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The Ongoing Process

Another quick post to say what's going on, sorry it's been awhile. I hoped to speak more from actions rather than words, and there's been some good progress, but also some delays.

Ray is trying to fix the capship shield issues, which allows the shields to be dropped via some unusual collision situation. We think this may all go back to our original "wingbug" collision problem, so he's going to try and construct a simulation and fix things once and for all. If that doesn't pan out, we have a few workarounds in mind that will at least allow us to move forward with making gameplay hinge on capship destruction. For instance, I don't want to make killing the Leviathan (or Queens, or whatever) a particularly important thing, until I'm fairly certain that it is at the intended difficulty level and does not have any major exploitable aspects.

Speaking of the Hive, Michael is continuing to make good progress there, stabilizing things and getting the overall system to work. We had some nastiness crop up over the last couple of months, including a strange and sporadic problem with our MySQL database server, which we haven't yet been able to track down or fully articulate yet, but which resulted in the Hive going down last week. Michael and Andy and I came up with some stopgap measures to alleviate the issue and reduce the chances of it happening, but obviously we want to fully sort that out before we hinge more gameplay there.

On the upside, you have seen changes rolled out in the form of hierarchical reorganization of the Hive, with eventual goals towards a mixture of general low-level "assault" missions, and a final epic confrontation with the Leviathan. The intention has always been that completely taking out a given Hive would require the well-organized efforts of a group of players over a period of time (perhaps, say, 10 people or so, over 6 hours. Eventually scaling in difficulty as the userbase increases). In this way, pursuit of the upper level Hive echelons will fit into player acquisition of capital ships and other high-level items, via rare drops and unusually-processed ores and the like. We're heading towards this, we're just trying to make it all work right in the meantime.

Andy is reworking how bots.. work. Primarily how they're controlled and what mechanisms are used to transfer authority for their behaviour around the universe. This will be very useful to making more interesting Kourier-based gameplay (Hive and otherwise, Border Skirmish type stuff, even PCC missions with a lot less limitations on what can be done with NPCs). This is not intended to be a gigantic redux process, and he's doing in the background between helping out with other short-term issues (like, say, tracking down strange database connection failures), but he hopes to have it done within a matter of weeks.

Last but not least, it's my intention to get some new addons into the game, and some new missions. I have to balance these tasks against problems that come up (database problems, administrative user drama, whatever), as well as getting ongoing design documentation written for Michael and others. I had hoped to get some new missions and addons into the game last week, using the new Grid Power system, but it didn't pan out, and I'm aiming for that again this week. I've actually been playing the game a lot more (imagine that), incognito, with an eye towards improving and reworking a lot of the lower levels of the game, and building out new missions that inform about the game as much as anything else. We certainly have a gameplay deficit, which we're working towards solving (and soon, not Soon(tm)), but we're also pretty bad at informing the new user about the gameplay that's already there. Without pointing people in the right direction, the game seems even more sparse than it actually is.

This won't be the sole focus, of course, there will also be high level missions, and the new addons (using the Grid Power) will be largely high-level.

If you're waiting for things like the faction and economic redux (or the open Trac), those are still in the works: I'm focusing on this addon/mission stuff this week, as everyone else is mostly working on infrastructure (aside from Michael), and I wanted to try and get as much actual interesting content into the game as I could in a relatively short period of time.

On a final note, we're shooting for a milestone (yes, we have those!) around the end of the month, rolling out 1.8.0 with a fully production Hive in all three locations, fully distributed Erlang/Kourier, and the Grid Power system in production and in use with new addons. Getting to this point will be really nice, for us, and mark a major point of progress after all the boring debugging and infrastructure work of the past 12 months.

That's all for now, please let us know if you find any problems, especially with the Hive or related conquests (like destroying the Leviathan with concussion mine hacks). We need to get that all fundamentally stable and not-exploitable, before we can move on with making it actually.. interesting, valuable and worthwhile.