Me (Draginol is my other handle) and my friend at GPG working on a problem
So today we got a pretty good new update from Gas Powered Games that we’ve been testing with today.
A lot of the changes have to do with tolerances. How much time should the game wait for others to join before it assumes they’re too slow and kicks them out before the game even starts? How much time should it wait for someone to join a lobby or a game before it says “No, they’re not going to get in?” and blocks them?
So today we played a lot of games with the new build and saw a lot of improvements. Thanks to tricks we’ve picked up from last week when the servers were being crushed, we have gotten a lot better at simulating peek server hours where the connection stuff is most likely to fail.
Right now, the issue we’re trying to fix is where people join a custom game and because they joined at the same time, they are not connected to each other. That’s what we’re play testing right now and the results look very promising.
Developing games is like a strategy game
Like a strategy game, I’m in the unpleasant position of having to make choices on what people work on and what doesn’t.
If, by now, you have concluded that Demigod is an unusual game in many ways, you’re right. Typically, the publisher (Stardock) releases the game, collects data and sends them off to the game’s developer (Gas Powered Games) and waits for a “patch” which the publisher then puts through QA and then releases.
Demigod, as you probably have surmised, has been developed differently. Early last year, I pushed for Demigod to have more single-player elements. But over time, it became clear that everyone involved (at both Stardock and GPG) really enjoyed it more as a multiplayer game. But in my mind, if you’re going to do that, you need to have lots of cool things like match making, and tournament stuff and long-term expandability.
That’s where Stardock started getting involved in development little by little. At first, it was just a single developer. Then another, and then another. Pretty soon, we were adding overlays to present more player data, developing a friends list and other community features along with a multiplayer match-making, pantheon stuff, etc.
Stardock and GPG get along great. But you are talking about two veteran development teams working on some pretty sophisticated stuff at great distances. That’s where I’ve increasingly become involved in pressing both Stardock and GPG development teams on what needs to go in when. So if you have an issue with Demigod, don’t blame anyone but me because since the game’s release, I’ve essentially taken on the overall development prioritization for good or ill.
So for example, we know that most people can connect to other people. We know this for a fact. The problem is that for a significant percentage of people, it’s #$%# flakey.
You know what I mean. You set up a custom game and it becomes a fiasco getting people into that custom game because people aren’t connected. Or you try to get a pantheon game going and players get kicked out or you end up with 2 on 2 with a bunch of bots. Or the same thing with skirmish.
And then there’s the people who just get NAT failed messages or who just can’t connect no matter what.
I’ve gotten a lot of email telling me that I’m “killing Demigod” because I keep making things out to be “worse than they are”. It’s not my job to paint a happy picture. I’m an engineer, not a marketer. And I hang out enough on the chat channel and on the forums to know that the problems mentioned above are real, must be addressed ASAP!
So anyway, during this week the big architecture change going on is the UDP proxy server setup. But IT has told me that it will take a few days to do proper load testing on it (i.e. what happens when there’s 20,000 people on there?)
But the tactical things I’ve been focusing Stardock/GPG onto this week are fixing the connection issues for those who play but find the game flakey, making Pantheon and Skirmish not have bots in them if people have experience, working on the favor point tracking, etc.
Since I have only N developers at Stardock and M at GPG, that means that if I’m focusing them on those things, other things will go more slowly (including the Proxy stuff).
Tonight’s build is being tested
So like on Tuesday, we do have a new build, this one much more significant because it includes a new Demigod.exe too, but we’re testing it and since it’s 9pm as I write this, it’s not a good idea to put it up this late so it looks like it’ll be tomorrow.
Status Updates long term
I’ve read comments that some people do like these status reports. Since we’re starting to come to the end of the serious connection problems (it may not seem like to some externally but it really is getting pretty close) I was wondering if people would like to continue to see these things when we start to talk about ideas for new Demigods, new items, new multiplayer modes, how you’d like to see clans and groups and friends handled. I really don’t mind doing these but obviously don’t want people to get sick of reading these walls of text.
Cheers all and see you tomorrow!