Developer Letter 1 — 12/31/19

Dear community,

Welcome to the first iteration of our development letter, a blog-type post we’ll make from time to time presenting and discussing the latest information and news about our development process, future content and upcoming features with the community. To those who have followed the Xero project, we would like to start by saying that it's finally coming along and all those months of patience and hype are about to bear fruition, but to everyone from new readers to new players, or even those who haven't played the game for years and just heard about this project, this letter’s purpose is enlightening you about the current situation, the full list of features and content coming in the first Xero update, our plans moving forward and more.

To give everyone a background story of how this project came to be, it started as a collaboration between the developers of the two major private servers in efforts to elevate the game to 2019's standards in what we call code:zerone (the main project). Quite a bit later on a suggestion within the team came up to combine our separate personal projects and start giving players a better experience sooner while gaining the feedback we need to help us shape the future of this game along with the community. A few months later, the team was on the verge of splitting due to internal disputes, the suggestion resurfaced as our last resort to keep the team together and try to make the best out of the current situation moving forward. That was back in August 2019, the month of the merge. Since then, even though the team had a rocky start in the beginning, we have grown from barely tolerating each other to working together over the months and developing friendships and bonds within the team. We all had one common goal, and today's development letter is about telling you what we have accomplished so far.

First and foremost, our main priority is and always will be gameplay. One of our main concerns was the balancing of the game, and it was something that has taken shape naturally over the course of 5 years ever since the first balance patch hit the official servers. The main issue with balancing the game was the inability to find a middle ground between Sword-only and Unlimited, there was no way to have different stats between modes, and there was also no way to disable the comeback system (the one we call Pity / Boost) on any season beyond Dark Lightning, this limited the possibilities and our ability to use any of the later seasons, until now.

The letter will be split into categories and sub-categories, for this iteration we will basically go over the main issues we’ve tackled and features we implemented, let us begin.

Balancing

To start off, we had to address the elephant in the room which made any attempt at balancing meaningless in the first place: Pity / Boost.
Rooms in Xero have disabled the buff by default, but we have kept it as an option in room creation.

The next balancing issue was the separate weapon limits, and Sword-only playing completely different from Unlimited. This took the most time compared to other balance fixes, because our initial attempt to separate stats server-side was accompanied with performance and instability issues, so it all got scrapped and had to be done in another way.
The current differences between Unlimited and Sword-only are the following:
Speed: Unlimited @ 2.5%, Sword-only @ 5.0%
Defense: Unlimited * 1, Sword-only * 2.66
SP: Unlimited +15, Sword-only +50

Ingame respawn buff window was completely disabled and taken out of the game. Even though those buffs had less of an impact, they were almost a passive version of Pity.
The stats those buffs gave have been automatically turned into raw SP / HP (Defense) for Sword-only.

Specific weapon / skill balancing. Specific balancing is still, as of yet not fully documented nor final. Rifles and guns have been balanced throughout the years and will reach their peak balance in time. Swords will be adjusted towards the Sword-only meta, but there are a few things I would like to mention in this letter that have been done specifically for some weapons:
Smash rifle: The pattern is now completely unrandomized and frame rate independent for the first time, it does a full loop and each bullet is assigned to go to a specific spot in the magazine.
Assault rifle: Like the smash rifle, the pattern of the assault rifle was also unrandomized and an experimental pattern was presented for testing.
Bombs / Minegun: Since we’re on season 8, throwing weapons explode on death again.
Sharpshooter: Sharpshooter is no longer a sniper rifle. It is now a single shot rifle with a slow fire rate and a single bullet that does a moderate amount of damage.
Railgun: Railgun retains the older version with no aim-assist or slow.
Breaker: Breaker retains the older version that can hit mid-air with a jump attack.

Some weapons deemed unpleasant to play against or toxic to overall gameplay have been vaulted and are being reworked into more abstract, practical and viable versions, that includes Iron Boots, Turret, Metallic Fists, Dual Magnums and Sigma Blade.

Weapon and physics inconsistencies which depended on your frame rate are now completely fixed (such as Exo Scythe right-click, different weapon patterns, different jump heights or getting stuck in walls), that was the most crucial part to get right and will headline the next category.

Performance

The client has received countless updates and improvements, but perhaps the most important of all is being able to adjust your frame rate to any value without the tiniest of gameplay changes, that was finally accomplished with the new delta time code and a frame rate limit slider (30 - 300 FPS) was added to the settings, replacing the Gamma slider.

The game had a built-in input lag of ~75ms, it is now reduced by ~45ms, making every button press more accurate and much more responsive.
Exclusive full-screen launcher option has also been added, this alone reduces input lag heavily on Windows 8+, you can toggle it by pressing 'Alt+Enter' anywhere in the game.

The 32-bit process RAM limit of 4GB on 64-bit systems can now be fully utilized thanks to various fixes of game-memory management. Room-join bugs and RAM related issues have now been fixed without sacrificing any performance, this will allow us to upgrade the game's outdated textures including maps, costumes, weapons or user interface elements without running into any issues or crashes. Loading times have been heavily reduced and server handling is now extremely performant.

Gameplay

Networking tickrate has been increased from 8 to 32, allowing your on-screen movements and maneuvers to represent you a lot more accurately from another player's point of view.

An ingame console window was added, you can open and close it by pressing F11. A full list of commands will be provided on release. Among the things you'll be able to change during the game are the following:
FOV: /fov [value] (30 - 90)
FPS: /fpslimit [value] (30 - 300)
Sensitivity: /sensitivity [value] (0.00 - 100)
Macros: /iwj [key], /rc# [key], /main [1/2/3]

Team mates HP bars are now always visible and in 3D space. The enemy team HP bars were transformed from 2D to 3D space to not obstruct player vision.
The crosshair is also completely static, and doesn't change color when hovering other players.

The sensitivity system was reworked, and the range was increased. Players will be given a conversion formulas from both older and newer sensitivity systems (Seasons 1-9 and 10+).

Visual

Perhaps the first thing you'll notice is what you already see everywhere: Text. On older clients the game's font size was stretched from the base resolution (1024x768), which meant that increasing it made the text blurry, now all text upscales perfectly to any resolution with no quality loss.

The UI has been completely overhauled, from small check boxes to map images and text colors. It's all fresh and in HD. A huge amount of cosmetics were upscaled and polished. A ton of new ones were also added for you to explore in our new shop.

An option for Anti aliasing now replaces the old Aspect Ratio option in the settings. 4:3 or 16:10 stretched resolutions will now be set up like other modern games through your GFX card CP and chosen from the list of your ingame resolutions.

Anisotropic filtering for Medium (4x) and High (8x) texture quality in settings, which automatically transforms all textures and improves their visual fidelity.

Brand-new HD levels were added (50x50 px), and custom clanmarks can now be double the size (200x200 px).
Tiers will be Newcomer, Rookie, Semi-Pro, Pro, Expert and Master on release. More tiers will come with big updates.

Restored some maps to their original textures (Station-1,2,3, Temple-M, etc.), ingame shaders and overall lighting were improved as well.

Crosshairs are now customizable and scaled accurately on higher resolutions.

Massive amounts of strings (texts and phrases) have been edited and fixed from official's poor English localization.

This was a brief summary on what we've been working on the past months. More details will follow on release.
We hope you've had a wonderful holiday! Stay tuned and make sure you join the Discord and follow the Twitch channel below for more updates and previews in the coming days.
See you soon™,

Developer Letter 1 - Xero