A Trip To KSH

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Introduction

A Trip to KSH is a 2 part series video interview with the CEO of KSH Marek Rosa[1] by Xocliw[2]; who manages a Youtube Showcase Channel, and other types of videos he presents.
After presenting the idea to them, he was later invited by KeenSoftwareHouse on 21st August 2014: 5:00pm (Local Time) to do a tour of their workplace, and an interview with the CEO, Marek Rosa. While visiting KSH, Xocliw was introduced to the staff that helped create, and continue to build Space Engineers. He was also shown how it was managed in the background, and even given a chance to witness the Thursday update being released to the community.
The 2 part video series reflects his trip to the company, his tour inside it, and the much anticipated interview with Marek Rosa.

Q & A (Part 1)

This first transcript is only a reflection of the "main interview", and not the rest of the first video. There were many questions, discussions, and other exciting features not mentioned in this transcript. For information on them, you must watch the video (part 1).

Note * George Mamakos was present during the interview.

Planets / Celestial objects

Xocliw-
  • People have been asking about planets since the alpha was released. Has there been any development regarding celestial objects?
Marek-
  • There have been some experiments towards celestial objects, it’s not impossible but we have currently been focusing priorities elsewhere. We always ask ourselves “What is the most important thing right now?” and this just wasn’t the answer. So when the game is more complete it’ll become a top priority probably.
The only thing that would stop us adding celestial objects is if it is technically impossible with current computer technology.
One thing we’re looking at related to this is floating point precision. It depends on how it is used for physics but we think we can solve this, but we may just hit a wall and not be able to get through which is why we haven’t said for sure that planets will be a feature.
An issue currently is that asteroids are stored voxel by voxel which would put a huge strain on computers if used for planets. We do however have some ideas for procedurally generated asteroids so the asteroids would not need to be stored as individual voxels but as a mathematical function.
They would not be voxels but fractals and would be converted to actual voxels when you change something, or they may be separated into chunks. This way it wouldn’t matter how big the asteroid is, memory consumption would be near zero but if you change it then that spot is converted to voxels. This is something we want to do.
Another thing related to this is atmosphere.
Xocliw-
  • I think you’ve said before that it is possible but you need a good reason. I’m sure there’s been plenty of arguments for boths sides but some people have suggested making it an option.
Marek-
  • We will get many more features in the future, and I don’t want to say no to anything, but I don’t want to say yes either and create false hope but we are making this game for the players and if they want something then it changes our direction slightly.

AI / NPC

Xocliw-
  • Another thing that people have talked about is AI/NPC, is that another thing we might see?
Marek-
  • Maybe. Currently we are focusing on finishing sandbox features and not so much on AI. It’s partly a matter of focus within the team. We could hire a few programmers and tell them to make the AI, but it’s not how we work as a team. We think things through and so would have to focus more completely on it; see what we want, where we want to take it, and the fastest way to get there.
We also have our weekly update schedule, and if we were to hire some AI programmers and put them against that it just wouldn’t work so it is better to stay as we are.
So we may get to that point in the future and change our focus to AI
Xocliw-
  • Is it something you would like to see? You have mentioned before that you want players to create the conflict, but some people have network problems or prefer to play singleplayer, so is AI something you want to see?
Marek-
  • Definitely, especially if we want to have some form of set levels, maybe even campaigns or missions. It’s hard to do that without AI, it’s just a lonely planet.

Volumetric Liquids

Xocliw-
  • What about volumetric liquids? Apparently you have said before that the engine can do it, but you’ve stayed away from it.
Marek-
  • The reason is that we are thinking about liquids, if we had planets then it is logical to have water. We’ve looked at how to do it but it’s not the top priority right now especially since it’s such a big task and to do it without killing everyone’s computers would be a difficult challenge because it’s very dynamic.
For example if someone digs a hole then the water will need to flow there. It’s a lot of work and we just don’t want to focus on it right now. We’re not promising it, but we are thinking about it.

Placing Rocks

Xocliw-
  • Another question is about whether we could have the ability to place rock back onto asteroids if we want to, and similarly cement.
Marek-
  • It is a good idea, and we have one project we’re not talking about and we’re looking at something like this there, so we could bring it to Space Engineers.

Gamepad & Controller support

Xocliw-
  • With the Xbox release, have you considered gamepad and controller support?
Marek-
  • You mean for the PC? This is definitely possible, and the actual scheme for the Xbox hasn’t been set yet, and it’s a challenge because there are so many actions to assign to a controller.

Female Model

Xocliw-
  • A question wondering whether you have considered putting a female engineer into the game?

Marek-

  • Actually no.
The engineer doesn’t really have a gender since you don’t see them through the suit.
Marek-
  • I think he looks more male
Xocliw-
  • Maybe a thinner suit?
Marek-
  • We haven’t done it because it’s a minor cosmetic change, but it’d require a 3D artist to create the model and the textures and the animations. All that would take a couple of weeks at least to do a proper job. It’s just not worth it, and we hope the players would rather us focus on optimisations and lowering polygon counts instead. So I think they may not be happy if they see us adding a new cosmetic option rather than making these improvements.
Xocliw-
  • And it’s getting harder with bugfixing and optimization. As the game gets more complex there’s more to break. Back in October there wasn’t too much to go wrong.
Alongside the female engineer there’s a modding question about better support for custom characters, like Sachandachii’s robot model. It’s currently quite hard to make custom models, so is it on the to-do list to better support that?
Marek-
  • Right now we are doing some work with animations, adding more bones and things like this. I believe it’s hard for the modders just because it’s a hard job to work with animation and all the bones and all the blending.
I remember when we were adding the engineer a year ago and we had problems and we were googling for broken bones and stuff. So I don’t believe it’s ever going to be easy.

Early Access & Thursday Deadline

Xocliw-
  • How do you feel about Early Access? Would you go down this road again?
Marek-
  • Definitely, it’s been very good for us. I’d say the best thing is that we have real customers who push us to do things, and it’s like having a boss standing over us.
I think if we had kept our doors closed then maybe then we would keep redoing things over and over, jumping from idea to idea and never finishing anything. Everything is under public scrutiny.
Our secret AI project is all under wraps and I think it’s a big disadvantage in light of Space Engineers, so we’ve tried to emulate having real customers by having other members of the team act as our customers. You need to feel like there is a real need for it, and you have limited resources and limited time.
I think this is the best thing about Early Access, you have real customers, real feedback, and real pressure. You also get some money which is good for developers like us. There are others who aren’t happy because even with one guy they’re games aren’t making enough money.
George Mamakos
  • I think it’s better for them because then they can say “There is no interest.”
Marek-
  • The problem is that they sold a game and if they didn’t finish it then there’s an issue.
Xocliw-
  • There’s been a couple recently, and I've seen articles where people say they don’t like Early Access, but Space Engineers is one of the few where whenever people complain about Early Access they say “Get Space Engineers, that’s the right way to do Early Access.”
I think it’s one of the things in the gaming community that Space Engineers has become famous not just for being a great game but for being a success with Early Access.
Marek-
  • I would recommend it to everyone who can sustain this kind of development, week to week. It’s not like we’re dying here, we have normal lives, but you have to plan carefully. Like we have to make sure we always have features each week so we have short-term features and long-term features.
We need to be careful then that we have enough time to test things, and then if there are bugs on Thursday night we have to make sure we can fix them on Friday, maybe Saturday or Sunday.
The thing is that we have this deadline on Thursday so no one can say “Let’s push this back to tomorrow” because usually that’s what happens. There is even a programming joke where one programmer says “I always laugh when I hear a deadline passing by.”
That’s the wrong attitude to take though, because if you have a strict deadline then you prioritise everything else to meet that deadline. Thanks to this we are able to get out update every week. I don’t think we’ve missed a week.
Xocliw-
  • Has it ever been close? I remember with the factions update people were wondering if it was going to come out today, and you must have all been here at midnight.
Marek-
  • Sometimes there are last minute issues. Actually usually it’s the video, because it gets big and then takes a long time to export and upload, and if we make one mistake then we have to redo the whole thing again, so usually it’s the video.
We are expecting to make mistakes though so we plan around it and have reserves.
So I think Early Access is great because the development process is more organised.
Xocliw-
  • You have targets each week to meet.
Marek-
  • Yeah we can’t just hide behind the walls and spend five years developing a game that no one ever sees and saying it’s going to be the best game ever.

AI Project

Xocliw-
  • You mentioned about your super secret AI project, is there anything you can share right now?
Marek-
  • Not really, it’s just not gamer related.
Xocliw-
  • Yeah most people know it’s not to do with Space Engineers, but they’re fascinated to see what you’re up to and what we could be seeing in the future.
Marek-
  • We’ll talk about this later but not right now.

Ladders

Xocliw-
  • Have you thought about bringing ladders back?
Marek-
  • I shouldn't promise anything but when I think about it I think it was a mistake to add them in the first place because we didn’t really need them, but it was a mistake to remove them because we shouldn’t remove things.
There were many technical issues with ladders, it’s not a simple item, but I was discussing this with one of my colleagues the other day and he said we should be able to do them properly now because we are learning more and more about the entirety of Space Engineers, so we are definitely smarter now than we were six months ago. Today we are able to do better and without the previous issues.

VRAGE Engine Transparencies

Xocliw-
  • Is the VRAGE engine constantly being built on and added to? I might be wrong but for example was it quite hard to do transparencies to begin with?
Marek-
  • No it wasn’t, it was just a matter of time to implement. I knew it worked for a few days because I knew that when you handle transparent polygons, you have to sort them by distance so first you enter the furthest away, then get closer. You need the order in the rendering, and we didn’t initially do sorting of the polygons in the game.
So we just had to do this and add some support for a 3D artist to say “This polygon is transparent” and it was just a couple days work but there were more important things to do. In the end someone just did it and it looked so cool and it was just there.
Xocliw-

I’m sure it’s going to lead to more. For example you released the holographic panel, so I imagine the modders will be hard at work on more stuff like that.

Marek-
  • Transparencies aren’t hard they’re just never the most important issue, but they are nice with windows and glass that add realism.

3D Printing

Xocliw-
  • A question that I’m excited about which is the real world 3D printing of ships. Will we be able to print our own ships if we have a printer or will you only be selling them?
Marek-
  • We’ve already experimented with this, and it was exported from the game. It’s under developer keys so it’s already kind of in the game. The thing with doing this is that there are some technical and quality issues with the 3D models from printing so if you print something that is too small or too thin then the printers can screw up and it will break.
So if we let people export models and print them today then about 90% will break, which is not good. So better to not give them this false hope. We’ll probably think this through to make models that more printer-friendly.
From our point of view it’s very simple because we just take this model and these polygons and put them in an .obj file which is really simple.

Modder API

Xocliw-
  • Another modding question. When will there be more capabilities like an API so we can make a model and decide what it is and what it can do, rather than just variations of existing blocks?
Marek-
  • One of the things we are working on right now is a modding API. I don’t know how exactly it will work, because it may change since we began work on it a few days ago, but the idea is to let people change the behaviour of the game. The hope is to open the game as much as possible, almost 100%. It will be hard, maybe impossible, but that is where we are aiming.
The first phase of this API will be coming out soon, and I think it will be great.
Xocliw-
  • That sounds good, I know a lot of modders who have a lot of ideas for new stuff but they just can’t make them right.
Marek-
  • This is actually why we are postponing some other features right now, for example planets, because we think “What is better to give to the players today: More modding tools and an API, or planets?” and then knowing that they might have to wait another six months for the API, so it’s always a case of what we think is the most important thing today.

Upgrades for Blocks & Items

Xocliw-
  • A question that you’ve answered before, and I think you said it wasn’t too important then, about upgrades. For blocks like bigger better assemblers, and character tools like bigger backpacks and battery packs to recharge. I know at one point you didn’t want to go down the route of customisation too much but this is the idea of upgrade tiers.
Marek-
  • Well the basic idea of Space Engineers is that the player is advancing by their creations, not just by unlocking levels, but by building something they need. This premise is beneficial to us, because it allowed us to move forward as quickly as possible on the mechanical and physical things, rather than spending too much time thinking or even over-thinking this idea of upgrades.
We decided that if a player wants to upgrade they just build better creations, but we can always go back and rethink this. I don’t want to say no, because I know this is important to some people, but we haven’t talked about this much.

In-game Programming

Xocliw-
  • Can you talk anymore about programming? Is that the next big thing coming to Space Engineers?
Marek-
  • The modding API is the next big thing, then after that programmable blocks. The modding API is for the modders and will be low-level access to everything in the game and programming blocks will be an in-game thing where you will be able to program only things that the engineer in the game would be able to program.
Xocliw-
  • Will it be user-friendly? Maybe sharing code through the workshop.
Marek-
  • Yeah you will be able to share code through the workshop. But if you have a block in game you will be able to write some simple code, for example with a sensor you can turn lights on or off, but with programming you wouldn’t be able to write mission scripts or change the game engine.
Xocliw-
  • For those of us who can’t code the sharing will be important, but will it be your own language?
Marek-
  • The programming in-game with use C# just like the game itself so it makes sense. But also we are used to C# already and there are advantages to using C#.

Q & A (Part 2)


Transcript not released as of yet!


Extras

Compilation of photos while at KSH
Xocliw taking a photo with Marek Rosa (CEO)
One of the game tester rooms
A life-sized space engineer on KSH's main entrance
Portrait of Space Engineers in the hallway


References

  1. http://www.keenswh.com/about.html Marek Rosa
  2. https://www.youtube.com/user/XocliwGaming Xocliw Gaming,