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TFS Developer Update - July 2018

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TFS Developer Update - July 2018

Postby Bonkin » Fri Jul 06, 2018 1:25 pm

Hello all,

I am posting here to introduce myself as your new Team Fusion Simulations public relations person for IL-2 Cliffs of Dover. Some of you know me from ACG and beta testing but for those that don't, I've been an aircraft nut my whole life. I'm married with a couple of teenage kids and live in East Yorkshire England, but I grew up in East Anglia, where my playgrounds included many old USAF airfield bases. As such I feel I have a bit of an affinity with the 8AF and the 100BG in particular. My eyesight was never good enough for the RAF so I learned to fly privately and studied engineering instead. I now work in the defence sector, having spent pretty much my entire career to date working on the many different variants of the Hawk jet. The last thing to probably add is that having been inspired by the 1969 "Battle of Britain" film and a few old b/w classics like "Angels One Five", I also like to make the odd video or two.

I would really like to start this update however by offering my sincere thanks to Mysticpuma for the sterling work he did in this role before me. Mystic worked very hard on behalf of the community and I'm sure will be missed by many. It would also be amiss of me not to offer gratitude and thanks to Spiritus Mortem, who temporarily stepped into the PR role whilst I've been getting up to speed on all of the things ongoing. This actually leads me into something that I think needs a mention - attention to detail. I am incredibly impressed at the focus the team puts into making sure things are as accurate as they can be. The team has built up a wealth of material and knowledge regarding everything from factory variants to weapon types, field modifications and performance data. When you set this against the limitations of the game engine and the necessity to understand some very complex code that is not supported by any design documentation, then it can perhaps give you an idea of why it takes a long time to develop and integrate.

In the information that follows, you will see that I talk about an "import" process. This is part of bringing any new object into the game engine. The import process involves integrating each of the level of detail (LOD) 3D models and cockpits into the game, and then ensuring that all of the internal and external animations operate correctly. The FM and DM then have to be integrated with the model before any testing can begin. In parallel to this is skin production, which in itself is a complex process because the template textures have to undergo detailed mapping to the 3D model before the artwork can actually begin.

To prepare a model for import it needs several things to be completed. In simple terms, the detailed model is created first and then many different versions are created off of it using a reduced number of polygons each time. This is LOD modelling (referred to above) and is necessary because the game engine will select which LOD model to use at distance. In addition, for each model, several different texture layers need to be added, e.g. for damage, transparency, rivets, finish (gloss/matt etc) and weathering. Hopefully this gives some explanation as to the amount of work required for just one object.

So anyway, now on with the information you really care about:

Team
We have added a number of new coders in the last few months, they, along with the previous members of this department, are allowing us to double track the importing process, (two aircraft streams) allowing for a dedicated coder for the Map Team, as well as providing man hour effort which can be allocated to other areas in the code which need improvement or bugfixing.

Schedule
A contentious issue for many but the truth is that since everybody is a volunteer working in their spare time, it is difficult to forecast release dates.

What can be said about the schedule, is that there is one (for v5.0) and that the project is on track. It is not a schedule in the traditional sense, e.g. a Gantt chart with logic links, but rather a list of activities each with a target completion date. I think the key message to take away is that work continues. In fact it has never stopped. Everybody in the team has a passion for the subject matter and wants to see the best release possible, e.g. v5.0 will happen. For me, the really exciting stuff is what is planned for v6.0. Although in all honesty, that will only happen if v5.0 is a commercial success.

Progress
Bugtracker work
A new team member has started some long overdue maintenance work. He has commenced a review all of the reported bugs with the objective of amalgamating where possible and making updates. I have highlighted some changes which I think need to be made to the Bugtracker in order for it to be less confusing. These are a long way down the priority list at this time though. In the meantime, please continue to use it as normal.

Map
For some time now the team have been working with their own custom built editor which is quite limited and requires a lot of manual inputting and code work. Consequently map development has been slower than expected. On the positive side, there has been a breakthrough in getting the original Maddox Map Editor to build and development effort is focused on getting it into a stable condition. In short, if we can get the original editor to work, (which we are confident we will) then we will save a lot of time and people who don't have a lot of code experience will be able to do the complex map work.

AI
A code study/analysis of the AI behaviour modelling has been undertaken with the aim of understanding what needs to be changed and how. This has focussed on offensive and defensive manoeuvres, the command system, detection and gunnery. It is considered that improvements can be made in all areas. Work continues but here is an extract of the report:

ANALYSIS
AI Gunners
Easiest thing to fix. Mostly isolated from the other things regarding AI so changes we make here
will not affect anything else.

We can play with parameters until we find good balance between difficulty and fun.

AI Fighters shooting
Fighter planes don't shot effectively in dogfights. This is combination of two problems. First one is
selection of correct aiming point. That one is easier to correct and it can be considered solved.
Second part of the problem is getting the plane pointed at correct aiming point. With this one I'm
not satisfied yet. In some situations and with some planes shooting is acceptable. Hit percentages
are good and everything seems to be fine. But there are some annoying occurrences of visibly bad
shooting.

Things like that are annoying for players because AI looks like complete idiot who can't do simple
correction of the aim. This is related to the way AI controls the plane but this is tricky to do correct.
When I increase effectiveness of the controls AI can't control the plane smoothly enough and it
looks bad and often result with ground collisions in low level flights.

Defensive maneuvers in dogfight
Game is using same set of maneuvers as original Il2. This is something where we can make easy
progress. More maneuvers and better selection of them will make things noticeably better. We don't
have to make very big changes here at first but we can make some positive changes that will show
players that we are going in the right direction.

Commands
This is complete mess. Just a couple commands work and half of them don't work as they are
supposed to. Biggest problem is that in order for commands to work, actions they should perform
should work. And they don't. So there is huge amount of work necessary before we can enable all of
the commands that were supposed to be in the game.

AI enemy detection
This is one of the main reasons why commands don't work. Ai have very poor vision, especially
lower AI levels. Rookies are practically blind and oblivious to the environment. This is not that hard
to fix but I need to find right balance between AI ability and computation. As you know this game is
not an epitome of efficiency as far as code is concern. So we have to be careful not to add anything
that is not absolutely necessary.


Aircraft
- Gladiator II Cockpit 3D work and import is complete. The Vokes filter (for use in desert conditions) has also been added to the External model.
- CR-42 Cockpit 3D work is complete, cockpit import and animation is now underway. External model 3D work for bomb racks also complete.
- Bf-109E-7/E-7NZ External and Cockpit 3D modelling is nearing completion. Drop tank modelling for the E-7 and F's is complete.
- The Me109F 3D work is mostly complete and texturing work is now underway (covering F1, F2). Import of an Alpha F-1/F-2 with placeholder Cockpit & Textures is in-game. Ultimately it will have high resolution textures as per the Bf109E. The F-4 3D cockpit/external will take longer due to 3D cockpit differences and the 3D modelling of the underwing gunpods.
- Wellington IA cockpit, turrets, and bombardier positions 3D work are now complete. Wellington IA/IC front and rear Turret 3D work is complete and imported in game. Wellington IA/IC Cockpit/bombardier positions are now awaiting commencement of the import process following completion of the CR-42 import. Note, the IA and IC had different bombsights so the bombardier positions are different. Wellington IC external model waist gunner positions 3D modelling are awaiting assignment although we are unlikely to expend effort modelling a mannable gunner position as players are unlikely to use it.
- Hurricane IIA/IIB/IIC (and Trop versions) external 3D modelling is complete and is now being prepared for import. Cockpit 3D modelling requires some details. IID external 3D modelling is underway.
- Spitfire IIB 'B' wing external 3D modelling is underway and should be completed within the month.
- Spitfire V external 3D modelling for Trop version is in progress. Due to the differences in the wing there are a huge number of rivets and panel lines to move.
- Dewoitine D.520 cockpit 3D modelling is almost complete. External model 3D work is nearing completion with the LOD modelling complete.
- P-40C external 3D modelling is nearing completion. Cockpit underway.
- P-40E external and cockpit 3D modelling is maturing nicely and not far off being completed.
- Martlet III external and cockpit 3D modeling is mostly complete and the LOD's have recently been completed.

Fixes
Online Server 'Lobby' function has been fixed. The intention is to release this as an interim patch.
Spitfire DM (wing damage) bug fix will also be included in the above patch. There also will be tweaks to all aircraft DM's.

In terms of PR updates I will be aiming for one a month, even if it is just a few words. This will depend on whether there is much I can show or talk about though. There have been some technical break-throughs in certain areas but it wouldn't be right to set expectations when there are still problems to resolve in order to implement them fully.

I think that covers the things I can talk about for now. If you want to get in touch with me personally then do PM me in any of the forums I'm registered in. Feel free to say hello on Teamspeak as well. Most often you'll see me on the ACG Teamspeak on a Sunday evening (UK time from 7pm) or sometimes on a Thursday. I can't promise you I'll have answers to your questions but I can listen, record them and put them to the team to use in future updates.

Also, if you have the right skills and think you could help then please get in touch. Our prime need is for more people who can do the complex 3D work required to build aircraft, aircraft cockpits, vehicles and ships, using Blender or 3DMax. Those who are interested in building and populating maps are also welcome to submit applications... in this case, Photoshop, some coding knowledge, and a thorough familiarity with the Mission Builder would be the requirements. Those with lesser Blender/3DMax skills could look at creating buildings for the Map department.

Finally, here is a short video showcasing a little of the work that is ongoing.



I hope I can serve you well.

For and on behalf of Team Fusion Simulations,

Bonkin.
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Re: TFS Developer Update - July 2018

Postby Admin (Reddog) » Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:51 pm

Bonkin.

Kudos for stepping into the role. A good first update. I wish you success.

Will pm you some thoughts, not that it will make any difference.
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Re: TFS Developer Update - July 2018

Postby Bonkin » Fri Jul 06, 2018 7:35 pm

Thanks Reddog.
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Re: TFS Developer Update - July 2018

Postby Barone » Mon Jul 09, 2018 1:12 pm

I really hope you'll be able to bring some people back on servers.
Your biggest problem is the very low number of people playing nowadays. Just look at the steam charts. And that translates as "potential copy of the game to sell".
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Re: TFS Developer Update - July 2018

Postby No.401_Wolverine » Mon Jul 09, 2018 8:00 pm

I think pretty much everyone who was going to consider buying it has bought it at this point (at least to the sort of numbers of people that would make any difference).

Right now, for me it's all about bringing people back who've left and that means fixing the reasons they left rather than adding new content. I believe more people abandoned the game due to broken features rather than getting bored with fighting over the channel in 1940.
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Re: TFS Developer Update - July 2018

Postby EAF79_OD_ » Tue Jul 10, 2018 7:53 am

I don't see people coming back in large numbers to this sim. The lure of the Desert is great, but it still won't have VR support and it's a game that has been surpassed by the new IL2 and DCS - even if you don't like DCS WW2, it's still better than Cliffs. I won't touch it after Buzzsaw's threats and bullyboy tactics, not just to me but others too. I'm only interested in Multiplayer, and for that Cliffs is pretty much dead.
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Re: TFS Developer Update - July 2018

Postby Barone » Tue Jul 10, 2018 2:28 pm

EAF79_OD_ wrote:I don't see people coming back in large numbers to this sim. The lure of the Desert is great, but it still won't have VR support and it's a game that has been surpassed by the new IL2 and DCS - even if you don't like DCS WW2, it's still better than Cliffs. I won't touch it after Buzzsaw's threats and bullyboy tactics, not just to me but others too. I'm only interested in Multiplayer, and for that Cliffs is pretty much dead.


The problem is that box and DCS have so much problems in some fundamental areas like DM and spotting that I almost stop flying after clod.
Getting people back will be extremely hard. Considering that apart from some game problems, lots of people left because of the attitude of the Devs.
New content or not, fixes or not... Some people won't come back.
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Re: TFS Developer Update - July 2018

Postby EAF79_OD_ » Tue Jul 10, 2018 2:42 pm

The difference there is that DCS and BoX actually get regular updates from professional teams and not supposed 'volunteers'. BoX visibility is fine, even in VR, but it has that 9K bubble. DCS I don't have a massive problem with spotting stuff, but it's not as if Cliffs didn't have a problem there too. There were differing solutions which revolve around screen resolution and turning stuff off, such as AA, but that's not a level playing field for all - unlike BoX. Cliffs still only has clouds around an aircraft in a donut and blue skies for as far as the eye can see, after that. The ground textures look dated, though at least it's less of a swamp these days and the swimming pools have gone.

I won't go near Cliffs because of the attitude, demonstrated in public a number of times, of the leadership and the constant need for admiration, adulation and eternal gratitude for not very much really; that and the fact that we've been waiting for these updates for years now.
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Re: TFS Developer Update - July 2018

Postby Barone » Tue Jul 10, 2018 3:36 pm

EAF79_OD_ wrote:BoX visibility is fine


That's debatable imho. Spotting is not bad but ID remains crap. The only things you see in box is a black dot. DCS has the opposite problem. Good ID but terrible spotting.
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Re: TFS Developer Update - July 2018

Postby Greykitten » Tue Jul 10, 2018 5:56 pm

Hi Bonkin,

As far as i'm concerned, i loved flying cliff, but i would return to clod only for the same reason i started flying it: some kind of SOW server.
The kind where what you do matters.
Even without VR.

Anyway thanks for the news !
I wish you all the best.
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