Another Tuesday, another Development Blog! This week we have some more detailed information on what has been going on behind the scenes at Big Picture Games within our development and game design teams.
Without further ado, let's let our team members do the talking!
Well, it’s been an extremely long, brutal past few days for me but it has been well worth it as we are nearing a reasonably stable Alpha state. At the start of alpha, we had some unexpected and out of the ordinary trouble with the archive system and patching – but managed to clear those problems with lots of persistence (over 8 hours of it!). Throughout the weekend, we managed to actually deliver release mode servers, get a grip on how some of our loot tables and resource nodes are working (which was far trickier than expected), resolved a problem impacting skill gains past 99, and quite a few more little fixes that I can barely remember.
In addition to the work done on the game itself I also broke out my favorite java framework, Spring, and developed an enterprise grade AMS system in just a few hours that integrated with the game's current systems. So far this has been a bulletproof solution for our problems, as I’ve almost already forgotten about it.
Throughout the weekend, all of you helped us track down and eliminate a lot of issues that threatened server stability, and the extra activity has really helped us out with the bug hunt overall – and I’d like to thank you all for participating over this past weekend! Things only get better from here!
It has been a very exciting week here at BPG! The entire team has been hard at work fixing and tracking various issues with the introduction of Alpha. I for one would like to say Welcome Home!
I’m working on various aspects of the whole project and as such pulled some late nights over the weekend answering forums posts, responding on Discord to support issues and generally keeping tabs on all of the moving parts. The most rewarding part of it all has been being able to personally hand out some of the Alpha keys in Discord! We continue to increase the Alpha invite list and have been allowing all Founder Pack purchases in immediately at this point.
With Alpha well underway, we’ve begun improving our ability to react and track all issues. As part of this my concern has largely been with making sure we get informational posts on the forums and the tools/information that people need out to the players and the staff that need them. With some of this in place I think we’re going to be set to start making iterations and changes a reality to bring Darkfall: Rise of Agon forward into a game to stay!
Game Design took a pretty significant backseat last week for obvious reasons, but we will be looking to get back on track this week. This was to be expected with all the immediate work that had to be done for the Alpha Launch, and the fact is, a lot of us wear multiple hats here at BPG! The Alpha Launch was amazing to see executed and the support has been humbling to say the least.
The biggest reaction from the Dev Blog last week was the now polarizing topic of limiting crafting masteries. Overall, the response was positive, but of course not everyone was happy with the prospect. The level of disdain or joy is in part a reflection of how drastically a change will perceptually threaten or enhance any given playstyle, and we get it; we are all players too. That said, I absolutely want that collective passionate response to continue; in the fires of passion is where the best solutions are often forged, and some interesting alternatives have already come out of the flames. Rest assured though, everything we are proposing and will ultimately implement is intended to improve the game, but if we see a reason to pivot on any of our ideas, we will certainly do that.
Since we got to “play the game from scratch” (with the help of 100000000 gold of course), we have identified many initial “pain points” that fall under the New Player Experience category that we are going to address as soon as possible. Some things as simple as the amount of items you are buying not resetting to 1 when you change items, so you don’t accidentally purchase 200 staves. I literally did this every wipe. In addition, we will begin posting weekly polls to collect player data starting later this week.
Here’s a few quick bullet points on some changes we have planned for our crafting. It’s not as meaty as I’d hoped, but here’s what we can tell you all:
- Move racial R40 weapons/bows to non-mastery 100 to craft.
- Add variance to duplicate weapons of the same ranks to add more options (small trade offs for damage/speed).
- Refactor some low rank weapons/bows and upgrade them to R50/60 in an effort to more evenly distribute the available weapons for use, and add more variety/options to the higher ranks.
- Make community-made weapons (from a previous contest) craftable (Greataxe, Greatsword and Bow) as new R70s.
- Artillery is an all new skill and mastery that will be the catch all for everything war related from battlespikes to cannons to warhulks.
- Decrease costs on many boats in non-mastery
- Increasing success rate @ 100 regular skill to 90%, 99% success rate @ 100 mastery
We are still working on a variety of moving parts and the server configuration is becoming more unraveled. The server administration tool is near complete and the work on the art tool is going to enable us to bring new 3d content into the game from some leading edge 3d tools. Server side components are ready for testing on our test configuration. The art flow pipe line is coming together. There are still a few kinks in the system we intend to work out.
As we launched into our alpha we immediately took on a few new issues which were fun to work through, some of them were resolved quickly. I am sure most people have learned about some of the changes we have made to the world configuration to allow us to quickly see the impact of some of the more elusive game content pieces.
Soon we will be turning our focus to adding improvements to the game, starting with bug hunting some of the well known issues that have annoyed us all. We are looking forward to collecting feedback and working towards solutions for everything that comes up, realizing that many of these will take a priority order.
The intent for now is to continue to bring other team members up to speed, filling in knowledge and enabling them to be effective in the role they have. We are working to enhance our document base and improve the ability to transfer our learnings between members of the team.
The integration of tools included in the package and distribution of them to the appropriate portions of the team has been underway and soon we expect to all be fully prepared to expand the type of work on the game we can do. Soon, it will finally be time to sit down and get started on the roadmap and implementing changes.
Hopefully as each change gets pushed into the alpha server we are able to retain data for the players, but as some things blow up it could be likely we will have to reset data again. So, play hard!
Leading up to alpha I was in charge of pulling together the changes to reduce the grind and make alpha enjoyable. Naturally, as we are still learning some of the complexities of the code we had to keep this list manageable. In addition to lessening the grind for Alpha, we decided to give everyone a nice stack of gold to act as a welcome home present. (lol)
Moving forward, we’re looking to improve our understanding of all of the subsystems within the code and how they interact so we can avoid potential bugs while implementing improvements and changes to the game. We’ve learned a lot about the implementation and changes within the Alpha launch time period and hope everyone is enjoying being back in Agon again!
Last week I was primarily tasked with getting our new servers up and running. The rest of the time was spent preparing them for the public, in terms of getting the security and optimization in release states. I also have been working with our host to improve the backend connections between our servers to hopefully reduce ping for some users.
Before launch I was also working on keeping our account system in sync with the game database. We had some issues with this initially but we managed to get them all fixed by the end of the weekend.
The rest of my time I was busy bug fixing anything that came in through support or Discord. I spent quite a lot of time on Discord talking with everyone and fixing any account issues that came up.
Leading up to alpha one of the tasks I was assigned was what is now the beautiful loading screen that you see when you enter the game on our Alpha server. Once the art team provided me with the assets, I implemented it and did the testing needed to make sure it retained the same look on all resolutions.
Regarding the installer, last week we mentioned that we were in the process of creating a new installer system, and we spent the week chasing bugs and testing it internally leading to Alpha. Unfortunately, a late breaking bug just before launching related to the installer and/or the launcher sprouted up unexpectedly. As a result, we decided to revert to the original installer for the alpha launch. We still plan to provide the second installer to potentially alleviate problems anyone might be having with the current installer, and also so people can test it and report their issues so we can fix any that arise.
I also started diving into the server side code with the goal being to provide documentation for the dev team as well as to enhance our monitoring tools. I will spare you the details ;D Thanks for reading!
This week has been a blur to get everything set up and ready for alpha launch. We tested all we could, but of course issues were found after launch which was to be expected with a much larger group. Most, if not all, issues revolved around logging into the game, creating a character and taking your first steps in Darkfall: Rise of Agon. We will continue to comb through all GM reports submitted as well as forum posts concerning any bugs/issues people might encounter. If you find a bug, please report it to the forum section found here: https://forums.darkfallriseofagon.com/forums/bugs-glitches.48/
On the support side, we have answered every single ticket with an average response time of about 10-30 minutes and hope to keep that going. Most issues have been resolved but if you are experiencing some issues or need assistance of any kind please submit a ticket using: https://bigpicturegames.freshdesk.com/support/tickets/new
The time before releasing the store and other new website content on Friday, was mostly spent on fixing bugs and tweaking various features on the site. The version control repository for the website code (git) was melting from all the pushes me and Neilk did at that time.
Then comes the time to release the website. It was supposed to be nice and easy, a one hour max thing to do, but nope. The user errors were strong in this one and even though we finally managed to get things working, it took way too much time. I think it would have gone a lot smoother with more planning and some sort of list which has all the configuration and settings which need to be changed when going live with the website. Fortunately one can learn and I learned a ton, which should help with future website releases and such.
Saturday morning I wake up to a “DOS”-attack of sorts, not sure what to call it since the only thing it is doing is spamming the log with “Not Found..”, hardware is not taking even a mentionable hit and the website seems to work smoothly, eh. I tried to get some sort of IP banning system working but that was denying logic so had to drop that. There are other things to try, but currently other things take priority.
Even though there have been (and still are) a lot of bugs, it has been a fun and educating week. Now to fix more stuff, and maybe throw some disc golf since the sun is finally here.
That concludes this week's Development Blog, make sure to join in on conversation in the discussion thread! As we mentioned yesterday, we will be announcing our first ever community competition winners in Friday's update as the team reviews all submissions this week.
Thanks and have a great evening.
- The Team at Big Picture Games