« News


Kourier is now Live

The new erlang based system is now in production. For those who haven't been following, we ran into problems with our existing Lisp-based system (named "Deliverator") which handles high-level AI behaviour.. large groups of NPCs, large battles and the like. Over the last couple of months, we've been in the process of migrating to a much more scalable architecture (named "Kourier") based on Erlang, an elegant distributed-programming platform. Lisp has not yet been phased out, we have a hybrid combination of both for right now, while we migrate each part of functionality from Deliverator to Kourier. This is mostly happening on a case-by-case basis, for instance, Escort missions now run entirely on Kourier. But other, less-commonly-used functionality is still running on Deliverator and will be migrated as we move forward.

Fixing this whole Deliverator situation has been a major priority for us, over the last few months. The old system was no longer reliable or stable, although we managed to hack together a situation that let us limp along while we wrote the new system. Again, this problem only impacted certain high-level AI and specific missions, the rest of the game has continued with our usual level of stability. The problems usually manifested themselves in longer mission-update response times on Escort missions, and the like.

What with that infrastructure being so unstable, we could not move forward with our plans to expand its impact on the universe. Much of our new planned content (the dynamic economy, nation wars involving large fleets of capships, complex PvE scenarios with the Hive, and so on) was stalled until the stability of the underlying platform was guaranteed. This migration from Deliverator to Kourier is a big part of making that improvement in stability. We had always planned to migrate to a more scalable architecture than what had evolved into the monolithic Deliverator, but we didn't expect our hand to be forced at such an early point. So, in a sense, this is all for the best, but it didn't happen quite how or when we would have liked.

In the short term, for the next couple of weeks, we'll be watching the new system and fixing the inevitable problems that crop up in a major re-architecture like this. Once things appear reasonably solid, more content from Deliverator will be ported across into the new Kourier system, transferring more and more responsibility, until Kourier is essentially standing alone. In the meantime, there'll be other underlying changes to make bots generally work better (longstanding problems we've needed to fix, but which are that much more necessary now). In a month or so, hopefully we'll have Kourier running smoothly and be confident enough of the greater system stability to start considering actual *new* functionality. But obviously, stability is the biggest priority. No point in building the house until you're sure the foundation is fairly solid.

I know this isn't really the most exciting of newsposts, since I'm basically saying "nothing visible is really changed, or will be for awhile! But.. it's way better, honest!" And that's about as much as I *can* say, at present. But, it's true, and we're at least back to moving forward towards a point where we can even *start* to think about starting to add new high-level features to the system (Hive attacks on stations, real Nation wars, other previously mentioned stuff).

In the meantime, there will be other releases with other new features and content. The work that Ray and I are doing is pretty orthogonal to Deliverator/Kourier, so the whole Faction redux, Friendly Fire removal, ships, addons, sectors and other projects will continue apace, and you'll continue to see new Stuff showing up in the game.

As an FYI to our PCC people, the Kourier redux should lead to improvements in how bots are handled in the mission editor. But don't expect those changes to appear immediately.

As always, please test and report any problems you find on the messageboards. The things that most need testing are, of course, those functions specific to Deliverator and Kourier. The Escort, Liberation, Liquidation, Hive Hunt, Border Skirmish and other related missions, along with general unbot/pirate interaction, are the areas most in need of testing and feedback. Thanks much.