Dev Blog 120: Alpha 29.4 (the performance update) released & happy holidays!

December 22, 2018

Ho, ho, ho, airport CEO!

That wasn't mean to rhyme, promise. The year has gone by quickly and looking back at Airport CEO in December of 2017 you can say that we've definitely made a lot of progress - and that we definitely have a lot of progress left to make. 2018 was an exciting year for us, we developed the game and released a new UI, new features, a bunch of bug fixes (and perhaps introduced just as many) and ultimately just now released a massive update completely overhauling large core parts of the game. We moved into an office, the Minc incubator, and in October switched to DevHub, a brand new Malmö based game companies only office and made a lot of new industry friends. We visited GDC and Gamescom and learnt a lot about the industry and the upcoming changes happening with the Unity game engine. During the autumn months we started the hiring process for the third Airport CEO developer and started collaborating more and more with other industry professionals to slowly ramp up the production of the game. In the meantime we also began the process of developing, composing and recording a full feature Airport CEO soundtrack, overhauled almost all parts of our IT infrastructure ranging from the Forum to this brand spanking new website. Our oceanic airport CEOs thank us for the fact that this blog post no longer takes 30 seconds to load.

But if 2018 was fun, 2019 truly excites us. That third person has now been hired and joins us at the office on the 21st of January. We'll make sure that our new developer has the opportunity to be introduced in the dev blog when the time has come. The Airport CEO soundtrack is almost completed and is currently being mastered by our friends over at Baggpipe Studios in Stockholm together with our composers of Sinephone. We're currently aiming for an experimental release in January. But more importantly, with the performance improvements and other changes that Alpha 29 brings and with the support of the third Apoapsis Studios employee, we'll finally get back to putting some work into new features such as catering and aircraft cleaning, multi-terminal and the long awaited large aircraft and large aircraft stands. The game will still see plenty of bug fixes, minor performance improvements, UI improvements and simulation optimizations to existing turnaround services to make sure we're solid before moving ahead, but we'll no longer just be focusing on performance improvements as with the last sprint. There will also be several minor content additions along the way, so not just large features but items, decorations, scaling and other stuff too. Once we're fully up and running in early February, with the new hire and all, we'll provide a more detailed plan as for what the roadmap will be looking ahead.

And with our secret aircraft manufacturer working behind the curtains (to be revealed in the next dev blog episode!) we expect new aircraft to be rolled out at a much more frequent pace. With the Q400 already available, the E190, E170 and the Cirrus AircraftVision Jet will make it out in the beginning deployments of the next year. After boxing day, we'll launch a new aircraft vote where the next two aircraft to be implemented will be decided.

Alpha 29.4 (the performance update) released

The below text is a full excerpt from the announcement message on the Steam page when the release was published:

Alpha 29.4 has finally been deployed to the default branch after about two months of development. This update targets performance improvements above all else, and we’ve completely rebuilt the game’s way of rendering and simulating passengers, employees and assets (baggage, tools and goods such as construction material). These agent types and their associated simulation has always been, and still are, a very large part of the game’s main performance challenge but have as a result of our efforts been greatly reduced as player tests on the internal and experimental branch have shown that players have been experiencing noticeable performance improvements with Alpha 29 compared to the previous version, Alpha 28.

As a result of the very large changes in this new version, sections affected by the mentioned agents have consequently undergone noticeable changes. For example, the new rendering solution for person agents required us to develop and implement a new person model which consist of a complete 3D object as opposed to the old model that was made out of a series of different layered sprites. The new model is more in line with the rest of the game’s art style, allows for a larger variety and higher resolution animation scheme and, most importantly, is a lot more performant to render compared to the old model. Some players have been experiencing fuzzy edges around these new models and there is currently a lack in variation of hairstyles, however this will be addressed in a later version post this initial version of Alpha 29 on the default branch.

While this deployment does address a large sets of performance concerns, it does not mean that we now completely will switch away from performance optimization. While the core development now will go into feature additions such as large aircraft and stands, turnaround services such as catering and cleaning (as directed by the community Feature vote) we will continually work on future, minor, performance optimization as we’ve done before. The future of Airport CEO going into 2019 along with a few other sets of exciting news will be detailed in this year’s last development blog, dropping now on Saturday (22nd of December 2018).

We will of course monitor the deployment of Alpha 29 to the default branch and address any critical bugs that get entered into our system using the in-game bug reporting tool. As we roll out updates on the experimental branch these will almost certainly immediately go out on the default branch once we’ve verified that a bug is indeed correctly fixed. Patch notes and a news update will be posted here accordingly.

We'll later today release Alpha 29.4-2, addressing the most critical issues that have been discovered once the Alpha 29.4 version was deployed to the default branch. We'll continue to monitor the health of Alpha 29.4 and provide critical fixes as they are discovered and to join in on the development progression you can check out the official Forum discussion here.

Happy holidays!

So that's it for this year! We'd like to thank you for sticking around and reading these development blogs, and for playing Airport CEO. If you're a new airport CEO, we'd like to welcome you on the flight and hope that you'll stick around for a while and weigh in on the development process. We hope to make 2019 the year when Airport CEO transitions from early access to full version and for that to happen we have a lot of work ahead of us, work that we'll hopefully get done faster and more qualitative with the expansion of the team, continued external help and the continued support from you, the community. So here's for an incredible year of developing Airport CEO, and for another incredible year around the corner. Thanks for everything and... fly safe!

Fredrik & Olof

Apoapsis Studios

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