July 7th 2021 by SDGNelson
Reflecting on the past year.
Thank you for another great year in the Unturned community! We have now been out of early access (4 years) for longer than the early access period (3 years)! This past year saw 35 updates bringing a variety of major content and features to the game:
Reviewing Major Announcements
Danaby and Renaxon shook up the gameplay in really interesting ways. This kickstarted a lot of innovation in the map projects to experiment and establish unique identities. I think this cemented my role as the programmer for the game designers. Albeit I need to prioritize some of the critical foundation rewrites before the new gameplay features on the horizon.
Replacing the old Steam Networking with new Steam Networking Sockets had some issues at first, but significantly improved the network performance and reliability. It finally resolved many longstanding bugs with the old networking, for example beforehand some players could only connect while using a VPN.
In retrospect I wish this had been delayed a year. One would expect LTS to be stable, but sadly this revealed the distinction between LTS and "legacy LTS". Even now there are still problems in 2019 LTS e.g. crashes in the garbage collector, so the game is going to wait until the last possible moment before updating to Unity 2020 LTS.
Flattening the transform hierarchy was a huge performance win! It went surprisingly smoothly considering the amount of code affected.
I doubt there are ANY other Unity games supporting both IMGUI and uGUI interchangeably. This was a mess, in part due to 2019 LTS bugs that were gradually fixed, but I think it was worth it because the new default uGUI implementation resolves a lot of IMGUI bugs especially on Mac and Linux. In the long term the plan is to integrate UIElements, and then officially support custom UIs defined by server plugins. I am kind of nervous about finding the right abstractions to support all three UI systems interchangeably, but it seems to be on the right track.
Not particularly exciting, but this did boost sales for all items. It has been helpful for the Elver and Kuwait updates to be able to directly link to the map supporter packs, as well as to highlight Steam item discounts that ordinarily do not get much visibility.
Playing through the end-game quest was a lot of fun. It would be great for more players to experience the non-euclidean spaces trickery. Maybe it needs an achievement for quest completion.
Steps two through four of the network rewrites. I am proud of how far this came along. The next step will be using these foundational network rewrites to significantly upgrade gameplay features. Namely the base-building netcode plans outlined at the start of this year, and from there ideally input, movement, etc.
Footsteps, bullet impacts, shell casings, flybys, and a few others got new replacement sounds. Audio has long been one of Unturned's weaknesses, so it seems a good candidate to improve fidelity while waiting for a render pipeline plan to stabilize. Moddable physics materials are not finished yet, and there are still a lot of sounds I intend to replace or add.
Voice Chat Quality Upgrades
Between the netcode rewrites and later improvements I am happy with where the voice is now. Gauging from public servers and gameplay recordings it seems to work much better.
Rewriting the weather features was a bit painful. I was determined not to repeat past mistakes of leaving old features half supported alongside new alternatives though, so this ended up quite thorough. Now I am curious to see how custom weather gets used in the future.
Elver is a tough act to follow so I would not envy releasing next, but Animatic and NSTM blew it out of the water. Again this map showed the benefits of trying something new and different. It has also been fun to see the crazier side of the game expand with areas like the giant beanstalk.
I think this went incredibly well being the first piece of official Unturned merchandise. I was hesitant about the body proportions (matching other Makeship plushies) before launch, but love how he turned out after seeing IRL. Personally I ordered ten, and will hold onto some for promotions in the future.
At long last there are finally some rules limiting P2W, and to make it easier to find non-P2W servers. I do not pretend the current situation is perfect yet, but I hope it can be agreed this was progress in the right direction.
I think this has been one of the best years for Unturned. As a point of comparison, I think the devkit-focused era was the worst period in Unturned history. There have of course been tons of improvements and updates that did not make the cut for this post, and behind the scenes as well.
I am eagerly looking forward to the coming year of development and the improvements it will bring! There is a lot of potential and the future is bright. See you in the 2022 recap with hopefully a bunch more netcode upgrades and gameplay features checked off the list.