We have already made some notable performance improvements in relation to the rendering of large terminals and night lights but we do have a lot of work still to be done as for, for example, continued rendering improvements as well as script optimization in relation to larger and more complex systems such as pathfinding and passenger behavior. At the moment we are somewhat bottlenecked in our efforts to work with performance improvements as we lack the proper hardware to load, run, debug and profile large airports. Since this project has, before the Early Access release, been completely unfunded we have developed the game on our mid range computers and laptops that simply don’t cut it for this kind of work and while we wait for the new equipment to arrive we are convinced that we will see our time be put to better use dealing with issues that are primarily of a bug and break nature than a performance nature. This should not be considered as an excuse as to why performance improvements will for the time be somewhat down prioritized compared to other tickets but more as an explanation. However, apparent memory leaks and performance issues that do not require a proper rig will see the same attention as other bugs.

For now we will leave that discussion here and refer to the development and current state of the Airport CEO Jira as mentioned above. Continuing the development we will utilize the benefits of deploying new and untested fixes and features to the experimental branch and, when convinced of its stability, transition to the default branch. Anyone who has any ideas, suggestion or feedback on the development process is more than welcome to bring it up in one of the channels. We would be more than happy to receive input on this front.

Airtport built by forum user Mallesbixie (color coded baggage handling… Dope!)

New Art

The current art and art style of Airport CEO is a topic as diverse as this devlog. What we’ve collected from you, the CEOs, is that you do enjoy the realistic but soft style we’re going for and that it in some cases work very well, for example when it comes to the aircraft, but that it overall lacks cohesion and in some aspects has a lot to wish for. We couldn’t agree more, we are mainly game designers and coders with a keen eye for what looks good rather than designing good stuff and one of our core promises has been, the instance we release the game and acquire funding, to onboard an external art creator to help us out with the skills that we lack and at the same time offload us so that we can focus on developing the game. When we say that the ACEO community is the greatest asset we possess, we do not say that lightheartedly. We are happy to announce that the incredibly talented artist, long time Airport CEO fan and forum user Jettuh, also known as Mitchell Jetten, has joined us as an external art creator and is already very busy with helping us implement the new and greatly refined ACEO art style. For those of you who have been hanging around the Forums and on the Discord channel you’ve already seen some of his work, not to mention the fact that the Experimental branch is already sporting a new service truck and baggage cart. Jettuh caught our eye by posting some really cool renditions of, in his eyes, ACEO concept art and when reviewing the community’s response to those renditions we knew that we had to make those concepts a reality. If you haven’t seen it already, here it is. If that’s not an improvement, we don’t know what is.

We have throughout this week structured and prioritized the work with redefining the Airport CEO art and moving ahead we will adopt a strategy of releasing content update packs together with the normal flow of updates and bug fixes. By content pack, we mean that a larger set of objects that interrelate or correlate with each other will be released and updated at the same time. The packs will be announced well before they are deployed and will also be included in the revisited roadmap. The packs will cover everything from desks to furniture and decoration, the conveyor belt systems and vehicles. And speaking of vehicles, here’s a small sneak peek of what’s been achieved this week…

What could those be? In the coming devlogs we will make sure to invite Jettuh to talk, and show, small bits of the creation process and what kind of work that goes into making great game assets. Please join us in welcoming him onboard the ACEO flight! More information on the content packs and the road ahead for the refined Airport CEO art will be revealed over the coming weeks.

New Content, New Functionality, Feature Voting and Modding

Airport CEO will not only see new additions in the form of new, refined and great art but also in functionality and content. This week we added two new aircraft models, the ATR 42 which is a smaller take on the ATR 72 and also, the first of its kind, an Airbus A320! Over the coming week we will add more siblings to the current major aircraft models in an effort to expand the number of aircraft trafficking your airport. We will also slowly start implementing new features that do not belong to any of the large systems and that mainly target playability and understandability of the game. For example, on the experimental branch we have enabled a new highlighting system that makes it a bit more clear as to what agents belong to what flight process. For example, pressing a boarding desk will highlight what passengers and employees are destined for that flight. Pressing a baggage bay will highlight what bags are set to be loaded via that bay and pressing a passenger, or a bag, will display a link in either direction showing you what bag, or passenger, the corresponding object is associated with. Next in the pipeline is a refined job task overview panel to enable the CEO to get a better understanding of what personnel is available and what jobs that need to be done. While we have a lot of ideas and major milestones that will go up on the revisited road map such as utilities, PA-systems, incidents and more, with the introduction of now being able to submit new feature ideas via the Airport CEO Jira we really want to hear what you want us to do. The ideas that we see the most, not only via Jira but on the Forums and other channels as well, will go up on the Trello feature board for public voting (with us having the last word of course, from a development feasibility perspective). The details of this will have to wait until next week but do consider making your ideas noted as soon as possible. Now, let’s check out that A320…

Sweet. Although it is a bit early we also briefly wanted to mention modding as a part of our future ACEO roadmap. ACEO can already today be modded to some extent with a community created mod tool showing you how to mod your own businesses and franchises into the game. Moving ahead, we will primarily look into completing the businesses and franchise mod perspective by enabling custom airlines. Since this includes enabling custom liveries it will not be as swift as implementing custom businesses, it will make the ACEO roadmap and we simply wanted to highlight its importance to us.

A Revisited Road Map…

… will be revealed next week. We need some more time to lay out the path for the content packages updates and to plan this according to our future work schedule, processes and the business from a larger perspective. We are still in a sort of startup phase and still a one and a half man show so it will take some time before we can reach our full capacity. Stay tuned for next week’s devlog where we will talk more about the actual implementation road map itself as well as this weeks development achievements.

Airport built by forum user Mallesbixie (more color coding…)

That is it for this weeks devlog, we hope you have enjoyed it. Join us on our different channels during the week and tag along in the development work. If you have any questions about anything we’re always available (during working hours CEST). Thank you and fly safe!

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