Updates On APB Development Progress
I've gotten several requests to talk about our progress on the integration of Unreal 3.5 and our goal to merge the PC and Console codebases. I'll do my best to breakdown for you where we are currently and where we are heading on our path to upgrade and sync the game's core foundation.
First, a little context
The PC version
Currently, APB is running on a heavily modified version of the Unreal 3.0 codebase. APB is made up of many custom systems including the personalization tools, symbol editor, music editor, and various modes of play. Due to supporting 3.0, this older version of Unreal only supports exporting these assets in a very limited number of formats.
The console versions
Currently, this version of APB is running on Unreal 3.5. This codebase was originally created for Xbox360 and PS3. (Epic has since funded external development to port their engine to XboxOne and PS4.) Due to this and development constraints, APB on Console is a bit more limited in scope. It was released without the music editor and minimal usability in the symbol systems. This has resulted in rendering bugs, slow frame rates and inconsistent textures.
The important thing to understand is that there is a significant difference between PC and Console versions. We are working to merge the two but still have some work in front of us to actually sync the codebases and align progression paths.
Second, let's talk about where we are
As it has been mentioned before, I don't think this is going to be a massive upgrade visually. Some players may not even notice. However Unreal 3.5 is built for 64-bit systems, and it has a multithreaded renderer, so my hope is that it will take advantage of newer GPUs and computers.
Reloaded had already done a lot of work on this upgrade before the consoles were released, however since the music editor was never included with console, it was also missing from the PC Unreal 3.5 code base. Additionally, there are also ~40 external libraries that needed to be upgraded.
At this point, we have finished rebuilding the music editor and all but one of the external libraries are upgraded. After that we know there are several graphical issues, and some frame rate issues we need to address.
Based on where we are in the process, I have recently started reaching out to specific community members about reforming the SPCT. Our goal here was to choose veteran players that covered a wide range of play styles who could devote time to testing with us and give in depth feedback. They are under NDA, none of them will be able to publicly discuss what they are working on.
[ On a side note, please don't reach out to us to join the team ]
This early round of testing is to help us get performance stats across several hardware configurations, so we can compare against the current Unreal 3.0 PC build. It is my hope to start this in the month ahead on a locked down OTW server. From there, I really can't give an estimate on when we'll open access to that version of the game to regular players. It really depends on how testing goes. Even if we allow players onto OTW to help finish testing on Unreal 3.5 for PC in early January, I doubt this will be ready to launch publicly before the start of Spring 2019.
Lastly, let's talk about where we are going
You can read more about the XboxOne and PS4 project back in my July update: https://www.gamersfirst.com/apb/news/2018/7/30/end-of-july-update
In order to update each console, we must do the following:
1. Upgrade the projects to the latest Visual Studio compiler
2. Upgrade the manufacturer's SDK and integration
3. Upgrade all the external libraries
4. Testing end-to-end by our QA and then fixing the defects
5. Certification testing by Microsoft and Sony and if they kick back the build, we go through a round of fixing and testing again
Last time I gave an update, we had already upgraded Visual Studio, and we had also finished the PS4 SDK. We were working on updating the XboxOne SDK, and we had about 32 external libraries to finish upgrading. As of today, we have finished upgrade the SDK, and we are down to ~11 external libraries remaining to upgrade for each console. Some of these are small and some are rather large.
Unlike upgrading an external library for PC (which is mostly done), the process is a bit different for console:
Add and configure new platforms and configs for PS4 and XB1
Get the code to compile for PS4 and XB1
Modify project files for maintainability to simplify upgrading in the future
Hook up the game to use the new library
Fix any compile or link errors
It's difficult to estimate how much longer we have. There are several developers working on the external libraries now. Based on how our progress has been so far, my best guess is one more month, but it could take as long as two. That means we will potentially start testing early next year. If that happens, then we might be able to submit for certification in the February 2019 window with an update shortly thereafter.
It's important to note that we just want to get the same build submitted and passed. There may be a couple small optimizations, but the plan is to pull in new content and fixes on our 2nd first party submission.
That means we're currently looking at a March or April target for 2019. Given where we started, I am pleased with the progress. As we get closer, I will keep you up tp date. Thanks for joining us on this exciting journey.