Ride. Power-Up. Win.
Town of Trials™ is a game about riding cool vehicles, collecting power-ups, and competing online against players around the world!
November 2022 Check In
Happy November All!
If your November has been anything like mine, the weather has thus far been warm and great!
2022 is fast coming to a close, and communication has been silent for quite a while. I’m here to let you know that we’re alive, and of course still working on this amazing project!
“…Is it just me, or is this taking a while?”
Great question, strawman in my head! It’s not just you. It turns out making online games is hard! It so happened we went down one of the harder roads when we decided to implement rollback netcode into Town of Trials. It significantly complicates development, but still seems like the right approach for this style of game.
Attention this year has been devoted to optimizing the game’s core systems to establish a baseline level of performance for all the things we are trying to achieve. It turns out that full client prediction of the game state is quite CPU-heavy. Rollback netcode is typically deployed in fighting games, where 2 to 4 players are interacting with limited amounts of physics objects. Add more players, interactable game pieces, introduce some latency… and boom, you end up with compounded CPU costs. As the Steam Deck is a device we wish to support at full 60FPS, it was critical to reign in our CPU usage.
Keyword is “was”! Through aggressive optimization, we’ve mostly solved the netcode performance problems! Before, on the Steam Deck, we were unable to maintain a stable 45FPS with the full game state and 2 players. Now we can support 8 at a stable 60FPS. This is a dramatic improvement and reinforces how worthwhile this was to tackle.
Given the struggle getting to this point, the original goal of support for up to 16 players will have to be revisited in the future. Town of Trials may still ultimately support it (many PCs can handle it fine), but I think a max of 8 is plenty of chaos for now!
“I thought development would be farther along by now!”
That’s fair. We remain a small collection of hobbyists with varying work schedules and commitment levels. Development progresses as our busy lives permit. The prototype trailer from last year was more of a tech demo than a reasonably functioning piece of software. I do fear that that preview might have communicated a level of completeness that just wasn’t there yet. What we showed included functional split-screen with sort-of functioning netcode duct-taped on. It was plagued with many glitches and problems.
About that netcode you saw: Town of Trials was originally built using Photon’s Bolt as the networking engine. Around May of last year, the rug was pulled out from under us as we became aware of Photon’s intention to sunset Bolt and replace it with a new networking engine called Fusion. We were forced to make a difficult decision of whether or not to switch from Bolt to Fusion. Development on Town of Trials wasn’t so far that we couldn’t switch, and Fusion offered many improvements and features compared to Bolt. It ended up making sense to go ahead with the switch.
This didn’t come without a great cost, however. It meant rewriting large parts of Town of Trials. While painful, the switch ended up being a great opportunity to rebuild client/server network topology with rollback into the game from the ground level. We have since found Fusion to be much more capable and easier to use than Bolt (albeit not without its own share of pain points).
“Why don’t you crowdfund already?”
Asking you to exchange money for a promise is asking you to take a big risk. Whether or not any crowdfunded project is completed, there’s certainly no guarantee it will meet your expectations or be of sufficient quality to merit the price. It’s not atypical these days for developers to put massive upfront time and financial investment to make sure the end product will be good. We are investing lots on our end so that you can feel more comfortable when we make that big ask for you to take a chance on us 😉
“When will Town of Trials be finished?”
I’m sure you’ve heard some of these clichés before… “Soon™!”… “When it’s done!”. It’s difficult as indies to accurately pin how long the development cycle will take — I’ve certainly up to now not been too good at estimating timelines. I decided to pull public-facing roadmaps from the site earlier this year because they proved to no longer be realistic.
For the patience, excitement and encouragement this community has graciously given us, the most important priority is to reward you with something special that was worth the wait. We persist on bringing this dream to life, even if it might take a bit longer than we hoped!
Q4 2021 is here! What’s new?
Hello all! Leaves are falling, sweaters are out of the closet, pumpkin spice is infiltrating everything… and work on Town of Trials is ongoing! There’s been a few developments.
We added a new member to the team. We welcome Rangaros! He joins us equipped with a strong talent in 3D art, including modeling, shaders, and VFX. He has already helped us improve and refine some of our vehicle concepts, and with his direction and talent we will achieve a cohesive visual identity.
Work on our engine is ongoing. We have been primarily focused on net code and improving the quality of the physics simulation. The physics loop runs at 60 FPS like many modern games, but the visuals are interpolated to create an experience that is frame rate independent. Unlike KAR, you will be able to run Town of Trials at high refresh rates for a smooth visual experience (provided you have the hardware to do so).
As for the net code, we are working to fully integrate a client predicted, server reconciled model of online play. There are mostly upsides but also some significant downsides to this model. We feel it’s the right fit for the long-term growth of Town of Trials.
Client predicted net-play is time-tested and successfully implemented in games like twitch shooters, going back to games like Quake III Arena, Unreal Tournament, Counter Strike, et al. This model will allow your inputs to instantly be represented on screen, while still maintaining the security of a server authentication model where the game runs on a server and cheating should not be possible.
In a nutshell: upside to this technique is you get amazing multiplayer that feels just like playing offline and is free of cheaters. Downside is that we will need to maintain servers for a global audience, which is not at all cheap.
So what’s in store for Q4? The end of the year is fast approaching. Our aim is to have a complete (albeit content bare) game prototype by end of year that we will be selecting members of our community to playtest with us! This has been an important milestone we’ve been chasing for quite a while. Developing a game of this scope with such a small team was always going to be a long multi-year endeavor… we really do appreciate your continued patience!
2021 Prototype Showcase
As promised, we are pleased to present our mid-year prototype showcase:
You can see footage of a number of things, from different player color/skin selection, to gravity-defying stunts, split-screen multiplayer, online multiplayer and… a number of bugs that we’re still working on!
The coolest thing introduced in this footage is our first attack item — the missile! In this game, we want all attacks to be useable both on-ride and off-ride. While off-ride, the missile can be a great pocket deterrent to keep others from harassing you, or a great way to get around the map quicker. While on-ride, simply line up the shot and annihilate your foes!
In the future, we may show off more standard slices of footage until we are ready for a proper “first-look” trailer intended for the general public.
We do still intend to update and make more prominent use of this blog in the future.
If you’re reading this, you’re one of the early and enthusiastic ones. We love you! Thank you for your early support!
Mid Year Progress Update
Hello again friends!
Thank you again for following us on this long and arduous journey. It is our sincere apologies for the silence lately… if you saw our Git, you’d know we’ve been working like mad-bots.
Our team now consists of 8 core team members of hobbyists who share a strong passion for KAR and intend to deliver on a truly breathtaking tribute game to recapture the City Trial experience. We will share bits, pieces, and teasers as we continue to develop — each from our own unique perspectives.
Town of Trials now has some digital presence that you can follow where we will be publishing updates.
Official YouTube Channel:
We want to communicate with you, wherever you are!
We will be showcasing prototype footage via our YouTube channel on June 30th in the style of a short trailer that showcases a tease of our hard work. We are excited to share Poncho in motion publicly for the first time, so get subscribed and don’t miss out!
New Site Live!
Hello all, and welcome to the new Town of Trials site! Bear with us while we get ourselves situated — there are only so many hours in the day, and I spend most of them working on Town of Trials! I’m eager to tease progress while we work towards an official first look trailer. Stay tuned for more!
PC/Mac first, and we’ll see about other platforms after launch.
We’re working on bringing lobby-based multiplayer to Town of Trials. We are targetting support for 2-8 player matches and exploring team-centric gameplay modes.
Yes! 4 player local split-screen.
So many new ideas. The focus of this project is preserving the core gameplay loop and mechanics of City Trial, while expanding and introducing new things that don’t detract or hamper from that core experience. It’s time for a truly modern take on the formula!
Any returning rides?
We will be doing our best to port in your favorite machines, but due to engine differences, they won’t be quite 1:1. The look of the machines will also be new. You’ll feel at home, though.
Game Modes? Single player?
This is a multiplayer-centric game, with a primary focus on the Trial experience. Racing is planned, while Top Ride is not. Bots may not be ready in time for launch, but we want this to be enjoyable as a single player game too…
We are still internally deciding how best to monetize Town of Trials. If we can afford it, we’d like to host dedicated servers and to deliver a stream of quality content post-launch.
Town of Trials is not planned to support modding. Sorry!
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