2020 was quite a year for everyone and here at Mercuna we’ve all been remote working since March, but somehow as busy as ever! Here are just some of our highlights from the year.
Our biggest effort was developing our new ground navigation system for vehicles and animals. We knew this would be a hard problem, there is a reason that most other ground navigation solutions focus on characters, but thought it would be ‘fun’. It is an area where a limited amount of previous work had been done and it had some very interesting gnarly challenges. And there certainly were!
We started 2020 with a simple prototype and over the year built it into a fully featured production ready middleware. During this time, we were over the moon when we got the email to tell us that we had been awarded an Epic MegaGrant to help fund this project. This has allowed us to spend even more time on development and create a much better product.
Our release was slightly later than initially planned, as is probably every release ever, but we were super delighted to formally launch just before Christmas. It’s been a heck of a journey, but it was a very satisfying holiday knowing that we had written a sophisticated new type of navigation system and we can’t wait to see what studios do with it. Throughout the year we had been getting more and more interest from studios wanting to use Mercuna Ground Navigation… so watch this space for announcements on new clients!
Maneater, a game where you play as a shark – does this not sound like one of the best games ever? You can imagine how excited we were when Tripwire Interactive released their shark-RPG in May 2020 with Mercuna 3D Navigation being used for the navigation of all the underwater AI creatures, swimmers and boats. We loved the whimsical originality of playing as a shark that goes eating various creatures (and people!). But of course our interest was in the quite serious and sophisticated navigation the team at Tripwire wanted from all the water-based AI. It was really cool seeing all different types of AIs using the same Mercuna system. Kudos to the team at Tripwire for such a fun game!
We also continued to work with a number of studios both big and small on some very exciting projects. Unfortunately we can’t tell you about most of them just yet, but one we did get permission to announce is that Deep Silver FISHLABS’ Chorus for next-gen consoles will be using Mercuna 3D Navigation. Chorus is a space-combat shooter and the genre that our founders Ben and Mike fell in love with as kids. They are *very* excited about its release, along with all the other Mercuna powered games coming this year.
As well as developing new products and working on exciting games, another big focus for us has been improving our internal infrastructure, particularly our automated testing. To this end we took on an intern on over the summer to help build a suite of functional test levels. These have then been setup to run as part of our continuous integration system. We found quite a few bugs in the process and learned a lot of UE4 functional test framework, one of the UE4 systems doesn’t have the best documentation. If you are interested in knowing more about the system, here’s a blog that Colin, our intern wrote about getting the functional test working. We now have our tests running every night making sure we don’t break anything and helping us maintain the high quality we always strive for.
Finally, as with many other companies we switched to home working back last March, little realising that would be the last we saw of our office for a long time. Thankfully the transition to home working went very smoothly and as our customers have always been located all around the world, were quite used to interacting via Skype and Zoom calls.
One big change is that Mike, our CTO, has paused his life on a boat and returned to Edinburgh to ride out the pandemic. For the last few years Mike has been living and working from his canal boat, Rebellion, as he and his wife explored the waterways of England. Sadly, as movement restrictions curtailed the amount of exploring they were allowed to do, they took the difficult decision to come back to Edinburgh between lockdowns. Hopefully they will be able to return to their boat soon, but it is nice for us all to be in the same city and be able to meet up outside at least, when lockdown rules permit!
The Year Ahead
Along with everyone else, we’re hoping for a better 2021… and maybe getting to see each other again in the office! We’ve got big plans for Mercuna Ground Navigation, adding brilliant new features and making it as amazing, powerful, and easy-to-use as we can. And no matter what this year throws at our industry, we’re going to keep on doing what we love and do best: solving really hard problems with elegant solutions, whilst giving our customers the best support possible and staying flexible to their needs. We can’t wait for the challenge!