Saturday, March 24, 2012

AVWW Beta 0.913 "Unraveling Mysteries" Released!

This one has been a few days in the works, but has two major components to it. 

First of all, there are finally mysteries in the game, as well as puzzle rooms to solve to unlock clues from each mystery.  Right now there are two mysteries with a combined 28 clues between them, but there will be more mysteries added both before and after 1.0.  The mysteries are really fun because they allow you to learn some more about the world of Environ without it just being lots of exposition, and they also add a puzzle element that is lightweight, and optional, but fun-if-you're-into-that-sort-of-thing.

Mysteries themselves took a little over a solid day for me, but they represent the last major "type of game mechanic" that we needed to add before 1.0, so that's pretty exciting to have done.  We still have lots of content to add, but mysteries were the last new kind of broad mechanic that was missing.

Multiplayer Work
The rest of my time, and all of Keith's and Josh's time, has been spent working on multiplayer.  We'd thought that multiplayer was in a much cleaner state than it turned out to be, honestly.  We'd done a goodly amount of multiplayer testing on our own, but only in short-ish sessions over good connections in geographic areas that only spanned a few hundred miles.  And we were getting and fixing the occasional bug report from people playing on public servers like Toll's, but there wasn't much of that and so we presumed all was well.

Turns out that was not the case!  For some folks who were more geographically distant, or who were otherwise having lag issues, there were a number of severe MP issues that only cropped up in those circumstances.  We've now got a way of testing under situations of moderate or heavy lag internally for ourselves, so we were able to duplicate the issues (and then had to figure out how to fix them).  We fixed an absolute horde of these sorts of MP-specific bugs, and the MP experience is thus incredibly smoother under most conditions.

What Remains For Multiplayer -- And A Communication Breakdown
There are a few mostly-cosmetic bugs that we're still aware of, as well as a handful of not-cosmetic-at-all bugs, but in the main MP is now feeling a lot closer to a product we'd actually want to release as 1.0 next month. 

The most concerning thing through this process, however, was that we just didn't get the feedback and didn't even know there was a problem -- normally people tell us when they run into issues right away, and since there were a number of people we knew were playing MP, we assumed that an absence of reports meant an absence of issues. 

But in this case, it apparently meant that MP was so badly broken for a few people that they just assumed that it was some sort of working test version and that we knew about it; and thus said nothing.  And meanwhile other people were playing under situations that weren't high-lag, having almost no issues, and telling us things seemed great, which matched our own testing.

Far be it from me to chide anyone, because I know that everyone who takes the time to submit any bug report is doing us a huge favor, and it's not something they were required to do.  Testing our games isn't your job, etc, etc. 

But for those folks who do find a bug that they want to see fixed, definitely I'd advise erring on the side of assuming we don't know about it.  We'd rather have to clean up duplicates than to have something important slip through the cracks -- in the last three years, this is the first time I can really remember where that almost happened, and frankly it was kind of scary.  If we had gone ahead with our original go-live date of next week, there would have been some major fecal matter hitting the proverbial fan, and we would have had no idea that was coming.

Serves us right for not doing our own better testing under conditions of lag, of course.  We just assumed that having two people in two different cities in North Carolina, plus a third person in Georgia, would give us real-world-enough results.  Ah, well; in the end it looks like it is all working out well, knock on wood, but that's definitely had us in a bit of a tizzy for the last couple of days and delayed some content updates.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. When you launch the game, you'll see the notice of the update having been found if you're connected to the Internet at the time. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

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