Producer's Letter - December 22
An update from Executive Producer Chris Wynn
With the holidays upon us now, it is a great time to take a look back at the year that was and talk about some of the highlights, as well as some of the missteps, along the way.
Before I begin, I want to thank the community for your continued support and feedback in shaping the game. We read and discuss so many of the tweets and threads and constantly use them in our discussions about what to change and how to make the game the best experience possible.
2016 brought a lot of really positive updates to the game.
First, King of the Kill became its own game. This was tremendously exciting for the team and for our community. King of the Kill was really able to come into its own with a dedicated development team that could fully support the community and vision of the game.
Things really started to pick up in the summer. With the combat update, when we updated crafting and did a pass for all of the weapons in the game, we were able to respond to a lot of feedback that we had collected from the community. We also updated all of the vehicle physics for a more grounded and realistic experience. This update was the first one that really started to move the game in the direction that we wanted to take it.
This built up to the large game update on September 20th that added The Arena, an all-new UI, Seasons, and our Twitch integration. We worked all year on the content of this update to get a lot of those features into a much higher quality state. While we have iterated on some of these new features, and will continue to do so, we are really pleased with how this update has gone and been received. It has really provided us with the platform to continue to improve and make the game better and better each day.
The second annual H1Z1 Invitational at TwitchCon was one of the biggest highlights of the year. $267,000 in prize money was raised and we had two great games to watch, plus the Qualifier matches. The Kappa theater at the event was standing room only and more than 118,000 concurrent viewers tuned in online to watch the event. The energy was infectious and I loved meeting so many fans and players over that weekend. Congrats again to Radek for the win in game 1, and Inboxes for the win in game 2 (to go with a 2nd place finish in game 1). I am more excited than ever to build on this and bring some great features to the game in the future.
We end the year really happy with what we have done, but also excited about the vast amount of work still in front of us. There are roughly twice as many players playing the game right now compared to earlier in the year, with thousands of new players coming in each day. The community only gets stronger as it grows, and the stronger the community, the stronger the game will be.
2016 Road Bumps
While there were a lot of positives from the year, 2016 also had many points of frustrations and misses on our commitments to you. This is where we are going to do better over 2017 - much better. We are making changes now to ensure that we do just that. These changes include filling needed positions, making process changes, changing our infrastructure to catch things in development, and a whole list of other changes. This list will be bigger than the highlights and I know that makes you frustrated, and it makes me really unhappy as well. We have to do better, we can do better, we will do better.
Our biggest frustration has been in introducing new bugs into the live game. After the update in September, we took a pretty hard stance that we were not going to patch if we had any new known issues. The result of that has been a lot of delays in features that I will talk about below. This is a good thing ultimately, but a bit frustrating in the short term. What is not acceptable is an update like the one we did in early December. It contained too many speculative fixes to issues that we could not recreate internally that ultimately did not pan out. We are tackling this one on multiple fronts. The first is continuing to push quality over quantity. After a little bit of time, we will settle into a natural rhythm and get a cadence of steady updates. We are also changing the configurations of our internal testing environments to mimic the live environment to be better able to catch issues before they go to Live. We are looking at the composition and size of our QA team to be in a position to ensure we can get enough testing to find the issues before going Live. And finally, we are looking at revamping the way we communicate with you over 2017 to allow for more back and forth with fixes, issues, and other topics. The biggest thing is a little patience. These are some pretty big changes to the way things have been done for a long time and will not all happen overnight. This might even take a few months to get everything in place and working well, but we are absolutely committed to getting it right for the long term.
The shotgun certainly belongs in the struggle category. I’m not sure there has ever been one single game feature that has been as frustrating as the shotgun in my entire career. In a way, I am really happy with the current discussions around the shotgun, so let me explain. We absolutely had an issue that took a long to track down and figure out. What was happening was some pellets would originate at some point not close to where it was supposed to originate from. It took a long time to track this one down because we couldn’t make it happen, so any fixes were purely speculative. We kept adding new logging, which slowly allowed us to narrow in on the root cause until we actually got to it. We did a poor job of being open about that as we were working on it. Once we did track it down, everything started behaving as expected. Now this is where I get happy because the discussions we should be having are around the design of the weapon. Is the spread big enough, is the effective range about where it feels good, does it do enough damage, etc. The videos being sent my way about shotgun issues are exactly this, and we are discussing these now to determine what design changes we should be making.
Team Spectate is a feature we talked about some time ago and we really felt good about being able to get it released in November. Then we ran into a host of unexpected problems that was mostly related to the UI at the end of a match. We worked through those issues and then put it up on the Test Servers for feedback. If I were to summarize the feedback, it came in as “better than nothing.” Our bar has to be higher than that, and we have to continue to hold ourselves to a higher target. So with that in mind, we have decided to hold onto the feature and continue to work on it before releasing. Specifically, we want to improve the visuals when spectating your teammates. We’re going to see what we can do to improve it in the new year and get it into a place where we are all excited by the new feature, and don’t just feel like it is okay and “better than nothing.”
The quality of our EU servers has been struggling for longer than desired. We have taken a bunch of different steps over the last month, but at best we have made incremental improvements and have not been able to really fully resolve it yet. We do have brand new servers en route, which we expect to really improve things. Right now, we believe these will be in place by mid-January. There is some long-term good coming from this; we are looking at our entire infrastructure right now and implementing some improvements that will allow us to provide better services that are able to scale much faster when needed.
Converting airdrop tickets to scrap is another one of those haunting issues. This looked really simple on the onset, but then as we dug into it, it turned into a big task. Basically, we couldn’t execute it with enough confidence that new issues wouldn’t be added, or that we would completely get them all in one pass. We have made really good progress on the issue and it is something that we expect to happen early in 2017. I can only apologize on this one; it is still a priority and we will make it happen.
The Skullcrusher Event has been great, and it is allowing us to test some critical long-term backend code. I know there was some frustration over taking Event Tickets for this after allowing you to scrap them. The thinking was really the other way around. We felt that making it as an available option in the Event would be another great method for using them. Clearly, our communication was not great on this one. Right now, we are discussing whether or not we will have more Events where an Event Ticket could be used as entry. We do not have anything concrete decided yet, but it is something we may do. So, if you want to be cautious, there may be future Events where Event Tickets will be handy. We will keep the ability to scrap them so you will not be stuck holding onto them if we decide continuing to use them doesn’t make sense. I just want to make sure that you know this is a possibility in case you were going to scrap them all immediately after the conclusion of the Skullcrusher Event.
Skirmishes fall into a similar category as Team Spectate. We have Skirmishes ready to go, but ran into unexpected problems with the end game UI. We are working to get this cleaned up so we can get Skirmishes going again as soon as we can. Similar to the Team Spectate feature, we will not add Skirmishes if we believe the experience would be sub-par. The first Skirmish that we will run will be the Ignition ruleset.
With the large game update in September, we had to end our whitelisted server program. We want to replace it with a more robust system in the future, and next year we will roll out the first phase of this. We are calling it Hosted Matches and you will be able to find it as its own menu in the UI. These games will be scheduled to begin at a specific time, and eligible participants will have their accounts entitled for access. We have been testing these systems for the last few months with the community and intend to officially launch the feature it in 2017. At this time, it is still a manual process for us to administer and maintain the schedules and environments, so we will be limiting participation to just a few groups at any one time. We haven’t determined participation yet, but if you really enjoyed the community-run events, this will be a way to bring that back.
Clearly there is still a lot to work on here. A lot of this is pretty normal in game development -- it just all happens prior to release. The unique part of King of the Kill is being in Early Access. You get to see everything that happens, as it happens. We will make this better over 2017. This is my commitment to you and the entire team is committed to it as well.
Let’s start with talking about our interactions with you, our community. My job pulls me in so many different directions, that often the first thing sacrificed is spending time interacting with you and answering questions. To help make this easier to manage, we have several things being planned out right now. The first is a regular recurring open Q&A time on Reddit or other social media. The other thing that I will be doing is spending more time on our Community Outbreak show to answer questions and provide information. I may even be available to do some guest spots on others’ streams. Setting aside regular time to focus on this will make it a lot easier for me to ensure that we put more of a focus on this. Even if I don’t always respond, I do read each and every tweet that you send me, the good and the bad. I find those really helpful in understanding what issues are the most aggravating at the moment.
We have taken a hard stance on teaming in Events and solo matches. There is no acceptable amount of teaming in our view. Any action to help another player take out an opponent is teaming. If we see this happening or are provided evidence of it happening, we will penalize the offending players, no matter who they are. You may have seen certain streamers recently were penalized for teaming, but that doesn’t mean non-streamers are going unchecked. People who report teamers to firstname.lastname@example.org with video evidence of how it went down helps us tremendously. We do have GMs in place jumping into matches and catching people live as well. We are working on backend systems that will automate this in a much more efficient way. At this point, think of it as speeding in a car: you know it’s against the law, and you know there are cops out there. We can’t catch everyone but when we do, don’t be surprised if you get a ticket. You can read all about our Rules of Conduct right here.
Current Bugs in Development:
There are a few bugs that are driving myself, and all of you, fairly crazy. We have people looking at these ones now, and will get them rolled out as soon as we feel confident about a fix. I am just listing some of the more visible and talked about ones here, but we will be putting the majority of our focus in early 2017 on fixing bugs in general, so you should expect fixes across many fronts.
- Reloading and suddenly empty clips -- we finally found some solid steps to be able to reproduce this as needed. As I said above, when we cannot do that, we have to make educated guesses. Now that we can make this happen, I am 100% confident we will track it down and fix it pretty quickly.
- Doors - We are still looking into an issue where a door appears to be open for one person and closed for another. It’s a rarer case scenario which is making it difficult to narrow down. We are investigating, I just don’t have any valid timeframes to provide yet.
- Lack of killer’s information on the death screens -- this is probably the bug that frustrates me the most right now. Nothing worse than being on the losing end of an intense firefight and then having no idea what sort of damage you did to your opponent. We have a fix in testing for this right now, so I feel good about getting a fix out for this in our next update in 2017.
- Vehicle bugs – three vehicle bugs are all under investigation. These all fall in that tough category, in that we do not yet know how to consistently reproduce them. If you can, please get as many details to us as you can. Your character name, your region, time it happened, exact steps that you took to make it happen, etc. These three bugs are: getting stuck in turbo, having the car move forward as soon as you get in, and randomly getting ejected from your car and frozen in place (the worst one of the bunch). As soon as we can get a handle on these we will be sure to communicate out when to expect a fix.
- Emote while looting – While not technically a bug, this is an annoying exploit. Yes, players have the ability to do this, but we don’t love it. We think it goes against the idea of providing a fair experience that is based on skill. We will be doing something about this to not allow it to happen. In the short term over the holidays we decided to not allow emotes to play in-game because it is starting to spread too far and wide and it goes against the notion of a fair environment for all. Doing this will not affect the in-game experience or moment-to-moment gameplay. We will restore this functionality early next year when we get a more thorough fix in place.
Again, I just want to sincerely thank everyone that has played, everyone that has left feedback, and everyone that really enjoys playing the game. We have a lot to improve, and a lot that will improve as we get focused into 2017. I end the year really excited about what we can do in 2017, and I hope you all come along for the ride and continue to leave your feedback to shape that experience.