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    • Mar15

      StarMade Dev Update: Spring Cleaning

      Greetings Citizens,

       

      It's been just over two weeks since we last posted news, so it's well due for a dev blog! By now most of you will have discovered that the last release we did caused some serious issues with stations and saving block changes.

       

      As a player, these severe issues can spoil your mood to play the game and in some cases also result in you losing in-game progress.

       

      As a game development team, we’re aware issues like these lose our players trust and support. Additionally, having to do several hotfixes also eats away time in every new release cycle.


       

      The release cycle, as it stands, is scheduled for a release every two weeks. Sometimes we extend major releases (such as NPC factions) to go through multiple release cycles. However, we try to stick to the two-week schedule as best we can. During this cycle, we have to plan, develop and test every release. We've found that it's hard to put a meaningful amount of content into a release in only two weeks, especially since we can't add anything new during the testing phase (currently 2-3 days) before release. What tends to happen is that after a release is sent out at the two-week mark, hotfixes are needed, we then lose even more time for the next release cycle.

       

      Adding more testers to our testing phase wouldn’t help in the sense that a tester’s job is to mainly maintain Phabricator and to report any dev issues along the way. It’s a never ending task and finding volunteers that will do this for a long period has so far been difficult.

       

      We've come to the conclusion that the current two-week release schedule is unfeasible for a team of our size. It's inefficient, unmanageable and it's not beneficial for our players or us. For these reasons, we've decided to work on a new release cycle, to eliminate/reduce severe issues in new releases and allow us to get more work done.

       

      New release cycle

      The changes we want to do here is to extend our release cycle to “as long as we need” with Dev Blogs to keep everyone up to date with what we’re working on throughout the release cycle.This gives us more time to do some long-term tests without feeling the need to rush a release out and then having to hotfix afterwards. This approach also lets us monitor any performance issues that pop-up and resolve them before a live release.

       

      Although this should already be more manageable for testing, we would like to minimise the risk of any issue going unnoticed during pre-release testing. Therefore, when we think it’s ready to go, we will inform you about all the dev build changes in a news post but not do a live release. That would be our release candidate which will be used for public testing. You can check those changes out on our test server and help us out by reporting any issue you find. We even have a few servers that want to run this release candidate on a backup of their entire server database to give us even more coverage. Having the community involved in the process before the release goes live will ensure we catch as many issues as we can, avoiding the need for as many hotfixes after it goes live.

       

      If you encounter any new issues, please report them here, and we’ll make sure to prioritise them correctly to fix any annoying or severe issues before live release. We’re planning to do these release candidates on a Friday if possible, and we estimate it will take roughly a full week before it can be uploaded to the release branch.

       

      This will allow us to get a lot more work done, as the two-week release cycle was holding us back quite considerably, often reducing features to minor gameplay and decorative updates while we didn’t make as much progress with bigger features as we would have liked. The most popular updates like the rail update did have long release cycles, so we already know that it pays off.

       

      We’ve written our different phases out here although they’re still subject to change. A lot depends on how well our next release will go when following these rules.

       

      Bug spring cleaning

      The two-week cycle also left bug-fixing in a poor state as we were always forced to fix bugs affecting the new features, and then hotfixing, neglecting other bugs that continued to get pushed back more and more. In light of this, our first usage of the longer release cycle will be the quest to fix all bugs that have a priority above “normal”. This is long overdue. We have also decided that when we release, the release should have fewer bugs than the last release. Not only will this make the game a lot better over time, but it will also free up resources for our testers, as fewer bugs will have to be processed.

       

      We understand that it was a bit frustrating for new testers to see their bug report(s) in queue waiting to be fixed for so long. This is also something we want to resolve through this process.


       

      Power update

      With regards to the power update proposal we shared with the community. We have worked on ironing out the flaws in our concept and were hoping to have been able to present our revision a week ago. However, we’re still not quite ready to share our revised proposal just yet. Some of you mentioned it was hard to judge a system with a lack of details which is why we’ve been working on it for a while now. As we expected it’s not easy to find a complex system where every block has a purpose and affects different portions of your reactor.  We’ve toyed around with several ideas such as heat management and reactor shapes, but the hardest part is finding a good base and sticking with it. For now, watch this space.


       

      Current changes

      Our primary focus these past few weeks has been on bug fixing, addressing all of the higher priority bug tasks that were still in queue. Fifty of them have been addressed so far, although testing is still required to make sure they’re resolved. With bug fixing also comes some small features, such as the ability to toggle cloak/radar jammers on fleets. We’ve also been looking out for those annoying issues that aren’t necessarily a high priority but can still sour gameplay experience after encountering it too many times.  For example, rolling a ship has always resulted in odd behaviour, and we’re very close to fixing it right now.

       

      Our next release will require some extensive play testing; we’re sure our community will be willing to help us out :)

       

      As always, thanks for playing StarMade

      ~ The Schine Team

       
       
    • Feb24

      StarMade v0.199.459 - Major Performance Upgrade

       

      Changelog from 469-472:

      ~ Fixed old (chunk16) blueprints not being usable in chunk32

      ~ Fixed bug where all rails would stop moving on a ship

      ~ possible fix for servers that have chunk errors (to admins that have a server with this problem: please turn on DEBUG_EMPTY_CHUNK_WRITES in the server.cfg for more logging should the error still happen)

       

      Changelog from 359-468:

      ~ Greatly improved performance on ships with rail-docks that are actively causing collisions

      ~ Fixed deadlock on removing shop module (in rarer cases)

      ~ Eliminated error where chunks would get time from the future and therefore not save

      ~ Fixed error where exit to desktop would interrupt saving process, causing several hard to replicate bugs

      ~ Fixed several crashes

      ~ Fixed false positive on stations checking themselves for being empty, removing it

       

       

      Greetings, citizens ~

       

      In this release we’re making good on our earlier promises of performance improvements and updating some of the existing systems, focusing on combat.

       

      Huge swarms of missiles no longer cripple servers, nor cause disconnects or “rubber banding.”  This should also help with balancing, as users can no longer disconnect their opponents with ridiculous numbers of missiles.

       

      Cannon projectile hits now require considerably less processing than before. As an example of just how large of an improvement this is: a shot penetrating through hundreds of blocks previously caused a half-second freeze, give or take.  The processing from this same shot now takes 5 milliseconds -- barely even noticeable.


       

      We hope these two major optimizations make combat much more enjoyable.


       

      Missile Performance Update

      We developed an algorithm that is capable of handling any amount of missiles without adding extra network load. It is based on a lock step algorithm plus adaptive updating. This enables missile paths to become deterministic, even when chasing a moving target, and when that target is not in the same position for server and client, e.g. due to network delay.

       

      With the previous system, 500-1000 missiles would generate a half-megabyte per second load (or more). With the new system, not only is the initial burst of data when firing much smaller, even a cluster of a thousand or more missiles only require a few bytes per second while flying.

       

      Even the smaller servers should be able to easily handle 2000+ missiles flying at once without causing slowdown.


       

      We will look into faster rendering and explosion calculations in the future.

       

      Projectile Performance Update

      We’ve also made some major optimizations for projectiles (cannon fire).  Projectiles’ penetration always caused major lag on both client and server, which restricted our ability to balance the weapon system.

       

      The new system uses a much leaner and more straightforward method to handle projectile penetration.  We’ve offloaded some of the effort into threads, such as bounding box recalculations (which, since the box only gets smaller in this case, isn’t needed right away).  Not only does cannon fire process literally hundreds of times faster now, it is also more accurate in terms of damage done.  In addition, not having restrictions due to performance will help us balance weapons a lot better in the future.


       

      The simultaneous destruction of large numbers of blocks still creates network load, but we have plans to reduce this.


       

      Power Overhaul Thread

       

      We would like to thank everyone that has provided constructive criticism. Thanks to you, we’ve already made some major (positive!) changes to our proposed design, and eliminated some of its shortcomings.

       

      We will still need a few days to present our plans in as clear a manner as possible so there’s no misunderstanding.  We’ll write a more informative post about this soon.


       

      As for implementation:

      Granted we can remedy the flaws the community points out, we will make the new power system available via an opt-in config option during its development.  When (and if) it is ready for release, we’ll aim for a transition phase similar to the release of rails, wherein both versions are available simultaneously (though this may not be possible).

       

      (If there are irreparable issues with the power system, we obviously will not implement it.)



       

      Fixes

      A few minor bug fixes:

      • T235: Overridden blueprints show wrong mass

      • T2234: Galaxy map stops reading scroll wheel inputs

      • T2180: Placing wrong block when swapped on the hotbar with another

       

      We’ve added a keyboard shortcut to open the shapes men. (It’s bound to ‘T’, moving sitting to ‘O’.) It only works when the currently selected block has multiple shapes.

       

      ----------------------------------------------------

       

      As always, thank you for playing StarMade

       ~ The Schine Team

       

       

    • Feb11

      Power Overhaul Discussion

      Greetings citizens,

       

      Instead of a release, we felt it necessary to address an issue that we've been discussing for a few months now.

       

      When working on some mechanic changes and additions, specifically fixing weapon balance and upgrading the AI, we kept stumbling upon fundamental problems with our current way of building structures with at its core, the power system.


      For this reason we discussed those problems and came up with a possible solution, which we would like to present to you here:

      https://starmadedock.net/threads/power-system-overhaul.28403/

      Thank you for playing StarMade,

      ~ The Schine Team

    • Jan28

      StarMade v0.199.429 - Combined blocks, new blocks, optimizations and fixes

      v0.199.435: 

      ~ fixed some blocks not being consumed in blueprints

       

      v0.199.434: 

      ~ fixed macet ore not spawning

       

      v0.199.433: 

      ~ Fixed problem with blueprints and worlds that weren't converted to chunk32 yet (For broken blueprints please use the automatically made backups to have them converted in this fixed version)

      ~ Fixed double typing problem on macs

      ~ Fixed Beams not being able to hit objects in other sectors

       

      v0.199.432: 

      ~ Fixed old tempaltes being broken

      ~ Fixed door wedges being misaligned

      ~ Fixed Radial menu popping up when it shouldn't

      ~ Added default shape stickies

      ~ Fixed IME letter input not being registered

      ~ Fixed functionality to press keyboard numbers reapeatedly to select subslots

       

       

      Greetings, citizens ~

       

      We have a lot of new stuff cooking at the moment. Some of it has been planned for a while, but it’s finally done now.

       

      Important notice for players with NVIDIA cards: The latest nVidia driver (version 378.49) is broken and prevented the game from loading correctly. This also affects other games like Minecraft, reports of severe performance issues on other games. We've managed to circumvent the issue by calling javaw.exe directly, we've modified the new launcher to do this. Since we pre-package Java with our latest launcher, we were able to avoid NVIDIA's driver issues altogether.

       

      If you have installed the driver and are still getting crashes, you can easily install a previous driver from December.

       

      Drivers can be found here: http://www.nvidia.com/Download/Find.aspx?lang=en-us
      OR
      http://www.nvidia.com/object/driver_rollback.html to rollback without download.


       

      Combined Blocks

      This one was suggested for a while now and brought to our attention by the Council. Because every block shape (wedge, penta, tetra, etc.) is an individual block type, we and also many of our players noticed a huge amount of menu clutter, especially in manufacturing. Having to build each shape separately is very tedious and doesn’t add anything to gameplay, so we’ve combined all of them into a single “root” block.

       

      You can now use every available shape of a block by having the basic block in your inventory. Changing to this new system without breaking worlds, including inventories, took a bit of time to implement. All other shapes in your inventory will be automatically converted into their root block and combined.  You won’t lose any blocks with this update.

       

      Similar to slabs, when you pick up a shape variation of a block you will always get the root block back.

       

      New Shape Selection UI

      We’ve implemented a customizable shape selection menu to make building faster and easier.  This adds convenience without marring the functionality veteran players are accustomed to.

       

      For each block with multiple shapes, you can now open a radial menu and either directly select a shape, or use your right mouse button to sticky a block to the build bar. Sticky blocks work exactly like multi-slots in that they get added to scroll over vertically in the hotbar. The difference is that you can now decide what blocks will be in that stack, including slabs. The same system is now also used for any other block that uses an additional version of a root block like LOD blocks.


       

      New LOD Blocks

      A big part of why we made the change now is the arrival of new and upcoming LOD blocks.
      First up, a corner variant on the Light Bar.

       

      cb7rARe.png

       

      Pipes have received a T-junction, 90 degree corner, and 4-way intersection variant.5JtKVQC.png

      Lastly, an all new shape has been added, the Grate. A barrier that comes in three shapes. A straight section, a corner and a wedge.


      cSoeE7j.png


      More LOD objects and further refinements to their textures will be coming in the very near future.

      Extended Texture Blocks Preview

      gGl9R3t.png


      This is another feature that we’ve been planning for a long time and now have a working mechanic to start preparing new textures for. While it is not active on any blocks currently, we would like to take this opportunity to preview the functionality, as many have spotted it in development builds and wondered exactly how it would work.  

      With this feature, a single block can use multiple textures depending on their position in the world’s grid. This reduces the frequency of tiling effects and allows us to add more variety to a larger surface area of the same block type.

      1X5QmpL.png

      To demonstrate what’s happening, let’s use this example texture. The complete grid we have overlaid represents the full combined texture space for this block (4x4 tiles). Each numbered block represents a single cube within the gameworld.

      As shown here on a surface area of 8 x 8 blocks, only 4 unique texture tiles are repeated where as before the single unique texture would be repeated 64 times.

      It is our primary intention to use this technique on terrain blocks and a hull type per colour (TBC) within the second part of our texture overhaul.

       

      Optimizations

      Due to new requirements, including ones from this update itself, the internal chunk format was updated. The basic array now consists purely of ints, which cost slightly more regular memory (no increase in graphics memory) but comes with an average of 20% speedup for all block operations. The speedup of this optimization affects all block operations from building/removing to damaging and applying changes to blocks. Using natives instead of byte arrays will in the future also speed up operations and save a lot of memory in other places.

       

      Toggleable Light Bar

       

      We’ve also moved a bit from Block HP to orientation. This enables us to use the active bit for blocks with more orientations like the light bar, allowing you to turn them on and off.

      The max block HP of a block does become 127 now, but we can compensate for that by increasing its armor value.



       

      Weapon Changes

      We’ve started on reworking some of the weapons and resolving balance issues as we go. Thanks to our bug reporters and the countless suggestions on the forum, we already have a nice list of balance concerns.

       

      Beams received 2 changes to bring them up to par with cannon block damage:

      ~ They apply explosive damage to every hit block now, instead of the 1st hit block of that tick

      ~ Beam damage with penetration now stacks on any armor block till it dies, then proceeds to distribute any remaining damage normally till it encounters another armor block again.

       

      Their hit indicators changed slightly too, and the explosive effect hit indicator was removed due to a large amount of clutter caused by it. Most likely we’ll do the same for the explosive cannon hit indicators since those are not always accurate.

       

      Explosive effect for cannons and beams changed too since it had scaling issues. As many of you may know, getting more than 10% on explosive effect didn’t actually do anything extra.

      Now the radius of these weapons is always 1 when linked with the explosive effect, but the damage distributed to the surrounding blocks scales with your effect ratio instead.

       

      The piercing effect’s armor efficiency bonus used to always apply even with a 0% effect ratio, making them extremely useful against any armor without getting any penalty for shield damage.

      Now the armor efficiency bonus scales with your effect ratio too.

       

      Another balance issue some may have noticed is that your Armor HP could be destroyed relatively fast by weapons that barely destroy enough blocks to justify the amount of Armor HP lost.

      Now the Armor HP deducted is capped to the amount of Armor HP that specific block offers + the same amount multiplied with your Structure HP Penalty. For beams, it’s slightly different and is multiplied by the potential penetration depth.

      However, this is only a temporary change; we’ve been looking for a different way for Armor HP to handle incoming block damage. Thanks to our community, there are several different suggestions related to it which gives us a good insight of what you expect armor to do, and how we could implement that.

       

      Advanced armor (and its equivalents) had their HP lowered to 100 HP.

      Its armor values were bumped up to 90% so their Effective HP should stay the same as before.

       

      Bugfixes

      Smoother sector crossing

      This issue has been in the game for a long time and should now be a lot better. Crossing a sector should be a lot more smoother on Multiplayer servers. There might still be a small “wobble” from lag reduction firing when it shouldn’t, which we hope to completely eliminate in further updates.

      AI bumping into ships

      An entirely new collision system used for avoidance is in the works, but not yet complete. In the meantime, we’ve applied a hotfix: AI ships bumping into your empty ships will now behave as if they’ve run into a space station: halting their movement, but without flinging yours off into deep space.  (If they’re persistent enough, however, they may be able to push your ships, albeit very, very slowly.)

      We will try to fully resolve this issue with a complete collision avoidance system and a completely reworked AI flight behavior in the coming updates.

       

      Copy & Paste Rotation Fix

      All blocks and LOD elements should now rotate correctly using advanced build mode. See T954

       

      Chat fix for Languages using IME

      Languages that use IME like Japanese and Chinese are now fully functional in chat.

       

      Minor Texture Fixes


      The last few (we hope) texture rotation fixes have been made, correcting Jump Modules and Rail Dockers (bottom face) in specific orientations, as well as the directional arrows on Pick Up rails.

      Pick Up / Shoot Out rail blocks have received a cleaner texture which now tiles correctly across all 6 faces, at all rotations.

      Ingot block specular settings have been improved.
      Block icons have been improved to help legibility of different block shapes.


      Fixes (most were mentioned above)

      ~ T346: Explosive effect stops scaling after 10%

      ~ T1024: Damage beams apply inconsistent damage against armor

      ~ T1642: Piercing effect armor efficiency doesn’t scale

      ~ T2154: Crash related to NPC system loss

      ~ Some player sector locations being logged were removed or changed. There are probably more of them; please report them if you find any.

       

      Translations

      We added more missing translation strings, and that should also take care of the last big batch to be added. It’s still possible that we find a missing one here and there, though.

       

      As always, thank you for playing StarMade!

      ~ The Schine Team

       
    • Jan26

      NVIDIA Driver 378.49 (released jan. 24 2017) may cause crash on startup

      To all NVIDIA card users that updated their driver to version 378.49 release on Jan. 24: Unfortunately this update breaks some basic OpenGL functions. There is currently nothing we can do but wait for NVIDIA to fix the issues. Other games (e.g. minecraft) are affected as well.

      Drivers can be found here: http://www.nvidia.com/Download/Find.aspx?lang=en-us
      OR
      http://www.nvidia.com/object/driver_rollback.html to rollback without download.

      Thanks for playing StarMade,
      the Schine Team