Hi! Today we've got a truly massive update coming in; that's right, EP5 is here! As usual, you can expect a fresh batch of balance changes, but along with that come some revolutionary new features as well.
First off, what's the UHC? UHC is a community project by @kangcliff and @danielpereira, aiming to "unhardcode" parts of the AoE3 engine, make more things configurable than what has ever been possible before, add new features to the engine, fix bugs, that sort of stuff: https://github.com/danielpereira/AoE3UnHardcoded
In the past, we've collaborated with UHC team when they made the extended teams patch, which is included in current EP. However, UHC opens up many more possibilities than just that, and it is time we take advantage of them. Now, let's take a look at what those possibilities are.
UHC Plugin system
Through the UHC Plugin system, we gain access to an environment where the entire set of AoE3 engine functions is available to utilize for either creating new functionalities, or exporting existing functionalities into a scope where they were not available before.
What does exporting functionalities mean exactly? Well, the way it works there are different sets of functions for various scopes of the game such as UI design scope, AI design scope, map generation scope and so on. With UHC we can easily export functions from one scope to another where such functionality was previously missing and impossible to replicate. First area we plan to utilize this for is improving the way Observer UI maps work as well as the Observer UI itself.
Custom cheat codes
One feature of the plugin system is the option to easily implement new cheat codes into the game. At first, this might not sound very useful; aren't we trying to block cheats, after all? Well, here we're talking about "regular" cheats which can only be used in singleplayer or when they are specifically allowed in the multiplayer room, just like the other built-in ones; "x marks the spot" and so on.
What does this bring to the table:
- just giving more fun things to the players
- we can create cheats that help speed up development and testing of maps or game changes
- we can utilize this in certain competitions and have "design your own cheat code" be amongst the prizes, or perhaps have small competitions entirely centered around designing the most fun new cheat code
UIx map project
This one I'm probably most excited about; I call it the "UIx map project". The idea here is to overhaul how we handle Observer UI maps in a big way. On the ESOC Patch, maps are to be progressively converted into "UIx" maps which support both observer mode and regular play. These will be included in the "official" dropdown list of preinstalled maps on EP and functionally replace both the previous version of a map on this list (ex. ESOC Arkansas) as well as the custom UI map version which is currently downloaded separately as a custom map (ex. UI 2.2c ESOC Arkansas). On a UIx map, observer mode will be activated by selecting "Sandbox" difficulty when hosting a game room (Sandbox is also renamed to "Observer Mode / Sandbox" on EP to make this clearer). Other than this, the observer mode works the same way as before by selecting FFA for 1v1 matches and so on. You just no longer need to download an extra custom map.
As the UIx maps use features implemented through UHC plugin system, manually copying them as-is onto official RE patch will not be possible (map will crash on load). For usage of ESOC maps on non-ESOC patches, we will continue to generate hardcoded versions of the maps with observer mode permanently disabled (ex. ESOC Arkansas) and permanently enabled (ex. UI 2.2 ESOC Arkansas).
Why are we doing this at all, what are the benefits?
- The custom map system is extremely clunky to use during ESOC competitions, causing massive delays and headaches to both participants and admins due to all players needing to obtain the same version of the map. The p2p system of sharing custom maps on ESO is often slow or outright bugs out and requires players to jump through hoops to get the correct map version.
- All changes to map scripts essentially need to be implemented twice with the old system, which often causes inconsistency when UI map version is ahead of non-UI version or the opposite. This is both causing confusion to the players and requires more work from the devs/mapmakers.
- Using the custom map system at all opens up ESOC competitions to additional security vulnerabilities.
- This change will allow players to utilize mapsets for play on randomized maps in Observer UI mode.
- It will become easier to implement special RE-incompatible features on maps and add fallbacks for them.
ESOC UHC Plugin
@kangcliff of the UHC team has patched EP to add support of the UHC Plugin system, along with providing a special UHC version that is compatible with EP's modified executables.
ESOC's own UHC Plugin is implemented with the changes needed for UIx maps, changes for Aizamk to possibly implement new Observer UI features, as well as with the following newly implemented cheat codes:
changelog since EP 188.8.131.52
ESOC Patch changes
- Added UHC Plugin support (see explanation above).
- The "Sandbox" difficulty setting has been renamed to "Observer Mode / Sandbox".
- Changed default diplomacy stance to Enemy in diplomacy mode.
- Polished Diplomacy UI (both window and button).
- KotH timer set to 10 minutes, regardless of player count (was problematic with spectators).
ESOC Patch bug fixes & ESOC Treaty Patch bug fixes
- EP/ETP: Increased minimum orchard distance from TC by 2 (now same as on RE).
- EP/ETP: Fixed Tomahawk ability to build after sending Battlefield Construction.
- ETP: Fixed Iroquois War Hut BB Lacrosse to increase the range of Tomahawks.
- EP: Monitor XP bounties reduced from 100 to 80.
- EP: Fixed the rescued native eagle warrior to have proper attack tactics.
- EP: Added +4 LOS to Travois builder in order to allow dock placement.
ESOC Treaty Patch map changes
- Added minimap thumbnail images for all special Treaty Patch maps.
- Added latest UI Blitz maps.
ESOC Patch map changes
- ESOC Colorado player spawn locations and terrain adjusted.
- ESOC Bonnie Springs now always spawns the version with small neutral town in its center. Revised number of hunts and trees on the map.
- Fixed ESOC Gran Chaco minimap thumbnail image.
- Converted all ESOC maps to UIx.
- All ESOC maps cured of runtime errors caught using the RMS debugger; this should cause smoother map loading and prevent some random bugs in how the maps spawn.
- The ESOC Maps mapset is now safe to play in Observer Mode.
- Added fallbacks for maps with special features incompatible with non-ESOC environment (ESOC Iowa trees, ESOC Malaysia trees, ESOC Wadmalaw trees & treasureset & water).
- ESOC Bonnie Springs is now functional on RE if both players have EP installed.
- ESOC Bonnie Springs is now functional in any common non-ESOC environment if both players have the ESOC Map Pack installed for their game version.
- All ESOC maps extensively rebalanced for KotH game mode, details described in an extra section below.
ESOC Map Pack installer
- Implemented new map pack installer from scratch.
- Automatically generated with EP release, therefore contains latest map versions.
- Includes automatically generated UI and non-UI versions of all UIx maps for use in non-ESOC environment.
- Includes all special maps of ESOC Treaty Patch.
- Customizable installation destinations for maximum compatibility with other game patches (defaults to RE TAD).
- Available here.
ESOC Patch installer
- Now automatically installs generated UI and non-UI versions of all UIx maps for use on RE TAD.
ESOC Patch Launcher
- All custom maps on RE which were generated from UIx are now validated upon launch and replaced with latest version in case they are found to be corrupted/outdated.
- As custom UI maps generated from UIx are always prepended with "UI 2.2 ", all outdated special versions of those UI maps such as 2.2c/2.2a are automatically erased from custom maps.
- Implemented new launcher icon.
ESOC Network Hook
- Fixed an issue causing excessive CPU usage.
- Added detection of a hack involving market trade.
- Protect UHC plugin files from external modifications and disallow external plugins for now.
ESOC Patch balance changes
- "Schooners" shipment: Fishing Boat train-time reduction increased to 40% (up from 20%)
- Manor cost increased to 140w (up from 135w; bounties recalculated accordingly)
- “Old Han Reforms” shipment improved to 50% Old Han banner-army attack & hitpoints and a 20% unit cost-increase (down from 25% cost-increase)
- Bank cost reverted to 350f-350w (up from 300f-350w), XP bounties recalculated accordingly to 140/280
- "Lipizzaner Cavalry" shipment increased to +25% Uhlan attack & hitpoints (up from 15%)
- House cost increased to 60w (up from 50w); Bounties recalculated accordingly
- Sowar cost reverted to 80f-80c (up from 75f-75c); Bounties recalculated accordingly
- “Crates of 100 Food, 100 Wood, and 100 Coin" INFINITE shipment increased to 200f, 100w, 100c
- "Crates of 200 Food, 200 Wood, and 200 Coin" shipment increased to 400f, 200w, 200c
- Shogun Tokugawa hitpoints-aura decreased to +10% (down from 20%)
- “Way of the Bow” shipment reverted to +2 Yumi range and +15% hitpoints (up from +2 Yumi range)
- War Chief “heavy cavalry” unit-tag added
- Teepee gather-rate aura reduced to 3% (down from 4%)
- Teepee hitpoints decreased to 600 (down from 800)
- Teepee attack and hitpoints auras range reduced to 18 (down from 24)
- Teepee minimum placement-range reverted (removed)
- “Aggressive Policy” shipment now sets gather-rate aura to 5% (down from 6%)
- “Mustangs” shipment reverted to -10% cavalry cost (down from 15%)
KotH rebalance on EP ESOC maps
In preparation for the Fort Frenzy event, ESOC maps have been thoroughly rebalanced in King of the Hill mode. The fort spawns have been changed to drastically reduce their randomness and ensure the distance between players is as consistent as possible. Moreover, many maps have had additional (balanced) spawn locations scripted in to happen randomly, or had their spawn locations overhauled entirely. Responsible for KotH implementation/rebalance is yours truly, @EAGLEMUT , so don't blame the map team if your fort spawn is bad! Anyway, here's a more detailed list of changes made:
Changes to Diplomacy mode
For FFA Diplomacy games, the default diplomacy stance has been changed to Enemy in order to avoid player confusion. Furthermore, we've had some polish added to the diplomacy window UI and the diplomacy button itself (RIP black box). Thanks @mandosrex for supplying the design changes.
Note: usage of a customized game interface may overwrite the new Diplomacy button of EP.
Thanks to everyone who helped with this patch release and gave feedback on the changes. We've had a lot of people come together and contribute to make this one possible, even folks from outside the regular ESOC staff.
Thanks to @musketeer925, @Aizamk and @princeofcarthage for lots of feedback and help with the UHC implementation & UIx, which would be entirely impossible without the UHC guys themselves; namely @kangcliff directly working with us on this very release.
Further thanks to @Buckethead for updates to map thumbnails, @tilanus for the wondrous new EP Launcher icon, @dicktator_ for new Blitz maps and @mandosrex for diplomacy UI polish.
1. If you have a previous version installed, you can simply run the EP Launcher and auto-update should have you covered.
2. If you're installing for the first time, download the exe installer.